Back of the envelope here…
- Time cashier takes to give me a few pennies in change: ~5 seconds.
- Time I spend later fiddling with those pennies in my wallet while trying to get at other stuff: ~10 seconds.
- Time I spend getting those pennies out of my wallet at some point: ~5 seconds.
Assume I am a typical US worker, making $20 an hour.
$20 / 60 / 60 * (5 + 10 + 5) = $0.11
Average change in pennies given by a cashier: $0.025
Thus, every penny you give me costs me 0.11/0.025 – 1 = 344% its worth. Not to mention your lost time.
Forget Energy, Health Care and Education, we need a penny ban now!
The Senate and the House are currently munching on their respective plans for our mind-blowingly large economy kick-start stimulus package. Super-mind-blowingly large. How large is that? Well, let’s compare this stimulus package to some previous expensive programs that have come to help define the US of A as a country and a people:
The version of the stimulus currently on the Senate floor: ~900 Billion. Wow. This is more money than has been spent on any project we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes – excluding those readers that are old enough to remember WWII.
So what should we spend it on? Well, how about stuff that will work to keep our economy and productivity on top of the world on a time span of similar scale to the dollar amount being spent – say 100 years? Hum, what should we invest in that’s going to be keeping us going then?
How about new minivans?? Everybody gets a new minivan for cheap! Courtesy of your tax dollars.
Or how about a fat chunk of money (say 50 Billion – enough for ~8 new bay bridges) to repave all our highways? That’ll let us get around really fast in our new minivans, right?
Investment beyond required maintenance in our decaying automobile system will function only to slow us down and help speed our competition up. Every dollar that makes it easier to drive reduces demand for other transport modes – which slows our transformation to a balanced mode share. It’s not just a break-even investment – say sacrificing long-term productivity for short-term convenience – it’s plain detrimental to our progress.
China is using their stimulus to transform their national transportation system. They’ll reap benefits from this investment through the 21st century. We can learn a lot from a little compare/contrast here.
Stimulating new minivans and repaved time-wasting mere 80mph highways will just push us deeper and deeper into the very hole we need to climb out of. Rather than trying fix an unfixable system, we should be focusing on introducing a viable alternative. We can’t expect 21st century growth and prosperity to magically appear out of a 1950’s solution to our modern-day transportation problems.
During this last Middle East & Europe wandering, I managed to buy the same semi-durable good three times. Opps. It’s a basic European to USA power adapter. Just two prongs. So, how much did this cost in Egypt, France and InternetLand?
- Alexandria, Egypt: 0.27 USD (1.5 EGP)
- Amazon.com, InternetLand: 0.95 USD (plus shipping… varies)
- Paris, France: 6.71 USD (4.90 EUR)
That gives a 2,385% markup for Paris over Alexandria. Ouch.