Monday, April 09, 2018

Democrat corruption of the electoral process
Democrats thought 2016 was the election they could not lose. But lose it they did — the presidency along with Congress and a record number of state governments. Which has made them desperate.

Obviously, Democrats are out of sync with the American people. Most Americans want to restrain government and keep more of their money. They believe in a strong military and defense, in killing, not appeasing terrorists. They don’t want stupid regulations and high taxes to get in the way of economic growth and job creation.

Instead of listening to the people, Democrats are trying to get different people to vote. It doesn’t matter if the people are actually eligible to vote. All they need do is cast ballots for Democrats.

This process is going on in Pennsylvania. First, Democrats gained a stranglehold over the state supreme court. Democratic justices believe their job is to overrule the people’s representatives whenever the Democrats lose.

Second, after routinely gerrymandering elections in their favor when in power, Democrats now express shock to learn that politics influences legislatures. The Democratic answer is for the courts to seize control of the redistricting process. Pennsylvania’s Democratic court majority imposed a plan that was even more favorable to Democrats than that pushed by the Democratic Party.

Third, the Democratic governor is pushing “reforms” that would reverse Republican victories by putting Democrats in charge of redistricting and inviting illegal and fraudulent votes in future elections. If you can’t win based on the districts and people you have, change the districts and people!

Gov. Tom Wolf’s first idea is for a nonpartisan commission to draw election maps. The idea may sound appealing, to take politics out of redistricting. But drawing legislative lines is inherently political. There is no such thing as an independent, objective panel.

Most so-called experts have opinions. And someone political must choose the supposedly “independent” members of whatever commission or other body is created. It is impossible take politics out of, well, politics.

While politics is sometimes unseemly, it does ultimately allow accountability. Moreover, it is transparent: We know who is making the decision. That is better than allowing partisans to pose as modern Vestal Virgins.

Even more insidious is Gov. Wolf’s proposal to abandon standards for registering to vote. He would allow election day registration and automatically sign up anyone who applies for a drivers’ license or other government service. Finally, he would allow anyone to use an absentee ballot without an excuse.

All of these changes would be convenient, but convenience is not the appropriate standard for elections. Even a cursory review of registration rolls nationwide shows widespread error and fraud — noncitizens and the dead voting, for instance. Lawsuits filed by the American Civil Rights Union have exposed how little many local officials do to protect the votes of their citizens.

Yet the Democratic Party attempts to thwart even modest measures designed to ensure election integrity. Simply showing a photo ID is considered too onerous for would-be voters.

All of Wolf’s proposals, intentionally or not, would enable and actually encourage more fraudulent voting.

Same-day registration creates chaos for registrars at the very moment their focus should be on balloting. More important, there would be no verification of eligibility.

Noncitizens routinely get driver’s licenses. Partisan activists manipulate unregulated use of absentee ballots.

If fraud is later discovered, it will be too late. Then the newly elected Democrats can even help cover up the process.

Gov. Wolf talked of bringing the state’s electoral process into the 21st century. Actually, he’s proposing a big leap backward, into the 19th century when vote fraud was rife.

Instead, officials at all levels should work to improve the safeguarding of our election process. The foundation for American democracy is free and honest elections. Without that, the American people understandably will lose faith in their government.

No doubt, in the future Democrats will again win the presidency and control of Congress. The latter could come as soon as seven months. But if so, Democrats should win honestly, through legal votes cast in the ballot box.



Another overbearing Obama regulation, the fiduciary rule, bites the dust

As many have noticed the Obama administration was very much in favor of regulations for the sake of regulations. The administration tried to regulate everything from the air in our lungs and food in our stomach, to the climate controlled by the Sun. But earlier this month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck another blow against the abusive administrative state imposed on the American People by the previous administration and returned some sanity to the U.S.

Spurred on by the financial crisis the Department of Labor (DOL) attempted to regulate the part of the financial industry by proposing a rule in 2010. The department already had authority over employer-sponsored retirement plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The authority did not include Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), which are already regulated by the IRS and SEC. The backlash caused the administration to withdraw the rule and try again five years later.

In 2015, President Obama warned the financial industry change was coming, and in April of 2016, the new rule came down under DOL. The new rule was designed to get away from the commission-based system financial services industry. The then Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security Phyllis Borzi was the main driver for the rule. A quick glance of a Borzi speech and it becomes clear, the former Assistant Secretary does not like the financial services industry.

The rule would be known as the DOL Fiduciary Rule or the Best Interests Rule. The main thrust of the rule raised the fiduciary standard of brokers to Registered Investment Advisors. Brokers typically were paid on commission of sales, and the DOL believed this meant they could not be objective when giving advice. DOL believed taking commissions out of the equation would result in better financial advice. It became apparent quickly this was not going to be the case.

The DOL rule would have ended up hurting small dollar retirement savers. If someone saves a couple hundred a month for their retirement, where is the incentive for an investment firm to advise them? At the end of the year, that person or couple was able to save $1,500-$3,000, but the investment firm has a much greater liability according to the rule. The investor could come after the investment firm years later claiming the firm made the wrong investments and sue. What incentive is there to take on small dollar clients that can sue for more than they invest? None. This is not hypothetical; this is reality.

The Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of investment firms and found some startling statistics:

92 percent of firms surveyed say that the rule could limit or restrict investment products for their customers, which could ultimately affect some 11 million households;

Up to 7 million individual retirement account owners could lose access to investment advice altogether;

A survey of insurance service providers shows 70 percent already have or are considering exiting the market for small balance IRAs and small plans, and half are preparing to raise minimum account requirements for IRAs;

A survey of advisors finds 71 percent will stop providing advice to at least some of their current small accounts due to the risk and increased costs of the rule;

Other surveys found that 35 percent of advisors will stop serving accounts under $25,000, and 25 percent will raise their client minimum account thresholds; and

One large mutual fund provider reports that its number of orphaned accounts nearly doubled in the first three months of 2017, and that the average account balance in these orphan accounts is just $21,000. Further, it projects that ultimately 16 percent of the accounts it services will be orphaned this year because of the fiduciary rule.

Fortunately, thanks to the Fifth Circuit’s ruling, the rule is null and void, and investment firms need not worry. In a 2-1 decision, the court vacated the rule “in toto,” noting the DOL’s new definition of fiduciary was did not fit with the text of ERISA and the IRS code. The court also found the rule’s new definitions were unreasonable.

The Obama administration tried to literally regulate everything under the sun. This is a small victory for free market capitalism, but the fight is not over. The DOL has not shown it is going to fight the ruling, and it should not. All agencies across the federal government should continue to roll back abusive regulations, and Congress should act to ensure future abusive administrations cannot overregulate people’s lives. This is a two-front battle, the executive branch, and the legislative branch; Congress needs to step up.



Trump Is Cutting Old Gordian Knots
The proverbial knot of Gordium was impossible to untie. Anyone clever enough to untie it would supposedly become the king of Asia. Many princes tried; all failed.

When Alexander the Great arrived, he was challenged to unravel the impossible knot. Instead, he pulled out his sword and cut through it. Problem solved.

Donald Trump inherited an array of perennial crises when he was sworn in as president in 2017. He certainly did not possess the traditional diplomatic skills and temperament to deal with any of them.

In the last year of the Barack Obama administration, a lunatic North Korean regime purportedly had gained the ability to send nuclear-tipped missiles to the U.S. West Coast.

China had not only been violating trade agreements but forcing U.S. companies to hand over their technological expertise as the price of doing business in China.

NATO may have been born to protect the European mainland, but a distant U.S. was paying an increasingly greater percentage of its budget to maintain NATO than were its direct beneficiaries.

Mexico keeps sending its impoverished citizens to the U.S., and they usually enter illegally. That way, Mexico relieves its own social tensions, develops a pro-Mexico expatriate community in the U.S. and gains an estimated $30 billion a year from remittances that undocumented immigrants send back home, often on the premise that American social services can free up cash for them to do so.

In the past, traditional and accepted methods failed to deal with all of these challenges. Bill Clinton’s “Agreed Framework,” George W. Bush’s “six-party talks” and the “strategic patience” of the Obama administration essentially offered North Korea cash to denuclearize.

American diplomats whined to China about its unfair trade practices. When rebuffed, they more or less shut up, convinced either that they could not do anything or that China’s growing economy would sooner or later westernize.

Europeans were used to American nagging about delinquent NATO contributions. Diplomatic niceties usually meant that European leaders only talked nonstop about the idea that they should shoulder more of their own defense.

Mexico ignored U.S. whining that our neighbor to the south was cynically undermining U.S. immigration law. If America protested too much, Mexico usually fell back on boilerplate charges of racism, xenophobia and nativism, despite its own tough treatment of immigrants arriving into Mexico illegally from Central America.

In other words, before Trump arrived, the niceties of American diplomacy and statecraft had untied none of these knots. But like Alexander, the outsider Trump was not invested in any of the accustomed protocols about untying them. Instead, he pulled out his proverbial sword and began slashing.

If Kim Jong Un kept threatening the U.S., then Trump would threaten him back and ridicule him in the process as “Rocket Man.” Meanwhile, the U.S. would beef up its own nuclear arsenal, press ahead with missile defense, warn China that its neighbors might have to nuclearize, and generally seem as threatening to Kim as he traditionally has been to others.

Trump was no more patient with China. If it continues to cheat and demand technology transfers as the price of doing business in China, then it will face tariffs on its exports and a trade war. Trump’s position is that Chinese trade duplicity is so complex and layered that it can never be untied, only cut apart.

Trump seemingly had no patience with endless rounds of negotiations about NATO defense contributions. If frontline European nations wished to spend little to defend their own borders, why should America have to spend so much to protect such distant nations?

In Trump’s mind, if Mexico was often critical of the U.S., despite effectively open borders and billions of dollars in remittances, then he might as well give Mexico something real to be angry about, such as a border wall, enforcement of existing U.S. immigration laws, and deportations of many of those residing illegally on U.S. soil.

There are common themes to all these slashed knots. Diplomatic niceties had solved little. American laxity was seen as naivete to be taken advantage of, not as generous concessions to be returned in kind.

Second, American presidents and their diplomatic teams had spent their careers deeply invested in the so-called postwar rules and protocols of diplomacy. In a nutshell, the central theme has been that the U.S. is so rich and powerful, its duty is to take repeated hits for the global order.

In light of American power, reciprocity supposedly did not matter — as if getting away with something would not lead to getting away with something even bigger.

Knot cutters may not know how to untie knots. But by the same token, those who struggle to untie knots also do not know how to cut them.

And sometimes knots can only be cut — even as we recoil at the brash Alexanders who won’t play by traditional rules and instead dare to pull out their swords.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCHPOLITICAL 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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

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