Breaking News from the Borowitz Report:

March 29, 2002

LAUGHTER NO LONGER THE BEST MEDICINE
Bumped From Top Spot By Red-Hot Antidepressants

Laughter, long thought to be the best medicine, has been surpassed in popularity by two widely used antidepressants, Prozac and Zoloft, according to a just-released market study paid for by the pharmaceuticals industry . . .

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Last week we spent an inordinate amount of time calculating the annualized rate of return one might ‘earn’ by changing his or her habits to buy by the case. The answer came to precisely 177.46%. Or precisely 176.7%. The estimable Less Antman explains: ‘Those who got 176.7% are only compounding for 52 weeks (364 days). Using 365 days, you get 177.46%.’ And, yes, using 365.25 days you get even a smidgeon more. I promise never, ever to raise this again.

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Did you know that some people – not you, of course, but perhaps an elderly relative, a frugally challenged son-in-law – actually pay the ‘Basic Rate Plan’ for long-distance telephone service? Last month, AT&T, MCI and Sprint all quietly raised these rates, from an astonishing 30 cents a minute, in some cases, to an even more astonishing 35 cents. This is about 7 times what you should be paying. Click here to find a better rate.

And don’t tell me about dialing ‘ten-ten-two-twenty,’ whose celebrity pitchmen get all excited about paying only 99 cents for 20 minutes. That works out to a nickel a minute if you talk for exactly 20 minutes. If you get an answering machine, it works out to 99 cents a minute. If you really had only 12 minutes of stuff to say but – not being one to waste money – you found a way to stay on the line an extra 8 minutes, then you in effect paid 8.25 cents a minute (for the time you actually wanted to talk) and wasted 8 minutes of your life and 8 minutes of your conversant’s life gabbing pointlessly.

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Sandy sent me this good article praising Russia’s 13% flat tax and lambasting Democrats for standing in the way of a flat tax here.

Thanks, Sandy. Someday, we may enjoy an economy like Russia’s.

Seriously: I’m all for tax simplification. But of the 45 billion pages in the tax code, it would take less than a single page to say (for example): the tax up to $20,000 is zero, from $20,000 to $50,000 it’s 13%, from $50,000 to $250,000 it’s 25%, from $250,000 to $2 million it’s 35%, and above that is 40%. Or whatever. The complexity is not in the progressivity. It’s in the other 45 billion pages.

Yes, I understand some people don’t buy the notion of a progressive income tax, where the tax rate is higher for those who make the most money. That’s an honest philosophical difference of opinion. But we’ve had progressive taxation for nearly a century, and it hasn’t rendered our economy, or our society, totally unsuccessful.

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I discovered something important at dinner last night purely by accident, the way Madame Curie (?) accidentally discovered the X-ray: Mint in your diet Coke. This is not exactly Cooking Like a Guy™, but try it.

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