Political Calculations
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29 March 2019

What happens when you ask Siri "What's one trillion raised to the 10th power?"

For those willing to lay down a beat, something magical!...

That was from three years ago. Now, for a solo version from earlier this year!

And that can go on for all 120 zeroes! It wouldn't be anywhere near as fun if Siri knew scientific notation!

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28 March 2019

When it first went into effect in January 2017, Philadelphia's city officials had high hopes for its new tax on the distribution of naturally and artificially sweetened beverages for retail sale within the city. Counting on getting $92.4 million a year in new revenue from the new tax, Philadelphia politicians had already decided how they would spend the money, dividing it between a new universal pre-K school/day care program, community schools and initiatives to improve or repair public parks, recreation centers, and libraries. Meanwhile, at least one politically connected union official had darker ambitions for the new tax, hoping it would cost at least 100 jobs for members of a rival labor union.

By the end of its first year, it was evident that Philadelphia's soda tax collections were falling flat, as the city only raised $78.8 million. Now, through the end of is second full year of being in effect, the city has collected even less revenue from the tax, with $76.5 million going into the city's coffers.

Desired vs Actual Estimates of Philadelphia's Monthly Soda Tax Collections, January 2017 through December 2018

Consequently, Philadelphia's mayor and city council have scaled back their spending ambitions for the funds they receive from the city's controversial soda tax, limiting the growth of its "free" pre-K program to 5,500 seats rather than the originally planned 6,500, leaving a thousand children of the city's lowest income-earning parents out in the cold. The city has also reduced its plans to add community schools in the city from 25 to 20, but the biggest cuts have weighed upon the city's Rebuild initiative for improving civic infrastructure, which was slashed by 30%.

The only thing from Philadelphia's soda tax that happened as hoped was the 100 job losses targeted at local union jobs, although here, job losses traceable to the Philadelphia Beverage tax extend to many other jobs as well, particularly for soft drink retailers.

After two years, Philadelphia's city council may have had enough of unreliable revenue collections from the tax, where Maria Quiñones-Sánchez introduced a bill to phase out the unpopular tax on 14 March 2019. The city council subsequently voted to fund an independent study of the tax and its impact.

Meanwhile, a new poll of 600 Philadelphia residents finds that 60% want the tax repealed.

Ernest Owens, writer at large for Philadelphia magazine, editorializes on the moral case for why he believes Philadelphia's soda tax should be repealed:

No matter how anyone tries to reframe it, the soda tax is a regressive levy that disproportionately impacts Black and brown communities in the poorest major city in America.

The premise of the soda tax is illogical: For money to be raised to fund pre-K, community schools, and recreation centers, people have to buy soda and other sugary beverages — meaning we have to consume items that are killing us in order for the city to afford our children the opportunity and access to thrive. Which means that if you are someone concerned with public health and inequity but make it a point yourself to avoid beverages that contain sugar, you have essentially declined to support these programs.

Can anyone not see how counterproductive all this is? The soda tax requires that we make our present worse to ensure a better future — without considering how the former affects the latter.

Among soda taxes that have been implemented in various jurisdictions around the world, the Philadelphia Beverage Tax is especially perverse in its outcomes.


City of Philadelphia. Department of Revenue. City Monthly Revenue Collections. [Online Database]. Accessed 28 March 2019.

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27 March 2019

Sentier Research reports that median household income in the United States dropped to $63,378 in February 2019, a decline of 0.5% increase when compared to the analytical firm's initial estimate of $63,688 for January 2019. As such, February 2019 saw the largest month-over-month decline in this data series since December 2016.

The following chart shows the nominal (red) and inflation-adjusted (blue) trends for median household income in the United States from January 2000 through November 2018. The inflation-adjusted figures are presented in terms of constant February 2019 U.S. dollars.

Median Household Income in the 21st Century: Nominal and Real Estimates, January 2000 to February 2019

While the overall trend for year-over-year U.S. median household income growth since December 2016 remains positive, the rate at which it is growing has begun to decelerate rapidly since peaking in October 2018, which can be seen in the following chart:

Median Household Income in the 21st Century: Year Over Year Growth Rate, January 2001 to February 2019

Following our analysis last month, it appears the U.S. economy's exposure to well established adverse headwinds from the global economy and the fallout from the Fed's rate hikes of 2018 may indeed be starting to come home to roost in ways that directly affect typical American households.

Analyst's Notes

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis will release the data we will use to develop an estimate of median household income for February 2019 using our alternate methodology on Friday, 29 March 2019, where it will be interesting to see if it captures the same downdraft that Sentier Research's analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey monthly data has. We'll compare those results next week, but through January 2019, it shows a rising trend in the nominal data.

In generating inflation-adjusted portion of the Median Household Income in the 21st Century chart and the corresponding year-over-year growth rate chart above, we've used the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) to adjust the nominal median household income estimates for inflation, so that they are expressed in terms of the U.S. dollars for the month for which we're reporting the newest income data.


Sentier Research. Household Income Trends: January 2000 through February 2019.  [Excel Spreadsheet with Nominal Median Household Incomes for January 2000 through January 2013 courtesy of Doug Short]. [PDF Document]. Accessed 26 March 2019. [Note: We've converted all data to be in terms of current (nominal) U.S. dollars.] 

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers - (CPI-U), U.S. City Average, All Items, 1982-84=100. [Online Database (via Federal Reserve Economic Data)]. Last Updated: 13 February 2019. Accessed: 12 March 2019.


26 March 2019

Is it just us, or is the amount of money that financial professionals recommend you save to fund your future retirement seem really scary large?

It turns out that it's not just us who have that impression. Andrew Biggs recently took on a different version of that question, where he was pretty blunt in saying that yes, for some people, the target retirement savings advocated by financial professionals are crazy high.

This is a reader request, based on an email asking how my recent Wall Street Journal op-ed – which deemed the so-called retirement crisis to be “phony” – jibes with the National Institute for Retirement Security’s (NIRS) study finding that America faces a $14 trillion “retirement savings gap” with a staggering 92 percent of working-age households falling short of their retirement savings goals. So here goes.

The answer is that NIRS dramatically overstates the amount by which households are undersaving for retirement. In fact, the better academic studies – written by well-regarded economists using more sophisticated methods and published in peer-reviewed journals – find a retirement savings gap of $1 trillion or less, by my estimates, out of the more than $93 trillion in total retirement plan assets and accrued Social Security benefits on which Americans rely in retirement.

That seems like a sigh of relief, but it still doesn't answer the question of how much an American ought to save to ensure they can afford to live through their retirement.

Fortunately, Biggs provided additional information that makes it possible to crack that conundrum. Here are the relevant passages.

According to the Social Security Administration, most financial planners recommend that a typical worker retire with an income equal to 70% of his pre-retirement earnings. Robert Myers, a former SSA chief actuary, recommended 70 to 75% for a middle income retiree, ranging from about 90% to a very low earner (making about 25% of the national average wage) to 60% for someone earning the Social Security taxable maximum wage each year....

... former SSA Chief Actuary Robert Myers calculated that a very low wage earner requires a total replacement rate of 90% of his pre-retirement earnings; his Social Security benefit is equal to about 83% of his final pay, getting him about 92% of the way to his goal. For a maximum wage earner Myers recommended a 60% total replacement rate, but the maximum wage earner’s Social Security replacement rate is only 31%, just half his required total.

Believe it or not, these two passages provide enough information for us to reverse engineer a useful portion of the actuarial math that Robert Myers had to have done to arrive at those particular figures. Which given what we do, we then turned into an easy-to-use online tool! [If you're accessing this article on a site that republishes or RSS news feed, please click through to our site to access a working version of the following tool.]

Social Security Data
Input Data Values
National Average Wage (for most recent year)
Maximum Taxable Wage for Social Security (for same year)
Year Social Security Trustees Expect OASDI Trust Fund To Run Out of Money
Percent Benefits Will Be Cut When OASDI Trust Fund Is Depleted
Annual Income and Expected Years of Retirement
Annual Income
Expected Years of Retirement

Estimated Retirement Savings Target
Calculated Results Values
Minimum Target Retirement Savings

Assuming that Robert Myers' estimates of annual post-retirement income are correct, our tool finds that the kinds of retirement income targets that financial professionals recommend are consistent for those who have larger-than-average annual incomes. Which if you think about it, makes sense, because those are the people whose business they're trying to get.

For everyone else, the minimum target retirement savings given by this approach seems to be much more achievable. The real question is whether it is enough, where we recognize that the figure given by the tool should be treated as a minimum target value for retirement savings.

Finally, in creating this tool, we've assumed that the rate of return on retirement savings will at least be equal to the rate of inflation. Over a long period of time, that assumption will almost certainly be incorrect, but if you want to err on the conservative side of the retirement ledger, increasing your expected years in retirement to compensate should do the trick.


Myers, Robert J. Social Security (4th edition). University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Previously on Political Calculations

We've been tackling different methods for determining how much someone planning their retirement would need to set aside and save and built tools to do the math for each. This latest tool is the "With Social Security" variation for answering the question!

Meanwhile, we've also periodically considered personal finance questions involving Social Security....

Image Credit: unsplash-logoMatthew Bennett

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25 March 2019

The big news for the S&P 500 (Index: SPX) in the third week of March 2019 was the inversion of the U.S. Treasury yield curve on Friday, 22 March 2019, where for the first time since 2007, the yield of the 10-Year T-note dropped below the level of the 3-Month T-bill.

Historically, that has been an omen for the onset of recessions in the U.S. economy, and may be again, though at this point, it mainly reflects the spread of what has been a significant deterioration in the global economy, particularly in China and, where new developments were concerned on Friday, 22 March 2019, in the Eurozone. Given that timing, the recent decline of the U.S. 10-Year Treasury could perhaps be interpreted as a flight-to-quality, where U.S. treasuries look to be a relative safe haven for international bond investors.

Regardless, that global development represents a negative headwind for the U.S. economy, which sent stock prices notably lower for the week. After having ridden along the upper edge of our redzone forecast range, we find that the level of the S&P 500 has now dropped well back within it.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2019Q1 - Standard Model with Annotated Redzone Forecast - Snapshot on 22 Mar 2019

We're looking more at the deterioration in the global economy than we are at the U.S. economy as a leading explantion for Friday's market decline because investors had the opportunity earlier in the week to react to news that the outlook for the U.S. economy would likely be worse than previously expected when the Fed sigificantly lowered its economic forecasts and surprised investors that it would end its quantitative tightening policies by September 2019. Stock market investors had more than ample time to react negatively to that news, and yet, did not change stock prices meaningfully when that news came out on Wednesday, 20 March 2019.

In a world where we've routinely documented major stock price movements beginning within a two-to-four minute window of when investors responded to news they weren't expecting, it was an eternity before Friday's negative reaction to other news came about - in this case, several hours before the market opened, sending stock prices lower from the outset.

That's why we pay attention to the market-moving news headlines, which you'll notice have nothing to do with a man named Mueller!

Monday, 18 March 2019
Tuesday, 19 March 2019
Wednesday, 20 March 2019
Thursday, 21 March 2019
Friday, 22 March 2019

The Big Picture's Barry Ritholtz picks out six positives and negatives from the week's other markets and economy news, where the man named Mueller shows up in both categories. We're at the end of one era and the beginning of another for the kind of useless political noise we'll need to filter out.

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22 March 2019

It's Friday, it's been a long week, and what better way to go into the weekend than with a bit of fun recently featured at Reddit on the intersection of math and cows!

Cow Math Functions

If you want more, we'll point you toward Vincent Pantaloni's twitter feed, where he compares cow math to dance notation.

Previously on Political Calculations

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21 March 2019

As expected, with the U.S. economy decelerating, the U.S. Federal Reserve held interest rates steady, indicating that it would maintain its target range of 2.25%-2.50% for the Federal Funds Rate through the rest of 2019.

The risk that the U.S. economy will enter into a national recession at some time in the next twelve months has risen to 6.2%, which is up by nearly two-and-a-half percentage points since our last snapshot of the U.S. recession probability in late-January 2019. The current 6.2% probability works out to be about a 1-in-16 chance that a recession will eventually be found by the National Bureau of Economic Research to have begun at some point between 20 March 2019 and 20 March 2020, according to a model developed by Jonathan Wright of the Federal Reserve Board back in 2006.

The Fed's decision to hold the Federal Funds Rate steady through the rest of 2019 comes as indications that the established global economic slowdown has finally reached the U.S. economy, causing a portion of the Treasury yield curve to invert, with the yields of mid-term Treasuries dropping below the yields of short-term Treasuries, even as the Fed has stopped increasing the Federal Funds Rate.

The Recession Probability Track shows where these two factors have set the probability of a recession starting in the U.S. during the next 12 months.

U.S. Recession Probability Track Starting 2 January 2014, Ending 20 March 2 2019

The Fed also indicated it would begin slowing its policy of reducing its holdings of U.S. government-issued debt securities in May 2019 and stop reducing its quantitative tightening policy altogether in September 2019. Many bond market investors have cited this policy's role in creating a more contractionary monetary environment than would otherwise exist if the Fed had only been increasing the level of the Federal Funds Rate, where the so-called shadow Federal Funds Rate is effectively higher than the nominal Federal Funds Rate, contributing to the slowdown in the U.S. economy.

If you would like to get in on the game of predicting the odds of recession starting in the U.S., please take advantage of our recession odds reckoning tool, which like our Recession Probability Track chart, is also based on Jonathan Wright's 2006 paper describing a recession forecasting method using the level of the effective Federal Funds Rate and the spread between the yields of the 10-Year and 3-Month Constant Maturity U.S. Treasuries.

It's really easy. Plug in the most recent data available, or the data that would apply for a future scenario that you would like to consider, and compare the result you get in our tool with what we've shown in the most recent chart we've presented. The links below present each of the posts in the current series since we restarted it in June 2017.

Previously on Political Calculations


20 March 2019

Earlier this year, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) made a bit of a splash in the news when the agency claimed to have intercepted a record number of firearms at U.S. airport security checkpoints for the third consecutive year.

We wondered how that compared with previous years, so we mined through historical data reported by the TSA since 2001, going back to the federal government agency's origins in the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. The following chart reveals what we discovered.

Number of Firearms Intercepted at U.S. Airport Security Checkpoints, 2002-2018

One of the things that stood out immediately in the historical data is that the TSA appears to have massively inflated its originally reported counts of the number of firearms it claims to have intercepted at U.S. airport security checkpoints in the years of 2005 through 2007, which it subsequently revised substantially downward. Comparatively smaller upward revisions were made for the years of 2008 and 2009.

What we haven't been able to find is any official explanation for why the TSA was so far off on its counts during any of these years, where in the case of 2005, they were off by 1,557, originally claiming to have intercepted 2,217 firearms, where the revised count was reduced to 660.

Meanwhile, the original count for 2006 was 2,075, which was off by 1,254 firearms from the revised count of 821. The original count for 2007 was 1,416, which was subsequently revised downward by 613 to 803.

The agency appears to have used a consistent definition of what constitutes a firearm throughout all these years, so we can rule out any changes in what might have been erroneously counted as an intercepted firearm as an explanation. To date, the TSA has not responded to our inquiry seeking an explanation for the revisions to what appears to be its greatly inflated annual intercepted firearm counts during these years.

We think that the TSA's reported data for more recent years is more reliable, which we can validate through other sources. For example, in 2017, the TSA obtained $1.45 million in civil penalties from gun-carrying travelers in an estimated 4,096 cases, which roughly aligns with the 3,957 firearms the agency reported intercepting in that year. [The difference in number could be attributed to the delayed processing of cases from 2016.]

On a side note, the vast majority of these cases appear to be incidents where the traveler simply forgot they had a firearm in their carry-on luggage. These cases are not considered to be serious violations, where the average civil penalty paid per case processed in 2017 was $354. Travelers may pack firearms in their checked baggage, provided they are packed in a TSA-approved manner and are declared when the bags are checked in for a flight.

Perhaps the easiest and lowest-cost way to reduce the number of intercepted firearms would be for the TSA to post more prominent warnings at airport luggage check-in counters and outside its security checkpoints at major airports, where the agency should also provide a secure, monitored space to allow law-abiding passengers to safely transfer firearms to their checked baggage.


U.S. Transportation Security Administration. TSA Year in Review. [2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018]. Accessed 13 February 2019.

U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Prohibited Items Intercepted at Airport Screening Checkpoints. [Online Database]. Accessed 13 February 2019.

U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Table 2-16: Prohibited Items Intercepted at Airport Screening Checkpoints. [Online Text]. Accessed 13 February 2019.

U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Airline Information. T-100 Domestic Market Data. [Online Database]. Accessed 13 February 2019.

Kunkle, Frederick and Harden, John D. TSA goes for guns and money. Washington Post. [Online Article]. 18 October 2018.


19 March 2019

New home sales in the U.S. continued their negative growth trajectory in January 2019, the data for which was finally published last week after having been delayed by the partial U.S. government shutdown earlier this year.

Since that report came out shortly after we analyzed the relative affordability of new homes sold in the U.S. through the end of December 2018, we thought it might be more worthwhile to look at what that new trend means for U.S. homebuilders (covered by a variety of exchange traded funds, including BBRE, FREL, FRI, FTY, IARAX, ICF, ITB, IYR, JRS, KBWY, NRO, PKB, PPTY, PSR, RFI, RIF, RNP, RORE, RQI, RWR, SCHH, URE, USRT, VNQ, WREI, XHB, and XLRE, to name just a handful) and the nation's GDP, for which new home sales are a significant contributor.

We've presented the trailing twelve month average for the market cap of new home sales in the U.S. from January 1976 through January 2019 in the following chart, where we confirm that new home sales peaked in March 2018 and have since been on a downward trend, falling back to levels last recorded in late 2016.

Trailing Twelve Month Average New Home Sales Market Capitalization, January 1976 through January 2019

The following chart presents the year-over-year growth rate of the trailing twelve month average of the U.S. new home sales market capitalization from January 2000 through January 2019, where we confirm that new home sales in the U.S. have become an economic headwind, showing negative year-over-year growth rates since they last peaked in March 2018.

Year Over Year Growth Rate of Trailing Twelve Month Average New Home Sales Market Capitalization, January 1976 through January 2019

The last time a similar trend existed in the U.S. new home market was shortly after the first housing bubble began deflating in early 2006.

The new residential sales data on which these first two charts are based is limited in that the U.S. Census Bureau only reports national median and average sales prices, while its data for the number of new homes sold is provided nationally and for major regions of the United States. From that data, it appears that the West region of the U.S., which includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, is seeing the most significant sales declines, while the Northeast and Midwest are seeing smaller drops, and growing sales in the South region, which have partially offset the declines recorded in the other regions.

Zillow makes its existing homes sales data for many of these states available however, which provides a better idea of the home sales trends are developing at a more local level, where we can assume that new home sales will generally track along with existing home sales. We've done that for the states in the West region for which Zillow provides data in the following chart.

Since March 2018, the total aggregate transaction value of existing home sales (the equivalent of market cap) for the West region states covered by Zillow's data has fallen by 14%, with California contributing 58% of the overall decline. The following list reveals that most but not all West region states covered by Zillow's data showed a decline in this measure since March 2018.

  • Alaska (-8.4%)
  • Arizona (-9.2%)
  • California (-15.7%)
  • Colorado (-21.1%)
  • Idaho (+1.0%)
  • Nevada (+2.0%)
  • Oregon (-15.5%)
  • Utah (-12.1%)
  • Washington (-14.3%)

While California has contributed the largest overall decline to the West region's home sales, it has only seen the second largest percentage decline. Colorado's much smaller real estate market has seen the aggregate value of its home sales drop by over 21% since March 2018.

The sales declines follow 30-year conventional mortgage rates rising above 4.2% in February 2018. They had last been at that level in March 2017, which coincidentally marks the peak for when the last significant percentage decline in existing home sales took place in the West region.

After that peak, mortgage rates went on to fall to 3.81% in September 2017, before rising slowly to climb just above the 4% level in January 2018 and then jumping to reach 4.33% in February 2018. Mortgage rates continued to rise until reaching 4.87% in November 2018, and then began to decline once more after the Federal Reserve abruptly changed its established monetary policy of steady, autopilot interest rate hikes at the end of that month.

We'll review the recent trends for home sales in other regions in the near future.


U.S. Census Bureau. Census Regions of the United States. [PDF Document]. Accessed 25 April 2016.

U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 15 March 2019. 

U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Median and Average Sale Price of Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 15 March 2019. 

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers - (CPI-U), U.S. City Average, All Items, 1982-84=100 [PDF Document]. Accessed 15 March 2019. 


18 March 2019

The S&P 500 (Index: SPX) survived last week's quadruple witching on Friday, 15 March 2019. The last time the S&P 500 was at such a height was back on 9 October 2018, shortly after the market peaked at its record high closing value of 2,930.75 on 20 September 2018, just ahead of another quadruple witching day.

Now the big question becomes "how long might that last?" After all, the quadruple witching event on Friday, 15 March 2019 means that the dividend futures contracts for 2019-Q1 have now expired, which puts 2019-Q1 in the rear view mirror, at least as far as its dividend futures are concerned, which was the principal assumption behind the redzone forecast we added to our spaghetti forecast chart for the S&P 500 earlier this quarter.

Alternative Futures - S&P 500 - 2019Q1 - Standard Model with Annotated Redzone Forecast - Snapshot on 15 Mar 2019

With the current level of the S&P 500 right at the upper edge of our redzone forecast, its current level is currently consistent with the last two of the four possibilities that we outlined in our last edition.

  1. Investors might focus their attention to the even more distant future of 2020-Q1, in which we would still see the S&P 500 decline from its current levels, but more on the order of 3-5%.
  2. As if the way stock prices work wasn't already complex enough, the fourth option would be if investors split their attention between two different points of time in the future. In which case, we would expect to see stock prices fall in between the levels we described above, but would be weighted toward whichever future quarter has more strongly captured their attention.

In that last scenario, through 15 March 2019, the level of the S&P 500 would suggest that investors are splitting their forward-looking attention between 2019-Q2 and 2019-Q3, with a slightly heavier weighting toward the more distant future quarter.

Remember, it wasn't long after the S&P 500 reached its all-time high closing value on 20 September 2018 that our dividend futures-based model indicated that investors suddenly began shifting their attention from 2019-Q1 toward 2019-Q3, forcing the market into the early stages of what would become a correction.

2019-Q3 has become relevant for investors once again because if the Fed might consider hiking interest rates during 2019, they will most likely do so during this future quarter according to a recent Reuters poll. Should investors have reason to more fully focus their attention on this future quarter, the S&P 500 would be in for a rougher ride, as we also outlined in our previous edition:

  1. Investors may shift their attention toward the more distant future of 2019-Q3 or 2019-Q4. The expectations for the change in the rate of dividend growth in both quarters are similar, but unfortunately, following 2019-Q2, that growth is projected to sharply decelerate, which is an expectation that has been in the cards (or rather, in the futures), since mid-2018. If investors focus their attention in these quarters, the S&P 500 can be expected to experience a correction, falling by 10% or more.

The Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee will meet later this week, where we will soon have a better idea of what they are thinking. In the meantime, let's catch up with the major market-moving market headlines since our last edition....

Friday, 8 March 2019
Monday, 11 March 2019
Tuesday, 12 March 2019
Wednesday, 13 March 2019
Thursday, 14 March 2019
Friday, 15 March 2019

For the bigger picture, Barry Ritholtz identified 7 positives and 6 negatives in the news of the week that was!

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15 March 2019
Public Domain Photo by Arnel Hasanovic on Unsplash - https://unsplash.com/photos/Nl-SXO4FAHw?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText

From time to time, Political Calculations takes on the challenge of answering questions that other blogs avoid. Whether that's due to fear on their part, where a sensitive topic may be too far out of their comfort zone, or just because they cannot, we see such challenges as an opportunity.

So let's talk about how much underwear you need to pack while you're traveling away from home. Not long ago, Ashley McIntosh of Brisbane, Australia's 97.3 FM radio posted the solution to a problem that we ourselves never appreciated existed. We'll let her explain....

Are you guilty of packing three times as many pairs of underwear as you could possibly need when travelling.

*Raises hand*

Or even worse... Not packing enough!?

Well never fear, this nifty new math equation is here to the rescue ladies.

And it seems pretty thorough.

Vacation Underwear Math

Karina Judd recently shared on Facebook group Meme Queens her saving grace.

Not just that, but she has also created a public Google doc excel spreadsheet so the math is all done for you!

That's all well and good, but what if you're packing in a rush right before leaving on your trip because you've procrastinated too long and you can no longer afford to take the time to fire up your personal computer to run Karina Judd's spreadsheet to calculate how many pairs of underwear you should pack?

That's the kind of niche market that we seek to serve here at Political Calculations, where we've brought Karina Judd's undie math into the world of online ready reckoners you can run on your mobile! Just enter the indicated data below, and we'll sort out how much underwear you should pack for your travel. [If you're accessing this article on a site that republishes our RSS news feed, please click through to our site to access a working version.]

Underwear Quantity Factors
Input Data Values
What is the minimum quantity of clean underwear that you wear per day?
How many days will you be traveling?
Do you have any gut concerns, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or lactose intolerance?
If you expect it during your trip, what is the average heaviness of your period?
Have you had, or are you about to have a baby?

How Much Underwear You Should Pack
Calculated Results Values

For the sake of simplicity, we've limited the tool to consider no more than a week-long vacation, where we've assumed you will not have access to clean underwear outside of what you pack (if you're traveling for longer than that, or have limited packing space, you might consider taking advantage of local options for doing laundry during your trip).

We've also generalized the math a bit, to make it more universally applicable. The original math in Karina Judd's spreadsheet was developed by Jess Evans, who considered a number of additional factors that could affect your underwear packing needs, such as the temperature of your destination, whether the drinking water is "dodgy", and whether you will be able to do laundry while traveling, where the spreadsheet can handle a much longer trip.

Previously on Political Calculations

Underwear math is far from the strangest problem we've built tools to solve! Here's a sampling of some of the other quirky problems we've tackled over time....

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About Political Calculations

Welcome to the blogosphere's toolchest! Here, unlike other blogs dedicated to analyzing current events, we create easy-to-use, simple tools to do the math related to them so you can get in on the action too! If you would like to learn more about these tools, or if you would like to contribute ideas to develop for this blog, please e-mail us at:

ironman at politicalcalculations

Thanks in advance!

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