James Holmes should receive ‘provisional’ life in prison

The big news this week is James Holmes’ parents coming out against the death penalty for their son (http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/colorado-shooting-suspect-james-holmes-parents-speak-out-on-death-penalty/). As you may recall, Mr. Holmes was the individual who shot 12 people dead and wounded 70 more in a Colorado movie theater. A lesser known fact is that he rigged his apartment to explode when police would enter a few hours after the shooting and his capture. Due to a diligent bomb squad, the building that his apartment was in was spared the destruction.

James’ parents have come out with the insanity defense, saying that their son was not in his right mind and therefore should not be charged with the death penalty. You have to feel for them, especially for his mother; what parent wants to believe they raised a monster?

With his mental state in question, the death penalty may seem too harsh. To the victims, however, I’m sure a death penalty doesn’t seem harsh enough. What to do? sympathy for his family needs to be tempered with sympathy for the victims. His sentence needs to be just, but perhaps should also be seen as a deterrent for those planning similar shootings.

The harsh reality is, if he gets the death penalty, it could be very expensive. If he gets life in prison or getting psychiatric help, its going to be very expensive. According to one site (http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/costs-death-penalty) if the prosecutor tries for the death penalty and gets a conviction, the case could take 4 calendar years longer, incurring many hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. That money doesn’t appear out of nowhere; it will most likely come from taxpayer dollars. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, don’t you believe that you should have a choice whether to be paying for the life of a man like James Holmes? I know I would.

Here, I think, the free market should come into play with a solution that might satisfy everyone (except James Holmes). Every year, James Holmes needs to raise enough money to pay for his life. According to one site (http://www.urban.org/uploadedpdf/412693-the-growth-and-increasing-cost-of-the-federal-prison-system.pdf) that is about $34,000 for a high security prisoner. It seems fair that he can seek others to help him with this cost – He can get help from his parents, associations interested in studying him, and any group that is willing to pay to keep him alive. If the money isn’t raised either by him or for him, he is dead. Those that want to keep him alive can try, and those that think he shouldn’t live while those he killed are dead can be satisfied, at least, with not contributing to his life in any way.


I Got Unfriended Today

As the title says, a friend on Facebook chose to unfriend me today. It probably has happened before – ‘cleansing’ our friend’s list is probably a pretty common occurrence. The circumstance, however, was unique for me.

I met this person two years ago, as I was trying to expand my horizons. My political and religious views had been pretty fixed, but I was looking to expand my understanding of situations other than my own. Enter this young woman – smart, sexy, and very opinionated on some of the most divisive topics today. I was single, so we started spending time together. It was refreshing to get a new perspective on life, have intelligent, alternative conversation with someone for whom I had a great respect.

She introduced me to many topics and opinions that I hadn’t considered before. As we spent more time together, I learned more and more about other people’s lives, situations, and some of the injustices that many feel exist today. I owe to her my continued curiosity about seeing other perspectives and adjusting my views to meet that new information.

On the recent Ferguson grand jury decision, I posted my opinion, and she counterposted hers. In return, I posted back to her, commenting on some of the fallacies in the argument. I got no response. When I checked a few weeks later, she had unfriended me on Facebook.

Not a huge deal; I am happily married to another woman, we have no real mutual friends, so life goes on. What concerns me is that she would rather not hear opinions that don’t echo hers rather than maintain a friendly relationship. If we disagree, does that mean that we have to hate each other? If you don’t believe like me, look like me, sound like me, think like me, can we associate?

So I have one less friend on Facebook, and her ‘right to free speech’ was exercised by muting my side of the conversation. While I’m sad I can’t get her perspective on things anymore, I am more sad that she doesn’t care about open and honest debate. It also seems that her views are more important to her than finding a solution that can make the USA a united and great nation, and make the world a united and better one.

Obamacare’s Effect on Business

I read an interesting article about a restaurant chain in Florida called Gator’s Dockside. Apparently, they have started to tack on a 2 cent (ish) tax in order to deal with coming costs of Obamacare in 2015. 

So the government creates a cost, taxes businesses that don’t comply or pass on costs to them, then the business taxes the customer. So a government service becomes another tax burden.

Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. When costs are passed to businesses from government, then those businesses will raise prices so their profit margins stay constant.

Let’s say that you are a salesman, and your product is Florida grown oranges. To keep the example simple, let’s say that you sell 2 for $1.00. If the government puts a tax on you of 2 cents, then you’ll charge $1.02 for two, and might even bump it up to $1.09 because it sells better. Your customers will bear the brunt of your costs, and its pure business.

The other outcome of raising taxes on businesses is more dire. Another article about Vermont’s anticipated $2 billion dollar debt due to Obamacare. In a Northeastern state where rents are already expensive and taxes are high, one more tax could be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back–causing them to move states or ‘go to Amazon.com,’ as the article states. With an increase in taxes, more jobs will move to areas where work is cheaper for the companies to provide the services we love for the same price to produce. 

Its not personal, its just business. 

– E

First referred article: http://www.ijreview.com/2014/02/118076-like-fries-obamacare-fee-cheeseburger/

Second referred article: http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20140227/BUSINESS/302270005/How-We-re-Doing-Paying-tab-Vermont-health-care-program


Demand and Education

I was reading something for two different classes last week that coincided with President Obama’s State of the Union address, where he addressed the increase he hopes to have on minimum wage. He got a standing ovation, from what I remember. 


For the (very) simple economist, there exist two forces in the world: supply and demand. If ten people want food, and there are only nine plates available, that seems simple enough: we have an excess of demand compared to our supply. 


What if someone has to pay for that plate? What if that someone is a small business owner, mired in federal, state, and sales taxes? All of those costs are realized on the business, and therefore on the consumer who decides to buy. In my state, gas would be at least 42 cents cheaper, if not for the taxes that drive the price up.


Back to our example of food and people, of supply and demand. Let’s make the example more real to a high school student fresh from graduation, and looking to make some money to go to college. She’s not dumb, but her grades were far from a scholarship level. A respectable 3.56 GPA (funny, that was my GPA graduating from high school). She feels very happy indeed that President Obama is raising minimum wage, and her state is complying with it. But when she actually starts looking for a job, there aren’t any available. Why? 


Supply and demand tell us that raising the wage will make more people want to work, and give ‘more back to the American people,’ right? And big business can suck it. Raising the minimum wage, that means that Americans get more jobs and big business feels it! Who loses?


1. We do. If a business can’t afford to pay $10.10 an hour per employee where they are providing a $9.00 an hour wage, then one person will lose their job and they will carry on with nine people. 9*10 = $90 dollars, 10*10.10 = $101 dollars. In larger corporations, multiply those numbers by thousands. There is no law to hire less people. Plus, as one professor put it, ‘if those companies can’t afford employees, then they will fire them, and automate them out of existence.’ I’m not saying that robots are going to be the ones ‘trying to help you find something’ at Target, but changes will come, most probably technological changes.


2. Businesses, but especially small businesses. If I just started my business two years ago and can’t afford to spend money trying to automate my processes, then I’m in a real fix. In watching a documentary last night, they talked about taxes – not your taxes, but small business taxes. Where 65% of income basically goes to the government in one form or another. Personal tax, Social Security, gas tax, sales tax (which has to be reflected in the price of products, or business lose out), cost of starting a business (talk to an entrepreneur about the financial dedication it takes), and more that I don’t have to pay yet because I’m still a full-time student. If you are giving away 65% of revenues, then your bottom line is going to suffer. After two years or three years of that, it might be time to join the masses and get a ‘real’ job. Even if your idea was the next big thing. 


3. In the long-term, everyone President Obama was doing this for. The original example of a high school graduate looking for a job is not applicable for a large percentage of the young population. If I don’t graduate, I’m in trouble. I am required to look for a job or become a drain on my parents, society, friends, and sometimes will feel forced to turn to illegal activities to keep a livelihood. My prediction is that this pattern will continue. The gap between those that graduate from high school and those that don’t is growing.


Who wins?


If you have an education, you win. Who will be designing those processes that replace minimum wage workers? Not someone who didn’t graduate from high school. An education is a sure defense against the minimum wage increase.