Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who will be the GOP's 2012 Presidential Candidate

First, let me state that the best the GOP has to offer - Senator Rubio of Florida, has already declined to run.  Rubio is Intelligent, Hispanic, conservative, beat an incumbent Republican in both the primary and the major election.  He has solid GOP qualifications: anti-abortion, anti-stimulus, pro balanced budget, anti gay, pro-business (tax, lawsuits), anti-climate change, pro NRA, etc.    All the things I dislike (except the balanced budget - but he is against taxes which I consider the only way to actually balanced the budget.).  Yet I still am impressed by him.  He comes off sounding wise and reasonable, and focuses on important things instead of the lunatic minor things that seem to obsess Palin,  Bachmann, Beck, Trump (really, a birther that can't even find his own Birth Certificate without help???).  One of the wisest things he has done is to decide not to run against Obama.  Incumbents always have a huge advantage, and despite the desperate pleas of certain GOP prognosticators, he is leading fairly well.  The economy has officially recovered, even if it is a relatively jobless recovery, the majority of the population is against a total repeal of Obamacare, the stimulus and Tarp have proven effective (in that they were loans and the money has been returned).  Most of all, the GOP keep coming out and admiting they were wrong about him.   He has not suddenly outlawed guns.  He has not endangered American security by being weak (in fact he started another war).   Failing an unforeseen disaster, Obama is going to come out pretty good, and I expect him to easily defeat the GOP challenger, whoever it is.

Now for the list.   First we have the Zeros.  These are people that have zero experience politics, but they (or their fans) think they can win a nomination, let alone a general election. I am not going to bother saying the many reasons why they can't win in 2012.  It's the same reason why I can't win an Olympic gold medal in skiing (and I have been skiing since I was 8).  Donald Trump leads right now, mainly based on name recognition - before a campaign begins nobody knows anything about candidates, so they pick the most famous name that they think is the right general direction.    Now, these Zeros could run for Senate or Governor, win, then run for President in 2016.  But they are not 2012 candidates.
  1. Donald Trump.  The Millionaire.   
  2. Glenn Beck.  The Paranoid
  3. Rush Limbaugh.   The Joker

Next comes the Self-Inflicted wounded. These are people that the "left" laugh at.  They won't steal any Democrat votes, and frankly they don't have much of a shot with the independents.   They have the same problem that Hillary Clinton had - if you liked her, you really liked her, but if you don't, you hated her. 

  1. Newt Gingrich.  Cheater. Destroyed himself with suicidal combo of pro-family values and mulitple affairs with multiple wives
  2. Sarah Palin.  Quitter.  Has a rep for being folksy but not intelligent.   Too many bad quotes out there.  She won't win, anymore than Hillary Clinton did.   Pretty gets you attention, but doesn't win the game.
  3. Michele Bachmann.  Mud slinger.  Has a reputation for publicly stating rumors that are just plain wrong.  When the GOP has some ridiculous statement that can't be proven, but they know their core constituents will believe, they get Michele to say it.   From birther stuff to false information about the finances of presidential trips, Michele is there to sling the mud.  This reputation has killed any chance of her winning the Primary.
  4. Rudy Guiliani.  Former Mayor of New York City.  I lived in Manhattan while Guiliani was mayor.   He started as a tough prosecutor, and ended up with the police hating his guts.   Trust me, this man makes enemies as quickly as he makes friends.  He makes Dick Cheney look cuddly.  September 11 rescued him from obscurity, but it won't win him the presidency - at least not a decade later.
Next comes the mystery men.  These are people that have a serious shot at the nomination, but are lacking the name recognition that Trump the Zeros have.  Unfortunately, I suspect that is mainly because we don't know them well enough to object.
  1. Mitch Daniels. Governor of Indian.  Has gone against the GOP party and increased income taxes.  He also busted unions before it was popular. Smart man, but no way will the GOP let elect someone that raised income taxes.  On the other hand he did cut property tax and raised sales tax (property tax is on the rich, sales tax is on the poor, because the poor don't own property but spend all their cash, while the rich save their cash in investments not subject to sales tax).  He also was arrested for possession of marijuana, LSD and other drugs, but plead it down to common nuisance. He also signed a state healthcare bill - counts against him for GOP.  Finally, he convinced a state walkout of Democrats to return, but supported Wisconsin GOP in their walkout.   Daniels has just a few two many negatives - taxes and drugs.   Maybe in 2016, but that depends on a lot of other stuff.
  2. Mike Huckabee.  Former Governor of Arkansas.  Heavily conservative on social issues.   Pro intelligent design, anti abortion, etc.  Only strays on environmental- and not that much.  Does have some (for a republican, any is interesting) support among blacks and unions.   I see him losing again in 2012 to Romney, but being a contender for 2016 primary.
  3. Jon Huntsman. US ambassador to China, Former Governor of Utah, The 'other' Mormon.  (See Romney below for the religious issue.)  Low visibility, but that is what a Primary is for.  Can clearly work with Democrats (Appointed by Obama to Ambassador).  Good manager - under him Utah was considered one of the best states to do business in multiple times.  Moderate socially, conservative financially.  Has gone against the GOP party - climate, immigration, and gays issues.  Still anti-abortion and pro gun control. But the GOP is big on dogma right now, and that hurts him.
  4. Tim Pawlenty. Former Governor of Minnesota.  He is a real social conservative, pro-life, anti gay. etc.  He wants to cut Social Securty and Medicare, something that will kill his election.   Worse, he trails in Conservative polls after Mitt Romney.   If the GOP decides to continue with the "No Compromise", pull the country to the Right, they will go with him - and lose.  The SS issue will probably kill him in an election, but he could win the Primary.
  5. Mitt Romney.  The Mormon.  Former Governor of Massachusetts. Front runner in most serious polls for the GOP.   The guy that used to be pro choice, pro-healthcare etc. but flip-flopped to stay a "Republican".   But I am not sure America will elect a Mormon.  They are wonderful people, and frankly I don't think their story of Jesus coming to North America is any more ridiculous than the Roman Catholic version.  But they have a reputation of being a little bit prudish and "culty" (undeserved).  Americans like our religion a little more mainstream.  The only thing that might stop Romney from winning the GOP Primary is that they may think him a flip-flopper. 

Note, I think Rubio is the best man not running, Jon Huntsman is the best of the GOP candidates.  But the GOP already lost to Obama using a "Maverick Moderate".   So my call is Romney wins the Primary (and loses the election).  Rubio or Huntsman might be the President after Obama's Second Term, assuming one of them can beat Huckabee in the 2016 primary.

I do think that Rubio has a good shot to be the Vice President candidate

    Monday, April 25, 2011

    The Family Financial Criss

    There is a large family I know.

    The Father works in sales (for commission). He used to work extra long hours but hated it.  So now he works just the average 40 hour week  The mother works too - but in a much lower paying job.  They need two pay-checks because their expense are high.  The father is responsible for over 75% of the pay-check.

    Grandma is in a nursing home and Junior is at College - a cheap public school, not an expensive private university.  In fact, he lives at home (rent free), to save money.

    They used to own, but the real estate market fell apart and hit them hard.  Now they rent their place, in a very safe neighborhood.  The father insists he wants to keep his family safe and they therefore pay extra for a gated community with a private security force.

    They have a lot of debt, but up till now they have been paying it off.

    Here are some numbers:

    They currently owe v13,562
    Each year they overspend by about v1294

    Their budget looks like this:

    Grandma's nursing home = v701
    Medical insurance: = v793
    Rent for the high end safe community = v689
    Food, and other mandatory (but still cut-able) expenses = v416
    Discretionary (mostly consists of lots of small purchases)  - this includes junior's school costs which are only about = v660
    Total Interest they pay on the debt v197

    Total payments each year are about v3,456

    Note that they make less than v2,162.  They are clearly in trouble.

    Here is some background information, about 10 years ago, father worked a lot of overtime.  He hated it, but when he was doing that, their yearly deficit was only v18 instead of v1653.  (of course, back then they only owed about v5,674).  In fact they thought they were going to get out of debt by now.

    The family had arguments before about two main things:  1.  Their large payments for Grandma.  2.  Their large housing payments for a safe neighborhood.  3.  Their large health insurance payments.   Grandma has ALWAYS been a clear winner.  Everyone loves her.

    So, what should they do?

    Here are the proposed solutions.

    1.  Father could reduce his hours even more and use that time to look for a better paying job.
    2.  They could take Grandma out of the nursing home and care for her at home.  Note, Grandma has treatment needs and no one at home has the training to care for her correctly.  Perhaps she would be OK.
    3.  They could move to a cheaper neighborhood and risk the higher crime rate
    4.  They could stop paying Junior's college, stop going to the movies (other discretionary funding), and demand Junior pay rent or get out.
    5.  Father could go back to working overtime like he used to.  He hated his life doing that and always complained.

    Also note even if you eliminate all discretionary funding (v660) and Junior pays what rent he can, they still won't match the shortfall.  #4 alone can't solve the problem.  #1 is a crap shoot.  Maybe father will get a better paying job - but keep in mind that the last time he tried that he ended up with a WORSE job, not a better one. 

    Be honest, what would you choose.  I would recommend Father go back to overtime and they move out of the gated community.  If they do these two things, they have the best shot of returning to a manageable debt

    The bright young men and women out there will have already realised that I have summarised the US government's debt problem.

    Here is my cheat sheet:
    v = billions of dollars
    Rent at gated community = defense spending.
    Grandma's nursing home = Social Security
    Medical insurance = Medicare & Medicaid
    Food and other mandatory (but cut-able) expense = non-discretionary budget items
    Junior's college payments are all the social programs Democrats love.
    Discretionary = discretionary budget

    Junior paying rent would be raising taxes on the poor
    Father working overtime = taxes on the rich.

    The rest is pretty obvious.

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    New Flat Tax Idea

    There are several conservative "Flat Tax" ideas out there.  They all suffer from huge flaws that instantly tax poor people far more than the wealthy (which we already do, but they make it worse.)

    They have the benefit of simplifying things, which of course lets complex people get around them.  For example, they might give a flat tax on every penny earned, but forget about sales tax, property taxes, social security, medicare, etc. all of which hit the poor much harder than income tax.  Then there is the purely sales tax method, which works great if like most rich people, you save 99% of your money.

    So I hereby propose a simple "Flat Tax" idea that is a bit more liberal.  For all of you schmucks out there that think 'simplicity' is great, try this one.  (Note, I got this idea from an earlier post - to solve the defecit by adding a new tax on 500 million + people.  This modification replaces federal income tax with a similar but larger idea.)

    The estimated net worth for all US citizens in 2008 was about $63 Trillion dollars.  The IRS collects about $2.4 trillion dollars for tax year 2008.

    So, a flat Net Worth tax of about 4% should cover the taxes.

    Assuming we were to do this, then suddenly most tax inequalities vanish.  Yes, the wealthiest 25% of US households own 87% of the wealth, but guess what, that means they are paying 87% of the taxes.

    The major problems are as follows:

    1. It tremendously encourages spending - and more importantly, renting.   Middle class starts selling their homes and renting out palatial palaces instead.  Better to spend that money now, as opposed to save later.
    2. Lots of things are hard to value - or worse, there are multiple values.  Do you value a stock at what it is selling for per share, or at the book value?  Worse, private companies can be worth a lot on paper and not much at auction (or vice versa).
    3. Privacy invasion - the IRS no longer knows only what you do (and how much you earn), but now knows EVERYTHING you own. 
    4. Illiquid and indivisible investments create large tax payments without generating cash.

    Solution 1:  Simply continue the existing exemptions in some modified form (Retirement plans, medical saving plans, and housing exemptions) .

    Solution 2: can be solved by declaring that the income reporter can choose whatever value they wish to state, but are legally required to sell the item at 10% above that price (exception for everything exempted in Solution 1 - including your home).

    Solution 3:  The privacy issue could be ameliorated by harsher penalties for IRS information misuse.

    Solution 4: can be dealt with by either using retirement funds, an ETF like system, and/or a multi-year payment system whereby you taxes are delay-able for up to 10 years, depending on the investment. That is, if it is very illiquid and indivisible, then you can pay 20% at the end of 5 years instead of 4% every year.  If the investment goes up, this nets the government more tax, if it goes down, it saves you tax.

    Now think about this world.   The poor no longer have to bear the brunt of the taxation.  No longer will Mr. Buffet (who earns almost everything via capital gains), pay a smaller percentage than his servants.  In addition, there will in effect be no capital gain problem any more. It will be taxed at the same rate as wealth added by working.  At the same time, an investment that loses money automatically reduces your wealth and therefore the amount of tax you owe.

    I am not seriously proposing that this idea be America's only tax system - but it is far better than most other flat tax ideas I have seen.

    Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    Better to be Loved than Feared...

    Machiavelli's question still resounds.  Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? His answer was best to be both.  Then he added that you can't make someone love you, but you can make others fear you.  To this he added a  warning to avoid being hated, implying that to be feared and hated is worse than not to be feared.

    The issue that Machiavelli discusses is a complex one that still reverberates.  A more modern conservative take on the issue is: "A leader should  be strong", with strength being equated to feared, and weak being equated to loved.  A more modern liberal take on the issue is "Tyrants are worse than civilized leaders", with tyrants being feared and civilized being loved.

    Like Machiavelli, I agree that the best leader should have some aspects of both - be both strong and civilized, while avoiding the extremes of weakness or tyrannical.

    That said, I see it as a continuum:  Tyrant - Strong - Civilized - Weak.   If you are between Strong and Civilized, you are doing a good job.  If you get to feared you become a Tyrant, or too Loved, you become Weak.  Strength flows from fear of being beaten, civilization from bravery and a willingness to take a chance.

    So, how does someone identifying where a leader is on the spectrum.

    First, remember it is a continuum. In addition,how strong/civilized you should be depends in part on what you are dealing with.  If you are dealing with a Hitler/Stalin, you need more strength then with a Chamberlain.  That means if you are the strongest political leader of all the countries you have issues with, that means you are very likely to be too strong - a Tyrant.  Similarly, if you are the most civilized leader of all the countries you are dealing with, you are likely to be too weak.

    The United States for example has been acting very strong for the past 10 years.  We got scared and went for strength.  This is a common reaction - fear leads to a desire to be feared.  Civilization requires bravery.
    Gitmo, multiple wars in the middle east, etc.  As such, the US President has to watch out and to avoid being a tyrant.  Right now, he is being forced by congress and internal politics to keep Gitmo and to do military trials.

    Second, remember that secrecy is the friend of the extremists.  If you are afraid of what others will think of your actions, then you recognize that others think you are wrong and that you think their might be bad consequences for you.   This is a huge warning sign of extremism - both tyrants and weak leaders don't want others to know how tyrannical or weak they are.  In addition, a true leader will care more about doing what is right than about the personal consequences.  While sometimes a government needs to act in secret - that should only be done to allow the action to succeed.  If any part of the desire for secrecy is to protect the people from moral judgment, that is a huge warning sign of the Tyrant (while weak leaders want secrecy, usually they are too weak to keep it.)

    Third, remember that the desire for Strength comes from fear, and the desire for Civilization comes from bravery.  So you need to ask yourself what are you afraid of (or not afraid of).  If logically the thing you are afraid of is ridiculous, tone down the strength.  If logically you are being overconfident, then stop being quite so civilized.  Ideas like "my opponent can not beat me" = weak.  Ideas like "my opponent, even though he lives in a cave and I live in a high tech electronic command center can strike me and I can't hurt them" = tyranical.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Political Basics

    Politicians have three core reasons for doing anything.

    1. Convince undecided/opponents to vote for them.
    2. Convince their base to support them (both money and to show for the vote).
    3. Convince your opponent to vote for your bill.

    To do these three simple things, they have three simple mechanism.

    To convince undecided you have to make plausible and moving arguments.   They don't have to be true or logical, just plausible.    However, what is plausible over the short term is not always plausible over the long term.  For example, the Obama's plan to close Guantánamo was plausible when he said it, but not now.   Similarly, many of the McCain's claims of Obama's military naivety was more plausible but it isn't going to be made this year.  They also have to be moving.   Discussing dry facts does nothing,

    Note, plausible and moving statements are what the main stream (both liberal and moderate) media respect.   They are considered 'high brow' and important by the movers and shakers.   It is also what they expect in 'ivory towers'.   Your opponents watch these carefully, they need to be countered.

    Next is the appeal to the base.  Your goal here is FEAR.   Plausible is a detriment here.  This is why you have idiots claiming that Bush knew about/participated in 9/11 and that Obama is not a citizen.  It is the speciality of people like Rush L., Glenn B., S. Colbert, and J. Stewart  These people already believe in you, your goal is to motivate them to give cash and time, not to convince them.  More importantly, when the fears fail to manifest, you can say "With your help, we STOPPED them.  Give more please."  The main stream media despises appeals to the base, because the less truth in them, the more effective.    I should state that I am proud of the fact that Colbert and Stewart recognise that what they say is implausible.  But the function they serve is pretty much the same as Rush and Glenn - to talk about ridiculous things, motivating the base.

    Finally to convince your opponents to vote for your bill is very difficult.  There are really only two techniques.  One is compromise - give up part of what you want to get the rest.  The other is to ask for more than you want and pretend to compromise by giving up your 'extra' stuff.  Note, often you choose a spokesman that is 'out of the loop' and does not know if you are actually compromising as opposed to pretending to compromise.

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Government Shutdown redux

    Well, it looks like I was right the Republicans do want a shut down.  The sticking point is that in this 'budget bill', they put in controversial stuff, sure to be rejected.   The most obvious one is the rider denying government funding for cancer screening and similar (non-abortion related) health activities at any facility owned by Planned Parenthood.  Note, they are willing to pay for the cancer screening, just not at a Planned Parenthood center.

    When confronted with their obvious disregard for playing fair, republicans respond "Why do Democrats care more about Planned Parenthood then the budget".  When confronted with the fact that the rider does NOT in fact reduce the budget - the money can (and will) be spent on other issues, they respond "So what - why won't you accept this minor issue to get the budget approved".

    The answer is quite simple.   Consider a marriage in financial trouble.  They have real budget issues, owing hundreds of thousands of dollars they can't pay back.  The wife and husband meet to discuss the issues and they mostly come to an agreement.  Then the husband demands the wife sells her drum set at a garage sale for pennies.  Keep in mind that he has been complaining about the drum noise all year.  

    Any reasonable person can easily see it is the husbands fault here.

    When trying to get a contentious emergency budget bill passed, you don't bring up hot button issues.

    It is without any doubt that the Republicans are trying to sabotage the budget process.  In fact, I could not think of a better way for them to try.  The equivalent move by the Democrats would be to put a rider creating a 25% federal sales tax  on gun purchases. Such a tax would be a horrible idea - almost as bad as the Planned Parenthood exclusion that the GOP has insisted on. The GOP brought in Parent Parenthood because they want a shut down.

    Personally, I think the Republicans are going to regret pushing a government shut down.  It will remind people of all the things they LIKE about government, without saving much money. (see previous blog).

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Are we Conservative?

    Every couple of years, a new pole comes out and states that more Americans are conservative than liberal.   This is true.   Which is why the conservative party, Democrats, won the 2008 presidential election.

    What, but wait, everyone knows the Republicans are conservatives.   Well, I hate to tell you, but so are the Democrats.

    America, has two parties:  The Democrats, a moderate party, slightly conservative and slight Authoritative, and the Republicans, a far right, radical conservative, extremely Authoritative party.  (Authoritative means the opposite of Libertarian).   The democrats are only 'liberal' (and by the way, libertarian)  in relationship to the far right Republicans.   You see, words have real, actual meanings, not just relative meanings.

    This is a radical claim, and needs some support:

    1. Political Compass is a great web site.  You can see their analysis of 2008 presidential elections here:   You can also see their analysis of the Canadian elections (moderates), the Irish elections (WOW, now there are some leftists), New Zealand election, British (again, a bunch of leftist), German, etc.  The Democrats are clearly a little bit conservative, at least compared to our European and English speaking friends.
    2. The Democrats fight among themselves.  That is what moderates do. Only extremists can unite and demand "GOP Purity/Litmus Test", or "RINO" (Republican In Name Only).  Being the big tent party, they pull in from everywhere.  Yes, they get a few extreme liberals, but the Democrats also pull in all the middle of the road people, which in the United States, means people just to the right of the conservative/liberal divide.
    3. I remember Ronald Reagan.  A great, conservative President that would have failed the above mentioned Purity Test.  (Reagen enlarged government +1 cabinet department and +61,000 federal jobs, vs Clinton no new cabinet and -373,000 federal jobs - while increasing private jobs.  Reagan cut taxes in 81, but raised them in 82,83,84,and 86 - to pay for social security and medicare.  Regan granted amnesty to 2.7 million illegals.  Two of Regan's three supreme court judges voted to uphold Roe v Wade. ). When your best recent president would be kicked out for being too liberal , then your party has been taken over by extremists. 

    Yes, the Democrats favor liberal ideals and Libertarian smaller government (get government out of our bedroom abortion, marriage, etc.).  But only in comparison to the GOP.  Look at the health care bills, both as they were originally presented, and as they were passed.  Originally they had a leftist "public option" and a higher tax on premium insurance plans.  Those were taken out to get enough Democrat votes.   In comparison to the rest of the world, the Democrats are still a conservative, authoritarian party.  It is only when you compare it to the GOP that the Democrats look liberal.

    Yes Americans are moderates with a slight conservative bent.  Which is why they voted in a Moderate president with a slight conservative bent.  When we as a people say we are conservative, we don't mean radicals.  Unfortunately, the GOP has become the party of Radicals.  It's not entirely their fault.  The Democrats took the middle ground, so the GOP had to either become the party of the liberals, a total reversal, or take the extreme radical right.   It was far easier to become Radical, and that is what happened.

    P.S.  The Political Compass lets you take the test yourself and find out if you are really Conservative, Liberal, Authoritative, or Libertarian.  From my experience, there are a lot of people that are surprised to find out they are not Libertarian.  Mainly because so many Republicans have been lying about what being Libertarian means.