Friday, April 08, 2016

Trump and Cruz may both sound equally crazy but the scary thing about Ted is that he actually means it

Piers Morgan below is attacking Ted Cruz but to my mind it makes Ted sound good.  And I think Morgan gets The Donald right

‘Ted Cruz was one of the sharpest, brightest students I’ve ever taught at Harvard.’

I’ve never forgotten that glowing tribute to the Republican presidential candidate – who won a big victory in the Wisconsin Primary last night - from one of America’s most famous and eminent lawyers, Alan Dershowitz.

Mainly because Dershowitz is a diehard liberal, so would instinctively disagree with almost every word that comes out of Cruz’s mouth.

But also because he taught over 10,000 students at Harvard Law, most of them exceptionally clever minds or they wouldn’t be at Harvard to start with.

So Cruz must be a highly intelligent human being.

Dershowitz, speaking to me on my old CNN show, added: ‘Ted Cruz deeply believes in what he’s doing, he’s deeply principled, he thinks he’s doing the right thing. That doesn’t mean it is the right thing, and he’s very hard to get off that principled argument. He was not a compromiser, not somebody who tried to make friends by accepting what was then the political correctness of the day.’

So far, so good you might think?

Nothing wrong with a very smart man who has firm principles and believes in what he’s doing.

Particularly when Donald Trump, his main opponent for the Republican nomination, is seen by many critics to be a deeply UN-principled, shameless opportunist.

The only problem is that Ted Cruz’s principles, as Bette Midler tweeted today, are ‘somewhat right of Attila the Hun.’

Attila, a fearsome power-crazed barbarian ruler of the Hunnic Empire in the 5th Century, had pretty strong principles too. Notably: ‘Trample the weak, hurdle the dead.’

A perfect metaphor, perhaps, for a ruthless career politician like Cruz who is equally loathed by colleagues on both sides of the Senate for his abrasive ‘outsider’ onslaughts against pretty much everything federal government stands for.

Most of the attention in this GOP nominee race has centered on TV and media superstar Trump.

But flying methodically under the radar has been a candidate who is inherently far more right wing than Trump.

Ted Cruz shares many of Trump’s character traits – including a massive narcissistic ego, a penchant for crowd-pleasing populist rhetoric and an aggressive, attack-dog style against opponents.

Where they differ, crucially, is that Cruz is deadly serious and very deliberate about every word he says, and has spent years plotting and scheming to radically change America forever.

His astonishing, and scary, ambition manifested itself publicly in 2013 when he threw one of the great tantrums in U.S. political history over Obamacare and successfully managed to shut down the government for 16 days. A self-aggrandising stunt which temporarily put 800,000 Americans out of work and cost the U.S. economy $22 billion.

Further, he actually stated that elected officials who didn’t vote to defund the Affordable Care Act were akin to Nazi appeasers.

Really? Anyone who supported a health care proposal which gave 30 million impoverished and uninsured Americans health cover was as morally culpable as people who tacitly enabled the mass murder of 11 million people including millions of Jews exterminated in gas chambers?

Cruz is not, as many believe Trump to be, just pandering to the hard-line Conservative right in America, he IS the hard-line Conservative right in America; a brutally ideological zealot who wants to drag his country kicking and screaming back to the very dark days of bigoted fear and hatred of government.

Consider some of his basic, very entrenched beliefs:

He’s opposed to any kind of same-sex marriage or civil union, believing marriage should be between ‘one man and one woman’. Such is his utter intolerance of all things homosexual, he even attacked the mayor of Dallas for marching in a gay pride parade.

He resolutely supports the death penalty.

He voted against the Violence Against Women Act.

He’s anti all abortion, including for pregnancies caused by rape and incest.

He wants to slash funding to Planned Parenthood.

He repeatedly claims that more guns mean less crime, despite all statistical evidence to the contrary. In fact, he's so gun-mad, even by Republican standards, that he makes breakfast for his family by wrapping pieces of bacon around a machine gun.

He denies the very existence of man-made climate change.

He’s so driven by his Christian religious beliefs that he opposes any notion of separating Church and State. ‘Any president,’ he said, ‘who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be Commander-in-Chief.’

He claims Christians can’t be terrorists and have committed no such acts of terror for hundreds of years.

He wants police to ‘patrol and secure Muslim neighbourhoods inside America’ – an act described as ‘terrifying’ by U.S. Muslims.

Trump has been regularly described as the most dangerous man in America.

But Trump, at his heart, is a businessman.

He’s spent his life doing deals, often taking extreme starting positions – whether he’s buying buildings or golf courses, or haggling over a TV show salary - to secure leverage and then negotiating back to a more reasonable place.

He’s been adopting the exact same strategy in this presidential race – to great effect.

The presidency is just another deal to Trump, albeit the biggest of his life.

To win the White House, he has to first win the Republican nomination, and he’s calculated that the best way to do that is to hammer away with tough-sounding messages on hot button Conservative issues like Islamic terrorism, immigration and abortion.

It’s undeniably made him sound at times both racist and sexist, neither of which I have ever heard him be in the ten years we’ve been friends.

But I suspect everything he’s been saying is negotiable, from his Mexican wall to short term Muslim ban.

Whether you love or loathe Trump, ask yourself which is the more dangerous potential leader for America right now: a ‘deeply principled’ right wing evangelist lunatic who means exactly what he says, or a pragmatic extrovert businessman with a big mouth whose whole career has been built on compromise?

Of course, there may be other candidates who throw their hats in the ring if the Republican nominee battle is still undecided by the time of the party’s Convention.

For now though, it’s likely to be Cruz or Trump.

I personally wouldn’t vote for either of them, even if I were able to, because of their refusal to even countenance new gun control laws.

But I can say this with some certainty:

Trump wouldn’t be nearly as dangerous as people fear.

Cruz would be considerably more dangerous than people realise.



Leftist refusal to learn on display

The housing disaster is going to come back in a big way if Barack Obama has anything to do with it. According to the Washington Post:

The Obama administration is engaged in a broad push to make more home loans available to people with weaker credit, an effort that officials say will help power the economic recovery but that skeptics say could open the door to the risky lending that caused the housing crash in the first place.

President Obama’s economic advisers and outside experts say the nation’s much-celebrated housing rebound is leaving too many people behind, including young people looking to buy their first homes and individuals with credit records weakened by the recession.

In response, administration officials say they are working to get banks to lend to a wider range of borrowers by taking advantage of taxpayer-backed programs — including those offered by the Federal Housing Administration — that insure home loans against default.

Housing officials are urging the Justice Department to provide assurances to banks, which have become increasingly cautious, that they will not face legal or financial recriminations if they make loans to riskier borrowers who meet government standards but later default.

We've seen this all before. During Bill Clinton's presidency, HUD secretary Andrew Cuomo pushed similar policies. As Reason notes:

The meltdown was the consequence of a combination of the easy money and low interest rates engineered by the Federal Reserve and the easy housing engineered by a variety of government agencies and policies. Those agencies include the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and two nominally private “government-sponsored enterprises” (GSEs), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The agencies — along with laws such as the Community Reinvestment Act (passed in the 1970s, then fortified in the Clinton years), which required banks to make loans to people with poor and nonexistent credit histories — made widespread homeownership a national goal.

This all led to a home-buying frenzy and an explosion of subprime and other non-prime mortgages, which banks and GSEs bundled into dubious securities and peddled to investors worldwide. Hovering in the background was the knowledge that the federal government would bail out troubled “too-big-to-fail” financial corporations, including Fannie and Freddie.

We've seen this cycle before: a government pursues a political goal with no regard for the predictable economic consequences, creating a free for all. Otherwise prudent institutions, aware of the consequences, nonetheless go along, lest they miss out on the record profits; the worst case scenario plays out. The government spends billions of dollars bailing out the well connected, and hardworking, middle class Americans suffer the consequences.



Beware Survivorship Bias

Suppose you wanted to know how many of the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who served during World War II were killed in that war. So you sent inquiries to a random sample of persons whose names were drawn from a list of all those who served in the military during the war, asking: Were you killed in the war? I presume that all of those who responded to the survey would reply, no. Having conducted your scientific poll, you could then conclude that none of the soldiers who served in the military services during World War II were killed.

The mistake you would have made in this case springs from what is known as survivorship bias. It affects many sorts of studies, including many where the study design is not so obviously stupid as in my foregoing example. Surveys have sought, for example, to determine how an increase in the legal minimum wage affected employers’ total hours of labor services hired. Such a forced wage-rate increase, however, especially if it were a large one, might well cause some marginal firms to go out of business. They would then be unavailable to respond to a poll or to show up in another type of survey to indicate that the increased minimum wage had caused them to reduce their hours of employment to zero, wiping out however many jobs they had previously supported.

You might think that any well-trained economist would be aware of survivorship bias and would not draw unwarranted conclusions by failing to take it into account in designing, conducting, and interpreting a study. But if you thought so, you’d be wrong. Mainstream economists, including super-duper econometricians, not uncommonly make this freshman mistake.

Long ago, Frederic Bastiat famously warned against ignoring the unseen effects and focusing exclusively on the visible effects of government’s or others’ actions in markets. His warning is often ignored, however, even by professional economists, many of whom pride themselves on their exclusive focus on quantitative data—for them, if it can’t be (and hasn’t been) counted, it does not exist. Such an approach to evidence and economic reasoning is indefensible.

Much of what we economists know can be known directly from praxeology, the pure logic of choice most notably developed by Ludwig von Mises and his followers. Thus, if someone fails to see and measure, for example, employment losses in the wake of a substantial increase in the legal minimum wage, the sound economist’s reaction to this (non)observational report is not to suppose bizarrely that the law of demand does not apply to labor services, but to challenge the obsession with observed and counted employment reductions. Many of the effects of increasing the legal minimum wage, for example, take the form of actions that never occurred and hence cannot be observed, for example, jobs that were never created because at the higher minimum wage entrepreneurs did not consider the formation of certain types of new firms or the creation of certain types of new jobs to be worthwhile.

In short, in gaining a solid understanding of economic events, we must beware of survivorship bias and never fail to consider the unseen as well as the seen consequences of government interventions in the market. A corollary is that we must not fool ourselves into the na├»ve positivist belief that only countable data deserve consideration in scientific work. The seen and the unseen, the counted and the uncounted—all are proper raw materials for the serious and properly trained student of economic and social life.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated),  a Coral reef compendium and an IQ compendium. (Both updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


No comments: