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8 things that will cost more this holiday season – Business on

English: A Lenovo X61 tablet laptop shown in t...

It’s hard enough to scrimp up enough discretionary cash to pay for holiday gifts. But for Ben Tischler of New York City, getting ready for the holidays also means preparing to wed his fiancee, Alicia.

It has been especially taxing since he learned that jewelry prices would be higher this season.

“Everything was more expensive than I expected. The jeweler told me the price of gold has skyrocketed,” Tischler says. “This clearly isn’t the kind of thing I can wait to buy to see if prices come back down, so I bit the bullet.”

This holiday season could be a mixed bag for consumers, retail experts say. Electronics such as big-screen televisions keep going down, but if you want that laptop that turns into a tablet — Microsoft Surface, anyone? — or that fancy new camera, expect to pay a bit more than last year. And some traditional gift items could also take more of a bite out of your wallet as stores tap into the growing trend of using well-known designers or celebrities to hawk their goods.

All in all, prices are about 2 percent higher than last holiday season, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Here are eight things that will cost you more this season.

via 8 things that will cost more this holiday season – Business on


Subway Chaos and the Man Who Saw It Coming – Businessweek

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09:  People ride the ...1:50 p.m., Oct. 31, 2012 — The New York subway system, which maintains 468 stations and more than 600 miles of track, has an average weekday ridership of about 5 million people. Not one of them has been on a train since Sunday evening. Very limited service is set to resume on Thursday, thanks in part to the efforts of an un-watering SWAT team.

It is likely to take many more days before all those millions can get back on the trains. “The New York City subway system is 108 years old,” Joseph Lhota, chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the day after Hurricane Sandy flooded the tracks. “It has never faced a disaster as devastating as what we experienced last night.”

That’s true. It’s also true that a report for New York State predicted just such a disaster. Researchers led by Klaus Jacob of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory estimated that after a 100-year storm (which seems to describe Sandy), it could take about 21 days to get the subway system working at 90 percent capacity. If all potential damage is considered, Jacob and colleagues warned that “permanent restoration of the system to the full revenue service that was previously available could take more than two years.”

In the report, the authors estimated that the economic losses, due to the failure of infrastructure systems in the entire New York metropolitan region, could range from $48 billion to $68 billion.

via Subway Chaos and the Man Who Saw It Coming – Businessweek.

What Mayor Bloomberg Doesn’t Understand About Mr. T Cereal – Forbes


Mayor Bloomberg is interviewed in this month’s Atlantic, and I found his discussion of paternalism problematic in a revealing way. You hear similar bad reasoning from other paternalists, so I think it’s worth discussing. Here is what he had to say about bans:

…I think it’s government’s job not to ban things but to give you information and let you make the decision. So calorie counts would do that. Portion control is a graphical or physical way of giving you information in terms of how much sugar you’re consuming, and whatever….

…We are not banning anything. All we’re saying is that restaurants and theaters can’t use cups greater than 16 ounces. So if you want to buy 32 ounces, you can buy 32 ounces, you just got to carry it back to your seat, or your table, in two cups. If the question is “Do you think they should be banning?,” that’s a separate question. That has nothing to do with portion control. We are not banning anything. And when you say “Wait a second — sure, you are restricting the size of the cups,” well, the manufacturer restricts the size of the bottle you get. Everybody does portion control. They do it with different objectives, maybe.

This is a popular way of viewing regulation, but there are a lot of problems with this line of thinking. First, in this view the government reducing choice is identical to businesses reducing choice. The most obvious problem with this is that when a business decides not to offer a particular container size it does not preclude others from doing so. If you find yourself puzzled by why people complain about government reducing choice more than businesses reducing choice then you should start here.

via What Mayor Bloomberg Doesn’t Understand About Mr. T Cereal – Forbes.

How Blue Man Group learned to see green – Oct. 2, 2012

(Blue Man Group - 'How to be a Megastar' ConcertFortune) — When the founders of Blue Man Group decided to get bald and blue, they had no idea that shooting goo out of their chests and teaching fractal geometry would turn into two decades of fun and a multimillion-dollar show business enterprise. Today an average of 60,000 people a week attend Blue Man Group performances in six cities around the world — not including the touring shows — at an average ticket price of $59, or roughly $3.54 million in revenue a week from sellouts. Co-founders Matt Goldman, 51, Phil Stanton, 52, and Chris Wink, 51, continue to write and produce the shows, perform for special events — and have no thoughts of retiring. Their story:

Phil Stanton: I moved to New York in 1986 to study acting and pursue a career in theater. Chris was the first person I met on my first catering job. Matt and Chris had known each other since they were kids.

Matt Goldman: After college, I was a producer for Omni Resources, a software company. It was a time when punk rockers would walk by Wall Street guys in Armani suits, and neither would blink.

Stanton: We’d hold salons on Sundays with friends and started going to see performance art in town. We started to think of a show we’d like to see, and Chris came up with the idea of a bald and blue character.

Chris Wink: We were trying to create a character that was exposed and stripped down. We think of the Blue Man as being both a hero and an innocent, and baldness helps evoke both. The color blue just felt right.

via How Blue Man Group learned to see green – Oct. 2, 2012.

If Soda Tax Can Make it in NY it Can Make it Anywhere – Forbes

English: Macro photograph of coca-cola bubbles...

As a consumer, I think we should be able to buy a big soda without having to buy two small ones. But as a tax lawyer, I was persuaded by this: NYC’s Soda Ban Is A Good Idea, But A Tax Would Be Better. In a study published in Health Affairs, experts estimated that a 15 percent cut in consuming sugared beverages among 25-64 year olds would prevent staggering numbers of deaths and serious illnesses, not to mention saving billions in medical costs.

The numbers are impressive. To top it off, a soda tax would generate billions in revenue. What’s not to like? In fact, I’m lovin’ it.

Besides, our local, state and national governments like to tax things. We’re used to regulating by taxing. Everything else seems downright un-American. And taxes are big business.

Faced with budget deficits, an eroding tax base and the legal and political impediments to raising tax rates, what’s to be done? Find new and untapped things to tax. Soda is such an easy target.

There’s Botox, tanning, music downloads and more. Soda taxes are sin taxes, targeting what legislators view as socially irresponsible behavior. They have the dual purpose of raising revenue and decreasing the targeted bad conduct.

via If Soda Tax Can Make it in NY it Can Make it Anywhere – Forbes.

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