AllenN's blog

Acton's OPEB problem may get worse

There are two possible developments to Acton's OPEB liability. (OPEB refers to Other Post Employment Benefits, or the cost of health insurance for retirees).


The Lottery Winner's Paradox

We spent part of the Thanksgiving break in New York City, dreaming of what we would do with our $325 million Powerball winning ticket.

Playing the lottery is typically a very poor bet, but people who win millions of dollars off of a $2 or $20 investment are not too concerned, and this goes to the paradox of how these games are designed, run, and promoted by states and why players are not more disturbed at how the games are run and prizes are distributed. Why do people play is the question, and should the state be promoting such a poor "investment?"

The Tax Man Cometh

The doorbell rang. I opened it and there stood a man in an overcoat with a large briefcase.

"Hello, can I help you?" I asked somewhat nervously. I don't get many visitors to my door these days.

"Yes, are you Mr. Nitschelm?"

"Yes I am."

How Socialism Succeeds

Obama's re-election will likely be the cause of America's financial collapse. It could happen quickly or slowly, or maybe it will be reversed by a future generation. Only time will tell.

In Massachusetts, the vast majority of voters voted to expand socialism on the state and national level (electing Warren for Senate and Obama for President.) Yet, even as these voters approved eventual higher taxes for some of us--and perhaps themselves--individually, they don't act the same way.

FY14 OPEB Savings Plan Presented to ALG

Last Town Meeting, the town of Acton decided to start an OPEB Trust fund to start saving money for a calculated future liability for retired employees healthcare, called OPEB.

Why Obama Won

President Obama ran on a platform of continuing his current policies, which essentially move us toward a more socialist government that takes care of more people, creates more bureaucracy, makes more people dependent on the government, and penalizes the successful people (i.e., those with decent jobs) with higher taxes, mandates, and fees.

If you believe that government control of things like healthcare is a good thing, then you were inclined to vote to re-elect the President.

Romney was right about 47 percent

Mitt Romney was caught in a gaffe, sort of. Speaking at a private fundraiser last May, he told a supporter that 47 percent of Americans were receiving benefits from the government and were unlikely to support his candidacy against President Obama, since Obama and the Democrats are all about giving out more taxpayer money.

Romney was right.

Why is Jamie Eldridge Getting Endorsements from Non-Partisan Elected Officials?

State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D) is running for re-election to the Senate, and he recently released a list of dozens of municipal officials from several cities and towns who have endorsed his candidacy against challenger Dean Cavaretta (R) (to whom I have contributed and support).

This is in addition to a list of statewide organizations that also endorse him, including many unions. See Jamie's list of endorsements here:

Elizabeth Warren and Confiscation of Profits

Elizabeth Warren is now famous for her rant at one of her fundraisers where she basically said that factory owners shouldn't get all the credit for their success; society's infrastructure deserves a lot of the credit. If you haven't seen her thoughts on this subject, then you don't really know her. See (This is the 1 minute excerpt; I think there are slightly longer versions also available online.)

Acton's two major budget challenges this year

Acton has two major long-term budget challenges it will have to address this year. Its previous attempts to address them have fallen well short of what we should be seeing if property tax rates are of concern.


What Obama means for our long-term economy

Hope everyone had a great summer!

The presidential election is in full swing, and we have a choice as a country: shall we continue and expand our entitlement system or shall we cut it back?

Under President Obama, and certainly with the help of previous administrations and Congresses, both Republican and Democrat, our society of plenty has turned into a society of giving.

Many seem to think that work is no longer needed for the basic necessities or even the frills. We all deserve to be well paid and get everything that one wants (or deserves) because we are entitled to it.

Why isn't healthcare like airports?

Today's Boston Globe (7/27/12) editorializes that Governor Patrick has his work cut out for him to start controlling rising healthcare costs, but endorses the concepts of controlling cost increases by limiting them to economic growth of the overall economy and curbing the "market power" of some large providers.

Patrick's socialist model of healthcare would virtually eliminate the private healthcare sector. If anyone ever needed evidence of how the "slippery slope" argument works in practice, here it is.

Where Does This Lead?

Everyone knows that our world, national, state, and town economy is a mess. We've collectively decided that overspending and borrowing is the way to go and we have done so on a grand scale.

In Acton, our taxes are so high that the average homeowner pays about $200 per week just in local property taxes. About two-thirds of our town and school budgets are spent on personnel, so wages and benefits are what is driving Acton's high tax rate.

Is the Prius worth it?

I was going for a walk around Acton the other day and I happened to notice a lot of Prius cars. Acton sure likes its Priuses.

So I started to think about this. I know buying a Prius is a "feel good" move, but does it really save the environment, or is buying a Prius an empty gesture to assuage liberal guilt?

I try to look at things from a financial or economic point of view, so I wanted to start my inquiry by focusing on the additional cost of the Prius versus some other non-hybrid car that also got good gas mileage. And I wanted to see if the higher price justified the expense.

How we can achieve national health insurance

I'm an optimist. I believe there are almost always solutions to problems.

Both parties say they want national health insurance. Republicans want to maintain a private insurance system because they mistrust government and they know government cannot contain costs in the long-term. Democrats want univeral coverage and believe health care is a right that everyone in America deserves.

Can we find a compromise? Here is one idea.

Chief Justice John Roberts got the Obamacare ruling right.

Republicans tried a "Hail Mary" pass by asking the judiciary to overturn a law passed by Congress and signed by the President. Courts have a duty to uphold duly passed laws if they are Constitutional. The remedy to bad (but Constitutional) law is new lawmakers.

Would it have been nice to have Obamacare ruled unconstitutional? Perhaps so, temporarily. But if Congress cannot pass a law to raise a tax, then how would our government function?

FREE STUFF from your government

I was talking with a friend the other day and we had a conversation that went something like this:

FRIEND: College is so important that everyone should go.

ALLEN: I agree. For most people, it is something they should do.

FR: We should pay for college, at least a community college, so that everyone can afford to go.

AL: We should? You mean society?

FR: Yes, society should. This should be something society pays for. Our society is better off if everyone who wants to go to college can afford to go.

The Problem with Town Meeting's Police Union Contract Approval

At April's Town Meeting, we were asked to approve the contract with the police (patrolman's) union. Town Meeting was told, via a handout and a police-officer speaker, that the police have been working without a contract for several years, that the payscale for Acton's officers was falling behind other towns, and that Town Meeting needed to approve several contracts, some retroactively, based on the awarding of an arbitration award.

Breaking News: President Obama Switches Parties before Republican Convention

Breaking News! President Obama announced today at the White House that he would be switching to the Republican Party, effective immediately. He said he expects to "vigorously" compete for convention delegates at the Republican National Convention this summer.

The President, who was accompanied by his family, advisor David Axelrod, and Vice President Biden, said that it was clear that his economic policies weren't working and it was time to make a change. "After all, I did campaign on the change theme, and I can't imagine a bigger change than this one."

Boxborough Does Town Meeting Right

The Beacon (5/17/12) covered Boxborough's Annual Town Meeting extensively in this week's issue. While I haven't attended a Boxborough Town Meeting, it sounds like a well-run, well-attended event with a lot of voter participation, a stark contrast to Acton's Town Meeting.

Our Democracy in Jeopardy

I remember a quote from President Obama back in 2009 or so, when Obamacare was being passed. Polls showed mixed support and Massachusetts voted in Scott Brown who promised to be the 41st vote against it. The tide appeared to be turning away from Federal universal healthcare.

Obama said something to the effect of, "once people realize what this healthcare plan will do for them, they will support it." And sure enough, some simple changes since implemented seem very popular, like allowing your children to stay on your family's health plan until age 26.

Why Don't Republicans Compromise?

There has been a lot of discussion (lamentations, actually) about how dysfunctional Congress is, and how intractable the Republicans are...especially the Tea-Party-backed candidates. Why won't they compromise to get things done? Isn't "compromising" the reasonable thing to do when there are two viewpoints at odds?

I believe this is a simple question which I would like to try to answer. I believe there are two primary reasons that Republicans should not, and will not, compromise. I will list them in order of importance.


Town Meeting votes should be upheld

When Town Meeting approves an article with conditions, that should mean something.

Town Meeting approved a small subsidy for some rehabilitation work on Exchange Hall back in 2008. Even though the building is a landmark in South Acton, it is owned by a private company and thus produced an awkward agreement to spend public funds to replace the roof, some woodwark, and apply paint. This was done with the opposition of some in town, including me, to giving public monies to for-profit private groups.

The Double Pain of Sales Taxes

Sales taxes have been in the news recently. Some want to raise sales taxes, others want to lower them. But few probably realize that things like sales taxes do twice the harm than their revenue brings in and probably should be eliminated altogether.

First, sales taxes reduce consumption. When things cost more, people buy less. That's simple economics. And since much of our economy is based on consumption, it is counter-productive to tax those activities.

Under What Theory Do We Economically Recover?

Optimist or Pessimist? (PART TWO)

One part of scientific research appears to consistent of finding out which things make common sense and proving them wrong. We seem to think it's a waste of research dollars to prove what is obvious, but when we have a study that shows a contrary position, it always concludes with "more research is needed."

Butter is good, then butter is bad. Diet soda is good, then its bad. We can't seem to make up our minds. Yet at least each position has some theory that makes sense. Avoiding fat is good, but all-natural products are also good.