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November 2010

Old story about tax rates and tax compliance

New York State recently sharply increased the excise tax on cigarettes. Can you guess what happened? Go ahead, guess.

The underground tobacco market is spreading like a fast-growing cancer in the wake of tax hikes that make New York cigarettes the most expensive in the nation -- and it's costing the state tens of millions a month in lost tax revenue, a Post analysis has found.

Illegal cigarettes are pouring into neighborhood bodegas by the truckload from neighboring Indian reservations, lower-tax states in the South and even as far away as China, authorities say. . . .

About 30 million packs are being sold legally each month -- down from 41 million packs a month before July.

The plunge far exceeds tobacco-control experts' predictions that sales would fall 8 to 10 percent, indicating that smokers are finding other means to get their nicotine fix.

In fact, the New York Association of Convenience Store Owners estimates that as many as half of all cigarettes consumed in the state lack proper tax stamps.

"Names You Need to Know in 2011: R Data Analysis Software"

R makes Forbes magazine.

It's free and open source. I have haven't--thanks, Steve W.--used it in my classes yet, but it could well be excellent for graduate students.

Some other R-related links that may be of interest:

Where to get R and its documentation: "The Comprehensive R Archive Network".

Add-ons: "Must-Have R Packages for Social Scientists". See also "CRAN Task View: Computational Econometrics" and "CRAN Task View: Statistics for the Social Sciences".

Why R? "An economist explains: Why I use R", "R is Hot", "How Google and Facebook are using R", R-Bloggers.

Learning R: "Resources to help you learn and use R", "Quick R", "R Beginner’s Guide", "Finding my way around R"

Other: Springer books about R, R-Commander--a GUI for R,  recent Fordham "Conference on Quantitative Social Science Research Using R", "Revolutions", "R Tutorial Series: Hierarchical Linear Regression".

"Empty promises on health care will haunt Obama"

As my wife wrote, "The [Republican] ads will just write themselves."

Byron York:

Barack Obama is only halfway through his term, but it's not too early to ask: What is the biggest whopper he has told as president? So far, the hands-down winner is:

"No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."

See also "Seven Empty Promises About ObamaCare".

Recent college graduates should pay attention to this

The business world, at least for the moment, respects Google's dominance and success. Businesses tend to imitate the practices of successful businesses. It's a pretty good bet, therefore, that other businesses will try to hire people the way Google hires.

So, if you are now, or expect to be soon, looking for a job, I think you should prepare to answer the types of questions Google asks. One place to start is here: "My Nightmare Interviews With Google". In particular, prepare to do, under some stress, simple arithmetic:

"Say an advertiser makes $0.10 every time someone clicks on their ad. Only 20% of people who visit the site click on their ad. How many people need to visit the site for the advertiser to make $20?” I froze. The problem sounded easy but I didn’t want to cause an awkward silence trying to solve it.

(Here's another suggestion: an "awkward silence" followed by a correct answer is usually far better than a quick but wrong answer.)

With some hesitation--a positive frame of mind is important for job interviews--I also recommend this: "14 Job Interview Disasters".