Income inequality

Income Gap ©2013 Paul Merrill“Both liberal and conservative economists agree that, yes, income inequality has increased since the 1970s.” -Andy Serwer, the managing editor of Fortune magazine. That is from a telling editorial he wrote in the September 2, 2013 issue.

Mr. Serwer quoted several statistics from the US Congressional Budget Office October 2011 report, including, “between 1979 and 2007 … [for] the top 1% of earners, income grew 275%, and for the bottom 20% of earners, household income grew only 18%.”

Andy went on to basically say he did not have a solution, except that increasing the value of education is a start. I completely agree with that approach.

A Wells Fargo ad just four pages later was an interesting juxtaposition – touting the value of their customers taking out home equity loans to pay for things like a child’s Tuscan (Italy) wedding.


Sadness about competition

Curbside trasn canThere are too many trash companies in Denver. In the old days, the city would have picked up our trash. These days, there are about ten companies to choose from. The upside is that it keeps the cost down for those who have to pay for the service, such as myself. But there are many downsides:

– There is way more needed infrastructure. Every company needs its own fleet of trucks. Every company needs their own offices.

– There is way more pollution. Each of the ten trash companies that makes a pass through my neighborhood has ten trucks that drive by each week. There used to be one.

– There are five days of noise, rather than one.

– There are cans at the curb five days a week, rather than one.

– “Having so many trash companies provides more jobs.” That is true in the same way that having ten people on a road crew so that six can stand by and watch four work provides more jobs.

We changed trash services recently over two issues, even though we had used the same company for at least five years:

1. We care for humans. Our old company did not have trucks that could empty the cans; the guys had to lift them up to empty them. I always felt bad for their backs. So now, at least there is one less set of cans for them to empty.

2. Price. Yes, we are paying less now – due to competition.

Finally, please understand that I am not saying competition is bad in every case. It’s just bad in this case and situations similar to this.


Bad website security questions

door lock1. What was the first movie your mother saw?

2. What was the day of the week when you first ate breakfast cereal?

3. What street did your grandfather live on when he was 24 years old?

4. What was the middle name of your third grade teacher?

5. What was the name of the first girl your least favorite uncle kissed?

6. How much money did your parents spend during their honeymoon?

7. What is the species of the most endangered plant in Borneo? (No web searches allowed. We are tracking your cookies.)


The Paperless Universe Progress Report

a long receiptThis is a guest post by my brother Bill.

In the early ’90s, I worked with a guy who predicted we would be working in “The Paperless Office” within a couple of decades. (My colleague was also a Mac advocate, if that tells you anything.) Applying his prediction more widely to American society in general, the paperless revolution is well underway in some areas — online banking replacing paper statements, direct deposit replacing paper paychecks, etc.

However, in other areas we have achieved mixed results at best, or we are even losing ground. Some merchants will now email your receipts to you (Office Max, for example), but they often still print the paper receipt too! If you tell them you don’t need a receipt, they wad it up and throw it away. Paper still wasted. Then there are the “toilet paper roll” receipts from places such as Best Buy and CVS, long scrolls which come with surveys and/or coupons along with the receipt. How much of that paper goes straight into the recycling?

Among the worst offenders I’ve encountered, though, has been my car dealership. This morning I took my vehicle in for MINOR service. When I was finished paying, I walked out with a six-page stapled document that included a wheel alignment sheet (showing my wheels are properly aligned), a checklist showing all the systems they had checked, and my credit card receipt on a full 8.5×11 sheet from their printer. I could see a number of areas where they could save paper. Perhaps I will give them feedback. What has your experience been with our transition to being Paperless People?

(This receipt was Paul’s – for just three items.)