Friday, May 05, 2017

Don't Just Do Something
The perennial desire of those in government, elected or not, is to just do something. People expect the government to act. They demand laws be passed. They want the regulatory state to work to their benefit. When the elected branches fail, people will run to the courts to just do something, or to unelected regulatory bureaucrats. Perhaps they should not.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States and also best president ever, had the philosophy all of us, particularly those in government, should take. “If you see 10 troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you,” he said. Just stand still and watch.

Instead, much of local and state government these days spend time fixing laws already passed to address the law of unintended consequences. Each tweak causes another chain of events that eventually will lead to another tweak. According to Jason Russell in the Washington Examiner, the tax code is now 74,608 pages, including both statutes and regulations. It was only 26,300 pages in 1984 — only. The United States Code, which is the body of laws passed by Congress, consists of 52 titles, bound into multiple volumes totaling more than 8,000 pages, weighing more than 25 pounds, and taking up a bookshelf. Add in the annotated version that is more commonly used and it takes up multiple bookshelves and costs over $18,000.00 to buy. The Code of Federal Regulations is even larger.

Ignorance is supposedly no defense of the law, but how anyone can be expected to keep up with so many laws and the regulations thereto is beyond me. Still, Congress passes more laws, as do states, counties and municipalities. Beyond the basic laws of public safety and the general welfare, the various legislative entities maintain archaic laws and criminalize business laws. It is, for example, against the law in Texas to carry an ice cream cone in one’s back pocket. Likewise, a Tennessee guitar manufacturer ran afoul of American criminal law by harvesting wood in Indonesia that violated a trade deal, though it was legal in Indonesia.

Perhaps the various legislative busy bodies should dedicate a few years to repealing laws instead of passing new ones. That leads me to the American Health Care Act, which the Republicans claim keeps a promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It does no such thing. Rather, it preserves Barack Obama’s signature initiative, but alters it enough that the Republicans will take ownership of all the ills of the law moving forward.

Conservatives shouldered all the blame for the American Health Care Act failing to pass Congress a month ago, but the reality is conservatives were right. The proposal broke more promises than it kept. Led by Mark Meadows, the House Freedom Caucus demanded changes to the legislation that steered it rightward and allowed states greater flexibility under Obamacare. That appears to be the best the GOP can do. They will not repeal the law, but will provide a way out of some of its major expenses.

While they contemplate that law, the Congress and president are considering a sweeping tax reform package. The United States’s tax code has not been comprehensively updated since 1986. As other nations have lowered their corporate tax rate to attract investment and fuel their economies, the United States has left its rate the same. The nation has further complicated matters by adding loopholes, regulations, and alterations through the advice and consent of paid lobbyists.

Corporate America has learned it is far better to carve out loopholes in statutes to protect themselves from competition than it is to actually innovate and compete. Why would any company spend the money to innovate when it can just hire a lobbyist to get a bureaucrat or congressman to tax and regulate the competition out of existence?

Our nation has grown far more complex than our founders probably ever imagined. But that complexity has provided excuses for inaction on reform as legislators in search of money and votes scratch the itch of “just do something.” Instead, Congress should stop doing anything. We would all be better off.



Continuities in Russia

The Cold War is back, but it is a different Cold War because it is a different Russia. It is important to know who the Russians are and what has shaped their worldview, including their sometimes justified suspicion and hostility toward the US.

Some features of Russian government go back to their beginnings as a country in the 10th century. Their geography places them very far north, which means that food, particularly grain harvests, are uncertain. The country has experienced more famine than feast. This is one reason for aggressively moving in on neighbors with better geography and better harvests (Ukraine and Belarus).

Their geography also places them amid several thousand miles of flat, open plains, leaving them vulnerable to attack from enemies. The only protection from this danger is to occupy neighbors and hold them as buffers against more distant invaders. This is how the Russian Empire grew, ultimately absorbing lands in 11 time zones.

Because of this geography and always imminent danger, they need stability in their governance, even when that stability is provided by a monster. Even under Ivan the Terrible or Stalin, better the devil they knew than the devil they didn't know. This explains their preference for dictators such as Assad or Ghadaffi than anarchy without them.

Unlike the way in which western Europe developed, with a basis in Roman and Church law, with charters of semi-independence given to cities and universities, with powerful guilds such as the merchants, Russia had none of these.

Because of Western Europe's geography, once Rome fell, no one country could conquer the rest. There were always multiple power centers that came and went among these countries. They warred among themselves, but one winner never prevailed.

Russia was converted in the 10th century from paganism to Byzantine Christianity (Russian Orthodox), and from the start, this religion and the Russian rulers (Tsars) functioned in unity. There was no Protestant Reformation in Russia. In the Kremlin museum, I recall seeing, side by side, the hundreds of jeweled dressed of Catherine the Great and the jeweled robes and treasures of the Orthodox Church, a troubling show of extravagance in a country where peasants froze and starved. During the Communist period, this reality was condemned and the first effort was made to create a more equal citizenry. At least, this was the theory that made Communism so appealing to idealists who never caught on until the USSR collapsed, that this was a cruel hoax.

What is perennial in today's Russia is an autocratic ruler (Vladimir Putin); seizure or domination of neighboring countries as buffers (Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus); a vicious security system that does not hesitate to use assassination; rabid propaganda system (fake news is not new; remember the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"); and distaste for western democracy. Like the late Russian Empire, the USSR, and Putin today, there is paranoia about the press, about spies, and distrust of "intellectuals."

Russia actually had a brief taste of democracy upon the fall of the USSR, but it morphed into anarchy and criminal chaos. They want no more of that. There is little difference in the way Putin rules from the rule of the Communists before him and the Tsars before them. Although monarchy has not returned, the Orthodox Church, banned during the Marxist period, has returned and is promoted.

But Putin's Russia is not a revival of the USSR. For one thing, its population has shrunk in half since the beginning of World War II and shows no signs of reviving. The fertility rate is as low as that of Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, and Greece---all of them having experienced fascism or communism in the near past.

And Putin's Russia has only a poisonous nationalism going for it, not as persuasive an ideology as Marxist-Leninist Communism. Ideologies are ideas with teeth: ideas that people can live for, or willingly die for. Today's Russia does not have that, other than greed, corruption, and efforts to destabilize their enemies. Their tenure as a major power may well melt down before this century is out.



With This Budget Deal, The Swamp Wins

Big Government: You can tell whether a spending agreement is good or bad based on who is smiling: the swamp dwellers, or those who want to drain the swamp. This budget made the swamp dwellers very happy.

Shortly after announcing a $1.1 trillion — with a "t" — spending deal to fund the federal government's domestic and military programs for the next five months, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a "very good deal for the American people."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said it "reflects Democrats' values to protect health care, environment and education."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that "we now have an agreement that both sides should support," praising the negotiations as "bipartisan and bicameral every step of the way."

The New York Times gushed that the bill "could serve as a template for putting together the next round of spending bills."

When you hear talk like that, grab on to your wallet, because it means big-spending business-as-usual reigns in Washington, which is precisely what voters sent Republicans and Donald Trump to Washington to end.

Shorn of the gloss being put on it by lawmakers, this bill does nothing whatsoever to point the government in a new direction. If anything, it was as step in the wrong direction, with both sides bragging about the spending hikes they won.

The National Institutes of Health got a $2 billion boost. Yeah! Now it can keep funding vital research like the importance of sighs and the benefits of senior citizens joining a choir.

The bill adds $1.5 billion for border security, but prevents the money from being used to build a wall or increase deportations — in other words, things that would help secure the border.

Trump also agreed to continue to fund ObamaCare's cost-sharing subsidies. Republicans sued the Obama administration to block these payments, since Congress had not appropriated the funds as required by the law.

Naturally, the only thing that got short-shrifted was defense. While it won a $12.5 billion boost, that was half what Trump had requested. Congress approved another $2.5 billion boost on the condition that Trump comes up with a plan to defeat ISIS.

(Why isn't all federal spending conditioned on agencies' first demonstrating an actual plan to succeed at their mission?)

Beyond that, nothing of note was cut.

Which is why there is so much celebrating going on in Washington. Lawmakers always celebrate when spending is increased, because they can brag about how they're "supporting" this and "helping" that.

And while the winners are discrete and easily identifiable, the losers — that is, taxpayers — are diffuse.

This is what's led the federal government to run huge annual deficits and pile up $14 trillion in debt. And it's what will take a truly herculean effort to change.

It was too much to hope for such a dramatic reversal in this short-term spending bill, the parameters of which had been set during the Obama administration.

For fiscal hawks, the real battle will be over the 2018 budget, which is the one that Trump has targeted for steep cuts in domestic spending to pay for rebuilding the military.

The goal for that budget should be to have denizens of the swamp squealing in agony.



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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Thursday, May 04, 2017

What is the most heartbreaking thing you have seen in the United States?

By Jacob Taylor, former petty officer in the United States Navy

I had just gotten back from a year long deployment. One year of experiencing the armpits of the world: the poverty, lack of education, fear, crimes against humanity, and the drastic lack of basic human necessities.

Right when I got back from deployment I had finished my military contract and enrolled in school. This was around the same time as the presidential inauguration.

BEFORE I GO ANY FURTHER, it's worth saying that I was unable to vote due to where I was at on deployment. Because of this fact, I am unable to bitch.

After appreciating the fact that I got to wake up in my own bed, had clean water to drink in the morning, and some fresh eggs for breakfast, I went to class. After my classes were over I went outside to go catch the train and the streets were f*cking flooded with people screaming, yelling, and arguing about the president. This isn't what was heart breaking.

I tried to walk past these people unnoticed because people in Seattle are not kind to veterans- when I noticed some people with a stack of “F*ck Trump” fliers throw more than 2,000 pieces of paper in the air.

This is a f*cking society and a community. This is where I live. This is the place I love and I thought of every day while I was gone and I'll be God damned to see it littered by worthless pieces of f*cking shit who want to “make a positive difference”, when what they're actually doing is making this country worse. They provide no use to society and I wouldn't piss on them if they were on fire.

So, I began walking around and picking up the trash that they created. A group of them came up to me while I was throwing my first load in the recycling bin and said, “What the f*ck are you doing?! Are you a Trump supporter?!”

I said, “I'm just picking up the trash that you made.”

One of them fired back, “Are you saying this movement is trash? Donald Trump is a criminal!”

At which point I decided to stop talking to them and to continue cleaning up the street.

Two of them began to shove me and shout about how I was the problem and how I wasn't welcome.

…..I wasn't welcome in my own home after defending it.

I turned around and left, with a huge group of people at my back shouting about how much of a piece of shit I was, and how they should kick my f*cking ass. I sat on the train, went home, had a clean glass of water, ate fresh food, and went to sleep in my own bed.

That was the most heartbreaking thing I've seen in the United States.



Nixon's Revenge: The Fall of the Adversary Press

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Saturday's White House Correspondents Association dinner exposed anew how far from Middle America our elite media reside.

At the dinner, the electricity was gone, the glamor and glitz were gone. Neither the president nor his White House staff came. Even Press Secretary Sean Spicer begged off.

The idea of a convivial evening together of our media and political establishments is probably dead for the duration of the Trump presidency.

Until Jan. 20, 2021, it appears, we are an us-vs.-them country.

As for the Washington Hilton's version of Hollywood's red carpet, C-SPAN elected to cover instead Trump's rollicking rally in a distant and different capital, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Before thousands of those Middle Pennsylvanians Barack Obama dismissed as clinging to their Bibles, bigotries and guns, Donald Trump, to cheers, hoots and happy howls, mocked the media he had stiffed:

"A large group of Hollywood actors and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom ... I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from Washington's swamp ... with a much, much larger crowd and much better people."

Back at the Hilton, all pretense at press neutrality was gone. Said WHCA president Jeff Mason in scripted remarks: "We are not fake news. We are not failing news organizations. We are not the enemy of the American people."

A standing ovation followed. The First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press was repeatedly invoked and defiantly applauded, as though the president were a clear and present danger to it.

For behaving like a Bernie Sanders' rally, the national press confirmed Steve Bannon's insight — they are the real "opposition party."

And so the war between an adversary press and a president it despises and is determined to take down is re-engaged.

As related in my book, "Nixon's White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever," out May 9, that war first broke out in November of 1969.

With the media establishment of that day cheering on the anti-war protests designed to break his presidency, President Nixon sought to rally the nation behind him with his "Silent Majority" speech.

His prime-time address was a smashing success — 70 percent of the country backed Nixon. But the post-speech TV analysis trashed him.

Nixon was livid. Two-thirds of the nation depended on the three networks as their primary source of national and world news. ABC, CBS and NBC not only controlled Nixon's access to the American people but were the filter, the lens, through which the country would see him and his presidency for four years. And all three were full of Nixon-haters.

Nixon approved a counterattack on the networks by Vice President Spiro Agnew. And as he finished his edits of the Agnew speech, Nixon muttered, "This'll tear the scab off those b———s!"

It certainly did.

Amazingly, the networks had rushed to carry the speech live, giving Agnew an audience of scores of millions for his blistering indictment of the networks' anti-Nixon bias and abuse of their power over U.S. public opinion.

By December 1969, Nixon, the president most reviled by the press before Trump, was at 68 percent approval, and Agnew was the third-most admired man in America, after Nixon and Billy Graham.

Nixon went on to roll up a 49-state landslide three years later.

Before Watergate brought him down, he had shown that the vaunted "adversary press" was not only isolated from Middle America, it could be routed by a resolute White House in the battle for public opinion.

So where is this Trump-media war headed?

As of today, it looks as though it could end like the European wars of the last century, where victorious Brits and French were bled as badly and brought as low as defeated Germans.

Whatever happens to Trump, the respect and regard the mainstream media once enjoyed are gone. Public opinion of the national press puts them down beside the politicians they cover — and for good reason.

The people have concluded that the media really belong to the political class and merely masquerade as objective and conscientious observers. Like everyone else, they, too, have ideologies and agendas.

Moreover, unlike in the Nixon era, the adversary press today has its own adversary press: Fox News, talk radio, and media-monitoring websites to challenge their character, veracity, competence, and honor, even as they challenge the truthfulness of politicians.

Trump is being hammered as no other president before him, except perhaps Nixon during Watergate. It is hard to reach any other conclusion than that the mainstream media loathe him and intend to oust him, as they relished in helping to oust Nixon.

If this war ends well for Trump, it ends badly for his enemies in the press. If Trump goes down, the media will feel for a long time the hostility and hatred of those tens of millions who put their faith and placed their hopes in Trump.



Trump's "honored" comment about Kim sounded foolish, but it was meant to flatter

In an interview on Monday with Bloomberg News, Donald Trump said something that left many shaking their heads in disbelief or rolling their eyes over yet another instance of his verbal incontinence. Shocking, we know. Trump mused, "If it would be appropriate for me to meet with [North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un], I would absolutely. I would be honored to do it." He continued, "If it's under ... the right circumstances. But I would do that."

When it comes to ad-lib remarks in interviews, much like his unrefined use of Twitter (which thankfully is now subject to some moderation), Trump still is prone to forget that every word he says will be trumpeted around the world. At issue specifically was Trump's use of the word "honored" in his reference to North Korea's ruthless dictator. Once again, many pounced on Trump's words as further evidence of his supposed admiration of strong men. Coming on the heels of his promise to invite murderous Philippine dictator Rodrigo Duterte and Turkey's budding tyrant Tayyip Erdogan to the White House, this is understandable. But that's also an overly simplistic assessment that misses the purpose behind Trump's statement. Listen for what he means not what he says.

Clearly, Trump is aiming to defuse an increasingly tense situation. His offer of a conditional olive branch toward Kim — and make no mistake, any meeting is absolutely conditional on North Korea's behavior — coupled with his flatting reference to Kim as a "smart cookie," are designed to lay ground work for a potential diplomatic solution. And while Trump's words may have little impact on Kim, it plays well with China, the most important player in helping the U.S. clamp down on the despot John McCain more accurately labeled the "crazy fat kid."

Showing honor, especially to those in positions of authority, is of great importance to the cultures of the Far East. Trump's statements play to the Eastern ear as a serious and respectful expression for seeking a diplomatic solution. And while Westerners justifiably hear Trump's words as foolish, the desired aim of de-escalating the growing conflict is not so careless. It's also important to note that Trump's statements were made at the same time as the U.S. military announced that the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Missile Shield in South Korea is now operational. That is no coincidence.

Finally, in the highly unlikely event that the Kim regime actually capitulates to the U.S. and the rest of the world's demand of nuclear disarmament, a bilateral meeting between the U.S. and North Korea would be a significant change in longstanding U.S. policy. That may end up being far more consequential than Trump's verbal blunder.



Happy Loyalty Day

The radical Left was out in force Monday. It was marching in Washington, DC, in major cities across the country and around the world in May Day or International Workers Day protests. But the day has another meaning here in America.

In 1921, America tried to resist the socialist/communist fervor surrounding May Day events by proclaiming May 1st “Americanization Day.” Eventually it became known as “Loyalty Day” and every president since Eisenhower in 1955 has issued “Loyalty Day” proclamations.

Below is an excerpt of President Trump’s Loyalty Day proclamation:

On Loyalty Day, we recognize and reaffirm our allegiance to the principles upon which our Nation is built. We pledge our dedication to the United States of America and honor its unique heritage, reminding ourselves that we are one Nation, under God, made possible by those who have sacrificed to defend our liberty. We honor our Republic and acknowledge the great responsibility that self-governance demands of each of us.



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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Israel Concludes Memorial Day, Ushering in 69th Independence Day Celebrations

Israel concluded its Memorial Day ceremonies Monday evening, ushering in its 69th Independence Day celebrations. The theme for this year's Independence Day ceremony is "Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the State of Israel and the Jewish People."


Life among liberals -- a report from a reader

I am surrounded by liberals and people even further left. One woman I know goes around spouting liberal opinions out of nowhere. She will say, for example, “No one can live on the minimum wage. We need to immediately raise it to $10 per hour and then quickly raise it to $15 per hour in stages.

I respond with, “But don’t you listen to the news? McDonald’s and all the other fast food companies are already experimenting with touch tablet ordering to eliminate jobs and lower their cost of doing business.”

She changes the subject with, “…evil corporations.” You can’t have a conversation with a liberal because if you say something to prove them wrong, they immediately change the subject.

Another friend talks incessantly about climate change. When I ask her what she means by climate change, she changes the subject and asks me why I don’t believe in it.

Most of the time when someone asks me if I believe in climate change, I reply, “…of course. The climate is always changing. The planet is always getting hotter or colder, wetter or drier. Just look at its four billion year history.”

They will change the subject and talk about how 97% of all scientists agree on climate change.

When you present hard, cold facts to people of the left, they always change the subject. That is why here in the USA we don’t have any successful liberal talk radio stations (I don’t know about the rest of the world.). To quote Rush Limbaugh, “They can’t sustain a conversation.” If you can’t sustain a conversation, you can’t fill the airtime with talk.


A Tale of Two Slow Economies

Why did Americans spend less money than expected in the first quarter of 2017? The low GDP growth of only 0.7% in the first quarter must be analyzed for the sake of policy, but question the Leftmedia headlines. Leftists have demonized Donald Trump incessantly during his first 100 days to further their narrative of an illegitimate president. This is just the latest episode.

The question about a decline in retail spending is being genuinely pondered among economists, politicians and others trying to understand the economic paradox of America's first quarter. High consumer confidence and an investment surge in the stock market didn't translate into strong economic growth. The optimism came in the wake created by the USS Trump throwing overboard excessive regulations with tremendous anticipation that major tax reforms are next and, hopefully, a repeal of ObamaCare. Yet consumers didn't spend money at the pace projected nor desired.

All sorts of theories exist — from a delay in IRS tax refunds due to fraud protections involving returns claiming certain Earned Income Tax Credits to the unseasonably warm weather to the March blizzard in the Northeast.

The Wall Street Journal noted Friday, "With confidence and stock prices high, gasoline prices modest and jobs and wages increasing, spending ought to be picking up." Nonetheless, the fact remains: Something prevented U.S. consumers from spending. This is critical when household consumption accounts for around 70% of the U.S. economy.

Let's state a few undeniable truths. First, the economy, while measured on specific, objective metrics, is also driven by perception — perhaps that's obvious when one of those analytics is "consumer confidence." Measuring the degree of consumer optimism about the state of their own financial health and the economy is based on the study of a consumer's intention to spend and save. That's sounds mighty precise, huh?

Second, it depends on whose economy it is as to whether the accounts of its health, failing or otherwise, are reported and how the topic is treated. We just endured eight years of the slowest recovery in American history — never reaching 3% in annual growth, while the federal debt doubled due to excessive government spending and regulation that flattened economic output and depressed wages. The Obama economy was good for the investor class but decimated the middle, working class, as evidenced by historic lows in labor participation for able-bodied adults.

On cue, in the last weeks of Barack Obama's presidency, CNBC staked out any economic good news resulting from the election upset in November — meaning the death of the Regulation-Nation — as the result of the mythical growth policies of the 44th president. Noting that Trump was "heading to the White House with a pledge to revive the U.S. economy and put millions of Americans back to work," the December 2 CNBC piece declared, "much of that goal has already been accomplished by President Barack Obama."

The national media, formerly known as journalists, clearly talked up the Obama economy, even in the waning moments of his regime. And, inarguably, the same concubines of the DNC will criticize every aspect of the Trump administration.

Back to the underlying question, but let's add a twist. Why did consumers hold onto their money despite the clear optimism of the Donald Trump presidency? Remove the Twitter posts from @RealDonaldTrump and #POTUS and his ongoing brawl with the #Presstitutes, the results of Trump's first 100 days in office prove he's keeping his campaign promises.

Remember Obama's first 100 days? By mid-February, the American Recovery Act (a.k.a. the "stimulus") was moving to distribute a trillion dollars in government spending for those non-existent shovel-ready-jobs, making the massive deficit spending program a blue state bailout. Obama then set out to heavily regulate the economy, nationalizing one-sixth of it and foisting major bureaucratic controls on the financial sector.

Unlike the Obama stimulus, the Trump administration is proposing historic corporate and individual tax cuts to prevent government from the confiscation of earned wealth that could be in the hands of its producer. Again, Democrats and their media enablers wail that these tax cuts "could cost the government $ 6 trillion."

Exactly what money does government have? And who earned the money that was confiscated via taxes? The only money the government has was taken from those of us who produce.

Thoughtful and serious economists and policymakers understand and agree that allowing consumers to maintain this hefty sum and, in turn, spend it grows the overall economy. Cutting corporate tax rates down to 15% and the pass-through taxes paid by owners of small businesses from over 39% to 15% is rocket fuel to the engine of our economy.

Meanwhile, after more than seven years of soaring rhetoric, breathless campaign promises and more than 50 repeal votes in the House during the Obama administration, ObamaCare still exists. It may be the failure thus far to repeal that monstrosity that still has the American economic engine idling at the starting line.

So to recap, when Obama entered office during a recession and drove up federal spending to unimaginable levels, proceeding to double the national debt in eight years, the media cheered the (paltry) economic growth. Now that Trump has taken office amidst slow GDP growth, his proposal to let those who earn the money keep more of it so as to jumpstart real and lasting economic growth is derided as unaffordable. The elites and the media are wrong on both counts. Keep that in mind in the days ahead.



Ann Coulter: Not Building the Wall Is  a Government Shutdown

The media flip back and forth on who’s to blame for a government shutdown depending on which branch is controlled by Republicans. But the “shutdown” hypothetical in this case is a trick question.

A failure to build the wall IS a government shutdown.

Of course it would be unfortunate if schoolchildren couldn’t visit national parks and welfare checks didn’t get mailed on time. But arranging White House tours isn’t the primary function of the government.

The government’s No. 1 job is to protect the nation.

This has always been true, but it’s especially important at this moment in history, when we have drugs, gang members, diseases and terrorists pouring across our border. The failure of the government to close our border is the definition of a government shutdown.

This isn’t like other shutdowns. Democrats can’t wail about Republicans cutting Social Security or school lunches. They are willing to shut the government down because they don’t want borders.

Take that to the country!

As commander in chief, Trump doesn’t need Congress to build a wall. The Constitution charges him with defending the nation. Contrary to what you may have heard from various warmongers on TV and in Trump’s Cabinet, that means defending ourborders — not Ukraine’s borders.

Building a wall is not only Trump’s constitutional duty, but it’s also massively popular.

Although Trump doesn’t need congressional approval for a wall, it was smart for him to demand a vote. Let the Democrats run for re-election on opposing the wall.

Let Sen. Claire McCaskill explain to the parents of kids killed by illegals that she thought a wall was inhumane.

Let Sen. Angus King say to the people of Maine that instead of a wall that would block heroin from pouring into our country, he thought a better plan was to sponsor a bunch of treatment centers for after your kid is already addicted.

Let Sen. Chuck Schumer tell us why it’s OK for Israel to have a wall, but not us.

Let open borders Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio tell African-Americans that it’s more important to help illegal aliens than to help black American teenagers, currently suffering a crippling unemployment rate.

Republicans are both corrupt and stupid, so it’s hard to tell which one animates their opposition to the wall. But the Democrats are bluffing. They’re trying to get the GOP to fold before they show us their pair of threes.

Now that Trump has capitulated on even asking for funding for a wall, the Democrats are on their knees saying, “Thank you, God! Thank you, God!”

No politician wants to have to explain a vote against the wall. What the Democrats want is for Trump to be stuck explaining why he didn’t build the wall.

Then it will be a bloodbath. Not only Trump, but also the entire GOP, is dead if he doesn’t build a wall. Republicans will be wiped out in the midterms, Democrats will have a 300-seat House majority, and Trump will have to come up with an excuse for why he’s not running for re-election.

The New York Times and MSNBC are not going to say, “We are so impressed with his growth in office, we’re going to drop all that nonsense about Russia and endorse the Republican ticket!”

No, at that point, Trump will be the worst of everything.

No one voted for Trump because of the “Access Hollywood” tape. They voted for him because of his issues; most prominently, his promise to build “a big beautiful wall.” And who’s going to pay for it? MEXICO!

You can’t say that at every campaign rally for 18 months and then not build a wall.

Do not imagine that a Trump double-cross on the wall will not destroy the Republican Party. Oh, we’ll get them back. No, you won’t. Trump wasn’t a distraction: He was the last chance to save the GOP.

Millions of Americans who hadn’t voted in 30 years came out in 2016 to vote for Trump. If he betrays them, they’ll say, “You see? I told you. They’re all crooks.”

No excuses will work. No fiery denunciations of the courts, the Democrats or La Raza will win them back, even if Trump comes up with demeaning Twitter names for them.

It would be an epic betrayal — worse than Bush betraying voters on “no new taxes.” Worse than LBJ escalating the Vietnam War. There would be nothing like it in the history of politics.

He’s the commander in chief! He said he’d build a wall. If he can’t do that, Trump is finished, the Republican Party is finished, and the country is finished.



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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Democrats say they now know exactly why Clinton lost

They are beginning to accept that they have lost the workers

A group of top Democratic Party strategists have used new data about last year's presidential election to reach a startling conclusion about why Hillary Clinton lost. Now they just need to persuade the rest of the party they're right.

Many Democrats have a shorthand explanation for Clinton's defeat: Her base didn't turn out, Donald Trump's did and the difference was too much to overcome.

But new information shows that Clinton had a much bigger problem with voters who had supported President Barack Obama in 2012 but backed Trump four years later.

Those Obama-Trump voters effectively accounted for more than two-thirds of the reason Clinton lost, according to Matt Canter, a senior vice president of the Democratic political firm Global Strategy Group. In his group's analysis, about 70 percent of Clinton's failure to reach Obama's vote total in 2012 was because she lost these voters.

Canter and other members of Global Strategy Group have delivered a detailed report of their findings to senators, congressmen, fellow operatives and think tank wonks — all part of an effort to educate party leaders about what the data say really happened in last year's election.

"We have to make sure we learn the right lesson from 2016, that we don't just draw the lesson that makes us feel good at night, make us sleep well at night," Canter said.

His firm's conclusion is shared broadly by other Democrats who have examined the data, including senior members of Clinton's campaign and officials at the Democratic data and analytics firm Catalist. (The New York Times, in its own analysis, reached a similar conclusion.)

Each group made its assessment by analyzing voter files –– reports that show who voted in every state, and matching them to existing data about the voters, including demographic information and voting history. The groups determined how people voted — in what amounts to the most comprehensive way to analyze the electorate short of a full census.

The findings are significant for a Democratic Party, at a historic low point, that's trying to figure out how it can win back power. Much of the debate over how to proceed has centred on whether the party should try to win back working-class white voters — who make up most of the Obama-Trump voters — or focus instead on mobilizing its base.

Turning out the base is not good enough, the data suggest.

"This idea that Democrats can somehow ignore this constituency and just turn out more of our voters, the math doesn't work," Canter said. "We have to do both."

Democrats are quick to acknowledge that even if voters switching allegiance had been Clinton's biggest problem, in such a close election she still could have defeated Trump with better turnout. For example, she could have won if African-American turnout in Michigan and Florida matched 2012's.

They also emphasize the need for the party to continue finding ways to stoke its base. Democrats can do both, said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, a super PAC that backed Clinton last year and now is trying to help Democrats return to power.

"I really do believe that we should reject this idea that if we just focus on turnout and the Democratic base that that will be enough," he said. "If that really is our approach, we're going to lose six or seven Senate seats in this election. But, I also believe that just talking about persuasion means we are not capitalizing on an enormous opportunity."

Priorities USA released a poll last week, conducted in part by Cantor's firm, that found the Democratic base — including voters who usually sit out midterm elections —unusually motivated to participate in the next election. The group have said in recent months that Democrats can both reach out to white working-class voters and their base with a strong message rooted in economic populism.

Still, the data say turnout was less of a problem for Clinton than defections were. Even the oft-predicted surge of new voters backing Trump was more myth than reality. Global Strategy Group's review of Ohio, with Catalist, found that Clinton won a majority of new voters in the state. (Global Strategy Group examined North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Nevada as part of its analysis).

Belief that turnout was the main reason Clinton lost, however, remains a prominent theory among Democrats.

"There's an active conversation within the party about whether persuasion was the problem or turnout," said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, vice president for social policy and politics at Third Way, a center-left Democratic think tank.

That debate is complicated because some Democrats think winning over voters is already a lost cause, Hatalsky said.

"There's still a real concern that persuasion is harder and costs more than mobilization, so let's just triple down on getting out the people who already agree with us," she said. "And I think there's a lot of worry that we don't actually know how to persuade anymore, and so maybe we should just go talk to the people we agree with."

A conversation about where Democrats go next as a party inevitably turns into a discussion about whether it should embrace a form of economic populism similar to one pushed by Sen Bernie Sanders, or move instead to the political middle.

Canter argued that Trump's president's "special sauce" combines his economic populism with a political populism that vilifies both parties.



It Will Take An Ax, Not A Scalpel, To Control Federal Spending

The federal government once again hit the debt ceiling. The ceiling limits the amount of money the federal government can borrow — a number that was set at $20.1 trillion.

Although the issue should have been dealt with in 2015, then-Speaker John Boehner capitulated to President Obama and postponed the debt limit until March 16, 2017. Since then, the federal debt has grown by $1,414,397,000,000 — more than one trillion in less than two years.

President Trump promised during his campaign to bring back American prosperity and make Washington work for everyone — not just for the small group of Washington elite inside the Beltway.

His recently released budget decisively delivers on these promises and deserves its title: "America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again." It recognizes that federal spending is out of control and represents the first serious attempt to tame it in decades.

Although the budget does grant significant increases to Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs, it is more remarkable for the significant cuts that it makes. The EPA received a 31% cut. It cuts the Agriculture budget by 21% and the State Department budget by 28%.

The plan also cuts funding entirely to several smaller federal programs, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Between these cuts, the freeze on federal hiring and President Trump's executive orders on regulation, government and its stranglehold on American industry will loosen.

Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination also helps in this respect: He is an avowed opponent of Chevron deference, the court ruling that allows agencies to irresponsibly interpret laws as they please if there is no clear mandate from Congress.

Companies will soon be free to spend money on new initiatives and on hiring, rather than paying lawyers to help them steer around increasingly extensive and arcane regulations.

However, as helpful as these cuts are, they represent only a fraction of what the federal government spends every year. They come out of the nondefense discretionary spending budget (NDD) which is just a drop in the ocean of our trillions of dollars of debt. NDD only comprises roughly 30% of federal spending — the other two-thirds go to entitlements and defense.

If Congress and President Trump want to effect serious change and push for a balanced budget, they need to be willing to make serious cuts to entitlement programs. Reforming floundering programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is the only real way to make a lasting impact on our federal debt.

Republicans must consider adopting a reform plan like that proposed by Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, in the 114th Congress. Rep. Johnson's plan reworks how Social Security benefits are distributed and increases the age at which workers can collect benefits to 69.

Social Security will dry up in a few years with an $11.4 trillion deficit, but adopting Johnson's reforms could result in a $600 billion reserve, according to Social Security's Chief Actuary Stephen Goss.

If similar changes can be made to other entitlement programs, federal spending can be reduced in streams and not just in drops.

Republicans must also rework the current ObamaCare replacement bill, which as it is written will only deepen our debt. The bill essentially adds yet another entitlement program through its use of totally refundable tax credits, and it allows states to continue to enroll patients in Medicaid until 2020.

We need a long-term, sustainable health care program like that proposed by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., which will restore the patient-doctor relationship and not worsen our already precarious fiscal position.

Ultimately, however, one president's budget will not be enough to permanently fix the perpetual problem of the debt ceiling. It's too soon to tell how the country will vote in 2020, and we could have leadership willing to spend as blithely as President Obama did over the past eight years.

Republicans must take this unique moment of political majority to prevent raising the debt ceiling in the future. If they do not, it will inevitably happen again. No matter how staggering our debt is, Washington can always make excuses for raising the debt ceiling. Congress has raised it 74 times since 1962 and 10 times since 2001.

Politicians' usual excuse is that raising the debt ceiling does not automatically allow the federal government to spend more money. It only allows it to continue paying for already-authorized spending.

But the higher limit inevitably results in higher spending. We need to put a stop to this pattern now before we permanently cripple future generations with our profligate spending.

Congress should also consider a constitutional amendment to require balanced budgets. The majority of state governments do this, and it is absurd that the federal government is not held to the same standard.

The last time a bill proposing the amendment was on the floor, it didn't get the two-thirds majority necessary for it to go to the states.

But with Republicans controlling the House, the Senate and the White House, as well as 32 state governments, and with a strong public mandate to reduce federal spending, what was impossible in 2011 may be possible in 2017 — provided Congress can get consensus and vote this year.

One thousand FreedomWorks activists stormed Congress in March to hold their representatives to their campaign promises, and they are backed by thousands more activists across the country.

Americans want to see government spending under control, and Republicans have a perfect opportunity to break the cycle of continually raising the debt ceiling. If they act now, they can return our country's power to its proper place — the states and the people.



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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, May 01, 2017

13 Ways Trump Has Rolled Back Government Regulations in His First 100 Days

As the 100 days roll around, the Left are saying that Trump has not kept his promises.  And they criticize and condemn him for that.  But hang on a minute!  They don't WANT him to do what he has promised.  So they should be praising him for not doing things rather than criticizing him

As President Donald Trump reaches his 100th day in the White House on April 29, he will have worked with Congress to rescind more regulations using the Congressional Review Act than any other president.

“We’re excited about what we’re doing so far. We’ve done more than that’s ever been done in the history of Congress with the CRA,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., told The Daily Signal in an interview, referring to the law called the Congressional Review Act.

The Congressional Review Act, the tool Trump and lawmakers are using to undo these regulations, allows Congress to repeal executive branch regulations in a certain window of time.

“Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress is given 60 legislative days to disapprove a rule and receive the president’s signature, after which the rule goes into effect,” Paul Larkin, a senior legal research fellow at The Heritage Foundation, wrote in a February report. The 60 days begins after Congress is notified that a rule has been finalized.

Once the House and Senate pass a joint resolution disapproving of a particular regulation, the president signs the measure.

Passed in 1996 in concert with the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America reform agenda, the Congressional Review Act is what the Congressional Research Service calls “an oversight tool that Congress may use to overturn a rule issued by a federal agency.”

The law also prevents agencies from creating similar rules with similar language.

Until this year, the law had been used successfully only once—in 2001, when Congress and President George W. Bush rescinded a regulation regarding workplace injuries promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration during the Clinton administration.

Here’s a look at 11 regulatory rollbacks Congress has passed and Trump has signed:

1. Regulations governing the coal mining industry (H.J. Res 41).

Mandated by President Barack Obama and finalized in  2016, these regulations “threatened to put domestic extraction companies and their employees at an unfair disadvantage,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

The resolution, signed by Trump in February, repealed the rule and “could save American businesses as much as $600 million annually,” Spicer said.

2. Regulations defining streams in the coal industry (H.J. Res 38).

“Complying with the regulation would have put an unsustainable financial burden on small mines,” Spicer said.

The so-called Stream Protection Rule included “vague definitions of what classifies as a stream,” Nick Loris, a fellow in energy and environmental policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email, and undoing it does away with ambiguities:

    For many regulations promulgated by the Obama administration, they fundamentally disregarded the nature of the federal-state relationship when it comes to energy production and environmental protection.

    The Stream Protection Rule … removed flexibility from mining steps and simply ignored that states have regulations in place to protect water quality. State and local environmental agencies’ specific knowledge of their region enables them to tailor regulations to promote economic activity while protecting the habitat and environment.

3. Regulations restricting firearms for disabled citizens (H.J. Res 40).

This rule, finalized during Obama’s last weeks in office, sought to “prevent some Americans with disabilities from purchasing or possessing firearms based on their decision to seek Social Security benefits,” Spicer said.

The repeal protects the Second Amendment rights of the disabled, Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said.

“Those rights will no longer be able to be revoked without a hearing and without due process. It will take more than the personal opinion of a bureaucrat,” Grassley said on the Senate floor.

But Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif.,  said the regulation didn’t cover “just people having a bad day,” adding:

These are not people simply suffering from depression or anxiety. These are people with a severe mental illness who can’t hold any kind of job or make any decisions about their affairs. So the law says very clearly they shouldn’t have a firearm.

4. A rule governing the government contracting process (H.J. Res. 37).

Undoing the regulation will cut costs to businesses and free federal contractors from “unnecessary and burdensome processes that would result in delays, and decreased competition for federal government contracts,” Spicer said.

5. A rule covering public lands (H.J. Res. 44).

The rule gave the federal government too much power “to administer public lands,” in the words of the official website of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, told The Daily Signal in an interview that the Bureau of Land Management’s rule restricted the control that states and their citizens had, especially in the West.

“The Obama administration wanted to shift land policy from local governments with specific expertise to the federal government, basically shifting even more of the land management policy away from those affected by it,” Lee said.

“Repealing this harmful rule will go a long way toward empowering local stakeholders and ensuring that Arizona’s cattlemen, miners, and rural land users have a voice in the planning process,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said in prepared remarks.

6. Reporting requirements regarding college teachers (H.J. Res. 58).

The rule mandated annual reporting by states “to measure the performance and quality of teacher preparation programs and tie them to program eligibility for participation in the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education grant program,” Spicer said.

Anne Ryland, a research assistant in education policy at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email that the rule “gave the federal Department of Education power to evaluate teacher preparation programs at universities, and to link college students’ access to federal financial aid in the form of TEACH grants to the rating of the programs.”

“University programs,” Ryland added, “would be rated based on the effectiveness of their teaching graduates, with effectiveness determined by elementary and secondary students’ test scores and achievement gains.”

7. Regulations on state education programs (H.J. Res. 57).

Congress and Trump rescinded federal rules that “require states to have an accountability system based on multiple measures, including school quality or student success, to ensure that states and districts focus on improving outcomes and measuring student progress,” Spicer said.

The repeal is the first step in “a reconceptualization of Washington’s role in education,” Ryland said.

“These regulations were prime examples of federal micromanagement,” she said. “They were highly prescriptive and highly complex, serving only to put more power in the hands of bureaucrats and to distract schools and teachers from the work of educating students.”

8. Drug-testing requirements (H.J. Res 42).

Spicer said the regulation mandates an “arbitrarily narrow definition of occupations and constrains a state’s ability to conduct a drug-testing program in its unemployment insurance system.”

Four Republican governors—Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Greg Abbott of Texas, Gary Herbert of Utah, and Phil Bryant of Mississippi—wrote Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, to ask that states be allowed to implement their own policies.

“We believe this rule should be replaced with a new rule that allows increased flexibility for states to implement … drug testing that best fits the needs of each state,” the governors said in the February letter.

9. Hunting regulations for wildlife preserves in Alaska (H.J. Res 69).

These regulations restricted Alaska’s ability “to manage hunting of predators on national wildlife refuges in Alaska,” Spicer said.

In a formal statement, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, called the rule “another example of the federal government’s determination these past eight years to destroy a state’s ability to manage their wildlife.”

10. Internet privacy rule (S.J.Res. 34).

Published during the final months of Obama’s presidency, the rule sought to force “new privacy standards on internet service providers, allowing bureaucrats in Washington to pick winners and losers in the industry,” Spicer said.

Flake, who sponsored the resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act, said repeal helps keep consumers in charge of how they share their electronic information.

“My resolution is the first step toward restoring the [Federal Trade Commission’s] light-touch, consumer-friendly approach,” Flake said. “It will not change or lessen existing consumer privacy protections. It empowers consumers to make informed choices on if and how their data can be shared.”

11. Rule for logging workplace injuries (H.J. 83).

This rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration sought to squelch a more lenient one from the Labor Department. Spicer said the rule “disapproved” of a Labor regulation “extending the statute of limitation for claims against employers failing to maintain records of employee injuries.”

“This OSHA power grab was completely unlawful,” said Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., chairman of the House workforce protections subcommittee. “It would have done nothing to improve workplace safety while creating significant regulatory confusion for small businesses.”

Through extensive use of the Congressional Review Act, Collins said, Trump is establishing a “legacy” of deregulation.

“I think there’s really a legacy really to be had here,” the Republican congressman from Georgia said.

Congress, with backing from Trump, is making good on promises and saying, “We’re not going to allow our jurisdiction and our constitutional authority to be overrun by the executive branch,” Collins said.

Past administrations from both parties, he said, have not been so devoted to deregulation.

“There was a definite disconnect between the previous administration, and even previous Republican administrations, on doing things on their own and not going through the proper legislative process,” Collins said.

12.  Rule preventing states from withholding funds from Planned Parenthood (H.J. Res 43).

By undoing this rule, Congress and the president allow states to opt out of letting federal funds go to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.

“This resolution that [Trump] signed today overturns a regulation that was put in place by the previous administration on their way out the door that would have taken away the right of states to set their own policies and priorities for Title X family-planning programs,” Spicer said Thursday.

Undoing this regulation–which became effective days before Obama left the White House–allows states, if they choose, to withhold federal family planning funds or Title X monies from Planned Parenthood clinics and disperse them instead to other health providers.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., hailed the change.

“I am proud to support the sanctity of life and to continue to be a strong voice for the right to life,” Roe said in a statement. “States will now no longer be forced to use Title X money to fund Planned Parenthood or other entities that provide abortions.”

“Reversing this will mean that states can continue prioritizing taxpayer dollars for providers who offer real health care to women–not abortions,” Melanie Israel, a research associate at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal in an email.

13. Rule on retirement savings (H.J. Res 67).

The rule allowed state governments “to trap individuals’ savings in accounts that individuals cannot access or control,” Rachel Greszler, a research analyst at The Heritage Foundation, said.

Promulgated during Obama’s last full month in office, the rule allowed states to create public retirement funds. However, it also eliminated protections from those public plans that initially were covered under a law that set standards for private sector employee pension and health plans.

Critics said the rule removed protections from employees and encouraged employers to drop employees from retirement plans–and put them on the government-run plan–because of high costs.

“Any new employer that’s just starting up is never going to set up their own plan now because why would they do that when they have a cost-free, liability-free option,” Greszler said, adding:

There are costs associated with [creating retirement accounts for employees] and there’s the legal liability with it. So they’re probably going to shift their employees into these plans that have no protections; they can’t make contribution into them … it’s like the Obamacare for savings.

Repealing the Obama-era rule safeguards the retirement funds of individuals who work in the private sector, Rep. Francis Mooney, R-Fla., said.

“This last-minute regulatory loophole created by the previous administration would have led to harmful consequences for both workers and employers,” Rooney said in a formal statement. “Hardworking Americans could have been forced into government-run plans with fewer protections and less control over their hard-earned savings.”



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 THE PSYCHOLOGIST.

Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Capitalism comes naturally; equality (Communism) does not

That is the implication of a recent big paper that looked at all the psychological research on whether or not people prefer equality.  They do, but only where the two parties really are  the same.  When one does more work, people think they should get more for it.  That is a simple summary of the paper excerpted below

Why people prefer unequal societies

Christina Starmans, Mark Sheskin & Paul Bloom


There is immense concern about economic inequality, both among the scholarly community and in the general public, and many insist that equality is an important social goal. However, when people are asked about the ideal distribution of wealth in their country, they actually prefer unequal societies. We suggest that these two phenomena can be reconciled by noticing that, despite appearances to the contrary, there is no evidence that people are bothered by economic inequality itself. Rather, they are bothered by something that is often confounded with inequality: economic unfairness. Drawing upon laboratory studies, cross-cultural research, and experiments with babies and young children, we argue that humans naturally favour fair distributions, not equal ones, and that when fairness and equality clash, people prefer fair inequality over unfair equality. Both psychological research and decisions by policymakers would benefit from more clearly distinguishing inequality from unfairness.

Fairness in the lab

How can this preference for inequality in the real world be reconciled with the strong preference for equality found in laboratory studies? We suggest that this discrepancy arises because the laboratory findings reviewed above—which report the discovery of egalitarian motives, a desire for more equality, or inequality aversion—do not in fact provide evidence that an aversion to inequality is driving the preference for equal distribution. Instead, these findings are all consistent with both a preference for equality and with a preference for fairness, because the studies are designed so that the equal outcome is also the fair one. This is because the recipients are indistinguishable with regard to considerations such as need and merit. Hence, whether subjects are sensitive to fairness or to equality, they will be inclined to distribute the goods equally.

This idea is supported by numerous studies, including follow-ups of the experiments described above, by the same researchers, in which fairness is carefully distinguished from equality. These studies find that people choose fairness over equality.

For example, in the study in which children had to award erasers to two boys who had cleaned up their room and chose to throw out the extra eraser, both boys were described as having done a good job. But when children were told that one boy did more work than the other, they awarded the extra eraser to the hard worker28,40. In fact, when one recipient has done more work, six-year-olds believe that he or she should receive more resources, even if equal pay is an option26,41,​42,​43. Likewise, although infants prefer equality in a neutral circumstance, they expect an experimenter to distribute rewards preferentially to individuals who have done more work35.

This preference for inequality is not restricted to situations where one person has done more work, but also extends to rewarding people who previously acted helpfully or unhelpfully. When three-year-olds witnessed a puppet help another puppet climb a slide or reach a toy, they later allocated more resources to the helpful puppet than to a puppet that pushed another down the slide, or hit him on the head with the toy44.

As a final twist, consider a situation with two individuals, identical in all relevant regards, where one gets 10 dollars and the other gets nothing. This is plainly unequal, but is it fair? It can be, if the allocation was random. Adults consider it fair to use impartial procedures such as coin flips and lotteries when distributing many different kinds of resources. Children have similar views. In the erasers-for-room-cleaning studies described above, if children are given a fair ‘spinner’ to randomly choose who gets the extra eraser, they are happy to create inequality46. One person getting two erasers and another getting one (or ten and zero for that matter) can be entirely fair and acceptable, although it is clearly not equal.

Fairness in the real world

It follows, then, that if one believes that (a) people in the real world exhibit variation in effort, ability, moral deservingness, and so on, and (b) a fair system takes these considerations into account, then a preference for fairness will dictate that one should prefer unequal outcomes in actual societies. The ideal distributions of wealth proposed by participants in the Norton and Ariely study, then, may reflect how fairness preferences interact with intuitions about the extent to which such traits vary in the population.

Tyler uses a related argument to explain why there is not a stronger degree of public outrage in the face of economic inequality. He argues that Americans regard the American market system to be a fair procedure for wealth allocation, and, accordingly, believe strongly in the possibility of social mobility (see Box 1). On this view, then, people's discontent about the current social situation will be better predicted by their beliefs about the unfairness of wealth allocation than by their beliefs about inequality.....

We have argued that a preference for fair outcomes is early emerging and universal. But it is also clear that people differ in their intuitions as to which resources should be distributed on the basis of merit. Most Americans now believe that a fair system is one in which every adult gets a vote, but this is a relatively modern intuition. In our own time, there is controversy over whether fairness dictates that everyone should have equal access to health care and higher education. Put differently, there is some disagreement over what should be a right, held equally and unchanged by any sort of variation in merit.

Nature Human Behaviour 1, Article number: 0082 (2017)


How Trump’s Tax Plan Would Affect High-Tax States Like California, New York

Crimping California's power to tax sounds a lot of fun

High-income earners in high-tax states would see a federal tax rate cut, but may pay more in the end if they’re unable to deduct state and local taxes under President Donald Trump’s tax reform proposal announced Wednesday.

The White House released the contours of his tax reform proposal that would lower tax rates and reduce the number of tax brackets. However, the plan would also reduce the number of tax deductions.

When a reporter asked if deducting taxes on state and local income taxes would also be eliminated, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin answered, “Yes.”

“We are going to eliminate on the personal side all tax deductions other than mortgage interests and charitable deductions,” Mnuchin said at a White House press conference Wednesday.

House Republicans were already reportedly considering eliminating the deduction on state and local taxes, which could disproportionately affect wealthy people in high-tax blue states such as New York and California.

This federal deduction basically encouraged states to hike taxes, said Jonathan Williams, the chief economist for the American Legislative Exchange Commission, a state-centric public policy organization.

“The current policy subsidizes high-tax states,” Williams told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “Using that revenue to pay for cutting rates across the board is a step in the right direction.”

The Trump tax plan would reduce the number of tax brackets from seven to three brackets of 10 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent. The plan would not tax the first $24,000 in income for a couple, which is double the current standard deduction.

The Trump plan would repeal the alternative minimum tax, phaseout the death tax, and repeal the 3.8 percent surtax on investment income used to fund Obamacare.

On the business side, the corporate tax rate will be cut to 15 percent, from 35 percent. Also, the government would only tax a business’s income from inside the United States, not income from abroad. This is common in other countries and is known as a “territorial tax system.”

Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council and Trump’s chief economic adviser, told reporters tax reform is a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to do something really big.”

The last sweeping reform came in 1986.

“This isn’t going to be easy. Doing big things never is. We’ll be attacked from the left. We’ll be attacked from the right,” Cohn said. “But one thing is certain. I would never, ever bet against this president.”

Cohn added:

In 2017, we are still stuck with a 1988 corporate tax system. That’s why we are one of the least competitive countries in the developed world when it comes to taxes. So tax reform is long overdue.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the plan is the “same trickle-down economics that undermined the middle class,” and said the president should work on a fiscally responsible bipartisan plan with Democrats.

“Instead of focusing on hardworking families as he promised, President Trump’s tax outline is a wish list for billionaires,” Pelosi said in a public statement. “What few details are here overwhelmingly cut taxes for the richest and do little for middle-class Americans and those trying to get there. Besides which, nowhere does President Trump indicate how his deficit-exploding tax plan will actually be paid for.”

Adam Michel, a tax policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation, said he believes the proposal shows Trump is serious about reform:

For too long, America’s out-of-date and overbearing tax system has put a damper on economic growth while punishing savings and investment. The president’s plan is a great starting point. Now, the president and Congress must work together to finally update our broken tax system. True reform should apply the most efficient and least economically destructive forms of taxation, have low rates on a broad base, and be as transparent, predictable, and simple as possible.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, praised Trump’s proposal.

“President Trump has re-energized the drive for fundamental tax reform that creates growth and jobs,” Norquist said in a public statement. “The plan cuts taxes for businesses and individuals and simplifies the code so Americans can file on a postcard. Reducing taxes on all businesses down to 15 percent will turbocharge the economy.”

Mnuchin called the current 35 percent corporate rate “perhaps the most complicated and uncompetitive business rate in the world.”

He said he anticipates the proposal would return the U.S. to greater than 3 percent growth without an adverse impact on the debt or revenue. Throughout most of the Obama administration, economic growth didn’t surpass 3 percent in a single year.

“This plan will lower the ratio of debt to [gross domestic product]. The economic plan under Trump would grow the economy, will create massive amounts of revenues,” Mnuchin said.

The plan is a net tax reduction, Williams said, and fundamental reform takes cronyism out of the tax code, which could help Trump keep another promise.

“Draining the tax code swamp is a good way to go about getting rid of all those special interest loopholes,” Williams said.



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