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Coffee Shop Economics


At this time of year, Americans have either already done their income taxes or still have about a month and a half to put it off. On top of that, we just heard today about the president's proposed new budget with tax increases for the nation's most wealthy. (We all will have to wait breathlessly to see if there's any chance it can go through.) This all made me think of something that's been aging in my files for the right moment to be posted....

picture of latte

Coffee Shop Economics

Suppose that every weekday ten men go out for lattes. The coffee shop is the best one around and their beverages are not cheap. Each day the total bill for the ten men comes to $100.

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

- The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.
- The fifth would pay $1.
- The sixth would pay $3.
- The seventh would pay $7.
- The eighth would pay $12.
- The ninth would pay $18.
- The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59, enjoying the latte and his friends.

So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men had lattes every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily coffees by $20."

Lattes for the ten now cost just $80. They could continue to enjoy their lattes and their time together, but for a lot less!

The group still wanted to continue to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes, so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink coffee for free.

But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his "fair share?"

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his coffee.

So, to be fair, the owner suggested reducing each of the six men's bills by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:
- The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).
- The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).
- The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).
- The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).
- The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).
- The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink coffee for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I got only one dollar out of the $20," declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right!" exclaimed the fifth man. "I saved only one dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute!" yelled the first four men in unison, "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth man and beat him up.

The next night, as much as he had previously been enjoying coffee with the guys, the tenth man didn't show up for coffee. So the nine sat down and had their lattes without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them to pay even half of the tab! Too late, though, since their wealthy friend had no plans to return.

And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction, all the while still getting stuck for most of the tax revenues. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might go to other coffee shops where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier and less demanding and where they can drink a latte for the same price everyone else pays and possibly with nicer friends.

(Added 5 March 2009: I just learned that the original idea for the scenario above came from David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, University of Georgia. The original that I received was unattributed and I could not find the source. I changed it quite a bit, turning it into a coffee shop instead of a bar, but I'd like to give credit where credit is due. I was really surprised to find that Muddy Dog Roasting Co. had done almost the same thing with the piece back in October 2008! Great minds....)

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What are your thoughts on the Coffee Shop Economics story above? Do you think it's valid? There's an interesting article about this type of thing called The 2% Illusion in the Opinion Journal of today's Wall Street Journal.

This week has been extremely full, but definitely good. Our church, Hampton Park Baptist Church, has been hosting the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team all week. The messages have been excellent and the music outstanding. Anyone local who would like to attend Friday evening's Irish Sacred Concert, the meeting begins at 7:00. Come a few minutes early to get settled into a seat before it starts.

quotation...

"Every person born since Adam's sin is not God-centered, but self-centered." - Steve Pettit

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

The IRS looks at every taxpayer as having what it takes.

The Garden of Your Life


One thing I like about gardening is that it has so many parallels with life, among them the Scriptural principle of sowing and reaping. Today's instant vacation is a nice piece I had in my files about our individual gardens of daily living.

Here's a great way to plant your garden of daily living:

Plant three rows of peas:
1. Peas of mind
2. Peas of heart
3. Peas of soul

Plant four rows of squash:
1. Squash gossip
2. Squash indifference
3. Squash grumbling
4. Squash selfishness

Plant four rows of lettuce:
1. Lettuce be faithful
2. Lettuce be kind
3. Lettuce be patient
4. Lettuce really love one another

No garden without turnips:
1. Turnip for meetings
2. Turnip for service
3. Turnip to help one another

To conclude our garden, we must have thyme:
1. Thyme for each other
2. Thyme for family
3. Thyme for friends

Water freely with patience and cultivate with love. There will be much fruit in your life garden because you will surely reap what you sow.

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Just this afternoon after I got home from school, I planted three rows of sugar snap peas in my newly tilled garden ... lettuce later this week. It's too early for squash and I have no plans for turnips. The thyme is in our herb garden already.

Here's a picture of the garden after I added the topsoil and compost to the newly uncovered area:

picture of topsoil added

I borrowed a tiller from a kind neighbor, but this is probably the last time I plan to till that area since I try to use the no-till method of gardening. Here's a picture after I tilled all the soil and mixed things up well.

picture of tilled garden

After that I applied a nice layer of mulched leaves another kind friend had given me, as she has the past several years. If you look at the left-hand side of the first picture above, you can see that this mulching has produced some nice soil already as the leaves break down and provide good organic material in the process. I really like having a layer of mulch because, in addition to building up the soil, it helps hold in moisture and allows me to garden without getting my shoes all muddy, even right after rain. Here's the garden with the layer of leaves:

picture of mulched garden

This week I received an e-mail with pictures of a heavy snowfall last month in Québec City in Québec, Canada. Since my last post was weather-related, I thought I'd share some of the pictures in this blog post.

picture of snow

picture of snow

picture of snow

picture of snow

And as we learned in the last post, everyone has a different take on the weather....

picture of snow

OK, maybe some of us should stop whining about how cold it is or how much snow we have to shovel! 😀 Really, what's the winter been like where you live?

quotation...

"As well might we argue that it is unnecessary for us to breathe because God gives us breath, or that Hezekiah need no longer to eat and drink because God had promised he should live another fifteen years. . . Grace does not annul our responsibility but fits us to discharge it; it relieves from no duties, but equips for the performance of them." - John Owen

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

In this age of titles, I'm not just a gardener, I'm a Plant Manager.

Does Anyone Else Have Spring Fever?


picture of thermometer

Much to the chagrin of the global warming prophets of doom, 2008 was the coldest year since the beginning of the decade. This winter has been downright harsh and cold, not just here in the USA, but also in many other countries. We had several unseasonably warm days last week with record-breaking temperatures, which did nothing but fuel my spring fever. This week, though, we're back to normal temps for this time of year. Brrr!

In my second semester French classes right now we're doing a unit on weather. Part of that involves the students' becoming more familiar with Celsius temperature readings. Here's something that will help them and others understand relative temperatures. Although it lampoons dwellers of various parts of the country, it seems to be particularly hard on Wisconsinites.

(degrees Fahrenheit / Celsius)

+50 / +10
* New York tenants turn on the heat
* Wisconsinites plant gardens
* Airmass too stable for supercells

+40 / +4
* Californians shiver uncontrollably
* Ohioans sunbathe

+35 / +2
* Italian cars don't start

+32 / 0
* Distilled water freezes

+30 / -1
* You can see your breath
* You plan a vacation in Florida
* Politicians begin to say they're worried again about the homeless
* Wisconsinites eat ice cream

+25 / -4
* Boston water freezes
* Californians weep pitiably
* The cat insists on sleeping on your bed with you

+20 / -7
* Cleveland water freezes
* San Franciscans start thinking favorably of LA
* Green Bay Packers fans put on T-shirts

+15 / -10
* You plan a vacation in Acapulco
* The cat insists on sleeping under the covers with you
* Canadians go swimming

+10 / -12
* Politicians begin to talk about the homeless
* Too cold to snow
* You need jumper cables to get the car going

0 / -18
* New York landlords turn on the heat
* Sheboygan residents grill bratwursts on the patio

-5 / -21
* You can hear your breath
* You plan a vacation in Hawaii

-10 / -23
* American cars don't start
* Too cold to skate

-15 / -26
* You can cut your breath and use it to build an igloo
* Miamians cease to exist
* People in St. Paul lick flagpoles

-20 / -29
* The cat insists on sleeping in your pajamas with you
* Politicians actually do something about the homeless
* People in Buffalo think about taking down screens
* Every other storm chaser thinks air is too stable for supercells

-25 / -32
* Too cold to kiss
* You need jumper cables to get the driver going
* Japanese cars don't start
* Milwaukee Brewers head for spring training

-30 / -34
* You plan a two-week hot bath
* People in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan shovel snow off roof

-38 / -39
* Mercury freezes
* Too cold to think
* Minnesotans button top button

-40 / -40
* Californians disappear
* Now the car insists on sleeping in your bed with you
* Wisconsinites put on sweaters

-50 / -46
* Congressional hot air freezes
* Alaskans close the bathroom window
* Green Bay Packers practice indoors

-60 / -51
* Walruses abandon Aleutians
* Sign on Mount St. Helens: "Closed for the Season"
* North Dakotans put gloves away, take out mittens
* Boy Scouts in Eau Claire start Klondike Derby

-70 / -57
* Glaciers in Central Park
* Hudson residents replace diving boards with hockey nets
* Green Bay snowmobilers organize trans-lake race to Sault Ste. Marie

-80 / -62
* Polar bears abandon Baffin Island
* Girl Scouts in Eau Claire start Klondike Derby

-90 / -68
* Edge of Antarctica reaches Rio de Janeiro
* Lawyers chase ambulances for no more than 10 miles
* Minnesotans migrate to Wisconsin thinking it MUST be warmer

-100 / -73
* Santa Claus abandons North Pole
* North Dakotans pull down earflaps

-173 / -114
* Ethyl alcohol freezes

-297 / -183
* Oxygen precipitates out of atmosphere
* Microbial life survives only on dairy products

-445 / -265
* Superconductivity

-452 / -269
* Helium becomes a liquid

-456 / -271
* Texas drivers drop below 85 MPH on I-35

-458 / -272
* Incumbent politicians renounce campaign contributions

-460 / -273 (Absolute Zero)
* All atomic motion ceases
* Wisconsinites admit it's getting a mite nippy

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In a fit of spring feverishness last week, I decided to begin my project of doubling the size of our garden beside the house. Because of the economy, we would like to raise more vegetables than usual – hopefully with enough to can and/or freeze.

Here's a picture of the project at the halfway point:

picture of garden widening

Here's a picture after I'd removed all the sod and moved all the border stones:

picture of garden widening

I was able to lift the sod in small squares with my spading fork and move them to a spot in the backyard that was a barren low spot. It was not only great aerobic exercise for me, but it also elevated recycling to an art form. Here's a picture of the sod in place:

picture of sod

This Saturday I plan to till in the topsoil and compost I bought this week. Then I'll cover the garden with a nice layer of mulched up oak leaves. I'll put out pictures of that process next week.

I was pleased that my last blog post drew a comment from Mike the Taxidermist. I e-mailed Kyle the coyote from a link on Mike's website. Here's a link to his comment.

Do any of the rest of you have spring fever? How is it manifesting itself in your life?

quotation...
"Continuity in everything is unpleasant. Cold is agreeable, that we may get warm." - Blaise Pascal

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

If it's zero degrees outside today and it's supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow, how cold is it going to be?

Are We in for the Ride of Our Lives?


I got a wonderful story by e-mail this weekend that I simply had to share on my blog. Here it is:

A woman told her neighbor that she had seen a man driving a pick-up truck down the interstate and that a dog was hanging onto the tail gate for dear life!

She said if the pick-up truck driver hadn't been going so fast in the other direction, she would have tried to stop him.

A few weeks later, her neighbor saw that same truck in the parking lot at the Bass Pro Shop and took a picture of it.

picture of dog on truck

The driver of the pick-up truck is a local taxidermist, with a great sense of humor!

And that "dog" is actually a coyote named Kyle! I learned that when I did a web search and found the website of the taxidermist.

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As the world economy and our national economy are struggling, largely because of debt (ie. people spending money they don't have) and as our government votes on a spending bill of close to a trillion dollars we don't have, I think we all need to hold on for the ride of our lives. The Lord keeps sending us these reminders that our hope is not in people, but in Him.

quotation...

"There aren't any big shots when it comes to servants of God. If you want to be in the limelight to serve, it's not service you're thinking about – it's recognition." - Dr. Drew Conley

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

"The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin." - Mark Twain

Abraham Lincoln Quotations


picture of Lincoln

Today is the 200th birthday of two famous men - Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. I was surprised (but probably shouldn't have been...) to see which of the two men Google chose to highlight – Darwin. I decided to honor President Lincoln by sharing some well-known and not-so-well-known quotations from him. Some of them are quite powerful, while others show that he had a highly developed sense of humor.

Quotations from Abraham Lincoln

A woman is the only thing that I am afraid of that I know will not hurt me.

What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?

It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt.

Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.

Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.

When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it's best to let him run.

We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.

Common looking people are the best in the world: that is the reason the Lord makes so many of them.

I am rather inclined to silence, and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot.

I don't know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?
Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg.

I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father's child has.

If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

I have stepped out upon this platform that I may see you and that you may see me, and in the arrangement I have the best of the bargain.

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, "And this, too, shall pass away."

If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.

No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.

No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.

The best way to get a bad law repealed is to enforce it strictly.

Whenever I hear any one arguing for slavery I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

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Do you have a favorite quotation from Abe Lincoln to share or a comment to make on one of these quotations?

quotation...

"I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord's side." - Abraham Lincoln

=^..^= =^..^=
Rob

"He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met." - Abraham Lincoln