Monday, December 26, 2016

Seen and Unseen

The other side of manufacturing job loss: Global Trade Is Why Your Television Did Not Cost $6,200 Like It Did in 1964

Automation has also destroyed manufacturing jobs while benefiting consumers.* As automation creeps into other industries, it becomes a much bigger threat than foreign labor. We need a leader with a plan for that challenge, not one who wants to raise consumer prices through protectionist tariffs.

Bringing offshored jobs back - when most of those jobs are going to be automated out of existence - is the opposite of visionary.

*U.S. manufacturing productivity has steadily increased since 1950.

Monday, December 19, 2016

No, really

The WaPo says, The electoral college is thwarting our ability to battle global warming
[T]he electoral college will have a lasting legacy on all of our lives through climate change. The combination of two administrations headed by presidents who lost the popular vote has and will slow our progress down, and that delay contributes to an ever worsening global climate problem.
You needn't bother to RTWT.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Phish Called John

How John Podesta's email was hacked.

Oh, those dastardly Russian phishing trawlers. Hillary lost the election because they used an ultra-sophisticated hacking program only a State-sponsored entity could deploy. Then they used mind control rays to get Podesta's aide to click on a suspicious link.

A 10 year old script kiddie could have pulled this off, even if he wasn't a Nigerian Prince.

And, let’s not forget that what Podesta’s emails mainly revealed was the actual rigging of an American election by the DNC: The Democratic primaries. It’s why Debbie Wosname Schultz resigned as DNC Chairman.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hacking the easy things first

There are suggestions by the CIA that Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta's email for the purpose of helping Trump win the election. The FBI disagrees. The CIA also apparently claims the Republican National Committee was hacked, but the Russians deliberately withheld release of any information gathered by that hack.

Reince Priebus denies the RNC was hacked, and says that after conferring with the FBI.

An alternative explanation for the hack of the DNC and Podesta is that some entity other than Russia easily found the means to get into those servers via Hillary Clinton's unprotected private server. There's more public evidence pointing to that than there is to the Russians.

Update: Dec 13 10:50AM
Top U.S. spy agency has not embraced CIA assessment on Russia hacking

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The $7 million being taken from Indiana taxpayers and given to Carrier

...(a United Technologies company) is really small potatoes.

If you take nearly a billion dollars in government carrots and the Feds are a big client, where do you hide when Trump swings the 35% tariff stick? Behind your lobbyists?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Cronies and corporatists

The Myth of Clean Politics

Exactly what I've said about lobbyists. If they can't turn a favor or donation into a multi-million dollar contract or sweetheart regulation they'll stop lobbying.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Carrier

The President Elect's success in keeping 1,000 Carrier jobs in Indiana is great PR. While it depends in part on 7 million dollars in state tax rebates, the silver lining is that this might cause people to wonder why all businesses don't get such a tax break. At the Federal level Mr. Trump is promising exactly that, as well as reducing the Federal regulatory burden.

Unfortunately, he's simultaneously proposing another regulation, reviving his threats of a 35% tariff on goods produced by American based companies if they move manufacturing overseas. Apparently, this won't apply to Trump apparel since it's always been made in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Mexico or other countries where labor is cheaper.

Like George W. Bush's steel tariffs, this is a bad idea that would damage American consumers (including businesses) to favor a small group of workers.

Some (Chao, De Vos and Mnuchin aren't exactly swamp drainers) of his choices for Cabinet positions have been good, so it's too bad he's keeping his campaign promises on trade. Mr. Trump's businesses have depended on government subsidies and regulatory exemptions and he's showing every sign that he thinks that's good "industrial policy."

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Oh, No Canada!

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the death of the monster Fidel Castro:
“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.

“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.

“While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”.

“I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.

“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”
Mocking follows: #trudeaueulogy

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Vegetarian Mandate

On October 31st I wrote:
It’s so simple, just find a big 'social problem' with dozens, or hundreds, of different causes and impose a single 2,000 page solution. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this approach to solve the obesity epidemic. We’ll just put nutrition labels on candy machines, ban soft drinks over 16 ounces and move toward taxing calories.
While we've already done the first two of those things, the part about taxing calories was half tongue-in-cheek. I needn't have worried that it was over the top, though I did get the wrong social problem. I should have known "Climate Change" would be the real reason: UK Researchers: Tax Food to Reduce Climate Change
“Emissions pricing of foods would generate a much needed contribution of the food system to reducing the impacts of global climate change,” said Dr Marco Springmann of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, who led the study. “We hope that’s something policymakers gathering this week at the Marrakech climate conference will take note of.”

Much of the emissions reduction would stem from higher prices and lower consumption of animal products, as their emissions are particularly high. The researchers found that beef would have to be 40% more expensive globally to pay for the climate damage caused by its production. The price of milk and other meats would need to increase by up to 20%, and the price of vegetable oils would also increase significantly.
This is a perfect example of MIT Technology Review editor David Rotman's demand for an updated command-and-control industrial policy:
[There is a] compelling argument that we need more coherent and deliberate strategic planning in tackling our economic problems, especially in finding more effective ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions
The 2000 pages needed to implement this will consist of 1) tax credits for pregnant mothers, exemptions for starving third worlders and waivers for Senators and Congressmen and their aides; 2) lobbyist provisions for Archer Daniels Midland; 3) definition of the bureaucratic requirements; 4) determination of the amount of tax for protein content, say tofu vs. hamburger; 5) surtaxes based on greenhouse gas contribution variation due to processing and transportation; 6) all manner of amendments entirely unrelated to the taxing of food and 7) other things you'll have to read the bill to find out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lobbyists

Sen. Elizabeth Warren's recent rant about lobbyists in the Trump transition team (just before they were all sent packing) brings me once again to editor David Rotman's MIT Technology Review article Capitalism Behaving Badly. Specifically this:
[W]e should admit that markets are created and shaped by government policies, including government support of innovation.
If we are to admit that markets are created and shaped by government, we also must admit that lobbying is created by government as a protective reaction to that regulatory manipulation 'market' creation and shaping.

Don Boudreaux puts it well at Cafe Hayek
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is upset that President-elect Trump’s transition team includes many corporate lobbyists (“Elizabeth Warren Criticizes Donald Trump Over Lobbyists in Transition Team,” Nov. 15). Well now. Sen. Warren is second-to-none at empowering Uncle Sam to exercise broad discretionary powers over corporate affairs – powers that, if exercised one way, yield that company hundreds of millions of dollars in additional profits or, if exercised another way, saddle that company with hundreds of millions of dollars of additional costs. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that corporations work diligently to have their voices heard among the din of everyone clamoring for the new emperor’s attention.

For Sen. Warren to be upset that Trump’s transition team is filled with hordes of corporate lobbyists panting for political favors is akin to a Madam being upset that her bawdyhouse is filled with hordes of men panting for female favors.

Sincerely,
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
and
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030
Lobbying is protected by the First Amendment. Even absent Constitutional protection, lobbying would continue at a level commensurate with the degree to which government creates and shapes markets, only it would be more nefarious - say like the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play shenanigans.

Meanwhile, the House GOP beat back a plan by some of its own members* to restore internal super-lobbying by reinstating earmarks.

*Who should now be Primaried.

Update 1:15PM: In the interests of naming names, "Reps. John Culberson of Texas, Mike Rogers of Alabama, and Tom Rooney of Florida are listed as sponsors of the amendment."

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day

In Flanders Fields
Canadian Army Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Congratulations to the President Elect

All the best of luck to Donald Trump. I sincerely hope he turns out to be the President his most fervent voters expect.

My favorite parts so far are the tears, anger, confusion and whining from the Democrats. Best part of the outcome? Clinton Inc. is finished.

Well done Mr. Trump.

Monday, October 31, 2016

What has government done to you lately?

...would be a better headline.

What’s Government Done For You Lately?
Here is the core error of the 20th century: the belief that government can accomplish anything with enough intelligence, resources, and power. It afflicted regimes all over the world from Lenin’s 100 years ago to Obama’s today (and this will also be true of any probable successor). This theory built massive bureaucracies, justified vast wars, and drove the creation a legal and regulatory apparatus of unprecedented imperial reach.

The faith survives today, though with ever less conviction. Failure after failure has even sown doubts among ruling-class intellectuals and mainstream politicians. But because so much of the state apparatus – and the strategies that collect money from the public to fund it – are based on this model, a shift away from the paradigm will not come easily.
This, of course, is the central problem with David Rotman's MIT Technology Review article promoting a small tweak to traditional top down economic planning as if it were a wholesale change instead of an exercise in relabeling:
[Dani] Rodrik [an economist at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government] said in an interview that while “unfortunately” we’re stuck with the label “industrial policy,” today’s versions are very different from ones conceived decades ago. Rather than singling out a specific sector—say, aerospace or steel manufacturing—for support with large investments and tax incentives, new thinking suggests working across sectors to achieve a desired goal such as addressing climate change, using tools such as carbon pricing...

Take, for example, the failure of the solar company Solyndra. It is often held up as the kind of thing that occurs when government picks winners. But, writes Rodrik, Solyndra failed largely because competing technologies got much cheaper. Such outcomes are not necessarily an indictment of industrial policies. The real problem, Rodrik argues: the U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee program that supported the solar company had a mixed set of goals, from creating jobs to competing with China to helping fund new energy technologies. What’s more, it did not properly define procedures for evaluating the progress of potential loan recipients and, importantly, terminating support to those companies when appropriate. Instead, according to Rodrik, in the absence of such rules, money was lent to Solyndra for political reasons...
The problem with Solyndra, then, was a mixed set of explicitly political goals applied to a specific sector subject to intense competition. The solution to such bad industrial policy is to apply explicitly political impediments to all economic activity. The competition will then be for government favors, like suspending the Obamacare cadillac tax.

No more picking winners and losers, no siree, we’ll just apply general taxes on carbon the government will conjure a 'market' in carbon. Do you believe it will be politically neutral, remain focused on the single problem, and with properly defined procedures for evaluating the continuing necessity for the market? I.e., that the bureaucrats running the scheme will ever even look for reasons to suspend it? If so, you must believe that Obamacare has fulfilled its promises.

It’s so simple, just find a big 'social problem' with dozens, or hundreds, of different causes and impose a single 2,000 page solution. I don’t know why we didn’t think of this approach to solve the obesity epidemic. We’ll just put nutrition labels on candy machines, ban soft drinks over 16 ounces and move toward taxing calories.

That this is still picking winners and losers, such as Warren Buffet’s wind farms versus Peabody Coal’s entire business, seems not to occur to these capos of industry.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Stick to your knitting

I keep thinking about the MIT Technology Review article mentioned in my previous post.

Editor of Technology Review David Rotman strays into territory far removed from his magazine's titular mission by reviewing Rethinking Capitalism:
A series of essays by authors including Joseph Stiglitz, an economist at Columbia University who won a Nobel Prize in 2001, and Mariana Mazzucato, a professor of the economics of innovation at the University of Sussex… Together, the essays provide a compelling argument that we need more coherent and deliberate strategic planning in tackling our economic problems, especially in finding more effective ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions…

[The book attempts] to counter the view that free markets inevitably lead to desirable outcomes and that freer markets are always better: the faith that “the ‘invisible hand’ of the market knows best.” In fact, she argues, we should admit that markets are created and shaped by government policies, including government support of innovation.
What keeps me coming back to it are the straw men, unconscious assumptions and the anti-scientism buried throughout. Economics is neither technology nor science, nor does Mr. Rotman even understand it.

First up, "[T]he essays provide a compelling argument that we need more coherent and deliberate strategic planning in tackling our economic problems, especially in finding more effective ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions."

Government intervention never works out to be either coherent or strategic: Obamacare is an example where the government lent its full weight in time, expertise, money, subversion of the political process and publicly repeated big lies. Thank god it was health care and not the "Affordable Energy Act."

Fracking for natural gas has done more to reduce carbon emissions than a dozen Solyndras - despite government opposition.

Second, I know of no one who claims “free markets inevitably lead to desirable outcomes." Free markets lead to better outcomes than manipulated markets, and that includes failure when freely invested private money is lost. This Obamaesque straw-man premise additionally implies that if free markets aren’t perfect we must turn to government for such perfection.

Admitting that “markets are created and shaped by government,” begs a question while assuming a conclusion. It’s true that governments choose to create and shape markets. No natural law says they have to, but if Rotman’s admiring analysis is correct, Mazzucato takes this as a given. However, it is something governments choose to do. As Rotman later grudgingly concedes, this choice is rife with drawbacks.

In fact, placing the average bureaucrat as market arbiter is only better than the free market if that bureaucrat’s decisions are consistently better: More informed, more enlightened, more efficient, than free choice market decisions. This never happens. Assuming command-and-control industrial policy as an immutable consequence of having government indicates such endeavors aren’t market-based at all.

Finally, “government support of innovation,” can be accomplished passively. Ask John Cowperthwaite.

Mazzucato and Rotman only see government support as beneficial when it is active market intervention. A fair look at this question would also include examination of the ways in which government stifles innovation with command-and-control industrial policies, not the least of which is the misdirection of resources and prevention of new ways of doing business. Examples are growing corn for ethanol and taxing Uber to protect existing taxi businesses.

To summarize, Mr. Rotman proposes that government should do a better job when it actively creates and shapes markets. No one would disagree government should do better. The question begged is whether government should be actively involved at all. It would "do better" if it weren't.

Free markets are not perfect nor ever claimed to be. They are better than any alternative, and, as repeatedly demonstrated, vastly better than command-and-control industrial policies.

I think I’ll be doing more detailed fisking of other bits of this horrendous MIT article in future posts.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Corporatism behaving predictably

You would be disappointed if you expected a publication called MIT Technology Review would eschew half baked, agenda driven articles about economics.

The MIT School of Economics needs to give some remedial instruction to David Rotman, Editor of Technology Review. In a recent article, Capitalism Behaving Badly, he reviews Rethinking Capitalism,
A series of essays by authors including Joseph Stiglitz, an economist at Columbia University who won a Nobel Prize in 2001, and Mariana Mazzucato, a professor of the economics of innovation at the University of Sussex… Together, the essays provide a compelling argument that we need more coherent and deliberate strategic planning in tackling our economic problems, especially in finding more effective ways to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions…

[The book attempts] to counter the view that free markets inevitably lead to desirable outcomes and that freer markets are always better: the faith that “the ‘invisible hand’ of the market knows best.” In fact, she argues, we should admit that markets are created and shaped by government policies, including government support of innovation.
Maybe we should admit that markets are distorted by government and result in misallocation of resources. Whatever we admit, we should not pretend that the United States is a capitalist country. It is a corporatist economy where government decides for policy reasons to give money to favored industries. Mr. Rotman apparently favors ‘green’ industry as a major part of a command-and-control industrial policy.

Rotman explains the failures of Solyndra, A123, Fisker, Navistar, Evergreen Solar and others, by arguing the wrong people were in charge, and they spent the money wrongly or stopped supplying it when more was needed, as if the politics were irrelevant and “some people” are not only above such things, but have nearly perfect appreciation of all market forces.

Mr. Rotman specifically addresses Solyndra:
Take, for example, the failure of the solar company Solyndra. It is often held up as the kind of thing that occurs when government picks winners. But, writes Rodrik, Solyndra failed largely because competing technologies got much cheaper. Such outcomes are not necessarily an indictment of industrial policies. The real problem, Rodrik argues: the U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee program that supported the solar company had a mixed set of goals, from creating jobs to competing with China to helping fund new energy technologies. What’s more, it did not properly define procedures for evaluating the progress of potential loan recipients and, importantly, terminating support to those companies when appropriate. Instead, according to Rodrik, in the absence of such rules, money was lent to Solyndra for political reasons—President Obama and his administration used the company as a high-profile way to highlight its green-energy initiatives. Having singled out the solar company for praise, the administration was then reluctant to end its commitment…

The stimulus bill was well-­intentioned, and the instinct to use government spending for a specific social goal, supporting the development of green energy, was laudable…
1-Competing technologies got cheaper. Failure to recognize that likelihood is not external to government decisions, it is central to why the government shouldn’t be making them, and most certainly counts as a failure of industrial policy.

2-A mixed set of goals is likewise a failure of government policy. In this case, its execution of the “strategy,” if one should be so generous as to call such a mess strategic. Close enough for government work, I guess.

3-Slack control of money lent is also a clear failure of government execution of its confused and shortsighted planning.

4-Money was lent for political reasons. Duh.

This is not to be laid at the feet of capitalism, since it had no role in the matter.
Creating a rigorous industrial policy to encourage green technologies is no doubt a worthwhile objective. Economists and the lessons from efforts like the stimulus bill can teach us how to design such policies to be robust and effective…
No, they have demonstrated again and again and again that they cannot. We do not learn from experience. We do not learn from Smith, Hayek, Bastiat, Sowell and Ricardo, et. al..

Mr. Rotman's actual agenda is clear. He wants more public/pirate partnerships for his pet cause, only better than the last ones. The pirates aren't capitalists, they are robber barons whose victims are taxpayers.
But won’t wise industrial policies also require wise politicians?
No, there is no such thing as a "wise industrial policy" such a thing requires prescient politicians who have the ability to anticipate market changes, develop focused policies and implement them very efficiently. All while avoiding the opportunities for graft and corruption. Can you name such a politician?

Update Oct 25 11:40
How command-and-control industrial policy actually works:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman met and corresponded on multiple occasions in his capacity as a top White House adviser with a previous employer seeking energy policies that it described as a potential “gold rush,” hacked emails and public records show.

John Podesta was a top White House energy policy official before joining the Clinton campaign last year. He previously served on the board of renewable energy investment firm Equilibrium Capital. He owned stock in the firm and drew $4,000 in annual “board fees.”

White House ethics rules bar employees from working on issues affecting former clients or employers for two years after taking their jobs. However, internal emails show that Podesta was in contact with Equilibrium within months of joining the White House as the company pursued a new energy efficiency financing model that would steer it significant revenue.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Autarky is where you find it

Originalists Against Trump
Read the whole thing. It's short.

Trump’s 'pen and phone’ executive order machine would be “bigly, bigly yuge.” Sad.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Exercises in authoritarianism

Donald Trump's unfortunate, if entirely unsurprising recommendation, "Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything you want," has attracted a by now standard defense from his supporters: "Bill and Hillary are worse."

However, Trump's comment must be generalized beyond simply promoting sexual assault: He thinks of women as property.

In that, he is equal to Bill and Mrs. Bill. The difference is that they comfortably understand their ownership extends to everyone, and they should avoid bragging about it. Because Trump is a slow to learn political novice, he hasn't thought about that yet.

But he will.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Do not a wastrel be

I've made - these - same points, but they bear repeating in another voice. I've excerpted a couple of bits, but you should RTWT.

How Not To Waste Your Vote: A Mathematical Analysis
[T]here are many benefits of voting third party, even for president. It makes a political statement to the majority parties. It helps local politicians of that party in elections. It can help change platforms to include third-party elements. And it provides recognition for the party among voters as a viable alternative...

Your vote is, therefore, an expression of yourself and your beliefs. Your vote has power as a statement. People voting out of fear of the worst candidate is a self-perpetuating cycle. If no one ever has the courage to vote outside of the two main parties, it will never be broken. However, if enough people vote and it shows in the total election count, it will give cause for us to reconsider and embolden even more to vote outside of the two parties...

The value of your vote is what you give it. Should you spend it on a candidate you don’t believe in? Should it be an exercise in fear? It’s up to you. It is my hope that these mathematical calculations will bring you freedom from the idea that only majority party votes matter. A vote is a statement, a vote is personal, a vote is an expression of your citizenship in this country. If enough people vote their conscience and vote for what they believe in, things can change.
The purpose of voting is to express your will. If your will is to validate the lesser of two evils, you're purposely supporting the statist quo. That's a wasted vote.

Further reading:
You Are Not Morally Obligated to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

Rethinking ‘wasted votes’ and third-party candidates

Voting Third Party Isn’t Just a Serious Choice, It’s the Serious Choice

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Constitution Day

The 2016 Constitution Day Celebration Program Lectures at Hillsdale College. Click the link.

Hillsdale also offers a free course on understanding the Constitution.
The U.S. Constitution is the key to securing liberty for all Americans -- yet very few know exactly what it says, and what freedoms it protects. Hillsdale College is dedicating this year to educating millions of Americans about this critical document. That's why the College is offering its most popular course, "Constitution 101" for free, when you sign up now.

Hillsdale's course, Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution, features the same professors who teach this course on Hillsdale College's campus. Hillsdale is one of the only colleges in America -- outside of the military academies -- that requires every student to take a course on the Constitution to graduate.

The course is delivered via email, with one lesson per week for 10 weeks. Each lesson features lively teaching and discussion boards, suggested readings, weekly quizzes, and more.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Profiles in Mendacity

You know, if Hillary wasn't such a well established liar, people would believe pneumonia. As it is, "political crisis" is an apt description.

It would be ironic if she's telling the truth on this, but her history of coverups costs her the election.

She was diagnosed on Friday, but kept it secret. Bet she regrets that decision.

Happy Birthday, H. L. Mencken

If you haven't read Mencken, you should try him. Here are a few quotes to whet your appetite.

Number 12 is most relevant to our present voting opportunity.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Starting to appear as if a vote for Hillary is a vote for Kaine

I have avoided comment on Hillary’s supposed health issues because the evidence is very thin she has anything seriously wrong. However, added to her general behavior and other recent reports, this is disturbing.

Mrs. Bill leaves the WTC ceremony early and in distress:
MORE ON #HILLARY per witness: "unexpected early departure"; she stumbled off curb, "knees buckled", lost a shoe as she was helped into van
— RickLeventhalFoxNews (@RickLeventhal) September 11, 2016
Transparency, as always:
From NBC Clinton pool report: "We are being kept completely in the dark."
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) September 11, 2016
Really, Todd, you’re just figuring that out?

Hillsdale College’s choir sings “America the Beautiful.”

`
Remembering what was attacked by Islamic terrorists 15 years ago.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Joe Wilson Day

Before a September 9th, 2009 joint session of Congress, President Obama declared, "Now, there are also those who claim that our [Obamacare] reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false," Obama said. "The reforms I am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally."

In response, Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouted "You lie!" at the president. Joe Wilson was right, so today is "Joe Wilson Day" at TOC:

Wall Street Journal, Mar 2016, Illegal Immigrants Get Public Health Care, Despite Federal Policy.

Since that article is paywalled, I'll direct those of you without a WSJ subscription to Forbes' account of it:
Because Of Obamacare, Illegal Immigrants Get Taxpayer-Financed Care
[N]o honest person can deny that because of Obamacare, more taxpayer resources at the state and local level are being spent on health care of illegal immigrants than would have been spent otherwise...
And they're moving to formalize it:
California Moves Toward Extending Obamacare to Illegal Immigrants

Thursday, September 08, 2016

If Hillary Clinton Wins?

Ron Radosh: Should the Republican Party be Saved if Hillary Clinton Wins? Radosh thinks it's too late.

I think he's right, the real question is "Should the Republican Party be saved if Trump Wins?"

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Take the Quiz

How do your beliefs align with the candidates?

ISideWith has probably the most comprehensive quiz for matching your policy preferences to that of all presidential candidates. You can try it out here.

Note that you aren't simply limited to "Yes/No" or "Agree/ Disagree." You can add your own policy. You can weight your answers. You can optionally answer additional (see bottom of graphic) questions to refine the matching process.


Recommended. You may get a surprise. You'll likely be amused. You will get a review of the major policy questions you'll be voting on.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Anticipating Hillary

"You may know society is doomed when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you; [and] when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice."
-Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged", 1957

It's not so much about Mrs. Bill as it is the structures that have been erected to nurture her.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Free to Choose

As I noted on May 30th, posts have been few and far between. I’ve had some serious health issues, which are now under control. I’m still in rehab, but I don’t want to leave August 2016 blank at TOC, and a recent Reason Magazine article on Gary Johnson’s polling prompts me to repeat and expand something I wrote on May 4th, when it became apparent Donald Trump would be the GOP presidential nominee.

If you are frustrated and angry that you’ve been given a choice between Scyllary and Charybdisser don’t feel forced to choose. You don’t have to vote for either of them. Voting third party is not the same as voting Trump or Clinton, though their acolytes will insist failure to pick their brand of evil is a vote for the alternate evil. This demonstrates a moral failure on their part, not on yours.

Donald Trump could have had your vote if you weren’t such a PC fool. Worse, if you actually do vote for Hillary, it’s like voting for Hillary twice! Leave that to the Democrats.

Hillary Clinton could have had your vote if you could simply suppress your gag reflex. Worse, if you vote for Trump he’s going to do pretty much the same things as Mrs. Bill, but you’ll have failed to recognize the cosmic importance of electing the first president to acknowledge having a vagina.

Of course, this rule means not voting at all is simultaneously a vote for Trump and Clinton. It gets confusing.

In fact, your vote is a vote for the person you vote for and any claim to the contrary by RepubliCrats is simply bullshit.

In Trump’s case it’s just preparing the ground for the post-election recrimination. There will be much rending of garments and gnashing of teeth among devoted Trump fans when he crashes and burns, but those who are at fault are those who made Trump the nominee - NO ONE ELSE. Don’t let their pre-disaster buyers’ remorse De-vote you.

I’m told that Hillary is far worse. Well, at least marginally more terrible than The Donald. That’s an assertion that is not demonstrated to me, and I know several sensible people who actually plan to vote for Hillary even though they’d vote GOP if any candidate was running except Trump. These are people we need to convince to vote Libertarian. Trump supporters should help in this endeavor, because it eliminates that second vote for Hillary mentioned above. See, a vote for Gary Johnson is most definitely not a vote for Hillary (nor for Trump, for that matter).

The idea is that this is a long term game: Four years of Trump redefining core American principles into a mix of Huey Long populism and crony-capitalist political-insider trading might well do more damage than our declared enemy. There are signs already, and Trump's popularity is one of them (Clinton’s unpunished lawlessness is another), that we've forgotten what made America great in the first place: limited government, free minds and free markets under the Constitution. None of which matter to Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

With Hillary we’ll see more and more exposure of the utter perversity of far-left Progressive policies. With Trump the lesson is that conservatism is a personally demeaning philosophy, chiefly characterized by small-minded incuriosity and unmoored to any principled theory of governance. You don’t have to grant your approval of this process by voting for either one of them, better to stay home. Best to vote third party.

Either Trump or Clinton WILL BE President in 2017. But what about 2020? Do you want a rerun? It’s a long term game.

You can’t have everything (or maybe anything) you want this year, and if you want a better choice we eventually have to move away from a system that offers us an insecure buffoon or a seasoned criminal as best among us.

Back to the Reason poll story, here’s an excerpt they took from Pew,
Johnson’s supporters are younger on average than voters who back either Clinton or Trump. Nearly a third (32%) of Johnson’s supporters in the four-way contest are younger than 30. This is roughly double the share of Clinton (15%) or Trump supporters (12%) who are younger than 30. Only 29% of Johnson backers are 50 or older, compared with 50% of Clinton supporters and 63% of Trump voters.

Voters of the future are well inclined toward the Libertarian. The game can change if we build on that. If the Libertarian isn’t on the debate stage this time it’s sad. If he or she isn’t on the debate stage in 2020, then you can look to 4 more years of Hillary. Eight years is what a vote for Hillary means in the long term game, even if the Dems have to pickle her.

Not voting for Gary Johnson is a vote for the statist quo (and make no mistake, that includes Trump). If, as I do, you consider Trump unelectable, not voting for Johnson is within spitting distance of being a vote for Hillary. ;)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Constitution Day

Hillsdale College is holding its 7th Annual Constitution Day Celebration at Washington D.C. September 14-15, 2016.

Those interested can ask questions by email at ConstitutionDay@Hillsdale.edu

Friday, July 01, 2016

The best defense?

Charles R. Kesler, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, writes a defense of Donald Trump for the Washington Post.

Granted, it’s the WaPo, but this is particularly shallow and unpersuasive.
…Trump won the Republican nomination fair and square, against 16 contenders, and the arguments for ignoring or rejecting those results need to be carefully examined.

The “Never Trump” critics have two main arguments. The first is that he is a buffoon, a clown, an overactive third-grader who has gone off his Ritalin, a tawdry egomaniac whose policies are no better than “barstool eruptions” and who by temperament and experience is unworthy of the presidency.
He is all of that, and more: Mr. Kesler's list is incomplete. Mr. Trump is also a lifelong Liberal, master crony-socialist and flip-flopping economic ignoramus.

There are only two reasons one would vote for Donald Trump. Owing lemming-like allegiance to the GOP, or a conviction that he would make a better President than Hillary Clinton. I find the first farcical, since loyalty to the GOP is exactly what fervent Trump supporters reject.

I find the second undemonstrated: I can, and have, pointed out how, fresh off his triumph of destroying the GOP's chance to defeat the Democrat nominee, he might well be a worse President.
The second [argument] is that Trump is a monster, a racist, a wily demagogue, a proto-fascist or full-fledged fascist, a tyrant-in-waiting.
While he is not demonstrably a fascist, he is an authoritarian of the first water, as evidenced by his willingness to eviscerate the Constitution. So let’s add “Constitutionally illiterate” to the list, too, because despite Mr. Kesler's contentions otherwise, Trump has threatened to amend the First Amendment by “broadening the libel laws,” and was the first “Republican” to call on the NRA to approve due process violations of the Second Amendment.

Upon careful examination, I conclude I am neither ignoring nor rejecting arguments about Mr. Trump’s candidacy. It’s simple: I reject the GOP candidate’s policies. I owe the party nothing, and Mr. Trump, like his opponent, is unfit for the office he seeks.

I’ll be voting for Governor Johnson.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Response to solicitation of funds

Mr. Trump,

Please remove me from any and all lists associated with your campaign.

I will not contribute to your campaign, nor to any group associated with you: Including the political party formerly known as the GOP.

If you need money, please ask those “small donors” to whom you are already beholden. Sheldon Adelson, for example.

As you Tweeted last October:
"Sheldon Adelson is looking to give big dollars to Rubio because he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet. I agree!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 13, 2015"


Or, beg the hated RNC.

I’d also appreciate a review of contributions in kind from media like Fox News. Maybe you can release your estimate along with your tax returns.

I am disinterested in bankrolling your threatened anti-Chicago Cubs ads and your "Little Miss Stompy Foot" feud with the Club for Growth. I will have nothing to do with a “finance expert” who so misinterprets the word fungible that he will fund Planned Parenthood, in any way, with taxpayer dollars. As if this accounting gimmick can force separation of dollar one from dollar 500,000.

I’m not attracted to a candidate whose frugality argument is that he can spend my money better than the Democrats have, better than Republicans would, and CERTAINLY better than I could.

As to Crooked Hillary’s “rigged system of crony handouts,” you’ve bragged about having been a recipient of said handouts, and are deeply complicit in that very system.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter,
Duane Hershberger
#NeverTrump

P.S., You misspelled "Yuuge."

On May 31, 2016, at 2:07 PM, Team TRUMP wrote:

Make American Great Again

Our country doesn’t win anymore, Duane.

We are losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year to China. Mexico is beating us at the border and on trade.

It feels like every day in the news another company is leaving our great nation. We are losing millions of jobs, and it is time for this to STOP.

This will all change when Donald Trump is elected President. We will start winning again.

We are going to start winning so much that you are going to get used to winning!

Donald Trump went the entire primary without asking a single person for a penny, because he was not beholden to anyone but YOU – the American people.

But here’s the problem: Crooked Hillary and her cronies are raising $2 billion to try to stop us.

That’s why we are asking you to contribute $35 and become a Founding Member of our campaign: https://secure.trump2016.com/founding-member/

Crooked Hillary is scared to death of us. Our movement threatens her rigged system of crony handouts and bad deals that have cost the American people millions!

She’s pulling in as many special interests and media elites as she can.

But Donald Trump doesn’t want ANY of them.

You’re the only person we would ever want on our team. Our campaign is a movement of the American people – NO ONE else.

Please contribute $35 right now to activate your Founding Membership with our campaign.

While our Party is ready to unite, Democrats are fighting tooth and nail over a socialist and a serial liar under investigation by the FBI.

We have a HUGE opportunity to win!

We don’t want to just defeat Crooked Hillary, we want to CRUSH the Democrats at every level.

We want to win in a massive landslide. We want our victory to be so great that Crooked Hillary and Obama regret the day they ever turned their backs on the American people.

Together, we will win this election and Make America Great Again!

Please join us today using this special link: [deleted]

Thank you and God bless you,

Team Trump

Monday, May 30, 2016

Click Stawker

If You Care About Innovation, Peter Thiel vs. Gawker Should Worry You
-Rachel Sklar

If you cheer the creative destruction of an unrepentant, vile private entity that truly deserved it, Peter Theil vs. Gawker should fill your heart with joy.. There, fixed that for you.

Kudos to Peter Thiel!

While we're on the subject, Rachel, where can I find your outraged criticism of Dr. Michael "Fraudpants" Mann's baseless, ad-hominem suit against Mark Steyn?



Note: Please note that blogging output is going to be scarce over the next several weeks because of some health issues.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Want my vote for Trump?

Please demonstrate that he will support limited government pursuant to the Constitution of the United States.

Note: "Hillary won't either," is NOT an answer. It's changing the subject.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

I'm a Classical Liberal

If you point out to Trump supporters claiming they’re conservatives that these Trump approved ideas:
  1. Eroding the First Amendment by “broadening the libel laws.”
  2. Crony-capitalist insider bribery.
  3. Government funded healthcare for everyone.
  4. Ordering our troops to kill the families of terrorists.
… have never anywhere been considered conservative ideas, they scream that you’re the one who doesn’t understand conservatism. You have to wonder why they cling to calling themselves conservative, as if it conveyed some sort of legitimacy, since they reject yuuge parts of what has been conservative thinking.

They've been there all along, of course, we deluded ourselves into thinking they actually supported limited government and constitutional law. I guess we can thank Trump for unmasking them. At least we know where we stand. "Conservatism" now means big government, protectionist nativism.

I guess we're all classical liberals again.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Quo vadis?

OK, what's a #NeverTrumper to do now?

First, acknowledge that every Democrat should be purged from office. Second, admit it has become much less likely that will happen in 2016. Third, take a deep breath. It's a long term game and there are things we can do in spite of Trump.

To put a very simple action plan in front of you:

1- Vote Libertarian for president. More on this below.
2- Vote GOP on the down ballot races to provide as effective an opposition as possible. (Yes, I think Trump has handed the presidency to Hillary.)
3- Fight even harder for state and local politicians who will best resist whichever statist wins the presidency.

Meanwhile, we need to respond to the whining from the Trump camp that started weeks ago: “A vote for a third party is a vote for Hillary! We held our noses and voted for Dole, Bush, McCain and Romney, now you cuckservatives have to do the same for Trump. If Hillary wins the Presidency, it'll be because of you, you traitorous assholes. Because GOP!”

Sorry, you broke the GOP, now you own it.

I hadn't much liked it in recent years anyway, and won't greatly mourn its passing. See, I had to hold my nose, too. I've detested how the leadership and the majority of members have conducted themselves, but I didn't go all irrational. I didn't start calling tea party folks "really, really stoopid" after they had made such important contributions. Some of you Trump folks did. And still are.

We were making some small progress in turning around 100 years of Progressive rot (with brief interruptions from Coolidge and Reagan). I wish it had been faster and better, especially in the last 40 years, but now we're not going anywhere until we deal with the Trump Consequence.

And, seriously, how is a vote for a Not Hillary a vote for Hillary? Would a Sanders supporter voting for the Not Hillary be a vote for Hillary? Let me simplify your position for you: Something someone never had, and never had a chance to have, is being stolen from them when it's not given to them. What that means is you think Trump has a binding claim on my vote, but it's not as if you weren't told Trump couldn't have my vote, and it's not as if I care that you read me out of the party formerly known as the GOP because of it.

I publicly laid out many of the reasons I could not morally or ethically vote for Trump. Now you're telling me I can't vote for anyone else, and I must call myself a cuckservative having had the temerity to even think about it. That's what you've been insulting me with for lo these many weeks, as if valuing limited government under strict adherence to the Constitution has become subservient to a withering stream of sleazy innuendo, gross insult and shameless Constitutional ignorance.

I will note that labeling me a “cuckservative” seems to indicate you have some affinity for the term “conservative.” With Trump, however, you're bound and determined to teach others that conservatism is a personally demeaning philosophy, chiefly characterized by small-minded incuriosity.

I can hear the shouting, “Hillary is far, far worse, you fool!” Maybe. I don't care. See, the idea is that this is a long term game: Four years of Trump redefining core American principles into a mix of Huey Long populism and crony capitalist political-insider trading might well do more damage than our enemy. There are signs already, and Trump's popularity is one of them, that we've forgotten what made America great in the first place: limited government, free minds and free markets under the Constitution.

The Dems are already rebranding the GOP with Trump.

The people who are handing the presidency to Hillary Clinton are the people who already voted for Trump, so I damn well don't want to hear any more snide criticisms of my personal voting choice. You can maintain your self respect having voted for Trump. More power to you. I can't do that.

So, I think I stick with my core beliefs. My conservatism was initially informed by Barry Goldwater, who was just barely short of Libertarian. This certainly won't be the first time I've voted Libertarian. And the last time I did, it wasn't counted as a vote for Al Gore.

To those for whom Libertarianism is an exotic or suspect philosophy, do some research if you'd like. I'm not vouching for this, but it gives a flavor.

Certainly visit The Cato Institute, The Mises Institute, Cafe Hayek, Reason Magazine and Libertarianism.org, they're all conveniently located on the left sidebar. Read some Henry Hazlitt, Adam Smith, Friedrich von Hayek, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Frédéric Bastiat and Milton Friedman. Try to recall some of the things Ron Paul stood for.

Or don't. I'll point out that a Libertarian vote this year really doesn't commit you to anything. The Libertarian candidate is not going to be president, any more than Donald Trump is, so the philosophy doesn't much matter. It does matter that the LP will be on the ballot in all 50 states, so it's easier than a write in. It does matter that Libertarians want major change. It would matter greatly in 2020 if they could get into double digits in 2016. It's a long term game. A little longer now than it was.

I may expand on the reasons you might prefer voting Libertarian to other parties in a future post. It's certainly preferable to not voting, because you do need to vote the down ballot races.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Choose the Form of Your Destructor*

The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
-William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)


*Gozer the Gozarian

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Picking losers

From National Review:

SunEdison, which billed itself as the “largest global renewable energy development company,” is on the verge of bankruptcy after sucking up $650 million in federal grants and tax credits and $846 million in federal loans, loan guarantees, tax-exempt federal bonds, and federal insurance.

Also in April, Spanish energy company Abengoa SA filed for bankruptcy in Delaware, having disappeared $2.6 billion in federal loans and loan guarantees, as well as $986 million in federal grants and tax credits.

That adds up to about $5 billion taxpayer dollars, 70% of it to a foreign company.

Maybe MIT Technology Review should revisit its story on the limits of "clean coal" for balance.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Dissociative identity disorder?

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's senior aide, told Republican National Committee members that Trump has two personalities: one in private and one onstage.
"When he's out on the stage, when he's talking about the kinds of things he's talking about on the stump, he's projecting an image that's for that purpose.”
In other words, Trump isn't really a clueless, insecure, sneering, obnoxious bully. He just plays one on TV.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

#Cleanfail

Since I posted Headline at MIT Technology Review: (April 15, just below), it has been nagging at the back of my mind that "clean coal" projects probably were not exempt from the crony capitalist excesses of the eco-industrial complex. So there was likely more to the Peabody Energy bankruptcy story than simply deploring all the failed wind/solar/battery #Greenfail projects we've funded. I had some time this morning to check.

Turns out, the Feds spent $2.5 billion between 1978 and 2008 on "clean coal."

In 2002, the Bush administration picked up the baton and allocated almost $2 billion (of which $200 million was actually spent) over 10 years to the idea. They killed it in 2008.

It was revived in the Obama administration's 2009 stimulus package before being killed again in 2015.

So, "clean coal," even though industry had to pay 50% of project costs, is another example of the government promoting failed environmental projects. In this case, deciding to go the additional mile to make sure the entire coal industry disappears.

All that money could have resulted in quite a bit of carbon-emissionless nuclear power, and it would have been financed entirely by industry - if they'd been allowed to.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Headline at MIT Technology Review:

Peabody Energy’s Bankruptcy Shows the Limits of “Clean Coal”

I'm not sure what MIT's point is here. Peabody's bankruptcy is the result of unlimited political manipulation. It was the intended result of Federal planning:

So if somebody wants to build a coal power plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.
- Barack Obama, January 2008

The real issue is eco-corporatism, not "clean coal," so it's worth looking at other energy company bankruptcies that didn't follow the Fed's political script.

Solyndra's bankruptcy was not the government approved plan.

Barack Obama visited Solyndra's facility on May 25, 2010. Solyndra filed for bankruptcy in September 2011.

On whether he he regretted holding up Solyndra as a model for jobs and clean energy: "No, I don't, because if you look at the overall portfolio of loan guarantees that have been provided, overall it's doing well."

"And what we always understood was that not every single business is going to succeed in clean energy, but if we want to compete with China, which is pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into this space, if we want to compete with other countries that are heavily subsidizing the industries of the future, we've got to make sure that our guys here in the United States of America at least have a shot..."

For A123, if the plan was to compete with China, the result was exactly the opposite:

"What we want to do is to have energy independence in America, and have control over our own ability to be free of Middle Eastern oil. That means that we want to manufacture the cells and do the assembly, and do the R&D all here in Michigan."
- Jennifer Granholm, January 2009

(While Governor Granholm was fertilizing A123's bankruptcy seeds, the frackers were actually doing something about our dependence on foreign oil. In spite of government interference.)

This is about the birth of an entire new industry in America -- an industry that’s going to be central to the next generation of cars...
- Barack Obama, September 2010, during an event celebrating the opening of the A123 plant in Livonia

A123 was sold to the Chinese at bankruptcy prices. So we heavily subsidized the R&D on behalf of the Chinese.

In sum:
  • Peabody Energy was bankrupted by an administratively engineered avalanche of absurd and unconstitutional Federal regulations.
  • A123 went bankrupt despite $100 million in Michigan tax credits and $255 million in Federal grants.
  • Solyndra failed despite a $536 million Federal loan guarantee and a $25.1 million California tax break.
Yes, MIT, there are limits. So, consider these headlines for a future story:

A123’s Bankruptcy Shows the Limits of Advanced Battery Manufacturing

Solyndra’s Bankruptcy Shows the Limits of Thin Film Solar Cells

Or maybe: Green Bankruptcies Show the Limits of Winner Picking Corporatism

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Worth reading

Hi. It’s me, Jeff. And I have something to say.

He must think we're stooopid

Trump Has a Plan to Win Conservative Support?
In the Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled Trump’s Plan to Win Conservative Support, Fred Barnes says Trump will soon deliver “a series of formal speeches on policy issues, set pieces drafted by speechwriters and delivered from prepared texts.”
Trump plainly doesn't understand conservatism, nor conservatives. A couple of canned speeches will no more reveal a principled, limited-government candidate hiding under the orange statist facade, than if they were delivered by Bernie Sanders.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Untie is an anagram of Unite

Donald Trump has said he can be "more presidential than anybody," and has been talking about the need to unite the GOP in order to defeat Mrs. Bill. His close advisors, surrogates, media supporters, his wife and his daughter have been urging him to adopt a more civil tone for quite some time.

So, departing from his recent practice of holding a post-primary press conference (where he might have said something unscripted and objectionable), Mr. Trump issued the following considered statement after his loss in the Wisconsin primary:
Donald J. Trump withstood the onslaught of the establishment yet again. Lyin' Ted Cruz had the Governor of Wisconsin, many conservative talk radio show hosts, and the entire party apparatus behind him. Not only was he propelled by the anti-Trump Super PAC's spending countless millions of dollars on false advertising against Mr. Trump, but he was coordinating with his own Super PAC's (which is illegal) who totally control him. Ted Cruz is worse than a puppet--- he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses attempting to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump. We have total confidence that Mr. Trump will go on to win in New York, where he holds a substantial lead in all the polls, and beyond. Mr. Trump is the only candidate who can secure the delegates needed to win the Republican nomination and ultimately defeat Hillary Clinton, or whomever is the Democratic nominee, in order to Make America Great Again.
Well! Aside from a possible quibble over the definition of "withstood," that certainly puts those who doubt his ability to act like a president in their place: He didn't mention the size of his hands and he didn't repeat any adverbs, like "really, really total confidence."
=========================================================
"Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us, by a constant, steady, uniform, insensible operation, like that of the air we breathe in. They give their whole form and color to our lives.”
-Edmund Burke. Three Letters to a Member of Parliament on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France (1796–1797)

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Magic

Bernie Sanders grants a platitudinous interview to The New York Daily News. I’ll save you the trouble of reading the whole thing.

Imagine, if you will, the foothills of Big Rock Candy Mountain. The unicorns are prancing through lovingly tended, non-GMO fields dotted with organic milk and honey dispensers. Windmills disguised as trees are everywhere, rising above the solar panels blocking out the sun. All under the watchful eye of Uncle Bernie’s drones “that could, you know, take your nose off…”

Among other things, Senator Sanders is asked about foreign trade and it’s mentioned that his policy seems very similar to Donald Trump’s.
Sanders: Well, if he [Trump] thinks they're bad trade deals, I agree with him. They are bad trade deals. But we have some specificity and it isn’t just us going around denouncing bad trade. In other words, I do believe in trade. But it has to be based on principles that are fair. So if you are in Vietnam, where the minimum wage is 65¢ an hour, or you're in Malaysia, where many of the workers are indentured servants because their passports are taken away when they come into this country and are working in slave-like conditions, no, I'm not going to have American workers "competing" against you under those conditions. So you have to have standards. And what fair trade means to say that it is fair. It is roughly equivalent to the wages and environmental standards in the United States.
Interestingly more specific than Trump, and all the more fanciful for that. In “fairness” to American workers - as if none of those workers were also consumers - Sanders proposes to cast all economies in the mold of the United States. More accurately: He is proposing economic warfare through elimination of comparative advantage (which will only devastate the target economy).

This is nation building by other means. In "fairness" he'll have to enforce something resembling our property laws, work ethic and contract law in all those countries: Roughly equivalent to the investment, research and development infrastructure standards in the United States. The other "fair" way is to impose their culture, tools, methods and standards here.

To be “fair” about it, then, he’ll also have to force bits and pieces of American engineering and technology companies to relocate to Mexico, Vietnam and Malaysia. And maybe this will happen when he takes Wall Street down.

The Daily News makes an attempt to determine what Bernie thinks the effect would be of forcing JPMorgan, for example, to “break themselves up.” He won’t speak to the consequences (he leaves decisions about how to break up to the breakees), but I think that’s because he knows bread lines might be one of them. And he likes bread lines.

Senator Sanders says, “You can't look at politics as a zero-sum game.” No, for socialists, it’s only economics that’s a zero sum game.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Steel yourself for Trump's Trade Wars

Yesterday, Donald Trump took the opportunity to bash Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker on economics and "hatred" in Wisconsin. He turned in a typical self-awareness-free stream of consciousness. The hatred aside, apparently referencing demonstrations by public service union thugs, was amusing mostly for its utter lack of introspection. Applying similar logic to violence at Mr. Trump's rallies would mean Trump was responsible for it.

The economic comments also provided some comedic relief from the difficulty involved in following Mr. Trump's train of mouth. These included a claim that Wisconsin has a $2.2 billion budget deficit. It doesn't. He said he got the information from his senior economic advisor - Time magazine. When challenged, he said if Time was wrong they should apologize. Then he might. In fact, "[t]he only time that number appeared in print at Time was when they quoted...Donald Trump." LOL.

Mr. Trump went on to say that Wisconsin is "getting killed" on trade and to complain that Walker hadn't raised taxes. The latter would not generally be viewed as a negative in a GOP primary. The former invites us to examine Mr. Trump's prescription for trade.

When you hear Donald Trump talk about 45% tariffs on imports, you might be curious (certainly more than he is) about how such protectionism has worked historically. We'll take as examples George Bush's 2002 steel tariffs and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930.

From Sorrell College of Business, Troy University:
THE 2002 STEEL TARIFFS: DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
On March 5, 2002, President Bush announced the imposition of tariffs ranging to 30% on steel imported into the United States for a three year period. While being touted as new protection for the industry from unfair foreign competition, since the late 1960s US steel producers have already enjoyed high tariff and low quota barriers to imports. This paper first reviews the three historical phases of steel protection from 1969 to 1992 in terms of tariff and quota levels and the impact on steel consumers. This study tabulates that more than three decades of protection has already cost the American consumer $100 billion in inflated prices for goods containing steel. And not only will the 2002 tariff impose additional losses in consumer surplus above the $100 billion figure, it has already generated protectionist retaliation and repercussions that will be further felt in escalating prices of goods and services unrelated to steel and lost markets for US exports. In that there appears to be no economic rationale for this duty, the paper concludes that politics has superseded economics as the President’s justification.

From Donald Trump's alma mater, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania:
U.S. Steel Users Claim Tariffs “Protect a Few at the Expense of the Majority”
Some 200,000 jobs have been lost in the steel-consuming industries since prices jumped by around 40% in early 2002, according to the Consuming Industries Trade Action Coalition (CITAC), which represents steel users such as makers of automotive parts.

And let's not forget the granddaddy of protectionism, Smoot-Hawley. From the Foundation for Economic Education:
The Smoot-Hawley Tariff and the Great Depression
In 1930 a large majority of economists believed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act would exacerbate the U.S. recession into a worldwide depression. On May 5 of that year 1,028 members of the American Economic Association released a signed statement that vigorously opposed the act. The protest included five basic points. First, the tariff would raise the cost of living by “compelling the consumer to subsidize waste and inefficiency in [domestic] industry.” Second, the farm sector would not be helped since “cotton, pork, lard, and wheat are export crops and sold in the world market” and the price of farm equipment would rise. Third, “our export trade in general would suffer. Countries cannot buy from us unless they are permitted to sell to us.” Fourth, the tariff would “inevitably provoke other countries to pay us back in kind against our goods.” Finally, Americans with investments abroad would suffer since the tariff would make it “more difficult for their foreign debtors to pay them interest due them.” Likewise most of the empirical discussions of the downturn in world economic activity taking place in 1929–1933 put Smoot-Hawley at or near center stage.
In short, protectionism causes higher prices and lost jobs. Wharton most certainly attempted to plant these seeds in Mr. Trump's mind, but they fell on infertile soil.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How sweet it isn't

In recent posts regarding a couple of articles by Donald Trump supporters, The Other Club noted some of Mr. Trump’s proposals on international trade.

On March 7th; regarding whether Mr. Trump’s threat to “compel Nabisco to return Oreo manufacturing to the United States” was wild blather or sound policy.

On March 8th; regarding Trump's trade war threats:
“I’m not prepared to throw Adam Smith away just yet. I agree that we should reject mercantilism, but it’s also true that we cheat. Our tariffs on Brazilian sugar for example, support the crony-capitalist American sugar producers and protect Iowa corn farmers from ethanol feedstock competition: a Big Government, Corporatist Whorehouse.”
Tying these together is an interesting article at the Foundation for Economic Education:

Oreo Is Leaving for Mexico and Trumpism Is to Blame
“Presidential front-runner Donald Trump vows that he will "never eat another Oreo again" to protest the transfer of 600 cookie-making jobs from Chicago to Mexico. And Trump is 100% correct when he condemns the factory’s exodus: "It’s unfair to us."
It’s short, and I recommend that you RTWT to reconcile the headline with the quote.

Noted in passing. Marco Rubio favors these sugar subsidies and that's one of the reasons I didn't support him. Similarly, Mr. Trump's promise to expand the ethanol mandate.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Horseshoes and hand grenades

Donald Trump can be a strong advocate of playing by the rules.

For example, he defends four Chapter 11 corporate bankruptcies by saying he appropriately used the law.
"I have used the laws of this country — just like the greatest people that you read about every day in business have used the laws of this country, the chapter laws, to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, et cetera...

You know what it’s called? It’s called negotiation.”
Mr. Trump also praises the rules of eminent domain: “[W]hen it comes to jobs, roads, the public good -- I think it's a wonderful thing." In fact, he understands eminent domain well enough to have been on both sides of it.

On other rules, Mr. Trump can be less particular. For example, he has said that if he's within 100 votes of winning the GOP presidential nomination on the first ballot, that's close enough: Otherwise there might be riots. To accommodate Mr. Trump, the long-standing convention rule on this question would have to be replaced by a new rule. Call it the “horseshoes and hand grenades” rule.

Historically, a convention where no candidate had a majority on the first ballot has been called “contested.” Among many others, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford were nominated at contested conventions. A very brief review of nominating convention history would have revealed to Mr. Trump that the rules for a contested convention are neither new nor nefarious. That would have required just the slightest practical, not even intellectual, curiosity.

Assuming the horseshoes and hand grenades rule is not adopted by the Republicans, and Mr. Trump does not accumulate the requisite majority, the 2016 GOP convention may be contested. This means that at least some delegates will become “unpledged” on second and subsequent ballots. “Unpledged” means they no longer are bound to vote for the winner of their state's primary/caucus. Knowing this rule, Ted Cruz is asking delegates to consider voting for him where the rules allow it.

Donald Trump is upset about this. He should be. Senator Cruz is demonstrating superior understanding of the rules and he's out-negotiating Mr. Trump.

All in all, I'm afraid this doesn't matter very much for the general election, because Mr. Trump is assuring an outcome where Mrs. Bill will be President whether he wins or loses the nomination.

It would be more satisfactory if he loses at the convention, however, because Cruz would have used the convention rules, to paraphrase Trump, “just like the greatest people that you read about every day in politics have used the rules of these conventions to do a great job for their country and its citizens."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A note on jobs

We face an employment problem. Not the one Donald Trump refers to when he talks about bringing manufacturing jobs back. Those jobs do not add much value any more. I’d argue we don’t want them back.

Take, for example, what happened to US auto manufacturers who paid far more to assembly line workers than those workers were worth: Bankruptcy. They had to lay off workers, screw over bondholders, suck-up taxpayer dollars and, in 2007, implement a two tier wage.

Entry-level auto-workers get $15.78 to $19.28 hourly. Slightly above what the economically ignorant are now demanding for flipping burgers.

Full rate auto-workers get $28 an hour. The top tier also provides better benefits, including a pension instead of the 401(k) entry-level workers get. The total difference in the two compensation scales is about $20 an hour.

How much value is added by screwing in a sensor (200 times a day) that will keep cars from crashing into each other? What value is added by designing that sensor? Which job do you want?

If Mexicans and Chinese do those rote assembly jobs for less than UAW wages and benefits, is anyone surprised? Are they still “good jobs?” Is doubling the wages of an entry level UAW worker in Detroit sustainable?

How many of you would appreciate a doubling in the cost of a new automobile, or a $9 McDonald’s fish sandwich?

Those jobs, within our lifetimes, will mostly be done by robots. Then who will Trump blame?

Donald Trump's jobs "plan" is like insisting we bring back jobs manufacturing buggy whips.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Bush Brothers Provision Company and Eric Trump Wine Manufacturing

All of it comes from the Donald Trump label-making company.

FACT CHECKS of Trump Water, Trump Steaks, Trump Magazine and Trump Wine
Maybe as @Morning_Joe runs clip of Trump showing off all his Trump products they could point out every thing he said was a lie? #Journalism.

— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) March 9, 2016
None of this is the least bit surprising.

Delusional. Sad.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Trump: I don't know, and I don't care

Donald Trump's Health Care Plan Shows His Complete Disdain for Expertise
He’s not just clueless—he’s willfully ignorant.
[I]t is not really news that Trump is clueless when it comes to health policy. Trump has never demonstrated even the smallest iota of interest in in the underlying details of policy on this or any other issue. To the extent that he has provided any, they have been incoherent or contradictory: In interviews and speeches, he has praised single-payer health care and promised universal coverage paid for by the government, but also said that his Obamacare replacement will rely on competition and private plans. It is nonsense policy...

Trump, then, is not just ignorant on policy details. He is willfully ignorant. It's not just that he doesn't know what he's talking about. It's that he's avoided finding out.
RTWT it's well worth it.

Health Care and oh, say, the Nuclear Triad are not the only things that don't arouse his curiosity.

Trompe l'oeil. Trompe l'oreille.

What you see is not what you’ll get.
What you hear is noise, not signal.

John Kluge would like a word with you about Donald Trump, and I'd like to annotate.

An Open Letter to the Conservative Media Explaining Why I Have Left the Movement
“[I]t doesn’t appear to me that conservatives calling on people to reject Trump have any idea what it actually means to be a “conservative.” The word seems to have become a brand that some people attach to a set of partisan policy preferences, rather than the set of underlying principles about government and society it once was…

This strain of conservatism believed in the free market and capitalism but did not fetishize them the way so many libertarians do. This strain understood that a situation where every country in the world but the US acts in its own interests on matters of international trade and engages in all kinds of skulduggery in support of their interests is not free trade by any rational definition. This strain understood that a government’s first loyalty was to its citizens and the national interest. And also understood that the preservation of our culture and our civil institutions was a necessity.

All of this seems to have been lost.”
I guarantee that Mr. Trump hasn’t been the one to find it. I’d be very surprised if he even knew it was missing.

Conservatives believe the Constitution of the United States is fundamentally important. Donald Trump does not. That many Republicans don’t either doesn’t get any points for Trump, especially compared to Cruz - the only person running who’s been immersed in Babylon on the Potomac and still rejects it.

Regarding policy preferences, they arise from and depend on a set of underlying principles. We could stop judging candidates' principles by their policy preferences, and since they often lie about preferences to obfuscate principles, skepticism is a minimum requirement. However, a complete lack of discernible principle demands ultimate skepticism.

Donald Trump explicitly rejects the free market and is anything but a capitalist. Maybe Mr. Kluge should revisit the meaning of that word.

However, let’s assume your reasons for supporting Trump are as described by Mr. Kluge: You reject free trade and you’re concerned about national defense, particularly illegal immigration, which bleeds into the erosion of our culture and decline of civil institutions.

Free trade would require some further definition. I’m not prepared to throw Adam Smith away just yet. I agree that we should reject mercantilism, but it’s also true that we cheat. Our tariffs on Brazilian sugar for example, support the crony-capitalist American sugar producers and protect Iowa corn farmers from ethanol feedstock competition: a Big Government, Corporatist Whorehouse.

And, while I agree that TPP is a bad idea, it wasn’t a Republican initiative. I do admit some purported conservatives let it get through. I think NAFTA was a good idea. Mr. Kluge, I’m guessing, would oppose both.

In any case, a trade war with China should not be your preference. Mr. Trump says he’ll start one. You don’t get much more mercantilist than a 45% tariff. Look up Smoot-Hawley to see where that leads. Consider how nervous our stock market gets about China’s economic condition. Ask yourself why we keep trying to devalue the dollar. That screws you far more than the Chinese do.

On national defense and immigration Mr. Trump projects a strong image. However, he admits his immigration stance is flexible. He actually favors a deport and re-admit policy and has flipped on H1Bs. On national defense he proposes nothing much different than others. Ted Cruz, certainly, rejects “nation building.” As with immigration, we don’t really know where Mr. Trump will end up.
“The lowest moment of the election was when Trump said what everyone in the country knows: that invading Iraq was a mistake.”
Well, yes. But not for the reasons Mr. Kluge implies. Mr. Trump’s aversion to invading Iraq came after the invasion, not before, when he was providing lukewarm support. As President, had he been presented with “slam dunk” evidence of WMDs from the CIA and confirming information from foreign intelligence agencies, and documented connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam, I do not believe his decision would have been different than Dubya’s. Nor should it have been. Bush, contra Trump, did not lie about Iraqi WMD.
“Over the last 15 years, I have watched the then-chairman of the DNC say the idea that President Bush knew about 9/11 and let it happen was a “serious position held by many people”.”
Mr. Trump has said repeatedly that Bush had advance warning of the 9/11 attacks. I agree that Trump's Truther flirtation is a low blow. It's also destructive of culture and civil institutions. Just as Trump's approval of the ChiCom crackdown in Tiananmen Square was detrimental to our cultural respect for Liberty and showed a disregard for our civil institutions surrounding civil rights.

As to erosion of our culture, Mr. Trump should be served with a crass action suit. Mr. Kluge disagrees,
“I really do not care that Donald Trump is vulgar, combative, and uncivil and I would encourage you not to care as well. I would love to have our political discourse be what it was even thirty years ago and something better than what it is today. But the fact is the Democratic Party is never going to return to that and there isn’t anything anyone can do about it…

[Y]ou tell me that I should reject Trump because he is uncivil and mean to his opponents? Is that some kind of a joke? This is not the time for civility or to worry about it in our candidates.”
No, that’s not why most people are telling you to reject Trump, Mr. Kluge, though it might figure into why you should reconsider Ted Cruz. Using other people’s objections to Trump’s vulgarity as justification for giving up some of that which “has been lost,” and because Democrats serve up tripe, is quite a feat. You’ve declared no candidate acceptable to you can possibly have the slightest impact on culture. Maybe that was before the penis joke during the debate. I can see how that would contribute to restoring our culture if he did it at the UN, but in any serious forum... Jeez.

Never mind it took the left decades to pollute and degrade our culture, we shouldn’t bother resisting any further. You seem to say the ideas that arise from the left don’t underpin the long decline in civil institutions. Never mind Trump’s bragging about adultery or what the Democrats will do with that. Just never mind.

As to decline of civil institutions, restoring them requires considerably more respect for the Constitution, the Presidency and other people than Mr. Trump has demonstrated.

You urge us to vote Trump. Ignore Cruz. But, Cruz frightens the Quisling-Conservatives even more than Trump. Cruz demonstrated his anger on the Senate floor. What makes Trump preferable?
“[I]t is unclear whether he [Cruz] could resist the temptations of nation building and wouldn’t get bullied into trying it again. And as much as I like Cruz on many areas he, like all of them except Trump, seems totally unwilling to admit that the government has a responsibility to act in the nation’s interests on trade policy and do something besides let every country in the world take advantage of us in the name of “free trade.””
Ted Cruz is the guy who filibustered Obamacare funding, earning the enmity of his own party. Who’s going to bully him? He’s not afraid of Democrats and he’s said to have no Republican friends.

This dismissal of Cruz is a pretense that the blank slate of Donald Trump would resist nation building - on no evidence. I can’t find where Mr. Cruz would “let every country in the world take advantage of us.” It doesn’t seem in character, either.

On the merits, Mr. Trump’s penchant for “Deals” makes him more likely to trade building a nation or two for Democrat votes.
“I do not care that Donald Trump is in favor of big government.”
Fine, but limited government is one of the most important of the underlying principles you regret has been lost. I guess we’re just supposed to give up our own principles because some people have a corrupt view of them. Could we not a least favor someone who isn’t bound and determined to institute ‘Yuuge' government. There is such a person running.

In short, Mr. Kluge, your reasons for voting for Trump fit Cruz better, and the polls show Cruz does better against Hillary.
“I will vote for virtually anyone to keep the left out of power and not because I thought them to be the best or even really a conservative choice.”
I guess not.

Mr. Kluge, you are ticked off at Conservative media and faux-Conservative politicians. Me too, but I’m not cutting my face up to spite my nose. You are projecting your preferences on the Trumpian blank slate, not selecting a candidate who shares them. Whether this is successful depends on a Yuuge assumption: You can believe what Trump says.

In my experience, Trump supporters adore Trump for “telling it like it is,” while simultaneously explaining away his gaffes as “not what he meant.”

Please be sure you're not doing that.