“Im mad as hell, and im not gonna take it anymore!”

I have never actually seen the movie Network, but what I have seen and have been very inspired by is the scene where the American public stood up, went to their windows, and screamed “im mad as hell, and im not gonna take it anymore!” This is how many may feel about the astronomical amount of debt our country has been accumulating.

Like some of the issues our country has been facing, our national debt has been growing and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing down. But is there actually an argument to be made that it is growing exponentially?

Federal Debt – 1966 to 2014

“We find it just a little confusing why the CBO never warned of an imminent “fiscal crisis” over the past 8 years when total US debt doubled, increasing by $10 trillion under the previous administration.” Writers at Zerohedge speculate after examining a 2017 report made by the Congressional Budget Office.

This could have been forecast if you noticed the growth in the national debt as an average like above. Although it does not look perfectly exponentially, it is growing at a steady rate. Some others argue that our national debt is not exponentially growing. Tim Altom, a worker at IBM cloud and a writer on Quora, argues this.

“Methinks you misuse the term “exponentially”. We typically use this term for rates that are proportional to the function’s current value over time…  the later years of the 21st century show a leveling off of the ratio, not exactly a runaway condition. The total debt rose sharply thanks to two nasty recessions and two “wars” that were put entirely on the national credit card and continue to sop up outsized money. Those recessions too dropped the GDP, which made the ratio appear larger.”

This graph shows what percent of the Gross Domestic Product is U.S Gross Federal Debt 

War and recessions make the argument that the debt would increase and decrease over those times.  But it certainly paints the picture that our debt is certainly not exponential.

courtesy of Zero Hedge

If you look at average projections, it also does not look perfectly exponential, but it is steadily growing.

Whether or not the growth is exponential depends on what graph you look at and what it contains. But one thing is for sure, although our national debt does not look to be perfectly exponentially growing, it is growing.

“The CBO forecasts that both government debt and deficits are expected to soar in the coming 30 years, with debt/GDP expected to hit 150% by 2047 if the current government spending picture remains unchanged.” – Zerohedge

 

Gerrymandering Math

We’ve all heard the word.

Gerrymandering.

I doubt many of us know what it means let alone how it works.

Gerrymandering involves the dividing of a state, county, etc. into election districts. When dividing these districts, certain parties that want to sway elections will divide the counties in a way that gives their political party a majority in many districts while making sure their opposition has a majority in as few districts as possible. 

Although it sounds unfair, this is possible and is done in our current voting system. The math behind it makes it clear that this makes for an unfair political system. Take North Carolina for example.

vox.com
diagram of North Carolina’s state election districts.

Above you can see a bunch of squiggly colorful states. This seems innocent and almost fun, but what you’re actually looking at is a corrupt voting system. In its most recent congressional election, North Carolina’s congressional delegation remained as a 10-3 Republican majority, despite half of the total votes being cast by Democrats. How does this happen? Gerrymandering of election districts to favor the Republican Party is how.

Patrick Honner, a Contributing Columnist for Quanta Magazine, explains the math of Gerrymandering.

“Start by imagining a state with 200 voters, of whom 100 are loyal to party A and 100 to party B. Let’s suppose the state needs to elect four representatives and so must create four districts of equal electoral size.

Imagine that you have the power to assign voters to any district you wish. If you favor party A, you might distribute the 100 A voters and 100 B voters into the four districts like this:

D1 D2 D3 D4
A 30 30 30 10
B 20 20 20 40

With districts constructed in this way, party A wins three of the four elections. Of course, if you prefer party B, you might distribute the voters this way:

D1 D2 D3 D4
A 20 20 20 40
B 30 30 30 10

Here, the results are reversed, and party B wins three of the four elections.

Notice that in both scenarios the same number of voters with the same preferences are voting in the same number of elections. Changing only the distribution of voters among the districts dramatically alters the results. The ability to determine voting districts confers a lot of power, and attending to some simple math is all that’s needed to create an electoral edge.”

Although you cannot simply divide your voters into districts based on their preference, this is the basic idea Gerrymandering. Those creating district lines can track voting data from different regions of a state to see what the general preference of the area is. They then can draw lines to distribute voters similarly to what is done above.  The result is a diagram similar to North Carolina.

Looking at the math, Gerrymandering essentially “waste” the votes of those in a party that is ‘corraled’ – if you will – into fewer districts to suppress their vote.

The process of Gerrymandering causes there to be one or two districts who all prefer party A, and the rest have a majority of party B. This would make for a certain party to have a majority over whatever they are being voted into. What we can learn from Gerrymandering is this. Our voting system is so flawed that we can draw lines on a map and suppress thousands of votes.

-and we can do this legally.

My adventure into the Mathematics of Taxation

I have been filing my own taxes since I was 15. Although I now see that math plays a huge role in what money the government takes, at 15 I just snapped a picture of my W-2 to Turbo Tax,  let it do its thing, and boom! I had a check in the mail.

I yearn for the days when it was that simple.

Being a single, independent adult with multiple 1099’s, w2’s AND college tax credits have made my tax seasons a little less enjoyable. After hearing in class exactly how taxes are calculated, it got me thinking. How does tax math actually affect me? More importantly, how do tax changes affect this math?

What I have found is that taxes are complicated. Many Americans don’t understand how they work, why they are the way they are, or where their money is even going.

In 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in an attempt to simplify the federal tax system. The new act includes two major changes:

The first change is the tax rates for the 7 tax brackets. They have been changed from 10% 15% 25% 28% 33% 35% & 39.6% to  10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. 

The second change affects the standard deductions for filers. The standard deductions this year is nearly double what it was last year. For singles, it jumped from $6,350 to $12,000. For Married joint file couples the number increased from $12,700 to $24,000

So, in order to understand how this change affects me and the math of taxes, I actually have to do some math. Since I live and work in New Hampshire, I don’t dont have to worry about anything with the state.  What I DO have to worry about is this difference between the old tax brackets and the new “simple” tax system.

Spoiler Alert: it is not simple.

Luckily, NerdWallet breaks down the math in a way that’s easier to understand:  Being “in” a tax bracket doesn’t mean you pay that federal income tax rate on everything you make. The progressive tax system means that people with higher taxable incomes are subject to higher tax federal income tax rates, and people with lower taxable incomes are subject to lower federal income tax rates. The government decides how much tax you owe by dividing your taxable income into chunks — also known as tax brackets — and each chunk gets taxed at the corresponding tax rate. The beauty of this is that no matter which bracket you’re in, you won’t pay that tax rate on your entire income.” 

Looking at the new tax numbers, we can tell the new standard deduction is obviously going to make a difference. So, if I made the average income of a high school graduate, $35,256,  last year and the same this year,  do I owe less this year because of this new system?

Lets do the math.

I first have to break my income out into the tax brackets. This visual provided by Nerdwallet shows the brackets for someone making $32,000.

Drawings provided by nerdwallet

 

 

 

 

 

 

So with that understood, lets do the math to see how this all makes a difference:

Math done with Standard Deduction

 

Obviously, with the standard deduction, there is a huge difference. With the standard deduction increase, the average high school grad saved $1,239.   But what if no one had any deductions? Do those tax bracket number changes make any difference on their own? I did the math to find out:

Math done without Standard Deduction

So, the tax bracket changes alone saved our average high school grad $781.93.

So what? Well, according to nerdwallet the income range for these brackets is supposed to increase again in 2020, leaving a few more bucks in your pocket. So take the time, do the math, and see if you’re paying too much in at work!

Note: I have no clue why the images are so blurry, they’re all high-quality images, sorry!