Archive for the ‘politics’ Tag

Broke Clock Right Twice a Day   Leave a comment

I’ve opposed Lisa Murkowski since she became my senator, but she’s right this time.


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Princess Lisa — Bane of Alaska

Lisa Murkowski became a Senator because Daddy gave her his seat. If you’re unfamiliar with Alaska’s politics — here’s the short version. Frank Murkowski was the junior senator from Alaska for over 20 years when he decided to run for Governor of Alaska and won. One of his first acts as governor was to fill his vacant US Senate seat. There were a number of highly-qualified candidates — including Sarah Palin (who would take Frank’s governorship away from him four years later), but Frank appointed his daughter, an Anchorage attorney who had been in the State Legislature and whose constituents accused of being a Republican in Name Only.

She’s proven herself to be exactly that and there are plenty of Alaska voters who don’t support her, but somehow she pulled off a win as a write-in candidate after she lost the GOP primary in 2010. I’ve never voted for her. I always support someone else in the primaries and I voted Libertarian in the general last time. I don’t like nepotism. I don’t like Lisa (small-population state, so yes, I’ve met her). I don’t like her politics.

But even a broken clock is right twice a day.

I was a Never Trumper before the phrase was coined, but I don’t hate the consequences of many of Trump’s policies. The economy shows he’s not a complete idiot and the economy affects all of our lives. Even in Alaska, where there’s been an oil-price-related recession for the past six years, we feel the improvement over the Obama administration’s policies. I honestly believe Trump is a buffoon and a crooked businessman, but I also believe impeachment should be reserved for egregious crimes, not for doing the job of president in rooting out American corruption in allied nations. I wanted a full Senate investigation with every witness possible called because I firmly believe the investigation would pull down the Departments of State and Justice, the FISA court and half of Congress on both sides of the aisle. It would wake the country up to the incredible corruption that has been growing at the federal level for decades. And, yeah, it might bring down Trump too, but I’d happily sacrifice him to a legitimate draining of the swamp. Never Trumper. Don’t really care what happens to the man.

But I also think the unconstitutionally conducted, highly partisan nature of the current impeachment proceedings are just opening the door to impeaching every president going forward. This is NOT the way to get rid of a president you don’t like. Mount candidates who have something worthwhile to say and you win the next election. Don’t use impeachment to try an distract voters from how truly bad your candidates are. Reserve impeachment for egregious crimes — not having sex with an intern and trying to root out the corruption of American officials in foreign countries. One is the stupidity of man and the other is the job of the president. Even going back to Andrew Johnson — firing your cabinet member though Congress had passed a law saying you couldn’t do that — even Republicans recognized it was a partisan maneuver designed by Republicans to remove him from office by any means necessary and voted for against partisanship.

Lisa Murkowski is right

“I worked for a fair, honest, and transparent process, modeled after the Clinton trial, to provide ample time for both sides to present their cases, ask thoughtful questions, and determine whether we need more.

The House chose to send articles of impeachment that are rushed and flawed. I carefully considered the need for additional witnesses and documents, to cure the shortcomings of its process, but ultimately decided that I will vote against considering motions to subpoena.

Given the partisan nature of this impeachment from the very beginning and throughout, I have come to the conclusion that there will be no fair trial in the Senate. I don’t believe the continuation of this process will change anything. It is sad for me to admit that, as an institution, the Congress has failed.

It has also become clear some of my colleagues intend to further politicize this process, and drag the Supreme Court into the fray, while attacking the Chief Justice. I will not stand for nor support that effort. We have already degraded this institution for partisan political benefit, and I will not enable those who wish to pull down another.

“We are sadly at a low point of division in this country.”

Partisanship is Killing the Country

We aren’t improved by engaging in partisan assaults on our institutions of government. Trump isn’t the real threat any more than Obama was. They’re both just front men for an undercurrent philosophy that wants control of what used to be a culturally strong, economically vital nation — a nation that could rise again if only given the chance. Neither side is particularly right or good. We might even argue that there is no side — that it’s all political theater designed to keep us enthralled so the power-brokers can use citizens as mere pawns for the benefit of the party elite. Just look at the deficit. The Republicans harangue against debt when Democrats are in power — as well they should because debt is dangerous to the stability of a country. Democrats complain Republicans are wasting money that should go to the “poor” whenever the Republicans are in charge (although this time, they’ve found it difficult to do so after the outsized deficits run by Obama). Is there a dime’s worth of difference between the parties beyond their rhetoric? I fail to see it. So is partisanship about the issues or is it about keeping us enthralled by partisan politics so we won’t start asking inconvenient questions?

I still won’t vote for her in 2022, but Lisa Murkowski’s right on this issue. The House conducted an undercover, rushed and flawed impeachment for partisan purposes. They chose charges that have no criminal correspondence and then failed to make their case beyond a reasonable doubt. They then expected the Senate to do their job for them, but they insisted the Senate only call the witnesses the House managers wanted. They were going to dig in their heels and refuse to allow them to widen the inquiry into the Huner Biden Affair, the Steele Dossier, Carter Page, and the FISA court warrant. There was no way the Senate trial could be made fair under those rules because it’s not abuse of power if Biden (with Obama’s permission) really did stop an inquiry into Burisma. If one president does it and it’s okay, then how can it be abuse of power when the next president does the same thing? Continuing the partisan show would just expose the Senate — as the impeachment has exposed the House — to be seen as a political kabuki theater of the absurd. I’m not arguing that the Senate isn’t absurd. I’m trying to show you that the process has been so flawed because it’s not about what the president did. It’s about who wins the 2020 election … by any means necessary.

Elizabeth Warren Publically Threatened John Roberts and the Supreme Court

I’m not sure what Warren thought she was going to accomplish. I can speculate. Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff designed the House impeachment to make Trump unelectable in 2020 and to assure Democrats would increase their majority in House. I think that failed because they failed to make a “beyond a reasonable doubt” case in the House. Their case had so many holes they even convinced a couple of Democrats to vote against it.

The Senate trial was also designed to make Republicans look partisan and flip the majority there in the fall. I don’t know if that was successful before Warren asked her question, but I think she sunk Democratic chances. She also sunk her own chances to be President of the United States.

“At a time when large majorities of Americans have lost faith in government, does the fact that the chief justice is presiding over an impeachment trial in which Republican senators have thus far refused to allow witnesses or evidence contribute to the loss of legitimacy of the chief justice, the Supreme Court and the Constitution?”

Warren made herself look wholly partisan and divisive and she convinced Lisa it was time to stop sitting the fence and vote on more witnesses or not. Lisa, who is really a left-leaning centrist, doesn’t want to destroy the system that gives her a comfortable living, so she voted to reduce the partisanship by shortening the show. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see Lisa running for President in 2024 as a centrist or even an independent candidate.

What’s This Impeachment All About?

That’s the question we ought to be asking ourselves. Did this sort of nonsense happen in the Clinton impeachment — the Nixon impeachment — the Johnson impeachment? Those were partisan attacks treated like trials rather than Wild West shoot-em-up theater. I’m torn between saying the Democrats lost their minds and are now unable to conduct themselves as grownups or sticking with my original analysis that this is all some massive bipartisan show to distract the public from something bigger — perhaps just to keep us from asking the more important questions —

Government This Dysfunctional

When a system that has acquired such outsized importance in our nation becomes so dysfunctional, it begs for thoughtful analysis. For me, the answers are:

Get rid of partisan politics. Either eliminate both major parties (though they may be doing this to themselves by their behavior) or get rid of all ballot-access laws so that third parties can have viable, full-throated voices in the election process. Currently, the barriers for entry for third parties are far too high, which means people are left voting for the lesser of two evils instead of a candidate who represents their personal values.

Reduce the federal government back to what the Founders envisioned. Return us to a state-based federation cooperating on a few issues that make us all safer — immigration, national defense, and interstate trade. Render what happens in Congress and the White House less important.

Ask yourself — how are these people any smarter than I am? Why can’t I be in charge of my own life without their guidance? Why can’t I work through my local and state governments to tell the federal government what to do rather than the other way around?

If watching the impeachment has not taught you that all of Washington DC has been taken over by the lunatics, you aren’t paying attention. Go spend a week on You-Tube watching the whole mess from both sides and you’ll agree with me.

And, when you do, decide to take control of your own life, because truthfully, we don’t need the elites to tell us how to live our lives. Let’s govern ourselves so that the lunatics no longer have jobs. We do not need them to tell us how to live.


Lela Markham is an Alaska-based novelist and blogger interested in a wide variety of topics, often from a libertarian viewpoint.

Posted February 6, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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A Vote for Sanity   1 comment

If you’re interested in checking out what I had to say about other Democratic candidates, you can get started here.


If I had to vote in the Democratic primary today, I would vote for John Delaney, an American attorney, businessman and politician who served in the US House of Representatives for Maryland’s 6th congressional district from 2013 to 2019.

Image result for image john delaney presidential candidate

Delaney became the first Democrat to announce he was running for president in 2020 when he declared on July 28, 2017. He chose not to run for reelection to Congress in 2018 so he could focus on his presidential campaign.

I would go so far to say that he is the sanest of the 132 Democrats running for the nomination and he’ll be boring compared to Donald Trump, which isn’t really a bad thing for me, but is the reason he’s not going to get the Democratic nomination in 2020. If there’s still a Democratic and/or Republican Party later in the 2020s, he might have a shot, but right now, craziness is ruling, so the chances of a sane person winning are equivalent to a snowball’s chance of surviving a trip through hell on the afterburner of rocket.

Delaney was raised in Wood-Ridge, New Jersey and worked on his father’s construction sites growing up. He used scholarships from his father’s labor union (IBEW) and the American Legion to fund college at Columbia University and then got his law degree from Georgetown University in 1988.

He co-founded two companies that were publically traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1993, he co-founded Health Care Financial Partners (HCFP) to make loans available to smaller health care service providers that were largely ignored by larger banks. Delaney also co-founded CapitalSource, a commercial lender provided capital to roughly 5,000 small and mid-sized businesses. So, he made his money the old-fashioned way, by providing a service some people wanted. Small businesses, especially in the medical field sometimes face titanic opposition to securing financing.

In 2010, Delaney ran in a gerrymandered district against a 10-term Republican incumbent. Good for him. We need more vote-applied term limits for incumbents. The gerrymandering by Governor Martin O’Malley assured Barack Obama a win in that district in 2012.

During the primary, Delaney was endorsed by former President Bill Clinton and Washington Post. [22]

On April 3, 2012, Delaney won the five-candidate Democratic primary field with 54% of the vote. The next closest opponent, State Senator Robert J. Garagiola was 25 points behind Delaney.

In the November 6, 2012 general election, Delaney defeated Bartlett by a 21-point margin. He served three terms and introduced legislation to end partisan gerrymandering (which I find ironic). His bill would have appointed independent redistricting commissions nationwide to end partisan involvement in election districts and would have made Election Day a federal holiday and create an open top-two primary system (this is the system used in California to assure that no Republican will ever appear on a general election ballot in that state again.

Delaney was ranked as the 53rd most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy/ In 2015, a similar ranking by the nonpartisan site GovTrack ranked Delaney third highest for bipartisanship among all House Democrats. He served on the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit and the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations as well as the Joint Economic Committee.

Like I said, Delaney is the sanest of the Democrats winning (Biden is 78 years old, enough said on that topic). He favors universal medical insurance and has proposed a public plan that would cover all Americans under the age of 65 (while leaving Medicare for those over 65 untouched). He opposes Medicare-for-All, arguing that advocacy for the policy would help Trump get re-elected. During a June 2019 debate, Delaney claimed that hospitals will be shuttered under Medicare-for-AllPolitifact, the Washington Post fact-checker and Kaiser Health News, both far from unbiased sources, insist this claim is false and unsubstantiated. My cousin explains that Medicare reimburses specialists at such a low rate that most can’t even cover their cost of care. By the time they pay the several support staff needed to file a claim with Medicare, the doctor  is working for free, so yeah – very likely, Medicare-for-All will mean medical care for far fewer.

Delaney has been frequently referred to as a “moderate”. However, he has has remarked,

People have a hard time labeling me. Some of the things they hear me talking about are on the total progressive or liberal end of the spectrum, and in other ways I’m kind of a solutions-oriented moderate who wants to get things done.]

He has received the top score of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign for his support of equality-related legislation, with him stating “No one should be discriminated against because of who they are or who they love” in response to this recognition.

Delaney has said he would support increasing the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 23 percent “to raise about $200 billion for infrastructure”.

Delaney and his wife April (née McClain) met at Georgetown University Law Center.They have four daughters. His wife is the Washington, D.C. Director for Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating families on social media. Two of his daughters attend Northwestern University.

Delaney says that he is a Catholic, and has said that his “social justice orientation” was influenced by his faith “to some extent”.

Delaney was a member of the Board of Directors of several organizations: St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School (Chairman), Georgetown UniversityNational Symphony Orchestra, and the International Center for Research on Women.

The very fact that Delaney supports so many initiatives I categorically stand against and yet I say he’s the most sane of the Democratic candidates should tell you something about the field of Democratic nominees. They are FAR to the left of moderate and their values are not the same values as most Americans. In fact, quite a few of them would force their values on the American people “for our own good.”

So when I say I would vote for John Delaney in the Democratic nomination I’m not saying I would support him as president. I just think the Democrats ought to be selecting a candidate who has a snowball’s chance in hell on a rocket’s afterburner of winning against Donald Trump. And, none of the others really do. Maybe if Joe Biden could be a bit younger, but that’s not going to happen, so –.

Posted August 19, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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If I Were A Democrat…   Leave a comment

Who would I vote for in the 2020 Democratic primary coming in like 13 months?

Well I’ve run them down and here’s a list. Go read my analysis of the 13 top front runners.

If I had to vote in the 2020 Democratic primary, I’d vote for either Tulsi Gabbard or Pete Buttigieg because they have some level of competence and seem to have some libertarian ideas, but I think they both fail on the economic literacy test and I don’t think we need anymore presidents who are economic illiterates. The last time we had a president who actually knew something about economics, Ronald Reagan was in the White House and he was far from the perfect libertarian candidate.

Image result for image of ballot box

If Trump and either Gabbard or Buttigieg were in the general election, I’d be tempted to vote for either of them. If it came down to Joe Biden or Trump, I would definitely vote third-party or (increasingly considering) not vote at all.

Yes, there are other people in the race and if they suddenly break out of the single-digit poll numbers, I’ll look at them, but for now – well, I’m going to go look at the other fields.

Posted June 28, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in politics

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A Moderate Choice?   Leave a comment

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.

Last, but not least because he’s the media’s favorite – Joe Biden – everybody’s handsy gaffe-master can’t-take-anything-seriously uncle.

Image result for image of joe biden touching

Let’s be clear. I LIKE Joe Biden. He was really the only good part of the Obama administration. Every time someone I knew would want to lynch (I mean, impeach) Barack Obama for his very real crimes against constitutional checks and balances, I’d point out that Uncle Joe would become President and they’d almost always change their mind. Meanwhile, I found Biden’s antics to be a laugh riot. Who can forget his advice that we take care of the intruder at our door by firing a shotgun through the door? (Note to self, don’t do things that will get you sent to prison for a decade or might kill a family member). Or — I actually appreciated this one — when he said he wouldn’t get on a subway during the swine flu event. (His wife being a doctor, I assumed he’d gotten some real advice from her that was better than the dangerous message coming from the CDC that there was nothing to worry about from a variant of the H1N1 virus – pay no attention to the 5% of the world’s population that died from another variant of that virus called the Spanish flu.) If you ever wanted to know what the straight dope was on almost any Obama administration policy, you just needed to listen to Uncle Joe and wait for some form of verbal diarrhea to occur. I didn’t want him to be president, but I like to be entertained by the circus in DC and Joe filled that need. Mike Pence hasn’t been nearly as entertaining, but hey, he’s in Trump’s rather entertaining shadow.

Joe is running for president now and the media thinks he should be the nominee. He’s running into a few issues with Democrats, who I think are racing to the left and leaving moderates like Biden behind. The last time that happened, by the way, Reagan won a second term by a landslide because of all the “moderate” Democrats who became progressive Republicans. Ooo, you mean like Trump did? Just a thought there.

I applaud Joe for taking a markedly different tack than his 473 Democratic challengers. Instead of trying to outdue everyone in showing us what a socialist he is, Biden touts his bipartisan credentials and cites Donald Trump as an aberration. This may be a tricky tactic for the primaries, where you must appeal to the base, but Joshua Spivak of Recall Elections notes that the huge untold story of the 2016 election is the astonishing success of the Libertarian Party. He suggests Joe Biden should aim for those voters in 2020.

Third parties never win in national elections in the US and rarely win in statewide elections except in a few odd-duck situations, but some observers believe they have swung elections nonetheless. Would Al Gore have won the 2000 election if the Green Party hadn’t been a factor (almost 3%) in that very close election?

The Libertarian Party had never before received more than 1.1 percent of the vote in a presidential election until, with former-New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and very-much-not-a-libertarian-lead-balloon Massachusetts Gov. William Weld serving as their ticket, the party rocketed to 3.24 percent of the general election vote. In two of the critical states that Trump flipped, Michigan and Wisconsin, Johnson topped 3.6 percent. In Pennsylvania, the third normally Democratic stronghold that voted GOP, Johnson received 2.4 percent.

Numerous independent candidates have received more than 3 percent of the vote, notably Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 runs, but the Libertarian Party is different. They have run a candidate in every presidential race since 1980 and regularly field candidates in federal and state races throughout the country. Johnson’s performance in 2016 is the biggest percentage for any third-party since the Socialist Party under Eugene Debs in 1920 topped 6 percent of the vote.

It’s possible that the Libertarians have struck a nerve — especially as the Republican Party under Trump moved away from fiscal conservativsm and other libertarian ideals, and as core libertarian issues such as marijuana legalization have come to the forefront of the societal and political discussion. Things like ending mass incarceration and scaling back on the US empire also have resonated with some Democratic voters displeased with their party’s nominee. Still, Spivak believes another possibility seems more likely.

The Libertarian Party may have been the choice of the conservative voters who did not want to vote for Trump and could not pull the lever for Hillary Clinton. Yeah, that’s where I lived in 2012 when I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Obama or Romney, so it’s possible people came to the same conclusion in 2016. Spivak things one of the reasons for Trump’s surprise victory was the cratering in support for Johnson in the waning months of the election. The media flogged Johnson hard as “an idiot” after he flubbed a question on Syria (he didn’t recognize Aleppo – which might have been the first time most Americans had been aware that city existed). In September 2016, Johnson polled at 9 percent, which fell off heavily by Election Day.

If this is true, have ex-Republican voters who voted for Johnson in 2016 now acclimated to Trump enough to be willing to give him a second term or will they vote Libertarian again? Could Biden persuade these rogue voters to return to the two-party system and vote for the Democratic nominee?

Biden could possibly woo independent voters because Biden sounds bipartisan. He could definitely appear so to the mushy middle of uninformed voters. But this is a libertarian analysis of Joe Biden and this libertarian (who has never been a member of the Libertarian Party) is not convinced Uncle Joe ought to be president.

Let’s look at reality. I don’t think presidents make an economy. There’s still enough of a free-ish market in the United States that the economy rides its own waves. However, presidents can make the economy worse. We know this from history. Every time the United States economy seemed to be turning a corner on the Great Depression, FDR would do some voodoo crap and the economy would tank, usually starting in key areas where FDR’s administration was meddling. At the time, people may not have realized that, but looking back 80 years, there’s not a lot of argument that FDR prolonged a two-year depression into a 12-year one.

Trump is not responsible for the good economy the US is experiencing after eight years of Obama’s destructive policies, but his regulatory and tax reforms have helped an improving economy whereas Obama’s “stimulus” and near-doubling of the US regulatory code hurt a flagging economy. If you need a metaphor, consider regulation and taxation to be bricks on a pickup bed. The economy Obama inherited was already chugging to climb a steep hill and he slowed the climb by piling weight in the truck bed. Just as the economy was finally overcoming those burdens (against Obama’s best efforts to stall the economic engine altogether), Trump came along and took out a lot of bricks (and added a few of his own). He did it just as the economy was finally cresting despite Obama’s policies and, thanks to that fortunate timing, the economy is now up and unemployment is way down.

So why does former Vice President Joe Biden insist American workers “have been getting the shaft?”

Speaking before my husband’s former socialist involuntary society — the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — Biden settled on one example: occupational licensing reform.

Did you know hair braiders have to get a license that in some states takes hundreds of hours of training? In fact, there are a lot of government-created hoops skilled workers have to jump through to engage in their occupations. Kudos for Biden recognizing that we need to “restore America’s ability and individual American’s ability to fight for their own dignity.”

I found it ironic and not a little weird for the union members in the crowd to applaud the kind of government deregulation their leadership has fought against for decades. They almost could have been gathered at a rally paid for by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. Was it pragmatic centrism or cognitive dissonance? You tell me. After I spoke at a public meeting and said very much the same thing Biden said the other day, our house got egged and my husband was told by the shop steward to “shut that bitch up or you won’t be working anymore.” The IBEW (I-Boo, as Brad calls them) is no friend of the working class.

Biden, the blue-collar anti-Trump, hopes to make this sort of thing his brand as the rest of the primary pack continues to sprint farther and farther to the left.

So should libertarians vote for Joe Biden.

I wouldn’t. It’s mostly progressive media outlets that seem to see a libertarian bent to Biden. Third-party voters tend to be more informed on the issues than main-party voters are, which is why they are third-party voters, and I think most thoughtful libertarians know a lot more about Joe Biden than the progressive media do. For example, we know that a younger Joe Biden was the primary architect of the disastrous War on Drugs.

We also are aware that, while Joe Biden is one of the few DC politicians who has not amassed a fortune from being a DC politician, he has used his influence to enrich his family. If you’re already suspicious of government in general, government influence to enrich family members just looks bad to us.

Moreover, the handsyness is just plain creepy. No man should be smelling my hair if he’s not married to me. If Gary Johnson or Justin Amash starts that sort of behavior, they won’t get my vote either.

Is He Making Things Up?   3 comments

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

Senator Cory Booker’s (D–New Jersey) announcement that he will be seeking his party’s nomination for president set off a flurry of speculation about the candidate’s ideology, chances of success, and whether or not his drug dealer friend T-Bone was ever real. Depending on the articles you read, he’s a hero (once went on a 10-day hunger strike, kept the budget of a typical New Jersey food-stamp recipient for a week, carried a woman out of a burning building, helped shovel a 65-year-old man’s driveway and rescued a freezing dog). I don’t know if any of these things are anymore real than his drug dealer friend and I’m not all that impressed with some of them (my son has been shoveling the driveways of older people in our neighborhood, entirely for free, often without their knowledge, since he was in junior high school).

Booker, 49, was the first black US senator from New Jersey and the first vegan senator. Before that he was mayor of Newark, where he’d been on the City Council since he was 29 years old.

He’s a career politician who is also a member of the political elite, worth more than $4.1 million and gifted with a newly-signed New Jersey state law that will allow him to run for president and the U.S. Senate at the same time, if he chooses. 

Although he derides Citizens United v. FEC, Booker already has a super PAC helping him with his election. And, if you’re into following the money, First Daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, collected $41,000 worth of donations for Booker’s 2013 Senate special election campaign and conducted a fundraiser for him at their Park Avenue home. My reporter spidey senses are all tingly over that news.

Critics point to Booker’s popularity with Wall Street: From 2013 to 2014, when Booker ran in both a special and a general U.S. Senate election, he brought in $2.2 million from the securities and investment industry, more than any other senator that cycle, according to OpenSecrets.org data. From 2017 to late 2018, he fell lower on the list, with $439,000 from Wall Street workers and PACs. He also drew flack in the 2012 presidential election for saying the Obama campaign’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital were “nauseating.” Booker does, however, vote against Wall Street interests occasionally.

In February 2018, Booker announced he would no longer accept corporate PAC contributions, one of now seven senators to make such a pledge. The word “corporate” is key: Booker has since taken donations from the PACs of membership organizations and unions. Yeah, that would make him seem a bit unethical. In his campaign finance disclosure report covering July through September, he listed $9,225 received from a handful of PACs, including those connected to the Transport Workers Union, National Air Traffic Controllers and Environment America Voter Action group. Booker has also raised corporate PAC money for his 2020 Senate reelection campaign — and he can transfer all that cash to his presidential campaign effort: An analysis by NJ Advance Media found that two-thirds of the $505,000 in PAC donations Booker received came from corporate committees from January 2015 to January 2018.

Booker’s January 2017 vote opposing a symbolic measure to allow prescription drug imports from Canada faced backlash, especially with supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who backed the amendment. Booker was one of 13 Democrats that voted “no”, saying the measure didn’t guarantee the safety of the imported drugs. (He later teamed up with Sanders on new drug import legislation.) New Jersey is home to many large pharmaceutical companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, and Booker has received large donations from the industry: During his 2013 and 2014 campaigns, Booker took in almost $330,000 from pharmaceutical company PACs and employees, the second-most of any congressional candidate behind Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.  

In 2014, Booker was backed by a super PAC called the Mobilization Project. It spent $532,000 supporting him, and donors included Edward Nicoll, cofounder of Structural Wealth Management LLC ($137,000), mattress maven Michael Fux ($100,000) and billionaire hedge fund manager Seth Klarman ($100,000).

Then there are his links to corporate media outfits. In March 2012, Booker co-founded a video curation startup called Waywire, which counted Oprah Winfrey, ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner as investors. He reported he had an interest of between $1 million and $5 million in the company.

Former Booker donor and ally Linda Watkins Brashear was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for her involvement in a bribery scheme while leading the now-shuttered Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. at a time when Booker, as mayor of Newark, was also chairman of the development corporation’s board. Brashear admitted to doling out $1 million worth of contracts to family and friends in exchange for bribes. Booker and his lawyers said he was not aware of the kickback scheme and noted he never attended a meeting of the agency. Last year, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit brought by the agency’s trustees against Booker.

So there’s a lot about Cory Booker that is sketchy, but I want to focus on his views on the increasingly salient issue of housing.

As rents and home prices continue to rise for likely Democratic primary voters in progressive, coastal cities, candidates for the party’s nomination are expected to peddle some sort of solution.

All three sitting senators running for the Democratic 2020 nomination (Booker, Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and Kamala Harris (D–Calif.)) have introduced housing bills that provide a glimpse of how they’ll approach the issue.

Booker’s bill—the Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, and Equity or (HOME) Act—was introduced back in August 2018, and would do two major things.

First, it would offer renters making less than 80 percent of area median income (which usually qualifies one for affordable housing or federal housing assistance) and spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent, a tax credit worth whatever amount they are spending above that 30 percent threshold. The tax credit would be refundable, meaning even those with no federal income tax burden could still benefit from it.

Booker’s bill would also condition federal Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)—a federal housing grant program with a rather spotty track record—on localities adopting “inclusionary” land-use policies designed to increase housing supply and access.

The HOME Act includes a laundry list of policies that might satisfy this requirement, including a lot of things libertarians could get behind like upzoning, eliminating off-street parking requirements, eliminating height requirements, streamlining permitting, and even making development “by-right” (meaning local bureaucrats wouldn’t have the discretion to shoot down a code-conforming project).

Conversely, Booker’s bill would reward localities for adopting a number of more interventionist policies, including increasing the number of rent-controlled units, banning landlords from asking prospective tenant about their criminal history, and taxing vacant land.

It’s not a free marketer’s dream bill, but the focus on removing local restrictions on housing supply are welcome. By threatening to take away funding from more restrictive municipalities, Booker’s bill includes a lot more stick compared to his carrot-offering competitors in the Democratic primary.

Warren’s housing bill, also introduced last year, would have set up a $10 billion fund to reward communities that made development easier, but her bill did not threaten to take any federal funding away from cities that didn’t play ball, blunting its effectiveness and making it less palatable than Booker’s bill.

Harris’ housing bill, by contrast, totally punts on the question of local restrictions on development. Instead, the California senator’s proposal would issue refundable tax credits to “cost-burdened” renters making as much as $125,000 a year. Uh, yeah, that’s about three times what I make, so you can imagine how I feel about that. Rather than make housing more affordable, this approach would likely just raise costs for renters by subsidizing demand, while doing nothing to address restrictions on supply.

It’s still not a good reason to vote for him if you desire smaller government.

Halfway There — Maybe   3 comments

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

Assuming he didn’t blow it in the debates over the weekend, Pete Buttegieg is poised as a front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination.

pete buttegieg

The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttegieg does not hold an office that traditionally serves as a springboard to the presidency. That seems not to matter in the Trump era. Democrats find Buttegieg is thoughtful, even intellectual. He’s a Rhodes scholar, attended the University of Oxford, served his country in the Navy and was deployed to Afghanistan, and worked in the private sector before returning to his hometown where he took up politics. He’s a married gay man, but he’s managed to avoid engaging with his fellow presidential candidates in the culture war’s unwinnable arms race.

And while his fellow presidential aspirants are pandering to the lowest common denominator, promising the world and ignoring constitutional impediments, Pete Buttegieg is talking about ideas. Among them, the very concept of liberty itself.

“We’ve allowed our conservative friends to get a monopoly on the idea of freedom,” Buttegieg conceded in a recent speech to a group of supporters in South Carolina. But the kind of freedom conservative syndicalists promote was, he argued, defined too narrowly. “Freedom from,” he explained. “As though government were the only thing that could make us unfree.”

Oddly, though, he went on to illustrate that it is, in fact, coercive governmental institutions that are most often responsible for curtailing liberty.

And that’s a problem for some Democratic observers, who say Buttigieg sounds a lot like a libertarian. Democratic journalists really don’t know much about libertarianism, which is based on the founding principles, including voluntary association.

A thoughtful politician, Buttegieg’s intellectual journey seems to have led him halfway to small government libertarianism. Perhaps nothing better illustrates this internal conflict better than his response when asked where he stands on fast-food chain Chick-Fil-A, whose owners oppose same-sex marriages like his own. “I do not approve of their politics, but I kind of approve of their chicken,” he said. “Maybe, if nothing else, I can build that bridge.” Maybe he can, but the current behavior of the modern Democratic Party wants any hand in its construction.

For libertarians, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, appears to be a welcome addition to the far-left-leaning Democratic primary. After all, his views on foreign intervention and free college are small consolations in a field that is largely set on growing the scope of government.

Some of Buttigieg’s other positions, however, put him at odds with libertarian voters.

Several Democratic candidates have expressed a desire to expand the Supreme Court in hopes of weakening the influence of conservative justices. I guess they feel that if they can’t get a majority with nine, they’ll manage one with 15. This has been tried before and it scared the Supremes enough that they did whatever FDR wanted for a decade, must of which was later ruled to be unconstitutional.

In a speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Buttigieg suggested expanding the court to 15 justices. This new court would be composed of five conservative justices, five liberal justices, and five rotating appellate justices, each unanimously agreed upon by their peers. That might sound good if you despise simple majority decisions, but there are a number of complications immediately recognizable, but I’m just going to note one.

The proposal gives justices more power by choosing who gets appointed. This both goes against an important check on the judicial branch, and is likely unconstitutional, as presidents are the only people allowed to appoint justices.

Buttigieg has previously invoked his military service to criticize endless war. He’s also used his experiences to speak positively about national service. Though he hasn’t presented any official positions, his sentiments on the latter indicate that he would be comfortable with mandatory national service. While his proposal remains vaguely stated, he explained to Rachel Maddow that he sees national public service as a means ot bridging social divides. And he may well be right. Take 18-year-olds, force them to work for the government for a couple of years, brain-wash them with propaganda and, viola, you’ve created a whole generation of youth corps drones.

Though Buttigieg has yet to truly commit to a major campaign proposal, his thoughts should not be taken lightly. If libertarians are looking for a mainstream candidate who will not join pointless wars, then Buttigieg aligns with their views. If they’re looking for a firm commitment to shrinking the size and scope of government, they may not find much common ground in this candidate.

La Raza Candidate?   2 comments

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

This article comes out just before the first Democratic debates. I’m sure there will be more to say after that. I’ll finish the last three candidates next week.

Democrats have a chance of beating Trump with Julian Castro on the 2020 ticket

Castro has never won an election for statewide or federal office, but he’s running for president. Before Donald Trump, that would have been all you needed to know about him. We would have labeled him “unqualified” and been done with him.

Of course, he’s Hispanic and served in the Obama administration, so he is doing way better in the polls that someone who isn’t highly qualified for the office he’s seeking and we’re in the post-Trump era when everyone can run for president, despite what offices they’ve never held before. I blame Obama for that because he’d been in the Senate for two-and-half minutes before he was elected to the White House. But Julian Castro also shares with Obama that he is a member of an intersectional group. What can I say – Democrats like to tick that box of having the first (name that ethnicity) candidate.

Castro, a lawyer, served as mayor of San Antonio, the nation’s seventh-most-populous city, from 2009 to 2014. So, he does have a little bit of a track record.

In 2012, Castro delivered the Democratic National Convention’s keynote address, prompting pundits to dub him the “Latino Barack Obama” — Obama delivered the Democratic National Convention keynote address in 2004. By 2014, Obama had tapped Castro as Department of Housing and Urban Development secretary. Hillary Clinton considered Castro as her presidential running mate, but instead chose Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia. Would that have made a difference? Maybe.

Since leaving HUD in 2017, Castro’s profile has decreased, and he hasn’t received nearly the attention of prospective presidential candidates such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, and Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, who remain in federal office.

Nevertheless, Castro, 44, formed an exploratory committee in December, declaring in a not-so-veiled shot at President Donald Trump that “Americans are ready to climb out of this darkness.” So he’s not going to woo a lot of Trump votes.

Here’s more on Castro’s political and financial history:

  • The U.S. Office of Special Counsel concluded in 2016 that Castro had violated the federal Hatch Act by using his official government position as HUD secretary to advocate for Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid. Castro acknowledged the error and that proved penance enough for President Obama, who declined to fire or otherwise penalize Castro. I think we know how I feel about impunity. Right there, I would not vote for him because I don’t believe in government officials getting away with stuff the rest of us would go to jail for.
  • Castro says he’s “not going to take any PAC money” as a presidential candidate and is discouraging anyone from forming a super PAC to benefit his candidacy. But in August 2017, Castro formed a PAC, Opportunity First. From that point into late November, Castro’s PAC has raised nearly $500,000, almost exclusively from donors in Texas, California, Florida, New York, Washington, Maryland and Virginia. The PAC during that time spent nearly all that it’s raised, with most of the money going toward consulting fees, fundraising services and Castro’s travel. It has spread some money among several dozen other “young, progressive” federal– and statelevel politcians, including the campaigns of U.S. Reps. Colin Allred, D-Dallas ($3,700); Xochitl Torres Small, D-New Mexico ($1,000); Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa ($1,000); and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York ($500).
  • Castro is a past client of the Perkins Coie law firm, whose political law group chairman, Marc Elias, represents dozens of leading Democrats and served as general counsel for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. One of the final expenses in 2016 for Castro’s San Antonio mayoral campaign committee before ceasing operations: a $10,292 “legal services” payment to Perkins Coie. Castro’s Opportunity First PAC also uses Perkins Coie.

Castro’s mother Maria founded La Raza Unida political party in San Antonio. His twin brother Joaquin represents San Antonio in the U.S. House of Representatives.

If you’ve never listened to a modern La Raza speech, especially in Spanish, you have not heard racism at its finest and most vitriol.

He is clearly working a Southwest strategy, assuming Latinos will vote for one of their own. That could be a smart move and will certainly affect Beto O’Rourke’s chances. In his campaign launch speech Castro endorsed “Medicare for All” which would create a massive, inefficient and expensive medical care plan that would force everyone of join the public medical care system. Many moderate Democrats consider this a drastic approach.

He supported the Black Lives Matters movement and spoke about the need to address climate change.

Castro, whose grandmother was born in Mexico, has sought to use his family’s personal story to criticize Trump’s border policies – including criticizing the president by name in his launch speech.

“Yes, we must have border security, but there is a smart and humane way to do it. And there is no way in hell that caging children is keeping us safe,” Castro said.

I think he’s a typical 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. He’s ignorant on the economics of medical care and climate change and he thinks the answer to our country’s problems is to force everyone to a one-size-fits-all set of programs. My main issue with him is that as a libertarian I can’t vote for more government, but the biggest stumbling block for me is his support of racist groups. You all know how I feel about racism. It’s wrong even if coming from an intersectional group. I’m an American Indian, but I don’t support programs that put non-Indians at a disadvantage against Indians. And when I see his mother’s background and his support of Black Lives Matter – I think he will be as damaging to the racial reconciliation progress of this country as Obama was. Will he start demanding reparations for the descendants of slaves and chicanos sometime in the near future? I fear so. And that won’t solve any problems – anymore than Reconstruction’s carpet-baggers fixed the South after the Civil War. I keep hoping we will resume progress toward a post-racial era, but a President Castro has the potential to keep the veins open and prolong the rage, if not make it even worse.

Libertarian-Lite?   6 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.

I’ve been mostly negative about the 2020 Democratic candidates because most of them are statist control freaks who seem unfamiliar with basic math or economics.

But Tulsi Gabbard is cut from a slightly different cloth. It is a different enough pattern from the usual Democratic fare that Ron Paul came out in mild support for her. He didn’t endorse her and didn’t say he would vote for her, but his comment set the libertarian blogs on fire, making my analysis a bit easier.

I found there are a lot of pros and cons and some commentators feel the pros very well could balance out all the cons.

Dr. Paul was asked about the number of candidates in the Democratic Party, and specifically, which ones looked promising. Dr. Paul praised Gabbard’s outspoken disdain for the ongoing wars and nation building, but clarified he didn’t agree with her on economics. Still, there is now a push to get Libertarians behind Gabbard.

Libertarians are largely anti-war and anti-foreign intervention, which is why commentators are a bit obsessed with Gabbard, who ran for Congress on ending the “war on terror” and the war in Syria. Unfortunately, Gabbard has no political platform lined out on her presidential page.

War is a big issue to libertarians and I want to see the country end those wars too, but not at the expense of domestic issues. Gabbard is not proposing saving the war budget so it can be spent on paying down the debt or returned to the people it was coerced from. No, she has her own plan for spending all that money. She already has several ideas laid out like environmental policies, net neutrality, jobs programs, housing programs, government mandated GMO labeling, Medicaid for all, social security, and more.

Just because Gabbard is good on war doesn’t mean that she is the right choice for president. While stopping the overseas slaughter and nation-building is important, we need to balance that against plans to overhaul the economy to be state-owned.

A Gabbard presidency would inevitably end in less foreign intervention, but far greater domestic intervention. Many argue that this will happen anyways. Yeah, it will! The enslavement of the American people has been underway for a century. It’s not going to stop anytime soon. However, I believe it will come at a much quicker pace under Gabbard. Once we lose any ground to the government, the likelihood that we ever see an ounce of it again is a pipe dream. Maybe Gabbard will end the wars, but she could become JFK instead. And, even if she doesn’t end the wars, she will surely still advocate for the programs that she currently would fund with the war budget. Therefore, creating inflation, theft, and extortion.

I am a libertarian who still votes, although increasingly I wonder why. I voted for Gary Johnson in the last two presidential races, not based on what he said (which was often confusing), but rather his record. As the governor of New Mexico, he had a list of liberty-minded successes, which also led to prosperity in New Mexico. I will vote for people when I believe that they will do right. I am not going to vote for a socialist simply because Ron Paul says that of the two dozen, or so, democratic candidates, Gabbard looks to be the most promising. Gabbard would have to demonstrate some economic literacy before I could even begin to contemplate voting for her.

Gabbard is an intriguing and highly charismatic person, and the push for a presidential run makes sense. I think she is a political reality in the landscape and certainly worthy of a lot of discussion. I believe she is a probable front runner for the Democrats in 2020, and could very well have a shot to win the presidency.

But, before I get too carried away with assuming her frontrunner status, it’s important to point out a few of the things that might hold her back with Democrats.

She isn’t their perfect candidate in terms of policy positions, and in terms of the Democrats’ understanding of where she sits on the left-right political spectrum. Her thinking can be difficult to pin down, and her place on such a linear spectrum can be very confusing to people who see politics that way as right-left. This is because Gabbard holds a couple of libertarian-like social positions.

She states that she is personally opposed to gay marriage but supports withdrawing the government from making such determinations. She personally opposes abortion, but doesn’t believe government should interfere with such personal choices. While libertarians understand these positions well, based upon a two-dimensional, linear understanding of political positions, Garbbard a mystifying figure on social positions for the majority of Democrats. From the perspective of a majority of Democrats, these positions can be a challenge. Many in the LGTBQ community openly state that they don’t trust her because of what they view as ambiguity. Through the narrow lens of liberal vs. conservative, it’s hard to place these positions on that flat line. Vehement pro-choice people in the Democratic Party demand a purist position. They don’t like ambiguity.

She is anti-war in the big picture, being very vocal in opposition to war in Syria, and opposing continued US military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. But, she also was openly opposed Obama in his deal with Iran, and it was a very unfavorable position for Democrats to oppose their hero and idol on much of anything. And, while she opposes war in general, she calls herself hawkish, and strongly supports covert military action involving small forces in surgical attacks; something many Democrats and libertarians see as distasteful operations with too many collateral casualties.

Gabbard is also a decidedly anti-establishment figure within the party. She withdrew from being a party leader in order to better support Bernie Sanders when all the other party leadership were plotting to override his bid for president in favor of Clinton. The open opposition she has had on occasion with Obama is a huge negative not only to the majority of Democrats but especially to party leadership. While being overall anti-establishment can be a positive for her among the common everyday Democrats, it can be a hindrance if party leadership does to her what they did to Sanders.

That being said, party leadership likely cannot afford to override majority support this time around. Not without risking a major schism in the party that could destroy cohesiveness and potentially turn some of the faithful away. Using super-delegates to lock out anti-establishment candidates will likely not stand in 2020, lest there be a mass exodus of people fed up with the status quo. In this sense, Gabbard’s position as the anti-establishment rock star helps her tremendously when the entire country’s mood is anti-establishment. The frontrunners on both sides in this past season’s primaries were all anti-establishment, save for Hillary Clinton.

For many Democrats (and sometimes Republicans), certain states of gender, minority, and religious affiliations, can override policy positions in terms of importance and qualifying factors for support. For many Democrats, the fact that Talks Gabbard is a female, Samoan-American Hindu checks off three of the intersectional boxes that can be more important than where she stands on policy. Sometimes Democrats (especially those further to the left) can overlook a lot of policy positions in support of electing a minority figure. For them, electing the first whatever minority president with a Democrat label is at least just as important, if not more important, than electing someone who agrees with them politically.

Her large support of entitlement programs also overrides a lot of other policy positions for the majority of Democrats. For many in the party, support for things like universal healthcare and shoring up Medicare and Medicaid are more important than social or foreign policy. Entitlement programs are a very big deal in the Democratic party.

Lastly, Democrats and Republicans alike always express the sentiment that their candidates should represent moderate positions to make them more palatable for centrists, assuming that support from their party members is automatic and that independent voters are the ones who elect presidents. Political policy arguments give way to believed moderation in importance for both parties. While making a case for policy is actually what wins elections, there is a dogged belief that only moderates can win. Tulsi Gabbard feels like a political moderate, and therefore a very desirable candidate to many Democrats.

I didn’t think Trump would win the 2016 election, so it’s easy to be wrong in predicting political movements and candidacies, but that’s my analysis. I like Gabbard among the Democratic hopefuls, I still likely wouldn’t vote for her. However, I think a whole lot of people would. If she can offer enough free things and special advantages to enough groups of people, while having the right message defined, it’s very possible that Trump (or whatever Republican) could get a very strong challenge in 2020, and Tulsi Gabbard may very well occupy the White House, if not in 2020, sometime in the future.

Posted June 20, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in politics

Tagged with , , , ,

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.

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