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Intuit, Maker of Turbotax, Lobbies Against Simplified Tax Filings

Sarten-X Re:Automating taxes (415 comments)

Wait, first you say that the deductions are to make taxes 'fair'. But then you turn around and claim that the deductions are for 'improving society as a whole'? Well, which is it?

The purpose of government, funded by taxes, is to improve society. The purpose of deductions is to allow individuals to have some control over which causes they support (including ones they're directly involved with, such as higher education). The perception of fairness comes from having that control, rather than being penalized for supporting a cause the government doesn't like.

Let's consider a hypothetical scenario, wherein the government has heeded religious zealots' demands to stop funding abortion clinics and stem cell research. An individual, having control over his monetary support, can choose to privately donate to those causes through appropriate non-profit charities, and take a portion of that donated money out of what he'll give to government. Indirectly, that also acts as a monetary penalty for causes that have government, but not popular, support.

When you deduct your education bill from your taxes, how do you think that loss of taxes is made up?

What should happen, and occasionally does, is that any decrease in government revenue forces a budget cut and a review of spending policies. Programs without popular support take the loss. Today, that would likely mean the NSA and various standing military programs, though I'd expect lobbying would protect those.

As for education specifically, the loss (a few hundred dollars) from my taxes is overshadowed by the government-funded grant money (a few thousand dollars) that I did not need. From the government's point of view, higher education is a benefit to society. I chose to support that benefit directly, rather than letting the government decide which other benefits are more important.

For a more direct example, consider that there is an option on your 1040 to donate $3 to a federal matching fund for presidential campaigns. As I do not choose to support the already-too-expensive campaign circus, I do not contribute to that fund. The "loss" is not replaced.

If they want to be assholes about not giving out money, so be it.

Meanwhile, they benefit from all of the charities' work supported by the government and private donations. It is indeed their choice to provide the minimum of funding, but to do so means they also lose control over where their money goes.

If the only reason you are making charitable contributions is to reduce your tax bill, then how charitable are you REALLY being? Again, I think you just like paying less taxes than the guy next to you.

Honestly, who doesn't want to pay less tax? You should note, though, that only a portion of donations is removed from taxes. Deductions are removed from taxable income, so if your tax bracket is 25%, then your final tax amount will only drop by 25% of what you donated. It is not possible to actually profit from donating (unless you change tax brackets, but that leads into a longer and more mathematical discussion than I care for today). Rather, the primary benefit from deductions is that direct control over where money goes.

I don't agree with ANY of the deductions given to people for their expenses (child care, health care, mortgage interest, etc.)

The society benefits from having parents available in the workforce. It benefits from having a healthy population. It benefits from everyone having a place to live... That said, there are some deductions with dubious direct or indirect benefit. You'll have to take those up with your representative.

I want them all gone so that the tax code is simplified

A silly endeavor, in my opinion. A simple tax code is effectively the government saying "we don't care what you do with your money, but this chunk is ours to do with as we please".

Tax code, as it stands today, really isn't even too bad. I've worked for financial planners, and I've seen some pretty complicated returns. They're mostly just 15 copies of the same form, filled in the same manner with information on different investments. The most difficult part of these returns is actually finding the requested information. Every investment's paperwork is laid out differently. One partnership I saw even gave their required data in essay form. That's what I think should be simplified: Each standard form that the taxpayer sends to the IRS should also have a standard information sheet for the taxpayer to receive. Rather than receiving a 1099 with information, they'll receive the 1099, with information.

stop using it for ... trying to push people to do a certain thing (buying solar, electric cars, etc).

...Because it'd be silly to encourage things that benefit society. That would be far too civilized.

13 hours ago
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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Sarten-X Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (767 comments)

Oligarchy (from Greek (oligarkhía); from (olígos), meaning "few", and (arkho), meaning "to rule or to command")[1][2][3] is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small number of people. These people could be distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, education, corporate, or military control. Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term.

-An actual definition of oligarchy, highlighting that wealth is one of many criteria used to select a "small number" of people, rather than the tens of thousands of groups and individuals that the study found held the majority of power in the US.

What you're thinking of is a plutocracy, where power comes directly from wealth. The study does show some plutocratic characteristics in US policy, but the correlation is looser than a textbook example.

yesterday
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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Sarten-X Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (767 comments)

So one could say that "the power in government is not concentrated in massive grassroots organizations". Fascinating.

Let me know when you get to the point where the group referred to in the abstract as "business interests" is actually defined.

yesterday
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Google Looked Into Space Elevator, Hoverboards, and Teleportation

Sarten-X Re:Defeatist much? (98 comments)

...because marketing people are really just brilliant materials scientists who just haven't focused on nanotubes yet.

2 days ago
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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Sarten-X Re:Terrible summary of an interesting paper (767 comments)

Plutocracy.

That is indeed the main difference between a capitalist oligarchy and a plutocracy. Anyone who can get enough money would gain power in a plutocracy, but may not in an oligarchy. There may be some overlap between the systems, if the elite rulers of an oligarchy are selected primarily based on wealth, rather than family, ethnicity, history, or any other primary criterion. However, the paper notes that there is relatively little difference in power between elite individuals and special-interest groups (which are themselves typically well-funded).

2 days ago
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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Sarten-X Terrible summary of an interesting paper (767 comments)

The original paper is an interesting approach to studying power balances.

The summary is puerile flamebait.

The actual conclusion of the paper is simply that the power in government is not concentrated in massive grassroots organizations or in direct electoral representation, but rather it is concentrated in the small-but-vocal interest groups and economically influential individuals. In other words, causes, no matter how big, don't really get power until they can pay enough to be taken seriously. That might mean lobbying, marketing, or awareness campaigns, but it still takes money to look like your cause has merit.

2 days ago
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How 'DevOps' Is Killing the Developer

Sarten-X Re:This role exists in any non-software business. (213 comments)

From TFS:

...it has no place in bigger, more established companies.

I've worked at a Fortune 100 company, who was looking to add a DevOps team, because our development and our deployment teams weren't working together as smoothly as we'd have liked. The development teams didn't know anything about the hardware their (very hardware-specific) software ran on, and the hardware teams didn't know what parts of the software needed testing on new hardware.

Of course, it's ridiculous to ask the hardware guys to be present at all of the software meetings, and vice versa. DevOps fills a role bridging the gap. Outside of IT and platform-agnostic software development, the "ops" part can be a customer-facing role. In the shelter of software development, any incompatibilities can be blamed on hardware, rather than the real underlying cause of "poor testing across platforms"

2 days ago
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Intuit, Maker of Turbotax, Lobbies Against Simplified Tax Filings

Sarten-X Re:Automating taxes (415 comments)

Why should I subsidize your decision to go to grad school?

Because going to grad school means more innovation and industry, improving society as a whole. That's why you pay taxes to fund grant programs that helped my colleagues. I paid for it out of my own pocket, so you didn't subsidize it at all. Rather, the government recognizes that my expense was ultimately for society's benefit.

If the government wanted more 'fair' taxes, they could simply adjust tax rates higher or lower based solely on income.

...but that wouldn't seem fair. Those who use their income to help others then still have to pay taxes as though they were bringing in large profits. Those who are selfish and do nothing to improve society end up keeping the most money, ultimately leaving the government to support all of the society's charity needs.

2 days ago
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Intuit, Maker of Turbotax, Lobbies Against Simplified Tax Filings

Sarten-X Re:Get rid of income Tax (415 comments)

Please remove this falsehood from your economic system. If you take productive money and piss it away on boondoggle projects instead of useful purposes then it's a complete loss for the economy.

What about the economy of the contractors working on those projects of which you don't approve?

The entire premise of capitalism is that money that gets invested into useful purposes (production equipment, invention, entropy-reducing services) multiplies the value of that money over time.

And here I thought the premise of capitalism was private ownership of goods and interests.

All spending is not created equal (so far from it)! Hanging fiber optics on poles and getting drunk are not equally beneficial!

Absolutely correct. The fiber being hung on the pole only benefits the telecom company, whereas getting drunk contributes toward a global supply chain supporting farmers, brewers, and bartenders. That's what you meant, right?

Everybody pays.

Yes, everybody, including the government, contractors, single mothers, and you.

The broken-window fallacy is that government spending is somehow more effective than regular spending. You seem to understand that well enough, but it seems you've missed that the inverse is also true: Government spending is no less effective than "regular" spending. All spending is a transfer of wealth, and the only difference is where it's transferred to. When you're spending money, you get to decide. When the government's spending, the legislators decide.

2 days ago
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Intuit, Maker of Turbotax, Lobbies Against Simplified Tax Filings

Sarten-X Re:Automating taxes (415 comments)

The devil is in the details and to do it you can't...

Well, that pretty much sums up the issue right there. On the face of things, it seems straightforward.... everybody pays whatever the government thinks they owe.

On the other hand, there's so many ways the government can screw things up royally. One year, they missed an education deduction I had because they didn't know I'd gone to grad school that year. They hadn't accepted the paperwork the school had sent in. The proper resolution was for me to write and sign a letter affirming that I had done what I'd claimed.

Sure, it'd be easy in a perfect world for the IRS to handle everything, but it'd require absolutely no unexpected deductions. The whole point of those deductions is (ostensibly) to make taxes more fair, so why should we encourage undermining that fairness?

2 days ago
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Mathematicians Use Mossberg 500 Pump-Action Shotgun To Calculate Pi

Sarten-X Re:Um, no? (307 comments)

You should get your ears checked. Turning at a steady pace at walking speed will not make a normal person dizzy.

3 days ago
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Mr. Schmidt Goes To Washington: A Look Inside Google's Lobbying Behemoth

Sarten-X Re:I doubt "no one knew" (114 comments)

Bribery and deceit are fairly ineffective at effecting long-term policies. Nobody wants to be the politician caught taking handouts.

On the other hand, one of the best ways to convince someone to go along with your requests is to make a clear statement of why your goals align with the decision-makers' goals. If the politician wants more jobs in his district, you explain how your technology helps make jobs. If the politician wants to improve schools' performance, you highlight the educational opportunities supported by your technology. Be sure to note how a proposed piece of legislation helps or hurts your technology's growth. Brand is important, as always. That's what ties together all those separate messages. Foobar Inc. is good for education. Foobar Inc. is good for local homeless shelters. Foobar Inc. is in favor of this bill.

It's not sneaky or underhanded. Every politician knows they're being manipulated, but it all makes sense. The obvious decision to benefit their constituents is the one presented to them. What representative would turn down more jobs or education?

Of course, here in the Internet echo chamber, life is simpler. Corporations are bad, and individual opinions are good, whether or not they benefit society.

4 days ago
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GM Names Names, Suspends Two Engineers Over Ignition-Switch Safety

Sarten-X Re:Did they name the director? (236 comments)

You don't believe in the existence of bad or sloppy engineers?

about a week ago
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Can You Buy a License To Speed In California?

Sarten-X Patternicity (324 comments)

Around here, it's supposedly the FOP badges and/or stickers that help. Or it's the parking lot stickers for the local hospitals. Or it's the toll road transponders. Or it's being the next-to-last person in a cluster. Or it's being in the left lane. Or it's matching speed with the other speeders around you.

It's just like gambling. Everyone has their system that they think works, and nobody's ever done research to actually check if the statistics hold. Somebody sees a pattern and they think it's just so good that it must be right.

about a week ago
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Scientists/Actress Say They Were 'Tricked' Into Geocentric Universe Movie

Sarten-X Re:where is the controversy? (639 comments)

It is the word of the Lord. His very power guided the hands that put the words on the paper.

Why can't that be the case? Why isn't it possible that God would write by proxy the truth as he wanted it to be known at the time?

In the Beginning, God created a multi-dimensional manifold, having three large spacial dimensions and one large temporal dimension. Within this space he created a ball of superheated free fermions, and endowed with complimentary bosons, but you're not going to know about those for two thousand years. Then He relaxed the pull of gravity just a bit, and the whole thing exploded in an event so large that your language doesn't have a word for it, and your brain can't really even comprehend the scale of what happened. Then, after a time that you also can't comprehend, and a series of events you also can't comprehend, the rock you're standing on was formed.

In comparison: In the Beginning, God created the heavens and the earth... And we'll just leave it at that for now, okay?

Frankly, I like to think the Bible has just passed its expiration date.

As an aside I totally read your nick as Satan-X

You're not the first. I find it amusing.

about a week ago
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Scientists/Actress Say They Were 'Tricked' Into Geocentric Universe Movie

Sarten-X Re:where is the controversy? (639 comments)

It's worth noting that the Ecclesiastes verse is not in the context of astronomy, but rather highlighting the relative impermanence of human works. Humans and their ambitions come and go, but the days keep coming and the wind keeps blowing.

There's no reason to think it isn't referring to the apparent position of the sun, relative to an Earth-bound observer.

about a week ago
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Ask Slashdot: Which NoSQL Database For New Project?

Sarten-X Re:NoSQL? (272 comments)

I take it you've never seen a DBA in a code review.

The ability to write well-formed SQL queries that are efficient and correct is also a specialized skill. It may not be one you recognize, presumably because you've had it for so long, but the majority of applicants I've encountered are not suited for doing production SQL work. They might be able to write a simple query, but finding someone who understands keys, indexes, views, and all of the other efficiency-improving features is a rarity indeed.

about a week ago
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Ask Slashdot: Which NoSQL Database For New Project?

Sarten-X Re:NoSQL? (272 comments)

In my experience, it's not much harder than finding developers with any other specialized skill set.

Hadoop and HBase are exposed as libraries with well-documented APIs. If you're trying to hire developers who can't read an API doc, you have bigger problems than database choice. If you want to hire someone who already knows what they're doing, then your prospects are similar to finding a dev who already knows a particular 3D engine, or kernel development, et cetera.

If you're hiring competent documentation-reading developers anyway, and are willing to pay the expenses while they learn the idioms of this particular library, then there's no additional difficulty in the hiring process.

about a week ago
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Snowden: NSA Spied On Human Rights Workers

Sarten-X Re:Dark underbelly of reality (230 comments)

None of the above.

A beggar would be easy to infiltrate as, so it'd be ideal for surveillance. A car dealer would make many contacts, so it's ideal for spreading material. An elected official has power, but he also faces a lot of scrutiny. An aide to the official, however, would be a reasonable choice. There's easy access to the power, less scrutiny, and much more capability to contact other aliens.

about a week ago

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