Your fault

There is a New York Times story that talks about how some Texas utility consumers faced 5 digit bills during the recent storm. They are painting the utility as being greedy, and the state government as inept, because of the steep rise in costs.

Of course, I have a different opinion. The culprit here is consumers and their lack of understanding of fundamental economics. Texas has a largely unregulated, pure supply and demand system. One provider, Gridly, charges consumers a flat $9.99 monthly fee and allows consumers to pay the wholesale rate for electricity. This results in cheap electric bills in normal times.

During abnormal times, like a blizzard or hurricane, wholesale prices skyrocket as utility providers shutdown because of the disaster and what power is left comes at higher prices due to its scarcity. That is supply and demand at work. Gridly even warned its customers that the prices were going to increase, and advised them to switch to another provider.

Many didn’t, for whatever reason. The power for them stayed on, but at prices that were up to 100 times more than normal. They claim that they could see the bill climbing, but could do nothing about it. Bullshit.

Turn off the breakers.

You ALWAYS have choices. You were told to switch providers, and you didn’t. You knew the prices were climbing, and knew you could turn off the power, but you didn’t.

Instead, you complain about “price gouging” AFTER the fact, and demand that mommy and daddy government come bail you out of the results of your own bad choices. Everyone warned you, and you ignored the warnings.

So now the government will likely pass laws preventing this from happening again. All this means is that companies like Gridly who were able to keep the lights on during a disaster, thus giving people an option (admittedly a higher priced option), will not be there next time.

Flyover economics

One of my favorite things to do is travel. I do a lot of it. By road, air, or cruise ship, I love it all. In the seven years my wife and I have been together, we have been to 48 states and 16 foreign countries. We typically take no fewer than 2 plane trips, 4 cruises, and 10 road trips a year. This allows me to compare travel from before COVID to travel now. Let’s take a look at the economics (or lack thereof) in “flyover country,” as the elites are find of calling the areas that are not NYC, DC, or LA.

Starting with my favorite city to visit: Las Vegas. There is something in Vegas for everyone: eco-tours, gambling, the club scene, fabulous restaurants, people watching, and the incredible spectacles of the mega-casinos. We ended 2019 there. We went back in July of 2020. In the intervening 7 months, I can tell you- Las Vegas is dying. It’s being killed by this COVID panic. If you read today’s wire story, you will see that things are not looking any better. Tourism year to date for Las Vegas is down 55%, tourism for 2020 was down 64%.

Orlando is hurting as well. The year 2020 saw a 34% reduction in tourism for the entire state, even though our governor is doing all that he can to keep the state open for business. The tourist areas of Orlando are a ghost town. That isn’t being helped by the left wing county mayor, who has a ‘strike team’ of jack booted thugs travelling the county in search of businesses that are not following his dictates. Most of the hotels in the tourist corridor are empty, with the exception of the national guard troops being housed near the convention center to help run the vaccine center. Most eateries are closed. It frankly was depressing the last time we were there in September.

We visited Savannah, Georgia the week before Thanksgiving. We are familiar with the city. Since it is a 4 hour drive from here, it is closer even than Miami and great for weekend getaways.

Unfortunately, it is a college town and therefore run by a Democrat mayor who is an absolute nut when it comes to mask mandates. Ghost tours, bus tours, walking tours, all of them were at reduced capacity. The restaurants where we love to dine have far fewer customers, and the hotels are not running nearly as full. Even tourism sites are a bit stupid about it.

We also went to Biloxi, MS in July. There isn’t much to do there at the best of times. Certainly not now. The only good thing that can be said is that the pool at the casino resorts isn’t very crowded.

So there is a quick look at the nation. In short, the government and the restrictions they are imposing are what is killing America, not COVID.

Support animal tenant scam

I am a landlord. I allow my tenants to have pets, but they must pay an extra, nonrefundable, one-time cleaning fee of $250 when they move in, and I charge an extra $50 a month. This is because pets cause me extra expenses. My insurance costs are higher because of the risk of a dog biting someone. It costs more to clean a home after animals have lived there, and that doesn’t mention the added risks of damage to the property.

I cannot do that any longer. The reason for that is because of people like my sister. My sister has gone online and gotten her pet certified as an emotional support animal. It costs $129 online to get a letter from a licensed therapist, certifying that you are disabled and have a disability requiring that landlords let you keep your pet, and preventing them from charging you extra. (I was going to provide a link, but I decided not to drive business their way)

Last year, Florida passed a law allowing landlords to demand a letter from a licensed healthcare provider, and requiring the provider to have seen the tenant in person at least once. I could do that, but it entails a lot of risk on my part- you see, the law is a minefield. Play it wrong, use the wrong wording, and you get sued under the Fair Housing Act.

So instead, I will simply price that risk into everyone’s lease. I will charge more for a security deposit for everyone. I will charge more in rent for everyone.

A few scammers make it more expensive for everyone.

Your bad choices aren’t my problem

Here is an article from CNBC that is an attempt to make the reader feel sorry for people who made bad choices. The article focuses on how people with large student loan balances should have the loans forgiven.

The story starts by introducing us to Sanders Fabares. Here is what the article had to say:

Even after years of paying $1,000 a month toward his student loans and his wife’s, their balance hadn’t decreased by much. They still owed around $80,000, down from the $90,000 they’d originally borrowed.

“I started trying to understand what we were doing wrong,” Fabares, 41, said.

His research quickly moved away from his own loan statements and to the larger student debt system. The Lakeside, California, resident read about the millions of borrowers in default, and how many people’s monthly payments were only going to the interest on their debt, meaning their balances weren’t dropping either.

At $1,000 a month, I knew that the loan had to be quite large. I took out a $12,000 student loan for my Master’s degree, and the payment was less than $100 a month. So I decided to do some digging. Here is what I found (pdf alert).

It turns out that he and his wife attended a private arts college and were taking classes in photography and drawing. They racked up $96,000 in debt before graduating in 2006. After 13 years of paying the minimum payments, they had paid down a third of their debt before deciding to quit.

In other words, he chose an expensive education in a field that doesn’t pay enough to cover the cost of his degree, and didn’t know how loans and compound interest work. His solution to this was to join a group that refuses to pay their loans while demanding that the Government do so.

After quotes from one of the communist founders of “The Debt Collective,” the CNBC article moves on to the story of Jenny Lezan, who ended up attending Benedictine University and the Art Institute of Illinois. There, she racked up $170,000 earning a degree in art, so she could secure a job paying $28,000 a year. Here is a link to her freelancing webpage. She blames her bad luck on racism and sexism:

A well-paying job has been hard to find. Last year, working as an adjunct professor and freelancer, she made $28,000. “Being Hispanic and a woman, I’m up against additional obstacles,” she said.

Sorry, but a $170k degree in a field that only pays $28k a year is just a bad choice. You should have either not gone to school, or picked a major where you can actually make money. You could make a little extra if you did some Internet porn for onlyFans, maybe.

Then the CNBC article moves on to Rebekah Valorn, a woman from Salem, Oregon who ran up over $200,000 in student loans getting a law degree. A law degree is certainly a great choice of major, so what happened? Her mother got sick, and Rebekah never took the Bar exam. She was working for the state of Nevada, where she was making about $19,000 a year, when she declared Chapter 7 Bankruptcy in 2019. Why Bankruptcy? To get rid of her $20,000 or more in credit card debt, but still owes on her student loans. Sad story, but I don’t see how that is anyone’s fault but your own.

My Dad died while I was in college. I made due. Life happens. That doesn’t make it anyone else’s fault. Who does she blame for this? The school:

“It’s been transformative being in this group and knowing we don’t have anything to be ashamed of,” Valorn said. “An education shouldn’t cost a quarter of a million dollars.”

You took out a loan for an education that would pay you millions of dollars. It was a great choice. The only problem was that the bet you made was in a person with no follow through, a person who couldn’t overcome adversity and just gave up when things got challenging, so you lost the bet.

That doesn’t make it society’s fault, nor should that mean that the rest of us should pay for it.

National debt

We are printing money as fast as we can, which considering that most money isn’t printed, it’s created by computers, is pretty fast.

Trump increased the National Debt by 141% from $19.6 to $27.7 trillion in four years.

President Obama increased the debt by 185%- to $19.57 Trillion.

President George W Bush borrowed $5 trillion in 8 years, increasing the national debt by 187%.

It took President Clinton 3 and a half years to borrow his first trillion dollars. All told, he borrowed $1.2 trillion in his first term, and $600 billion in his second. He increased the national debt by 140% in eight years.

George HW Bush borrowed his first trillion in 3 years, and he increased the National debt by 170% in four years.

Reagan borrowed his first trillion in 6 years, and doubled the National debt during his eight years in the White House.

Carter increased the National debt by 150%, but “only” borrowed $300 billion in 4 years. I guess that was when $1 Billion was real money.

Ford increased the debt by 147% in 3 years., Nixon by 135% in 5 years, Johnson by 116% in 6 years, Kennedy by 106% in 2 years, Eisenhower by 108% in eight years.

Note that we weren’t really allowed to increase the debt until we divorced from the gold standard during the Nixon administration. Ever since then, spend, spend, spend.

About Ammo Prices

There are many who claim that Cheaper Than Dirt, along with other retailers of ammo, are price gouging. I disagree. This is simple supply and demand at work. There is even an old joke about it:

A woman pulls into a gas station and tells the clerk “I can’t believe that you are selling gas for $4 a gallon! That’s price gouging! Why, the station down the street is selling gas for only $2 a gallon!”
The clerk replies, “So why don’t you go get your gas there?”
The woman says, “They are out of gas.”
The clerk then replies, “Ha! When I am out of gas, I sell it for $1 a gallon!”

Let’s say that you are a dealer who normally buys ammo at $4 a box and sells for $8. The massive demand hits, and all 1,000 boxes of your ammo quickly sells out. You have 700 customers demanding more.

You call suppliers, and they have a limited supply. He tells you that he has 500 boxes, but they tell you that they will only sell you 50. If there was a rule about only selling for $8 a box, the story would end here with 650 of your customers having to look elsewhere for ammo.

Or you can offer your supplier $8 a box for all 500 of the boxes he has in his inventory. So you make the offer and put the 500 boxes up for sale at $12 a box. Those 500 sell out at that price, and now because of the shortage, you have 500 more customers in a panic who are willing to pay more, but you don’t have any more.

So you get creative and begin calling around, offering distributors $10 a box for any ammo they have. There isn’t any. The suppliers begin calling the factory, offering double the normal wholesale price for any ammo they can get. The factory begins paying their workers overtime, because the added price means that they can now afford the increased cost of production.

Now the wholesalers have gotten more ammo, but the wholesale price is now $12 a box. You pay it, and put it up for sale to your customers at $16 a box.

Sooner or later, one of two things will happen:
The high prices will cause more manufacturers to enter the game, which will increase supply, or demand will decrease. Once the supply/demand curve is reduced, the prices will decrease.

This isn’t gouging, this is how free markets work. If you don’t have enough guns or ammo right now, that is entirely YOUR fault. It isn’t as though the repeated gun and ammo shortages of the past weren’t a warning. If you failed to heed that warning and are left unprepared because you spent your money on other things, that is on you.

I saw a guy in my LGS wearing a USMC ballcap. He told me he was buying his first AR because, “I don’t know how much longer they will be legal.” So he waited until AFTER the inauguration of a gun hating Democrat to buy his first AR? I would argue that he DESERVED to pay $2K for one as a fine for being stupid.

RKguns has no lowers.

Every PSA lower is either out of stock, or more than $100. At one point last year, they were selling for less than half that.

Brownells has ONE lower in stock for less than $150. (at $136, it’s no bargain.) The rest are out of stock, or are more expensive.

Tipping madness: Marriott

Marriott Hotels are now demanding that I pay them for a clean room, and then pay their employees for cleaning it.

Jessica Lynn Strosky of DuBois, Pennsylvania, who earns $7.75 an hour cleaning rooms at a hotel that’s not a Marriott, says only 1 in 15 or 20 guests leaves a tip. When they do, it’s a dollar or two; she’s lucky to get $20 a week in tips. “I’ve talked to lots of people who say they don’t know they are supposed to tip,” she said.
Unlike waitresses who earn less than minimum wage because tips are expected to raise their earnings, hotel housekeepers are paid minimum wage, and in expensive markets, substantially more. In Washington D.C., Sorenson said, Marriott housekeepers start in the mid-teens per hour.
Most hotel maids clean 14-16 rooms in an 8 hour shift. If Marriott’s formula of $1-5 per guest is followed, then their maids will be making anywhere between $9.50 and $17.75 an hour. For making a bed? No way is unskilled labor worth that kind of cash.

I have had some rather strong opinions about tipping for years. Many servers at restaurants complain that they do not receive enough in tips, even when they are making $100-200 during an 8 hour night. This is far more money that other, more skilled positions are paid.

Servers making $400-800 a week in tips, or maids making $400 a week is more than enough for the skill that they bring to the table. My sister and daughter are both working in tipped jobs. They each bring home $300 a week in tips. That is $300 in TAKE HOME tips, plus the $5 an hour they get from their employer. That is the equivalent of $12 an hour.

I tip 10-20% of my check at restaurants, with a maximum tip of $10. Any more than $10 for a fraction of the server’s time for the hour that I am there is more than I am willing to pay.

I am not tipping maids.

If you want to make $50,000 a year or more and can’t get that off of tips, here is my tip to you: Get an education and get a better job, but stop whining about the pay you make for unskilled labor. If Marriott feels that strongly that their employees should be paid more, then they should raise the price of a room and give the maids a raise. The market will then decide if the extra cost is worth it.


So the IRS has changed the rules for the automated tips that many restaurants add to the bill of a large party. This will increase the taxes that they must pay, so many are doing away with the practice. The comments on the story have caused me to revisit my feelings on tips.

A waitress or waiter server writes down what I want and reports that to the kitchen staff. After the staff cooks the food, the server carries it to my table. The other duties of my server include filling my glass and bringing me the check. For this job, the server receives a wage of about $5 an hour from their employer.

My sister works at a TGI Friday’s and tells me that she brings home about $150 a night in tips. I imagine that she doesn’t report all of her cash tips, because many servers do not. This means that she is getting a tax subsidy, and is likely taking home enough cash to equal a $25 per hour wage.

My son in law works as an entertainer for a dinner show in the area, and at this show, there is no ordering of food, as the menu is a preset meal where the only choice is what soft drink you want. He reports to me that the servers get irate if they make less than $100 per show in tips. The venue does one three hour show per night Sunday through Thursday, and two on Fridays and Saturdays. That works out to nearly $40 per hour.

Compare that to the following hourly wages in the Central Florida area:
Paramedics: $13.23
Firemedics: $12.86
Registered Nurse: $24
Vending Machine Repairman: $10.50
Theme park ride operator: $8.35
Security Guard (unarmed): $10.55
Security Guard (armed): $13.25

After thinking about this, I am going to amend my tipping policy. If my party is less than 6 people, my tip for adequate service will be 15% of the check to a maximum of $8. I feel like a table that size taking up about 1/3 of a server’s time for an hour is worth no more than $8. After all, that works out to a gross of about $29 an hour. More than fair.

For a table of more than six, I will divide the number in my party by the number of servers that are taking care of the party, and pay 15% of the tab for adequate service to a maximum of $8 times that number, on the theory that large parties take up a larger amount of the server’s time.

It isn’t my problem that her employer or the other patrons don’t pay them more. If the server has a problem with that, they need to take it up with them. I am just no longer willing to pay someone $40 an hour to carry food around.