Friday Highlights

Good morning.

Well, I survived the week (from a cycling perspective). I’d really backslid for some time now (4-6 months) as far as riding. I was down to about 1-2 hours a week (yikes) + an hour in the gym doing weights. This week, not including the weekend, I’ve done an hour in the gym + 4 on the bike … and hope to get two more in. It’s a start.

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19 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    An analogy, think of supermarkets run like schools. Sounds horrible, yes? OK. So why is schooling any different, eh?

    Reasoning by analogy is only useful to the extent that the analogy is useful. Are supermarkets the same as education? In some respects, some education is a ‘supermarket’ like good. You can hit Barnes & Noble, for example, and grab a ‘For Dummies’ book if you need to brush up on something. But education is not like supermarkets. Consider that private schools, for the most part, look pretty much like public schools. Yes better private schools may be cleaner, have fewer kids with behaviorial problems, have better books, desks, teachers, more computers etc. but their model is essentially the same as the public school.

    This model, though, hasn’t worked with supermarkets. Consider that you usually buy mostly the same stuff every week from the supermarket, usually at the same store…..in theory you could have a ‘cell phone contract’ type model where you sign up with a supermarket and pay a monthly fee and they deliever your weekly food shipment to your door….possibly you get so many ‘one offs’ so you can go beyond just the basics plus seasonal choices…. We do actually come kind of close to that model with the ‘loyalty cards’ where you earn your free Christmas Turkey….

  2. Boonton says:

    So. They say Mr Obama is smart. …. So how does a smart man suggest something like this? Hmm?

    It’s actually not that dumb. We are already doing that now. The idea of the gas tax is the amount of gas you burn is proportional to the amount of miles you drive on roads and the amount of miles you drive on roads is proporational to how much you ‘use’ the roads. (Trucks pay by weight since that’s the prime driver of their wear and tear). Hence the gas tax is justified as a use tax, but if non-gas using cars become a serious proportion of the road use….well mileage is then the fairest way to pay. Keep in mind unless transporters or flying cars are going to happen in the near future, we are going to have roads and we are going to pay for them. If you don’t think the people who use them most should pay the most….well then who do you think should pay for them?

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    So, where does the incentive for lighter more efficient cars go? My car might weigh half as much as the standard car. Road damage by weight isn’t linear (I think see the stat I recall from somewhere regarding trucks vs cars … trucks don’t weight *that* much more than cars).

    And for that matter, I’ve read that a full sized loaded semi damages the road more than 10,000 times more than a passenger car. But trucks don’t pay proportional to the damage.

    Plus, taxes aren’t targeted. They go into a general pool. Gas tax money doesn’t “go” to the roads. It goes into the general fund.

    And again, how are you going to track mileage driven? Hmmm?

    As far as plug-in cars … wouldn’t a generic energy tax do the trick?

  4. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Regarding education, you’re missing much of the argument about incentives and poor vs rich neighborhoods in the essay. Why?

  5. Boonton says:

    Trucks pay by axel and then they register by weight. You have seen, no doubt, weigh stations. Trucks pull off and weigh themselves there. If they are registered for, say, 50,000 pounds but weigh in at 60,000 they get a ticket for being overweight. So while you don’t pay by pound everytime you take a truck out on the road, you are roughly in proportion. If you haul a lot of very heavy stuff, you’ll register your truck with more weight. If you do so rarely, you’ll seek a lower weight class to save money.

    You seem to argue both sides. On the one hand you say that weight doesn’t matter, that a truck doesn’t weigh much more than a car in terms of road damage. In that case the fact that your car weighs half as much as a standard car doesn’t do much for the road. But then you say a full loaded semi does 10,000 times more damage. So which is it?

    Plus, taxes aren’t targeted. They go into a general pool. Gas tax money doesn’t “go” to the roads. It goes into the general fund.

    Doesn’t really matter. Does the amount of gas tax equal the amount spent on roads? Is it less? Is it more? If it’s less then road users are already getting subsidized. If its more then road users are subsidizing other gov’t functions. That’s another debate but the fact doesn’t change that the roads cost money and the most logical people to pay for them should be those that use em.

    Tracking mileage…

    Well with titles in NJ every time you sell a car you put the mileage on the title. I imagine what they will do is with yearly registration you’ll report your mileage and your registration fee will be based on that. What gets interesting here is the incentive….if you under report your mileage what do you do when you sell your used car? The new owner isn’t going to want to underreport the mileage he starts his car with so at that point you’ll either have to ‘true up’ with the state or the new owner will have to agree to pay for your unpaid mileage. You don’t really need computer chips monitoring mileage & reporting to the FBI.

    Or they could just expand the use of toll roads. If you think about it, toll roads are basically ‘pay by the mile’ roads. If more cities start following London’s use of congestion pricing, I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being the future.

    If you told people in 1970 that in 30-40 years everyone would be paying for TV reception they’d probably bolt too….but in context it’s not actually a bad thing. TV’s better now than it ever was.

  6. So how does a smart man suggest something like this?

    He didn’t.

    P.S. All your “Hmm?” and “hopey/changey” stuff is really obnoxious.

  7. Boonton says:

    Regarding the poor v. rich schools. In the analogy/model the reason all poor neighborhoods have bad supermarkets and rich ones do is choice. The rich will move to places with good supermarkets leaving the poor to contend with bad ones.

    Now let me point out a hidden assumption here. You don’t usually go to a supermarket based on the people who shop there, you go for their food. But restuarants are different. A Budwiser at Applebes and a Bud at a seedy strip joint is the exact same beer. Yet if you wanted a beer one day with your family you’d feel comfortable getting it at the first, but not the second.

    What if the public schools in the poor places were bad not because the schools are bad but because the places are bad? I mean seriously, what is it about the ‘bad schools’ that’s really different than the good ones? In the supermarket model, it’s just taken as a given that some are good, some are bad and people will move around with the rich bidding up the real estate prices near the good ones. But isn’t this story a little bit too….well…simplistic? How is it that there are plenty of poor and moderate income places with great public schools?

    Even stranger, many places with bad public schools once had a rep. for having great public schools. How did that happen? Even more strange, why are there bad public schools to begin with? Why not just have the bad public schools copy the good ones? Don’t they? Don’t they use more or less the same textbooks, use teachers who graduated from more or less the same colleges? Do public schools in an upper class northern NJ subrub employ some type of space age desks and chairs that poor schools don’t? Are the good schools using some type of magic chalk on the chalkboards?

    The supermarket model doesn’t seem to be able to account for any of these very well.

  8. Mark says:

    JA,
    “He didn’t” it was a press release from the White House. So, that if that isn’t Obama, who is it? Whose running that show?

  9. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    If you told people in 1970 that in 30-40 years everyone would be paying for TV reception they’d probably bolt too….but in context it’s not actually a bad thing. TV’s better now than it ever was.

    I don’t pay for my TV.

    So which is it?

    Sounds like road damage is not linear. If it was quadratic or (or a higher polynomial) then a truck weighing 10-20 times more than your car can do 10k times the damage. But that would also mean your car weighing twice as much as mine might do 8 or 20 times more damage as well.

    I imagine what they will do is with yearly registration you’ll report your mileage and your registration fee will be based on that. What gets interesting here is the incentive….if you under report your mileage what do you do when you sell your used car?

    Three of my last cars were basically given away to people we knew who needed them. With a plan to run a car for 10-20 years before selling it (if you plan to “junk it” after use) … then you might as well underreport your mileage. There’d be no penalty.

  10. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Did you read the essay? The government run supermarket model did have explanations for bad (government run) supermarkets/schools. And supermarkets as such aren’t so much worse in “bad” neighborhoods than good, you just don’t have some of the higher end chains in the “bad” neighborhoods … driven in a large part by market. The spread in quality in the supermarket variety are the smaller outfits, where in the good neighborhoods you have fancy hoity toity specialty stores and in the bad you have somewhat seedy overcrowded storefront markets.

    And a Bud at a location with little traffic isn’t the same as one with a lot of traffic where the a new keg is tapped every hour.

  11. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Additionally, on the roads thing. Two points. One is that the benefits of good roads in your area go beyond just those who drive on them. Goods and services can reach you more cheaply and quickly, property values and other things increase as well whether you use the roads or not. Second, when you suggest increased toll road collection … uhm, that’s exactly the “monitoring mileage” and reporting. Whether or not the FBI/TSA or law enforcement chooses right now to use the data, where and when you were were is now being collected.

  12. Boonton says:

    I don’t pay for my TV.

    Stealing cable huh? Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn you in.

    Three of my last cars were basically given away to people we knew who needed them. With a plan to run a car for 10-20 years before selling it (if you plan to “junk it” after use) … then you might as well underreport your mileage. There’d be no penalty.

    In NJ you have to have your car inspected every two years, it would be an easy thing to add mileage to the list of things they report. I suppose you could account for junked cars in another way, you have the mileage certified when you junk it or if you fail to do so your last mileage will be used to calculate a penalty on your license that you’ll either have to add to your last car or pay up (sort of like if you park your car at a garage but then loose the ticket with the time stamp on it, they’ll charge you the full day price).

    Thinking about it though, I suspect you’ll get a lot of resistence from people who say they put a lot of miles on their car doing out of state driving. An alternative then would be to expand toll roads massively. This would be relatively easy if the congestion pricing model that London uses takes off. Basically you never have to stop and fumble for quarters to give to a toll taker, you just zip along and cameras charge your account. NJ’s toll takers union just agreed to a 25% pay cut. Why? Because in 3-4 years they’ve decided to phase out all toll takers putting cash machines for those who want to pay tolls without an EZ Pass. Also the EZ Pass system here is now multistate. At some point someone is going to say why make people put radio transponders in their windshields when every car has a unique license plate and computers can easily read the plates rapidly as people zip by at full speed.

    Whether or not the FBI/TSA or law enforcement chooses right now to use the data, where and when you were were is now being collected.

    Actually right now cops have computers that auto-read all plates of cars that zip by and will flag cars without insurance, expired registration or reported stolen. It used to be in my younger days you could flout registration and insurance a bit by just driving normally and not giving cops any reason to pull you over. Those days are gone now. Right now there’s no law or privacy right being violated by putting a camera on a road and recording every plate that zips by. Apple got a big yawn when it was revealed the iphone was making a database of every location you went and in NYC it’s probably impossible now to walk two blocks without being recorded by multiple cameras. I think in a real sense we’ve already been conditioned to give up a lot more privacy than simply paying tolls on roads or reporting how many miles we drive a car each year.

    One is that the benefits of good roads in your area go beyond just those who drive on them. Goods and services can reach you more cheaply and quickly, property values and other things increase as well whether you use the roads or not. Second, when you suggest increased toll road collection

    The problem with tolls today is that they are very expensive. It’s not just the actual toll but having to slow down to pay them, having cash on hand, building huge gates and access control structures etc. But now a lot of that expense is disappearing. I suspect towns will find it more tempting to implement toll schemes. What’s kind of interesting is that you can go two ways with the toll schemes. A town could pay into a drivers toll account too. They might then partner with local businesses to, say, let local business ‘validate’ the toll by beaming money into a customer’s account. They might compete with the nearby mall by offering $0.25 for going into the business section. They could also cap the daily tolls incurred by residents who do a lot of local driving all day long. You could also start to see actual real private roads that are run by businesses rather than gov’t.

  13. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    Stealing cable huh? Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn you in.

    You might not be aware but broadcast TV still exists. And this points to a striking difference between your volunteering to pay for TV vs getting for free and the pay vs tax subsidized roads. Nobody is forced to buy cable. There is no government mandate or tax. It’s markets.

    In IL, there are no such inspections, just periodic (three years) emissions tests at a licensed service station (which really just verifies that (a) your computer isn’t faulting and (b) your car’s computer says you’re emissions are OK).

  14. Boonton says:

    Actually whether roads are paid for with gas taxes or mileage taxes no one forces you to use them either.

    I strongly suspect if they hook up to your computer they can read the mileage out of the car just as easily.

  15. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Yet non-drivers benefit from roads (just as parents w/o school age children benefit from an educated people). Why again is road usage tied to road taxes (by the argument school usage is not tied to taxation)?

    Are you thinking to give me a tax break for my light auto?

  16. Boonton says:

    Just say hypothetically 100% of road costs were born 100% by direct road users. Wouldn’t indirect road users be able to offset that? For example, when a diner gives away free gas cards as a promotion, aren’t they in fact partially paying for the indirect road benefits they enjoy?

    Are you thinking to give me a tax break for my light auto?

    If the roads are being paid by gas taxes presently isn’t your tax break embedded in your reduced gas burning?

  17. Boonton says:

    For example, roads make it cheaper to transport goods to your local Wal-Mart. OK, so doesn’t Wal-Mart pass on its ‘road fees’ to you the Wal-Mart customer even if you happen to live so you can just walk to Wal-Mart without using roads yourself?

  18. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    So. Do you think only parents of children should pay taxes for schools?

  19. Boonton says:

    If you think the road your house sits on that you drive on every day as you come to and from your house will pay my social security, I’ll be happy to chip in a quarter for its upkeep.