Dan Snyder can easily solve his naming controversy AND add to the legacy of his brand with one simple change. Rename the “Redskins” to the “Americans”. Keep the iconic logo of a strong Native American, along with the burgundy, gold, and white color scheme and font. Color scheme and font are just as important to branding as an actual name. Snickers is the best resent example of this where they didn’t use the name “Snickers” in print advertisements but just the font and color scheme that are distinctly Snickers. Washington has the same level of recognition of it’s logo, color, and font.

Snyder has made it clear that he believes the Redskins name honors a heritage of Native Americans, despite numerous Native American tribes’ claims to the contrary. By keeping the logo and changing the name to Americans, Snyder would truly be honoring the native forefathers he believes his current team name honors. It would be a tremendous recognition of the original Americans, and I highly doubt that it would harm the brand in anyway. I’m willing to bet that it would strengthen the brand considerably. Snyder appears to be adamant about NOT being forced to change his team’s name, but the Washington Americans is a stronger brand than what he has now.

Development of the 2016 Chevy Volt is well under way, and it doesn’t seem like GM is giving many hints as to what is going to change with the v2.0 of the Volt. The latest Volt production has slightly more battery range than the first version of the Volt, but there is no guarantee that will remain the case. There have been suggestions of adding a fifth seat and reducing overall battery capacity, among many other rumors (including a minivan version). The only thing that seems to be guaranteed with the 2016 Volt is that it will retain it’s signature look (which means it’s not going to look like a weird space ship like the Nissan Leaf).

Here’s what I think GM should do with the Volt that would make it the most popular electric car in the world!

  1. Ignore the vocal minority about the fifth seat. Sure, there are people who will swear they’d buy the Volt if they just had that magical fifth seat. I’m calling BS on that. Most commuters are driving by themselves. So, this idea that Volt sales will have a massive leap forward by reducing battery capacity to fit a fifth seat is a farce.

  2. Reduce the engine size and increase efficiency. From what it looks like, GM is already on this. The reduced weight and better efficiency will make for better electric range in the first place!
  3. Increase the regenerative braking. Anyone who has driven a Volt in traffic knows that dropping the Volt into L will make your range that much better as well as reduce brake usage significantly. Take it a step further, GM! Give a regen option like the Tesla Model S where it’s so aggressive that you turn the brake lights on. Allow the customer to turn it on or off because there are a ton of drivers that don’t understand regenerative braking and will be bringing it into the dealerships over and over because they think something is wrong with the car.
  4. Ditch the flywheel transmission. Yes, the Volt does have a flywheel that will engage when going up a hill and the vehicle is in mountain mode. The idea is that it gives just that much more oomph that will help you get up a steep hill faster. Outside the Grapevine in Southern California, I can’t think of many other places that have hills that are so steep for so long.

    Here’s an example: You can drive from Santa Cruz to Pleasonton, CA on a fully charged Volt! Again, insane, right? That’s more than 50 miles, and there’s a giant mountain in your way! The Volt only goes 38 EPA electric. Except that the real world and EPA are completely different. I have made that drive in a Volt before. In fact, I almost made it to Dublin from Santa Cruz, and I’ve been able to go nearly 60 miles on a single charge (on several occasions) without driving 20 mph. You drive up the mountain from Santa Cruz and the downhill is so long that by the time you pass the Cat Tavern, you’ll realize that all the battery it took to get up the hill is coming back to you and then some!

    Ditch the flywheel, GM! The electric motor is plenty.

  5. Offer an option with triple (or preferably quadruple) battery range. Sounds completely insane, right!??! Here’s the great news. The Volt uses 10.9 kWh of it’s 16.5 kWh battery capacity (roughly 66%). My understanding is that this was done to avoid the horrors of battery degradation, but batteries are getting better and better for both capacity and less degradation. Given the current EPA rating of 38 miles electric, the Volt’s true electric range is roughly 57 miles before becoming a brick. Of course, real-world scenarios (like the Santa Cruz to Pleasanton drive I mentioned above) could mean range upwards of 90 miles!

    GM should stick with at least a little bit of cushion on their battery for warranty reasons alone, but 33% is definitely too much. Take it down to 20% on the existing battery configuration. That’s a software upgrade, so even existing Volt owners could get an electric range of roughly 46 miles by just getting a software upgrade.

    What will capacity be with battery technology for 2016 production? Most likely at least another 4 miles EPA with the existing 33% battery reserve. That means we could be looking at roughly 50 miles when we combine battery efficiency improvements with the software update I’m talking about.

    Back to increasing total battery capacity… Chevy Volt batteries are on the market to consumers for just over $2600, which means that GM is paying significantly less than that for the battery packs they’re putting into the Volt during production. The trick would be to figure out the proper configuration for being able to triple physical capacity. There’s a limited amount of space to work with, but I’m betting that the Volt can definitely be made to support 3-4x the battery capacity. Reduce the size of the gas tank or even take it out all together (which would then mean you can get rid of the gas generator completely, and could likely get up to 5x). Even if we took the $2600 retail price of the battery price, it would add $7800 to $10400 to the sticker price of a Volt to have 3-4x the battery capacity. Sans a motor and gas tank, and that would theoretically drop costs for GM as well.

    Is there a market for a $45000 electric car that can go nearly 200 miles (the additional battery weight will reduce mileage, so it’s not just a projected electric range x4)?

    I’m betting there’s a HUGE market for that type of car at that price point! If GM can still keep a small engine and 2-3 gallon gas tank to give you the extra 90+ miles you might need from time to time, then you really have an amazing electric car offering! No, it’s not the performance of a Tesla Model S, but it’s also a fraction of the price.

    Going with the increased battery capacity and smaller gas range extender, this Volt configuration would likely net buyers the full federal and state rebates. So, the out of pocket cost on this type of Volt would be roughly $35000 ($45000 minus $7500 federal and now $2500 state) in a state like California. Seems like an excellent option to me!

  6. Offer an option to have a 6.6KW charger with the larger battery capacity and utilization. Studies are showing that DC fast charging doesn’t have much of an impact on battery life. The Volt takes roughly 4 hours to charge with it’s existing battery setup. Recharging a fully depleted battery would then take 16 hours… Not a good thing. The larger battery capacity would need at least double the charging rate. Better yet, quadruple the charge rate at the same time! 180 miles in 4 hours would be phenomenal, and probably unnecessary.

    One need only look at the stats that you can find in the Volt smartphone app to see that there are plenty of people pushing over 2000 miles per month in EV miles. That’s roughly 67 EV miles per day, which means that Volt owners are pushing their Volts’ EV range daily! There’s clearly demand for more electric range, more so than a fifth seat.

  7. Offer the Traverse as a Volt. Don’t go with the small MPV that many have been suggesting is going to happen or something small like the Equinox. The Traverse is a legit SUV rather than a crossover. It seats 7-8 people, and GM could easily get 5-6x the battery capacity of a current Volt into something the size of the Traverse. Sure, the weight will mean that the Traverse Volt doesn’t go 300+ miles, but imagine an SUV that goes over 200 miles electric with another 90+ miles range extension that starts at roughly $50k! That’s going to be nearly half the price of a Tesla Model X. Sure, it won’t be as cool, but $40K is a lot to pay for cool.

It’s been suggested that GM doesn’t make any money on the Volt right now. That might be the case, but I’m betting that with everything I list above GM would be making a profit on these types of Volts!

Naturally, Mitt is being called a flip-flopper by those who disagree with him about raising the minimum wage. I understand where he’s coming from, and I believe he needs to think outside the box about this topic more. Take a walk with me. This will be a good read!

When you really think about it, raising minimum wage is also an increase in Federal and State income at the cost of business and employee wellbeing. Sure, people say that 47+% of people don’t pay taxes, but that’s not entirely accurate as all employers AND employees must pay Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment (all of which are related to the amount the employee is paid), not to mention sales taxes and the litany of other fees (i.e. vehicle registration fees) that varying government entities charge. Go rent a car, and you’ll see you’re paying more in taxes than the actual cost of the vehicle. But I digress.

There have been some arguments recently that paying such a low minimum wage means that more money is paid in welfare. It’s debatable, but certainly a reasonable argument. In short, the argument means that taxpayers/consumers are substituting higher prices (which is what many people say will be the result of raising the minimum wage) with higher taxes. In other words, raising the minimum wage would result in higher prices by businesses to offset the increase costs of employment, but it would reduce the reliance on government welfare programs. Since government welfare programs are paid with taxes, our taxes are higher because companies are paying minimum wages that equal income that’s below the poverty level. Ultimately, taxpayers are subsidizing companies that don’t pay a higher wage. Of course, it can’t be argued that the welfare programs shouldn’t even exist, but that’s not something I’m going to get into in this blog.

Here’s an alternative to minimum wage.

First, change the federal tax brackets so that anyone making less than $22K/year (excluding deductions) doesn’t need to pay any of the federal taxes. That means, no federal income tax, no Social Security, and no Medicare. That’s a significant jump in the current lowest tax bracket.

If politicians are really interested in minimum wage earners having more money in their pockets, then they should stop taking so many taxes from them! Social Security is a massive tax that has no regard for income level. In fact, Social Security taxes stop being taken once your income exceeds $117K. So, the impact on low wage earners is significantly higher than with high income earners.

 

Second, put the entire tax of low wages on the employer. If the employer wants to pay less than $10.10, they must pickup the entire tab for the entire current federal income tax, Social Security, and Medicare. Employers already pay half of the Social Security and Medicare taxes. In essence, the tax brackets remain the same, the 10-15% is now paid by the employer instead of the employee, and rather than the employer just matching the employee Social Security it is paid entirely by the employer for anyone making less than $10.10/hour.

This will provide an incentive to employers to pay a higher wage, and if they don’t at least the low wage earner isn’t burdened by the federal government with a disproportionate tax burden.

Ultimately, the low wage earner will have take home income equal to their actual pay as opposed to 10+% less than what they make from federal taxes draining their take home pay. If the goal is to raise the living standards for low wage earners, then the government needs to stop taking tax money out of their pockets at a disproportionate rate. It also simplifies tax filings for low wage earners, saving them money and reducing overhead on the IRS. They have a W2 (or more, as is often the case) that shows they earned less than $22K/year and don’t have to file anything other than a tax return with a signature. No going through deductions, tax credits, etc. They simply have a zero % and zero $ tax burden. They receive 100% of all the money the earn.

Employers already have payroll systems in place that make all the tax deductions from an employee’s paycheck, so there is really limited tax filing overhead by the employer. The only thing they would need to deal with is what I outline in the fourth item.

 

Third, pressure states to erase their state income tax on anyone making less than $10.10. This is pretty easy to do for the federal government. If the states don’t increase their lowest tax bracket, they don’t get federal funding. It’s has been used often in the past and works well. The states could also lessen the burden on low wage earners by completely eliminating their unemployment tax. Put the entire burden on the employer.

The bottom line would be that someone being paid today’s minimum wage of $7.25 would take home that entire $7.25. That’s roughly $15K/year in take home pay or $1280/month, which is above the poverty line. And remember, that’s with today’s minimum wage of $7.25. With two income earners making $7.25, that would put the take home income at roughly $30K/year, which our Federal government states is enough for 6 people to be in a household and be at the poverty level.

 

Fourth, provide employers with a reduced tax burden with higher wages.

This is the opposite of the graduated tax system we have in place now. One of the ideas behind the graduated tax is that higher wage earners are subsidizing lower wage earners, so they need to pay higher taxes. With the changes I outline above, it goes the opposite direction because the money is going directly to the lower wage earners rather than first going through the middleman known as Uncle Sam. This means reduced government overhead and spending with a larger amount of money going directly into the pockets of those who need it the most. It stands to reason that as the employer gets more and more towards the $10.10 federal goal, the amount of employer paid “employee tax” should decrease.

This also would lead to lower taxes at each of the current tax brackets as the welfare subsidization would go away on income taxes. It would be interesting to see just how much federal income taxes would decrease for everyone else by removing Uncle Sam as the middleman.

 

Of course, you might be thinking that this is just a rose by another name. This just puts more of a burden on the employer and will lead to fewer jobs, higher prices, and everything else that’s been thrown out over the years when raising the minimum wage comes up, right? Ultimately, the cost is higher to the employer, and the employer must figure out some way to offset that cost. There’s no escaping that. However, this deals with increased costs to the employer in a very different manner as you will see below.

If you examine a mandatory increase in minimum wage, you find that this increases the burden on both the employer and the employee in a larger amount than with what I have outlined above. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 means that all the overhead taxes (Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment) increase for both the employer and the employee. The employee has a nominal increase in their take home pay (since the government is still taking the same percentage of money out of their pockets). This means that government welfare is needed on a larger scale than with what I outlined above.

Given what I have outlined, anyone working a full-time minimum wage job (under today’s minimum wage of $7.25, not even the increased $10.10) is no longer under the poverty level. The additional cost to the employer is roughly 10-15% plus 15.3% (that’s the current federal tax brackets for lower wages and Social Security and Medicare being fully paid by the employer as opposed to split).

What I have outlined is roughly a $9.09/hour to $9.45/hour cost to the employer.

Depending on what the states do, it would increase more, but even California (with some of the highest income taxes on everyone) won’t get the cost to an employer over $10.10 for low wage earners.  Also, don’t forget about the “overhead taxes” I mentioned earlier that mean a $10.10 minimum wage is really much higher for the employee and the employer.

Ultimately, what I have outlined is considerably less than the goal of $10.10/hour, yet it pulls every full time minimum wage employee above the poverty line and a family of six with two full time minimum wage earners above the poverty line.

This also doesn’t take into account the rapid lack of qualification (and realistically, demand) for welfare programs. Since the government is taking less money out of the pockets of low wage earners, they are now above the poverty line and able to improve their standard of living without taking money from welfare programs. Important programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment are still funded. Still, the cost is less than $10.10/hour for the employer, and as the employer raises their employee wages above $10.10/hour, their total tax burden decreases.

Also, the tax burden on other taxpayers (the elusive middle class) would go down. Take this to mean that tax bracket percentages decrease or that federal debts are paid down and budgets balanced or anything else that make sense with a reduced total tax burden. This system requires less IRS and less federal and state government welfare, while putting more money in the hands of low wage earners and all others who are paying taxes.

One last benefit! This solves one of the biggest issues for the perception of the “1 percenters” in that “they don’t pay their fair share of taxes”. Despite the reports that show that top income earners pay a disproportionate percentage of the total income taxes, it is often stated that the “1%” doesn’t pay their fair share. With this setup the lowest wage earners pay no share of income taxes, so it stands to reason that the top 1% would certainly be paying an even greater share of the taxes.

Had I stayed away from the news websites, I wouldn’t have even noticed the federal government shutdown. Funny part about that is that I have a family member who works for the federal government, but she didn’t get furloughed since she works in a government agency that actually turns a profit with its services. Naturally, when an organization makes a profit it doesn’t have to furlough people when the rest of the federal government does.

I’m not going to debate whether one side is right or wrong or worse than the other in this blog. I’m just going to post a solution to the one problem that I saw most in the news and on social media: shutting down our national parks. I’m not going to debate if a 1000 square mile range of the ocean in Florida needs our federal government to stay open to fishermen or whether Mt. Rushmore needs federal employees to be open. This solution solves the debate. Here it is…

Have the National Park service issue multiple denomination certificates for the full amount of its annual budget that are a tax credit for those who purchase them and never have to be paid back. In essence, it’s a donation to our National Parks, but rather than just being a tax deduction like a charity, this is a tax credit because our federal government is using tax dollars to pay for the National Parks. It’s a $ for $ in tax money.

Obviously, the National Park service would incur some minor overhead for building and maintaining this system, so it can just add it to its budget. I’m betting that if you put it into an open bidding process you could easily find thousands of companies capable of building this platform.

This would help ensure that our National Parks remain open regardless of federal government wrangling. It would also serve as a model for other government entities for how they can become self sufficient and immune to federal government budgetary gridlock. There are numerous other benefits to this model such as helping to keep spending inline with revenue for the government as a whole and providing citizens with a greater say in how our tax dollars are spent. This idea isn’t just about avoiding shutdown furloughs that are back paid anyway. It’s a solution to an ongoing budget (or lack thereof) with our federal government.

Here are added incentives for our National Parks:

  1. Want that budget increase you could never get? Increase your budget and see if taxpayers are willing to pay for it
  2. If Congress acts now, there will be a flood of taxpayers willing to cover your entire fiscal calendar budget since there are just 2.5 months left in the tax year

Edit: Why not make a petition out of it? https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/taxpayer-direct-funding-national-parks/csP0c6Bh

Hotwire sends me a link asking me to write a review about the hotel they scammed me for more than $200 over what I could have paid if I booked directly. I enjoyed my hotel stay, so I figured I’d write a positive review about the place. One of the things I noticed when writing the review is that Hotwire states not to mention anything specific about the hotel: not the hotel name, nearby landmarks, area, etc. My guess is that this is based upon the fact that Hotwire’s business model is all about scamming you. If you had an idea about what was around the hotel, it would be fairly easy to figure out what the hotel is, check the hotel rates directly and find out that you can book directly with the hotel for cheaper.

Following up on my request for a refund from Hotwire in my last post, they did respond back stating that a credit would be issued for roughly $70. Certainly a far cry from the $237 I would have saved booking directly.

This is the review I wrote about the Milford Plaza Hotel in midtown that Hotwire I’m certain will not post since my original post has already been rejected by them for:

  • Specific points of interest mentioned reveal the hotel

One of the best bangs for the buck in the area. Easy access to the subway. Fairly easy access to getting a cab. Plenty of restaurants right around the corner. Right around the corner from TS. You have to go upstairs to get to the main elevators, and there was a lot of construction during my visit. However, the staff certainly did their best to keep up. When the construction is finished, this is going to be a *great* hotel! Of course, since Hotwire is a complete scam based upon hiding the hotel information from you so that you can’t figure out what the actual hotel is and discover that the hotel can be booked directly for cheaper, this review will never see the light of day on their website.

I added the last sentence after Hotwire sent me that ridiculous email about revealing the hotel. Wow, a hotel in NY that is surrounded by restaurants, has easy access to the subway, cabs, and Times Square. That really nails it down to at least 80 hotels. Throw in the construction, and we’re down to 30-40 hotels. I’ll just keep ranting about Hotwire as long as I can.

Hotwire has lost my business for good. I’m planning a business trip to New York, and I decided to use Hotwire for my hotel search and booking. I had never used Hotwire before, but with that catchy “H-O-T-W-I-R-E Hotwire dot commmmmm” jingle, I figured it was worth a shot. Plus, after having cross checked rates with Orbitz (my favorite travel site for booking flights) and a handful of the usual suspects (TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Priceline, Booking.com) Hotwire had the lowest “price” for the area I wanted that I could find on the hotel search engines.

The hotel name wasn’t listed, and I started getting the feeling I get when someone is pitching me a MLM idea. Like so many people that get suckered in to things that are too good to be true, I bit. Then I received the name of the hotel. Hmmm…

I went to the hotel’s website and found rates lower than Hotwire. Not only were the rates lower, but naturally the taxes were lower and there was no $49.41 in “fees”. Now, Hotwire does offer a refund for lower rates, but when you look at their “refund” it doesn’t include taxes, nor does it include “fees”. Overall, Hotwire cheated me out of more than $200 between the inflated room rate, higher taxes, and “fees” that are non-refundable.

Hotwire could pay a guy to just make bookings with the hotel at the rate I would have paid if I had purchased directly from them, and they’d walk away with more than $200. Now, I completely understand that a company needs to make money. Perhaps the only way that Hotwire and all the other online booking companies can make money is by inflating the rack rates of hotels and hope that people won’t book directly with the hotel. However, what is really the value I’m getting for their “services”?

The supposed value of the online hotel search engines is that I don’t have to check each hotel one by one. Theoretically, that saves me time. However, between cross referencing all the online hotel search engines: prices, amenities, reviews, rooms, etc. I really started questioning whether the days of using a travel agent shouldn’t make a comeback. What did booking online really save me? Certainly not money and certainly not time.

Update 5/5/13
Received an email from Hotwire about my request for refund stating:

Thank you for submitting your Low Price Guarantee claim.  I was unable to find the lower rate using the information you provided.  I was only able to find the lower price at $239.00, not $237.15.  Please reply to this email and attach an image  (screenshot ) of the lower rate.  It must include the address bar showing what website the rate was located on and the average nightly rate before any taxes and fees.   The rate submitted must include the same currency and booking details  as booked on the Hotwire site including travel dates, hotel property, number of guests and number of rooms.
Please note we can accept the following file formats: .gif. jpg/.jpeg .png .bmp .tif .xhtml / .xht .html / .htm .shtml .mht .webarchive .doc .docx .rtf .pdf .  We must receive the screenshot within 48 hours of this email to consider the claim.
Normally, I’d be so happy that I took the screenshot the day of the theft of my money. But just checking the hotel rate on my cell phone right now, I still find the exact same rate as the day I made the reservation! Hotwire is a complete scam!

I’m sure half the country has heard about Santa Monica’s smart parking meters. The city of Santa Monica touts them as a great technological advancement in the ability to improve their parking… PUHLEASE! If the city of Santa Monica ever uses the data collected from their parking meter sensors to actual *improve* parking conditions, I’ll be the first to congratulate the city.

We all know what’s going to happen. The second Santa Monica figures out that they can squeeze another peso from your wallet, it will. I’m sure that parking rates will adjust (only upward) based upon their historical data that they collect. Anyone remember the Coca-Cola vending machines that were going to charge more when it was hotter outside. Ya, imagine paying $8/hour for parking in SM during the busy season. I’ll bet money (maybe a parking ticket’s worth) that will happen.

I do have a story about how I think this could eventually be fought and won against the city in the courtroom (unless someone already thought of this and lost – I don’t really keep up too much on a city like Santa Monica since I plan on never visiting that BFE beach town very often). The other day I was in downtown Los Angeles. I got myself a meter (for two hours) near a company that I was visiting. Of course it wasn’t close enough to the company to where I could lug the mountains of merchandise I was purchasing from them from their location to my car. I figured I’d get two hours because it was nearing lunch and I was hungry.

Better Parking in DTLA than Santa Monica

Better Parking in DTLA than Santa Monica

I walked over to my bank, took a picture of ridiculous parking signs right around the corner (oh, the irony!!!), visited the company’s office, conducted my business, went back to my car, drove my car to the loading zone in front of the business, loaded up the merchandise, and then drove back to my parking meter. At the time that I left the meter, there was an hour and 45 minutes left. I figured if someone else ended up stumbling upon my meter, it was a nice gift for them.

By the time I made it back to my meter, it was about 10 minutes later. Nobody had taken my meter (although, there was some poor schmuck who parked in the meter before mine that didn’t have enough time on it). I still have an hour and 35 minutes (which I paid for!!!) left on my meter so I could go enjoy a nice mac & cheese lunch at one of my favorite restaurants. The fact that parking in DTLA is better than Santa Monica puts the city of Santa Monica on the top of my list of craptastic cities for parking. Keep in mind, I have received more than a dozen tickets in DTLA for various reasons and even been towed (well, almost towed) after the crooks changed the parking times that hadn’t been changed in more than 10 years.

Had I been in Santa Monica, my hour and 35 minutes of parking that I had already paid for and had every intention of using would have been stolen from me completely! Would that be any different from someone swooping in and stealing my spot? Yes! Because at least that person would have benefited from my generosity. Instead, the city of Santa Monica is just stealing money from me. Would I have put 2 hours worth of parking in a Santa Monica parking meter? Of course not! I’ll never be visiting that thieving town anytime soon, and I’ll certainly be looking for parking structure parking instead! Or maybe a guy sitting in an alley taking parking donations.

Strange experience on the freeway last night. I was heading home from my office and I’m driving along when a car comes up behind me and goes to pass me. The change lanes and then disappear into my blind spot. Then they just decided to sit in my blind spot for a few miles. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was dark so I saw their headlights, I would have never known they were there until I needed to change lanes. But that wasn’t the strange part. If I sped up, they would speed up. If I slowed down, they would slow down.

I pulled a Maverick. Hit the brakes, and they flew right by. I changed lanes so I could make my way towards my exit. Then things got really weird… They kept slowing down and speeding up so that I was in their blind spot! I’m guessing this has something to do with it being dark and they wanted the extra set of headlights, but this driver was pretty weird.

Go home Christmas tree, you’re drunk

image

Just about the most awesome polar bear video I’ve seen!

Next Page »



Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 256 other followers