Numlock News: October 11, 2019 • Sin Tax, Will Smith, Stadiums
By Walt Hickey
Have an excellent weekend!
Now this is a story all about how Will Smith got as rich as he is right now. He’d like to make a living making movies, so here’s how he keeps his $20 million fees. First, he went to Netflix, taking $27 million to appear in Bright, double what Warner would offer him for the movie. Then, over the past two years, he hired a team to make him relatable and interesting on social media, racking up 122 million followers. He then scored $12.5 million and a percentage of the backend to do Aladdin, and he was personally responsible for something like 12 to 20 percent of the social media eyeballs for the movie’s marketing push. He’s getting $12.5 million for Gemini Man — which is great until you realize that, as he plays both old and young Will Smith, that averages to a pathetic $6.25 million per starring role — and $20 million for the forthcoming King Richard, where he’ll play Venus and Serena Williams’ father. Hopefully that works out better than the time he played Jaden Smith’s onscreen father, that was a huge bomb.
As any mediocre high school debater will tell you, it’s insanely easy to push through a sin tax, which is what happens when you throw a tax on cigarettes, alcohol, pot, or some other thing that people should probably do less of but given that being alive in society is hard sometimes they have to do occasionally. Taxes on alcohol and cigarettes produced $34 billion for state governments in 2017, but the problem with “taxing stuff so people do less of it” means that if you’re actually successful in that effort you no longer actually make money from taxing it anymore. 27 states made less money from tobacco taxes in 2017 than they did in 2009, and even 12 of those raised the tax in that period. When you exclude Florida — a statistical choice that frankly deserves consideration in any number of national matters — nationally tobacco tax revenues were down 3 percent from 2008 to 2017.
Leaving an investment in an Opportunity Zone for a decade means that any capital gains on that investment are tax-free, a financial arrangement designed to encourage people to invest in underdeveloped areas and places that have traditionally missed out on investment from capital. The issue is that governors decide where federal Opportunity Zones are, and a great illustration of where this goes wrong is the fact that the census tracts of 17 NFL stadiums, 13 MLB stadiums, five NHL arenas, 12 NBA arenas and 10 MLS pitches have been specifically included in the zones despite the fairly clear developmental excess going on there. The forthcoming Raiders Stadium in Vegas will be in an Opportunity Zone, conveniently located in a developmentally bereft region immediately next to the ghost town of the Vegas Strip.
Goddess of Victory
Customs officials in Los Angeles have seized 14,800 pairs of fake Nike shoes shipped from China. Had the shoes been sold as genuine, they could have fetched over $2 million: the assorted Air Jordans included special editions and retro designs that, were they bona fide, go for about $1,500 on the secondary market. The faux sneakers were found during a routine inspection of cargo from the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two busiest ports in the U.S.
An analysis of Australian sewage found that researchers were able to determine demographic data about the source of the material and the wealth of who sat upon the throne. The researchers analyzed samples from 22 wastewater treatment plants across six states and territories, roughly 21 percent of the population of Australia, and managed to do so on the very day that the Australian census was taking place. People in wealthier areas consumed more fiber, alcohol and caffeine, and used fewer tobacco products and illicit drugs. Richer people also used fewer antidepressants, according to a detailed analysis of their poop. However, the type of antidepressants preferred varied by income: working class neighborhoods used more desvenlafaxine, while amitriptyline was linked to higher educational obtainment. Come to think of it, I was wondering why that guy from the Queens County Department of Sanitation came by to ask me to stop dumping industrial quantities of coffee and whiskey into the sewer system.
One significant result of the #MeToo movement: today, 20 percent of American workers live in states where employers are required to offer sexual harassment training, up from 1 percent just two years ago. This past week New York State’s law took effect, joining California, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington and Illinois, which each passed laws in the past two years to mandate such training. Beforehand just Maine required it, a law that’s been on the books since 1991.
For the Numlock Sunday, this past weekend I spoke once again to Christie Aschwanden, the author of Good to Go and an expert on the science behind athletic training and recovery. We spoke about her piece in Wired about the dangerous pseudoscience circulating around concussion prevention.
Employers seeking to recruit and maintain talent are now looking into matching student loan payments the same way they do with 401(k) contributions. One survey of 2,763 employers from the Society for Human Resource Management found that 8 percent offered some kind of assistance with student loans, up from 4 percent in 2018 and 3 percent in 2015. Among students with debt, the average balance is $29,900, and the need to pay off that which is owed eats into traditional retirement savings. College graduates born between 1980 and 1984 who have student loans have 50 percent less in their 401(k) than peers without such loans.
Microwaved Dinners For One
From February 2018 to February 2019, 45 percent of American meals were eaten alone. One side effect of the delaying of marriage and the increased allocation of time to working is that, more and more, dinnertime is becoming a thing of the past. For respondents under 35, a 2017 survey found 72 percent had dinner in a restaurant in the previous week, and 41 percent had gone to a restaurant two or more times. Even among adults making less than $30,000 per year, most still went out to eat at least once, because for the working poor it’s hard to maintain a fully stocked kitchen for just one and make it work financially
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