Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Fortunately, Profiteering Is Illegal

I bought a new kitchen faucet (Delta) six months ago, choosing it part because it stated that it was made in America. I paid $110 to have it installed.

It turned out to be a piece of junk. Temerature control is erratic, the pull down nozzle does not dock properly, and after just a couple months it would not shut off without slamming the handle. Now it does not shut off at all. I bought a new one (Moen) and now need to have it installed.

I called the plumbing company I used in the past and they charged $45 to send a tech out who would quote me a price and do the work. The price he quoted? $553 for a task that would take about 45 minutes. I told him to do something that is physiologically impossible for male, female or (in these modern times) nonbinary. He probably went home and tried to do it. Why not, he’s undoubtedly done it to a lot of other people, just as he tried to do it to me.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Panic Leads to Stupidity, Part 2

Local media has been hyperventilating about hospitals being stressed and running out of "protective gear;" masks, face shields, etc. They are warning that we might not have enough ventilators in our hospitals. Then, two minutes later, they tell us that in the entire county we have a total of 48 people who have developed the illness caused by the virus. They don't say how many of them are currently hospitalized.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Panic Leads to Stupidity

We are told that 242 people in San Diego are infected by the Coronavirus. How many of them are in the hospital? We are not told that. How many are at imminent risk of death? We are not told that either.

We are also told that many people who are infected by the virus have mild symptoms, and sometimes none at all. How many of the 242 fall into that category? Yet another number which is not being reported.

So, how serious is it that 242 people have been infected by the Coronavirus? There is simply no way to know, and at this point it may not even be significant, let alone serious.

I’m not suggesting that it’s not serious. I’m pointing out that in a city of 1.5 million, 242 is a trivially small number, that it is the only number being reported, and that it is being reported in grave tones as if it represents a major disaster.

San Diego beaches and parks are now closed due to the threat posed by the Coronavirus.

"Social distancing" does not apply, beaches and parks are closed no matter how far you stay away from each other. Proof is offered by film on the news this morning of six or so people on the beach, no one person closer that fifteen feet to any other person, and cops driving by and threatening to put them in jail for being on the closed beach.

Would they be doing "social distancing" in the city or county jail?

Grocery stores in San Diego have special hours for seniors (65+) only. Seniors hour is 7am-8am which, unfortunately, is before the day's trucks are unloaded and the shelves restocked. It also results in very crowded stores at that hour.

Nobody thinks logically about anything today. That’s what happens when panic sets in.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

No wonder we're failing.

What part of “idiot” does Bloomberg News not get? We have a news item informing us that Trump’s import tariffs on steel do not protect the steel industry that gets so many things wrong you’d think it’s trying to sabotage his run for the White House.

It starts with “JSW Steel’s India-based parent company” reducing production at a Texas plant despite “tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum imported to the U.S.” The article goes on to tell us some weeks ago a stupid and ignorant Fox newsman (Bloomberg didn’t use those adjectives) wondered if the tariffs might hurt the plant, “given that much of the raw steel processed at the mill was imported from India and Mexico.”

The plant manager’s reply boiled down to, “Of course not because we support Trump.” He was counting on an exemption on the tariffs, which he didn’t get because he’s importing the steel. (And now we're going to have the grits hit the fan because India is supporting Trump.)

Now, the Bloomberg article tells us, “A big piece of the Baytown project has been postponed indefinitely, in part because of Trump’s tariffs.” But mostly, of course, because the project was based on using imported steel, which is subject to the tariffs. Hello?

The article becomes less and less in contact with reality as it goes on. It tells us that the company’s manager claims that the company, “set out two years ago to do precisely what Trump and his trade hawks said the tariffs would help accomplish: reestablish the U.S. as a premier producer of steel.” And it’s going to do that by importing steel. What?

I don’t know what role Bloomberg plays with his newspaper, but having his name connected to this kind of gibberish does not get him my vote.

Monday, February 17, 2020

No, It's Not Boring

from spaceUpon looking closely you will see that the daily high temperature varies by one degree, and next Friday will be "mostly sunny" instead of "sunny."  Weather forecasters are swooning with breathless excitement.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Marriage is Great

You run out of coffee one time in 26 years, and your wife harasses you from then on as if it is something you plan to do on a weekly basis. "Are we okay on coffee?" becomes a nightly refrain. She is a lovely person.

Saturday, February 08, 2020

This Is News?

NBC Evening News has a segment every night now about a “massive storm” which is either currently or soon will be “sweeping the nation.” So desperate have they become to present this feature that they are reporting storms which will contain “winds of up to 30 mph, and as much as four inches of snow.”

Even as far south as northern Alabama, that is not really a newsworthy storm, but they have to do their bit for global warming climate change.

They also have a nightly segment on the Chinese virus. They refer to it as a “deadly virus" or a “killer,” despite the fact that 98% of people infected by it do not die. The SARS virus is still around and kills 9.6% of people who come down with it, but the media ignores SARS while hyperventilating about coronavirus, which kills 2% of its victims.

The Chinese virus has caused about 600 deaths worldwide, at this point, and is headlining daily while the common flu, having killed more than 10,000 this year in the United States alone, doesn’t so much as get a vaccination advisory.

I know… Besides which, my wife keeps admonishing me. I watch this stuff so that I have something to write about when there’s no football games on.

Monday, February 03, 2020

A Question

If Trump were to say something in the SOTU tomorrow night that really pissed off the Republicans, and they responded by voting on Wednesday to convict Trump and remove him from office, would Democrats still be insisting that the verdict was illegitimate because there were no witnesses? I think we all know the answer to that.

Saturday, February 01, 2020

A Surplus of Incompetence

The House issues subpoenas and the White House rejects them. There is nothing new about this. The White House, regardless of which party occupies it, almost always rejects subpoenas from Congress. Congress then goes to court, gets a judge to enforce the subpoena, and the process moves on.

When this House Committee met with resistance to its subpoenas, however, instead of going to court for what would most certainly be resolution in its favor, it threw in its hand and charged the President with "Obstruction of Congress." The reason they gave for not pursuing legal enforcement of their subpoenas was that the issue was urgent and time did not permit the lengthy process of obtaining court rulings.

In 2000, on the issue of Bush v. Gore and the presidential election, the case went from the initial court filing in Florida on November 17th to a final ruling by the Supreme Court on December 13th. That was a time lapse of 26 days, 7 days less than the 33 days that Nancy Pelosi held the Articles of Impeachment in her office in a (failed) effort to coerce the Senate into conducting the trial in a manner of her choosing.

Sheer logic would dictate a desire to keep the issue in the House of Representatives for the greatest possible degree of resolution. If the charging party cannot win a battle with the President in the House, where they have a majority, why in the world would they punt that battle to the Senate, where they do not have a majority?

Democrats will undoubtedly go forward saying that "the trial was unfair," and that the President and the Republican Party obstructed the process. They are already doing so, in fact, before the verdict has even been reached.

In reality, however, the failure was entirely predictable and was entirely due to a long series of unforced errors by the Democratic Party. As is usual with this party, they showed no real stomach for a fight, and when they encountered push back, they simply caved.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Undisclosed Info, Hereby Disclosed

I am not registered on any dating sites. It will hardly come as any surprise to my wife to learn that astonishing piece of information, and it may by slightly comforting to her to have me divulge it. Probably not, as I doubt seriously that it has ever occurred to her that I might be registered on any such sites.

Anyway, if I was registered on any such sites, I cannot imagine how Russia or China would benefit from knowing that I prefer redheads (again, I am perfectly comfortable revealing this to my wife, since she is a redhead), or that I like hiking, golf, and boating. Just why would Russia or China care?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Baltimore: Upset Deserved

Lamar Jackson threw for 365 yards and ran for 143, but his numbers included some serious garbage time padding. Ryan Tannehill threw for only 88 yards and ran for only 13, but he passed for two touchdowns to Jackson’s one (which was in garbage time) and ran for the one score that effectively sealed the upset (Jackson ran for none).

Jackson threw for the same amount of scores against Tennessee that Derrick Henry threw against Baltimore, and Jackson’s score was with Baltimore trailing so badly that Tennessee was in a prevent defense. The league's census MVP was intercepted twice, lost a fumble, and twice stuffed on fourth-and-one runs.

The final game “rest” and the “bye” week killed Baltimore, and so did Derrick Henry (with 195 rushing yards) and a Tennessee defensive front that reduced Baltimore's offensive line to a shadow of what it had been all season.

But let’s not give the Super Bowl trophy to Tennessee yet. They beat New England, who clinched the playoffs early and “rested” most of their first string the final week. They then embarrassed the Ravens who did the same thing followed by a “bye” week. So, the question is, what will they be able to do against a team that isn’t rusty, but is coming off a win the preceding week?

Monday, January 06, 2020

Just A Reminder

The “post war period,” from the 1950’s through the 1970’s, was a time of unparalleled prosperity for the working class in this nation. Even more than that, it created a level of prosperity for this nation’s working class that had no precedent in the world at the time.

I am referring here to the working class known as “blue collar;” workers who entered the workforce from high school without advanced educations; people who built the machinery and infrastructure of a great nation.

That period was a time of a nuclear family in which only one member worked at a single job, the wages of which were sufficient to support the worker, a homemaker, several children and often one or more members of an earlier generation.

The economy which provided such great prosperity for the working and middle class of this great nation was based on the principle of capitalism. Whatever ills today’s economy suffers from, capitalism is not the problem.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Selling Bridges in Brooklyn

General Soleimani was taken out because doing so stopped an "imminent" massive attack he was planning on America. Right. And we had to invade Iraq because they were buying aluminum tubes and yellowcake uranium pursuant to increasing their stockpiles of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.

Patrick Cockburn has spent many years in the Middle East and generally gets things right about what is going on there. What he writes all but invariably is borne out by time to be true. He has been saying for weeks that the unrest in Baghdad was not anti-Iranian, as American media claimed and as American politics hoped for, but was a protest against the Iraqi government, demanding jobs, public services and an end to corruption.

In an article yesterday, Cockburn made reference to “...General Soleimani overseeing the brutal efforts by pro-Iranian security forces and paramilitary groups to crush Iraqi street protests,” and the light dawned. America has been seeing these street protests as anti-Iranian, which they were not. The media has been reporting them as anti-Iranian and, as usual, was reporting inaccurately.

America wanted those street protests to continue, and General Soleimani was the main leader who was shutting them down. Draw your own conclusions.

Monday, December 30, 2019

California Logic

San Diego installed some years ago a bunch of cameras which caught people running red lights. Outrage ensued, of course. The lights interfered with "civil rights." No, not the right to run red lights, the right to "confront one's accuser." Seems you cannot argue with or discredit a camera.

So San Diego, and most of the surrounding suburbs, removed the cameras and went back to letting people get killed by people who ran red lights because they had protected their "civil rights." Of course those people were trampling all over the civil rights of the people they killed, but...

Then somebody noticed the lower death and injury rate in the one suburb which had not removed the cameras, and a movement began to reinstall the cameras in San Diego. The countermovement has new grounds for opposing the cameras, that being that cameras will cause an increase in rear end accidents as people who are not stopping for red lights will crash into people who are stopping for the cameras. Only in California.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Our Christmas Present

We have an appointment tomorrow to pick up our new family: Daisy, a calico, and her brother Skipper, black and white. They are very social cats, not quite five years old, and lost their home when their owner passed away. We have been catless for about seven months, so it's going to be a bit of an adjustment, but...

Friday, December 20, 2019

Can Nancy Remain In Office?

I'm not talking about this impeachment mess and her role, or lack thereof, in it. I'm talking about the number of times she has stood at the podium and babbled along with a vacant stare and in a manner suggesting that her brain is not connected to her mouth. Will voters in her district look at that and reelect her to yet another term?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Test Of... Courage?

from space

When I was a youngster my friends and I would play a game of seeing who could stand closest to (but not on) the tracks as freight trains came through at speed. There were steam engines pulling these trains, really big ones, with side rods flopping around, and often there were several engines pulling a train, so it was a considerable test of courage.

It was also a substantial display of stupidity, of course, but we were young males with far higher content of testosterone than of gray matter.

The engineers hated it, and would blow their whistles at us, which did nothing but encourage us of course. One engineer hit on the solution. He would open the cylinder drain cocks just before he got to us, which produces a major blast of live steam at ground level. (See above.) That dropped our testosterone levels quite a lot and very quickly.

He would then give us a couple of celebratory toots on his whistle as we showed him a rapidly diminishing view of our backsides and elbows.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Unicorns Again

The Washington Post tells us that "The House on Tuesday approved a massive $1.4 trillion spending package that would stave off a shutdown and fund the federal government through September." Really? That's almost ten months for a paltry $1.4 trillion, when the government has been spending more than $3.5 trillion per year for more than five years now. Is the Post delusional, or has there been massive budget cuts that we don't know about?

The question was rhetorical. I think we all know the answer.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Insanity

The following statement appeared in the New York Times today (behind a paywall), in reference to American military forces stationed within Syria.

“Commanders have requested guidance outlining how U.S. forces might deal with an attack from the assortment of armed groups, including Russian-backed Syrian government forces, that have, in the past, tried to seize territory held by the United States.”

The absurdity of that statement, presumably issued by someone with an IQ above room temperature, is off the scale. The question being asked, and the situation leading to the question, is the work of total idiots. The least stupid part of that question is that the Syrian Arab Army is not merely one of an “assortment of armed groups.” The real question should be phrased as,

“What do we do if the Syrian Arab Army tries to take back territory which we are illegally occupying within their country.”

How does a democratic nation come to such a pass?

Monday, December 02, 2019

Football Highlights

This was the best football weekend of the season. I will admit that Ohio State vs. Michigan was not everything that one might have wished for, but the Iron Bowl (Alabama/Auburn) not only lived up to expectations, it exceeded them. The game was even better than the final score (48-45) might lead one to believe. It was not busted plays or flukes, it was an entire game of outstanding football by both teams on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Edge of the seat stuff.

On Sunday the Ravens and 49ers game, despite being played in a downpour, or maybe because of it, was everything we all hoped it might be. It looked like the defense of both teams were not playing up to par because both offenses looked so proficient, until one looked at the scoreboard and realized the final score was only 20-17. That's the way football should be played; no spectacular plays, just solid, every play perfection.

The best couple moments came during the game between LSU and Texas A&M. One of them was not during the game and the other was not even on the football field. The first was when quarterback Joe Burrow came out before the game wearing a jersey with his name spelled "Burreaux." The home crowd went nuts. He changed it for one with his name spelled properly before the game.

The other came in the fourth quarter when, with LSU having a massive lead, they ceremoniously took Joe Burrow out of the game. It brought the house down, of course, as it was intended to do, and the camera panned to his parents in the stands. The look of love and pride on their faces was the best moment of the entire football weekend.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Politics

from spaceFor those of you whose paper doesn't carry this strip.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Where Do You Put The Horse?

Have you noticed that, while united on the desire to impeach, Democrats have changed the grounds for that impeachment several times? Shouldn't that ring an alarm bell that they don't really care about "high crimes and misdemeanors" and are putting the cart before the horse?

First it was about "colluding" with the Russians to meddle in the election. Problem was that nobody knew precisely what constituted “collusion,” which didn’t stop them from spending 2+ years and $320 million trying to prove that he did it, whatever it was, and even with an such an undefined crime they failed to get an indictment.

Then it was about "obstruction of justice," except that no one could be convinced that what he was doing amounted to “obstruction.” Further, with no underlying crime it turned out that what he wasn’t obstructing wasn’t actually justice, so that amounted to another failure.

Next they moved from Russia to Ukraine and changed the charge to a "quid pro quo" until it turned out that voters couldn't speak Latin. In any case the Ukrainian president said there wasn’t a “quid pro quo,” whatever that is, so Democrats were foiled again.

Now they have switched the charge to "bribery," not because Trump did it, or because they have any evidence of such a deed, but because (unlike “collusion, obstruction of justice” or “quid pro quo”) that crime is specifically stated in the constitution as grounds for impeachment. Clever.

In the normal course of events this process would go something like, "Hey the president bribed somebody so we need to impeach him." Instead the drivers of the process are saying that, "We want to impeach the president, so we need to find a crime to use." Awesome.

Democrats are really enamored of their impeachment cart, they just don’t know where to put the horse, assuming that they would recognize a horse if it walked up and bit them on the collective ass.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A Rising Tide Doesn't Float All Boats

It seems the rest of the voters are catching up to me, as I knew Elizabeth Warren was full of crap a long time ago. If nothing else, she’s an economist, an ilk which tells us that if you pour water from one bucket into another then all buckets will be full.

(Dean Baker; “There is no such thing as a labor shortage. All you have to do is pay higher wages and hire them away from your competitor.”)

Lizzie had risen to one of the top two in the Democratic candidate field, but is now down in the middle ranks, with her rating falling from 27% down to 14% in the polls. It’s not surprising given her astonishing performance on “healthcare for all.” (Among other things. “I sent my kids to public schools.” Oops.)

For months Warren competed with Bernie Sanders on this point, with Sanders admitting that he would tax the middle class to pay for it but that the tax would be less than they are now paying in insurance premiums, while Warren said the middle class would pay nothing at all. She said that “I have a plan” to pay for it, one which did not include “working men and women,” but steadfastly refused to reveal the plan.

She finally succumbed to pressure and revealed the plan but would have been better off, as is usually the case with this nitwit, to have kept it to herself.

The first part of the plan was, of course, the “wealth tax” and, amazingly, no one interrupted her to point out that she had already committed the “wealth tax” to paying for a free college education for everybody including, apparently, those who didn’t graduate from high school.

Long story short, the payment plan floated like a brick in a millpond, so Warren changed to a long term transition wherein people would “buy in” to Medicare and private insurance would not be cancelled but would sort of wither away to a natural death as the popularity of Medicare…

Right, that boat is not floating either. Thus the drop in the polls.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Ready, Fire, Aim

Elizabeth Warren opines that, “Traffic violence kills thousands and injures even more American every year. On World Day Remembrance for Traffic Crash Victims, I’m sending my love to the families and friends of those who have lost loved ones. It’s time to #EndTrafficViolence.”

How precious is that? It probably would be more to the point to send love directly to people who have actually lost loved ones, rather than to their families and friends, but Elizabeth Warren is probably a little too erudite to realize that. It seems this lady is one of those people who has been educated beyond her intelligence.

Keeping the Faith

The Secretary of the Navy resigned yesterday because, “I no longer share the same understanding (of military law) with the Commander in Chief who appointed me. I cannot in good conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath that I took in the presence of my family, my flag and my faith to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Yes indeed, because the constitution specifically states that a Chief Petty Officer who poses with corpse of a dead enemy shall be ejected from the Navy Seals. I cannot find the article and paragraph at the moment, but there is no doubt that allowing Chief Gallagher to remain in the Navy Seals would be a direct and devastating violation of our constitution, and that such a violation would greatly endanger the national security of our nation.

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Purpose of Tariffs

A few days ago Dean Baker wrote a piece declaiming the evils of tariffs. He is an economist, and should have been taught the value of tariffs as an economic protectionist tactic, and that our government has used them many times in the past 200 years, but apparently he skipped that part of class. I left the following comment on his piece.

Yes, tariffs raise prices on imported goods. That is their purpose. They do not raise prices on goods made in this country. That means that tariffs make domestic manufacturers competitive with cheap imports produced by low cost foreign labor, thereby benefiting workers who make those products in this country.

I am one of those workers. Back in the 1960s the American steel industry was being hurt by low quality steel imported from Europe, mostly from Poland, and sold at low prices. The government finally imposed tariffs on that imported steel, making high quality American steel competitive, and my job was saved.

Yes, the American consumer pays higher prices. They are doing so to support well paid, meaningful manufacturing jobs for their fellow citizens. You get what you pay for.


Dean Baker removed the comment from his blog.

(Yes, President Trump's comment was ignorant, in that it wrongly states the benefit of tariffs. That does not make Baker's response logical or reasonable.)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Why Colleges are Failing Us

I was directed to a Facebook post by Heather Cox Richardson, who is an American historian and Professor of History at Boston College, on the subject of Gordon Sondland’s session before the Senate committee. Her dissertation on Sondland's testimony sort of illustrates why today’s institutes of higher education are going so horribly wrong.

She does say that, “Sondland has changed his testimony three times now, and is clearly motivated by a keen desire to stay out of jail,” and that “…he was also clearly being very careful with his wording over some issues, and there is no reason to take his testimony as gospel truth.”

After that quite rational observation she adds another reason to discard entirely anything the Sondland might have to say. “Certainly his claim that Ukraine fell within his portfolio is wrong and self-serving. Ukraine is not part of the European Union, and at the time he began his shenanigans, Ukraine had an ambassador,” who wasn’t him.

Having made a couple of statements that reflect a reasonable degree of sanity, she then departs entirely from the sphere of reality. “Still,” she says, “my long-standing prediction that this administration ends in a resignation is looking stronger than it did a day ago.”

Seriously? You completely discredit this clown, and then assert that his dishonest uninformed bullshit is going to take the president down? And you are a college professor?

She then goes on to assert that, “the Ukraine scandal was about undermining Trump’s leading Democratic challenger by starting rumors that he was under investigation for a crime.” Well, that might be true if you believed Sondland’s lies that the scandal was about what Trump supposedly did, but reality is that the scandal was about Democratic lies attempting to undermine a constitutionally elected president.

She adds that, “Trump’s plot weakened Ukraine and strengthened Russia,” when it wasn’t Trump’s plot, it was a Democratic plot which didn’t significantly affect Ukraine at all, in part because Russia was laughing their asses off at American idiocy.

She finishes with, “It is an attack on American democracy itself, taking away our right to choose our own leaders.” Well, yes, because the losing side is trying to impeach the one we elected, merely because he won.

Lighter News

A post on The Duffell Blog, a military version of The Onion, was headlined “Marine crayon eating contest goes horribly wrong.”

The problem leading to the contest's disaster was, the article tells us, that “no one told Pfc. Smith he needed to chew the crayons.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Marine Corps, have a very high respect for them and have enjoyed a sterling relationship with them through the years.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

FFL/NFL Thoughts

Last week I was in sole possession of 11th place in a 12-team league. I won this past weekend and am now in a four-way tie for 8th place, which is not as much of an improvement as it might seem, since there is still only one team with a worse record than mine. I am keeping company with the Chargers.

Did I really watch that last night? Four interceptions, and two more interceptions dropped? Five trips into the red zone in the first half, netting nothing more than three field goals? That was just weird.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Impeachment Follies

Please don't mistake me for a supporter of Donald Trump, but...

The “whistleblower” came forward because he was concerned that President Trump was “going against established US foreign policy.”   Since the constitution clearly and unequivocally establishes that is the President who sets US foreign policy, how is it even possible that the President could “go against established US foreign policy.”

The current “talking point” for impeachment is no longer “quid pro quo,” but is now the same actions relabeled as “bribery." This is because “quid pro quo” is not named in the constitution as grounds for impeachment, while “bribery” is.

Bribery is rather clearly defined in the dictionary, and there a few problems with the application of the term to this set of actions and statements. Trump did not give Ukraine this money, Congress did. Trump did not personally benefit from the putative “quid pro quo,” his presidential campaign supposedly did.

Even if legal maneuvering could manage to define Trump as the donor of the money to Ukraine because he held it back and then released it, which would be legal magic to an extraordinary degree, this instance would have severe consequences. If paying money to enhance one’s political campaign amounts to bribery, then every member of Congress is in very big trouble.

From Homeschoolmomof11, a commenter on Powerline, regarding Ambassador Yovanovitch, “I keep trying to hold to the ideal that women can be just as strong as men and just as deserving of leadership positions, but the Democrats keep pushing women like this into the spotlight and ruining it for me.” Yes, this woman and the ditz who tried to bring down Justice Kavanaugh.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Levity In My Life

My wife is makes many positive contributions to my life, among them an ongoing sense of levity. She is currently having an anxiety attack because I am changing a light switch in the bathroom. She is utterly convinced that this is an activity which will almost certainly lead to my instant and horribly painful death. There is a secondary concern that it might set the house on fire. I like her priorities, but...

She is well aware that I was an Electrician's Mate in the Navy. Everything else that I do is self taught, but electrical work is the one thing for which I have any formal training. It matters not. Electricity is a substance only slightly less dangerous than Republicans.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Interest On The Debt

Dean Baker published a piece a couple weeks ago in which he opined that government payments of interest on the national debt are too trivial to deserve any attention, and are in any case smaller now than they were in 1991. You have to make allowances for Dean, he’s an economist, and his brain was destroyed in college.

What he said, specifically, was that “interest payments were around 1.7 percent of GDP last year,” which “compares to a peak of 3.2 percent of GDP in 1991.”

Interest payments are not subtracted from GDP, of course, they are subtracted from federal revenue, and I’ll get to that in a bit, but like most economists, Dean Baker is really lousy at math. In fiscal 2019 the government paid $574.6 Billion in interest and the GDP was $21.3 Trillion, so the percentage was 2.7%, not the 1.7% he claims. In 1991 the numbers were $286 Billion and $6.16 Trillion, so that year it was 4.6% rather than the 3.2% that his slide rule came up with.

He doesn’t say where he gets his numbers, possibly from a portion of his body that the sun never shines on. I get mine from the US Treasury Department website. 2.7% is a bit more than half of 4.6%, so the “less than half” part of his headline is bogus, but even so his theory would paint a pretty nice picture if it was the whole story. But, of course, it is not the whole story by a long shot.

For one thing, he takes the position of a man falling from a ten story building, who says as he passes the fifth floor, “Well, I’m okay so far,” because he disregards the factor of interest rates. And that is by no means a trivial issue.

In 1991 the debt was $3.66 Trillion, so that $286 Billion represented a 7.8% interest rate. Today the debt is $22.8 Trillion and the $574 Billion amounts to a 2.5% interest rate. What that means is that if the interest rate rises we have a problem. At the 7.8% rate of 1991, interest today would be $1.78 Trillion.

How big a problem is that? Well, at 8.5% of GDP, even Dean Baker might consider that a bit of a problem. I would not, because its relation to GDP is utterly irrelevant. Interest payments are not paid out of the GDP, they are paid out of federal revenue, and payments of $1.78 Trillion out of federal revenue is a disaster. That interest payment would consume 51.4% of federal revenue.

Even at the current 2.5% rate, interest payments of $575 Billion consume 16.5% of federal revenue, which currently is $3.46 Trillion. No spending item other than “defense” spends more. And since we continue to spend $1 Trillion more than we take in every year, the cost of the debt grows larger and more dangerous every year.

And yet not only is this issue entirely absent from the political discourse, every Democratic candidate continues to promise more and more “free stuff” as the foundation of their campaign, assuring the “middle class” that they will have to pay for none of it.