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If I were the moderator…

I would establish some simple ground rules or facts that are indisputable so as to preclude pandering and stupidity:

  1. Medicare is going broke so neither candidate is allowed to say that leaving it just the way it is a good idea.
  2. The defense budget is so huge that even the military itself realizes that it can be cut. Both sides of the aisle agreed to cut it to solve, at least partially, our budget nightmare. Neither candidate is allowed to say that they would never reduce the military budget.
  3. The decline of the middle class has nothing to do with tax policy. Lowering their taxes further will have just as little impact on their welfare as the previous five tax cuts in the last 10 years. Neither candidate is allowed to claim that tax policy will save them. [Their taxes are already extremely low]
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Can Chinese peasants referee football games?

I wax on constantly about the impact of a billion new Chinese laborers being tacked on to our labor force. The problem is not as simple as outsourcing by itself. It's what's in the head of every employer when they hire a new worker: the knowledge that there is a virtual ocean of nearly free labor available online or offshore.

This understanding is so widespread that even NFL football owners won't yield to the demands of a union – any union. The NFL has annual revenue of $9bn and the referees aren't even asking for a raise – they just want to keep their current pension benefits. The league wants to cut them by $3mm/yr.  

That's 0.33% of revenue.

Scott Walker and David Koch must be advising the NFL. Union busting has become a part of our culture – just listen to talk radio. Yes, organized labor went way overboard thirty years ago but now the pendulum has swung so far that we have officially entered a race to the bottom verses the Viet Namese – there will be no winners. 

Pinkerton
Pinkerton guards enforce a lockout at Carnegie Steel

Peasants can't afford football tickets… or iPhones.

Akin’s Code

Religious fundamentalists really really want to take the bible literally. Unfortunately it has a whole variety of fables and contradictions that render the task impossible. Science continues to add more fuel to the arguments first made by intellectuals during the enlightenment period. 

We find ourselves in America living amongst a group of people who desperately want to simplify the whole problem. They want human behavior to be easily divided between good and bad. They need to take the bible literally.  Homosexuals are of  course all bad. Hollywood actors are all bad. Women who abort fetuses are … murderers. 

Ambiguity and areas of gray don't play well on conservative talk radio. Listeners like absolutes, just like bible followers. A cultural war is a good thing if you believe you have God on your side. Talk radio constantly asserts that "liberals" are morally corrupt. Every Republican candidate now vies to be the most Christian (moral). It becomes like a game: who can denounce evolution with the greatest vigor; who can denounce the libertine Hollywood culture most strongly; and who stands for the protection of the life of a fetus under all circumstances.

This contest naturally leads to a number of candidates making statements that are insulting, absurd or damaging to groups of people who get caught in the crossfire.  

There is no war on women in particular. They just kind of get in the way sometimes when it comes to protecting a fetus. Gays, scientists, intellectuals, and Hollywood directors are also casualties because they too are on the side of Beelzebub. The rhetoric attracts [mainly] men who would be quite happy in a theocracy where heretics and their books are burned. Their followers do not judge them by modern or scientific standards. Democratic polemicists get sucked into the game by trying to argue that all Republicans take an immoral position with regard to the poor. 

Policy questions can always be moral. This mentality is able to defend positions or programs that have no record of success and no support from the academic community. Reducing our defense budget is immoral. Taxing our highest earners above the current rate is also immoral. Cutting Medicare or Medicaid by even $1.00 is appalling.  

The front page of the Sunday  New York Times shows a picture of a six year old girl who may be deported because her family came here illegally. Apparently having a normal immigration policy is also immoral. As much as the media may say they dislike the replacement of policy discussions with nonsense, they all know that an emotional argument sells more of ads than data.

It also wins more voters.  

Stealing Ideas

Okay, Apple has just won a US lawsuit against Samsung. Many
critics (The New York Times and Atlantic Monthly to name 2) are saying this will be a bad thing with regard to future innovation. They argue that if Samsung were allowed to carry on using many of the tools
that Apple had built then Apple in order to compete, would have to develop even
bigger and better tools.  I don't really understand this argument.

What it seems
to say is that after you make something it's okay for someone else to steal it
because then it forces you to make something new or better than the thing you
already made. I would then presume that someone else would steal that and you would have to go back and make something new again. The onus is always on the creative person or company that made the product in the first place. The onus does not seem to be on the companies that are
stealing the original ideas.

The court has clearly said, at least in the United
States, that Google stole important aspects of the Apple iPhone operating system
so how is it better for all of this technology to be freely copied? It
does not force Google to be creative, it simply allows them to go on stealing
and it penalizes Apple which is the company that has done all the work. These so called experts seem to just like the idea that less expensive phones will have all the same features as more expensive ones.

Capitalism is not supposed to work that way. 

 

It’s what they say not what they do.

There is one difference between the elections of '08 and '12 compared to previous ones. The voting record of the candidates doesn't matter. In the past political candidates used to begin every speech by citing their voting record. They would often provide a list of of bills that they had written or helped to get passed. It was important to show that one knew how to get things done in Washington and everyone took pride in new legislation. What's changed: 

  • Virtually no new legislation is getting passed due to excessive partisanship. 
  • To appease lobbyists, what does get passed is often tangled, obtuse and embarrassing. 
  • Bills that pass with bipartisan support are later seen as compromises -worse than defeat. 
  • Bills are often put up for a vote even when it is clear they will not pass -just to make a point. 

Politicians seem to get away with inconsistent behavior whenever a member of their own party is in the oval office. Even the tea party movement finds this excuse to be lame. 

This leaves us with a rather simple problem. How can we know what a politician stands for when he says that his voting record means nothing? It seems like a century ago that George Bush senior was attacked for betraying his party by raising taxes and contradicting his election promises. How quaint. Obama was the candidate of change and then apparently changed nothing . Paul Ryan voted only for bills that  fundamentally contradicted his entire small government philosophy. It's impossible to find a single policy that Mitt Romney has not flip flopped on. 

Can we say that this era of hypocrisy is about to end? That would be hard given that all the forces that created it are still in place.

Who will be our William Wallace – the man to lead us against the depressing tyranny of political cowards who never vote according to their principles? Instead they prefer to vote on the Pledge of Allegiance, "personhood" and gutted regulatory bills while sticking to absurd pledges to never raise taxes or eliminate outrageous subsidies.

 

He won't come from the current batch of candidates.

Bumper Stickers and Labels

There's a funny bumper sticker that says" Am I a Democrat or just highly educated?" Since the Republican party has purged its intellectuals this question has become reasonable. As I listen to conservative talk radio attack " liberals" it often seems that I could replace the word with intellectuals and it would make sense almost every time. 

Mike Gallagher has a new book out called "50 things liberals love to hate". On his list are such things as: 

  • Light pollution 
  • Oil subsidies and consumption 
  • The second amendment 
  • Christian fundamentalism 
  • Limited government 

Rather than explain or defend this list we could create a new list called ""50 things uninformed people love to hate":

  • Darwin 
  • Scientific evidence of global warming 
  • Proof that lowering taxes does not increase gov't revenue. 
  • Proof that poor income/wealth distribution correlates perfectly with poor income growth
  • Mass transportation 

There are of course many subjects where the two sides might agree: abortion, illegal immigration, outsourcing, the occupation of Afghanistan, and Wall Street regulation.  We cannot allow all the critical thinkers to reside one side of the boat. If they are then periodic explosions should be expected just like the bomb we got from Todd Akin regarding female reproduction. 

We need more intellectuals like Niall Ferguson (a Harvard professor) to publicly explain his preference for Mitt Romney as he did this week in Newsweek. Unfortunately his knowledge of economic statistics proved to be so weak that he utterly embarrassed himself and his cause. He became the Todd Akin of economics.  (I hope his publisher has a good cancellation clause in his contract)

People often express disappointment over the acrimony that appears during election cycles but the problem is not with political polarization or severe rhetoric. It's with the growing divide between candidates who make arguments based on truth and knowledge vs. those who use rumor, superstition, mythology, and fear. It's up to the media to fight this battle and make sure that facts win out. 

If they lose we'll have mob rule. 

Do titans pay taxes?

President Obama really stirred up the pot a month ago when he said that entrepreneurs need a village to build a business. They need mentors, teachers, clean water, good roads and reliable power. Everyone needs a little help from someone along the way.

Defenders of our corporate leaders replied with great agitation. Clearly the President doesn't really understand how much work goes into turning an idea into a successful business. Let's not forget the creativity, organizational skills and perfect foresight that a Steve Jobs must posses to succeed. Yes he needs sustenance and a break from a friend now and then but so does everyone. We need to appreciate our entrepreneurs, coddle them and help them to avoid paying taxes. If we don' they may all move to … Monaco.

 These arguments are old and boring and to some extent they are both right. 

What's new is that unlike 20 years ago an entrepreneur no longer feels inclined to use American software engineers, American product designers, American production engineers or even American assembly workers. America is just the place with store chains like Walmart and Target, where the product gets offered.

Entrepreneurs are now global Titans recently arrived from Olympus. They shoot their job thunderbolts all around Southeast Asia and then command an army of lowly sales people to move the product to (relatively) wealthy westerners who will pay retail. They understand that Vietnamese and Pakistani peasants can't afford $500 for an iPad. They know this because they pay their salaries.

Since the titans feel more like Olympians than Americans they are confused when a Democrat talks about how they should pay their fair share. Never before has our master race of business people owed so little to the country they live in. When asked by a US senator to help the US set policies to help it become energy independent Lee Raymond, the former CEO of Exxon was appalled by the stupidity. He declared – "Exxon is not an American company". These titans think we should thank them for their purchases of private castles and employment of servants within our borders. That's the most we can expect. Their only false illusion is that unemployed Americans will be able to go on indefinitely buying foreign made toys, clothes and electronics. Titans from Olympus don't concern themselves with such parochial issues.

If we force them to pay higher taxes or consider the welfare of their neighbors they'll just fly home to see Zeus – via Geneva.

 

 

 

The Intellectual Wing of the Anti-intellectual Party

Paul Ryan is commonly associated with the tea party movement (whatever that means). This low IQ crowd rarely uses logic or knowledge to make their unconvincing arguments about taxes and deficits. Mr. Ryan has taken on the role of intellectual leader. 

His biggest "new idea" is to have seniors use vouchers to buy their own health insurance. The $6,500 amount each will get will almost surely fail to pay for a plan that will cover all their medical problems (Every 70 year old has a pre-existing condition). 

Since Medicare is indeed going broke, a radical funding change is called for – just not this one. By forcing Grandma out to buy insurance on her own she is left utterly alone, with no pricing power. If she could pool her money with many other (or all) seniors then she would have purchasing power and the average health of the group would be the one considered for coverage. This would save individuals who have grave problems.

This is how and why insurance works.

So what does Paul not understand:

  • Does he not like the idea that insurance buyers might band together to get a better deal, thereby reducing insurance company  profit margins?
  • Does he not understand that a group health-care plan is always cheaper than an individual plan?
  • Perhaps he prefers the situation where Grandma becomes her own death panel after she gets denied coverage by all the insurance companies?

Perhaps Ryan doesn't understand the first thing about insurance.

The Dems reply seems to be to leave things just as they are – headed straight for a fiscal black hole. Insulting Ryan won't fix anything but tweaking his idea could save the day. Using all the upcoming debates on this issue to scare seniors so that no intelligence is applied and no legislation is ever written would be the worst outcome of all.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a whole new ball game.

Mitt has chosen as a running mate a congressman who is connected to both the tea party and a fabulous list of legislative initiatives to change the tax code and reduce the deficit.  The election has suddenly changed from a boring referendum on Obama's four years to a policy debate.

Thank God.

The tea partiers' perverted desire to let the US government go broke may finally go on trial. The first two questions for Ryan must be:

  1. Are his radical changes to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security driven by a responsible fear of federal insolvency or by Randy (Ayn’s) schadenfreude
  2. Does he really believe in the fairy tale that tax revenue rises when tax rates are cut.

All of this good meat needs to be chewed by the press. If Ryan lies or obfuscates then they have to stay on him and refuse to accept assertions as facts. If Obama refuses to respond with alternative policies then he should be attacked as a do nothing candidate. What are his solutions to the budget mess? Foreign policy is no longer even a part of the conversation. 

Mitt will now spend all his time defending Paul's policies.