But first . . .

Did you see the op-ed in last Thursday’s New York Times calling for a $500 “dividend” for every man, woman and child in America instead of a tax cut? Richard Freeman, a Harvard economics professor, and Eileen Applebaum, research director at the Economic Policy Institute, note that a tax cut – inevitably a complicated and hotly disputed piece of legislation – would take a long time to enact and then kick in, coming too late to avert a possible recession. This one-time $140 billion dividend could be effective right away. And being a one-shot, it would cut into our projected surplus, and deflect our deficit-reduction trajectory, just once. That’s a great thing, because paying down the national debt is a lot more prudent course than cutting taxes – and will provide a terrific ‘tax cut’ all its own. Namely: low mortgage rates, low car loan rates, low rates for small and large business borrowers, a strong economy, and a strong dollar that keeps consumer prices low (especially stuff we buy from abroad, like your TiVo). A one-shot dividend doesn’t rule out some kind of ongoing tax cut. But what a great, democratic (small d) idea. A dividend! I like this so much, I think I’ll repeat it all week.

Now . . .

BIRD GUTS

Ralph Sierra: Your reference in today’s column to disemboweling birds to foretell stock prices reminded me of a recent piece in the kid’s section of the Washington Post about the origin of the word inaugurate:

The new president may not be thinking of ancient bird guts, but that is partly where the term inaugurate comes from. The word dates back to the early Romans. A man called an augur was said to be able to foretell the future by observing the flight of birds (if the birds flew to the left, it was a good omen; to the right, a bad omen). The augur also listened to the bird’s songs, observed what food they ate and examined their intestines to try to guess the future. The word augur comes from two Latin words: avis (bird) and garrire (to talk or tell). If the augur’s interpretation (or augury) was good, it meant that it was a good time to take a major action such as formally recognizing a new king or emperor. Eventually, the Latin inaugurare, meaning “to install an official after consulting the birds,” became our word inaugurate.

CHEAP SHIRTS

Rob Bullock: ‘Your shirt story reminded me of when I worked at a clothing store in college. This was back in 1981-82, when everyone had to wear designer jeans (Jordache, Calvin Klein …). When we received a shipment, it showed the price we paid per pair to the manufacturer, the factory code and our price. Our mark up was about 400 – 500%. The telling piece was that the Levi’s that sold for half the price of the designer jeans came from the exact same factory. I can proudly say I have not paid full price for an article of clothing in years. If I am really supposed to have it, it will be there in my size when I go back and it is on sale! (Some scoff, but I also clip coupons every Sunday morning. I keep track of my savings by placing whatever I saved in an envelope and writing it on a log sheet when I get home from the store. Over the last three years I have saved at least $500 annually on groceries. My average grocery bill is about $60 a week so this is about 8% annually. The front of the Yellow Pages is a great place to find coupons for services and products – oil changes, tires, basic auto service, pizzas, etc. What I save goes toward my vacation fund.)

Mike Sieverman: ‘Not to top you, but I still have two perfectly good plaid flannel shirts bought at Osco Drug 8 years ago for $9.99. Now, if they would only sell Khaki’s.’

Mark Centuori, concerned about my $110 wine stains: ‘Sounds like you need to visit HowToCleanAnything.com.’

Mark Kennet: ‘You can get the same exact shirts that you paid $12.99 for in Walgreens in Manila, Bangkok, or Jakarta for less than half that. In Bangkok, for about the $12.99, you can get a custom shirt made to order in less than 24 hours out of any material you choose.’

☞ Ah, but the airfare! To which Mark, anticipating my every objection, replies by continuing:

‘You can do the same with custom suits. If you’re a big enough clothes horse, you could probably justify the round-trip airfare to Bangkok plus hotel just on the savings in your wardrobe. I got two extremely nice all-wool suits with an extra pair of pants each for a total of $500, and that was without haggling. These were literally made from whole cloth in only two days.’

 

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