Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Electoral College

I have never written about the Electoral College before because I was not sure that I disapproved of it.  Its initial reason for being was to give the small states some extra power, which when one considers states instead of voters is not necessarily a bad idea.  It also undercut a direct democracy, which all of our Founding Fathers wanted to do.  Of course, the reason that folks want to do away with it today is that it is not “one person, one vote,” which bothers me some but not that much as I think that some folks ought not to vote at all (yes, there is someone out here who does NOT want everyone voting, at least not until they are prepared to vote, are responsible enough to vote).

Building the Wall

I sometimes wonder just how long Americans can be so stupid, so foolish?  Which Americans?  All of us.

Why do Mexicans and other Latinos risk life and limb to get to the United States?  Is this a difficult question?  Because there are jobs to be had, low-skill jobs, jobs that can be performed by persons who do not speak English, jobs that pay less than any Minimum Wage (if any are in effect in that state), jobs that pay so little that they can’t even compete with Unemployment Insurance or Welfare, but finally jobs that pay MORE than illegals would be paid if they stayed in their home countries.  Laws that penalize illegal immigrants are also written to penalize the companies that hire them, but these sections of the law are rarely enforced or the penalties are so slight that it is just a small cost of doing business.  If we really wanted to end illegal immigration at the source, we would come down on those who hired them, those who want them here in the first place.  We don’t need a wall, all we need is to end the incentive to come here.  This problem suffers from the same bad thinking as illegal drugs law enforcement: we go after the users who are really victims, instead of the suppliers, the really bad guys who profit from the illicit trade in drugs.  95% of law enforcement’s time and treasure is spent chasing the little fish while the big fish swim away free, and fat!

Why do we do this?  Because someone, not the illegals, are making out just fine.  And because they have their own lobbyists.  And the lobbyists have their own Congressmen.  There are winners in this game, and they ain’t the illegals.

Implement an honest minimum wage, enforce it, and illegal immigration dies over-night.

But then, you’d have to pay more for your vegetables and your fruit, wouldn’t you?  OK.  But you can’t complain about both without being a run-of-the-mill hypocrite.  You want cheap produce?  Stop whining about illegal immigration.

Build a wall?  No offense, President-elect Trump, but what a dumb idea!  No matter who pays for it.

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice

The Pro-Life position believes that a) human life begins at conception, b) abortion is a sin, and c) the sin of abortion should always have criminal consequences – a prison term – for the aborting woman and/or the aborting physician, at the national or state level.  The Pro-Choice position is indifferent about a) and b) and is only really concerned with c), the question of the criminalization of abortion (should a woman have a legal right to choose, or not, an abortion, free of legal restraint?).  For modern Americans, the Supreme Court decision, Roe v Wade, defines the Pro-Choice position, as women are free to have an abortion for the first 90 days after conception (even though any state may criminalize abortion 90 days after conception, and the federal government will criminalize abortion 180 days after conception).  Roe v Wade does not “approve” of abortion any more than the repeal of Prohibition approved of the consumption of alcohol; it only made it legal, i.e., an act without legal consequences.  Pro-Choice people do not “like” abortion, they just want it to be safe and legal.  The key distinction between Pro-Life and Pro-Choice is: do you want to imprison the woman who has an abortion in her first 90 days?  If you do not, you agree with Roe v Wade and you are really Pro-Choice, even if you call yourself Pro-Life, even if you vote Pro-Life.  I will wager that there are millions, if not tens of millions, of Americans who call themselves Pro-Life but who are really Pro-Choice.  But I have no hard evidence to back me up.  

The politics of abortion, complete in one paragraph of 265 words.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Businessmen Presidents

This post is not about President-elect Trump but it was in part inspired by him, and by the next most recent Republican candidate for President, Mitt Romney.  This post is about businessmen as Presidents.
There have been only seven presidents who came from the world of business.  In chronological order, they were
  1. Warren Harding (Republican, President 1921-23)
  2. Calvin Coolidge (Republican, 1923-29)
  3. Herbert Hoover (Republican, 1929-33)
  4. Harry Truman (Democrat, 1945-53)
  5. Jimmy Carter (Democrat, 1977-81)
  6. George H W Bush (Republican, 1989-93)
  7. George W Bush (Republican, 2001-09)
Most of these businessmen-Presidents had some serious public service careers before they became President. 
  1. Harding had spent 2 years as the Lt. Governor of Ohio and 6 years as Senator from Ohio. 
  2. Coolidge had been a Mayor, a state Senator, a Lt. Governor, a Governor and a Vice-President (in all, 13 years) before becoming President. 
  3. Hoover spent 7 years as our Secretary of Commerce. 
  4. Truman had been the Presiding Judge of Jackson County, Missouri for 8 years, U S Senator for 10 years, and Vice President for a few months before ascending to the Presidency. 
  5. Jimmy Carter had been a state Senator for 4 years and a Governor for 4 years before running for the Presidency. 
  6. George H W Bush was a Congressman for 4 years, Ambassador to the UN for 2 years, Director of the CIA for 1 year, and Vice President for 8 years. 
  7. George W Bush had been Governor of Texas for 5 years before taking on the mantle of the Presidency.
Donald Trump is the first businessman elevated to the Presidency with no public service on his résumé whatever.  The others with the least public service were George W Bush with 5 years, Hoover with 7 years, and Harding and Carter with 8 years each.
There is an absolutely fascinating Wikipedia entry entitled Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States.  These are “scholar surveys,” not the results of popular polls (which are included in the wiki article).  Become familiar with it.  They rank (the aggregate ranking) these businessmen-Presidents thus (out of 44 Presidents): Harding 42, Coolidge 30, Hoover 32, Truman 6, Carter 27, Bush Sr 22, and Bush Jr 34.  With the single exception of Harry Truman, Presidents with business backgrounds do not fare well as President when ranked by professional historians.
What can we make of all this?  We can wish Donald Trump well in his tenure as President of these United States.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A Strong Dollar -- A Socratic Dialogue

“A strong dollar is a good thing, right?”

“Yes, sure.”

“Wrong.  But I think that you meant to agree with the statement, ‘a strong dollar is good for America, good for Americans,’ right?”

“Yes, exactly, that is what I meant to agree with.”

“Well, wrong there too.”

“A strong dollar is not good for us?  It is only common sense that a strong dollar will benefit Americans, so why not?”

“Well, a strong dollar benefits some Americans and it burdens other Americans.  For example, a strong dollar encourages American travel overseas, as our dollar will go farther than normal.  So, it also benefits the travel industry that specializes in foreign travel.  But it hurts American tourism as now our tourism is more expensive for foreigners.  In addition, a strong dollar benefits firms that import foreign merchandise as these items are now less expensive.  But it hurts exporting companies who sell American products that are now more expensive overseas than normal.  A strong dollar benefits retailers like Walmart that sell cheap foreign-made products, now even cheaper, and if those cost benefits are passed onto consumers it benefits them, too.  On the other hand, it hurts companies that manufacture goods for a foreign market and it also hurts workers that are employed by these companies.  In short, a strong dollar benefits foreign tourism, exporting companies, and consumers, while it hurts American tourism, importing companies, and workers.  And it huts individual workers more than it benefits individual consumers, because there are fewer workers to absorb the loss.  One last thing: as a strong dollar sends dollars overseas, a strong dollar is more likely to induce a recession than a weak dollar.  OK, get it?”

“Ouch, that is complicated.”

“Yeah, but it is common sense, once you really think about it.”

“I guess so.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Being a conservative in Donald Trump's America

I feel your pain, bro, I feel your pain!

with a special nod to conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin of the Washington Post.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Election Night 2016

Here is THE way to watch the Presidential returns Tuesday night.
  1. New Hampshire (4) is an early indicator state, especially if it goes to Trump, as Clinton is favored slightly.
  2. Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16) and Virginia (13) all lean to Clinton; if Trump wins any of these states, it will be very meaningful.  Similarly, Georgia (16) and Arizona (11) both lean to Trump; if Clinton wins either of these states, it will be very meaningful.
  3. Finally, Florida (29), Ohio (18) and North Carolina (15) are the most important toss-up states.  Trump needs them more than Clinton.  Indeed, if Clinton wins Florida, it may be all over.
  4. Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight predicts 299-238 for Clinton; RealClearPolitics predicts 272-266 for Clinton.  I have no pony in this sorry race, but if I had to bet I'd wager a small amount on Clinton.
Have fun!  And may the better (for America) candidate win!