Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Attendance in Sports Leagues Around the World

Once again The Economist comes through with a fun chart:

Note the MLS is the sixth highest average attendance soccer league in the world.  I would, however, argue that this should be normalized by population to make a rank comparison. Oh wait, there it is in the last column - economists think alike!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Oregon Adds 4,200 Jobs in May

The unemployment rate remained essentially unchanged at 6.9%

Soccernomics: Exciting World Cups are a Rarity - Live This One Up!

To give the haters some ammunition: The dull nil-nil draw and draws in general are a World Cup tradition.  See above from The Economist.  This year, something is different.

Fred Thompson: Some Modest Suggestions For Fixing Oregon’s Property Tax System

Note: here is another dispatch from Fred Thompson.

Thanks to a series of initiatives and referenda during the decade of the 1990s, primarily Measure 5, enacted in 1990, and Measure 50, enacted in 1997, Oregon has acquired a one-off property-tax system, which emphasizes stable growth in tax payments and inter-jurisdictional uniformity in tax rates. The system seems to be somewhat popular. At least the property tax no longer consistently tops the worst-tax list in local polls. Nevertheless, the prestigious City Club of Portland, after a year spent studying property taxes, concluded that “the current Frankentax has got to go” and proposed to restore the property tax system that was in effect in 1990, with some major modifications.

My reading of the evidence tells me that they are wrong, in the sense that they want to take a sledgehammer to things where a tack hammer would suffice. The current system gives Oregon a lot more funding predictability and stability than the old one, it places different jurisdictions on a more equal footing with respect to the provision of public services, it has reduced the burden of property taxes across the board, and has led to increased understanding on the part of voters about how much they will pay and why; it has, as the City Club stresses, also greatly reduced local autonomy, made public schools creatures of the state, reduced government services, and reduced reliance on one of the most progressive tax sources available (given that both wealth and income are measures of ability to pay).

Like the City Club, I too am troubled by the transfer of fiscal autonomy from local school districts to the state. But, evidently, that is precisely what the state’s taxpayers wanted. Insuring equal student funding, while preserving local autonomy, is about as practicable as building a perpetual motion machine. Much the same thing can be said about the regime’s effects on the provision of general-government services. Here too, I share the City Club’s concerns.
However, I would point out that the most severe local service shortfalls, as in Curry and Josephine Counties, have occurred in jurisdictions with statutory tax rates below one percent. State mandated lock-in of general-government o tax rates was justified by compression-driven cannibalization of inter-jurisdictional tax bases, but it applies equally to all jurisdictions, whether they are in compression or not. That hardly makes sense. Indeed, rather than freezing them, requiring the approval of any affected jurisdiction to increase local rates would on the face of it constitute a more reasonable fail-safe mechanism. If none of a jurisdiction’s neighbors are affected by a tax increase or if arrangements satisfactory to all the parties concerned can be worked out, the jurisdiction ought to be free to raise rates consistent with the levies its citizens have authorized.
Moreover, we now have conclusive proof assessment quality is slowly but inexorably deteriorating. That means that the burden of the property tax is increasingly not borne in proportion to the value of property owned, but is in fact arbitrarily and capriciously allocated. That is unfair. It is also something that can and should be fixed.
With respect to this issue, the League of Oregon Cities recently proposed a constitutional amendment that would “reset” a property’s assessment for tax purposes to real market value when it is sold. This looks like a reasonable solution to the problem of deteriorating assessment quality. Reassessment to market tends to improve tax uniformity. Moreover, from what we know about residential mobility, the folks who are most likely to stay put are the ones we want most to protect against rapid, unanticipated increases in their tax bills: senior citizens without mortgages, perhaps the most important beneficiaries of Measure 50. Shifting to a system of reassessment to market at title transfer would preserve that protection. In any case, given the high proportion of properties now at the Measure 5 limit and the general increase in the assessment ratios that has taken place over the past five years, this seems like a politically opportune time for political action. Right now reassessment on title transfer would harm relatively few homeowners, primarily the ones who have already received disproportionate gains under Measure 50.

How well would this work? Probably reasonably well. Assessment quality is deteriorating at the rate of about one percent each year; real estate turnover is about eight percent. Consequently my guess is that reset at transfer would take us to a stable coefficient of dispersion of less than 10 percent and covariance levels between market value and tax payments of 90 percent or better.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The World Cup Begins & The Soccer Gods are Angry

After all of the press, good and bad, about the World Cup being hosted in its spiritual home (England is the ancestral home) it is a relief that today it finally starts.  My friends in Brazil have, up to now, been pretty ambivalent about the whole thing, but this has started to change in the last week or so and now there is full blown Cup fever among them.  The game itself is the best palliative for all of the organizational ills.   And for one day, my adopted city, São Paulo, is the center of attention which is pretty fun.  And if I hear anyone say San Paulo again on the radio or TV I will scream!  How hard it is to separate Spanish from Portuguese?

Para a sexta!! Vai Brasil! 

On a domestic note, I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to soccer.  I think that the team colors are pretty sacrosanct and at home you wear them always.  In Europe this is generally true.  If Arsenal is at home they will be in red with white sleeves, white shorts.  No question.  Now some teams have taken to making a special kit for the Champions League so seven this tradition is beginning to wane.  However, the Timbers insistence on wearying their red and alternate kits at home is grating and has clearly, given their home woes, angered the soccer gods.

Last night was the second game in a row in their red kits and yet another disappointing result.

I understand the desire to sell shirts but at some point you have to establish some boundaries and I think that for all league home games, the primary shirt should be worn.  You still have US Open cup, exhibitions and Champion's League matches for the other stuff...

Okay, rant over.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Soccernomics: Eve of the World Cup Edition

The Upshot, The New York Times's answer to FiveThirtyEight edited by David Leonhardt has some fantastic poll data about soccer around the world.  Here are the two charts from the article:

This first one has some interesting talking points.  The first is the overwhelming favorite to win the World Cup is Brazil.  Not too surprising except for the unanimity - I thought there would be more love for Argentina.   For the record, I concur: I have Brazil wining it all in my pool.  They do so by beating Argentina 3-1 in the final - this is also my fantasy final and if it happens it will be beyond huge.  But I digress. The best part of the poll is Americans who answer USA.  There has been a lot of talk about the USA coach's statement that the team cannot win the Cup and how un-american it is (he is German, and it looks like that criticism is correct: Americans really do believe.

As for who folks love to hate, the results are pretty predictable but revealing.  Argentina hates the English (the Falklands are still a massive open-wound in Argentina and whenever they scab over a new populist politician will pick it off to score some political points).  Mexico and Russia root against the USA, of course, but why do Australia and Italy?  I thought we were friends!  The rest of South America reserves their wrath for Argentina while Brazil's second most rooted against team is Brazil!  (Of course they say that now - focusing on the World Cup debacle - but trust me if Brazil starts winning the entire country will come around)

Finally, it is funny how Brazil is still associated with the beautiful game despite the fax that Brazil, over the last couple of decades has become a much more defensive, counter-attacking side.  Most 'purists' think Spain played the most beautiful soccer, but recent poor results by Barcelona and Spain have taken some of the warm glow of the Tiki-Taka style.

The second chart measures soccer's popularity among the World Cup nations.  I think the big takeaway here is how many other sports matter in the country.  The USA is dead last, as you might imagine, but England and France are pretty close.  Both countries have other big team sporting traditions (cricket and rugby for England and Rugby for France).  I am a bit surprised how high Spain is but this is what success breeds I suppose.  

As a dual-citizen I'll be rooting for the USA and England heartily, as well as Brazil, my adopted country after my year-liong sabbatical stay there.  But mostly I root for an entertaining cup full of great goals and attacking play - something often missing from World Cups.  The spectacle is more reliable and the way that Brazil deals with it and reacts to their teams performance will entrance me. 

Finally, to end this soccer post on a somber note.  It is always quite a shock when a random act of violence hit close to home and this one did.  My sons play for the soccer club that the victim of the Reynolds HS shooting, Emilio Hoffman, played for.  My older son has played on the same team with Emilio's sister many times.  Please consider donating to a fund to support Emilio's family. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Time to Reboot the Push for Self-Service Gas!

It looks like it is finally time again to start the rallying cry for the introduction of self-service gas in Oregon.  The Oregonian reported on this poll of Oregonians that shows ... wait for it ... support for self-service gas in Oregon!

As long-time readers of this blog know, self-service gas was something that I would just not shut up about for a very long time, as evidenced by this long series of posts.  Once the recession hit I knew it was a non-starter because supporters of the status-quo will inevitably bring up the jobs that will be lost, and despite the obvious economic fallacy of increasing employment by mandating jobs, this argument cannot be countered by showing specific job gains from repealing the ban.  So a time of high unemployment is definitely not the time to try and get support for a repeal of the ban.

However now that we are well on the path of recovery it appears it is time to once again start up the call for repealing the ban.

There are a number of things that are very interesting about this poll.  First is the way the question was worded.  Many people assume that if you allow self-service gas you will no longer be able to have it pumped for you.  There is no reason for this.  It is true that in most states, many gas stations are self-service only, but it would be easy to mandate pumping on request.  I suspect if you asked respondents "you you support giving drivers in Oregon the choice of having their gas pumped for them or pumping it for themselves" the support would be dramatically higher.

Second is the gender division.  Men support it and women oppose it.  Based on the comments I received from readers during my first crusade, I suspect that again this represents the concern that there would no longer be the option to have it pumped for you.  I'd love to see the results with my alternate wording of the question.  

Third is the racial breakdown: whites support, non-whites do not.  This is more curious perhaps this reflects a concern about losing these jobs?

Fourth is the age breakdown.  I was shocked to see that support was tepid among 18 to 29 year-olds.  Perhaps again this reflects a concern about the jobs?  The grumpy middle aged folks like me show the strongest support.

Finally, the support by political party is predictable given this argument tends to shape up along the less regulation vs. more regulation debate.

I'll end by once again pointing out the obvious: allowing customers to pump you own gas is not dangerous, will lead to lower prices and would not harm (and most likely help) overall employment in Oregon.  You can still preserve the ability to have your gas pumped for you and allow those who wish to pump their own.  That petition that I started about six years ago is still there, so it is never too late to go and sign...

Who knows, maybe in my lifetime...