Archive for April 2016

Let’s Talk the Economics Thing

For the White Mob (that would be Trump supporters) this election is about economics, theirs.  A real and serious discussion about economics would be totally lost on them.  Donald Trump is a poor example of a snake oil salesman as Timothy Egan pointed out this morning, and yet the rubes are buying everything he has.  People who sound normal explain that they are Trump supporters because he is a businessman and he will get things done.  Of course the media doesn’t follow-up with asking any questions about how and apparently the White Mob thinks that he proclaiming himself a very smart person is going to solve everything.  Even a cursory look at his business dealings shows you he cares little for workers, is detached from reality, and makes a snake appear as a noble creature.

Hopefully during the general election, maybe our media will do its job since they’re down to two candidates and personality politics can only go so far in filling up 24/7 babbling until you actually have to examine what they are proposing.  And here is the problem, economics are not intuitive.  In fact they can be counter intuitive because what we might do as a family or a business would be exactly wrong for the whole country.  But I get ahead of myself.

First of all we can do a quick examination of Republican ideas.  Keep wages as low as possible, remove impediments to business like health and safety rules, and cut all safety nets so we can lower taxes on “job creators”.  Worked wonderfully so far, right?  Trade policy gets a little more complicated, but Republicans are for more and more trade with fewer and fewer restrictions.  If you want to put all this into one neat little bundle, their policies are focused like a laser beam on maximizing corporation profits and stock prices.

They are also focused like a laser beam on increasing economic inequality.  And to rule the masses they tell them what is good for business is good for them (flow down) when the data markedly shows it is not.  And finally there is the fear factor, be afraid of the debt.  The Peterson Group is at it again (even Obama fell for it) and I will just remind you that the debt is a non issue.  Where again are interest rates and inflation?

Trump enters the fray and uses slight of hand to blame everything on someone else and he, trust him, he is a very smart person, will fix it.  But as Timothy pointed out this money, where is the beef?

With Trump, you can be sure of one thing: He will betray those people. We know this because he already has. Wage stagnation is the most glaring symptom of a declining middle class. Trump’s solution? He believes that “wages are too high.

So what have we got on the Democratic side.  Well they sort of get it but this is where a lot of us are really afraid of the Democratic Establishment.  They don’t get it.  While they want to see wages increase, see more equality for women, maintain the safety net, they are really still in the camp of what is good for business is good for America and firmly in the grasp of Wall Street and corporations.  As one writer who is worried about Hillary wrote:

The most devastating attack Bernie could have made against Hillary, would have been to start painting an accurate picture of the President Hillary Clinton economic team – whose members will obviously be picked from the ranks of those who crafted and believe in the economic policies that got us exactly where we are – as does Hillary.

Bernie’s mistake, was to focus *only* on inequality, and not on economic competence – and not focusing closely on Hillary’s likely picks for key economic posts.

It was Barack Obama’s mistake too, although in his case the economy was crumbling around him in a world he did not understand and he turned to the boys who best understood it to fix, yet caused it in the first place.  He restored the economy, but what was restored was what ceased working for most of us 50 years earlier and started the great wealth transfer.  It is the assumption that what is good for GDP, Wall Street, and corporations is good for America without looking at how it impacts economic inequality.  Basically you have the 1% advising us on what makes the economy work, and assuming they are not just looking out for their own interests because from their point of view, it is working just fine.

I have written in this blog long explanations of why microeconomic thinking applied to a macroeconomy is a disaster (the home budget analogy applied to government spending), why spending and debt are not the bogey man that is used to generate fear in the White Mob, why our system is rigged to transfer wealth to the few and how to fix it, and why we need a whole other metric for evaluating trade policy besides impact to GDP (economic inequality). It is not really my great thinking, but thinking of others summarized here*.

Changes to our economic system to make it work for all of us go to the heart of the status quo in conservative Republican and moderate Democratic thinking.  And in general they represent Wall Street, the corporations, and big business in general.  It is where the money is and where the power is.  It is why change is so hard and why little gets done.  The Donald is all about smoke and mirrors with no changes.  Hillary may want to make changes at the margins, but if her economic team is the same club of good old boys, nothing really changes.  That is what Bernie was trying to wake us up to. That is what corporate media kept telling us was impractical.

The changes to make the economy work for all of us are fundamental and it starts with getting money out of politics.  Then it is a focus on business as a means to advance all of us while not forgetting that maximizing profits may do nothing to increase the standard of living or quality of life for the workers, and that raising stock prices at the expense of our planet is not a deal we are going to take.  If we made economic inequality, welfare of everyone, and health of our planet the metric for all business deals, it really would be a new day.  There would be some near term pain, but we could look our children in the eye.


The Economy Part 1 – The fallacy of the Home Budget Analogy

The Economy Part II – Debt and a reasonable level of debt

More of that Project Management Thing – The Economy – A comprehensive plan to restructure the economy

Free Trade, Maybe – An approach to fixing trade agreements

They’re Rioting in Cosa Mesa!

The boys and girls in SoCal don’t want the Donald to speak.  And there has been some violence.  So what is a lefty to do?  On the one hand, we should protect free-speech and the right to express views that are despicable to most of us.  On the other hand, it is undisguised hate speech and somebody has to say something. The media has been more than happy to repeat it on a continuous loop.

Okay, but what about the violence thing.  Well, it is minor and while I would prefer that they stay away from those kinds of activities like trying to turn over a police car, aren’t I the one who said where are the youth in the streets like during Vietnam, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore?

So having thought about it.  You go guys.  Try not to hurt anyone or get hurt, but stand up for the rest of us.

Oh, and my favorite is the comments by Ted Cruz which is a story in how Republicans lie to you with what seems like truth.  Ted said something to the effect of, “You have a right to protest and free speech, but you don’t have a right to shout people down and use violence to prevent someone from speaking.”

I guess in Republican land it is okay to use the megaphone of the media to shout out everyone else with lies (that the media never fact checks), and to stifle the ultimate freedom of speech through voting by voter suppression laws, limiting the access to the polls, and making sure when you do get a vote, you are in a gerrymandered district that has no impact.  Yeah Ted, you are a model of freedom and responsibility.

Two Comments This Morning

Both are about columns I read this morning, Brooks and Krugman.  Actually what is more fun is reading the comments.  There are some very insightful/angry people out there.  Let’s start with Brooks.  David sees that he needs to get out more,  that he lives in a bubble of his own creation and he wants to see Trump coming before he is squashed by him:

That means first it’s necessary to go out into the pain. I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable. But this column is going to try to do that over the next months and years. We all have some responsibility to do one activity that leaps across the chasms of segmentation that afflict this country.

David wants to keep his conservative ideology and just see the world with different lenses, but with the same bad correction.  As one writer responded:

Mr. Brooks, you are welcome to venture into the heart of the heart of the country and write a couple of articles about it, but be ready. If you’re seeking those small places where kids participate in art classes, where young men are trained gently to consider women as equally human and so redefine their own masculinity, where people pay high taxes to insure the safety and comfort of their struggling neighbors, than you’re going to have to move to a Leftie college town. Welcome to Ithaca. 

The Republican Party for decades has profited by cultivating racism and pandering to the Religious Right, which advocates tight control of women (that’s Old Masculinity, and your party is deeply grounded in it. See: Indiana, North Carolina, Ted Cruz, playboy Donald Trump). 

You get what you pay for.  Pay up or shut up.

It is another form of denial.  Sooner or later a conservative has to face up to the fact that conservatism and its failure has led to this giant catastrophe called Trump.  It is not a level playing field and hard work doesn’t guarantee success.  Oh, and we really are in this together and are responsible for our fellow-man.  Then there are the details like, government is not bad, taxes are not ransom paid to the devil, wealth is not a sign of moral superiority, flow down doesn’t work, and regulations are necessary to ensure the greedy stay in their lane.  And I almost forgot!  Science is not an opinion poll!  I could mention that Keynesian macroeconomics really do work and spending and reasonable debt are not bad, but that may be too much to take in right now.

Okay, let’s get on to the Krugman thing.  Paul is making the point that the two outcomes in the two parties represent the giant void between them.  His argument is that Democrats settled on an establishment candidate because at least in some sense, establishment Democrats did try to deliver for their base, while in the Republican Party, Conservatives don’t give a crap about the base, but service the 1%.  So the base bailed on them.  I think that is true, but glosses over the real divide even in the Democratic party that will have to be addressed.

As several readers commented, the Democratic outcome was heavily influenced by media coverage and while the media loved to run every negative story they could find on Hillary, they always either did not cover Bernie or treated him as some Don Quixote  character as opposed to someone raising real issues about the ineffectiveness and lack of strong values in the Democratic Party. As one writer pointed out the establishment Republicans represented the 1%, while the establishment Democrats represented the top 10% and the rest were left flailing.

But generally Paul’s point is correct.  But it glosses over the anger out there, and the distrust of Hillary.  But as with all anger, it is usually wasted energy that does more damage than good.  While many Bernie supporters distrust Hillary, it is not the same choice that Republicans have between Trump or not voting.  And note, they are starting to try to legitimize him which speaks volumes to their depravity.  But on the Democratic side, here is a sampling of that Democratic anger:

To all of a sudden hear Hillary call herself a progressive who gets things done is a bit much. To hear her detail her platform in terms of leaving things like wages and funding for programs up to the states, rather than pushing for what voters want, one just knows that we are getting closer to a pivot back to the center right. Most Democrats want healthcare for all. Clinton is willing to leave 30 million out. Then, to top it all off, she pushed away all of Sanders’ voters when Rachel Maddow asked her if she would do as Senator Sanders said and earn his followers’ votes. As for post-mortems, at least the Republicans pretended to have one. Where is the Democrats’ following Election 2014?

The problem with Clinton’s candidacy is not antipathy that was engineered by her old foe, now collaborator David Brock, but the disbelief of voters who’ve always known the Clinton’s as center right Democrats. Her favorability is at its lowest ever. 

Here is another and one I think is the crux of the issue:

PK was alarmed that Bernie was too “tough” on Hillary at the end – but the opposite is true. The economy is issue #1 with voters, and they want *change*.

The most devastating attack Bernie could have made against Hillary, would have been to start painting an accurate picture of the President Hillary Clinton economic team – whose members will obviously be picked from the ranks of those who crafted and believe in the economic policies that got us exactly where we are – as does Hillary.

Bernie’s mistake, was to focus *only* on inequality, and not on economic competence – and not focusing closely on Hillary’s likely picks for key economic posts.

These are real concerns and not as Hillary groupies who are blinded by the light protest, not understanding Hillary.  But Hillary is the candidate and a Trump would be a nightmare for the country.  So my advice to Bernie supporters who are thinking of walking away from politics because they dislike and distrust Hillary so much, get even.  Box her in.  Put her in office with a more Progressive Democratic Party.  Push her left.  Make her life hell every time she leans right.  It would be good for her and good for the country.  And maybe, just maybe it will end our nightmare of right wing politics for good.

The Way Forward

Well I think last night answered what this election is going to be about, sort of.  Hillary and Trump.  Now this morning’s talking heads were trying to generate mindless dissension and conflict as Andrea Mitchell asked Ed Rendell if Bernie had just written the play book for Trump to attack Hillary.  But to Ed’s credit he did not jump into the hate Bernie Clinton Camp, or feed the narrative that Andrea was trying to build (that I guess we should always just fall over and anoint someone so there is nothing to criticize, like Trump won’t find lots to criticize).  Instead he pointed out that if Bernie (and he will) turns the table on Trump and points out that what he criticized Hillary for, Trump would be 1000% worse.

But let’s leave talking head land because rarely do you get a real thoughtful discussion of what is Bernie’s role going forward especially for the discouraged Bernie supporters, and more importantly what is their role.  I got the following from my son this morning and it was a window into some real insight, both his and Kos’s:

Kos wrote an outstanding article about Bernie, Hillary and the next steps. Basically, Bernie defied all expectations and basically is changing the Democratic Party. His supporters need to stay involved and keep Clinton going to the left. If Hillary was smart, she would pick Warren as the VP pick, only be a one term President and defer to her later.

Okay let’s unpack this.  Kos in his article identifies the critical issue from my perspective:

Fact is, the party ails, and we need all the reinforcements we can to force change. That’s why party affiliation matters. If you want to ditch the (D) label to become an independent, reconsider. If you are a left-leaning independent, consider switching to (D). You want to influence the party and move it to where we all want it to go, you do it from the inside. Become or remain an independent, and you no longer have a say in the direction the party is going. Why would you surrender that chance? You prove nothing by being independent, other than that you don’t want to fight for your party. Of course you want to fight for it, your involvement in the Sanders campaign proved it! So if you really are part of a long-term movement, then do what real movements do, and fight to win! 

You quit the party, and you make it a little easier for the assholes in the Democratic Party to remain in control. They want you to quit. Please don’t. 

Stay in the party and get the moderates out of control.  Those are the assholes he is referring to.  Then there is this wisdom:

I don’t care if you are excited about Clinton or not, she’ll be fine. I care that you get excited about Democrats down the ballot, about giving Clinton a Congress that will push her to the left even when she might not want to. Clinton doesn’t get to pass a $15 minimum wage. Congress does. You want strong climate change legislation? We don’t have a dictatorship. Congress has to pass it. 

But don’t make the mistake, either, of thinking that Clinton is the evil harpy of so many caricatures. She’ll do good things, she’ll do great things, and she’ll do shitty things. Our job will be to apply the same kind of pressure we’ve applied all these years of the Obama presidency. And no matter what she might do with the executive branch, all of that will pale to that single Supreme Court pick Republicans are hell-bent on giving her. 

For all the mistakes that President Bill Clinton made during his tenure, his Supreme Court picks weren’t any of them—Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. If anything, expect even better. The next pick will flip the court and the race will be on to relitigate all the shit the conservative court did to rig the electoral system in the GOP’s favor—from reversing Citizens United to stomping congressional gerrymandering to removing barriers to voting. This is not a country that easily enables political revolutions, but flipping the court will be a seismic shift in our nation’s course. And odds are, Clinton will get to make more than one pick for the High Court before her eight years are up. 

So this matters. All of it matters. Work the inside game, help cleanse the party of the assholes. Help good Democrats get elected. Let’s work for better legislation and better presidenting. And when 2024 rolls around, we’ll have an open slate primary, with an electoral system better suited for real democracy (thanks to the new Supreme Court), and a party more receptive to its grassroots. 

In other words, Bernie’s message is still the operative one, we have to change the system and the only way to do that is to change Congress with a voter revolution.  Now lets unpack my son’s recommendation:

If Hillary was smart, she would pick Warren as the VP pick, only be a one term President and defer to her later.

That would really energize the base, but I doubt that will happen.  I am hopeful that Hillary can be bigger than I think she is, but I don’t it.  She sees Elizabeth Warren as a threat, not the new face of the Democratic Party for the future. It is an ego thing and quite frankly Hillary has a giant one.  So is she going to be the transition President to a new and revitalized future.  No, she sees herself as leading that change and we (Progressives) know that is not who she is. She doesn’t understand it yet or at least that is what her campaigning told us.  On the other hand, it would make her a very important person in history if she could.  Oh, and is two women as the President and Vice President just too much for most Americans.  My thought here is we have had two men in those roles and you could not do worse. So let’s turn the page and get on with it.

12 Monkeys and a Surprising Moral

I like science fiction.  Maybe it is the 12-year old in me.  I like stories about fantastic possibilities and our future.  It is rich ground for what-if and where we could be headed (bad or good).  So I am a fan of the Syfy Channel.  Today many of these stories have glommed on to gore as a way to attract viewers much as we see NCIS or other shows focusing in on some mutilated dead body which is totally superfluous to the real story.  It is sad in a way (couldn’t they use nudity instead?) because it adds nothing and quite frankly desensitized us to violence.  Maybe that is why I like Limitless so much.  It is about the characters and possibilities, not gore.  See all the vampire/creature genre for all the gore you want.

Anyway, one of the shows that has just started its second season this year is 12 Monkeys.  You may remember it from the Bruce Willis movie where Bruce is living in a future where a virus has destroyed most of the population of the world and most survival is savage, preying on survivors.  But there is a group of scientists who survived with a time machine and they want to send someone back into our now to stop the virus outbreak which turned out to be the result of an evil plot.  The real story is about the lead character’s relationship with a woman, a Doctor, he meets in the past that he “enlists” to help him (read kidnap).

Now in the TV version, which is actually superior to the movie version, James Cole, the guy sent back in time to stop the virus, has one mission, kill the guy who they think, based on historical records in the future, is at the root of the plot.  He does, but nothing changes and the plot involves the mystery of who and sort of why evolves along with the relationship of Cole and the woman he has allied himself with, Dr. Cassie Railly, a virologist.  In the last episode of Season 1 he sends Cassie into the future because she was shot and it may be the only way to save her.  He is now stuck in now.

Okay here it comes.  Cassie is now stuck in the future and in order to survive and return to the mission of stopping the virus she becomes brutalized in what she has to do to survive and rebuild the time machine.  No longer the good doctor, she is a killing machine if that is what it takes.  Meanwhile Cole in the present is finding (and did from her when he first met her) his humanity.  Cassie is sent back, now a ruthless and cold hearted agent, bent on the mission and in a critical scene where they find the person (a mentally disturbed young woman who has been manipulated) who is supposed to spread the virus, Cassie wants to plug her between the eyes and Cole prevents her from doing that and still manages to stop the young woman from destroying mankind on that day, with an act of kindness and mercy.

Now the future is suddenly rearranged and the virus is still released but two years later with less effect.  Cole in the future with Cassie, are both going to be sent back again to stop the outbreak from happening and Cassie in her new cold hearted way wants to know if Cole can put his feelings aside (his humanity) and get focused on the mission to save mankind. Here is what Cole said and it is for all of us to think about:

Cassie:  We have a mission to finish.  The only way that is happening is if you are willing to do what needs to be done, like before. [Isn’t this what many Hawks tell us we need to do to win like using torture?]

Cole:  Look I know your being this way is my fault, but this is not who you are. [He got her involved in this and then sent her to the future so she could survive which taught her to take no prisoners]

Cassie:  What I am is because of me, nobody else.  Everyone and everything changes Cole.

Cole:  I know that.  I was sent back to kill a man and it was supposed to fix everything and it didn’t.  So I killed more people and nothing changed. And then I saved someone, someone who should have died, and that, that is what changed things.  It is the only thing that has ever made any difference.

Hmm.  There are so many analogies here it hurts.  Maybe it is not killing our enemies that changes the world, maybe it is our humanity and recognizing our connectiveness.  I think Gandhi knew that as well as Martin Luther King.   Oh wait, I think Jesus was purported to push the same thing although most “Christians” seem to think that only applies to the chosen few.  The secret is to wake up our humanity.

Muslim radical terrorists think they have a purpose, and yet they have lost their way (same as the young woman who was going to spread the virus and they are as mentally deranged as she was).  Maybe bombing them into oblivion is not the answer to how to cure this planet of their barbarism.  Maybe our barbarism as an answer to their’s just multiples the effect.  Who knows, but in the middle of one of my mindless science fiction shows that she who must not be mentioned here goes off to bed to read a book if they are on, comes this little gem that leaves you thinking for days.  Who would have thought?

Thinking About The Donald and Hillary

The narrative out there in pundit land is that the Donald is going to change his image, soften his rhetoric, to reunite the Republican Party against Hillary.  Hillary has to figure out how to unite the Democratic Party against the Donald.  On the Republican side, just having Hillary run is a plus for Trump.  There are so many Clinton haters out there that many will ignore that the man is a racist, xenophobic, misogynist demagogue who has no real understanding of our Constitution, foreign affairs, economics, or tolerance.  Sadly I have this little element of me that wishes he would win so Republicans could really fail this time for everyone to see.  But then I remember they did that last time, nobody remembers, and with a giant opportunity, the Democrats squandered it.

So what about Hillary?  She wants to unite the Democratic Party and she wants Bernie to fall in line.  After all as she points out, she fell in line behind Barack.  There is a problem here.  They are two different times and the candidate she fell behind was promising real change.  In this case Bernie promised real change and Hillary promises us incrementalism.  It is going to be hard to find any enthusiasm from people wanting real change to get behind incrementalism.  The only real argument is electing a Republican would be a disaster.  And of course with a basically conservative judicial system and the successful gerrymandering the Republicans have accomplished, not to mention their efforts at voter suppression, nothing is going to change as long as we (Democrats) keep running on moderation and compromise.  As the young keep telling us, that system doesn’t work anymore and they are right.

Bernie said Hillary needs to show a willingness to get behind some of his positions and then he would join hands with her.  Heresy says Democrats.  Hillary won now we all fall in line.  Except the new voters, the ones that can really change the system don’t care about Democrats or Republicans.  They think (as I do) that both are bankrupt with a few exceptions.  So falling on your sword and hold hands is not going to bring them to the polls.  Bernie was speaking truth to Hillary and what we saw was big time establishment Democrat thinking leaping forward.  It is the very thing that turns these voters off.  It is not you husband’s political landscape anymore.

So what to make of all this.  Well for those of us hoping for real change, it is not going to happen or at least that is our perception going into November 2016.  Of course a lot could happen between now and then, but I see a civil war in the Republican Party and Hillary leading a bunch of fired up older women and the rest of us who know she is better than the alternative.  But you never know.  She could surprise us.  Now you can argue I have this all wrong, but then you are missing the argument.  It is about feelings and that is what young people and myself feel these days.

Now there is something else to consider here and that was brought up by James Kwak in his Baseline Scenario Blog which all Progressives should consider.  The basic premise is that while Democrats focus on electing a President to save them, Republicans have always focused on the long haul with think tanks, “repeated victories in state legislative and gubernatorial elections, successful gerrymandering in multiple states, a structural lock on the House of Representatives, and consolidation of the small-state bias in the Senate.”  His view is:

In  long run, what matter are ideas, institutions, and money—not the millions of $25 donations that can make the difference in a presidential primary, but the million-dollar checks that build up think tanks, academic institutes, Astroturf organizations, 501(c)(4)s and super PACs, training courses for activists and local candidates, and all the other infrastructure necessary to build a long-term political movement.

And he points out the conservatives have this and liberals don’t.  Maybe we are going about this all the wrong way.  Maybe Bernie’s role is to move to start this grass-roots organization to start changing things at the local level and push up.  I actually heard Ed Rendell say that this morning.  Of course that would also mean push Hillary off her incrementalism which has disastrously failed us so far with people who still think if we could just compromise.  So it ain’t over till the fat lady sings.  Maybe we could be moving in the right direction.

Trouble in Paradise

There is an interesting article this morning in the NYT (Can Clinton Feel the Bern) about how to bring the party together for the general election.  It is an interesting read, but what is more educational are reading the comments of which there are +999 of them.  That indicates a very strong reaction to this topic.  Now the article itself in my mind is not controversial, just lays out the history and political science of the issues involved in uniting a divided party after a contested primary.  And in this case all though we are mired in the myopia of present day politics, 2008 was much worse.  

Now I will support Hillary hoping she is not the politician I think she is because the alternative is disaster.  But let me give you one person’s comment that captures the problem:

Let this Bernie supporter answer for you. Will I support HRC if she is nominated? No. And – before some ignoramus simp out there like Patton Oswalt flies off the handle and calls me a “F-ing child” for thinking that – let me explain why. I voted for Obama in 2008 precisely because he (at the time) was the anti-establishment candidate. (Been pretty disappointed to find that was all an act once he was inaugurated.) And I voted for the anti-establishment candidate because – even back then, you imbeciles – I thought our political system was broken and it was the issue that I thought was (behind climate change) most important to us. Yes, sue me for wanting a functional democracy! Well, guess what, Einsteins? Nothing’s changed! I’m still the same person I was 8 years ago. So, if I STILL think our political system is in big trouble (and, btw, I believe this even more since Citizens United), then why would I vote for someone who wrote the book on how to exploit such a system? If the DNC is so hell-bent on propping up a substandard candidate like HRC, then it is THEIR problem. Not mine. I didn’t leave the Democratic party, it left me.

Okay, don’t vote for Hillary, and let the Republicans drive us further off a cliff?  That would be my logic, but the writer is expressing something really different this time.  When Barack Obama won in 2008 he was perceived as the further left candidate.  It was change they were voting for then and it did not happen.  Now you can argue until you are blue in the face why that was or wasn’t, but perception is what counts.  George Bush and the Republicans took us off a cliff and Democrats were sweeped in to change things and look where we are today.  That is what the writer above is expressing.

And the future of the party is not the moderate Democrat voters as we have seen from the young first time voters that are coming out for Bernie.  They are out there because first, they have no particular affinity for the Democratic Party, and second, they see the Party itself as part of the problem.  So unlike 2008 when the young saw President Obama as change, they see Hillary as more of the same.  That is a real problem.  And it is not just a Democratic Party problem, that is what this whole nomination process in both parties has been about.  And, the Donald has a real chance against Hillary because of just that dynamic.

Right now the narrative out there is that Bernie has no real shot and the nomination (probably true) and everyone should get behind Hillary.  It ignores the real dynamic out there that is not so much about irrational anger and we just need to grow up and be practical, but that growing up and being practical is how we got here today with dysfunctional government where nothing gets done.  The voters of tomorrow on both sides of the partisan divide are looking for someone who rejects politics as usual and provides a vision of where we are going.  One could argue that both the Donald and Bernie did just that while the detailed politics as usual candidates (Cruz and Clinton) have lots of plans, but it does not change the system.

Now I am not trying to equate the Donald and Bernie or Hillary and Ted.  But I am trying to show that something fundamental is going on here that is not as the pundit narative is telling us, people are mad as hell and not thinkng straight.  They are in one sense thinking very straight:  What we have been doing is not working and they blame the system itself.  Telling people you will make the system work with smarter policies (conservative for Ted, liberal for Hillary) is not selling.  That is the challenge we face and the challenge Hillary faces trying to unite the Democratic Party.  I am not sure she really understands that dynamic or why the young see her as untrustworthly or part of the problem.

And I will leave you with one other thing to consider.  If Hillary prevails and then we have Obama 3.0, which is my shorthand for trying to do some good with an obstructionist Republican Party and nothing changes, in 2020 the candidate that might win will be a Donald Trump on steroids.  Democrats (and Republicans quite frankly) are facing an existential crisis.  On the Republican side, conservative policies do not help the white middle class worker and they are rejecting the Ted Cruz’s of the world for populist politics, albeit mixed with racist zenophobia.  Hilter did really well with that.  

For Democrats, it is simple time to decide who they are, progressive or moderate, and the perception of Hillary is moderate, establishment politics. And the Super Delegate process screams of that perception.  If that is their choice, they are going to be marginalized like moderate Republicans are today.  The young of today are not identified with a party.  They are progressives and more and more see the Democratic Party as not representing them and part of the gridlock problem.  Old time politics do not work anymore.  So I see one of two outcomes.  Either much more progressive Democrats start winning local races and push out the moderates, or we are going to see the rise of a third party that rejects the system as it stands.  That could be a future Donald or a future Bernie.  I can hardly blame them.

Here’s One Bernie Gets Wrong

In the genre of critical thinking I give you this on an issue you do not have to be a partisan ideologue to pick a side:  Sugar tax on sodas.  Here is how it falls out:  “It can be seen as achieving an admirable public health goal of less sugar consumption or as a very regressive tax that falls more on the poor than the rich, since the poor tend to drink more soda….as measures that hit the poor harder. Lower-income Philadelphians, like other lower-income Americans, tend to drink more soda than their richer neighbors. That means that they may get stuck paying a disproportionate share of the bill.”

Hillary is for it with this comment:

“It starts early with working with families, working with kids, building up community resources,” Mrs. Clinton said, according to a CNN report. “I’m very supportive of the mayor’s proposal to tax soda to get universal preschool for kids. I mean, we need universal preschool. And if that’s a way to do it, that’s how we should do it.”

Bernie said this:

“Making sure that every family has high-quality, affordable preschool and child care is a vision that I strongly share,” Mr. Sanders said, in a written statement. “On the other hand, I do not support paying for this proposal through a regressive tax on soda that will significantly increase taxes on low-income and middle-class Americans. At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, it should be the people on top who see an increase in their taxes, not low-income and working people.”

Maybe they both get one part right and the other part wrong although in the end, Hillary gets it right.  The idea is not to pay for universal preschool on the backs of the poor, but encourage poor people to consume less sugar, reducing both disease and obesity (precursor to disease) in the poor.  And who pays for treating those diseases?  Many opponents of the tax argue that in the example of tobacco, poor people were more likely to pay more and continue their smoking thus funding whatever the taxes were paying for.  So if it is the same with sugar, the poor would be unfairly paying for preschool, taxing the poor to pay for what what the rich can avoid.

Problem with that logic is that the poor’s smoking and their eating sugar has real impacts on us in terms of healthcare costs, not to mention quality of their own lives down the road as being over weight, having high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.  So is it a tax on the poor, primary consumers of sugar to pay for pre-school or is it a tax to discourage sugar consumption, which gives them a choice?  I prefer the latter and I think Bernie is being short sighted here.

And what is the moral here.  You have to think more broadly about issues than just the narrow don’t tax the poor to pay for programs we all need.  I guess if you really wanted to be fair, you would have the sugar tax, but also tax wine over $30 a bottle so the rich who don’t want to drink swill will pay too.  See, isn’t compromise easy?


I watch that show and I love it.  The plot is that there is a drug called NZT that expands your brain capacity exponentially using the underperform parts of your brain.  You can remember everything, process data much more effectively, and your senses are super enhanced.  So what’s the problem?  The downside is that it is addicting (Duh) and the side effects can be horrific with prolonged us, up to and including death.  Okay, in the plot, there is an antidote, but it is only for a few that makes  them immune from the side effects.

As the story line progresses, NZT is not being flooded into the drug market and is on the streets of NYC and the FBI and police are in a giant campaign to find the source and stop it.  Some people are dying from the effects of prolonged use.  So let’s just stop here and ask the question, why are we running around trying to stop people from using it?  It makes them super smart, sometimes for the first time in their lives so that is the good side, and they all know the side effects and they are chosing to do it.  So why should government be limiting its use?

I think when you shove all the subplots and personalities aside, that is the real question.  In fact, in the real world why do we prevent people from drugs in general?  Okay I get kids, but adults?  It certainly hasn’t worked yet we keep on doing it.  Fareed Zakaria on Sunday pointed out where we have made drug use legal or facilitated access to clean needles and unadulterated drugs themselves, we lose fewer lives and more people choose to go into rehabilitation programs.  That is the data, but we oppose it because of our Daddy complex.

So I will continue to watch and enjoy Limitless, but if I had access to a drug like that, even with side effects, would I not be tempted.  More importantly would it be my choice and not the governments.  Yes drugs ruin lives.  But they do anyway and what we are doing does not work.  Why are we so afraid to try a new approach?  Maybe now that heroin is a drug of choice not just of the poor, but middle class and wealthy maybe we will rethink that.  It is not just that poor scum we can ignore, right?

All the Wrong Moves

I am wondering if the way we think about things is our problem.  Here is the big one:  Compromise may not be a virtue, but our downfall.  Let me connect the dots on two news stories today.  First, Leaders Roll up Sleeves on Climate, but Experts Say Plans Don’t Pack a Wallop:

Unless countries develop more ambitious plans, the experts say, the world could ultimately suffer profound consequences, including debilitating heat waves, food shortages and fast-rising seas.

And of course there are competing interests basically short-term pain to long-term catastrophe.  Then you turn to an op-ed that tells us:  An Energy Bill that Needs Fixes.

The bill is a modest attempt at bipartisanship in a Congress that has seen very little of it. Both sides of the aisle put aside their most ambitious energy proposals in an effort to achieve small gains. That is not necessarily a bad thing, given how deeply divided the two parties are on energy and environmental policy.

It contains some good things, “However, it also contains harmful measures that need to be stripped out before it becomes law. Its most problematic provision, a bipartisan amendment advocated by several senators, including Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, requires the government to consider electricity generated by burning trees and other forest biomass as carbon-neutral.”

So what are we playing at here?  Moving chairs around on the deck of the Titanic?  Things will be better for a while until the whole thing goes tits up?  But special interests get a short-term reprieve over the fate of our children?  Compromising with bad ideas is a bad idea.  Climate science is easy.  We know the end result, except of course for the deniers (Republicans), we know what has to be done.  And we don’t do it because…

Okay let’s take a not so direct example.  Ross Douthat, okay judge the source, wrote a column this morning about Bernie, but I thought the language was telling:  leading a left-wing-youth-movement.  What is left-wing?  Is that single payer health care?  Is it taking money out of politics?  Is it free public universities?  Is it paying more taxes so we can afford these things?

Note we call Bernie an idealist while we call Hillary a pragmatist.  All these labels are laden with meaning.  Left wing is out there.  Idealist is ineffective.  A pragmatist gets things done.  But the labels no longer apply.  If you want universal health care, a single payer system is what the world has shown us is the way to get there.  Isn’t that then pragmatic?  If being an idealist is dreaming and proposing the only real changes that will turn us around, is that idealism, or is it being pragmatic.  If what is political realistic does not solve the problem are you really impractical to propose real fixes anyway?

Let me connect the two ideas.  We are into labeling as ways to send emotion laden messages in code about ideas.  But the labeling is no longer accurate.  Compromise and bipartisanship is not a good thing if the compromise does not solve a problem that must be solved, just makes us feel better about ourselves.  Idealistic is not idealistic if the only way to make our political system work is to get money out of politics.  Right wing or left-wing are emotion and meaning laden words that tell us nothing about whether the ideas they are describing work.  Is it left-wing to want free public college education when to compete and to advance our standard of living, that is the only way we are going to make education affordable for everyone?  Oh, and other countries already do it?

We have reached a point where most conservative ideas are no longer functional.  They worked fine in a frontier society where there was lots of opportunity for everyone.  Today we have competing interests, inequality and a rigged system everywhere, and a complex world where everything we do impacts everyone else.  Just being competent and disciplined in a very unlevel playing field no longer works.  Said simply, working hard no longer guarantees anything.  The solutions we require can no longer tolerate half measures that may not work.  In terms of global warming, it simply dooms our children.  In terms of compromise with a system that no longer works, it just makes the final explosion louder and more devastating.  To attack ideas as right-wing or left-wing is nonsense.  It is an excuse to not to examine them in the light of their efficacy.

So my plea here is simple.  Let me hear no more about bipartisan bills as an assumed good idea.  Let me hear no more that an idea is left-wing or right-wing, or politically impractical.  We have real needs to move this country forward and we need to consider the ideas in simple terms of do they solve the problem.  We won’t hear that because one whole political party has no new ideas and they want us to ignore reality.  But the rest of us could get smarter and quit thinking working with them is a good idea when their ideas no longer address reality as we know it.