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Mary Meeker’s 2019 internet trends report [pdf] (bondcap.com)
280 points by RmDen 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 112 comments



From page 29, average customer acquisition cost has risen by ~33% in just the last two years... they make the point on the next slide that having customer acquisition costs exceed a customer's lifetime value can't really succeed for long.

I think this, specifically, is what will spell the doom of Uber and Lyft, and potentially many of the food delivery companies -- they rely on insane growth curves to generate new investment, and customer acquisition is just so unbelievably competitive/expensive, it's an arms race that (IMO) has to collapse at some point.


> will spell the doom of Uber and Lyft

Car sharing isn't going anywhere. It's too convenient. The prices will rise, the number of drivers and passengers will fall and the companies will shrink, but they'll still be around. I have trouble seeing suddenly seeing a day when there's no car share service because they all finally went belly up.


I don't think car sharing will go extinct either, but be careful with your analyses. Uber and Lyft are precariously balanced on a system of (substantial) low-income demand, high-income demand, and subsidy. If prices rise, low-income demand plummets, ending subsidies. High-income pricing could rise significantly higher than you might expect, at which point you no longer have "ride sharing" so much as you have private car services with app hailing instead of phone hailing, and, like NYC in the 1990s, so expensive that most people will only use it to get to the airport.


There's going to be a point where taking a scooter becomes more attractive for low income people (it's already half the price of a lyft), and then there will be a point where owning your own $400 scooter or $100 bike will make more sense rather than relying on the rental (which is normalizing the idea of riding an electric scooter/bike through a city). I wonder if these companies have dug their own grave.


Owning a bike isn't really that good for commuting. I use Citibike to go to work and pretty much anywhere else they have Citibike docks. People always ask why I don't just buy a bike. I had a bike. It got stolen. If a Citibike gets stolen, that's not my problem. Moreover, I don't have to try to take it on the train, or carry it into a building, or find a place to park it outside where it won't get stolen or vandalized. I've seen people in my neighborhood with giant bolt cutters going after people's bikes. Then there's always flat tires, bent rims, brake pads, etc. maintenance cost. Why bother with that. Cars are really the same way. What's the point of owning a car? So you can drive out to Walmart somewhere and buy ten bags of stuff every two weeks? Just order it and have it delivered to your door instead.


But those shared bikes are miserable to ride. The frames are heavy and not stiff enough, no suspension, no pedal clips, etc. They're fine to go a few blocks but for anything longer it's an unpleasant experience.


It's not hard to make your bike less attractive to steal. Big fat D lock. Shitty looking seat. Locking nuts for your wheels. Parking in a rack amongst more attractive bikes. Taking your bike into your apartment. Not giving a fuck about what your coworkers think about your bike parked in the loading dock.

If you are commuting, I wouldn't pay more than $100 for your bike anyway. Unless you are biking 100 miles a ride, you'd be hard pressed to notice a huge difference between a scratched up steel frame trek you found on craiglist and tuned up vs. some carbon fiber precision instrument imported from Italy. My maintenance costs are taking it to the bike shop once a year for a tune up - $60 and they give me new pads. I haven't had a flat since I bought gatorskins, and even though I suck at changing them, an inner tube is cheap and takes less than 30 mins to change. Those dollar or two rides on bike share really add up if you start relying on it heavily.

I get that it sucks hauling in a bike on a packed subway, but in the u.s. that's only really a concern for commuters in nyc. Even L.A. is a bike utopia once you get comfortable with traffic grazing your elbow and cutting you off all the time; it requires thick skin, and planning your routes a little differently, but you will always be faster than a car in traffic due to filtering.


If you live/work in a larger building you will probably have dedicated indoor bike parking, which solves the problem of keeping your bike safe at least at those two endpoints.


I agree, and having bikes stolen in the past know of the pain with this. I now have insurance for my bikes.


I had a car, it got stolen, so cars are crap for commuting.

Get a cheap bike that is nice to ride, 2 locks, and learn how to lock it up properly.


To your point, I want to know what share of Uber/Lyft customers are converts from public transportation versus taxis (maybe these categories aren’t very distinct). There are so many times when I’ve missed the bus ($2.50) and opted for a $5 shared ride that will deliver me in 10 minutes (same as bus) instead of waiting 15-30 minutes on the next bus. It leads me to wonder how many people almost never took taxis before, but now accept a 2x markup to reclaim their time when public transportation doesn’t fit their schedule constraints.


I never really used public transit or cabs, but I make pretty heavy use of ridesharing. It's insanely convenient when I want to have a few drinks out somewhere, and I also almost exclusively use it to get to / from concerts and sporting events.


It seems pretty reasonable to assume that equilibrium looks like taxis and private cars with app hailing. Personally, it wouldn't affect my usage much; I just use these services when I'm traveling because they're better experiences for the most part than taking a cab.

But, anecdotally, a fair number of urbanites regularly use Uber/Lyft instead of public transit or just because they don't want to drive. Presumably, significantly increasing prices would lose casual users who are using these services because they're a bit more convenient.


I think it's important to remember that a big part of the value prop of these services is that when you open the app to hail a car, you're pretty much assured of getting that car within 15 minutes or so. Change the current equilibrium much and that benefit might go away. I could hail a cab by phone before Uber, but, in Chicago, where we have pretty reasonable cab service (certainly light years better than SFBA's), it would often take multiple attempts and involve a 30+ minute wait. You could reliably get a private car in NYC, but, as I recall from all the times I worked in NYC, you weren't getting that car in 15 minutes.


Fair point. Around where I live, they seem pretty scarce the few times I've looked at the app out of curiosity. I don't know how long a typical pickup would take. But there's certainly some density level of drivers/passengers below which the market doesn't work. In fact, any percentage decrease presumably decreases service everywhere to some degree and shrinks the areas where Uber/Lyft can effectively operate at all.

I do use private cars but pretty much to get back and forth to the airport.


You’re overestimating how good the cab systems are outside of Chicago and the coasts. There is a lot of value in just having a reliable hailing system with a review system and tracking of where your pickup is, even if there is a 30 min delay.

The state of the art of cabs in smaller cities is getting hung up on, ghosted, or massively delayed when given a different ETA if you don’t book the cab hours in advance.


I think I'm doing the opposite, and saying that on-demand hailing of cabs without subsidy was and, when subsidies collapse, likely will be a lot worse than people think they'll be.


Yes, this is absolutely key for me. Effectively never needing to worry about being able to get a ride to and from wherever I need at any time removes a huge amount of stress and overhead from my life. The minute that stops being reliable, I have to start planning my travel and movements around transportation methods that ARE reliable (e.g. rental cars, or driving my own car). Once I've rented a car or driven my own car, the chances that I will use an Uber or Lyft for any part of that trip drop to near zero.


I for one have already switched from Uber to Jump (which Uber now owns anyway) for casual use where I’m not in a hurry. A bicycle is more pleasant to use, I don’t have to wait for pickup, it’s way cheaper, and I get a little exercise. The electric motor helps me not get sweaty.

During rush-ish hour it’s also faster than a car due to lane splitting and such.

The math goes like this: $15 for a car that takes 15min + 5min of waiting, or $3 for a bike that takes 10min + some pedaling? Is easy decision

This is downtown SF so we’re talking lots of traffic and short distances.


I think it's important to point out though the number of cities where biking is impractical (and can even be unsafe). In many parts of Europe, this is probably a good model. In San Francisco, this could work. In Seattle, where now live, I've seen an uptick in rented bikes (though plenty of regular bikers too) -- but it really depends on what type of commute you're making. In New York, it depends on area -- but if you're really concerned about time/money you'll take the subway. But in Atlanta or Los Angeles, this isn't going to be a solution for most people that use Uber now.


I think your point downthread about how this could impact the truly "on-demand" nature of the services is apt. As you said, the value prop is you get a guaranteed car in about 15 minutes (and often it is much less), whereas the old systems required calling, being routed to a nearby car service and having someone dispatched or a on-the-road driver routed to you.

In heavily urban areas, the average user might not see much of a difference (with few exceptions for weather, getting a cab in Manhattan pre and post Uber was basically the same and I've frequently canceled an Uber when I was able to hail a cab faster), but if you expand that just a smudge, say Brooklyn, which doesn't have yellow cabs unless they happen to be on the way back from a drop-off -- (and don't get me started on the uselessness of the green cabs) and as such was one of Uber's first really strong markets (I signed up for Uber the month it launched in NYC, back when it was livery only -- and used it almost exclusively in Brooklyn). The subsidized price (even though it has only decreased for drivers) has allowed cars to circle neighborhoods in Brooklyn -- but if that goes away and prices increase, drivers aren't necessarily going to sit or drive around each of those neighborhoods and will instead migrate to the most dense parts of town.

This is even worse for cities with historically little or no cab ecosystems (Atlanta -- and Atlanta is at an even worse advantage because of the terrible stage of its public transit, which only exists in the city proper), where Uber/Lyft effectively have become the cab system. I certainly don't think that market will leave those cities, but it costs rise (which seems likely), that will impact demand and will also in turn, impact how long it takes someone to get a ride.

(That said, I do not expect us to return to a pre-Uber in Atlanta world where it would cost $100 to get a cab from the airport to Dunwoody)

I do think the combination of increased demand (or at least awareness/ease of access to call a car) and logistical improvements (to me, this has always been Uber's greatest strength) will prevent things from turning into NYC in the 90s in most larger cities. But it is an open question in smaller cities that didn't have that infrastructure to begin with or are much more spread out.


Car sharing? There is no sharing involved, all transactions are done with money. They're taxi dispatch services that live in a grey area of employee/contractor.


UberPool involves sharing a car with one or more customers.


Taxis managed to exist before. Why do you assume Uber and Lyft can’t still displace that market like they do now but at the same fares as taxis?


The question is: will Uber and Lyft always be the entities leading car-ordering apps?

Hypothetically, Uber and Lyft stock prices could collapse, Google and Apple buy them, respectively, and then they could become features in Google and Apple Maps, as opposed to standalone companies and apps.

Sure, there are additional logistics, city management, back-end processing pieces that are not trivial. But the customer app experience certainly can be replicated as companies like Via have done, and Google and Apple could afford the transition costs of taking over all the behind-the-scenes logistics.

Not saying this will happen, but it's an illustration of how car-sharing survives but Uber and Lyft do not.


I mean, even in this scenario the company still exists, just with a different brand. They'll still have the same code, the same infrastructure, the same users.

If Facebook buys Oculus, that doesn't mean Oculus stops existing. It just means Oculus is now owned by Facebook.


Correct, the main difference (in my mind, open to other arguments) is how financial resources are allocated.

Right now, Uber and Lyft are burning a ton of money on customer acquisition with the goals of gaining enough scale to be sustainable, independent companies.

Relating this back to the great-grandparent post, there's an alternative: Google and Apple could use their existing brand recognition and software reach to maintain wide-scale car-ordering apps without having to spend as much (certainly still some) and with bigger balance sheets to take any short term financial hits. Then they could let the supply (drivers and the cost of rides) and demand (how many customers will pay for non-VC subsidized cars) play itself out over time, instead of the Uber/Lyft model of trying to juice both sides of the marketplace with excess spend.


Would the only future for these products be a mix of human and autonomous fleets? And eventually, purely autonomous?

If so, does this presuppose Apple’s vision is to include mass transportation as (a major) part of its products?


In a strictly legal and technical sense yes, but IMHO a company going down the toilet that is sold for parts at a loss hasn’t really survived in any meaningful sense.


I can totally see a situation where a new entrant comes in at a point where the system stabilizes, and can be quickly profitable, if only slightly, but survive, while Uber and Lyft are contending with extreme pressure of what is essentially soft debt. Do any of Uber or Lyft's investors want those companies to by in a super competitive market where the profits are thin? Maybe that pressure causes them to make wild swings that are much more risky. How rationally will investors approach their investment?


I think, for me, the idea is that these companies aren't really gunning to make profits immediately and all are really in the play to get to automated taxis.

I'd assume automation of the vehicles plummets labor costs and then subsidizing the prices due to increased rider volume would be permissible.

That may be in the 10-15 year range, but I think they'll float along until something like that occurs. It's just a matter of time.

But I'm just a wild speculator.


By 'Car sharing' I think you mean taxis. Ride sharing is a tiny fraction of their business.

To be fair, one could make the same argument about Pets.com. People will always need dog food, it will always be inconvenient to get it from the shop. But here we are 20 years on and I'd say online delivery of pet supplies across the world is virtually non-existent.


What makes you think it’s non existent? All the pet owners I know order their supplies online. It’s no different from any other form of online shopping, which is ubiquitous.


I order pet stuff online all the time. I look at it at Petsmart and keep ordering from them online.

I could see Uber and Lyft being still around, with one or both of them having gone through a bankruptcy. Alternately, with one or both having their stock price crater.


Just as the on-demand ride service was disrupted by ride-sharing, I see ride-sharing ready to be disrupted by an on-damand ride service aggregator.

If Uber and Lyft are like arilines, what happens when a travelocity equivalent enters the game? Does all that market position that was bought through VC money matter if all of a sudden many (or most!) your fares are being viewed side by side with every competitor that feels like being in that market?

What matters more to a consumer of these services, the past good behavior of the companies they've used, or the fact that it's a dollar cheaper and picks you up a minute earlier, or in a nicer car? Even if they are reticent to use an unknown company, everyone knows Uber and Lyft, and the damage done to the VC funded low-fare strategy just by showing those two head to head would be enormous. And what happens when entry is that easy and localities start forming co-op groups to provide the benefits of Uber or Lyft but funnel all profits back to the drivers?

All I can say is that I'm grateful for the VC backers of Uber and Lyft for their generous donations.


IIRC this is how Uber started. They catered for some kind of "bespoke" customer that was more than happy to pay a lot. Another relevant question is what Uber will look like in developing countries where keeping the prices low is necessary even for the middle / upper middle class.


Its easy in developing countries where income inequality is so big that there are people willing to provide the service for little less than dirt.


Saying car sharing is here to stay is not the same as saying Uber and Lyft will last forever.


In a civilized world those companies should be doomed by labor laws and regulation dodging anyways.


While margins in on-demand are usually pretty slim, companies can get pretty creative about opening up revenue streams: ad-serving, corp partnerships, enterprise pricing, licensing out tech).

None of these are a silver bullet, but they open up new growth that isn't tied to the standard hockey stick growth curve people use to get funding.


That's actually an interesting point. Uber Eats and the various scooter companies are just the very beginning of these companies trying to branch out into new areas of revenue. Whether they can branch out into profitability... I guess we'll see!


my understanding is that driver acquisition (and retention) is much more costly for uber and lyft (at least on a unit basis, and probably overall).

in late majority markets like ride-hailing, (1) awareness is not really a problem on either side of the marketplace as most folks have at least heard of uber and lyft, and (2) inertia is mainly due to uncertainty and risk aversion (for both sides of the market).

so then, the primary friction on the user side is downloading the app and then entering a credit card.

on the driver side, it's considering whether to buy/replace a car, entering personal info and answering intrusive questions, getting a background check, getting your car inspected, and being interviewed and trained. more costly and risky than signing up to be a user.


"With which company would you share your health data?"

https://www.bondcap.com/report/itr19/#view/287

This certainly isn't what you'd guess from reading comments on HN.


Rephrase it as "Which companies do you asses have the security practices necessary to adequately protect your health data?" and this makes sense.

Adding: To be fair, it probably more strongly correlates with "Which technology companies have you heard of?"


The fine print says this: n = 4000. This question was only asked to the 11% of total respondents who answered "Yes" to whether they'd share their health data with a tech company

So.. HN might be right , after all :-). Knowing nothing about how they chose their sample respondents, I doubt we can either agree or disagree!


This is quite shocking. :/


Yeah. Who would think that almost half would share their data with... Samsung.


Google probably has it from reading your Gmail anyway if your provider emails you any information.


As the years go by, I feel more and more underwhelmed by these. It feels very surface level, handwavy. How would one execute anything but decisions based on confirmation bias using this information?


It's not supposed to help you execute anything; it's an advertisement.


Explain?


Not the OP but I dug a little into which company published this. The link takes you to "Bond Cap" which seems to be an offshoot of Kleiner Perkins [1] . Bond Cap is another VC fund according to their webpage [2]. Putting 2 and 2 together: if you were a prospective investor and are considering two firms A and B and A happens to publish a report every year that seems to indicate that they know the internet landscape very well, who would you invest with ( other things being equal of course )?

[1] Wikipedia says that Ms Meeker works for Kleiner Perkins.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Meeker

[2] https://www.bondcap.com/#investments


Thanks for sharing your findings! I've been reading Mary Meeker's annual Internet Trends Report for a while now, and I've found it informative. But it does make sense that the motivation behind it might be marketing/advertisement for a VC firm. The reports are a kind of proof that they do thorough research and have domain expertise.

That's fairly much as I'd suspected (though it'd be nice to hear OP's rationale).

I'm coming to the conclusion that much publishing is really a highly-ornate calling card or advertisement.


If you follow a16z podcasts or their blogs, you’ll see they too doing quite a bit of this :-)

https://a16z.com/posts/


do you think they would have anything to gain by disclosing the actual nitty gritty business intelligence?


I don't know why the original comment is being downvoted. I think this is a fair point.

It should be possible to give the readers a taste of the actionable business intelligence without giving it all away, shouldn't it? They have the same thing to gain as any other company giving away demos.


Wow, just kind of crazy how virtually all the top 20 Internet companies are US and China. The only other country represented is Japan with Recruit Holdings, and a huge part of that (maybe majority?) is due to them owning Indeed, which was founded in Austin.


slide 94:

nearly 4.2 million people streamed in december 2018 at least once on twitch

that seems incredibly high. I wonder how many of those are streaming games vs. talk/conversation vs. travel/outside social etc.

I also wonder what the cost of all of this is. How many of them will actually be unprofitable for twitch due to not having any viewers. The streaming infrastructure must be more expensive than say a yt vid that no one watches, no?


I'd argue against this solely based on the deflationary costs within computing. Factor that in, and the outlook for twitch looks great.

Article readers -> Video consumers(YouTube, Facebook etc)-> livestream (initially games and now anything)

Streaming games might be the first high value use case but I can def. see twitch gain traction in other niches.


The only thing that I had doubts on was the 'Video Watching Daily Minutes' portion Page 49. ISPs like Comcast game their cable numbers. How? They provide incentives to customers where it's actually cheaper to have a basic cable plan bundled with internet vs just internet. Guess what plan customers are going to pick regardless of whether or not they really watch cable TV? Assuming seniors aren't disproportionately consuming video vs everyone else, it's probably closer to 40 / 60 - television vs digital respectively. Unless Comcast and other operators with similar practices provide their DAU, television watching statistics will be inaccurate.


50% of the world with access to the internet, that's staggering. Slide 10 shows that there's still a lot of room for growth in Asia Pacific and Africa & Middle East regions, but clearly there are bigger issues involved there.


80% the world has never been on an an airplane, either.

Many of what we take for granted in the developed world, and even in India/China, have barely been introduced to the vast majority of people.


To be fair, in almost all parts of the world, the cost of getting on a plane are significantly higher than the cost of internet connectivity AND there are cheaper alternatives to air travel.

Oh, absolutely. My point was more that huge swaths of the world are underserved by things that we take for granted and would otherwise assume "everyone" has been exposed to. And so, there's still a ton of headroom to grow.

Correction: Booking is founded by a Dutch guy (slide 260): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booking.com


That's a pretty amazing slide even with that error(? see below). 15 of the top 25 tech companies had 1st or 2nd gen immigrant (co-)founders.

As to booking.com: from reading the Wikipedia entry I gather the original dutch-founded booking.com was at some point acquired by Priceline Group (which had an American founder), which later changed its name back to booking.com. It seems the slide is (technically) correct, and any attempt to capture such cases in a workable definition would be complicated.


I think it's using owning entity's headquarter location (as opposed to founder ethnicity or pre-acquisition roots). Priceline is headquartered in CT.


But does/did he qualify as an immigrant founder?


How do you view this on a phone? It says tap to begin. Then what?


Reading the report is left as an exercise for the reader.


The document is left to right. Tapping down goes to a cover(?) page.


For those of you who want a quick skim :

A great summary on (of all the things :-)) Twitter : https://twitter.com/investing_city/status/113854955878977945...


Did anyone else start picturing the first two slides (the ones labeled "Context") in a Star Wars-movie opening crawl? Something about the voice it's written in totally had me seeing it in yellow text perspective scrolling off into the background.


huh, Atlassian is on the huge company list?


The list only includes internet companies.


Please link to the PDF[1] if possible.

[1] https://www.bondcap.com/pdf/190611_Internet_Trends_2019.pdf


Thanks! Changed from https://www.bondcap.com/report/itr19/.

(pdf links aren't the first choice, but that slide interface was confusing, as others have pointed out.)


I kinda like the slideshow, it lets me send someone a link to a specific slide.


Maybe it's just me, but I didn't understand the (slideshow) interface. I saw "click to begin" and I saw a down arrow, so I put the two together and clicked "down" to begin. Then I saw a list of archives, and if I continued down, it ended. I assumed I had to click 2019, so I did that and I was back where I began. It took me trying that twice before I realized I had to click... anything except the arrow.


Took me way longer than it should to figure it out. Then the slideshow took over my browser history :(


It's poorly done for a high profile report about the internet.


Also clicking through on it seems to have a massive lag at the moment in loading slides (presumably due to a spike in load courtesy of HN frontpage appearance amongst others?). I just saw the same cover slide over and over again until eventually it caught up.


Oh no, it's not just you. I nearly gave up until I saw your comment


You can link specific pages in a PDF too, like thus: https://www.bondcap.com/pdf/190611_Internet_Trends_2019.pdf#...


woah. Is that a universal thing or is it browser-specific? I've never seen that before.

edit: ah. Yeah it doesn't work on my phone (Pixel ... 1). It downloads the entire PDF and then just dumps me on the first page.


It's worked on every desktop browser I've tried it on. I haven't tried it on mobile. (Smartphones are not good for reading PDFs...)

The links are probably part of the PDF specification, but I guess will require support in every PDF reader in which you want to to use them.


How do I change the URL? It won't let me...


What took me by surprise was that telegram had more users than whatsapp or iMessage


I think you misinterpreted the graph, telegram has significantly fewer monthly active users than any of the other messaging services listed on the graph.


doh sorry about that, I did read it incorrectly.


If anyone else is wondering about the 'bondcap.com' URL, it seems a Kleiner Perkins brand.


no. It's Mary Meeker's new fund (a lot of them are from the KP growth team) but separate fund now


Dear Mary,

Social Security is not an entitlement in anything but the strictest sense of the word. Every year you put it in your report and group it in like it's some sort of handout by the federal government, but it's not. And every year, you put up a few slides pushing your politically-motivated world view of cutting "expenses", but never bother to note what USA Inc. could do to increase revenues like raising taxes on the insanely wealthy back to 1950's levels: 91 percent top marginal tax rate would go a long way to balancing USA Inc's books.

Also, it's amazing how many slides you dedicated to the national debt during Obama's presidency, and yet now it barely gets a mention, and definitely no dire predictions of ruin and destruction for all. I wonder why?

Every year I point this stuff out in HN, because I want to make sure the bias is well and truly noted in case others missed it. It makes me question how much irrational partiality infects the rest of the report - quite a lot I suspect.


Please don't take HN threads on generic political tangents. Your points may be good but this is clearly a step into generic flamewar and therefore the wrong direction for HN.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


I am usually 100% behind you on your attempts to moderate, but I'm not sure I follow you here. But thank you for doing what you do!

In this case it doesn't seem to be a generic political tangent, but specifically addressing what appears to be bias in the report.

I found the post informative and adding context, but then, I'm probably politically aligned with the GP. Which certainly colors my view. :)


There may be such a bias. But the question from our point of view is which exerts the stronger gravitational pull: details of how such bias affects this analysis? or a generic political flamewar about "entitlements"? Since the latter topic has far more mass and charge, it's going to win every time. Does that make sense?

Basically, the dynamics of introducing or amplifying hot controversies in a thread are predictable. If a comment is to avoid having that effect, it needs to include information specific to the topic at hand and eliminate any traces of flamebait.


A 91% top marginal tax rate would be a net negative on taxes, because most of the rich people would leave the country.

There's a fine art to setting the tax rate at a level that people dislike, but not strongly enough to do something about it, because the other benefits of being here outweigh.


> because most of the rich people would leave the country.

Yeah, the IRS doesn't care.

If you are a U.S. citizen or resident alien, the rules for filing income, estate, and gift tax returns and paying estimated tax are generally the same whether you are in the United States or abroad. Your worldwide income is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where you reside.

1: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/taxp...


People and companies would systematically move overseas. People would renounce US citizenship.


There are many, many things that make that not as easy or desirable as you make it sound. As an extreme example, the current tariffs. Renouncing citizenship means people no longer have a right to work or travel in the US without a visa. That makes continuing business harder, and keeping family connections harder.

Keep in mind a 91% top marginal tax rate isn't an effective rate of 91%, it would only affect money over some theoretically large amount. If you made $10 million gross, it doesn't mean you take home $900k. Depending on how the rate tiers are set up, you're probably taking home multiple millions of dollars, and you can get a lot more bang for your buck with some good donating (since the higher the rate, the less it affects your bottom line). Also, maybe there's investment opportunities that allow for it to be put back into businesses as VC that also delay the tax, and allow for it to be put to use.

So the question is, would you uproot your life and move away from friends and family and make it harder to do business so that instead of taking home $4 million of your $10 million gross you take home $6 million or $7 million? Given how little utility that extra money likely has, I'm not sure many people would (especially since the bragging rights for how much they made the prior year remain unchanged).


Thank you for noting that.


Why do you believe Social Security isn't an entitlement?


There's a connotation of entitlements that they are merely demanded and not earned. But Social Security benefits are, at least through a hotly debated and ever-changing formula, related to the amount a person paid in.


It's kind of a weird argument, considering that nothing in the Bill of Rights (for example) is earned. There are things we have "by right" according to law and that's okay.


It's literally money taken out of your paycheck and added to the pool. You can opt out and they'll pay you the amount you're due based on what you paid in at that time, and you will not have any more withheld from your paychecks but you will not receive any more later in life either.

It's literally a government run retirement account that you fund yourself (and at this point with less assurance that you'll get a good return on that). How's that an entitlement?


Do you have a source? I'm not finding anything confirming this based on a brief search.

It doesn't look like most people can opt out or get any money before turning 62.


Hmm, the info I'm sourcing now also makes it look extremely hard to do. I knew someone who said they were opting out to get a few thousand dollars cash, and said that they got it, but maybe I misunderstood or they weren't explaining it well.

I think the rest of the points stand though. It's not just random tax allocations being distributed to people, Social Security has it's own fund that is paid into through it's own specific taxes.[1] The amount you get out is based on the you put in (even if it's not necessarily a simple formula). You can see this here.[2] I wouldn't consider a separately funded and administered fund specifically designed for retirement an "entitlement", as that term is generally used in politics.

It is true that employers match the amount employees put in (both to a taxable maximum amount), but that's not all that different than many retirement plans where there exist 401k matching. Social security is just a codified legal requirement that people have some form of saving account if they work, and split the burden between the employee and business (all businesses, which means it doesn't disadvantage the business since it's a level playing field)

1: https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/HowAreSocialSecuri...

2: https://www.ssa.gov/oact/quickcalc/


On the other hand, if you die before getting to 62, your heirs don't get anything from Social Security (spouse aside). Other people will get the money. In that way Social Security seems like other insurance in that payouts are not earned and you're getting other people's money.

Similarly, if an insured house burns down, we'd say the policy holder is entitled to a payout, not that they earned it.


> Other people will get the money.

Well, it goes to fund the system overall, but doesn't really increase the amount other people get (other than to offset future inability to pay from instability of the institution). It is a socialistic institution, and there are other financial products that don't pay out after you die (annuities), so it's not entirely unique in that respect.

Also, having items only go to your spouse isn't entirely without precedent. How your assets are distributed when you die is handled differently in different states, but if all your children are from your spouse at the time of death, I think generally the assets all go to the spouse.[1]

> In that way Social Security seems like other insurance in that payouts are not earned and you're getting other people's money.

Consider savings accounts or money market at banks. They don't put your money in a vault and keep it there while it magically grows, they invest it, and the money of yours they invested may be completely wiped out at any time, but they offset that by other people's deposits and profits on other investments. Whose money you ultimately get out is irrelevant, as it is with every financial product. What you get in all cases is governed by an algorithm of some sort (even if it includes as a variable how a specific item performed as one or more of many variables, such as fees).

> Similarly, if an insured house burns down, we'd say the policy holder is entitled to a payout, not that they earned it.

Yes, but we wouldn't say that is handled through "entitlements", which colloquially means something entirely different when used to refer to items related to the government. Specifically, it refers not to the "the amount to which a person has a right" but to the other possible meaning, which is "the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment". In that respect, I don't think it's all that accurate to refer to Social Security as an entitlement, since the connotation is somewhat inaccurate in my eyes.

1: https://estate.findlaw.com/wills/what-happens-if-i-die-witho...




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