Wednesday, August 24, 2011

2012 Election Predictions

With the Wisconsin elections in our rear view mirror, I hereby predict that Obama will win the 2012 election, due in part to low Republican turnout.

In addition, the Democrats will take back the House of Representatives, although they may  lose some Senate seats (that is MAY, not will ).

I base these predictions on three factors.

  1. The Republicans are working so hard to please the Far Right/Tea Partiers, they are ignoring the clear message from the general population.    They keep making the same mistake -moving far right to win a  primary, ensuring they will lose the election.  They can't win the presidency with  approximate 33% of the population that is their conservative base, in fact, they can't even win moderate house districts.
  2. The current GOP strategy is successfully reducing all elected official's favorablility ratings.  This hits Obama, but also all the Republican incumbents. They keep watching Obama vs a Generic Republican, because they don't have a candidate yet.  Obama keeps doing well against any specific candidate. 
  3. The net change is worse for Republicans than for Democrats.  Obama stays ahead, even if his net numbers are worse.   But the House of Representatives also suffers from the bad numbers.  So they lose some incumbent House Representatives to challengers.  In the Senate only 1/3 of the senators are up for re-election (but most are Democrats).  More importantly, they have bigger constituencies, so are less likely to be extreme. This gives Democrats a real advantage in any state with a significant population.  In smaller states, then you can win by appealing to far right (or far left).

The presidency is a clear example.   Consider the sad tale of Ron Paul.  He keeps doing very well in the polls - he came in second to Michelle Bachmann.  But he won't do the same in a national Republican Primary.  Why?  Because while he has a strong base of committed followers, he lacks the broad-base support that a more mainstream conservative has. (Which is a pity, because Ron Paul is NO crazier than any of the other candidates.  Ron Paul  may be against even the Income Tax and has proposed getting rid of it.  But that is saner than being against Evolution.  At least he would be a different kind of crazy than the GOP.) 

But just as Ron Paul's strong following among a small group of people can not win the Republican Primary, neither can the other GOP's strong following in the far right win the US Presidency.  You need to appeal to the moderates, which the GOP hates doing.  They even made up an insulting name for a moderate Republican (RINO = Republican In Name Only), to help drive them away.   Without the RINO's, the GOP can't win the Presidency.

Imagine if the Democrats drove all the "DINO's" out of the party.  They would have to start with Obama himself - a man that is weak on Gay rights, is willing to reduce Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security, and who actually started a third war against Libya before getting out of Afganistan.  The Democrats won the Presidency by expanding the party to include more people, the GOP can't kick Obama out by reducing themselves even further.

The Senate is a hard call.  Currently, the Democrats have 53 vs 47 Republicans.  While there are 33 senators up for re-election, most are liberal.   Two are independents (Lieberman - a conservative ex-democrat and Sanders, the only real socialist in the Congress),  there are 10 Republicans and and  21 Democrats up for re-election.   That gives the Senate many more chances for Republican gains, and fewer for Democrat gains.   But unlike the House, Senate districts tend to be larger, less uniform.  This means that the far right zealous t-party movement is a serious disadvantage for the GOP.   More importantly, most of the nasty stupidity is being blamed on the House, not the Senate.   I don't think the anti-incumbent bent will be enough to overcome the moderation movement being led by Obama.
To gain a majority, the Republicans need to win 3 more votes than the democrats do.

The Liberals at high risk are Webb (Virginia), Tester (Montana), Nelson (Nebraska), Conrad (N. Dakota).  Those 4 Democrats are all in mostly Red states.   I expect to lose one or two of these Democrats.

On the other hand, our primary targets are: Scott Brown (Massachusetts), and Snowe (Maine).  Snowe actually is moderate (for a Republican), having helped Obama out on Health care.  Brown is more conservative.   I expect we will be able to take one of these these seats.

The next quest are the 'purple' states.  Most are states that went Democrat with Obama last time, and I don't expect them to change that much.  Maybe we lose one of them, but not more.   That will leave us with a 51/49 Senate.

But I am being generous with the senate seats.   The main issue is which is going to be more powerful - the anti-incumbent fervor or the move to the far right in the primary that will hurt the republicans in the general election.    Frankly, in a purple state,  the concern about far-right zealotry should be much more powerful.

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    Treason and Fed Policy.

    Mr. Perry has accused the Fed of being 'treasonous'.

    Specifically he claimed engaging in 'quantitative easing' during an election season was treasonous.  Perry describes quantitative easing as 'printing money'.  In fact the Fed does create virtual money and use it to buy up corporate and government debt to lower interest rates.  In effect it prints money electronically.  As the Fed has the right to print money, this is not illegal.  If you or I do it, it would be illegal - because we don't have the legal authority to print money.

    The danger here is that it may cause inflation.  For example, if we were to decided to solve our debt crisis by printing out actual money, we would need to print out $14 trillion.  Today, we have less than 1 Trillion physical dollars out there, so that would be increasing the amount of cash out there by a huge amount.  This would cause a massive amount of inflation, as people would use that money to buy things, driving up prices.  Similar problems would exist if we did it by printing 'virtual' money.  More money out there, causes inflation.    But of course, the Fed is not creating 14 trillions of dollars.

    When you buying up bonds to lower rates, you are fighting inflation - particularly if you buy a mix of corporate bonds as opposed to just federal bonds.   So printing money to buy up many different bond types is different than printing money to pay off just Treasuries.

    First, lets admit that we have already done quantitative easing twice earlier.  No one called it treasonous then.   Perry's complaint seems to be that it is being done to help out our economy in the short term ( just before an election) despite causing long term risk.   Perry claims this is treason because he says Obama is doing it to get re-elected despite it being bad for the country.  The second round of Qunatitative easing involved about $600 billion. 

    But you see that is exactly what ANY kind of 'recession response is - an immediate short term benefit to the country that will cause problems later.  If it did not cause problems later, then you would be doing it all the time, not just during a recession/economic trouble.  

    Inherent in Perry's belief (about treason) are three unstated assumptions:  1) the economy is doing just fine now and does not need any Quantitative Easing.  Otherwise Perry would have objected to it being done the first two times (he did not) or at least stated it should never be done.  2) That it is the GOP's right to have an America economy worse now to make it better later (presumably after the 2012 election when he dreams of being in power).  3) That Obama is not just wrong but KNOWS he is wrong about Quantitative easing. 

    In either case, he has made NO attempt to convince the world that the Fed is being influenced by Obama - he asks for them to open their books to obtain proof but admits he has no reason to think it is going on.   He is Republican, so it is understandable that he thinks he knows better than a Democrat (he doesn't), but it is not appropriate to claim that Obama is intentionally hurting the country.  George Bush was wrong about MANY things (WMD's in Iraq, who he hired in the Justice Department that thought Torture was acceptable), but we don't call him a traitor.  Why?  Because we know George Bush was simply stupid, not evil.  

    In his claims, Perry has demonstrated:

    1. Ignorance of the current state of the economy
    2. A sense of entitlement - he thinks he is entitled to a bad economy to help him get elected
    3. Arrogance in his belief that no one can possibly really disagree with him on economic matters.
    4. Paranoia - in his belief that people that pretend to disagree with him must in fact have ulterior motives.  Their claimed reasons must be lies, they must hate Perry and America.
    Yes, that is the kind of man the Republicans want to run against Obama - an ignorant, entitled, arrogant and  paranoid man.   He is a perfect match for the party that thinks Evolution is a lie, that the rich should not be taxed, that the Democrats can't actually believe what they say they believe, and that they must be socialist.

    It is a wonder he is not hoarding ammunition to protect against Obama's plans to outlaw it. (As the far right paranoids keep insisting despite Obama making NO attempts to get involved in gun legislation at all. Those idiots will still be doing it till 2016 - when Obama leaves office.  I mean really - don't you think Obama has more than enough real problems to deal with as opposed to little stupidity?)

    Compare Perry and Huntsman.  Perry accuses the president of treason, while Huntsman stands up for truth, science and the American way - by proclaiming that Evolution and Global Warming are real.

    As I have said earlier, Huntsman is the best announced Republican with a chance of getting non-conservative votes.  Rubio could do so as well, but is smart enough to know he would lose to Obama so he won't run.  Perry is just another GOP clone following the extreme right T-Party agenda.  He can win the GOP nomination, but not the Presidency.

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Wisconsin Recall: Republicans keep their head in the sand.

    Recall elections are hard to win.   They are hard to even get - both the Democrats and the Republicans tried to get 8 recalls (total of 16 attempted recalls - out of 33 elected state representatives), but the Democrats only got 6 and the Republicans only got 3.   The Republicans failed to recall any of the 3 Democrats they got on the ballot, while the Democrats recalled 2 of the 6 Republicans they got on the ballot.

    This moved the Wisconsin State house from 19 (R)/ 14(D) to 17 (R) /16 (D).   This is a CLEAR win for the Democrats, but they did not quite win enough to regain the majority.  The GOP tried to spin it as a 'win' for them because they kept the majority.    

    Part of the problem is that the driving force for the recall was really hatred of Governor Walker, not of the 6 lapdogs that did his bidding.  But incumbency/name recognition is a big advantage.    But the biggest problem with recall elections is voter apathy.   Frankly we just get tired and disgusted with the process.  We don't enjoy voting - it a a sacred duty.  Like all chores, we do it with reluctance.

    Wisconsin went is at heart a purple (neither Lib or Con) state.  It went Blue (Dem) for Obama in 2008, red temporarily in the 2010 election, it is back to blue again in 2011 (Democrats won 10/16 proposed recalls).  Walker pissed off people and Obama is smart enough to take advantage of it.   As a result the Wisconsin Democrats now have some immediate advantage - they just need one ethical Republican to stop a bill.  More importantly, there is one Moderate Republican who has stood up to Walker before.   This means that much Walker's conservative agenda  - such as anti-abortion and anti-immigration will have to be watered down.

    But more importantly, it is a huge sign that the GOP is in for a rude awakening next November.   The GOP has used a dis-satisfaction with Obama's ability to fix the economy as an excuse to push a heavily conservative agenda that most Americans simply don't agree with.   Whether we are talking about trying to attack liberal institutions such as Planned Parenthood's non-abortion services (which make up 97% of it services mostly in STD testing/treatment, contraception, and cancer testing/prevention  as opposed to 3% that is abortion related.), or to prevent tax hikes on the wealthy, the GOP is about to find out what the term BACKLASH really means. 

    It got 2 Republicans kicked out of the Wisconsin State House before there term was up and we are going to see what it does to House Republicans in a bit more than one year.

    Tuesday, August 16, 2011

    A Simple Plan for Conservatives

    I offer this plan to the GOP because I think they are too cowardly to use it.  If they were brave, they would have secretly done it already. 

    For quite some time, conservatives have been upset with the difficulty of pushing back entitlements.  They talk about them as if they are addictions that Americans can't give up (See this earlier post)  While I disagree with their analogy, I do agree that it is hard to get rid of popular programs. This is not a short term phenomena, it has been going on for a long time.    At the same time, they have repeatedly demonstrated that it is incredibly easy to push through tax cuts. President love to offer them.  For some reason, Americans don't enjoy paying taxes.  Cutting taxes has been popular since, well back when Greece invented democracy.  Greece had this thing when they went to war they created a tax called a eisphora.  Then after the war, they canceled the tax.  Hm, what a wonderful idea. (Source)

    So here is a simple plan for the GOP to follow:

    Step 1.  Agree to permanent Medicare/Medicaid/Social Security in exchange for tax hikes starting in 4 years.  After all, we don't want to disrupt the economy.

    Step 2.  Complain about the tax hikes, using them as a weapon against Democrats for the next election cycle.

    Step 3.   After a couple of years (anything less than 4) push through tax cuts that cancel Step 1's tax hikes, but leave the entitlement cuts.   For an added level of sneakiness, they could make the tax cuts not quite identical to the original tax hikes.  They could even be bigger.  These tax cuts cut in immediately, not in 4 years

    Net results from this rather simple plan:
    • In the next election, the GOP gets two weapons to use against Democrats - in liberal districts they can say "the incumbents sold out Social Security, throw the bums out."  In conservative districts they can say "Those tricky Democrats only know how to raise taxes and spend your money."
    • They permanently reduce entitlements.
    • They have a fake tax hike that never actually happens.
    • Some republicans may lose their primary to T-Party idiots too stupid to understand the plan.
    • They do run the risk of failing to cancel the tax hikes before they activate.   But honestly it is a LOT easier to cut taxes than it is to cut entitlements.  It is a worthwhile risk - for a brave politician that cares more about the country than his own job.
     So why won't conservatives do this?  Well, there are basically four possible reasons:

    1. They are cowards.  They either care more about their own jobs than they do about what's right for the country, or they are afraid of not gaining a majority in time to kill the tax hikes.
    2. The GOP doesn't actually want to cut entitlements, they are just using it as a fake rallying cry.
    3. They have not thought of this rather simple plan.  Well, I guess I shouldn't have told them.
    4. The GOP is too ethical to lie to the Democrats.   Wow, that was hard to type.   I was laughing so hard I almost couldn't do it. 
    Honestly the last two are jokes.   Karl Rove and Michelle Bachmann are rather solid proof that the GOP is very cunning and willing to lie through their teeth.

    I am pretty sure the GOP wants to cut entitlements.  They know that if we don't raise taxes, than we have to do major cuts somewhere to balance the budget.  Aside from Defense, the liberal entitlement programs are pretty much the simplest things to cut.  If they weren't so incredibly necessary, we would have cut them already.  Despite the GOP rhetoric, America doesn't have a lot of things we can cut.  Compared to other countries, we outspend on the military and not much else.

    So, as far as I can tell, the Republicans must be cowards.  They either are afraid of losing their jobs or of not being in a position to revoke the tax hikes.   Either way, it doesn't look good for them.

    Half of politics is being brave enough to trick your opponent into a bad compromise.  The reason the GOP hates compromise so much is that they keep thinking the Democrats 'win' the compromises.  Frankly I think that is just partisan lies to build their bargaining position.  The debt crisis is a great example - they pretend they lost when they won - or rather the T Party did.  Funny, the GOP seems to relish compromising within their own party.

    Sunday, August 14, 2011

    Rick Perry (with an E) enters the race for Republican loser of 2012

    Rick Perry is deciding to enter the race.  Note this is remarkably late, being less than 15 months to go to the election.  Typical campaigns last 21 months, not 15.   During the 2008 election, by this time Obama had already out-raised Clinton and Oprah had not even mentioned him yet.

    So a couple of questions - first, why did Perry wait?   Maybe because he did not think he had a chance, until he saw the current people competing to lose to Obama in 2012.  Maybe he because he knew that the shorter the primary campaign, the last dirt your own people dig up on you.

    Why am I so sure he will lose?  Because the far right has a lock on the primary process of the GOP and the center hates the far right.  You can't win the primary unless you agree to:  no new taxes, no on abortion, no on gay rights (there is actually a gay republican candidate for presidency that Fox won't show  on TV - despite his having the 1% of votes that they claim is their limit), no on healthcare, no on everything Obama every asks for.

    Anyone that cow-tows enough to the far right to win the Republican Nomination can NOT win the popular vote.   The far right gives you at most 30% of the vote, and you need 51%.   Obama on the other hand is quite willing to move to the middle - as demonstrated by his willingness to cut entitlement programs if the GOP agrees to raise taxes.  The independent voters are not fooled by the ridiculous hyperbole of the T-party.   They know garbage when they hear it.

    But that is beside the point.  Who is Perry, what makes him different than the other candidates.  Well, he lacks the history of outright lies that Michele Bachmann has.  He lacks the kiss of death of working with the Democrats that Huntsman has.  He lacks the Mormon scare that Mitt Romney has.   He has the experience that Cain does not.  He has the intelligence that Palin does not. 

    In short, he lacks all the weaknesses that  the other candidates have.  The only true weakness he has is a clear history of sending innocent men to the death chamber (In 1991 Cameron Todd Willingham's house burned down.   After a trial in which an 'expert' witness (if you can claim to be an expert when the state has already discredited you - but not in that trial) said it was arson, he was convicted of Arson and killing his three daughters.  The claimed motive was to have more time alone.   In 2004 Perry let Willingham die, despite multiple real arson experts testimony that the fire was accidental, not arson.  In 2009 Perry fires the commission that was going to report on the innocence/guilt of Willingham 2 days before they make their report and replaced them, having them start over.  In May 2011, the commission found that the Arson investigation did not follow proper procedure and then in August the Attorney General Office ordered the commission NOT to rule on Willingham's guilt/innocence because the crime took place too long ago.)

    That said, Rick Perry is a fairly typical republican, who has stated that he wished the country did not have an income tax.  He opposes gay rights, abortion, etc.  He is religious (Methodist), believes in intelligent design, is against vaccination for HPV (a kind of cancer women can get from sex).  He does not believe in global warming.

    He has ruled over Texas while it has been adding jobs - though they are almost all menial, low paying jobs, and bragged about it being the only state to do so during the recession.

    His only liberal thought is opposing the US-Mexican Fence.  He prefers boots on the ground, and has stated that the harsh anti-immigration Arizona Law SB1070 is not right for Texas.

    Most importantly, Rick Perry, unlike Obama, lacks leadership.  He follows the GOP guidebook instead of re-writting it.

    Compare that to Obama that is willing to reform medicare/medicaid (if we get tax increases).  Obama did what no previous Democrat President could do - reform healthcare (despite yet another appeals court ruling that is likely to be over-ruled.).  Obama got us out of Iraq, is getting us out of Afghanistan, killed Osama Bin Laden.   No, Rick Perry is just another follower, not a leader.

    So it is not very surprising that he has followed all the other slow-poke republicans into the race for the Republican failed presidency candidate, as opposed to going first.

    We need a leader and leaders jump in, they don't hang back and test the water.

    P.S.  Before Perry began running for election in Texas, he was a Democrat.  But in Texas, Democrats can't win anymore (they used to be able to win as a 'blue dog' conservative Democrat because old timers hated the Republican party - a hold over from the Civil War).  Perry even helped Al Gore's campaign, about 23 years ago.  But he disagreed with Al Gore about environmentalism and claims that is what turned him Republican.

    We, as Liberals, need to eliminate a lot of regulations

    There are just a ton of really stupid regulations and laws that need to be eliminated.   Yes, I a liberal, am stating that we need to get rid of regulations and laws.

    Walter E. Williams, a republican commentator, recently posted an article listing a bunch of them.   You can read them here.   But one thing Walter E. Williams did not seem to realize - ALL THE REGULATIONS/LAWS HE MENTIONED ARE STATE LAWS, NONE ARE FEDERAL.

    The best example he gave was of an inter-state trucker trying to get into in-state trucking.  There were all these state laws he had to overcome.  

    The problem with the GOP is that they just don't realize that Federal Government is BETTER than state governments.

    1. It draws from a larger pool of talent, so Federal employees are smarter and more ethical.   A Congressional district may have 2 really great politicians in it, even if that same district has to send 4 people to a State House of Representatives, along with a Congressman to Washington.
    2. There is a bigger spotlight on federal laws then on state ones.  When a city like Chicago passes a law to make it illegal to cross the street on the south side of an intersection, it gets reported on by the Chicago Tribune (a fairly good newspaper) and local TV stations.  Federal laws get reported on by the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, the New York Times, the CNN, FOX News, etc. etc.
    3. Local areas can easily be dominated by one political party, effectively dis-enfranchising 30-40% of the population, but this is harder to do on a national scale. 
    4. A national lobbyist can come in and overpower a local one over a local issue, but this is harder to do with national issues. They can do this with skill, not just money.
    5. Similarly, a low amount of money can effectively buy an election for a local issue, but honestly for federal issues, the amount of cash it takes to buy an issue on the national stage is simply excessive (Studies show that to get a 1% change in popular support, you need to double the amount of money spent.   A nationally funded group can probably double the current spending for a local issue about 4-5 times (4 doublings = x16 original  cost)  You can't do that for a national issue.
    6. The Federal Government has Constitutional restrictions on what they can do.  States and local governments usually have a lot less restrictions  For example, the Federal Government has no legal authority to tell you what color you can paint your house.  But some cities claim that right
    7. Important things that we KNOW are right get done at the Federal level, leaving less important things for the states to decide. A key example is Slavery.  We know it is wrong, so (eventually) we passed a federal law about it, instead of leaving it up to the states.  Same thing for Murder - we don't let a state say "murder is OK", because it is important and we know it is wrong.  The states tend to deal with concepts and ideas that are either new and untested, or just plain controversial.

    As a general rule, Federal laws and regulations are created by smarter, more ethical people, with more transparency, with greater concessions to their opponents, without outside interference, and with higher goals in mind. State laws are sometimes (not always), created by crooked idiots, in a back room, to spite their opponents, with outsiders calling the shots, over anything they feel like it.

    State laws require licenses for Barbers, Federal Laws require licenses for Doctors.  Federal laws prevents discrimination against housing the handicapped, State law limits how many people may occupy the building (sometimes in an underhanded attempt to negate the Federal handicapped protections). 

    See the difference?

    So yes, we need to get rid of a bunch of state/local rules/regulations/laws.  But Federal government does not have that same problem.  Yes, there are some bad federal rules/regulations/laws.   But they are few and far between  When I get upset about government interfering in my life/business it is almost always a local law that is causing the problem.

    Anyone that does not see obvious fact should stay in local politics and out of national politics.  We don't need to let the Peter Principle work in government.

    Friday, August 12, 2011

    Why Using the Bible Against Homosexuality is a Bad Idea.

    This post is not about the First Amendment.  I will pretend that we live in a country that allows a state religion, because in fact most of the world does live in such countries.

    The bible is a pretty big book.  It is so big in fact that often people think it says something when it doesn't (Source).     Furthermore, being so large it has some self-contradictory information.

    The first and most obvious examples are the two contradictory explanations of how the world was made:  Seven days (Order: 1 Light/Dark, 2 Water/Sky, 3 Earth/Plants, 4 Sun/Moon/Stars, 5 Animals, 6 Adam/Eve, 7 God Rests) vs. Garden of Eden (Order: Earth + Heaven, Adam [Human], Plants, Animals,  and finally Eve).  Not only does the Garden of Eden story have Adam being created before the plants and animals, but it has the Earth and Heaven (presumably including the Sun, Moon and Stars), all before Plants instead of on the same day.

    This does not even take into account the various different versions from different religions.   I am not just talking about Jewish vs Christian vs. Islam.  Different sects have different versions - Roman Catholic is not the same as Methodist, and their bibles have differences.

    But we are saved.  You see, God is in his infinite wisdom, knew we were going to have this problem.  Among other things, the various bibles make distinct differences between what flawed but sainted humans said/wrote, what they remember God said and what is confirmed as God actually saying.

    Best of all, God made sure that his most important words were in fact written in stone.  Not just words said by a human, not just the word of god remembered by a single human, not just the word of God remembered by many.   As per the old testament, God personally carved them in stone for all to see.  So that when we wrote the bible we could quote them.   He did not write a novel, just a short list of things he thought very important.   He gave us a TOP TEN LIST of Gods Most Important Issues.  This is the stuff that really matters.

    To paraphrase (as those different sects I mentioned have slightly different versions - they did have to translate from Hebrew) , the Ten Commandments are:

    1. One God
    2. No Idols
    3. Don't break your word (swear)
    4. Pray to me at least once a week (Keep Sabbath Holy)
    5. Be good to your parents (honor your mother and father)
    6. No murder
    7. No Adultery.
    8. No Theft.
    9. Don't Lie (bear false witness)
    10. Don't be Greedy (covet - it's more than just desire)
    These are the big ten.  The things God REALLY cares a lot about.  Now, I am sure that God has a lot of other things he cares about.   He probably doesn't like it when a youngster refuses to give up a seat for an elderly person.   Not to mention hacking into the cell phones.  Or farting in church.

    But those things did not make the top ten list.  God thinks those top ten are far worse than anything else man does.   I don't see Homosexuality anywhere on that list, do you?   Maybe God doesn't like it.   Maybe he is as disgusted by it as you.   (I don't think so, but I am just a poor, modest sinner - I have been known to visit my grandmother in a nursing home on a Sunday instead of praying.)  But it is not on his top ten list.   He's got more important things to care about.

    That means it is easier to get into heaven if you spend your entire life engaging in wild, perverted homosexual sex than it is if you never prayed on Sunday.   So that gay couple that went to a makeshift church every Sunday presided over by a lesbian? They get into heaven while the atheist doesn't.  More importantly,if you try to keep homosexual away from church, then you are doing the Devil's work.

    Frankly, God doesn't care all that much about homosexuality.  It's just not on his list.   When you complain about Homosexuality, using the bible as an excuse, that you trying to tell God what to do, instead of accepting his will.   Sounds to me like you are ignoring the angel on your shoulder in favor of the other guy.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Bad Politcal Arguments

    There are certain classic bad political arguments that are used continuously in American politics.

    Here are a few of them:

    1. What you are doing is wrong and evil (but totally different from the near identical things I do).  Jon Stewart makes a living pointing out all the times Fox News does this.  If in fact Fox News stopped doing it, The Daily Show might have to close down.   Fox objects to rappers and Stewart shows them embracing Country singers who basically sang the same lyrics.  Fox objects to liberals using a "victim" card while claiming they are the victim because of this happening.   Democrats do it to, but not enough for a TV show to base it's existence on them. 
    2. The "Amateur" mistake: focusing on unimportant details while ignoring the extremely important ones.  Amateurs do this all the time because they were never taught what is relevant and what effects are minor.  Examples of this are the "Pro-Confederacy" people that point out blacks working for the Confederacy (by working I mean slaves), while ignoring the fact that the blacks were not given weapons and were killed if they objected - or were in fact Union spies.
    3. Ad Hominem : This is mud slinging - when they attack the man's character instead of his politics. 
    4. Exaggerate to silliness.  Sometimes called the Slippery Slope.   The common practice of taking a reasonable idea and exaggerating it and pretending it is the same thing.  As in the arguments that gay marriage will lead to people marrying animals.  Or an older claim that if you give women the vote, next thing you know we will give animals the vote.  Both arguments are moronic.
    5. Irrelevant facts .  Often used with statistics.   When you bring up true, but irrelevant facts that seem relevant.  For example, stating that we need to outlaw violent video games because people have violent thoughts afterward.  It SOUNDS like you are saying the video games turn you violent, but you are not really saying that. Instead all you are saying is that people remember things (as in after they play a violent video game they remember (thoughts) the violent video games).   Turning someone violent means they actually act on their violence - and not in minor ways like hitting a pillow.  As in actually committing violent crimes.   No study has shown an actual increase in violent actions related to playing violent video games.   Studies do show actual increase in a violent actions after drinking Alcohol.  Video games don't show the same increase.  They cause less violence than a 2 drink minimum.
    6. Straw Man  This is when you tell people what your opponent believes in.   Funny how your opponent never believes in good things.   Also funny how your opponent never agrees with your statement of his beliefs. This technique is often used by people that refuse to state what they themselves believe in.  
    7. Quoting someone else's lie.  Here they know (or strongly suspect) something is not true, and they don't want to get sued, so they quote someone else saying it.   All news agencies like doing this, but the master on the right is Michelle. Bachmann.  Her crowning masterpiece was the laughable lie when she accused Obama of spending $200 million a day on a trip to India. Turns out he spent less than 1/20th that much.  It's like spending $4,000 on a business trip and having some jackass from accounting think you spent $80,000 - because of  an anonymous email from some guy claiming to work in the hotel you stayed in.   
    We are never going to get rid of all of them.  Mud Slinging simply is not going to go away - despite the fact that people that engage in it come away covered in almost as much mud as their victim.   But you can pay attention to things people say and ignore them when they use these things.   Most of them are fairly easy to detect - with the exceptions of 2 Amateur and 5 Irrelevant, which require some intelligence/experience in the issues.  

      Monday, August 8, 2011

      What Is a Fair Share of Taxes.

      One of the tricks that the GOP likes to do is to pretend that your income determines whether you are poor or not.   They use the fact that $250,000 is not a lot of money for a family of 5 to live on, as an excuse to cut the taxes on single people earning $250,000.

      Conservatives love to talk about the rich as if they are tireless workers for the country, while the poor sit around and do nothing.  They quote numbers like:   "In the U.S. now, the wealthiest 1 percent of the population earn 19 per­cent of the income but pay 37 percent of the income tax. The top 10 percent pay 68 percent of the tab. "  The link inside the quote came from the quote, so it might not be reliable. (my Source for the quote)

      Now at first that sounds impressive.  Until you realize they quoted the wrong numbers.  It's not how much you declare as 'income', but how much wealth you have in the bank that matters.  I know people earning $150,000 a year that are poor - because they are paying off huge school loans, or supporting a wife and 5 kids.  I know people earning less than $90,000 that are rich - because they are still single and invested wisely - one guy I know makes less than 90k, but it worth more than 900k at the age of 42.  He is aiming to be a millionaire by the time he is 43.

      Note that the conservative quoted the wealthiest 1% of the population, not the highest earners, so you need to look at their wealth, not how much they pay.  A man worth $1 billion dollars who has a salary of $100,000 (while living in a company owned Yacht, driving a company owned car, etc. etc.) is not 'middle class'.  No, that guy is rich, despite his salary.  Talking about income is how we got into this mess, we need to talk about his wealth.

      So lets look at the numbers that actually matter, instead of the bullcrap that is not relevant  (Source for real numbers)
      • The wealthiest 1% own 34.3% of all the wealth in the US and they pay 37% of our taxes
      • The next 9% own 36.7% and pay 31%.  
      • The middle 50% own 29% of the wealth and pay 32% of the taxes.  
      • The bottom 40% own about 0.2% of the wealth, so it is not surprising that they pay almost no taxes. 


      Taxes need to be based on your WEALTH, not the salary.   (see my previous post about taxing assets, not income)  If you own $1 billion, in the bank, you should pay higher taxes than the broke guy, even if you salary is less than his.

      Why?  Because it is easy to fiddle with the number you declare as your 'income', but it is hard to fiddle with your wealth.  If you own your company, then you own all the wealth it has.  But if you own your company, you can still use accounting tricks to cut your income down to nothing.  Also, if you are foolish enough to keep all your 'wealth' in the company name, then you lose one of the main benefits of being incorporated - protection from lawsuits/corporate bankruptcy.

      Some of you may notice that numbers look reasonably close to the numbers. Not exactly.  The top 1% pay 'an extra 3%'.   But the next 9%, pay 6% too little (taking back the extra 3% the very top give, then an extra 3% stolen from the middle class). The middle 50% (excluding the top 10% and the bottom 40%) are the middle class and are getting ripped off - they own 29% of the wealth but pay 32% of the taxes. 

      If we were to truly fix our tax structure, we would raise taxes on the top 10% wealthiest not the top 10% earners.   I repeat my previous blog's (New flat tax idea) claim that taxes should be on ASSETS, not on income.   I don't want to replace the entire tax system, but we need to use this idea as a basis for changes in our current system.   Require people to tell the IRS their total net worth, and tax that, as opposed to their income.   It doesn't have to be large, the Total Net Worth of all US households is about 55 Trillion (in 2009).   Total federal tax Income collected was about 2.6 trillion.   A 4.7% Net Worth Tax would pay for everything (up from 4% in my old article based on 2008 numbers), even during the recession.  But I don't want to do that.  Despite the fact that it would be MUCH easier to calculate: no hunting down income forms, just check your last month's financial statements and a housing valuation from a service like Zillow.  No calculations on gain/loss, no working out exemptions, etc.    If you spent or lost it you don't have to pay tax on it.  We only taxed the wealth you accumulate.   No, that idea is too radial a change.

      Instead we could simply trade in the complex AMT rules with a simpler rule.  Here is one (of many possibilities):   First drop the current AMT rules.   Calculate your net worth.  If it is under $1 million you owe no additional taxes.  If your net worth is more than a millon dollars, you owe taxes of either the standard rate or $20,000 plus 5% for every dollar of net worth above that exempt $1 million.  Note the $1 million would be automatically adjusted for inflation every year.

      Net worth doesn't change all that much, so you know each year roughly how much you have to pay in taxes.   Yes, illiquid assets would make calculating Net Worth harder, but we could require them to be published and have people be legally required to sell any such illiquid asset for any offer at 150% of the listed taxed value.  The only problem is people with large assets and low income (farmers).   That could be solved with a corporation minority share sale.  For example a farmer incorporates, trades his land for shares, keeps 51% of the shares themselves, sells 49%.  He owns a controlling interest, gets taxed on only 51% of the value of his farm, and can pay the early taxes using the money from the shares sold.   He can also diversify himself by buying some shares from  other farmers.

      And no, farmers are not hicks.  If they own enough property to inflate their taxes, then they are intelligent businessmen (or women) quite capable of running a corporation. 

      Saturday, August 6, 2011

      Update on Debt Crisis/FAA Budget

      Well they went with the  mix of all the Debt Limit solutions, as I was almost predicting.

      They did a little bit of Mouse by pushing the harder stuff out to a committee to be decided later.   A little bit of Chicken by only planning on cutting 2 trillion instead of 4 trillion.   A bit of Cat via spending cuts without tax increases, a bit of dog with no cuts to Social Security, etc.
       Worst of all, as I feared, we also got a bit of  Ostrich with one of the three major credit raters downgrading us. Standard & Poors says we are only AA+, not AAA. (My original post said: "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 FAA Budget deal was a bit better.  We funded it till Congress comes back.  It look like the GOP is going to win the elimination of a few of the rural airport subsidies (if they had real character they would cut at least 50%, but it looks like they won't cut more than 16 out of the 140 airports getting paid subsidies.)  It also looks like the Democrats are going to stop the one sided Union rules the GOP tried to push through.

      But while they did extend the budget, it was only till September - so no real confirmation on the FAA budget yet.

      Thursday, August 4, 2011

      The FAA Budget Stupidity

      As a mostly liberal person, I heavily blame the GOP for their horrendous activity during the Debt Limit Crisis.   They claim to care about our debt in one breadth and then refuse to raise taxes back to Clinton era levels - despite the fact that under Clinton we had a SURPLUS, not a deficit.

      So now I have to look at the current problem.  Here we have the FAA's budget being disputed.   Because it has been rejected, certain air travel taxes are not being collected, costing the US about $200 million a week.   Not to mention putting about 74,000 people out of work. 

      The GOP is doing this for two reasons:

      1. To stop 13 rural airport from receiving federal subsidaries.  It is so much money that some rural airports offer FREE air travel  for the sole purpose of boosting their numbers enough to get the federal aid.     Here the GOP is completely correct, we do not need to be wasting our money on this crap (or at very least graduate the payments so that free air travel is never worth the airports effort.)    Yes, I am supporting the Republicans on this part of the problem.   The problem is that they only did this for 13 out of over 140 airports receiving the subsidy.  They do sometimes get things right. 
      2. The GOP wants to change  airline Union organizing rules so that the they need to get a majority of total possible votes, as opposed to total votes cast.  In effect that means people that did not vote, count as voting against the Union.  For a company that has 20,000 employees, the union needs 10,001 YES votes, even if not a single person voted No. Here the GOP is acting in a vile manner.   In most elections you get a lot of people that don't vote.   In 2008, only 63% of eligible voters voted for the President of the United States. The GOP is in effect demanding that all people that don't vote count as voting against them.  I wonder if they would allow the Democrats to use those rules for Presidential elections - that is any person not voting counts as a vote for the Democrats.

      To me, the telling point is the number of airports they are cutting back on.  Why only 13 airports - saving less than $17 million (I have seen estimates of $8.5 to $16.5 million).   We are losing over $200 million a week in lost Aviation taxes because of the shut down..  We give subsidies about 140 rural airports and honestly, I see little reason to continue supporting most of them.   Yes, some people will have to drive further.   But the cost to the nation is not worth the minor benefits.   If a state wishes to maintain a rural airport, let that state do it. The country can't afford it. 

      But that's not the point.  We know it's not because they cut subsidies to less than 10% of the rural airports, while they did the union rules changes to all the airlines.  What is actually going on is that the GOP is using a minor point where they are correct to hide a vile disgusting attempt kill unions.   Worst of all, they don't even have the courage to elimination 10% these wasteful subsidies.  Not even 10%!!!  You want legitimacy, try dropping at least 50% of the rural subsidiaries, not less than 10%.

      The FAA budget fiasco is not about the wasteful rural subsidies.  Instead it is about a blatant attempt to kill unions. 

      Tuesday, August 2, 2011

      Voter ID laws

      Several states have instituted voter ID laws.  The GOP claim they are intended to prevent voter fraud, but statistics show that is very, very low.  The Democrats claim that it is just another barrier to stop people from voting.

      In general, the laws are designed to allow drivers that live where they got their license to vote without any additional change.  But that means non-drivers, or worse, people that don't live where they got their license, have a much harder time voting.

      Let me list some of the people that are inconvenienced by the law:   Elderly (don't drive/nursing home), College kids (may not drive, not living at 'home'),  Homeless, and the poor in general. Oh, the laws let a poor man get a free ID, but he still has to pay the bus fare, and possibly miss a day of work to get the card.  Not to mention he has to deal with the bureaucracy /ignorance of the people giving out the IDs.  Often the people giving out the ID's are ignorant of what they have to do.

      Some of the laws make it much harder to do absentee balloting.  In effect that prevents college kids from voting.  Others, go out of the way to help nursing patients to vote, but do nothing for college kids.  In general the laws require a photo copy of a photo ID to obtain an absentee ballot.  Fairly silly as there is no guarantee that the photo copy looks anything at all like the person mailing it in.  There it is only done to ensure they have an ID, not to actually prevent fraud.

      Voter fraud rates are fairly low. We get numbers ranging from 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 2,000,000  (Source)  Lets use the higher number.    I estimate more than 1 in 100 Americans are currently in college (80 year life span, 4 years of college, = 1/20 chance of being in college, assuming 20% graduate = 1/100).  About 50% of college age students vote.

      So, to stop 1 in 100,000, we are going to make it much harder for 500  in 100,000 people to vote.   Lets assume that only 1% of the people will be stopped by the laws.  Seems low to me, I bet more like 5% to 10% will be stopped, but lets be generous.    OK, so to stop 1 in 100,000 bad votes, we are going to also stop 5 legitimate votes in 100,000.

      Now some bright moron is going to start arguing that "If they don't care to vote, then they shouldn't get to".  Unfortunately that argument you gave has been ruled unconstitutional.   First of all, you are intentionally selecting poor, sick, and young people to block their vote (not to mention the obnoxious ruling that lets gun licenses count but not student IDs).    If you want to stop the unmotivated members of my party from voting, I demand the right to stop the unmotivated members of your party.  ou hare 90.

      But that is irrelevant, the Supreme Court already outlawed such 'barriers' to voting.  You see in the old days, the big, bad Democrat party tried to stop blacks from voting (my how far we have come - and how far the Republican party that freed the slaves has fallen).   The Democrats used poll taxe, literacy tests, party restrictions (Texas made it illegal for blacks/hispanics to join the Democratic party - preventing them voting in the primary, which was what mattered) and other such barriers.  Eventually the Court in a series of rulings, prevented all of these things (Harper v. Virginia, Nixon vs Herndon, Nixon V. Condon, Smith v. Allwright, etc. etc.)

      Unfortunately people do not have a constitutional right to vote, the states do.  No part of the US constitution gives any individual the right to vote, just the states.  The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlaws discrimination based on race or color, but not on age or poverty.  So those court rulings above?  They flow from that act.

      But just because something is legal does not mean it is ethical.  What we have here is a bunch of slimy, liars trying to disenfranchise Democrats by pretending to fight voter fraud.  So far they have succeeded, but...

      They are only getting rid of 5 legitimate votes in 100,000.   People tend to win elections by more than .005%  It may be a slimy tactic, but it won't be particularly effective.  Don't be surprised if those Voter ID laws are either changed or thown out after 2012.