Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Failure of Rational Thought

This DACA thing is sort of amusing, really. Obama asked Congress to pass it as a law and Congress, at the time controlled by Democrats in both houses, refused to do so. They didn’t just reject the request, they introduced the bill in both housed and voted against it in both houses. Liberals yawned and went to the vineyards to sample wine. Outrage = zero.

Obama passed DACA as an executive order, not only usurping Congress’ role as lawmaker, but actually directly going against the will of Congress, and liberals cheered lustily, ignoring the cautions that what was done by the executive order of one president could be undone by the executive order of another president. They weren’t worried because Democrats would certainly never lose a presidential election.

Trump then says he is cancelling the executive order but will sign a DACA bill if Congress passes one. Congress does not pass one, but no anger is directed at Congress for not passing a DACA bill, in fact for twice not passing a DACA bill.

Instead, enormous anger and accusations of racism are directed at Trump for cancelling an executive order that, being executive overreach, should never have been issued in the first place.

All this despite the fact that 38% of voters approve of Trump while only 15% of voters approve of Congress.

No, I am by no means a Trump supporter, vote for Democrats more often than I do Republicans, and I am not expressing an opinion here for or against DACA. I am expressing that I continue to be astonished by the abysmal failure of political rationality in this country.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dean Baker Goes Openly Anti-Worker

Dean Baker argues today that the recent “uptick” in the economy may not have much to do with Donald Trump, creating a rare moment in which I actually agree with him, and goes on to say that it may actually be due to “the continuation of the Obama-Yellen recovery,” which puts us in separate universes again. The rest of his piece today is a virulent rant against the interests of the working class.

He does agree with Summers that when another recession happens “the Fed will again have to rely on unorthodox monetary policy,” and goes on to say that, “This is why many of us have argued for an inflation target higher than 2.0 percent.” Of course, so that the working class can suffer as badly during economic boom times as they do during a recession. Brilliant.

He then claims it is “also worth bringing in the story of robots taking all our jobs,” saying that it is “a story of a massive uptick in productivity growth,” which is awesome because he loves productivity growth. It is, after all, another opportunity to worship an economic theory which in modern times punishes the working class.

Higher productivity means that more product is produced by less work, so higher productivity means fewer workers. Even if, as Dean Baker claims, higher productivity inevitably resulted in higher wages, which it does not, then higher wages for fewer workers is not really a good outcome for the working class.

But higher wages for fewer workers is not a good outcome for business, either, because it requires an investment which doesn’t cut labor costs much, if at all, so business sees to it that higher productivity means unchanged wages for fewer workers, which really sucks for workers.

Dean Baker even admits that his claim of higher productivity is not actually what causes higher wages when he says that, “It's possible that we won't see the same wage growth this time due to weaker unions, the decision to expose less-educated workers to competition with low paid workers in the developing world, and more protectionism in the form of longer and stronger patent and copyright protection.”

The patent and copyright thing is nonsense, of course. It’s a pet peeve of his which he injects into everything, and it’s not about the working class at all. The abuse of patents and copyrights is about inflating prices to increase corporate profits and has nothing whatever to do with working class wages.

The other two items, weaker unions and offshored jobs, have a lot to do with wage growth not occurring as a result of productivity growth, so of course Dean Baker would follow that statement by agitating for stronger unions and for restoring manufacturing jobs to this country, right?

He does nothing of the sort. His support for the working class evaporates in a puff of smoke when he argues that to make up for wages not rising the government should, “make up the lost demand with larger budget deficits.” You get that? He’s a member of the “as long as money is being spent, it doesn’t matter who’s spending it” school of economics. He only cares about cash flow and, like the rest of the Washington elite, is unconcerned about the spending power of the working class of this nation.

Since workers are not being paid well and have no money to spend, he claims, the government should spend money instead, using borrowed money, to keep the economy flowing. The working class won’t be okay, but the economy will be fine. The spending level will be high even though the working class is flat on its ass, because the government will be spending money that it borrowed from…?

Sort of what we have today, actually, because last fiscal year, during what he claims to be economic good times, our government spent $665.8 billion more than it took in. He does not say what number in the way of a “larger deficit” he would consider reasonable.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Okay, He's Finally Lost It

Dean Baker seems to have finally lost all contact with reality, as yesterday he went totally, completely and utterly batshit crazy over tax cuts and investment by Apple Inc.

My favorite was his statement that the columnist he is criticizing, “doesn't seem to have a clue why the government taxes in the first place,” and proceeds to tell us that, “The reason the government taxes is to reduce demand in the economy. The purpose is to prevent the economy from overheating and experiencing inflation.”

I mean, I knew that Baker was unconcerned by the amount of the federal debt, an attitude which has always struck me as a bit bizarre. I never in my wildest imagination, however, thought that he believed that all government operation, things like national parks, highways and the military, should be financed entirely and only by borrowed money and increases in the government debt.

He appears to be of the modern school of thought that citizens should reap the benefit of government services and benefits without having to pay anything for them. Citizens at least think that somebody else, “the rich,” should pay for those benefits, but Baker seems to think that they should be paid for by just borrowing more money.

He expands on his “taxation to reduce demand” theme by adding that, “When the economy is near full employment we face the standard story where we have to tax to finance spending. In other words, if we want additional spending we have to pull demand out of the economy to open the space. However, when we are below full employment, the government is not constrained by its tax revenue.” I have no idea what any of that means, don't think that he does either, and included it here merely for it’s entertainment value.

He goes on in the same column to say that the government will not benefit from Apple paying $38 billion in taxes on the repatriation of funds from overseas because the money is, “already being held in the U.S., its ownership is just attributed to a foreign subsidiary,” which ignores the fact that it was not being taxed and now is, and that having $38 billion is better than not having $38 billion.

He asks the question, “How would the world be different if Apple still held its money overseas and we had the Fed credit the government with another $38 billion to count against its debt?” Because, apparently, the money that the Federal Reserve Bank creates out of thin air for "Quantitative Easing" is the same thing, in Dean Baker’s feverish little mind, as real money which will be paid by Apple in the form of taxes.

He then repudiates one of his favorite rants about how the media is “mind reading” when they say that “Republicans think blah, blah, blah” merely because Republicans say “blah, blah, blah,” when he says that Apple’s claim to be spending $20 billion on capital expansion and pay raises is due to the tax cut is not true because they would be doing that anyway without the tax cut, because businesses “make investments and raise wages all the time,” but that, “They usually don't go to such great effort to put on a public display” about it.

Actually, they do, but let’s not split hairs with an economist who has totally lost his mind.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Why Newspapers Publish

From an article in The Washington Post regarding a Trump "scandalous" rumor, "That doesn't mean it's true or even that there has been any genuine wrongdoing — just that it's worth asking some very serious questions."

Yes, a real newspaper prints that statement and then goes on to say that because a porn star says something we should read it on the front page and have a long discussion about it, even though she presents no proof of her allegations and offers as evidence facts which have been printed in the media for many years and is knowledge which has been held by millions of people, such as that Trump had a bodyguard named Keith and a secretary named Rhona, and that he didn't like sharks.

And the media claims that Trump is making the nation ungovernable.

PS: Okay, that's assuming that the Post is "a real newspaper" which is, perhaps, arguable but...

Monday, January 15, 2018

Election Derangement

I am considered by those who know me to be liberal in my thinking. Those who know me best see some fiscal conservatism moderating my liberal social thinking, but none would hesitate to label me a Democrat. They would be mistaken, but only partly so. Although I tend most often to vote for Democrats, I am registered as a Republican and sometimes vote for them.

An objective examination of reaction by the losing party in the last three elections which resulted in the White House changing from one party to the other might shed some light as to why I will not register as a member of the Democratic Party.

2000, Bush v. Gore: Democrats promptly claimed that votes in Florida had not been properly counted. They further claimed that the Supreme Court improperly intervened to prevent those votes from being properly counted, and that if they had not done so a recount would have given the state’s electoral votes to the Democratic candidate and the White House would have remained in Democratic Party hands.

While the losing presidential candidate, Al Gore, never embraced this argument, the Democratic Party leadership did. The outgoing president embraced this argument. Senior Democratic members of Congress embraced this argument.

2008, Obama v McCain: Republicans reaction was to vow to “block the Obama agenda” and to resolve that they would defeat him in the following presidential election, (i.e. “make him a one-term president”). While their reaction was inartfully expressed, that is pretty much what opposition parties are supposed to do. At no time did they question the legitimacy of the electoral victory.

There was the nonsense about the place of Obama’s birth, but the Republican Party leadership never from the beginning embraced this ridiculous argument. The losing presidential candidate, John McCain, certainly never embraced this argument. The outgoing president never embraced this argument. Senior Republican membership in Congress never embraced this argument. There was never the slightest suggestion that any Congressional investigation should be made as to the place of Obama’s birth.

2016, Trump v. Clinton: Democrats claimed generally that “the Russians interfered with the election.” Clinton also claimed that the FBI interfered with the election and, although that gained no traction with the media, she adhered to that claim regardless.

The outgoing president embraced the Russian interference argument. The losing presidential candidate embraced this argument. Democratic Party leadership embraced this argument. Senior Democratic members of Congress embraced this argument. So enthusiastically do Democrats embrace the Russian interference argument that Congressional committees are established to investigate Russian interference and the degree to which the winning candidate participated in it.

Conclusion: I am not a Trump supporter and did not vote for him, but I do support this nation’s constitutional democratic process and certainly have no desire to become a member of a political party which routinely attempts to discredit that process simply because it did not work in their short term favor.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Waiting For Orders

In news coverage of the mudslides in Santa Barbara County the past few days, I noticed that one person after another said that the noise made by the mudslides had waked them up in the middle of the might. That raised a question in my mind to the effect of, “Why were you asleep?”

Certainly these people knew about the Thomas fire that had left those steep hills denuded of any trace of vegetation, and certainly they knew that heavy rain was forecast for that night. The media and public officials had been warning for several days of the danger of slides and urging people to leave. And yet here they were, at home and asleep when the event happened precisely as predicted.

One woman explained why they didn't leave, saying that, “We were never issued the mandatory evacuation order.” She went on to say that, “We’re good citizens, if we were ordered to leave we would have left. We would have done what we were told to do.”

It suggests to me that if left to think for themselves, the people of this state will not do so. They were warned for days of the danger. They were warned for days that leaving would be the wise thing to do. They were waiting for someone to order them to do it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Sportsmanship Still Exists

A small point is being sort of overlooked in what was maybe the best football game I have ever watched; the SEC National College Championship game between Alabama and Georgia on Monday evening. The game had it all. It had dominance, comeback, highlights, lowlights, suspense and exhibitions of the obvious.

But the best thing I saw all night came from a player who, at the time, was not even on the field. It was the Alabama quarterback, Jason Hurts, who played in the first half with so little success that Nick Saban pulled him in the second half and replaced him with a freshman. This freshman was wildly successful and brought Alabama back from a thirteen point deficit to win the game.

The entire second half, Hurts was on the sideline and fully engaged in the action. He was not standing behind other players, he was on the sideline, cheering on his team and applauding their successes. When his replacement threw a touchdown pass and returned to the sideline, the first person to meet him was Jason Hurts, applauding and pounding him on the shoulder pads.

Less is being said about this young man than should be said. It was a demonstration of sportsmanship and personal character that was heartwarming and rewarding to watch.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Tarnished Gold

Oprah knewI’m going to get in trouble for saying this, hopefully my wife won’t read it, but I can’t hold it in; the Golden Globes is just too typical of where we've gone.

The women who sucked up the courage to initially accuse Harvey Weinstein were not there, and were given no recognition. Asia Argento, Rose McGowan, Rosanna Arquette, Mira Sorvino, and Annabelle Sciorra.

Did you see them there or hear their names spoken? Of course not.

The women who enabled that piece of shit for decades, who fawned upon him to advance their own fame and glory were there, wearing their symbolic black dresses and pronouncing that the era of men was at an end; that women have all of the power now.

They can, after all, put a man’s career and personal life into the trash can with merely an unsupported accusation now, against which his denials are about as useful as a paper match in a hurricane.

These women's definition of leadership is to find a parade, already formed by people with real imagination and courage, and to jump in front of it.

I’m willing to bet there are plenty of men who think this. It is symptomatic of the problem that none have the courage to say it.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Aging Well

I have written three checks so far this year, and I wrote the year as 2018 on all three. Unfortunately, I also wrote the month as December on one.

Do not grow old unless you tolerate embarrassment well.

Missing The Point

The Dow Jones rose another thousand points, much to the delight of pundits who think that overpriced stocks are good for the economy. As usual, the media reported the increase in a manner which made the one thousand point increase seem more dramatic than it actually was, with Market Watch telling us that the rise occurred, “in a blistering 23 trading days, which would represent the fastest rally to such a mark, outpacing the 24 sessions it took to ascend to 21,000 last March and the move to 11,000 back in May of 1999.”

But what was the increase in the value of the stock index in terms that have actual impact on the value of the stock market? Well, this month’s increase was 4.2% in 23 days, amounting to 0.18% per day, which is a little less exciting than the “blistering pace” they described.

The increase last March was a 5.0% increase in 24 days, or 0.21% per day, which means that the current increase did not “outpace” that March increase. The current increase was actually smaller than the earlier one, and it gets worse for Market Watch.

The increase in May of 1999 was a whopping 10% increase in 24 days, or 0.42% per day, meaning that it had twice the impact on stock values as did the one in March of this year and more than twice the impact as did the current one.

The media gets all excited about each “one thousand point” marker in the index, but that is hardly very informative. As the market index becomes larger, each thousand points becomes a smaller and smaller indicator. Here they are citing three such indicators, and are presenting the least impactful one, at 4.2%, as being more dramatic than an earlier one that was just one day longer and, at 10%, had more than twice the impact.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Constitutional Duty

Today’s version of “democracy” is baffling to me, and I suspect would make the founders of this nation wish that they had taken up golf instead.

The founders saw fit to make it one of the duties of our president to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” The people of this nation used to applaud presidents for fulfilling that obligation, but today they seem more often to applaud his breach of it and excoriate the executive branch for any attempt to carry out the constitutional mandate.

For instance, lawmakers, Congress and state legislatures, passed an amendment back in 1919 to make the production, transportation or sale of alcohol illegal, and Congress passed a law in 1920 making the possession and consumption of alcohol illegal.

While both aspects of the legislation were violated in a pretty massive fashion, no one ever suggested that the executive should ignore the existence of the law, or that no attempt to enforce the law should be made. Certainly no one ever suggested that any state could pass a law making alcohol sale, possession and consumption legal and that the federal government should overlook and allow that. By 1933 voters had pressured lawmakers to repeal the almost universally unpopular federal law. All of that was consistent with what the founders, I think, had in mind as to what they had set up for governance in this nation.

Then in 1970 Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act which, among other things, classified marijuana as an addictive drug and made production, transportation, sale, possession or consumption of it illegal. More and more people, voters, are objecting to that law, but instead of agitating for the repeal of that federal law, they are insisting that they can pass state laws making it legal and that the president should simply not enforce the federal law.

I am actually sort of neutral on the legalization of marijuana. The evidence seems to be that it is actually somewhat less dangerous than alcohol. If nothing else, withdrawal from excessive use of marijuana is not medically dangerous, while alcohol withdrawal can cause death. Don’t know, and don’t really care. My point here is about governance.

President Obama announced that he considered marijuana to be a state issue and that he would direct the Justice Department not to interfere with states which had declared marijuana to be legal. In doing so he was actively renouncing his constitutional responsibility to enforce federal law, and he was widely applauded for doing so. If any voice was raised criticizing him for violating his oath of office, I never read it.

Then President Trump rescinds that directive and directs the Justice Department to enforce federal law. He is excoriated by the same media and the same people for following his constitutional mandate to enforce federal law as applauded President Obama for renouncing that mandate.

Nowhere is any call made upon Congress to change that part of the Controlled Substances Act which relates to marijuana. The media is, big time, all over whether or not the Executive Branch should enforce the federal law on marijuana use. The discussion, under the false umbrella of "states rights," is not about whether or not the federal law should exist, it is about whether or not it should be enforced, which is utterly nonsensical.

So what we had in the 1930’s was that a law which was unpopular resulted in the voters putting pressure on the legislature to change the law. Today we have an unpopular law resulting in voters putting pressure on the executive to violate his constitutional duty by failing to enforce the law. Voters, apparently, realize that they not only do not control Congress, they do not even have any influence with Congress.

Or perhaps the whole thing is just hollow drumbeat to popularize one president and, more to the point, to depopularize another one, and no one really cares whether federal laws are enforced or not. In either case, it’s pretty clear that what our founders created is no longer functional.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Tweeting For Change

John Dean tweeted today, “Nothing, absolutely NOTHING, is more important in 2018 than taking the US House from the GOP, and beginning the end of Trump’s horrific presidency. The well being of the nation depends on it. Don’t let a day pass without doing some act to help Democrats win control.”

It is worth noting that if you change one name, this would fit well for Democrats in 2002 after Bush was elected, and for Republicans in 2010 after Obama was elected. (“Our duty is to make sure Obama is a one term president.”) In both cases the opposing party did gain majorities, in both houses, and in both cases it changed nothing.

It’s also worth noting that both presidents, in 2004 & 2012, were reelected.

The Democrats might gain control of one or both houses in this year’s midterm election. Any bets on what it will actually change?

"Tweeting," forsooth. I would be intellectually embarrassed to discuss that I relied upon a "twitter" account to communicate in any dimension, given that "twittering" is what we used to accuse brainless adolescent females of doing. Brainlessness is no longer limited to adolescent females.