Explaining Southern California's economy

Do the math: Find out if you're in the '1 percent'

Occupy LA

Eric Richardson / blogdowntown

Those participating in Occupy Los Angeles march toward City Hall.

Ah, the Wall Street Journal. It serves capitalism, but it's also a newspaper, so it wants to jump on trends. Add some nifty, number-crunching online technology to that and you get this calculator, which will swiftly tell you just where you fall in the U.S. income distribution

Give it a try! But don't get hung up on income! Remember that much of the top 1%'s wealth comes from capital gains, not wage income. So you might be looking pretty good as a household if you bring in $200,000 per year and rank in the 94th percentile. But remember that you're then taxed at the 28 percent IRS rate, while a true 1%er — which I define as a member of the U.S. financial elite, making money from money rather than from labor — is seeing their capital gains taxed at 15 percent.

There are plenty of people in the U.S. who think they're rich, but they aren't. And even if they're in the 1% as set by earnings ($506,000 annually), the gulf between you and a 1%er who makes the same off less heavily taxed investment and divident income is vast.

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Why entrepreneurs can't save the U.S. economy

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Sheila Collins protests with others outside of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer`s office to demand more jobs on April 1, 2011 in New York City.

America loves entrepreneurs. And in the current dreadful economy, we're looking to the risk-takers and idea-guys more than ever to get us out of our unemployment rut. In some respects, you could call the entire Republican economic platform a formula for spurring entrepreneurship, with its combination of tax cuts and reduced regulation. Then again, you could say the same thing of the Democrats, who want the government to spend more money to stimulate demand for the products that entrepreneurs would create.

KPCC's Shereen Marisol Meraji reported from Los Angeles' entrepreneurship central today on the Madeleine Brand Show. She visited a co-working space and investigated the process of business-building at its most grassroots level. I'm energized by stuff like this, but I also have to throw a small amount of cold water in the face of the idea. The fact is that as important as entrepreneurs are to the economy, it's unlikely that they'll be able to create enough jobs to hammer down a 9.1 percent unemployment rate nationally and a 12-plus-percent unemployment rate in LA County.

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Meet Starbucks, your new neighborhood investment bank

Customers queue for coffee at Starbucks

PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Welcome to your friendly neighborhood investment bank. Do you want them to leave room for...return on investment?

Here's an idea that's going to get people talking — and funding small businesses. The New York Times' Joe Nocera writes his column today about Starbucks' plan to partner with microfinance organization Opportunity Finance Network to solve a major American problem: a lack of small-scale lending. The project is called Create Jobs for USA. It's a great idea, but it has at least one significant problem: return on investment for the Starbucks customers who would be putting up their money.

Starting November 1, while waiting for you nonfat vente caramel latte, you can donate, say...$5 to the cause. You'll receive a red, white, and blue "indivisible" bracelet (the bracelet is an inevitable piece of viral marketing these days). Starbucks will seed the fund with a $5 million donation. As Nocera points out, this will enable Create Jobs for USA and OFN to borrow against this fund, utilizing a 7-to-1 leverage ration. Presto! Your $5 becomes $35.

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Tweet of the Day: Making up for BlackBerry outage outrage

Today's tweet comes from @Slate. In an effort to make up for last week's terrifying BlackBerry outage, Research in Motion is giving away $100 in apps to users. You can get Sim 3, Bejeweled, Bubble Bash 2...

Um, look, I'm a BlackBerry loyalist — meaning I haven't joined the 4 million people who lined up to buy an iPhone 4S over the weekend — and I literally have no interest in any of those apps. I mean, I have a BlackBerry. The whole point if using this device is to not play games on it. Except for BrickBreaker. But I never even play BrickBreaker. I'm too busy using my BlackBerry to get stuff done!

In the entire time I've been a BlackBerry user, I've browsed the games section of the app store maybe...once? How about this: a $100 credit toward a BlackBerry PlayBook. And don't restrict it. Let me combine it with other offers. Somehow I think it's more imporant for RIM to get its underperforming tablet in the hands of people who have its smartphones than to get apps on those same smartphones that users won't really use.

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Reportings: Big accounting tricks; Liz Warren; California booming; business class takes a hit

Mercer 5761

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Elizabeth Warren, chairman of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, testifies at a hearing on Capitol Hill, on July 22, 2009 in Washington, DC.

Were you wondering why some big banks are reporting big profits, even as markets are driving down their share prices? Blame it on...accounting: "'This is the most vilified accounting rule I've ever seen. It's amazing how universally despised it is,'" said Robert Willens, author of the Willens Report, which analyzes corporate accounting and tax matters." (Reuters)

 

Somebody loves Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren: "She is provocative and assertive in her critique of corporate power and the well-paid lobbyists who protect it in Washington, and eloquent in her defense of an eroding middle class." (NYT)

 

What it was like in SoCal when aerospace was booming: "...dozens of airfields dotted the landscape; test-rocket firings flashed and echoed in the foothills; and the local economy became yoked to the boom-and-bust cycles of defense spending. In the process, aerospace helped drive the extraordinary metamorphosis of California from a rural, agrarian state to the sixth-largest economy in the world." (Zócalo)

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