Thursday, April 2, 2009

Technical Difficulties

Do to circumstances beyond my control (I was hit by a car and my arm was broken) I won't be posting much for the near future. I'll be back eventually.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Panel urges Sound Transit to closely monitor spending

Panel urges Sound Transit to closely monitor spending

Sound Transit's costs are rising dramatically, and it's hard to tell if it's because more service is being provided or individual costs are being inflated, an oversight group said.

In a report issued last week, the agency's Citizen Oversight Panel said "costs in virtually every area of Sound Transit operations continue to grow rapidly, reflecting increases both in transit service and base agency operations."

The report, presented to the agency's board, said operating costs are set to increase nearly 8 percent this year from last year, to $65.4 million, which includes salaries and benefits for 394 employees. The staff will include 22 new positions, 18 of them in transportation services.

The report urged the Seattle-based transit agency to more closely monitor costs "so that a culture of cost control and operational efficiency becomes established."

Despite what many Puget Sounders think, between Sound Transit and Metro the Seattle Metro area has a pretty great bus system. Keeping an eye on costs is always a good thing but if people aren't careful a "culture of cost control" could turn into a "culture of cutting service" that would impact people in poor areas that need bus service the most.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

No Parking Anytime: Mail boxes going the way of, well, snail mail

No Parking Anytime: Mail boxes going the way of, well, snail mail

honda Porter says it's not just losing a little slice of Americana that has her lamenting the dwindling number of mail collection boxes in Seattle.

After all, she said, she still mails a check to pay her bills -- it just feels safer than paying online -- so when the blue mailbox on Beach Drive Southwest near her West Seattle home disappeared, she complained about the inconvenience.

But, she admits that she's succumbed a bit to the societal shift that's led the Postal Service to remove about a fifth of the roughly 800 mailboxes that were on Seattle-area streets five years ago.

Seventy more were removed last week, dropping the number below 600, said U.S. Postal Service spokesman Ernie Swanson.

I hope they keep a reasonable number of mail boxes around even if they don't get used as much as their fairly arbitrary standard dictates. There are some areas where it isn't easy to get to a Post Office and a lot of people still use the mail for paying bills.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Microsoft cuts draw criticism on visa issue

Microsoft cuts draw criticism on visa issue

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley told Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Steve Ballmer that U.S. employees must have priority over immigrants working under visa programs in a round of job cuts announced Thursday.

Grassley, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked Ballmer how many of the jobs cut will include those with H-1B visas or other immigrant-worker credentials, according to a letter dated Thursday on Grassley's Web site.

"During a layoff, companies should not be retaining H-1B or other work visa program employees over qualified American workers," the Iowa senator said in the letter. "Our immigration policy is not intended to harm the American work force.

I'm not anti-immigration at all. I think that immigration has been the foundation on which our country has built its financial and industrial power. However, I also don't think we should go out of our way to recruit foreign workers through the H-1B visa program when we have plenty of qualified Americans that need jobs or will be needing jobs in the near future. Companies like Microsoft make the argument that there aren't enough qualified workers in the U.S. for their needs. Personally I think they like to hire through the H-1B visa program because it cuts their expenses by lowering salaries and by sponsoring the workers they have workers that for the most part can't quit or they will have to go back home.

I don't know if MS is canning American workers in favor of H-1B workers but I sure hope that someone is watching to make sure Americans aren't losing out due to some loop hole in the law.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bad News for Jobs in Seattle

It's not a good sign that in the last 3 weeks all three Seattle icons have announced laying people off - especially since most of them are getting let go from the local headquarters. Not only do these layoffs make it harder for people to find a job, it cuts thousands of dollars out of our local economy which may snowball into more job losses. Our unemployment rate is already over 7% now - how high will it go?

Starbucks may let more go

Diane Daggatt, a managing director at McAdams Wright Ragen, wrote in a note to clients, "Locally, we're hearing another big round of layoffs is coming at SBUX. Perhaps 1,000 or one-third of SBUX's headquarters may be cut as well as some district managers and field employees, but not baristas.

Microsoft Pri0 | Microsoft cutting 1,400 jobs today; up to 5,000 in next 18 months as recession hits harder | Seattle Times Newspaper Blog

In a press release issued moments ago, Microsoft announced that it is cutting up to 5,000 jobs in research and development, marketing, sales, finance, legal, human resources and IT in the next 18 months, starting with 1,400 today.

It marks the first company-wide layoff in Microsoft's history and comes as the company reports fiscal second-quarter earnings that missed the low-end of its own guidance for sales and earnings per share. Its Windows business declined 8 percent as PC sales growth ground to a virtual halt in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

Business & Technology | Boeing plans workforce reduction of 4,500, with layoffs in second quarter | Seattle Times Newspaper

Boeing said Friday it will cut its Commercial Airplane workforce in 2009 by about 4,500 people, mostly in Washington State.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Are Tax Brackets? - Speak Out California Weblog

What Are Tax Brackets? - Speak Out California Weblog

A "progressive" tax is one where the tax rate increases as income increases. A progressive tax structure consists of brackets. You pay a certain tax rate on income up to the next bracket. After that bracket is reached, a higher tax rate applies to income that is earned that is above that amount. Let's say that you pay 5% on income below $10,000 and 7% on income above $10,000. So if you make exactly $10,000 of income the tax is $500. At $10,100 the tax is still that $500 on the amount below $10,000 and $7 on the additional $100, for a total of $507. The key point is that only the amount in the new bracket is taxed at the higher rate.

I thought I understood tax brackets but apparently I didn't.

Many people believe that once you reach a higher bracket you pay the higher tax rate on all the income that falls below that bracket amount as well. I have actually talked to people who think they need to "get their income into a lower bracket" to avoid paying a higher tax rate, because they think that a higher tax rate would apply to all of the income they earned.

I remember thinking the same thing. I think we get a lot of misconceptions about taxes from "common knowledge" passed on from our parents, friends and coworkers. We need to be more diligent as a country and not let this type of misconception propagate.