Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Voter Bribery Writ Large   7 comments

I’m continuing my rundown of the massive Democratic primary field, starting with the lowest ratings and working my way upward. And, my have the mighty fallen, as today I look at Bernie Sanders. You can check out my previous articles by following the links below. And, you’re always welcome to comment.

We are finally moving into the main competition for the Democratic nomination. I’m not saying that none of the ones I’ve already analyzed could win the nomination, but that it is highly likely they won’t. The Democrats much more tightly control their nomination process than do the Republicans.

Medical Insurance

A gaffe is when a politician tells some obvious truth he wasn’t supposed to say. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) committed a gaffe in February when she admitted that Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) “Medicare for All” proposal would oust close to 200 million Americans from their existing health insurance arrangements, a prospect that causes public support for “Medicare for All” to plummet from 56 percent to 37 percent. Harris thus helpfully illustrated why Sanders’s proposal is so pie-in-the-sky bonkers that it would never pass Congress.

But, don’t worry, Kamala Harris has an incremental approach that will accomplish the same thing – kind of like that frog boiling in the slowly warming pot of water. By insisting she is merely seeking a level playing field where the public option may compete with private insurance, Harris is fooling us into believing that there’s ever a level playing field between government and private industry. All the power rests with the government because it has a monopoly on force and can ignore economic realities and just tax everybody to pay for what it wants.

And remember, medical insurance is not health care. It’s not even guaranteed access to health care. I qualify for “free” medical care through BIA services, but long wait times and poor quality have convinced me that government-sponsored medical care sucks. I’d rather pay for real doctors from my own pocketbook.

Economy

Harris wants to create a federal subsidy for rent payments which would enrich landlords in the same way that tuition subsidies have enriched colleges and health subsidies have enriched insurers and providers, both at the expense of actual consumers..

Here’s some of what Professor Tyler Cowen wrote for Bloomberg about the proposal:

One of the worst tendencies in American politics is to restrict supply and subsidize demand. …The likely result of such policies is high and rising prices, restricted access and often poor quality. If you limit the number of homes and apartments, for example, but give buyers subsidies, that is a formula for exorbitant prices. That is what makes early accounts of Senator Kamala Harris’s economic plans so disappointing. …Consider Harris’s embrace of subsidies for renters, as reflected by her recent sponsorship of the Rent Relief Act of 2018. Given the high price of housing in many parts of the U.S., it is easy to see why the idea might have appeal. But the best and most sustainable way of producing cheaper housing is to build more homes and apartments. The resulting increase in supply will cause prices to fall… That is basic supply and demand, with supply doing the active work. The Harris bill, in contrast, calls for tax credits to renters. …There is an obvious problem with this approach. If you subsidize renters, that will push up the price of apartments. Furthermore, economic logic suggests that big rent increases are most likely in those cases where the supply of apartments is relatively fixed, a basic principle of what is called “tax incidence theory.” In sum, most of the gains from this policy would go to landlords, not renters.

In other words, this is a perfect plan for a politician who understands “public choice” theory. The people think they’re getting a freebie, but the benefits actually go to those with political influence and power.

Then Harris proposes a $2.7 trillion tax cut. What? I believe people should be able to keep any money they earn, so my instinct was to cheer, except whenever a politician offers something that sounds too good to be true, it almost always is.

Now let’s look at her $2.7 trillion tax cut. I believe that people should be allowed to keep the lion’s share of any money they earn, so my gut instinct is to cheer.

Kyle Pomerlau of the Tax Foundation has done the heavy lifting and looked closely at the details. He has a thorough explanation of her plan and its likely impact:

The “LIFT the Middle-Class Act” (LIFT) would create a new refundable tax credit available to low- and middle-income taxpayers. …LIFT would provide a refundable credit that would match a maximum of $3,000 in earned income ($6,000 for married couples filing jointly). …The credit would begin to phase out for single taxpayers starting at $30,000 of adjusted gross income (AGI) and $80,000 for single taxpayers with children, and begin phasing out for married taxpayers at $60,000 of AGI. The phaseout rate for all taxpayers would be 15 percent. …LIFT’s impact on the economy is primarily through its effect on the labor force. LIFT phases in from the first dollar of earned income to the maximum credit of $3,000 per tax filer. It then phases out starting at different levels of income, depending on a tax filer’s marital status and whether they have children. These phase-ins and phaseouts create implicit marginal subsidies and tax rates that impact individuals’ incentive to work.

Put simply, Harris is proposing a new version of the earned income credit, which subsidizes some taxpayers for working while penalizing other taxpayers for the same behavior.

For taxpayers in the credit phaseout range, tax liability would increase by 15 cents for each additional dollar earned. This means that these taxpayers would face an additional implicit marginal tax rate of 15 percent, which would reduce these taxpayers’ incentive to work additional hours. In contrast, taxpayers in the phase-in range of the credit would get $1 for each additional $1 of income they earn. As such, these taxpayers would benefit from an effective marginal subsidy rate, or negative marginal tax rate, of 100 percent. A negative tax rate of 100 percent would increase the incentive for these taxpayers to work additional hours.

Kyle crunches the numbers to determine the overall economic impact:

While the positive labor force effects of the phase-in of the credit could offset the negative effect of the phaseout, we find that, on net, the size of the total labor force would shrink under this policy. This is primarily due to the large number of taxpayers that would fall in the phaseout range of the credit relative to the number of individuals that would benefit from the phase-in. …We estimate that the credit…would reduce economic output by 0.7 percent and result in about 825,906 fewer full-time equivalent jobs.

Wow! It would seem impossible to design a $2.7 trillion tax cut that actually hurts the economy, but Senator Harris has succeeded in that dubious achievement and has figured out how to create an anti-supply-side tax cut. It’s gets worse, though. The tax cut is

refundable,” so the money goes to people who don’t pay taxes. It is government spending being laundered through the tax code. Harris claims to be cutting taxes, but part of what she’s doing is expanding redistribution and making government bigger, which will encourage more fraud). She also has been pretty cagey about how she plans to pay for her proposal.

Considering the poor design and upside-down economics of the rent subsidy scheme and the new tax credit, the bottom line is obvious: Kamala Harris wants to buy votes, and she has decided that it is okay to hurt the economy in hopes of achieving her political ambitions.

Does that make her presidential material?

Tyrant in Chief?   8 comments

This is my series looking at the Democratic candidates from a libertarian perspective. There are 23 declared candidates. I’m working off the following list of 13 because they have qualified for the debates later in June. I’m looking at them from lowest rating to highest.

The 2020 Democrats: Jay Inslee

Unlike Amy Klobuchar, I knew who Jay Inslee was before I started this series. He’s the controversial governor of Washington State and I have relatives living in Washington State, so I’ve heard them mutter his name a few times. Make no mistake, some of them — mostly the young ones who don’t pay taxes — sing his praises. But, I decided to look at his policies rather that take a broader overview simply because I haven’t paid a lot of attention to him. Why do my relatives who don’t like him not like him? Hmm … well, let’s look at it.

Medical Insurance

Inslee introduced legislation that would provide public health care through Washington State’s Health Benefit Exchange. During the announcement, he expressed his gratitude to the Obama administration for passing the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, my relatives tell me that if you didn’t want to go on the government dole for your health care, your insurance premiums climbed precipitously, so you were forced to go on the government dole for health care. They report long way times, forced doctor changes, and other problems they believe are caused by the ACA and, specifically, by how Inslee has advanced it in Washington State.

Immigration

†In 2018, Inslee put $1.2 million into legal services for immigrants who were being separated from their families at the SeaTac federal detention center. In light of President Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration, Inslee said, “The horrific separation of children from their parents at our southern border is just the latest in an ongoing effort by the president’s administration to terrorize immigrant families and those seeking asylum or refuge. Everyone is entitled to a fair and due process, and this funding will help make sure Washington is doing everything it can to protect that system of justice for all.” Inslee is against Trump’s national emergency declaration at the southern border and called his border wall agenda a, “wasteful vanity project.”

I kind of agree with Inslee on this topic. While I support more regulated immigration (I am not an open-borders libertarian), I think the wall is a distraction that ignores real reforms that need to be made. I absolutely agree with the Trump administration that asylum-seekers should wait their turn in a safe country rather than be allowed into the United States before they are properly screened. Sorry, but my Indian ancestors cry from the grave about what happens when there is uncontrolled migration.

Environment

Climate change is Inslee’s #1 priority in his presidential campaign. He wants to see “streamlined legislation for combating climate change – such as removing the Senate filibuster and allow Senate votes for Puerto Rico and Washington D.C. He has signed his state into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which forces their electoral votes to go to the winner of the non-existent presidential “popular” election (circumventing the established methods of amending the US Constitution). He has commended Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal in an interview with Vox’s David Roberts. He said while the Green New Deal doesn’t reflect what plans he wanted in 2007, he thinks AOC’s plan is, “necessary and suitable to the times. It’s a major reindustrialization of America and we should talk about it in these terms. We need to build things again, all around the country. We’ve got to get communities involved in that. I think the youth movement on this is fantastic.”

His scientific and economic ignorance on this issue is astounding! All you really need to know is that he supports AOC’s Green New Deal which would force the retrofit of every existing building in the United States and outlaw air travel to just get a little inkling of what a dictator this man would be if he became president.

Gun Control

As governor of Washington State Inslee signed a 2018 bill banning bump stocks on firearms. As the governor of Washington State, Inslee signeda bill in 2018 banning bump stocks on firearms.

“Devices that turn legal guns into weapons of war have no place in the hands of civilians in Washington state,” Inslee said. “And sensible gun regulations, including banning these devices, can help reduce violence in our communities.”

Yeah, the ignorance is deep here. It would be lovely if the people making decision like this had any actual practical knowledge of what they’re talking about. I’ve fired an AR-15 with a bump stock. It didn’t turn it into a machine gun. That’s not how it works. Inslee is welcome to his opinion, but that’s not what he’s asking for if he becomes President.

Abortion

Inslee is extremely pro-abortion, voted against a ban on federal healthcare coverage to include abortions and has voted against prohibiting partial-birth abortions.

Economics

State governors are remarkably easy to research on their economic policies.

As Governor, Inslee was responsible for giving Boeing an $8.7 billion tax break (the largest in US corporate tax break history). Boeing then laid off 20,00 jobs in five years because the deal contained no job guarantees.

I’m opposed to government giving companies tax breaks, but seriously, no job guarantees? What was the money for then?

Conclusion

I think Inslee is a horrible idea for President. I get why the majority of my relatives who live in Washington state don’t have good things to say about him. He has largely conducted himself in Washington State as a tyrant and I don’t expect that he would act any different in the White House.

Moderate by Some Standard   11 comments

I’m continuing my rundown of the massive Democratic primary field, starting with the lowest ratings and working my way upward.

Admittedly, I had never heard of Senator Amy Klobuchar before her name came up on the CNN list above. She is characterized by the main stream media as a “moderate” candidate, but my favorite libertarian sources haven’t paid a lot of attention to her and I’ve already admitted my ignorance. It’s hard to have an opinion on a candidate you’ve never heard of. So I decided look at her policy positions to see what I think of them. What you stand for says a great deal about who you intend to be if you become president.

Amy Klobuchar

Health Care (Insurance)

At a recent CNN town hall, Klobuchar said that while she wants to see universal healthcare insurance become a reality in the US, she does not support Medicare for All, calling it an “aspiration.” She does, however, support lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55, and co-sponsored a bill introduced by Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii that would create an expanded public option to allow people to buy into Medicaid or Medicare at a reasonable price. Klobuchar has also sponsored bipartisan legislation that would lower the cost of prescription drugs, and allow Medicaid to directly negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies. We’ve talked about how much some of these proposed programs would cost, but hey, this crop of candidates doesn’t seem to be interested in looking at reality. Apparently they believe good intentions will fill the coffers.

Immigration

Klobuchar voted for the 2013 immigration legislation that provided a path to citizenship for almost all undocumented immigrants without criminal records and an increase of skills-based visa availability while allocation more funding for border security. That shouldn’t be so surprising since Minnesota is a farm state and they already rely on large numbers of illegal migrants to staff their farms. She does not support abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but believes the agency should be reformed.

Climate Change

Klobuchar does not currently support the Green New Deal, but says she wants to see the US re-join the Paris Accords President Obama signed onto without Congressional support. The international agreement — which the Trump administration pulled the US out of — aims to decrease greenhouse gas emissions 45% by the year 2030 and expand renewable energy output. It ignores economic realities and may be ignoring the geophysical science of solar system warming.

Election Reform

Klobuchar supports automatic (dictatorial) voter registration for Americans, and introduced legislation in 2017 that would have automatically registered people who interacted with government agencies. As a member of the Senate Rules Committee, Klobuchar also introduced bipartisan election security legislation last year. She opposes the Citizens United decision and has sought to decrease the influence of money in politics. Her own campaign is refusing donations from corporate political action committees. I applaud her for walking her talk on that issue.

Abortion/Social Issues

Klobuchar has consistently supported the belief that a woman can abort her child up until labor begins, earning a 100% alignment rating from Planned Parenthood . Klobuchar supports same-sex marriage, and has pushed for measures to combat LGBTQ discrimination, writing in a 2013 report that discrimination is “not only morally wrong” but “bad for business and hurts our economy.”

Education

Klobuchar doesn’t support taxpayer-financed four-year college for all, but she does support reducing student debt burdens and increasing option for Americans to refinance their student loans. She also supports expanding access to technical and vocational training, including introducing legislation to allow 529 education savings accounts to be used to fund vocational education. She praised rival Kamala Harris’s plan to give US public school teachers an average $13,500 pay raise . Good grief! She was doing pretty well on education until that point. That would push starting teacher salaries in Alaska up to $55,500 annually and experienced teachers would be making close to $100,000 a year.

Guns

Klobuchar is from a rural state with a strong hunting culture (Minnesota), and says she doesn’t want to hurt her “Uncle Dick in the deer stand”, but they she supports instituting universal background checks that would track Uncle Dick and a ban on the most popular hunting rifle in America — the AR15, because she believes it’s an “assault rifle”. I think she needs to have a conversation with Uncle Dick because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She also supports Extreme Risk Orders— also known as “red flag” laws — which allow law enforcement to remove guns from people they determine to be a threat, generally without any sort of due process. Ever hear of “Minority Report”, guys? Yeah!

Criminal Justice Reform

Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, recently came out in support of marijuana legalization, saying she believes that “states should have the right to determine the best approach to marijuana within their borders.” She previously supported the STATES Act, which would have prohibited the Department of Justice from cracking down on marijuana in states that have legalized the drug.

Trade

Klobuchar has previously supported US tariffs on foreign steel and aluminum imports, but she criticized the Trump administration, however, for the damage retaliatory tariffs imposed by China have caused to Midwest rural farmers. So is she pro-trade or not? I don’t know. Maybe she’s pro-trade when it helps her state and anti-trade when it doesn’t? I’m just guessing.

Foreign Policy

Klobuchar opposed Trump withdrawing troops from Syria earlier this year. She criticized Trump for becoming friendlier with US adversaries like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un while distancing himself from traditional American allies, saying she believes America must “stand as a beacon of democracy.” She took a dig at Trump’s foreign policy at her campaign launch, saying “we must respect our front line troops, diplomats, and intelligence officers … they deserve better than foreign policy by tweet.”

She sounds like a typical Democratic neo-consertive on that topic — for war when her party is conducting it, but anti-war when the other party does it.

Taxes

Klobuchar’s website says she supports legislation that would “simplify the tax code, close wasteful loopholes, bring back money U.S. companies are holding overseas to fund infrastructure projects here at home, and provide incentives to keep jobs in America.” She criticized the 2018 Republican tax reform bill, saying it “created a terrible incentive to move jobs and operations abroad to take advantage of tax havens.”

Jobs & the Economy

Klobuchar supports raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. She supports expanding export markets for US goods, especially those made by small businesses that will be driven out of business by those increased minimum wage laws. She claims she wants to decrease red tape and burdensome regulation that hinder small business growth. She recently rolled out an ambitious $1 trillion plan to upgrade and invest in America’s infrastructure, which she says will create thousands of good-paying jobs. History might argue she is wrong.

Conclusion

I like some of her policies like criminal justice reform. She displays the typical Democratic economic ignorance. I think she’s a typical warmonger. And she is apparently unfamiliar with the US Constitution. Her health insurance and education policies ignore economic realities. Typical of most modern progressive-liberals, she’s willing to sacrifice basic rights because she is sure she is “right”.

But other than that – she probably qualifies as a modern “moderate Democrat” which means she is quite a bit left of center from the main stream of the country. Her 4% poll ratings suggest people might agree with me on that.

A Study in Cognitive Dissonance   14 comments

This is my series looking at the Democratic candidates from a libertarian perspective. There are 23 declared candidates. I’m working off the following list of 13 because they have qualified for the debates later in June. I’m looking at them from lowest rating to highest.

So, unlike a lot of people, I don’t object to Robert O’Rourke having a Hispanic nickname. Maybe someone Hispanic laid that on him. I’ve got a “sign name” given to me by Deaf people so I have a right (under the rules of their subculture) to use it and I’ve even run across people from other parts of the country who knew of me when they saw the sign name. “You’re Seattle Brian’s cousin, aren’t you?”

Unlike Elizabeth Warren, who profited greatly by pretending to be something she’s not (an American Indian), Beto isn’t pretending to be Hispanic – although I’m sure some people figure he’s closer to being Hispanic than Ted Cruz, whose father speaks with a decided accent. We can move on from the snark-fest I’m not going to participate in.

Like all the candidates for the Democratic nomination for 2020, O’Rourke has policy statements. I don’t agree with all of them. Most libertarians I know say they like some of what he says and dislike some of what he says, which puts him ahead of many of his opponents, who we like none of what they say.

O’Rourke’s policy positions are a study in paradoxes and the contradictions that sometimes get painful.

Examples?

1) Beto wants to decriminalize drugs and jail pharma executives

I live in Alaska, where cannabis was decriminalized three years ago, but has been defacto “legal” for four decades, so I don’t really care about legalization. O’Rourke has, for more than a decade, advocated for the end of the federal marijuana prohibition and the removal of pot arrests from criminal records, as part of a broader criminal justice reform. Okay, I could vote for that, mainly for the reform that includes drug convictions rather than the drugs themselves. Moreover, he has called from decoupling cops from the opioid crisis. Yeah, I agree. I’m in favor of decoupling cops from the vast majority of crimes because I don’t think they really help, but that’s another topic.

But then, O’Rourke slams companies like Purdue Pharma for selling opioids to prescribers and he wants to put them in jail. Consider this paragraph.

We need to end the prohibition of marijuana. Expunge arrest records for everyone arrested for possession of something that’s legal in so many other places. And make sure that we have full prosecution and accountability for those who are responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.

The cognitive dissonance in that single paragraph could drown a Labrador retriever. Drug dealer are drug dealers. Whether you do it through the prescription pad or you do it from a back alley apartment, you are still a drug dealer and peddling death to willing consumers. Could we please try for some consistency here? Someone else’s recreational drug of choice is either none of our business or it is? You can’t have it both ways.

2) Free trade, but not for Chinese dumpers!

O’Rourke actually has a long (rhetorical) history of backing free trade. My father-in-law is more familiar with him than I am (he lives in Texas) and he says O’Rourke wouldn’t have been able to win elections in conservative Texas if he’d bashed free trade. But I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and not question his sincerity on this issue. Again, the inconsistencies are striking.

“This trade war that the president has entered us into with China, these tariffs that he’s levied, and reciprocal tariffs that have been levied in return, hurt our ability to export into foreign markets, hurt our farmers and ranchers and producers, hurt the people who make things in this country that are opened to other markets around the world. It’s hurting our economy and hurting our families.”

Sounds good, but in that same speech, given at Keene State University in New Hampshire, O’Rourke started talking about the need “to take on China, the manipulation of their currency, the manipulation of trade practices that allows them to dump steel and compete unfairly on a global stage.”

Anti-Chinese dumping provisions already exist, even though they arguably shouldn’t. So where is the consistency? Sigh.

I get flip-flopping from one policy statement to another from one crowd to another — it’s disingenuous, but totally what politicians do. I can accept a change of position from one decade to another, because I believe people can grow and become wiser as they age. But flip-flopping within the same speech? Is this a performance of The Whore of Mensa?

3) Debt = bad. Domestic spending = good.

O’Rourke certainly sounds as deficit hawkish as Paul Ryan at times. I agree with many of his previous criticisms about the size of federal deficits and debt and he’s right to denounce overseas wars, occupations, and nation-building:

[W]e are $22 trillion in debt, and deficit spending to the tune of one trillion dollars annually added to that. That was approved in wars that we’ve been fighting going back to 1991, in the first invasion of Iraq. Six successive presidential administrations, we are still there. Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen. Those wars cost money. Those countries we rebuild after we’ve invaded cost money. Actually trillions of dollars.

Then, in another of his incredible inconsistencies, he blames the size of the deficits and debt on tax cuts, while touting a Medicare expansion program that in his own words would be “measured in the trillions of dollars.”

Pick a side, Mr. Would-Be President! Pick a side! Either you’re for reducing the cost of government or you aren’t, and the math for “taxing the rich” just doesn’t work out. The annual income of America’s “rich people” couldn’t cover current deficits year-over-year, even if you taxed them at 100%. Jeff Bezos is not a magic money tree.

4) Humility versus narcissistic alarmism.

O’Rourke will, on one hand, seem to upbeat and positively respectful when talking about “everybody” and then turn around and call this election our “defining moment of truth.” He’ll beseech Americans to recognize the limits of their own knowledge and power:

“There are probably a lot of people who are a lot smarter on this issue than I am,” he said at Keene State in response to a pointed question about the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Also: “Now listen, we have to have the humility to understand we cannot impose a solution on any people, anywhere. See: 18 years and counting in Afghanistan, 27 years and counting in Iraq. Plenty of other examples. This is something that the Palestinian people and the Israeli people must decide for themselves. But given our role and our support for both sides, the aid that we provide, we have a seat at that table.”

Bully for Beto recognizing that America and the politicians who rule us are neither omniscient nor omnipotent! But then, he says this:

The civil war in Syria, the wildfires in California—we literally are making it happen. And unless we act in the next 12 years, which the scientists also agree within which we still have time, there will be a hell visited upon our kids and grandkids and the generations that follow….If you were worried about 400,000 apprehensions at our southern border with Mexico last year, wait until some of the countries in the Western Hemisphere are no longer inhabitable by human beings. The refugee crisis then, here and all over the world, is beyond our imagination right now. But we still have time to act.

Good grief! So we can’t tell other countries how to act, but we can damn sure oppress our own people or flood the country with populations of people who will overwhelm the people who already live here because “we must act NOW”. It’s like a game of philosophical Twister. O’Rourke sees no contradiction there.

“I think we can bridge these differences, define ourselves not by what divides us, by what we want to accomplish together.”

I appreciate his energy and I appreciate that he has some libertarian-seeming policy proposals, but the drumbeat of the apocalypse seems just beneath his surface smile. I suspect that once in office, the nice-guy face will drop away and he’ll reveal the face of a tyrant intent upon making his truth THE truth. And those contradictory statements? Which ones does he actually believe? Maybe that doesn’t matter so much as to realize that once in office, most candidates will act on their totalitarianism far more quickly and ruthlessly than they will act on their restraint. And, candidates who make statements that suggest they would force the American people to do things they might not want to do — well, welcome to totalitarianism.

First Libertarian Socialist?   14 comments

I’m continuing my rundown of the massive Democratic primary field, starting with the lowest ratings and working my way upward. And, my have the mighty fallen, as today I look at Bernie Sanders. You can check out my previous articles by following the links below. And, you’re always welcome to comment.

Yes, that title is oxymoron. Libertarians are all about freedom and individualism and socialists are all about collectivism and coerced support of the State. And, I admit, I don’t like Bernie Sanders. I had no idea who he was until the first time I saw him on television yelling at someone and I just got a bad impression of him from the outset.

Large image on homepages

The thing is, the senator from the Peoples’ Republic of Vermont is at least two-thirds of the way on the road to free minds and free markets. It’s the last third that stops me cold like a bucket of Alaska glacier water to face.

Three issues frame politics — foreign, social and economic. Sanders is as non-interventionist as Ron Paul on foreign policy. He’s down with legalized pot and letting people have sex with whomever they want to have sex with. And like most of libertarians who despise crony capitalism, Bernie eschews the big three rent-seeking lobbies: big investment Banks, big pharma drug dealers, and big war profiteers.

And then he goes seriously off the rails because he wants free health care, free day care, and free college tuition. But hey, nobody’s perfect. 

In 2016, he was compared and contrasted to Hillary Clinton and Bernie looked downright Ayn Rand-ish. The Warrior Queen (HRC), who voted for the Iraq War, which Bernie opposed, and who sees America as the “indispensable nation”, flies the flag for the neo-conservative-lite wing of the Democratic Party on foreign policy. Under the Clinton administration, Goldman Sachs pretty much called all the shots out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

And compared to Trump in 2016, Sanders could have been a professor in the Austrian School of Economics, though he often takes the wrong exit and gets onto the road to serfdom.

He’s not alone on that slavery superhighway. He travels with GW Bush who gave us Medicare Part D, the biggest socialized medicine gambit since LBJ ‘s guns-and-butter fiscal policies saddled us with the Texas-sized taxpayer bill for Medicare and Medicaid, and two huge elective wars we didn’t need to fight.

Sanders certainly supported the costly federal drugging of old people at government expense, but he also thinks we should have the liberty to buy our drugs at the cheaper prices paid by our neighbors in Canada.

Okay, so I’m poking fun at the old fella, but that’s because he’s pretty close to being a libertarian, but about as far from being one as you might find. It’s a paradox. You have to understand socialism and not that many Americans today really do.

Socialism, as defined by both advocates and critics, is the collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. Democratic socialists, according to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), believe that “both the economy and society should be run democratically — to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few.” Notice how they avoid references to collectivism or the means of production so as not to turn off people who don’t wish to be socialists?

What’s interesting is that the DSA, at least on their website, is unapologetically socialist. They advocate for socialism, but believe that a lack of democracy is the reason socialism failed in almost every situation where it has been tried. The DSA are fully committed to the “not real socialism” excuse for failed nations like the USSR and today’s Venezuela. They see the obvious problem with corruption and dictatorship, and think that democracy is the solution.

Rather than attempting to separate democratic socialism from regular socialism, organizations like the DSA fully embrace socialism as a core component of their ideology, merely adding democracy alongside it.

This goes against the more “mainstream” view of democratic socialism pushed by left-leaning media networks and politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Mainstream democratic socialists argue that what they advocate for is less like Venezuela and more like Scandinavia, often referring to it as “Nordic socialism.”

There are issues with this mainstream view. For one, Scandinavian socialism is a myth. Scandinavia are capitalist countries with large welfare states and government regulation. Granted, many of the government policies in countries like Norway and Denmark operate using the same underlying logic as socialism and the countless number of economic regulations prevents anyone of sound mind from saying they have a free market.

Still even with the high degree of government (mis)management, Scandinavian countries still operate with an economy that is, at its very core, capitalist. Companies are still run privately for profit, and still compete with one another within the market. According to the Prime Minister of Denmark, “Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy.” While it may not be a laissez faire libertarian paradise, it is not a socialist system. Democratic socialists, eager to make their point, often ignore that reality.

Secondly, as has already been pointed out, organizations like the DSA aren’t for regulated capitalism. They are strongly anti-capitalist, and proud of it. Whatever lefty college students might claim, democratic socialism is not some kind of socialism-lite.

So how come most American don’t know that? It’s because we’ve been taught that if people vote for it, it’s warm and fuzzy. People voted for Hitler and look how well that turned out.

What’s worrisome is that the rise of democratic socialism has been somewhat successful. Democrats in the United States now view socialism more favorably than capitalism. According to Gallup, 57% of Democrats have a positive view of socialism, while only 47% have a positive view of capitalism. In 2010, 53% of Democrats held a positive view of socialism while 53% held a positive view of positive view of capitalism. Republican views of capitalism and socialism over the same period have remained relatively unchanged.

Yes, we should be worried. As people warm to the idea of democratic socialism, the desire for socialism and opposition to capitalism will grow. Socialism, whether it is “democratic” or imposed by a dictator, remains an increasing threat to all free and peace-loving people of the world.

Which is why, even though Bernie Sanders is two-thirds of the way to agreeing with the non-aggression principle, I wouldn’t vote for him because I don’t think he really understands democracy or socialism and his programs would bankrupt the country. And then there’s the fact that he’s a grump who keeps yelling at people.

Seriously? Do you think I’ll listen to you because you yell at me?

Economic Illiteracy   14 comments

This is my series looking at the Democratic candidates from a libertarian perspective. There are 23 declared candidates. I’m working off the following list of 13 because they have qualified for the debates later in June. I’m looking at them from lowest rating to highest.

Elizabeth Warren has fallen a LONG way in the polls since the Cherokee Nation disavowed her. My cousins on the nearby Wyandot Reservation don’t much like her either. We’re all pretty white-looking in my tribe. Our hair might be dark, but our eyes are often green and sometimes blue. We’re a long way away from our mythical Turtle Island, but at least we have tribal cards to prove we have Indian blood in our veins.

Elizabeth Warren

Warren participated in a town hall in March and her biggest attention grabber of the night was her proposition to get rid of the Electoral College. In fairness to the Senator, the Electoral College has been questioned at some point in virtually every election cycle since the year 2000. I like it because it prevents the less populous rural regions that produce our food and fuel from becoming serf zones without any voice in national policies that affect them — policies like those of Marianne Williamson that would simply gut the economy and leave producers like rural residents without any recourse but the government dole.

What’s more concerning about a potential Warren presidency is her inarticulate ideas on health care and her desire to break up the big tech companies.

Warren got lucky and missed out on most of the hot-button issues of the night, but when asked about the Medicare for All proposal, Warren prefaced by saying “some people” say we should lower the age to 30. What’s important, Warren said was “that everybody has to come to the table on this.” Only then will we be able to truly know how to implement a Medicare for All solution. But who exactly is this elusive “everybody?” She didn’t really elaborate and I doubt the average working American or the people who will be paying that bill (the “wealthy) will be invited.

Warren was adamant that this “everybody” needed to come together because the issue at hand is so drastically complicated. This is an accurate statement by the Senator, who is not known for accuracy. The United States healthcare system is insanely complex. It’s a hodgepodge mixture of public and private options, with protectionist policies that prevent our neighbors to the north from even selling us lower cost pharmaceuticals. It’s a disastrous mess.

Which begs the question — Is the medical care system broken because of private enterprise or because of deliberate government policy? Senator, unlike her chicken shit opponent Cory Booker, touched on this issue, advocating for the relaxation of protectionist drug policies. That would be a tremendous step in the right direction.

Yet, she is also firmly entrenched in the notion that a centralized board can repair the fractured medical care industry. With the complexities involved, I think Senator Warren overestimates the capabilities of a centralized solution. Centralized solutions rarely work and I don’t know how many times we need to revisit that lesson before we learn it.

F.A. Hayek spoke on this issue quite a bit in his book, The Road to Serfdom. To paraphrase Hayek, the more complicated the industry, the more necessary it is for free competition. This is because the more complex an industry is, the less likely that a small group of individuals will effectively grasp its intricacies. For Hayek, the government can do just fine in overseeing simple matters such as roads(yeah, Hayek might have been a bit optimistic on that), but their decisions on complex matters would likely just make the situation worse.

Senator Warren did nothing to dislodge Hayek’s observatoin. When pressed on whether or not she would do away with private medical care entirely, she wavered and looked uneasy. She alternated between “maybe so” and “maybe not”. The unsettling reality was simple: she doesn’t know.

One thing she does know is that she wants to break up the big tech companies including, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google. She has this preposterous notion that these companies have too much power over our lives and that somehow we can’t just turn them off. Her notion is founded on a very limited understanding of these businesses.

They’re not monopolies. In fact, they are each other’s biggest competitors, and they compete ruthlessly against each other in the internet advertising business and for dominance in the smart home market.

To call these businesses monopolies is an oversimplified take on their business models. It’s to view Amazon as an e-commerce market, or Google as a mere search engine. It completely and willfully ignores that they are also competing in cloud, hardware, self-driving cars, medical care, smartphones, operating systems, grocery retail, data centers, and just recently, with the Stadia reveal, the video game industry.

They face steep competition in all of these areas. Wal-Mart is growing e-commerce sales by 50% year over year. Etsy and Shopify are the two fastest growing e-commerce businesses in the United States. Google can’t compete with Apple in the smartphone market. Facebook is a dominant social platform, but not for e-dating (Match.com) or professional networking (LinkedIn) and it has direct competitors that are up and coming, which might be why Facebook is asking for regulation of the industry.

To talk about breaking these businesses up is not only taking a narrow view of their operations, but it also blatantly disregards just how much the consumer has benefited from their innovation.

Why do they relentlessly pursue innovation? It wouldn’t make much sense to pursue innovation if they could just rest on their monopolistic laurels. On the other hand, their relentless pursuit to diversify is a direct acknowledgement of the precarious nature of the dominance hierarchy within the tech industry.  

Consumers, however, will fail to benefit if Warren gets her way.  Her policies will result in a dramatic leveling of the tech industry just when we need it the most. Automation, space travel, and advances in medical care are just within the reach of Amazon, Google, and Apple. It would be a shame to watch the government stifle their ambitions.

So I think you can figure out my libertarian objections to Elizabeth Warren becoming President.

Subsidizing Everyone   14 comments

I’m running down the top 13 candidates in the Democratic Game of Thrones, in reverse order of their polling, and today I’m looking at Andrew Yang. You can catch my earlier posts in the hyperlinks below.

freedom dividend

Ten days after the midterm election, Andrew Yang gathered a group of about forty people, mostly college students and active community members, in Iowa City, Iowa, to discuss the 2020 presidential election.

Yang seems intelligent, articulate, and he’s done his homework. His website has his views on more than 70 different issues and policy proposals. He could talk in depth on just about all of them. The biggest piece of his platform is a Universal Basic Income, which he calls a “freedom dividend,” but it isn’t the only idea he’s trying to bring to the forefront of political discussion. He also wants to modernize the metric for national success, which is currently the Gross Domestic Product, and provide an alternate currency for community involvement. He’s definitely not a libertarian, but his ideas ought to be discussed.

If I was a Democrat and could only have five candidates to choose from, I’d want Yang to be one. His ideas are new and different, and still boldly progressive. He’s a genuine, intelligent, and well-spoken man.

If I was a Trump supporter and wanted a sure victory, I would not want Andrew Yang to be nominated. Trump could defeat him on the fringe ideas alone (UBI is largely untested anywhere, let alone in the US, except in Alaska and it’s failing here), but it wouldn’t be the sure win as he could manage against Elizabeth Warren or Cory Booker, polarizing politicians with a wealth of public garbage to pick through.

Yang is not a career politician (sound familiar?), so he lacks that incredible baggage train of just about everyone else in the race, including the one Trump has now accumulated, and he’s focusing on solutions for blue-collar swing-state voters who handed Trump the 2016 victories. I’m not saying Trump wouldn’t win, but that he’d have a headwind with Yang that he wouldn’t have with most other candidates.

And if I were a conservative Republican (which Trump isn’t), I’d be gearing up for 2024 on a platform of cleaning up the mess Yang’s UBI would cause. Trust me. Check out the Alaska Legislature if you want to see what that might look like on the national scale.

Yang is definitely more qualified to lead than Marianne Williamson and if I weren’t living through the mess in Juneau, I might think UBI was a tempting idea. But I just know that it makes no sense to tax one group of American who produce a lot in order to subsidize another group of Americans to sit on their rears. There’d never be enough money to support everyone who wanted to sit around watching daytime television.

My big libertarian issue with Yang is that his proposals require a LOT of aggression to accomplish. The math on UBI requires tremendous redistribution and redistribution is nothing more than hiring government agents to stick up your wealthier neighbors in the park. It’s a violation of the non-aggression principle.

Socialist with a Side of Therapy   13 comments

This is the start of my series looking at the Democratic candidates from a libertarian perspective. There are 23 declared candidates. I’m working off the following list of 13 because they have qualified for the debates later in June. I’m looking at them from lowest rating to highest.

Marianne Williamson - 33252886458 (cropped).jpg

Marianne Deborah Williamson is a 66-year-old author, lecturer, and activist. She has written 13 books, including four that have been New York Times #1 bestsellers. She is the founder of Project Angel Food, a volunteer food delivery program that serves home-bound people with life-threatening illnesses. She is also the co-founder of The Peace Alliance, a nonprofit grassroots education and advocacy organization supporting peace-building projects.

Williamson was born in Houston, Texas, the youngest o three children. Her parents Sam and Sophie were an immigration lawyer and a homemaker. Her family is Jewish. After graduating from high school, Williamson spent two years studying theater and philosophy at Pomona Collect, but dropped out in her junior year and moved to New York City, intending to become a cabaret singer. She returned the Houston in 1979 to run a metaphysical bookstore/coffeeshop.

In 1983 she moved to Los Angeles. She began regularly lecturing on   A Course in Miracles  in Los Angeles and New York City, and eventually in other cities in the U.S. and Europe as well.

She published her first book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, in 1992.

She’s been advocating for the fundamental transformation of American society along her philosophical beliefs ever since.

She wrote in the book,

It is a task of our generation to recreate the American politeia, to awaken from our culture of distraction and re-engage the process of democracy with soulfulness and hope. Yes, we see there are problems in the world. But we believe in a universal force that, when activated by the human heart, has the power to make all things right. Such is the divine authority of love: to renew the heart, renew the nations, and ultimately, renew the world.

In 2014, Williamson ran unsuccessfully as an Independent for the California 33rd Congressional district of the US House of Representatives. On January 29, 2019, she announced her campaign to seek the Democratic nomination for the 2020 United States presidential election.

While emphasizing that politics needs more than external remedies, Williamson has stated that she agrees with many of the positions of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, including Medicare for All and the $15 minimum wage. She has also spoken favorably of Glass-Steagall legislation. She has publically advocated for racial justice, demanding public apologies for slavery and paying reparations to the descendents of slaves. She supports reformation of the criminal justice system. She has embraced the Green New Deal and wants the United States to sign onto the Paris Climate Accord (remember, Obama “signed” onto it, but Congress never ratified it), and she wants to reform the Environmental Protect Agency.

She is a life-long anti-war activist who condemned Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen, including favoring an embargo on American arms being sold to the Saudis. She says the US needs to be an “honest broker” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and she isn’t sure how she feels about Afghanistan. After all, she’s only anti-war unless there’s a need to free women from the Taliban.

She has a 24-year-old daughter named India.

Williamson doesn’t hide that she is a “progressive.” She is proud of it.

There are some good things about progressives, but from a libertarian perspective, their ideals are problematic. She ran as an independent in 2014, but she was really not an independent. She was and is very much a Democrat, who was endorsed by Democrats during that failed race in 2014, including Dennis Kucnich and Keith Ellison.

She is essentially a female Tony Robbins running for President. How is that better than Donald Trump? Yes, she’s charismatic and attractive, but let’s be honest about this — she’s a Hollywood self-help guru. We need someone who can figure out how to reduce the debt, stop deficit spending, reform entitlements. Does her history suggest skills in any of those arenas?

Do we really need a Therapist-in-Chief?

Snarking aside, my libertarian objection to her is that her policies would require major redistribution. While she claims to be a very peaceful individual, the violence and coercion necessary to move that much wealth around (against the will of the original owners) is massive. We should stop the wars that abuse the citizens of other countries, but the alternative should not be to abuse our own citizens.

Final 13   1 comment

This is an update as I decided to add some of the other Democratic candidates who are trying their shot at the nomination for the general election, still over a year away.

John Delaney

Yeah, 21. (Picks up jaw from floor). So, who would you vote for and why? Yes, you can vote if you’re not an American. This is my unofficial poll of sentiment on the Democratic field. But please say why you’d vote for the candidate you’d vote for.

According to an ABC News analysis, among the 21 qualifying candidates, 13 have cleared both the polling and grassroots criteria set by the DNC, clinching a secured spot on the stage for the first debate (June 26-27).

The qualifying candidates are –

  • -Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • -New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
  • -South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • -Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
  • -Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  • -California Sen. Kamala Harris 
  • -Washington Gov. Jay Inslee 
  • -Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar 
  • -Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke 
  • -Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 
  • -Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • -Tech Entrepreneur Andrew Yang 
  • -Motivational speaker Marianne Williamson

I’ve decided to research these candidates to see if any of them are worth voting for. I’m going to take a libertarian view of this, so let’s see where that takes us.

Posted June 5, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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Which Democrat Would You Vote For?   Leave a comment

I’m completely burned out on politics and don’t think it’s worth voting in 2020. I was pretty close to that in 2016, so maybe it’s no surprise that I don’t care about 2020. But, here we are and debate season starts in just three weeks.

According to an ABC News analysis, among the 21 qualifying candidates, 13 have cleared both the polling and grassroots criteria set by the DNC, clinching a secured spot on the stage for the first debate (June 26-27).

The qualifying candidates are –

-Former Vice President Joe Biden
-New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
-South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
-Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
-Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
-California Sen. Kamala Harris 
-Washington Gov. Jay Inslee 
-Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar 
-Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke 
-Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 
-Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
-Tech Entrepreneur Andrew Yang 
-Motivational speaker Marianne Williamson

I’m honestly curious about who would vote for which candidates in the Democratic field and why. There are clearly more candidates than what I’ve listed, but I’m going to research these folks and I had to put a limit somewhere.

You can “vote” in this poll even if you’re not an American citizen and Republicans (or whatever) who have no intentions of voting for a Democrat are welcome too. I just want to hear your reasoning for selecting the candidate you would select.

And if you’re as tired of politics as I am, you might want to check out my political satire Hullabaloo on Main Street which laughs at the hysteria over the Trump election. I haven’t been able to find the funny in the ongoing hysteria, but if it ever comes back, I’ll be sure to post it here.

Posted June 4, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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