Saturday, July 30, 2011

Socialism in America

Shocking, I know, but there are in fact multiple socialist institutions in America.

The Military, Social Security, Roads and the Family are all run on socialist principles.

Specifically, you have no choice in which one you get and the pay/services you receive are pretty much set in stone - no extra pay for superior performance within the 'commune'.  We all use the same stuff, regardless of how wealthy/poor we are.   Soldiers don't get paid more if they win a battle than if they lose it, retirees can't choose where to invest their money, you can't choose to use "Microsoft Roads", and Family members don't pay each other for the various services they provide.   We all use the same Military and Social Security, and we are mostly stuck with the family we are born to/give birth to/adopt (though we do get to choose our spouse).  Yes, Social Security has some competition - 401(k), IRA, pension plans, but almost all workers are required by law to participate in Social Security - the competition are add-ons, not replacements.

There used to be more - the School, US Post Office and Utilities, but modern innovation/rabid capitalism has given us choices (UPS/Fed Ex/email/ and you can now choose your electrical/gas supplier, if not your water - which many buy in bottles - or you can get from a well).

But the Military, Social Security, Roads and the Family all suffer from the two major problems with socialism:

  1. Lack of Innovation
  2. Lack of Financial Motivation
These two problems lead to poor financial performance for the Military and Social Security.  Not so much for the Family, but more about that later.  The first question is, why do we use Socialism in the these four institutions.

The military has two higher priority than money - protecting America (at all costs), and saving the lives of it's soldiers (at any cost except endangering America).    It counters the lack of innovation three ways - competition between various services (Marines, Army, Air Force, etc), discussions with friendly countries, and outside contractors developing weapons.   Instead of using financial motivation, it uses Patriotism, and espirit de corps (protecting your brother soldiers).

Social Security has some innovation problems (it would be nice to invest some of the 'lock box" in something besides US Treasuries) so it pushes innovation into those add-on products (401(k), IRA, pensions, etc.).   It lacks financial motivation - what you get is set in stone by the time you start using it.   But instead it is motivated by Security Motivation.  That is, the idea is to be absolutely SURE that you will get a minimal amount of money to live on, assuming you worked all your life.

Different states have different road systems, so we get some innovation there.  They also outsource production to construction companies which also helps out innovation.  Occasionally (innovation and financial motivation) you do have the option of paying more for greater service (toll roads).  But the fact that everyone benefits from roads (even if you don't drive, things you buy travel on them) means that we all basically have to use the same roads.   Throw in some innovation/financial motivation via the vendors (car manufacturers and trucking), with a bit of examining other countries (US Highway are based on Eisenhower's impressions of German road systems), and things work out OK.  Not perfect - which is why road construction is a bit expensive and sometimes bridges fail, but reasonably well.  It also helps that the industry is rather static - you can still use ancient roads from roman times, if they are well maintained.

The Family has innovation - because while you get little choice, there are 10 's (if not 100's) of millions of families in the country, and you can change your spouse, if not your parents/kids.  Your particular family may not work out great, but you can hear about what other people are doing.  The motivation issue uses Love instead of financial motivation. which works pretty well.   Without love, families do poorly.  (Which is why gays need to be allowed to marry each other, not be forced to marry people they don't and can't love.  Yes, they need a family, it is a major part of America's society and being deprived of one is a major issue.  Everyone should have a chance to get a loving family.)

The next question is, is ObamaCare socialism? The answer is no.  You get lots of choices, and the pay/services you get, while they include base level minimums, are variable.  Some of the Democrats wanted to expand Medicare/Medicaid into a single payer system, which may arguably have been socialistic (hard to say as those plans were never fully described).  But the moderate Democrats rejected that idea.   We went with a system based on multiple private insurance companies.  You have real choices and you can choose to pay more (or less).  Laws that charge you penalties for failing to get a service are NOT socialism - most states use those to force people that drive to have insurance for example.  Particularly if those laws have many loop holes (which ObamaCare does).

Third question: Is taxing the rich socialistic?   Again, no.    Not even if they tax them a lot more than they tax the poor.  But honestly, in the United States, the rich in general are taxed at a percentage rate LESS than the poor.  The poor spend most of their money, so sales tax, property taxes, and other fees tend to take a lot higher percentage of their total take home pay. Moreover, Social Security tax only gets paid on the first $100k (give or take 10%) of your take home pay.  That is currently a 4.2% (10.4% if self-employed) drop.  Finally, Capital Gains taxes (15%) are much lower than income tax and the richer you, the more of your income comes from "Capital Gains" as opposed to a salary.

What, you don't believe me?   Here are some numbers from the Tax Burden Study  This study examines state/local income taxes, property taxes, sales tax and vehicle taxes among major cities in the US.
The average local tax burden for a family of 3 with an income of $25,000 in the top 51 cities of the US is about 11.0%.  At $50,000 that number drops to 8.7%.   At $75,000, it drops a bit more to 8.5% .  At $100,000 it rises to 8.8%, but for $150,000 it drops to a 8.1% average.  Moving from poor to middle class drops your tax burden 3%. But it gets even better as your wealth rises, because you start saving/investing money instead of spending it on things that cost you property/sales/vehicle tax.      In effect, your local tax burden drops as your earn more and more money. 

The GOP constantly accuses the Democrats of trying to 'redistribute wealth', but the truth is, it is the GOP that has been redistributing wealth over the past 40 odd years, using changes in the Tax Code to move it from the poor to the rich.  From 1988 to 2003 the poor increased their average household income by 5.7%, while the rich gained 20.4%  (Source: Us 2004 Census = page 44/45, via Wikipedia)  If you start in 1967 and end in 2003, the numbers are 28.4% and 73.8%  - guess which one was the wealthy and who was the poor.

The only 'redistribution of wealth' that the Democrats want is to undue the GOP's 20 year campaign to ensure that the wealthy pay less taxes than the poor do.

Friday, July 29, 2011

If the Debt Limit was already reached in May, how are we paying bills till August?

Back in May, we hit the debt limit.  Yes, May, not August.   But Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner used "extraordinary measures" to delay the problem.

Basically what he did was to stop selling bonds to various government agencies - both local and federal.

This has a huge effect because over 40% of the US national debt is in fact held by various American government agencies.  Social Security alone holds $2.6 of the $14.3 trillion out there, but Social Security is still buying US treasuries because of legal requirements (it can not invest in anything else).   It is other organizations, such as the Federal Employees Retirement Funds (it used to hold about $783 billion in treasuries, but not anymore), that are buying things besides treasuries.  As their existing bonds come due, the government is paying them off and not issuing new bonds.  Presumably those agencies are using that money to buy municipal and corporate AAA bonds.

Note that the government is paying them off.  You see, the USA ran out of debt in May, not cash.  In fact, we just got an influx of cash in April.  It has the cash, it simply does not have the legal right to sell more bonds.

The problem is, eventually that cash will run out.  The cash we are paying out now was supposed to last us a while, but that assumed we would be selling more bonds.   Each day, we spend more than we take in (deficit, definition of), so eventually that money will go away.

The Fed thinks it will all be gone on Aug 2.  God help us all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Possible Endings to the Debt Crisis

Here are the potential ways to solve the debt limit crisis, using animal names:
  1. Ostrich:  Ignore the problem, and hope it goes away.  Result:  US Credit ranking goes down (even if we pay our debt), our borrowing cost goes up, debt increases.  Oh, and the GOP loses a lot of congressional seats come next year, but the tea party is happy
  2. Fat Cat:  Obama gives in, allows GOP to bend the US over and take it like a manly country.    No tax increases at all, but massive spending cuts, mainly for things that effect the poor.   Result: Poor get poorer, Rich keep their money, GOP congressman are happy and keep their jobs.  Tea Party is happy. Upside for the Democrats is the outrage will almost certainly sweep the 2012 election. 
  3. Dog:  GOP "gives in" and accepts some kind of revenue enhancements on the rich.  Nobody is happy - GOP is upset about taxes that they will blame on Obama, while Dems are upset about cuts to Social Security which will be blamed on the GOP   Some members of the Tea Party would accept this, but not all.
  4. Mouse:  They raise the debt ceiling, but not enough to get us past the 2012 elections, ensuring that we do this whole thing again, this time in the middle of an election.   Tea Party might be accept this, but don't want it.   Wild card, no one knows what this does. 
  5. Chicken: They do what they used to do all the time and raise the debt ceiling without any real changes to taxes or spending.    Democrats and GOP both come away happy, Tea Party is unhappy.
There are some variations, for example you can change the amount of tax increases per spending cut.    But those are the basics.   You can for example mix Cat, Mouse Chicken by allowing the GOP to vote for temporary debt increases, but then in a series of later 'dis-approvals' to symbolically vote against them.  Not likely to happen, anymore than voters are likely to be fooled by this stupidity.   Why should the Democrats agree to let the GOP look good and make the Democrats look bad?  

Also, if we are not careful, we can get Ostrich with any of the other ones in that even with a solution, investors may start to worry about what happens next time.  Just because we pay our debt does not mean inflation won't happen anyway.


The country as a whole wants the budget balanced.   They have made it quite clear (multiple polls) they are  willing to pay more taxes, preferably taxes focused on the wealthy.  (Cat, Dog, Mouse, or Chicken)

The tea party wants a smaller government with less spending.   They claim not to care if the government defaults/can't pay for all the benefits.  (Ostrich or Cat)

The GOP insists on no new taxes and also want massive cuts on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  They can't get both.  They can get either "no new taxes" or "massive cuts".  No way will the Democrats cave on both.  The Democrats have the Presidency AND a majority of the Senate.   The GOP is not in charge and can't have their way without Democrat agreement.  (Cat or Mouse)

The Democrats want no cuts on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and to raise taxes on the rich.  No way will the GOP give us both, but we have already stated we are willing to lose on one (but not both.).   (Dog, Chicken, or Mouse)

Obama wants an end to the debt crisis as well as everything the Democrats want. (Dog and Chicken)

The only people wanting the Ostrich are the Tea Party.  But the GOP is courting the Tea Party, so it might accept it.    The only people that don't wantt the Chicken are the Tea Party and the GOP.

Chicken looks likely, after all, Congress has been Chicken before it is their usual modus operandi.  They have done Ostrich before, but usually that results in major turnover.   Whoever is blamed loses seats.   I think the GOP is wise enough to know that they are being blamed for the debt gridlock (Source).  As such, Chicken looks more likely than Ostrich. 

A strong possibility is that you get a watered down version of Chicken-Dog or Chicken-Cat combo.  The idea there is you do mostly symbolic dog or cat type plan that doesn't really reduce the deficit all that much.

Finally, there is one more thing going on.   You see, Ostrich definitely hurts this country.   It is the weapon both sides are using to get the other to submit.   They are playing "chicken" with the economy.   If both people blinks, then we get the 'chicken' outcome, if neither do, Ostrich.  If only one side blinks, you get either Cat or Dog.  If they decided to stop for a while and play later, that's Mouse.   The problem is, playing the game means you value your own party's goals more than the country.  You are in effect willing to blackmail the country to do what you want -  or the "US credit rating gets it".

Both sides are doing it.   Neither side has tried to pass the "chicken" outcome (raise the debt limit with no attachments).   

Another part of the problem is there are ... people ... out there that think "Balanced Budget" = no new taxes.  No.  Balanced Budget means that taxes = spending.   You can do it two ways: 1) increase taxes or 2) reduce spending.   Anyone that refuses to admit that you can balance a budget by increasing taxes has no business talking about economics.    You may not LIKE that method of balancing the budget, but it works.  Given our current situation (with taxes covering only about 60% of the budget), budget cuts alone would be too massive - putting too many people out of work, etc.  A tax hike on the wealthy would allow us to balance the budget right away, and once the debt goes away, then we can talk about cutting taxes again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Wise Republican

Mickey Edwards is a former Repeublican Congressman, currently working for Aspen Institute.  He is a particularly effective writer.

He recently published an article in the Atlantic, entitled How to turn Republicans and Democrats into Americans.

It is a great article, and I highly recommend it to all.

I don't agree with everything he said but my disagreements are minor.

My first issue is the fact that both Democrats and Republicans have become more hidebound.  I agree that if you go by what they say, that is true.  But everyone knows the Democrats are 'wimps' that cave.  I personally think this is an advantage.  It means that the Democrats are NOT as hidebound as they sound.   They are willing to compromise, and that means that a Democrat pushed bill ends up not as being controlled by the zealots, the way a Republican backed bill does.   Contrary to the GOP, I think flip-flopping is a GOOD thing - it means you can change your mind and can work for the good of the entire country, not just the 51% of your district that voted for you.  

Mr Edwards suggests reforming the primary system, allowing for the possibility of two members of the same party in the general election.  While he does not go into specifics, I do think this can be done.   The main objection to this method are problems with the simplistic voting system we use now - which honestly only works well if there are only two real candidates.  The primary elections can be different, such as an Approval voting (you can vote for multiple candidates, but only once per candidate),  a Single transferable vote (used when two or more seats are available.  You vote for whom you want, with an automatica transfer to someone else if your candidate has already won and does not need more votes - used in Australia),  Instant Runoff/Alternative vote (you rank the candidates 1, 2,3, 4, etc.  anyone with 51% of 1 wins, if not, then eliminate candidate with least ones, and anyone that voted 1 for him, now uses whoever they voted for as #2, repeat.  Also used in Australia), and/or   Condorcet (voters rank them again, 1,2,3..., but a more complex matrix is used to determine the winner, pitting each candidate against each other)

I personally prefer the Instant Run off method.  It is simple enough to understand, and lets people rank candidates, as opposed to simply yes/no.

He wants fair redistricting, which I think is a good thing, but irrelevant.  As he pointed out, attempts to gerrymander are not as effective as people doing it want.  As such, fixing the problem is not that important.  It's kind of like saying "No, you can't use a lucky rabbit's foot" when gambling.

Then he says something I disagree with strongly.  He wants to let anyone amend bills.  The problem is that it is easy to use amendments to destroy bills.  You just need a majority of the people in the room at the time, not a majority of all the congressman.  So your opponents can add a  "Legalize Gay Marriage" amendment to your bill to limit abortions.  

Amendments are often put on to bills that are expected to pass that have little/nothing to do with the bill.   This makes bills needlessly complicated.  We need LESS amendments not more.   Put those 'amendments' in as separate bills.

I can see making the change he recommended with two caveat:   1) Let the bill submitter veto any amendments.  That is, anyone, Democrat or Republican, can attempt to add anything they want to a bill.  But the Congressman that submitted the bill (not their party, just them), can veto any amendment.   This increases the chance that a good amendment will be added, without increasing the chance that it will be sabotaged.  It also grants the bill's submitter more power, as opposed to the party leadership.  2) If you propose amending a bill, then vote against the bill, you personally are fined $10,000 with the money going to Presidential Election Campaign Fund.

His other recommendations, with have to do with committee leadership, vacancies, and staff, all make sense.   It removes the partisanship and thereby a lot of the power of the political parties.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The News Corp scandal

News Corp is a major international news corporation.  In America it owns a bunch of respectable newspapers and respectable  TV channels.

In Britain, they also own some tabloids.  The kind of papers that ran "I had Bigfoot's baby" stories.   Like many tabloids they did not always obey the law.  Some disgusting stuff, such as invading the privacy of murder victims.   Worse, when they got caught breaking laws, they bribed law enforcement officials.    

But you see, they were special.  They were the step child of far more respectable newspapers.  They used the clout from their respectable businesses to squash the investigations.   The government was afraid to piss of their owners.  So instead of instantly catching them, investigations were delayed for years.

First let me state that I just don't think that the American branch of News Corp will be found to do anything blatantly illegal.  Well, not worse than their standard minor  libel and slanders - such as putting a (D) in front of Republicans that get caught committing crimes.  Funny how they never make the error the other way around.

I am not here to yell at Fox.  What is happening to them is nothing more than a direct consequence of Congress and the FCC's failures.  Similar problems existed in England.

You see, at one point in history, it would have been impossible for News Corp to be in this position.  Up until 1996 or so, there were real limitations on how many TV channels, newspapers etc. someone could own.   More importantly. we had foreign ownership rules - which is why Robert Murdoch (born Australian) became an American citizen in 1985.   But after 1996, those laws were effectively changed in the US, (with new exceptions and SCOTUS rulings removing the teeth).

There in lies the problem.  Think about what would have happened if the strict US laws from 1985 were still in effect in both Britain and the the USA.

  1. Murdoch could not be British and American at the same time, so he could not maintain such powerful newspapers in both countries.   
  2. Given reasonable media limitations, no tabloid would have the political clout of respectable papers, so they could not have squashed the investigation.
The media has power.   They have abused their power.    In this case, it happens to be an abuse by British companies owned by News Corp.   Worse, the conglomeration of media that has NO reasonable need to be conglomerated. Really, tabloids owned by a respectable company?  Why?

This is in fact a major claim of Fox News - that the liberal media has too much power.  The problem is that if the liberal media could in fact have as much power as Fox claims it has, then by definition, so could a conservative media.  As so clearly proven by this case.

We need an independent media.  We never should have let News Corp grow to be as big as it got.  There was no need for the same guy to control British news, American news, tabloids, video and paper.

Imagine what would have happened if Fox News was a separate corporation, with Roger Ailes as CEO instead of only the Chairman of the Fox Group.   Then Fox could have gone into high moral outrage about News Corp invading the privacy of a September 11 victim.  They could have led the charge, instead of defending against it.

Media corporations need to be small enough to attack each other.  News Corp is the single most powerful media corporation in the US.   No one should have as much power as they currently do. Fox needs real competition.  Which is why Britain is considering creating some of those same limitations that the US got rid of in the 1990s (Source)

It's a pity that Congress, the FCC and SCOTUS have eviscerated our 20th century anti-monopoly laws, particularly with regards to Media.  The internet may save us, with the rise of Google, Drudge, and blogging.  But only if we stop the old companies from stealing all the power before it spreads it self out among the innovating, smaller corporations.  If we let News Corp, AP, CNN maintain their dominant position as they move into new technologies, then we will lose the chance to regain a free and independent press.

A real free press that is capable of reporting on the crimes other people commit, instead of covering up the crimes of their subordinates.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Light Bulbs

The GOP recently failed to overturn George Bush's 2007 new light bulb rules.   Bush's law created efficiency standards for light bulbs.  You are allowed to keep any inefficient bulb you already own.   The law does not outlaw incandescent light bulbs - you can still buy any that meet the standards.  In fact Home Depot is already selling incandescent light bulbs that meets those standards.  Look for Halogen and HID light bulb.   HID refers to High Intensity Discharge.  They have no filament, but instead a small capsule of gas (such as Halide, Neon, etc.)   They are more efficient than a regular light bulb and last longer.  Like Halogen bulbs, they are dimmable.   HID bulbs sometimes use mercury, but not all the time.  Fluorescent bulbs electrifies mercury vapor that gives off ultraviolet light that is converted to visible light by a phosphor.   As such, all Fluorescent bulbs have some mercury in them.

In addition, bulbs below 40 watt and above 150 watts are exempt.  So are specialty lights such as 3-way, colored, plant grow lights, and heat lamps.  If you are hoarding 25 watt bulbs vanity or 200 watt flood lights, you are going to find out how foolish you are in about 6 months

Oh, and if you break a CFL normal people just throw it out.  Just as you used to do when you broke a mercury thermometer.  In most cities, this is legal.   Some cities may have special rules.  The EPA always did advise you to triple bag the mercury and dispose like you would a car battery - but I bet you never did that did you?   You also probably never wore a bike helmet - but aren't all upset and suing the bike companies.   I would however advise you to aire out the room after a CFL breaks.

A small thermometer had about 0.500 grams of mercury, while a big one had about 3.000 grams.  A small CFL has.... 0.001 grams of mercury and a big one has 0.005 grams of mercury.    The amount of mercury you get from breathing air polluted by coal power plants is far higher than if you were to break every single CFL you ever buy.   If you don't think coal power plants should be required to cut their mercury content by 90%, then you shouldn't care about the mercury in CFLs.  

The law comes into effect on in 2012.  After that, among other things, that means it will still be legal:
  1. To get the nice, full color light of incandescent light bulbs.  (Get a Halogen or HID bulb)
  2. To use 200 watt floodlights.
  3. To put in "sauna lamps" for those that like to have a super hot bathroom.
  4. To buy light bulbs for your garage 'oregano' farm. (But the cops will still catch you.)
  5. For movie theaters to continue their obnoxious practice of putting 200 watt spot lights above their soda counter, directed at the people in line - making them hot and thirsty.  At least they aimed them so as not to hit the people behind the counter.
  6. To use a dimmer switch with a cheap light bulb (HID again, or,if you are an idiot  you can of course choose to buy expensive florescent bulb designed for them, or a regular expensive LED light )

But there will be some issues.
  1. People will not be able to buy new 100 watt bulbs for their Easy Bake Oven.  The new easy bake ovens will use a heating element.  Hasbro does not recommend buying a 200 watt bulb - it will over-cook and might start a fire.  And they can't charge you $5 for a replacement heating element.
  2. You will save money on electricity - and if you get your electricity from burning coal, will put less mercury in the environment even if you break a CFL every year. 
  3. Everyone will realize how stupid the GOP is for trying to panic people over non-issues like this. 
Whoops, no #3 will not happen because people never admit when they were wrong.

Note, hear some actual bulb pricing numbers, for a 100  watt equivalent bulb. (all from Home Depot

Standard Incandescent:   $1.27 for four bulbs.  100 watts, 1620 lumen, 750 hours, dimmable
Long Fluorescent: $14.97 for 10, 32 watts, 2,800 lumen, 20k hours

CFL (Fluorescent pig tail):  $5.97 for 2  23 watts, 1,500 lumen, 10k hours, not dimmable
Full Spectrum CFL: $7.97 for one, 27 watts, 1,400 lumen, 10k hours, not dimmable
Dimmable CFL: $9.97 each, 23 watts, 1,400 lumen, 10k hours, dimmable
LED: $46.97 for one bulb, 18 watts, 1,200 lumen, 25k hours, dimmable
HID: $14.97 for one bulb, 100 watts, 3,800 lumen (note this is twice as bright) , 24k hours, dimmable. 

On line I could not find an HID 50 watt bulb that cost less than the 100 watt, so I went with the 100 wattI also could not find any Halogen bulbs at Home Depot that meet the new standard. They do exist, but Home Depot doesn't have them .... yet.  Look again in a year.

Note that some (not all) HID light bulbs and all fluorescents have mercury in them, but LEDs do not.  In addition, we have already begun to reduce the amount of mercury needed in the fluorescents .   Where they used to be 1/1000 as much as in a mercury thermometer, now you can buy them with 1/4000 as much. 

With electricity costing $0.12 to $0.50, a kilowatt hour, that means that a typical standard incandescent light bull will cost your more than $9 in electricity for it's short 750 life.  Times 13 to match the lifespan of a typical CFL, and you get $100 for electricity.   At less than 1/4 the wattage, that means a typical CFL saves over $75 in electricity costs.    If we were to package them with the EPA recommend breakage cleanup equipment (3 zip lock bags and rubber gloves), throw in  pre-paid FED EX box to a national dump, and we still save over $40.   That is assuming that unlike most people, you won't just treat them the same way you treated a broken thermometer.

The GOP continues to try and push this ridiculously unimportant issue that has already been settled under George Bush.  Despite the fact that debt talks are far more important and immediate.  Why?

They think it is a good "the democrats are trying to regulate your life too much" issue.   This is a major theme for their campaign but frankly they could not find a lot of examples, so they push the few they have (Health care and light bulbs apparently). 

Obviously some regulations are needed.   So when should we regulate and when should we leave the free market alone?

To me the answer is pretty obvious - when we come across a situation that the free market isn't dealing with well AND is of national importance, then we regulate.   Energy use is one of this countries biggest issues.  We import oil and in doing so support some of the most evil countries in the world (mainly by keeping the price of oil up, as we tend not to buy directly from the really bad guys).    In addition, lighting uses up about 10% of our energy production.   That makes light bulb efficiency an important issue, just like gasoline efficiency.  The math I showed above makes it clear that the CFL and HID are a better financial choice.  Clearly the free market is not working well here. This is an ideal example of when regulation is a good idea.

Monday, July 18, 2011

There is not enough money in American Politics.

In the 2008 Election over $1 billion was spent.  Obama spent 730 M and McCain spent 333 M.

2012 looks like it will be even more.   With the Citizens United Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruling, the numbers are expected to go up.   Recent reports support this. Obama raised $86 M in the last 3 months, breaking previous records, as well as their goal of $60 M.   The Republican candidtes raised less than $5 M during the same period.  The GOP is trying to save face by claiming that the incumbent has an advantage in fund raising.  That is true - just as he has an advantage in the actual election.  If you can't beat him now at spending now, you won't beat him in the polls.

The traditional view is that all this money is a bad thing.   We don't want anyone to 'buy' office.  But the Supreme Court says (and I agree) that money is a kind of speech.   Money flows from strongly held opinions, but is a rather poor at changing people's opinions (estimates are that doubling your spending increases your votes by 1% of total votes).

Note I do disagree with the SCOTUS when they claimed that corporations are entitled to Free Speech and that allowing anonymous spending ( without proof of citizenship)  on a presidential election.   We need laws to prevent non-citizens - whether they be corporations or foreigners - from interfering in an election that is NONE of their business.

But there is no problem with the amount of money being spent per se.   That is an illusion caused by looking at those numbers in a vacuum.   One BILLLLLLION dollars (hold my pinky up to my face) sounds like a lot.   Until you realize that more money will be spent advertising chewing gum during that year.  Which do you think is more important?  Choosing who will be president or which brand of gum you will buy?  (Note, the candy industry loves advertising - they spend about 20% of their budget as advertising.)

$1 Billion is not enough to buy the US presidency.  Neither would $2 Billion, or even $4 Billion.   People (and now corporations and foreigners - due to the bad SCOTUS ruling ) are voting with their checkbooks before the 2012 election.   It is the the best indication of how the 2012 election will go.  The GOP is in for another sad shock, just like in 2008, when Obama led the Democrats to crush the GOP.

McConell is only partly correct when he said that no deal is possible (on the budget)  while Obama is president.   He forgot that a deal would be possible if Obama is President and McConnel led only 32 Senators and the House was held by the Democrats.   If the GOP continues with their foolhardy plan to shut down the government, the country will just realize how much they LIKE the services the Democrats are protecting, and how much they don't care if the top 1% has to take a tax hike.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Trust is a strange thing.   One of the strangest thing about trust is that the more you give, the more you get.   You can't trust someone that doesn't trust you.

This is a major flaw in China's political theory.   They don't trust their citizens at all.  As such, they hide information from their citizens.  The problem is that the citizens don't know the extent of the secrecy.   They know their government is hiding stuff, but they don't know whether the government is hiding a little lead in their toothpaste or hiding cyanide in their water.

China has recently begun censoring phone calls. If you mention "protest" (by words or by text), your call is dropped.   The thing about America is that we don't censor. Instead we publicize - both our mistakes and insane conspiracy theories.  We shout them to the world.

It is partly because of this that we know that  Obama is a US citizen.  Because if he wasn't, than Wikileaks would be full of information about where and when he was born.  The fact that we allow idiots to shout stupidity lets me know that there is no one hiding actual conspiracies.

China censors because it is afraid.  They fear fast change (revolution), so they do their best to slow it down (evolution).  As such they are and always will be, behind the times.

Why do they appear to be catching up?  Simply because they were so far behind.   In effect, they are racing along the path we blazed.  But they can never lead - they will always be behind us.   Fairly quickly they will catch up and then they will slam into the wall that they themselves have built.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Who is to blame?

Both sides always want to blame the other.  It's not just the debt, the economy is a great example.  Republicans want to blame Obama for not fixing the mistake that happened on their watch.   Democrats want to blame Bush for creating the problem and the current congress for not fixing it.

Honestly, the recovery is not anyone's fault.   If we truly knew enough about how to fix it, it would never have happened in the first place.    Obama did not have a free hand to do whatever he liked, neither did Bush or Congress (either the Democratic Congress or the Republican one).   Even if they did, the President quite frankly does NOT have the power to fix the economy.

We generally don't know how to fix the economy - despite what a bunch of economists and politicians say.  If they really did know how to fix the economy, we never would have had the problem in the first place.  Yes, both sides have ideas - but honestly we have tried those ideas before (and in smaller scale in the states) and they do NOT work.  No matter how often you say "TAX CUTS WILL GROW THE ECONOMY", you can't argue with the fact that they have in fact NOT grown the economy.  Similarly, claims that stimulus spending will save the economy also fail flat.   Both sides say "we didn't do enough", or "your tax cuts destroyed my stimuli" vs "your stimuli destroyed my tax cuts".    But when it comes down to it, if either thing worked at all, their effect would have been much greater.

The Debt Ceiling is another issue, same story.

It is true that people don't want to raise the debt ceiling.  Neither do the Democrats. We wish we had never hit it.  But the GOP is the party that took Clinton's Surplus and turned it into Bush's Deficit.  Raising the debt limit is not a concession.  It is something that needs to be done that NEITHER side wants.  It is something that we need to do, like taking out the garbage. 

If you want to get something for agreeing to do it, you get the grateful thanks of the nation, nothing more.  Insisting on more is like a child saying "I will take out the garbage if you send me to Space Camp."  Then when the parent replies "I will send you to Space Camp if you take out the garbage and wash my car".   Why?  Because the garbage is a base chore that MUST be done, even if you don't like it.  It is not 

So, while we can't fix the economy or keep the debt limit where it is, when it comes to blame, that is a different story.   We definitely have the power to blame people, and we try it all the time.

There, the Democrats have a huge edge.  They have a reputation for being wimpy and failing, while the GOP has a reputation for being dogmatic.   For example, Cantor (R) says that they will not under any circumstance accept any tax icnreases - not even a tiny one on jet plane owners.  While the Democrats cave and allow cuts in medicare and social security in exchange for tax hikes on the rich equal to $1 in increases for every $4 in cuts.

But when it comes to blame, however, the wimpy guys have a big edge.   You see, the hard line can help you get more of what you want - but only if your opponent really is wimpy.  If on the other hand, he is smarter and stronger than you thought, then when the crap hits the fan, nothing gets done and you get stuck with the blame.   When the bully beats up the wimp, they both get in trouble for fighting, but the bully gets the blame.

Yes, the hard core conservatives will blame Obama - they always do.   Claiming that you stuck to your guns may go over great with your base, but they don't matter.  They always would have voted for you, just as the hard core liberals will always blame the GOP.  Convincing those guys only helps you run the election, it won't win it for you.

When it comes to The Blame Game, the independents are the people that matter.

And independents are by there nature middle of the road people that do not like it when you take a hard line.   They prefer, hell, they ARE 'the wimpy guy that takes a moderate stance.'

Only they don't think they are wimpy.  They think they are reasonable, and  the hard core, 'line in the sand' guy is to blame.

And you know what?  They are right.  Both about them being reasonable as opposed to wimpy and about who is to blame.

About 67% of Americans (Source) believe that the rich should take a tax hike to help us get out of the current situations.  Only 25% said no to any tax increases.  Republicans counter that the Obama plan would be a tax hike on everyone, not just the rich.  But they don't offer ANY tax hike of their own.   In effect they admit they are going against the will of the american people and are claiming that Obama is lying when he promises to do the will of the people.

But even if Obama is lying - wouldn't you rather go with the guy that claims he gives you what you want rather than the guy that refuses to do it at all?     The problem is that the 25% that don't want any tax hike are the Republican base.  That is why the GOP is doing what they want, instead of what the majority wants.  

But too bad, 25% of Americans don't get to tell the other 75% what to do.  Instead, the 67% get to tell the 33% what to do. That is how Democracy works.

And that is why 48% will blame the GOP, while only 34% will blame Obama about the debt ceiling issue.  It is also why come election day, Obama will win again - and probably pick off a few GOP House Representatives who foolishly tried to keep their base happy instead of their entire district.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Internet Pornography is a Good thing.

(First, let me apologize to all the people that googled "Good Pornography" and ended up here.  Sorry, not what you are looking for, try again.)

Governments trying to censure the internet often use 'morality' as an excuse.  They want to eliminate porn for the good of society. 

The problem with that is the internet's pornography is a huge force for morality.

Before the internet, more than 10% of rural people had tried bestiality of some kind.   Basically, you had horny young people, many of whom were considered un-attractive with poor social skills.  Their self-righteous neighbors (many of whom were married because they were more-attractive and/or had better social skills) legislated against pornography.  So sexual relief was not easy to find.   Women have always had simpler, cheaper, and effective sex toys, but men can not simply turn to cucumbers.   For a surprising number of men living in close proximity to animals, assuming they could stomach it, the easiest solution was out on the ranch.   As a result, the Kinsey study found significant incidents of rural bestiality.

Disgusting, but unfortunately true.   No, I am not posting a source for this information.  I don't have the will to wade through the porn results a google search for relevant terms would include.  But if you yourself are willing to do so, you can hunt down reports that show bestiality has almost vanished in the past 20 years, pretty much with the rise of the internet.   Why?  Because people in small towns now have a sexual release that does not involve animals.  Given the choice, they abandoned bestiality.

Yes, child porn has become more popular, but pedophilia itself has not risen any significant amount, while bestiality has gone from above 10% in rural areas to much less than 5%.   The number of people that commit crimes against children is and always has been very small.   Rape statistics have also gone down, but that is more likely explained by a general decrease in crime.   In addition, the internet has not resulted in significant rises in actual homosexual activity, S&M activity, etc. etc.  We don't have more gay people, more dominatrixes, etc.  But those we do have are talking publicly about what they do.  The people that like their various kinky perversions have found each other, and are enjoying themselves in a more public manner.

The internet has cut down significantly on some types of 'perversion', while making others more public.  More public is not more immoral, in fact it makes things MORE morale by pushing the nastier people out and allowing the saner people to become leaders of their communities.  They discuss what they do and how to do it safely, without breaking laws.    They advise beginners to avoid things they should avoid.

A bunch of moralistic prudes have become upset now that they hear what other people are doing.  But the truth is that WORSE stuff used to happen before the communication revolution publicized everything.  People are being safer, saner and more consensual (or 'risk aware' if you prefer). 

So, thank you Internet for making the world a much safer, less disgusting place for sexuality. 

The lesson here is that censorship is BAD.  It doesn't eliminate or even reduce the bad stuff, it just hides it.   Of course that means that people that want to censor porn are in fact pushing bestiality.   Now, of course, Michelle Bachmann is not aware of any of this. How do I know she is ignorant of the Internet's positive effects on morality?   Because instead of learning from experts that have devoted their lives to studying these issues, she disparage them as ivory tower intellectuals.   Then she listens to amateurs with no degrees that have spent a couple of hours googling things.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Politicians and Lies

There is a story (probably a myth), of a Professor that tells his students that he will lie to them every single class.   Furthermore, if they believe the lie, he will grade them wrong.   The lies start out obvious, but by the end of the semester become hard to detect.   One of his best students double checks all of his statements and always finds the lie.  But on the last day he checked and checked and could not find the lie. So the student goes to him after class and asks him what the lie was.  The professor states 'Remember on the first day when I said "I will lie to you every day"  -  I lied.'

Supposedly the professor did this to get his students to: - 1).  Question Authority and 2). Pay attention and study their books, not just memorize what he said.   If I were a teacher, I would definitely try this out.

But you too can play along, with your politicians instead of teachers.   Everyone knows politicians lies.  Even the best ones do it.   If you stand there and say yours does not, you look a fool.  For one thing, they have to speak so often, that accidental lies must creep in.   To err is human.
Don't examine the statements of those you dislike.  That is like shooting fish in a barrel.  The trick is to find the lies that your favorite politician speaks.  For example, I like Obama, yet I think he lied when he says his actions in Libya do not violate the War Powers Act.

Unless you stalk your politician, chances are you won't hear them speak every day.  So make it once a month or so during election seasons and once a year otherwise.  Or you could pick multiple politicians you like and do it more often.

Politifact makes your job easy.  Just go through the statements they think are false/pants on fire, and find one you think they got right.  You don't have to use Politifact, if you don't trust them, but it might be harder.

But if you can not find out when your politicians lied, then one of two things has occurred:

  1. You have found the Messiah.  His very holy nature makes him immune to the normal human mistakes.  You can easily tell this because of course, all others will recognize his greatness.  Such a man, if he went to college, would go to Harvard or Yale.  Corporations he ran never lost money.   You should quit your job and spend your life worshipping him - or at least working directly for him.  Place bets that he will win the next election. If you are not willing to do this, then you have lied to yourself or...
  2. You are not competent to judge his veracity.  That probably means you are blinded by loyalty and wishes.  Keep this in mind and try to be more lenient when judging the truth of others.  Your own deep opinions are getting in the way of your ability to think.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Conservative ideas I like - and why they are so rare.

Most of my blog comes down pretty hard on the Republicans.  I despise their opposition to the First amendment (Religion, speech, press, assemble and petition), their ridiculous belief that you can cut taxes and reduce the deficit, their demand for corporate rights while stepping on the individual rights, their anti-abortion, anti-gay,anti-intelligentsia, anti-civil rights and anti-poor biases.

But there are some things they got right.

So I decided to list a few of the Republican Ideas that I agree with.

  1. We do need to simplify the tax code.  That does NOT mean lower taxes for businesses - even small business.  It means get rid of a bunch of the loopholes that deductions that people and businesses use.  Tax deductions should be simpler - and abuse of them should be rare, not common.
  2. Our educational system does need some work.  The major problem is we don't know how to fix it - Teachers are not the problem, though sometimes working around their contracts might make solving the problem harder.  I would probably require Teacher Unions to allow exceptions for 'test-case' schools, to help us figure out how to fix the problems.  No more than 5% of schools could opt-out of the standard contract.
  3. Nuclear Power is safe  and should be considered a green/renewable energy source.   I wish the DNC would commit to it's use.  Of course, if they did, the GOP would deny they were ever for it and claim Nuclear Power is a socialist plot. 
  4. Unions should not have the right to force people to join or pay them, just as businesses should not have the right to prevent people from joining them.  Similarly, a business should not be required to use the same contract for a Union employee as it does for a non-union employee.  You don't pay for collective bargaining, you don't get the bargain.   If a Union can not find a way to survive without requiring the 49% that did not want to join it in a company that has 51% of it's employees union members, then the Union should die.  But I don't think they will.  Unions are strong enough to survive.
I would add I favor a strong Defence, but the GOP is turning away from that view.  It costs money - which many in the GOP would rather cut from our taxes then spend on defence.

There are probably more ways I agree with the GOP, but it is hard to tell. They so often use words to mean the exact opposite of what they say.  (Democrats do this too, but to a lesser extent)

For example the GOP say they want schools to teach a fair scientific viewpoint on Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, but all scientific evidence is for Evolution and almost none for ID. They work very hard to phrase certain ideas as if they meant the opposite of what they really do mean.  We know this because they only do it when talking to the general public.  When they speak to conservative only groups, they drop the strange phrasings. 

Worse, they insist on pulling crap like calling a bill "Revoke Excessive Policies that Encroach on American Liberties Act" instead of "Revoke Obama-care".   Then there was "Reducing Barack Obama's Unsustainable Deficit Act".  Such things do not help you pass a bill, it makes it harder by pissing off people that may agree with some of the rules but despise your childish behaviour.   They think they are boosting their base by creating sound clip for the media. 

In actuality, they piss off their opponent's base the same amount.  Net net, your opponent ends up boosting his popularity the same amount as you do - but you are the one that spent all the money and political capital. It's kind of like what happens when you put up an advertisement to join the local Gay Community in a town's only newspaper.  Sure, you may get new recruits, but don't be surprised if certain church groups start picket your meeting.    

Friday, July 8, 2011

Law of unintended consequences

The Law of Unintended Consequences is a well known political concept.   It is why the GOP thinks raising taxes will not increase revenue.

Basically it says that the world is a dynamic place and reacts to changes you make.  So when you raise taxes, people take steps to pay less taxes, even going so far as to work less.

The concept is pretty well established - and works with lots of things besides taxes.  If you aid a revolutionary, it can win, take over it's country, and end up as your enemy.  When we kill terrorists, we anger others.  When you cut tarrifs, you can hurt your own business interests.

In the business world, pollution is practically the definition of unintended consequence.  No one wants it and we don't really know how bad it will be.  Hate crimes against Hispanics is another unintended consequence of border control.

But one issue that the GOP tends to forget is the unpredictability.   That does not just mean that we don't want it, it also means that the consequences are unpredictable.  If they were rock solid certanity, then they would be obvious and everyone would take it into account. 

Honestly, we don't really know if killing Bin Ladin will cause other, worse terrorists to rise up.  Maybe they will, maybe they won't.

Similarly, we don't really know what tax increases will do to federal revenue.  It could be that taxes are too low (GW Bush cut them significantly), and we can easily raise taxes without hurting the economy one iota.

Another unintended consequence occurs when people feel they are getting ripped off.  They don't just avoid the business, they look for ways to get even.

When employers cut overtime, employees steal office supplies. When a government agency starts treating people poorly, employees start to lie to the employers.  At the very least it angers people, which means they yell and make trouble.  Productivity drops, which often exasperates the problem.  The Department of Motor Vehicles is a prime example of this.

Often "monopoly" corporations (light rail, internet, etc.) have similar problems.  For example, the Long Island Rail Road recently introduced a bunch of obnoxious rules.  For a very long time they have had a ridiculously high service charge (~$6) to buy a ticket on the train.  Fine, they don't want people doing that.  The solution for some of us was to buy extra tickets in advance.

But now they are having budget problems, and cutting back on conductors.  This means that sometimes conductors don't get through the train and take your ticket.  Instead of doing what a reasonable business would do (fixing their ticket taking procedure), they simply charged a $10 refund price and made the tickets only last 2 weeks.

Their idea sounds reasonable, except for the ridiculously high charges.   Honestly, a $2, or even $3 service charge would be just as effective in preventing people from buying on the train, and there is zero reason for $10 refund charge for all tickets.  Why not set it at 50%?

Why do they get away with this crap?  They have a monopoly and they frankly have zero desire to be fair or reasonable.

But there are ways for people to get back at the LIRR, besides simply avoiding using it.   Graffiti, property destruction, etc. may go up, because criminals get angry at the LIRR for ripping them off.   But us law abiding citizens should not have to become a criminal.  I don't advocate taking revenge, instead the public-private corporations should avoid angering people in the first place. 

P.S.  Here are 4 good reasons why someone might want a refund, besides the conductor failing to do their job: 1) They bought a two-way, went to a party and got lucky.  2) Bought a two-way and they got sick/ in an accident.    3) They bought a ticket for a friend running late - who did not make the train. 4) They simply bought a ticket to the wrong destination.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Social Security is how we AVOID using welfare.

Social Security is at heart simple.  But to get the votes, we had to add a bunch of window dressing.  This let us convince people that it was something it was not. 

How American Social Security works:

1.  We take money in from working people.

2.  We use this money to fund current retired workers.

It is an INSURANCE PROGRAM.  It was set up to be absolutely, 100% sure that older Americans who worked all their life will not starve.  Specifically, it is a kind of Annuity that kicks in after a certain age, with the benefits in part determined by how much you contributed.  It also has some extra features that make it more complicated.

Here are things it is not, and why people think it is.

First, it is not a retirement plan.   Yes, we give more money to people if they paid in more.   But the amount you pay in, even if you got the best interest rate available, would NEVER pay for what you get out.  Also, there is a maximum you can get.  People think it is a retirement plan because of four reasons:  1.  the wealthy successfully lobbied to have a cut-off to their payments ($106,800 for 2011), if you work for  2.  the amount you earned in your working career affects your payout.  Also, you need to have worked long enough to earn the credits.  A minimum of 10 years of work (40 credits, at - in 2011 - 1 credit for every $1,120 of cash payed in taxes),  3.  They set up an early retirement and delayed retirement options that decrease or increase the amount of money you get..  As of 2011, full retirement age is 67 (if you were born after 1960),   Early retirement is at 62, and Delayed retirement (upto 70), increases payments.  4.  Your employer contributes

Second, it is NOT a welfare plan.   We don't pay anything to you if you never contributed to the system, nor is it in any way need based.  You don't get more if you need more, only if you earned more.  True welfare plans only go to the poor, not the rich.  They also pay out even if you never worked at all.    People think of it as a welfare plan for four reasons:  1.  It keeps you out of the poor house, as it was designed to do, if you make bad decisions (either bad retirement planning or bad life decisions) .  2.  It gets paid from current funding, rather than past funding.  3.  It is connected to certain actual welfare plans that are NOT paid for out of Social Security (Supplemental Security Income).   4.  It is a required program, so everyone must participate. 

So, why is it an Insurance plan, and why isn't it obviously so.

All insurance is a some kind of bet.  Usually the bet pays off if something bad happens.  In effect, Fire insurance is a bet that your house will burn down, Flood insurance a bet that your home will flood, etc.   It makes sense because if the horrible thing happens, you will need the money.  The insurance company makes a profit from all the people that don't have horrible things happen paying a little bit more than those that do have the horrible thing happen.

Social Security is a bet that you a horrible thing will happen - you will live long enough to have trouble working. That is why some people don't understand it - they don't understand that living too long is a bad thing.  Mainly because they have all grown up in a world with Social Security so they never saw the evils of old people that worked hard all their life, perhaps with good middle class jobs, living on the street and dying broke.

This particular kind of insurance is called a lifetime annuity, with a special clause to pay out to widows and orphans if you die early. 

The thing about insurance, is that it pays off for the flood even if you have enough life savings saved up not to need it.  If Donald Trump gets into a car accident, his insurance company doesn't say "Sorry sir, but you can afford to fix it, so we won't pay off."   Nor does the state say "Donald Trump, you are so rich that we won't make your buy car insurance."  No.  The state requires that everyone with a car, no matter how rich, gets car insurance.  We need to require everyone, because the entire idea is to protect everyone, even the people that made stupid decisions - and the stupidest decision is not to participate in the insurance program.  

We don't need another 'retirement plan'.  We have those - they are called Pensions, 401K, IRAs, etc. etc.

We don't need welfare for the elderly.   If someone choose not to work their entire life, they deserve nothing.  Social Security is what lets us protect the good, hard working folk WITHOUT protecting the worthless SOBS that never worked.

The people that claim Social Security is welfare want to remove Social Security and set up an ACTUAL welfare program (sometimes funded by churches, sometimes by the government.  They are hypocrites to a huge extent.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Yes Government is Too Big.

The tea party is correct, the government is too big.  It interferes with our lives too much.   It over-regulates.  

Of course, by government I mean local and state government.  The Federal government is relatively small (except for the military) compared to almost all other governments.  It doesn't do much at all to screw with my life. 

It's the states that do stupid things like outlaw fireworks, not the federal government.

It's the states that get upset and outlaw beverages with alcohol & caffeine.
It's local government that outlaws garage sales (or just the signs - to sound reasonable when they are not)
At the smallest level, it is the stupid home owner's associations that try to tell you what color you are allowed to paint your house.  

The Federal government just does NOT interfere with citizen's lives except on rare issues that many people have very strong feelings (homosexuality, abortion, sexual discrimination, etc.) and therefore demand government regulation

The reason is three fold.
  1. The federal government has way too many important things to do.  They generally don't have the time or energy to screw with anyone on the small scale.  Only the largest organizations (corporations, non-profits, etc.) act on the scale that the Federal government has to regulate them.  But those organizations need to be regulated by the Federal Government, because only the Federal government is big enough to stand up to them.
  2. The federal government gets the best people from all around the country.  You may disagree with them, but it has a larger pool,so generally the worst idiots and tin-pot dictators can't find work.  But the local and state governments have to work with the rest. 
  3. Worse, the federal governments can offer real salaries, and full time jobs.  State and local often have to deal with volunteers or poorly paid people - both of which have a second, real job.   You get what you pay for.
Note, not all such regulation is wrong.  Speed limits for example are a valid state regulation (although some might argue about which limits are fair.)   The point is that when government gets too big, chances are it is the state and local government that is too big, not the federal one.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Service jobs vs Industrial jobs.

One of the major conservative complaints is that America doesn't make anything anymore.  Not true.  America makes MORE than China does.  In 2010,  it has a Gross Domestic Industrial Production of $2.7 trillion. That excludes services and agriculture.  The US has $3.2 trillion.   Granted, if they let their currency float, some think that the value of China's industry might exceed the US.  But if they let their currency go up, their exports would drop like a stone, lowering their industrial output.

But that's not the point of this post.  Instead, I am going to talk about the difference between a 'service' job and an 'industrial job'.

Consider a car mechanic.  If he works for the big auto-makers, he is called an "industrial" job.  If he works for a small mom and pop garage, he is a "Service" job.  Lets pump up the similarity.  His job is to install something into the car.  Maybe it's a Satellite Radio, maybe it's security system - it doesn't matter.   Now he does the exact same thing for both jobs, but one is service and the other is industrial.

The core difference between service and industrial is not the kind of work being done, but instead is there a physical product and if so, does the company working on it own it. 

Lets take a look at some of the 'nonphysical' products that make up the bulk of our 'service' industry.  Well we get financial, legal, higher education, research, and medical services.  Then there is computer programming and pretty much every Internet based business.  There is Media (Hollywood, TV, books, music, advertising, etc)     Almost all of what we mentioned are things we provide for foreigners.   Anyone that thinks we should get rid of these jobs - with the possible exception of legal services as I work for a law firm :) - would be laughed at. 

Another big issue is something called "outsourcing".  I am not talking about outsourcing to other countries, but instead outsourcing within America.  For example when a company decides that instead of painting their skateboards themselves, they want to outsource it (or just the design) to an artist, the artist gets classified as a "service", while if they had done it themselves, that same activity would count as "industry".

Despite years of bad press, the "service" industries that have taken over the US are not maids and laundry service, but instead high end technological and specialized services.  They are not crappy jobs and they are not a sign of pending problems.  They are a sign of our success and China would LOVE to steal these jobs from us.  They can't - because the service industry requires creativity and a disrespect for established ideas that regimented societies can not duplicate.    In a place where the number of children you may have is regulated, the idea of a creating a music device/store (iPod/iTune) that angers the existing music industry would never happen.

Instead service jobs are a sign of success.   Would I want to get ride of industrial jobs completely?  No.  Mainly because it is a good idea to maintain skills in case international politics makes it harder to obtain certain valuable industrial products (such as the rare earth metals that China tried to keep from Japan).

But the service industries are GOOD businesses to be in, not bad ones.   We need to brag about them, not regret them.  The jobs are better paying, safer, and just as valuable.  In a not-so distant utopian future, it is not hard to imagine robots doing the majority of actual industrial jobs, with humans being tasked with designing, programming, and fixing them.    Then there would be no human industrial jobs at all.