Archive for Common Cents

Returning to that foreign-transaction business

Mr. Peabody says we have to turn the clock back to 2007 for this one:

Subject to final Court approval, a settlement has been reached in In re Foreign Currency Conversion Fee Antitrust Litigation (MDL 1409).

I filed an original claim, with the expectation of scoring a refund, or at least a card credit, of $25 or so. In late 2011, this happened:

[A] check for $18.04 arrived. Says the fine print: “All refund amounts are reduced because the full amount of all the claims exceeds the amount in the settlement fund.”

Okay, fine. I’m not going to sneeze at eighteen bucks. Then this past Monday a check for $8.23 showed up, per this instruction:

On April 16, 2013, the Court approved a second distribution of checks for monies remaining in the Currency Conversion Fee settlement fund. This second, “residual” distribution will be coordinated with the distribution of funds in connection with the settlement in the related matter, Ross, et al. v. American Express Co., et al.

Apparently no actual Amex cardmembers were charged dubious fees; however, the plaintiffs in this matter argued that Amex had nonetheless conspired with all the other defendants. And despite the original statement that the settlement fund was insufficient to pay all the claims in full, evidently they had something left. I attribute this to the fold-over post-card format in which the checks were issued; how many recipients looked at it, deemed it junk mail, and tossed it into the can with the potato peelings?

Needless to say, I’m not going to sneeze at eight bucks. (Which now gives me $26.27, actually in excess of the $25 projected. Go figure.)

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Rebate and switch

Last year, CFI Care (not its real initials) sent out a form letter to the effect that this wasn’t going to be an issue for them:

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurers in the individual and small group market to spend at least 80 percent of the premiums they receive on health care services and activities to improve health care quality (in the large group market, this amount is 85 percent). This is referred to at the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule or the 80/20 rule. If a health insurer does not spend at least 80 percent of the premiums it receives on health care services and activities to improve health care quality, the insurer must rebate the difference.

This year? It’s an issue. Upon doing the actual calculations, they discovered that they had in fact forked out a hair under 78 percent, and therefore would have to issue rebate checks — or, alternatively, would have to credit the appropriate sum against this year’s premiums. I assume they did the latter, since I have received no such check and since there was relatively little wailing and/or gnashing of teeth in the front office this past January at renewal time.

Possible downside: should the carrier meet the 80-percent spec next time around, the expected premium increase might look even bigger than it really is.

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Today’s numbers racket

Everything you ever hated about the Financial Industry in one brief anecdote:

The check was for $6,000, an amount this sow never saw in her life. She was always overdrawn on her accounts, had well over $1,000 in fees, and was just a miserable, pathetic, excuse for a human being. But what made this great was just how obvious it was she had printed this check off of a cheap ink-jet printer.

My solution was simple — call the cops and get this vermin arrested for passing fake checks.

But oh, no. Not for the staff nor my boss. How did we know it was fake? How did we know she purposely printed this off? Besides (and pay attention to this) we needed her late and overdraft fees because those (despite never being paid) made this a profitable account.

Yep. Meets the technical definition of an asset, even if for all intents and purposes it is clearly anything but. Somewhere in the ether are a couple of quadrillions worth of complicated derivatives with all the tangible value of unicorn farts — believe me, I know from unicorn farts — that are, for the moment, being carried as assets. How long can this go on? So long as everyone agrees that these are actually assets and doesn’t try anything foolish like, oh, trying to cash them out.

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The easy consumer choice

Well, this was difficult. I got both an email and a proper letter from the fulfillment house for The Week, the only newsmagazine worth my time, offering me a 54-issue (about 14 months) subscription renewal. I decided I would write them a check, but before taking pen in hand, I took a quick look at the email link. And that deal was $5 pricier.

What’s more, they picked up the postage on the return envelope. So I save five bucks, minus whatever pittance it costs me for that one single check (whatever it is per box divided by 120), and I don’t have to fork over my Visa number. Win/win all around.

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And that revenue is lost forever

This letter to the editor of the Oklahoman — well, its heart is in the right place, but its brain seems to be on backorder from Amazon:

“U.S. Senate passes bill to let states tax online sales” (Business, May 7) quotes the Oklahoma Tax Commission in saying the state loses $185 million to $225 million in tax revenue from Internet sales each year. If the state loses that much, then some citizens gained an equal amount in savings. And where would these citizens most likely spend that savings? Right here at home! The state would get its pound of flesh when those savings were spent.

So does the state really lose on Internet sales? Time and effort would be better spent in figuring ways to cut government spending to reduce taxes, including eliminating the sales tax on food and clothing.

Which would result in savings to some citizens, which would be spent — where, exactly, and on what?

The real problem here, though, is not so much with the letter as with that gratuitous term “loses”: why, we’d have that $185-225 million if it weren’t for, um, the fact that no law currently allows us to take it. Obviously we should have more laws to allow the state to not “lose” money, right?

But hey, this spate of pooch-screwing was aggravated by having these alleged “sales tax holidays” in which tax is charged, no matter what you heard: the prices are simply adjusted downward by the amount of the tax. Sales tax, we learn from these things, is purely arbitrary, and subject to the whim of the government. And of late, fewer of us are inclined to indulge their whims.

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A load of sheet

Another one of those remarkable Karl Denninger comparisons:

The so-called “increase” in your wages are an intentional chimera which is thrown to you to make you “feel good” about your earnings “going up.” But in point of fact they’re not going up at all, they are going down because the divisor, the total number of dollars in the system that are available to buy the goods and services are rising much faster than your earnings are.

The fraud you’re being sold is exactly identical to going into a bakery and ordering a sheet cake. The baker asks you how many pieces you would like the cake cut into; your options are 2, 4, 8, 16 or 32. He then tells you that if you’re really hungry you should choose 32, because that way you can eat more pieces.

You’d either laugh at the baker or string him up by his necktie were he to pull that crap, yet this is exactly what Ben Bernanke along with all the politicians have been selling you for the last 30 years.

When I was in fourth grade, I read Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which makes similar economic points. It’s stuck with me for half a century. No wonder students don’t read it anymore.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Shop accordingly

There are times I don’t want to be caught dead in a grocery store: when there’s a tornado watch, right before an OU football game, or right after the first of the month. To explain the latter:

It’s not just food stamps. It’s social security and disability checks as well. I see it when I shop at Costco. I’ve learned to avoid the place like the plague right after the first of the month, when a huge percentage of government checks get rolled out, and the place is jammed.

I admittedly haven’t always had the option of going the day before, or the day after, but now that I do, I take advantage of it whenever necessary.

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All for a gigabuck

Oh, how the times have changed. From this week in 2009:

The operative word is “No,” as in “no raises, no new services and no new positions” in the proposed $839.6 million city budget for next year.

With the local economy sucking less these days, OKC will be getting a few more cops on the beat, a few improvements in services, and a few more pounds of asphalt pressed into the lumpy edges of May Avenue. And, of course, it will cost more: the FY 2014 city budget comes to $1.027 billion. Who’d have thought this little burg could spend a billion in a year? Then again, this little burg now has 600,000 people, up twenty thousand from the 2010 Census, and we are a demanding lot. Sometimes.

(The entire 600-plus-page Budget Book, as a PDF.)

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Further Upsetsy

Thursday’s item on that proposed “Internet sales tax” drew a sharp response from Mark Alger, who declared it wholly unconstitutional based on a passage from Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution: “No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.”

He expands on this reasoning thusly:

Congress does not have the authority to permit the states to collect sales taxes on goods traveling between states. Note that the actual text of the Constitution refers solely to the goods themselves and make no mention of the location of the businesses or individuals shipping or receiving. Only that the goods be carried out (that’s what “export” means — to carry out) of one state.

And furthermore:

It might be argued that states may collect taxes on goods imported to the several states, except that only Congress has that power, and may not delegate it, and, at least for commerce within the United States, any good imported to one state must first be exported from another, and the taxation of that transaction is forbidden by the above provision.

Bottom line: You can’t enact this scheme without actually amending the Constitution. Then again, relatively few members of Congress pay anything more than lip service to the Constitution, and then only when they need it to support their own positions.

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Instant panic

Earlier this week, persons unknown hacked their way into an Associated Press Twitter account and issued one bogus tweet, which promptly caused a 140-point drop in the Dow Jones industrials. Corrections were hurriedly issued, and the DJIA returned to its previous level.

This incident, says Lynn, ranks among “the top ten idiotic news events of all time,” and she prescribes a solution for those market woes:

I know how to fix the stock market. It needs to run like an older version of Windows. Every time someone buys or sells, after a 30 second delay they are asked, “Are you sure?” Then, if they choose “Yes”, there’s another 30 second delay before anything happens. And any time the stock market drops more than 100 points it blue screens.

I’d make only one change to that: delete “an older version of” and replace it with, um, well, nothing, actually.

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Upsetsy

Brian J. on the proposed “Internet sales tax”:

Maybe an Internet sales tax might have been workable fifteen years ago, but the profusion of special local sales taxing gimmicks has rendered it completely unworkable now. Online retailers or their newly more expensive payment processing vendors would have to somehow keep abreast of these developments, new taxing authorities, and siloed taxes across counties like the new Arch tax in the St. Louis metropolitan area, and they would need to constantly, daily update their tax levying to reflect new uses and abuses in every county, city, and town in the country.

Or, unexpectedly, go out of business. Which will mean the Internet sales tax revenues will be strangely less than hoped, and the well-positioned Internet and brick-and-mortar giants will reap the rewards.

When has a new tax ever brought in more than expected?

You’d think the GOP-controlled House would strangle this thing in its crib. Don’t count on it.

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Take a guess

This feeling I know too well:

Somebody was complaining the other day about getting E-mail from utilities saying their bill was due, but they did not tell them him the amount. I thought it was Dustbury, but I couldn’t find the post, so maybe it was someone else. I get notices from Blue Cross all the time telling me that there is a new message for me on their website. That’s all the notice says, and if I go to the website, all that message says is that they paid some medical bill, or didn’t, and I have to go to another page to see how much they paid or didn’t. At least I recall that’s how it works. I don’t even bother any more since if I owe one of these guys some money, they can be counted on to send me a bill on paper. Likewise American Express sends me a note every month telling me that I have a new bill, but I have to go to some other site and download the PDF file to see what’s on it. If this is what the paperless solution looks like, it sucks. I am going to stick to paper as much as I can.

Actually, I think this is what he remembered:

In other news, someone is actually reading my tweets.

AT&T, of all corporate pseudo-people, actually includes the amount in their email notices, for which I thank them.

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Just try to get a buggy whip these days

“The disruption economy,” Dave Schuler calls it, and he has plenty of examples to cite:

[I]magine a world in which not just individual businesses or even industries and trades vanish but in which complete business models, groups of industries, are failing and being replaced by new ones practically on a daily basis.

He cites Aereo, a multi-antenna television service that delivers over-the-air channels to subscribers for about one-fifth what cable companies charge, which has a couple of networks threatening to drop their local signals in response. But that’s hardly the only one:

[H]igher education’s business model is not long for this world. The big law firms’ business model has already changed and there are hundreds or thousands of young lawyers standing dazed in the wreckage. One of the insufficiently remarked-on aspects of the PPACA is how much it changes physicians’ business model.

Retail has been in ferment for decades. Soon there will only be online sales as exemplified by Amazon.com, boutiques (which are mainly a hobby business), and Walmart. J. C. Penney’s problems, still being covered in the business pages, are that there is no room for yet another commodity retailer.

And why do you think your favorite magazines, or for that matter the ones you can’t stand, are so assiduously courting tablet owners?

Thirty years from now, the business landscape will be unrecognizable. (And so will I, but that’s another matter entirely.)

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Introducing Schedule FB

The IRS routinely looks at your W-2 and that fistful of 1099s. And now they’re reading your social-media accounts:

New reports brought to light by one privacy and data security expert suggest that this tax filing season the Internal Revenue Service may be monitoring social media for any clues of tax cheats.

According to Kristen Mathews, a partner attorney at law firm Proskauer Rose LLP who specializes in privacy and data security, there are reports that the IRS will be checking into individual Facebook and Twitter accounts for improprieties.

Though the agency says that it will only conduct such monitoring if a tax form raises a red flag, it is somewhat unclear to what extent it will be capable of delving into social media accounts.

You think maybe that drunken debauch in Dayton you plastered (while plastered) all over Facebook might get your expenses disallowed?

(Via this Jules Shapiro tweet.)

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Defective rate

I did the tax returns last night, and 20 percent of what I made last year went straight into federal or state coffers, there to be used or misused, and I’m betting more of the latter than the former. (This does not include the 8.375-percent sales tax around here, 4.5 of which goes to the state, or the property tax on the palatial estate at Surlywood, or various and sundry imposts on things like utility franchises and fuel. Add somewhere around 5 percent for those.)

Last year I talked with a candidate for the state House, and let it be known that I was less interested in seeing the income-tax rate cut than I was in seeing the brackets broadened: I’m not so damnably wealthy, yet I’m always at the top marginal rate. (That rate, for 2012, was 5.25 percent; it kicks in at — get this — $8700.)

I will, of course, postpone writing the checks for a day or two, just because.

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Looky-loot

A store in Brisbane, Australia is sick of people coming in to look at stuff and then go buy it from Amazon or wherever, and is doing something about it:

As of the first of February, this store will be charging people a $5 fee per person for “just looking.”

The $5 fee will be deducted when goods are purchased.

Why has this come about?

There has been high volume of people who use this store as a reference and then purchase goods elsewhere. These people are unaware our prices are almost the same as the other stores plus we have products simply not available anywhere else.

This policy is line with many other clothing, shoe and electronic stores who are also facing the same issue.

Exactly when is this fee collected? Do you have to peel off a fiver the moment you cross the threshold? Or do they wait until you show up at the exit with no purchases?

I can’t see how this model can generate any additional revenue, unless they’re counting on this, um, gesture to bring them a whole lot more publicity. Viral whining! You gotta love it.

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Visit our new Alta Vista branch

Will Truman’s looking for a bank, but probably not this one:

I ran across Presidential Bank. Its website bills itself as an “Online Bank” even though they have physical locations as well. But its website looks like something right out of Geocities. I know not to judge a book by its cover, but its website gives me serious pause about their legitimacy. Which is totally bizarre, because if I were starting a fake bank with a website, I would totally make the website look as real as possible.

This is reminiscent of Steve Martin’s routine about why banks are always called something like “Security National Trust and Federal Reserve” — because no one’s going to put their money in “Fred’s Bank.” On the upside, no one’s going to believe that Fred’s is Too Big To Fail.

May we suggest Redneck Bank?

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We’ll handle that for you

I’m guessing you’ve probably already figured this out. Bill Quick certainly has:

[I]n an effort to save TBTF banks, the government crashed interest rates into negative numbers (adjusting for inflation) which destroyed the incomes of millions of retirees and others, forcing them to depend entirely on government payments of one kind or another.

At which point the government noticed how dangerous the savings and investment environment had become for older folks, thanks to the government’s own actions — and so it arrogated to itself the necessity of taking over the management of retirement savings for the saver’s own good.

My bank statements come out today, so I can stare in disbelief at the incredibly low interest rate I’m earning, although it’s only half as low as it was last year.

Eventually, I suspect, the Feds will actually try to confiscate those savings, there being no reason to think that Washington is any more competent and/or scrupulous than, say, Cyprus.

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Bullies for hire

A screed headed “Stop PAYDAY Companies from taking your HARD earned MONEY!” (emphasis as in original) landed in my email box yesterday. The pitch:

Eliminate payday Loans ASAP!

Before they take your next check stop them in their tracks with us!
We will keep them from taking your hard earned money.

We help protect you! We are the Payday BULLIES!!

They list a phone number, a post-office box in Woodstock, Georgia, and a URL which as of last night went to an Apache 2 test page.

Interestingly, arriving at about the same time was a GoFundMe solicitation for various anti-bullying efforts, including this one to support Rachel’s Challenge. Timing is everything.

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Capitalist running dog pulls up lame

If you’re not Goldman Sachs, says Steven Rattner, you ain’t squat:

Most troublesome is the legalization of “crowd funding,” the ability of start-up companies to raise capital from small investors on the Internet. While such lightly regulated capital raising has existed for years, until now, “investors” could receive only trinkets and other items of small value, similar to the way public television raises funds. As soon as regulations required to implement the new rules are completed, people who invest money in start-ups through sites similar to Kickstarter will be able to receive a financial interest in the soliciting company, much like buying shares on the stock exchange. But the enterprises soliciting these funds will hardly be big corporations like Wal-Mart or Exxon; they will be small start-ups with no track records.

And God, or Robert Reich, forbid that small investors should actually own anything, am I right?

Write this down and memorize it, Rattzo: “Too big to fail” is the functional equivalent of “too big to be useful,” and will remain so just as long as Wall Street’s sole interest is the care and feeding of Wall Street.

Oh, and before you express your oh-so-sincere concern about all us player wannabes, you might consider this from Warren Meyer:

I predict that over [time] that Internet entrepreneurs running such crowd-sourcing sites would develop reputation management and review tools for investors (similar to those at Amazon and eBay). Over time, it may be that these become far more trustworthy than current credit agency reports or investment bank recommendations. After all, which do you trust more — a 5-star Amazon review with 35 responses or a Goldman Sachs “buy” recommendation on an IPO like Facebook or Groupon? Besides, it would take a very long time, like eternity, for fraud losses in a crowd-sourcing site to equal 1/100 of the investor losses to heavily regulated Bernie Madoff.

Consider yourself downgraded, Rattski.

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The non-profit motive

Yours truly in Vent #640:

There is no more exasperating aspect of modern-day leftism than its insistence that anything from which someone actually makes money is somehow impure and unworthy.

Which is not to say that nonprofits are either above reproach or above raking in the dough:

Since hospitals are responsible for the vast majority of medical costs in this country, slashing these outrageous charges brings incredible savings without even touching physician pay. Since we own our facility, we are content with solid fees for our professional services with no desire to plunder and bankrupt our patients with gigantic facility fees, unlike the so-called “not for profit” hospitals. We actually act more like a “not for profit” entity than those claiming this tax-free status.

Nor is this condition peculiar to the health-care industry:

Just because it’s “non-profit” doesn’t mean people aren’t getting paid. The entire environmentalist movement exists because, in the 1970s, a bunch of hippies figured out that protesting against pollution — everybody hates pollution, right? — could be a full-time job, if the hippies could convince a lot of big-money “philanthropic” foundations to cut them a check every year.

It worked out pretty good for those hippies, some of whom have long since retired in luxury after successful careers as professional (non-profit) environmental activists, having never done an honest day’s work in their entire worthless lives.

Just don’t ask them about their goddamn carbon footprints.

I suspect that not too long after I’m gone, the rules for nonprofits will be radically changed, not because of this particular plaint, but because government will be desperate to get its mitts (not to be confused with “Mitt’s”) on whatever hoards of cash still exist.

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Bits champed at

Last year, in a piece on Equestrian currency, I noted that one bit was “not an enormous sum.” No official exchange rate has ever been quoted, a fact which didn’t deter EqD’s Cereal Velocity from attempting to determine the dollar value of the bit.

Cereal notes, correctly, from “Putting Your Hoof Down”:

[I]t’s established that a tomato can either be one or two bits worth of value. For the ease of calculation and to eliminate the possibility that the shopkeeper is simply ripping Fluttershy off, we will assume that one tomato is worth one bit.

He then goes into a complicated exposition that ends up, if you ask me, nowhere useful. I suspect he’s never actually gone to the market and bought a tomato. (And if he did, he didn’t pay a cent and a half for it.)

By comparison, this is what happened in The Sparkle Chronicles when Twilight Sparkle, visiting the human world, saw for the first time a Large Automobile:

“What does something like this cost?”

Dollars obviously meant nothing to her, so: “How much for three tomatoes?”

“About two bits,” she said.

“Then this was about twenty thousand bits.”

At the time I wrote that, three tomatoes, smallish, were running about a buck and a half. (I rather suspect that Equestrian tomatoes are not like our humongous hothouse-raised supermarket spheroids grown for anything but flavor.) This is a tad cheaper than the market sequence in “Putting Your Hoof Down” implies, but I got the distinct impression that prices in the Ponyville marketplace are anything but, um, stable.

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Canberra wants your cash

Under previous Australian law, dormant deposit accounts were turned over to the government after seven years. The new rule is three years, and they mean it:

Thousands of bank account holders are being advised to make trans­actions of as little as $1 to avoid ­having their accounts transferred to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to help plug the federal government’s budget deficit.

Under recent changes to the law designed to raise $109 million this financial year, deposits can be deemed unclaimed if a transaction has not been made on an account for three years or more, down from seven years previously.

Collecting interest, apparently, is not considered a transaction.

Says Tim Blair: “Next up: federal couch inspections.”

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Someone call Bernanke

A review of my bank statement turns up the unexpected news that I am now earning twice last year’s interest rate on my savings account.

I was hunting around for a suitable term, and the one that seems to fit best is “semi-meager.” I suppose I have the grim satisfaction of knowing that it’s not likely to push me into a higher tax bracket.

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Sixty-one dollars per sneeze

This week’s health-care buzzword — we’re going to have them on a regular basis until the entire system drops to its artificial knees, or a week from Thursday, whichever comes first — is “fee for health,” as distinguished from “fee for service.” It doesn’t sound too distinguished to the Crimson Reach, though:

Quick doctors/hospitals, who wants to get to administer time-consuming experimental or at least palliative care to this incurably-diseased patient on a ‘fee for health’ basis? Don’t all raise your hands at once.

And besides:

[W]hat would ‘fee for health’ even mean? Someone appears to have forgotten that actual healthy people mostly aren’t even seeing a doctor, for anything, in the first place. That’s part of the definition of ‘healthy’. Isn’t it?

Then again, some of us old codgers have the preposterous notion that health care ought to have something to do with health. The Discordable Care Act destroyed that idea forever.

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Robin Hoodlums

I have occasionally joked that I have enough tucked away in retirement savings to last me at least until a week from next Tuesday. Rumors persist that the D. C. extortion gang, in its flinty heart of hearts, wants to grab it and replace it with yet another government IOU; Maggie’s got a roundup of various reports on the subject, and the following warning:

When public comment has already been asked for, something is brewing, and it doesn’t matter what we want. They pander and then ignore us.

I’d say “When in doubt, assume the worst,” but who’s in doubt anymore?

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Satin for the pink sheets

A panel advising the Securities and Exchange Commission thinks it would be really keen to have stock exchanges in both Original and Extra Crispy:

[T]he advisory committee on small and emerging companies … voted to urge the SEC to support the setting up of an exchange for small publicly traded companies that would only be accessible for high-income individuals such as so-called accredited investors, who must have net worths, excluding their homes, of $1 million or more or income of $200,000 or more for at least two years.

The reasoning behind this idea:

Companies listing on an exchange set up for high-net-worth investors may not be required to provide costly prospectuses and other disclosures that are necessary when retail investors are involved. Backers contend that this would drive down costs associated with public offerings and could encourage private companies to take the plunge into becoming almost-public companies.

I suppose, as a “retail” investor, and at the dollar-store level at that, I should resent the very idea, but I don’t. I mean, I don’t get bent out of shape because the bank has a separate division for Private Banking, presumably with more perks. Then again, I have motivations other than envy, so I’m probably disqualified from having any opinions on the financial system, if you call this a “system.”

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You can no longer bank on these

For those who may have forgotten that such things existed, we bring you a Series 1902 banknote that listed on eBay last month for $267:

1907 National Bank Note obverse

1907 National Bank Note reverse

In 1863, the National Banking Act provided that nationally-chartered banks could issue banknotes, backed by US bonds purchased by the issuing banks. This practice continued until the Great Depression, when the government decided that all currency should be issued from a single source.

Hugh McCulloch, portrayed on this $20 note issued in Oklahoma City, served as Secretary of the Treasury in Abraham Lincoln’s second, rudely interrupted term, and continued into Andrew Johnson’s; he returned to Treasury for the last few months of the Chester A. Arthur administration. Interestingly, he had opposed the idea of paper money without gold backing, and in his first report called for the gradual replacement of greenbacks with specie.

The text on the lower reverse:

This note is receivable at par in all parts of the United States, except duties on imports, and also for all salaries and other debts and demands owing by the United States to individuals, corporations and associations within the United States except interest on public debt.

(Via user Praedura on OKCTalk.com.)

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Of tellers and telling

Jennifer’s advice for those of you in the drive-thru lane at the bank:

When I got off work today, we ran by the bank to make a deposit. It is unseasonably warm in our part of the world and so we had the windows down. We generally shut off the engine when sitting in the bank drive-thru since our little car is LOUD.

So there we were minding our own business. We’d already sent our little cylinder to the teller inside and were chatting about things. I happened to hear the man in the next lane speaking to the teller. He was sending his cylinder back because he wanted his cash “in hundreds.”

And that is not the sort of statement you’d want other people to hear:

What if that person in the next lane isn’t me? What if they hear you ask for that cash back/withdrawal in hundreds? How far will the bad guy follow you for at least $200?

A bad guy once kicked in my door for a meager $3.25, so “the ends of the earth” is probably close enough.

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The six-percent solution

State law requires retailers to sell their goods at a minimum of six percent above cost, unless a lower cost basis can be proven. This curious legislation is designated the Unfair Sales Act [pdf]; it was enacted in 1984 to replace a similar law dating to 1941. Even Matthew Yglesias finds it risible:

The theory of the case is that absent such legal protection a deep-pocketed national chain could come to town and operate at a loss until all the local competition is driven out of business. But real world discounting can serve many other purposes. A typical retail discounting strategy involves amazing bargains on a relatively small number of items, with the purpose of the bargain being to get shoppers in the door in the first place.

Now what deep-pocketed national chains can you think of? No, not them. The first-ever Sam’s Club, intended to beat local competition over the head, opened on SE 29th in, um, 1983.

Senator David Holt (R-OKC) is introducing a measure to repeal this law:

Holt said the outdated law puts Oklahomans at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states where retailers can legally offer significant bargains for “Back-to-School” and holiday sales, including “Black Friday”, the biggest shopping day of the year. By forcing Oklahomans to leave the state to shop, retailers, consumers, and core government services are all negatively impacted.

One perhaps might wonder how much out-of-state shopping it takes to offset the $40 worth of gas it takes to get across the state line and back to Holt’s district on Oklahoma City’s northwest side.

Oh, and Holt’s Senate Bill 550 excludes fuel and prescription drugs, two of the heavier items in my budget. I’m sure he didn’t mean it personally.

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