Archive for February 2017

Pre-State of the Union Thoughts

I listened to Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary for George Bush, explain what Trump needs to do in his State of Union Address tonight, show people that he is in charge and give them confidence in his leadership.  It is kind of like the last three years never happened and we don’t already know he is a lunatic.  I keep wondering how people still just say this is an adjustment period and things will stabilize.  What will stabilize, sadly, is that we will lower our expectations to accept this lunacy as normalcy.  It is fairly obvious at this point that we have an erratic and ignorant man at the helm and the craziness will get worse.  If we get anything else, it will just be good acting.

The other thing that one might wonder about these statements of normalcy is just how far the Right is willing to go in their denial of the danger of Trump to get their conservative way*.  Just take the budget thing.  He wants a big boost in military funding at the expense of agencies such as the EPA and other discretionary funding agencies which don’t have large enough budgets to really fund that increase.  Now one might ask, large military budget for what?  It would be reasonable to ask what is the threat in the future and how can we best be prepared for that threat, but I just heard $58 billion in increased spending.  He has no clue how the economy or budgets work and the Republicans are going to find themselves either at war with Trump and his spending (Wall, roundup, Military, tax cuts) and their supposedly fear of large deficits.

I heard a discussion this morning and the statement by the talking head reporter was that Cheeto-Head’s plan does not address entitlements.  Think about that a minute. She was implying they need to be cut.  Why raise taxes?  See where the argument is already in stone? To pay for a wild military expenditure we have to cut entitlements, because that is where the real money is.  Why not forget about tax cuts (that is different from tax reform) and raise taxes to pay for our entitlements?

The other thing I hear is that it is complicated. Cheeto-Head said that yesterday when talking about health-care.  NO IT IS NOT!  If you can add and subtract, none of this is difficult.  If reasonable costing healthcare that actually covers pre-existing conditions, keeps your kids in till 26, and covers things such as preventive care, and has a reasonable out-of-pocket limits, EVERYONE HAS TO PLAY!  It spreads the risk and costs.  The way to improve it is to go to a single payer plan. David Frum, a conservative, made the point last night on the Last Word  that if our health care cost what Canada’s does (and they cover everyone with a program similar to Medicare for everyone), there would be plenty of money in the existing budget to pay for military increases.  Duh!

I guess I get somewhat frustrated writing this blog because none of this is complicated.  None of it.  It got complicated when a certain Party did not like the answers and then tried to reinvent reality to fit their ideology.  So here it is without the ideology and we could easily fix all our problems if we could just get Republicans out of the way, like we did in California:

  • Healthcare – This is a no brainer.  Obamacare has always been flawed because it provided a complicated solution to maintain the existing health insurance industry.  It would not be collapsing if Republicans had not tried to block any repair and tried to sabotage it at every step.  But the real fix is not another market based failure, it is single payer care, like the rest the world does and pays half for better outcomes.  The answer has been beating us in the head for 50 years, but it does not meet Republican ideology of market place good, government bad no matter what.
  • Jobs – This also is a no brainer.  Give people money and they will buy things. JObs will then be created.  Continue growing economic inequality, and jobs languish.  Best way to give them money?  INFRASTRUCTURE!  Fix what we have, plan and reinforce for global warming impacts (yeah again Republicans denying reality), and build alternative transportation like high-speed rail where it make sense.  Cheeto-Head says he is going to spend on infrastructure, but it will be tax incentives and private investment, meanwhile his buddies in the Congress will hold back funds.
  • Debt – IS NOT A PROBLEM! Sure if it gets way out of hand (and Republicans scream that it is every day). It does become a problem when it gets too big, but what is too big?  All companies incur debt to grow and the measure of debt becoming a problem is interest rates climbing, or government spending interfering with private sector borrowing.  Neither has occurred.  We never need to pay the debt off, just keep it within a reasonable range.  Forget the numbers because they are meaningless.  What makes a difference is debt as a percentage of our income (GDP).  I have a home mortgage that is about 3 times my income (GDP).  Mortgage companies look at debt service as a percentage of you income.  We should do the same.  Sometimes (now) we need to take on more debt than we need at other times.  But to have some wild ideology that says all debt is bad is a recipe for disaster.  (See The Economy)
  • Immigration – THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM!  All of the scare stories you hear are false.  Sure you can find some undocumented person who committed a crime, but much less than the general population.  They add to our economy, and quite frankly they are essential to it.  But a certain Pary made them the enemy, created terrorists at the border (never been any) and on and on.  Immigration reform is simple.  Legalize those here for a certain period, give those who don’t meet this a path forward without leaving the country, and then simplify the work visa program so that workers can easily travel back and forth.  Then and only then do you crack down on hiring illegals.  How hard is that.  Oh wait! We can’t reward rule breakers.  Tell that to Steve Jobs.  I hate Republicans.
  • Refugees – THIS IS NOT A PROBLEM!  If we want more terrorism, don’t assimulate the refugees.  Make more people hopeless.  When was the last time a refugee was a terrorist?  Sure we can look at our vetting program, but it has not failed and terrorists come in on tourist visas.  My head hurts.

When you finally figure it out, all these problems are not problems and the answers are right in front of us.  But it’s complicated because Republicans can’t let go of their failed ideology and need scapegoats to blame all our problems on.  Sadly the people we need to blame are Republicans.  Can’t wait for Cheeto-Head to show us once again what a goon he is.  Maybe he will get through the State of the Union by just reading the words his team put in front of him.

Oh, and for those of you who still think he is smart, listen to him talk.  He has no vocabulary and makes no sense.  He got rich, not by being smart, but skilled, in this case skilled in fooling and screwing people.  Looks like he is bringing those skills to the job the Rubes elected him to.  Enjoy.

*This is from The Stone:

There is a lesson here about the lurking dangers of Donald Trump’s rhetoric and that of his minions. Citizens in a technologically advanced liberal democracy must rely on its scientific community to deliver disinterested information upon which to base their decisions about the policies they would have their elected representatives enact. Citizens are also highly dependent on a probing press to help them judge the performance of their elected representatives. Trump, first as a national candidate and now from the pulpit of the presidency, has not ceased to deny and denigrate the findings of scientific bodies concerning the rate and causes of climate change. In addition, he regularly calumnies individual members of the press and vilifies entire news organizations. They are dismissed as purveyors of “fake news” — a label Descartes’s skeptic might have been delighted to apply to the allegedly untrustworthy deliverances of our sense organs.

This behavior is not merely offensive and outrageous. The real problem is that it is dangerous: It poses an existential threat to our democracy. These attacks poison the wells of reasoned public discourse, a prerequisite for a functioning democracy. The problem is not merely that we are being fed a falsehood here, a lie there, though that would be problem enough. The issue is rather that by destroying the citizenry’s confidence in the institutions of science and the press, we risk being deprived of the tools needed to assess what to believe and want. If we cannot trust what vetted scientists or professional journalists tell us, then we will have been rendered rationally impotent. It is damaging to be fed falsehoods or to be outright lied to, but it is utterly debilitating to be deprived of the resources by which to sort fact from fiction.

Can We Be Any More Stupid?

There was an excellent op-ed in the NYT explaining the actual costs to all of us Tax Payers to deport all the undocumented people in the country.  Can you say trillions? The big bucks come from the damage done to our economy.  It is dumb from almost every level you look at it.  Build the wall and it won’t do anything but wreck the environment, make us look like East Germany, ruin lives, and it will not keep people out just looking for a better life.  It has not had any affect on stemming the flow of drugs where it has been built.  The problem there is demand, not supply.  Oh, and terrorists?  They mostly came into the country through our international airports or were born here, and zero crossed the border.  And none came through the refugee program. Do you know how many people died from gun violence last year?  It makes the terrorist threat small potatoes.

So where do you think the money is going to come from to build the wall?  Do you really think the Tea Party is going to spend a dime on anything but tax cuts for the wealthy?  Meanwhile the ban on refugees took a major hit from DHS which basically said it made no sense.  No duh there.  It is even counter productive.  None of the information that was used to come to this conclusion was classified.  But as President Cheeto-Head issues Executive memorandums that is turning the Gestapo (INS) loose on anyone with a visa we get this:

Henry Rousso, a French historian and one of the most pre-eminent scholars on the Holocaust, said he was detained for more than 10 hours by federal border agents in Houston and told he would not be allowed to enter the United States before lawyers intervened to stop his deportation.

Yeah, that’s right.  They are now harassing visiting scholars.  America has become the unfriendly place.  Tourism is already affected.  Can we be any more stupid?  Seen an infrastructure plan?  Seen a replacement to Obamacare?  Oliver North last night explained the new buzz words on Ryan’s big draft plan (8 pages), tax credits, high risk pools, block grants.  To quote John:   “A tax credit that small helps cover your health insurance the way a thong covers your dad’s a– — it doesn’t — and there’s something fundamentally wrong about that.


Isn’t it sad that we get real analysis on a plan not in the 24/7 news cycle, but from a comedy show.  Like Jon Stewart’s Daily News, here is where we get real analysis and are woken up to the insanity of it all.

Just to finish off, the following bills have been filed by Republicans in the House:

  1. HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
  2. HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education
  3. HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
  4. HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife
  5. HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
  6. HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
  7. HR 785 National Right to Work (this one ends unions)
  8. HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
  9. HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
  10. HR 808 Sanctions against Iran

See any job creators and saving the economy.  I see stuff that will kill jobs and people.  That is how stupid we are and those that voted for Trump maybe ought to look in the mirror or get help for your mental disability. No I won’t try to understand your pain.  You just made it worse for everyone. We are traveling backwards and I am not sure how many times we can shoot ourselves in the foot.  Well, actually the Trump Administration is aiming higher, for our brain maybe.  Oh, and lets throw money at the military again and savage everyone else’s budgets in the process. Is it the military that makes us strong or our strong economy?  Just another Monday in America the Stupid.

The Party of “No”, BS

The new narrative is that with the magnitude of the loss for Democrats in November, the new young radicals are taking power and pushing the Party to repeat the Republican Party tactic of just being the Party of “NO”. It worked for the Republicans so why not for the Democrats the logic goes.  It is total bullshit and shows how our political pundits are not the sharpest tools in the shed, or maybe it is just too hard to actually look at and understand policies/people being proposed.

When President Obama took office we seem to forget that his signature legislation was a Republican idea hatched out of the Heritage Foundation and implement successfully by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts.  But the Republicans were in the real just say no mode even though it was their idea, so they all voted against it.  And so it went.  It used to be a great joke that if Obama took a Republican beloved plan and put it forward, they were all of sudden totally against it.  Does anybody remember the Grand Bargain.  Oh, you can argue about the details of who asked what when, but whatever the terms, it was still a massive attack of Social Security and Medicare and the Republicans balked.  They just couldn’t allow themselves to be seen as letting President Obama have the last word, even if that last word was still giving away the farm*.

Now look at what President Cheeto-Head and his minions are putting forward.  The talking heads saw that Democrats were arguing about just saying no when that was not the argument at all. The argument was very simply that most of these people were not qualified and just because that was the best you were going to get was not enough of a reason to legitimize these picks.  They were going to do bad things so why be part of normalizing and legitimizing.  It is called standing for something in contrast to just saying no.

What about the Supreme Court nomination.  Again the narrative is about just saying no after the Republicans refusing to even give Merrick Garland a hearing.  The reality is first, again about legitimizing a political tactic that takes away the power of the President to nominate a candidate in his last year of office. It legitimizes the Senate’s shirking of the advise and consent role. There must be a price to be paid or that will become the norm. And the Democrats will give this nomination a hearing (they don’t really have a choice), but they will probably filibuster him.  The nominee has some extremely conservative ideas that should be exposed to the light of day.  John Roberts promised us he would not have an activist court and we got the most activist court we have seen in our history.  Oh, and Merrick Garland was really a conservative mainstream judge.  If Cheeto-Head wanted to unite the country, he would have nominate him.

So while the Republicans really did just say no regardless of principle, the Democrats are going to just say no because of principle.  That is a hell of a difference and the fact that our pundits don’t get that and point it out is why so many people are confused about the parties and still try to sell the both sides do it.  It is this kind of simple-minded journalism and analysis that set the intellectual (or non-intellectual) table for a Donald Trump.  It is not politics, it is about policy.  If you just say no, it is about politics and Republicans got away with that because of extremely poor journalism that failed to out them.  Now it is about policies.  Maybe we might actually look at them this time.

*”The Grand Bargain was an attempted political compromise between the Democratic and Republican Parties in the United States during the 2011 budget debates, in which the Democrats would have agreed to historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net, in exchange for an increase in federal taxation.” (Wikapedia)  It fell apart when Boehner thought he had a deal and then President Obama found out the Senate Democrats had gotten more in their negotiations for federal taxation than he did, so he went back to Boehner and asked for the new number and Boehner balked.

The Way Forward

The DNC has picked Tom Perez over Keith Ellison to lead the DNC to rebuild.  Tom did a really smart thing by acclaiming Keith Vice-Chairman.  I am not really sure how I feel about that yet.  Keith was the candidate of Bernie and Tom was the candidate of Barack.  Maybe some Democrats will have a temper tantrum like they did when Bernie got beat.  But I don’t think the issue is Democrats, it is all those who want change and rejected the Establishment of either party whether Democrats or Independents.  

I hear language like we have to fight a 50 state strategy and engage in every state.  We need to get out their and listen to everyone and show that the Democratic Party represents them.  What I don’t hear yet is a grand strategy, a vision of what we stand for, a vision that presents a very different vision than Republicans.  I know what that is, but I am not sure they do yet.  That is why I wrote the series The Real Fight.  I am an intellectual guy (I am not claiming to be smart, but I think about things), but the key here is to understand where we as Democrats went wrong (Listen Liberal), how we failed Progressivism, and to provide the logical foundation for rejecting Republicans and their economics (Economism).  Oh, and along the way I tried to show how the Republicans created a Fifth Freedom* (separate from FDR’s Four Freedoms), freedom of the market place which is in conflict with the other four freedoms except for the very wealthy.

Thomas Frank took us on a journey in Listen Liberal to explain how we lost the New Deal and the economics we used to believe in.  This is important because to rebuild the Democratic Party you have to really understand why it is not appealing to more people.  To make a long story short, Listen Liberal, showed how we bought into Economism and became Republican Lite, all the while the market place is failing millions of Americans and economic inequality grows by leaps and bounds.  

In Economism, James Kwak basically explained why our view of what is possible is now controlled by an underpinning of conservative economic theory that makes government the problem and free markets the solution.  Then he lays out why that does not work and gives us the ammunition we need to push back. It turns out that the Fifth Freedom is a self serving belief that allows economic inequality to grow exponentially.  Democrats going forward are going to have to connect with white working class millennials and get people back to the polls.  They have to have a vision (Progressive) and the arguments to show how that is their only path to control the Fifth Freedom (freedom of the market place) and put a dent in economic inequality.  

I just hope Perez and Ellison have read this stuff, and have a plan to turn it into an approach to give Democrats the arguments to win our future.  Frank and Kwak have done an amazing job of allowing us to put this into a logical construct to begin to dismantle Republican Economism so we can move the country forward.  Most Americans are not cerebral.  Logical arguments are not going to win the day, but as Hillary found out, without a overarching narrative, policies don’t make Progressivism.  Relating to people and making them understand that we have a a vision they can share is the key.  And now we understand where we went wrong, and how to fight.  Let’s get at it.

*The Fifth Freedom concept came from a lecture by Professor Jeffery Engel from SMU.

Going Backwards

It is hard to watch the CPAC wild enthusiasm for statements from Trump puppets giving them applause lines full of hate, racism, and failed lessons learned.  Remember that line, we are all Americans.  Not these people.  They clearly do not understand freedom of the press, having your ideas challenged with facts, or learning in general.  And they represent the Trump Bunch.  How do you wake up everyday with so little empathy and kindness toward your fellow human beings?  What I get from this kind of political action is pure meanness. Trump is a disgusting human being and disaster is unfolding before our eyes.  We won, now let’s show them whose boss.  Actually I don’t think they won, and he will never be my President.

So let’s just summarize:

  • Cheeto-Head attacks the free press, bans those trying to report on his Russia dealing from a press event, probably all in an effort to take attention away from the events of the day, and instead of focusing on the Russians, he is out to kill the messenger
  • ICE is becoming our version of Hitlers SS.  Did you know that Muhammad Ali’s son was stopped at an airport and question on how he got the name Muhammad?
  • Economists will no longer be part of the Presidents Cabinet.  Who needs facts?
  • Then we have the bathroom brouhaha.  Who cares?  Have you noticed that many places have unisex bathrooms?  But they care and the most vulnerable are kids who will be hurt
  • Oh, and there is a new study showing the results of most students who us vouchers to attend private or charter schools fail miserably compared to public school kids.  Where they work, is in closely regulated schools, just what the Trump Bunch are against.
  • Scott Pruitt, EPA, chief is being reviled as a puppet for industry and we may find out his role in the botched execution in Oklahoma.  Just another bottom of the barrel pick to lead one of our most important agencies.
  • Speaking of schools, no more free lunch.  Our Secretary of Education has no idea what hunger is and thinks we ought to do away with it.  After she came out against the bathroom change and had to change her tune to keep her job, we know all we need to know about her
  • Then there is the rise and support of private prisons again.  Don’t you just love people getting rich by sending as many people as possible to prison?  It works so well
  • Homeland issued a study, well it was leaked (how else are we going to find anything out in the Trump years?), using open sources, to show what we have all argued, the ban and the countries selected makes no sense.  It doesn’t keep us safe and may make things worse.  And yet we do nothing

When you look at these people from Trump on down, they are disgusting.  They are the worst of America and I am still trying to understand how my country could take the worst we have to offer and put in them in charge.  And even worse, their worst qualities are just being magnified in the light of day and conservatives do not rebel in disgust.  I hope this nightmare ends soon.

Connect the Fucking Dots!

Two reports.  First, the White House prevented CNN, Politico, and the New York Times from attending the White House News brief.  This is how totalitarian governments operate.  The rest should have walked out.  Apparently they still don’t get it yet.  You are attending a propaganda session and truth is not going to happen.  Quit covering any of this live.  I don’t watch that briefing or anything President Cheeto-Head is on because it is just a long list of lies and propaganda. Ignore the State of the Union.

Second, MSNBC did a report today about California farmers in the Central Valley ( produces 1/4 of all produce in this country) who voted for Trump and were now concerned about his immigration policy destroying their labor.  How fucking stupid can you be?  The nice thing is that their votes did not count as the popular vote in California was overwhelmingly for Hillary, but they elect conservative Congressmen who helped block immigration reform all those years ago that they are now crying out for.  No I do not want to understand their problems or listen to them.  They don’t understand their own problems or how they hurt themselves.

We have entered the Twilight Zone where it just amazes me that these people who want fewer regulations and lower taxes cannot connect the fucking dots.  Enjoy your choice.

The Real Fight Finale

A continuation of the discussion in The Real Fight, and The Real Fight Part 2

The current political situation is in chaos.  Democrats were shattered in the last election and Republicans have a leader that is certainly not a Republican, but a populist with Republican leanings.  There is all kinds of nationalism and autocracy in play on the Republican side besides the economic arguments.  But the Nationalism and autocracy that is part of Steve Bannon’s philosophy are really a harking back to times that no longer exist.  Democrats see a more integrated and diverse society whereas Republicans see chaos if the old order is not restored.  But Trump won on the economic argument as reliable Democrtic working class voters bought into Donald Trump’s lies about restoring jobs and renegotiating trade agreements.  Democrats are navel gazing right now trying to figure out what went wrong.  Sadly a lot of this discussion is about listening and engaging more with the white middle America and sounds an awful lot like pandering.  “Well after all Hillary did win the popular vote.”  Frank Bruni put it this way this morning:

Have Democrats learned and implemented all the right lessons from Trump’s victory and from the party’s brutal fade during Barack Obama’s presidency? As the race for the D.N.C. chairmanship lurches toward its conclusion later this month and as Democratic lawmakers sweat the smartest strategy against Trump, I wonder. I worry…They routinely remind me and reassure themselves that Clinton won the popular vote and that if you subtract James Comey, Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin, she might have triumphed as well in the Electoral College, where Trump prevailed by just 77,000 votes…This is no moment for mere tinkering, and the party can’t afford the internal divisions on display in the D.N.C. race. After Joe Biden endorsed Perez last week, Bernie Sanders, who supports Ellison, shot back, “Do we stay with a failed status quo approach or do we go forward with a fundamental restructuring?”

Timothy Egan put it this way on one Saturday:

The way out is not that difficult. Yes, they should engage in hand-to-hand combat in the capital. And certainly, Democrats must turn to the courts when the rule of law is broken. But they have to be for something, as well — a master policy narrative, promoting things that help average Americans. The old Broadway adage was how it will play in Peoria. For Democrats, they should think of Joe Biden’s Scranton, Pa., every time they take to a podium.

My point is that we have to take on all Republicans, not just because they are supporting Cheeto-Head, but more importantly because they have their economics wrong, and with that, just about everything else.  Their brand of the Fifth Freedom (freedom of the market place) is tainting everything and as we get the economics wrong, the world is ripe for Trumps and blaming which leads to all the racism, nativism, xenophobia, and division in this country.  Democrats need to take on the Republican ideas about the economy and change the narrative around the Fifth Freedom. Just being against Cheeto-Head won’t change anything (see Hillary’s campaign). Thankfully James Kwak came along to do that for us.  So I am going to give you a short couple of paragraphs course on where James took us in his book, Economism:  Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality.  I really recommend you read it.

His basic premise is that the lessons we learned in Econ 101 about supply and demand (In a competitive economy, prices automatically direct effort and investment where they can do the most good— a feat that no government agency can match) are models and concepts in a perfect system that do not apply when markets aren’t perfect and the players aren’t rational.  Or said another way, welcome to the real world.  It is just a logical construct that needs to be adapted to real world complexities.

Here in his own words is that premise:

This invocation of basic economics lessons to explain all social phenomena is economism.  It rests on the premise that people, companies, and markets behave according to the abstract, two-dimensional illustrations of an Economics 101 textbook, even though the assumptions behind those diagrams [supply and demand curves] virtually never hold true in the real world…And while superficial economic arguments can serve multiple purposes, in today’s world they most often justify the existing social order— and the inequality that it generates— while explaining the futility of any attempt to change it.

…the conclusion that we must accept [according to economism] is that the world is as it is, because our attempts to make it better are doomed to fail…[we need] only to accept the principles of Economics 101. This makes economism a supremely convenient tool for the 0.1 percent, the perfect comeback to the Occupy Wall Street protesters. You understand why well-meaning do-gooders want to make taxes more progressive, subsidize health care, provide free higher education, and regulate Wall Street. But they simply don’t understand economics.

…My goal is not to show that one side is right and the other is wrong, but to demonstrate that an unwavering adherence to simplistic models has had a pernicious impact on debates and policies that affect hundreds of millions of people. Most of the time, that impact has the effect of increasing inequality or legitimizing the inequality generated by our economic system.

It is a self-serving philosophy for the conservatives and you hear them argue it every day. Professor Kwak then presents Econ 101 basic concepts and then annihilates them in the real world. Real economists, not shills for the status quo, believe in markets in general, but “they are continuously identifying instances of market failure and then designing government policy responses that can make these markets work better (Mark Thoma).”  See the tension here?  Conservatives and many Democrats who bought into this stuff, want government out of the market place (the Fifth Freedom) and they use Econ 101 arguments (Economism) to show that the government will only screw it up.  The reality is just opposite, but it is complex and most of us don’t do complex.

A great  example of he application of Economism is to the arguments around raising the minimum wage.  In the perfect world of Econ 101, markets find the right price to employ the most people.  Using supply and demand curves you can argue that raising the minimum wage (government interference) simply results in some getting higher wages, but fewer employed.  On the other hand the real result in the real world is a mixed bag depending on many other factors.

Take a store like Starbucks. Most of its clients are affluent and are more than willing to pay the few cents added to their cup of coffee for passing that wage hike onto the customers.  And in instances where it does cause a decrease in employment, it raises many more out of poverty.  So unlike conservatives who believe it is an open and shut argument, it is really a complex issue. Note President Cheeto-Head (Lord Commander Marmalade from Trae Crowder) has told us he is against minimum wages all together.  That is where Economism will get you.  The market will find the right wages to emply the most people. Slaves worked out so well for the South.

Healthcare is my favorite, as Paul Ryan was out spouting all the Economism arguments that the free market would provide health insurance tailored to the individual needs of the market place at the most reasonable price.  Choice and competition became the magic words that would end all our health care woes. Just get the government out of it. There is only one problems with all this.  Reality tells us that health care does not behave like any other market.  We do not incur medical expenses regularly, and we don’t have the medical knowledge to decide the best course for our own care.

The Economics 101 model in which financial incentives turn people into discerning consumers turns out not to work in the real world.”  And here is the thing, before Obamacare we had a system that did not work.  Were we paying attention?  I could make arguments that the business model for Health Insurance companies make them the customer to be served, not the person needing health care, but you get the drift.  In a perfect world it might work, but in our world, every other country has seen the light and moved to single payer systems while we still make Economism arguments.  These systems are not perfect but they provide universal care at a cheaper cost and with better outcomes than our system.

Anyway you get the point here.  Economism arguments make perfect sense and appeal to all of us, but then when applied to reality where the complexities of the markets are not examined, in many cases they give us just the opposite answer to what will actually work.  Professor Kwak takes us through Supply Side economics, free markets in the banking industry, and free trade to show how the arguments of Economism fail, yet we continue to buy into them for simple answers.  Again I have a favorite and that is free trade.

Economism will tell you that international trade simply is a win-win. There is a thing called the theory of comparative advantage which I am not going to go into here, but it basically shows that in the aggregate, trade is always good.  But we just had an election where trade agreements became the bogey man.  Conventional Republicans are free traders (as are many establishment Democrats) and Trump and Bernie were very popular being against it.  So what gives?  Well two things.  First, as always reality is more complex than theory.  If you look at NAFTA, in the aggregate we gained, cheaper products and more trade increasing net GDP.  But the local effects were horrendous, with a loss of jobs in the portion of our population with blue-collar workers, and the least likely to find new work.  In a word, it increased economic inequality.

When a rich country like the United States increases trade with a poor country, some industries will lose jobs because of competition from cheaper foreign labor. This can mean concentrated layoffs in specific sectors, as has happened to American manufacturing. Although those job losses may be balanced by gains in other parts of the economy, longtime assembly-line workers at automotive parts manufacturers in the Midwest cannot easily get hired by New Jersey pharmaceutical companies or Silicon Valley software firms…Within a rich country, in short, the primary winners are people who are already well-off, and therefore one result of increased trade with poor countries is greater inequality within the U.S. workforce.

Then there is the China effect:

“The reality of adjustment to the China trade shock has been far different. Offsetting employment gains either in export-oriented tradables or in non-tradables have, for the most part, failed to materialize.”…the fact that the U.S. economy has adjusted to Chinese competition so slowly and imperfectly calls into question the simple case for free trade.

In other words we get and buy into the Economism arguments and then reality tells us it is a much more mixed and complex picture.  The Establishment, both Democrats and Republicans were supporting trade agreements on Economism arguments when the people rebelled.  And that is the lesson I am trying to get across here.  The problem is not the man, Donald Trump, although he is a true threat to democracy.  The problem is that we as Progressive and Democrats have not challenged Economism as it has been applied to almost every political argument we see by conservatives and are winning those arguments.  Instead, every time Democrats have a big loss they start pandering to kinder gentler Economism.  It is time to take these ideas head on and fight them on the ideological battle field the conservatives have set up and are winning.  It is only when we finally expose these falsehoods and complexities can we progress.

Thank you James Kwak for taking us on an ideological journey to show how we have been duped.

 

Quickie*

Paul Krugman has a nice piece on the Republicans screwing themselves into the ground trying to replace Obamacare.  I always laugh at this because if you can add and subtract you can figure out the only real improvement is a single payer system.  You know, Medicare for everyone.  If you want all the bennies (coverage for pre-existing conditions, keeping your kids on till 26, minimum requirements for coverage) then you have to pay for it and that requires mandatory insurance or the prices climb out of sight. In other words you have to spread the risk and costs around.  But Republicans scream “Freedom!” You should be able to buy the policy that best suits your needs and the market place will provide you with the lowest costs through the magic of competition.  Right.

But I thought of an analogy maybe some of our slower citizens could get.  If you drive a car, you have to have automobile insurance.  Okay, granted you can choose not to drive a car, but everyone drives a car so almost everyone has car insurance.  All states set minimum coverage so that if you get into an accident you can be financially responsible.  Now let’s just say for a moment that Republicans decided we needed “freedom” from those nasty requirements.  Let you just buy coverage that you felt you needed and no more.  Well I am young with great reflexes or I am old and drive very carefully therefore I only need coverage for my two bumpers.  How do think that would work out?

This is not rocket science.  We all need healthcare and it should not bankrupt us.  We have had a nice free ride on the backs of business, but that is starting to show its limitations.  Medicare controls costs better than the private industry even with all the rules about not negotiating for drugs that Congress put on it to protect their buddies in big Pharma.  Obamacare has problems, of which the Republicans have made worse by describing it as collapsing and doing everything in their power to see that the exchanges do collapse including telling the insurance industry they are going to end it.  If you really want to fix it, and you can add and subtract, the numbers tell you how:  Medicare for everyone.  Another no duh moment from your friendly California blogger.

*Note that I have tried to find a thumbnail picture in each blog to give a visual representation of the content of the blog.  I just could not find one for Quickie that was not obscene.

Appealing to White America?

Yesterday there was an op-ed by David  Leonhardt regarding the advice by Steve Phillips that Democrats should move left, not back to the center to “attract the white flight”.  Mr. Phillips as I quoted him in Monday Morning on Tuesday, pointed out that the Democrats lost more to third parties and staying home than to Republicans.  Mr Leonhardt doesn’t agree, but doesn’t present any evidence and then gives us this:

Phillips is right that the Democrats would be crazy to alienate the growing voting groups, such as millennials, Latinos andAsian-Americans, that now support the party so strongly. The answer for the party is almost surely more complex than simply moving to the right. Instead, it likely revolves around an economic message that appeals to both center and left.

But if Democrats want to return to power — not just in the White House, but in Congress and at the state level too — they need a strategy that appeals to more white voters.

Here is what bothers me with that, Leonhardt does not get that being Progressive as Bernie was, does appeal to them.  Progressivism is a strategy more complex than just moving right.  It addresses the real reality of our economic world and offers solutions. But as we will seen, many are recommending just that, moving right.

Here is Nicholas Kristof explaining why we should not alienate these voters:

I understand the vehemence. Trump is a demagogue who vilifies and scapegoats refugees, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, racial minorities, who strikes me as a danger to our national security. By all means stand up to him, and point out his lies and incompetence. But let’s be careful about blanket judgments.

My hometown, Yamhill, Ore., a farming community, is Trump country, and I have many friends who voted for Trump. I think they’re profoundly wrong, but please don’t dismiss them as hateful bigots.

The glove factory closed down. The timber business slimmed. Union jobs disappeared. Good folks found themselves struggling and sometimes self-medicated with methamphetamine or heroin. Too many of my schoolmates died early; one, Stacy Lasslett, died of hypothermia while she was homeless.

This is part of a national trend: Mortality rates for white middle-aged Americans have risen, reflecting working-class “deaths of despair.” Liberals purport to champion these people, but don’t always understand them.

In Yamhill, plenty of well-meaning people were frustrated enough that they took a gamble on a silver-tongued provocateur. It wasn’t because they were “bigoted unthinking lizard brains,” but because they didn’t know where to turn and Trump spoke to their fears.

But I am with one of his readers who Tweeted, “Sorry, but if someone is supporting a racist ignoramus who wants to round up brown ppl and steal my money, I’m gonna patronize.”  He wants us to understand them and forgive them for their vote as though their economic anxiety and situation somehow legitimizes voting for a “racist ignoramus,” not to mention a pathological liar, misogynist, and autocrat.  If you looked the other way because you are feeling anxious you are a racist, misogynist, nativist, pining for autocracy, you are enabling it and are one.  But Charles Blow gave us this, this morning and I think it sums it up:

So, then as now, economic anxiety and throbbing xenophobia were convenient shields behind which brewing racial animus could hide. Indeed, Trump’s slogan “Make American Great Again” was first used by Reagan.  And yet, Democrats in 1984 were quick to look for the lessons they could learn on how to reach out to the Reagan coalition, instead of condemning it.

In the days following Reagan’s win that year, The New York Times reported:  “Democratic Party leaders began yesterday what they foresee as a long and agonizing appraisal of how they can renew their appeal to the white majority in presidential elections and still hold the allegiance of minorities, the poor and others who seek federal assistance.”

Trump is rushing headlong into Muslim bans and mass deportations, wall building and Obamacare dismantling. Indeed, it feels like the campaign promises Trump is keeping have to do with cruelty and those he’s flip-flopping on have to do with character.

For instance, it is now abundantly clear that Trump had no intention whatsoever of draining the swamp in Washington. He is simply restocking it to his liking.

This is why I have no patience for liberal talk of reaching out to Trump voters. There is no more a compromise point with those who accept, promote and defend bigotry, misogyny and xenophobia than there is a designation of “almost pregnant.”

Trump is a cancer on this country and resistance is the remedy. The Trump phenomenon is devoid of compassion, and we must be closed to compromise.

Amen to that.  Thank you Charles. We cannot normalize or legitmize what was done in the name of economic pain or we too enable racists, nativists, xenophopes, anti-intellectualism, and just flat ignorance.

Job Creators, Immigration, Crazy, and real Conservatives

It is reported that Cheeto-Head is meeting with “job creators” this morning.  Oh, how to approach this?  The “Economism” theory is that if you reduce taxes and regulations making it cheaper for firms to operate, they will hire.  It is supply side economics.  If we build it, they will buy it. Now for reality.  They won’t buy it unless they have disposable income.  That is demand economics.  Further even with lower costs, if there is no market, why produce?  You can make more money investing in financial instruments. If Cheeto-Head wants to meet with job creators he would meet with those who support a livable minimum wage, a real infrastructure bill, and institute a single payer system for health care producing more disposable income for the majority of us.

On immigration reform, we have Cheeto-Head’s roundup program.  If you are going to deport the criminals, well great right?  However they “vastly expand the definition of ‘criminal aliens’ and warn that such unauthorized immigrants ‘routinely victimize Americans,’ disregard the ‘rule of law and pose a threat’ to people in communities across the United States.”  Hey, that works right?  Well, Deamers and others will not be targeted unless they commit crimes.  Ah, there’s the rub.

President Obama’s edict was “serious crimes”.  Getting a social security or a driver’s license (in states that don’t issue them to undocumented persons) means assuming a false identity.  Out you go.  So basically if you are an undocumented person and you work requiring a social security number, and you did not get one through one of the exemptions President Obama issued for Dreamers.  You committed a crime.

Oh, and here is the real linch pin in this mess.  Cheeto-Head will need tens of billions of dollars approved by Congress and then years to hire and train new legions of enforcement agents.  Most of what you are going to gather at first are innocent law biding undocumented workers and their families in an act of what only has to be described as inhumane and approaching the roundup of the jews.  It will legitimize violence toward immigrants, and it will pit state and city against the federal government.  And the impact on our economy to do this is estimated to be around $381.5 billion to $623.2 billion. This translates to a 2.9 percent to 4.7 percent reduction in total annual output from the private sector, not to mention the billions to actually ramp up to do this.  So it is all insanity.

Speaking of insanity,on Lawrence O’Donnell last night were were two psychologists, Dr. John Gartner, a psychotherapist affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University Medical School,  and  Dr. Lance Dodes,  assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who wrote the letter signed by 34 other psychotherapists to the NYT saying Cheeto-Head was mentally unfit for office. They first demolished the gag rule of their professional organization that says they should not comment on anyone they have not personally interviewed.  Dr. Gartner made the argument that this was crazy, and in fact personal interviews are more misleading than observing actual behavior, and there is plenty of behavior to observe. Further, they have a overrididing responsibility to warn us.  Here is what they had to say:

Dr. Gartner:  “I would argue to my colleagues that those who don’t speak out are being unethical. If we have some knowledge and understanding about the unique danger that Donald Trump presents through our psychiatric training and don’t say something about it, History is not going to judge us kindly…If we could construct a psychiatric Frankenstein monster, we could not create a leader more dangerously mentally ill than Donald Trump. He is a paranoid, psychopathic, narcissist who is divorced from reality nd lashes out impulsively at his imagined enemies. And this is someone as you said who is handling the nuclear codes.”

Dr. Dodes:  “He lies because of his sociopathic tendencies that Dr. Gartner was talking about. He lies in the way anybody who scams people does. He’s tried to sell an idea or a product by telling you something that is untrue. … There is also the kind of lie he has that in a way is more serious; that he has a loose grip on reality. We can say that because he lies about things that aren’t that important… I think what that indicates is that he can’t stand an aspect of reality that he doesn’t want. So he rejects it. His grasp of reality, his attention to reality is loose, an extremely dangerous trait in a president. It actually makes him unqualified.”

Enough said.  You have been warned.

Finally Conservatism. George Will, who drives me crazy, was on Lawrence O’Donnell last night to explain why he left the Republican party last summer as it had become a party that no longer embodied conservative ideals.  George was quite willing to lambast Cheeto-Head way back when, and then watched the whole Republican machine be turned over to him, including the Murdock enterprise from which he was fired.  Now I could argue with George about his conservative beliefs, but it would be a real argument because George is a real intellectual.  I think he is wrong, but he is worth listening to.  Basically he wants small government, free market places, andno deficits, and he sees neither with what George sees as a political sociopath.  Here is the video and it should raise in you mind what the Republican Party has become, a pandering mob to power at any cost:


So just another day where the members of the asylum are now running it.