ESTATE TAX MADNESS

As described here, ten Democratic Senators joined all 41 Republicans in a dreadful vote to lower the estate tax on billionheirs from 45% to 35%. They were led by Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas (home to the multibillion dollar Wal*Mart family fortune).

Fortunately, this measure is almost certain not to become law. But c’mon, Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Evan Bayh of Indiana, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida and Mark Pryor of Arkansas – several of whom I know and have supported – what could you possibly have been thinking?

Where would you find the cash to make up for this lost revenue? From cutting health care? From cutting education? From cutting food stamps? From raising taxes on the middle class? From borrowing more from future generations? What were you thinking?

IOWA MARRIAGE

Joel Grow: “Though I am a straight guy, I sit here at work and weep over the beauty and eloquence of of the governor’s wise and noble words.”

T.: “A year ago we went to a (heterosexual) wedding in Belgium. The couple got married twice: at City Hall in the morning and then later at a Catholic church. Neither institution recognized the other’s authority. This is not a new idea, but to see it in practice leaves you saying, ‘well of course! the separation of church and state.’ It’s unfortunate how America comes up with these revolutionary ideas and then leaves them to founder.”

☞ Meanwhile, the religious right is launching a $1.5 million TV ad campaign to scare people about “the gathering storm” of gay marriage. Lightning rends the ominous sky as real people (well, actors, actually) express real concerns (well, but based on false premises, actually) designed to thwart equal Social Security survivor benefits, and so on, for committed same-sex couples. Here is the ad. And here is a rebuttal.

REALAGE

Dr. Richard Feinberg: “You should know that Realage.com [to which you linked yesterday] sells its info to drug companies. Essentially it acts as a middleman between the site’s users and pharmaceutical companies and products. Some folks defend this practice, but at the very least, this policy should be disclosed to users. Here is the New York Times article [describing their business model].”

☞ Indeed. I should have been clearer that that’s why I used a dormant e-address in filling out the questionnaire. It was valid, so I could retrieve my results. But I never otherwise look at mail to this address, so will be spare whatever email assaults may be unleashed.

Artie: “Let’s say you were a marketing manager for a website whose purpose it was to obtain personal health information from visitors and sell it to pharmaceutical companies to use in direct email campaigns. You hit on the idea of calculating visitors’ real ages (whatever that means), as opposed to their chronological ages. You obviously want to maximize your number of visitors, right? More visitors = more sales = more $$$. Given that motivation, do you think that their “real age” algorithms, whatever they are, stand more of a chance of being biased towards providing visitors with the impression that they are effectively younger than their chronological age, or with the impression that they are even older than they thought they were? Had realage informed you that you were 7 years older than you thought you were, would you have written about their site? I’m not saying that you may not be in far better shape than the average person of your age; only that realage has a substantial motivation to bias their responses so that visitors leave their site thinking that they are younger than their chronological age. On the back end, of course, that may make them a harder sell for the drug companies, but that’s someone else’s problem. Realage’s task is to deliver the visitors’ data and contact information.”

☞ You might be right. But would it really matter that much whether realage says I’m in “9-years-younger-than-average health” for my age or just 3 years? (Why not 11?) Call me naïve, but I think there’s at least a reasonable chance they tried to design it without bias. (And positive thinking keeps you young.)

As it happens, I included a similar – albeit far more primitive – Life Expectancy module in my Managing Your Money software years ago. It was based on what I learned writing a book about insurance. Checking it just now, I see it has me living 9 years longer than the average life expectancy for a male my age. This is mostly coincidence, no doubt (as I say, the algorithms we used were really primitive). But it still gives me hope. And don’t hope and positive thinking make for better health?

 

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