Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Power of Eccentricity

Read carefully. That's "eccentricity", not "electricity", though there's "power" in the title. Eccentric, lit. out of the center, denotes a person or entity that does not go with the mainstream flow --someone quirky and whimsical; the connotation of "weird, oddball, abnormal" often comes to mind.

What got me thinking of this today was the news about N. Korea latest provocative military maneuvers, including the testing and attempted testing of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Trump is desirous of appearing to be tough on N. Korea and is now starting starting to drop more serious threats of taking it on alone, without the aid of China --N. Korea's closest ally-- if need be.

For the record, and as an aside to the main point of this treatise, I am against this U.S. militant stance, as I was against the continuing hostility toward Iran (also championed by Trump) when the Nuclear pact was signed last year and the antagonism toward other formerly communist regimes, including Russia and Cuba. I believe that the Cold War is now finally and unequivocally over; the capitalist West has won the war and collected all the spoils and so beating on such formerly communist regimes (who have now acceded to more capitalist forms of government) is like flogging a dead horse. There's simply nothing strategic to gain from it, now that those countries are no longer seeking to spread communism across the world including the incitement of a proletariat revolution in the U.S.A.

But the topic of this discussion isn't capitalism vs. communism, and how and why capitalism emerged victorious, a topic worthy of discussion in its own right, but how and why some country, namely North Korea, did not capitulate to Western capitalism. They seem to have sat out the surrender conference, either Korea being indifferent to the reigning international trend or the West simply not caring about such a small, inconsequential, third-world country holding out against it.

I have long ago noticed a trend in history and sociology: Even after the bulk of civilization adopts a given practice, there are always some holdouts --reactionary elements in society who choose to resist the trend at, seemingly, their own expense and comfort and contrary to the prima facie rational stance. Such resistors are typically persecuted by the majority, often for many centuries, even as the resistors pick up momentum by the fortification of their faith triggered by the very oppression that is meant to root them out. Ultimately they survive the physical onslaught but lose the ideological one when they cease to exist as a distinct entity, their ideas being adopted in part by the majority.

In early American history Jeffersonian who sought limited federal power, were persecuted by the Adams administration's Libel and Sedition Acts. They won that battle, through the elicitation of popular condemnation of the suppression of journalism and free speech, but the they lost the war when Jefferson and his successors ultimately adopted many of the key positions of the federalists (.e.g the Louisiana purchase, the Bank of the United States, and the protective tariff). The Jeffersonian philosophy of limited federal government persists to this day in the form of libertarianism, but it is a decidedly fringe movement that has no influence on the political thinking and acting of Congress and the President.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Illegal Drugs

The Trump administration has renewed the effort to crack down on illegal drugs, mainly by stemming its flow into the country from Mexico and elsewhere.

Q: Do I support this initiative?
A: No!

Many "War on X" programs have been launched by the federal government in the last half-century, where X is something other than a political regime. There is, for example, the war on alcohol (in the 20's), the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war on cigarettes, the war on no-seat-belts, the war on lead, the war on asbestos, the war on racial and gender inequality, and the list goes on.

Upon some reflection, it seems that none of these wars have been won, or it has not achieved its ultimate objective. In the case of poverty, for example, there are still many impoverished people around and the resultant suffering continues. In the case of lead poisoning, we did indeed eliminate that heavy metal as an environmental contaminant that caused mental impairment in children, but we now have a very high incidence of ADHD and other learning and behavioral problems, seemingly attributable to some other culprit as yet to be identified and tackled, and so the war is still strategically lost even while the battle may have been won.

So where are we going wrong here?

The problem here is that we are too obsessed with readily identifiable conducive factors to societal ills, to the exclusion of more subtle, less distinct and less data-driven factors. This narrow-mindedness in our approach to identifying and solving social problems is, in my opinion, very flawed and baneful. It's not just that we're failing to see the big picture and acting optimally, but by zeroing in on relatively trivial culprits, we are making a conscious choice to absolve other culprits, thus committing a grave injustice.

Take seatbelts, for example. The success of the seatbelt campaign has been shown to cause many wearers to drive less carefully due to a sense of being protected, thus undoing whatever benefit the seatbelt was hoped to bestow upon the average driver. When it's all said and done, there is no evidence that seat belts in our current technological and social conditions save any measurable number of lives. (The studies that had been conducted to prove the efficacy of seatbelts are decades old and were possibly faulty even at the time.) And yet, the single-minded cult of seatbelt-wearing continues. We would have been much better off having a more rounded and intuitive take on safe driving, emphasizing intuitively bad practices as things to avoid, such as driving while drug-impaired, driving while tired, driving while multi-tasking, driving too slow relative to everyone else, driving slow on the passing lane, law enforcement causing unnecessary distractions to rubbernecking drivers at the site of accidents, and the list goes on.

Now back to the drug problem. A Canadian physician (whose name didn't register in me) tonight appeared on the Fox News channel to proffer his theory that it isn't the addictive property of drugs that is the problem, but the underlying trauma for which it is taken. He argues that many heroin users, even while supposedly addicted, still function productively in society. Cracking down on the drug doesn't work because people want it and demand it. So the question we should ask is why are people so traumatized that they seek to use as a mental anguish palliative what was originally intended as a physical pain palliative. The problem isn't that there are bad hombres supplying the illicit substance in their greed for lucre, but that there are people on the demand side who are so stressed that they want to use the drug as a soothe, as opposed to tackling the root of the stressor or coping with it through psychological therapy.

Things should not be banned because they could be abused. In my libertarian ideal I am loathe to go that route unless and until I am convinced the abuse is so widespread and inevitable and the substance so singularly malignant that we have no other choice. This is a very high bar to reach. Drugs, especially marijuana, do not reach this standard, not by a long shot. The federal government should therefore not be involved in banning it. If states want to make it legal, that's fine. If they want to make it illegal that's fine. As to cross-border trade, so long as the drug is destined to a state where it is legal, and the import tariff (which should most certainly be imposed!) is paid, the feds should have no qualms about it. It's not their job to legislate and enforce nationwide morality.

On the local level, jurisdictions should focus on rehabilitating addicts rather than criminalizing them for drug use (something Bernie Sanders talked about in his 2016 presidential campaign). As the TV physician said, we need to find the root of the problem, perhaps unemployment, despair, social anomie, etc. and deal with that instead.

Having said that, if a local municipality seeks to ban drug use within its jurisdiction, as one tool among many in its toolbox for constructing a moral order, it is acceptable to me. Such a law, however, would focus on use, not on commerce as is currently the case, and it would make it a misdemeanor, ticketable offense akin to disorderly conduct, littering, jaywalking and the like, not a felony imprisonable offense. Moreover, such a law would be narrow enough to target only the most troublesome behavior and demographic. For example, the law would give a pass to drug users over a certain age, or using the drug at certain designated times (e.g. holidays, weekends, spring break).

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How to Address the Problem of Inadequate Secular Education among Haredi Jews

It is well know by now among those who observe or study haredi Jewish practices that Haredi school children receive an inadequate secular education to their parochial schools, especially the boys. For the girls' education, the curriculum seeks to avoid only the heretical, such as biology and prehistory. But for the boys' education, the goal is immerse the pupil as full as possible in the word of God as contained in the scripture, Talmud and their commentaries, and to expose them to rudimentary secular studies only --that which is absolutely indispensable to function in adult American society, such as basic literacy. By the time a boy reaches Bar Mitzvah age (roughly 6th grade), he will have graduated from the secular curriculum altogether.

The problem here is that such an education does not prepare them for the rigors of occupational life in America. A common refrain among education experts is that our economy has complexified to the point where there are fewer and fewer good jobs available for merely high school graduates. Moreover, it is argued, even a Bachelor's degree is no longer what it used to be --most professional jobs now requiring a Master's degree or more. That assertion, as framed, is arguable in my opinion; there may be an undue bureaucratic obsession with credentialism that is out of proportion with the actual skills and knowledge masters in formal educational programs. Nevertheless, it is inarguable that haredi pupils are grossly undereducated. They emerge from high school with no ability to carry on a conversation in English, the lingua franca. Their English vocabulary is very limited as is their ability to read and write anything longer than a simple declarative sentence. Most importantly they have no occupationally applicable skills upon "graduating" from high school, nor are they ready to go to college to pursue a profession.

The result of this lack of secular education is financial stress and anxiety. Haredi men often resort to some form of hustling to make ends meet. Many become car service or bus drivers, others peddle insurance products, still others are fancy themselves Amazon merchant entrepreneurs. Hosts of community organizers, activists and fundraisers roam about community neighborhoods looking for a way to fleece whoever has or is willing to part with their hard-earned money "for an important mitzvah".

Perhaps when America's ranking in the global economy was stronger, during the Cold War epoch, it was easier for haredim to get by on such a regimen, given the ample opportunity for riding the tails of successful merchants in a burgeoning economy. Now with the Cold War over and global economic competition at its height, mercantile and business pursuits do not yield much and professional careerism should be much more attractive, thought out of reach due to lack of education and training.

The solution?

YAFFED, an organization started by a former friend of mine, Naftuli Moster, advocates pressuring governmental authorities to exercise their statutory duty to ensure that all pupils in the state receive a sound education -- one that is "substantially equivalent to the instruction given at the local public school" (NYS DOE website https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oii/nonpublic/newyork.html).

I used to be very supportive of this effort and I still am. But there is an ideological discrepancy in this interventionist approach. As a liberal-progressive organization, as are virtually all NYC-based non-for-profit advocacy organization, it affirms the value of diversity and multiculturalism as much as it believes in the power and propriety of government forcing its solutions on its citizens willy nilly. Thus, the liberal-progressive acknowledgement of the right of an ethnic group to assert its lifestyle and values on its own people conflicts with its urge for government to get involved to "help" that ethnic group, especially when such help has the effect of attenuating the ethnic cohesion of the group.

It appears to me that YAFFED's inability, as of yet, to move the needle in its otherwise commendable activism, ultimately stems from a deep-seated, reflexive aversion on the part of liberal-progressive local governments to interfere in the way ethnic groups choose to conduct themselves. It is quite apparent that the city's "investigation" of haredi schools' curricula is a sham; such an investigation shouldn't take more than a year, which it is, and the corrective action is simple and straightforward: require schools to teach a real and rigorous secular education to all pupils on pain of shutting it down and/or arresting and charging its principals. What isn't obvious to Moster and others who wonder about the schools' obstinacy and the city's laxity in enforcement is the ideological inconsistency noted above which cannot be easily reconciled.

So, I shall first lay down number of precepts and then I shall endeavor to find a practical and ideologically consistent solution.

1. Libertarianism.

Deep down inside of me I am a libertarian. I believe the starting point for any discussion about how to arrange ourselves socially should always be: can we allow people to decide matters for themselves at the most local social level possible (even at the individual level, if appropriate)? Consistent with this ideal, I affirm the right of the haredim to conduct themselves in the way they do and I understand their concern that secular studies are a threat to their fundamentalist, insular way of life. And so, when it's all said and done, I am against using sheer force to compel the haredi sector to start instituting full secular studies for boys.

2. Multiculturalism is wrong!

The benefits of smashing together people from radically different backgrounds and let them exchange ideas are not what they are held up to be by the liberal-progressive elites. Theoretically, the resultant eclectic menagerie of ideas leads to the best possible one rising to the top and society being all the better for it. In practice, it is hard to point to such benefits in a city such as New York, presently the world epicenter of multiculturalism. Without elaborating too much on this (which is beside the point of the topic at hand), let me just mention what the eminent moralist Jonathan Haidt argues on this: people are tribalist and groupish by nature. When you bring people from different groups together "social capital" declines --the willingness of people to trust one another diminishes, collaborative enterprise becomes difficult, and everyone suffers as a result.

The alternative to multiculturalism is monoculturalism: it is the adherence to classical moral precepts as propounded and practiced for centuries by classical scholars in the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions. In a conservative society, one that cherishes a single way of life above many ways of life coexisting alongside each other, the currently thriving haredi subculture would not have been cultivated by our societal elites. And without such sanctioning of by its host culture, haredi judaism as we currently know it may well not have existed.

And yet, the promotion of a monocultural traditional polity does not require the trampling of anyone's personal liberties. I will always and forever shudder as the notion of haredim or any other ethno-religious group being literally forced to abandon their way of life against their will. But that doesn't mean that we ought to give them fertile ground to flourish in; the larger society should feel free to crimp the haredi lifestyle if such a policy is determined to be in the best interests of the majority in the population. To determine exact parameters of where to draw the line between inconveniencing an undesirable subgroup and persecuting it, wisdom and discernment is required. For that, honest, dedicated, capable, classically educated politicians are necessary, but, alas, are in short supply.

To our point, it is the right and duty of our democratic society to organize itself in a manner that promotes the virtues of secular public education espoused by the majority. Politicians, pundits and scholars should openly and actively condemn the haredi lifestyle as driven by blind tradition, ignorance, darkness, indigence and despair. There is plenty that NYC and State officials, journalists, and others can do to show indifference, even disdain, toward a community that thrives on educational ignorance and parochialism, without violating its right to deviate from acceptable societal norms.

3. Charter Schools.

The legal-theoretical concept of a "charter" goes back centuries, e.g. the Massachusetts Bay Colony received a charter from the king of England to set up a colony in New England in the 17th century. A charter is a contract between a sovereign and a subject who seeks to engage in some enterprise. It specifies the essential objective of the enterprise, the rules by which it would operate and the protective prerogatives granted it by the sovereign. In the context of parochial education a "charter" school operates under rules specified by the charter, e.g. what the curriculum and testing regimen should be, and the school in turn is fully (or nearly-fully) funded by the state.

The problem here is that, akin to haredi dogmatism toward its heritage, Americans are likewise dogmatic when it comes to the "separation between church and state" doctrine. The doctrine is codified in the first amendment to our constitution, which reads as follows:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The amendment's intention was to protect the several states from the possible tyranny of an Anglican majority in Congress, keeping in mind that within states freedom of religion was unheard of at a time when laws were openly and expressly enacted according to the principal religion of the states, e.g. blue laws. Regrettably, as with many other constitutional amendments, activist courts have not only interpreted them far more broadly than originally intended, but they also have decreed them to be binding on the states as well.

In any case, scholastic and populist zeal for church-state separation is exaggerated and disproportionately idolized relative to other civic interests. There is no plausible fear, in any reasonable person's mind, that the state would, for example, eventually outlaw Judaism if we allow it to fund local churches', mosques' and synagogues' civic activities. If the government gives to all religious denominations equally, especially for a program that is meant to promote a civic objective within the religious community, not a religious one, then this can in no reasonably honest way be interpreted as "respecting an establishment of religion".

Liberal-progressive opposition to parochial charter schools stems rather from its aversion to all things religious, rendering its adduction of the First Amendment post hoc rationalization. It should therefore be exposed as a partisan political position, not a universally agreed-upon foundational one. County and municipal governments, particularly in large cosmopolitan cities like NYC, should encourage the formation of community-affiliated charter schools and fully fund them. The present practice of not allocating any educational funds raised from property taxes toward private schools is unfair to private-school-patronizing families and untenable.

4. No Federal Grants.

Federal grants of money to states and districts on the condition that they follow prescribed best practices is counterproductive, wrong, and unconstitutional. Just because the U.S. government isn't saying to the states "you must do so and so", saying merely "you can do whatever you want but if you do so and so we will give you a monetary grant", doesn't make this a constitutionally sound intervention of the U.S. in the affairs of states. Education is a state-reserved political domain that was clearly never delegated to Congress to control, and no amendment has ever been enacted to change that, nor should there. The U.S. government has no right to tax people and then distribute such funds to states in order to promote an agenda within a field that falls outside its constitutionally enumerated powers.

I suspect that, given that haredi parochial schools do avail themselves of such federal educational programs as Head Start, School Lunches and Pell grants, among others, they do not feel the financial pinch as much as it would if it received no government funding at all. As it stands, haredim are willing to turn a blind eye toward the gross injustice of their county's not funding their schools because they buy in to the church-state-separation argument and are content with their federal gleanings. They shouldn't!

Based on the above political precepts with respect to education, the following course of action should be pursued, one that is legally, morally and practically sound.

1. Societal movers and shakers ought to speak up against Haredi separatism (as well as other separatist groups), making it clear that it is a renegade, deleterious movement that is not beneficial to mainstream society. This duty of protest falls especially hard on liberal American Jews, haredi coreligionists who are thus best in position to criticize a religion of which they are a part.

Reform Jews should make it clear that even as the value of speaking Yiddish may be upheld, this should never done at the expense of speaking a fluent English, the lingua franca. They should declare that Jewish-distinctive dress may be appropriate in the synagogue, where one's particularistic heritage is expressed, but it is not appropriate in a universalistic setting, such as at work and in the Subway. Jewish Studies are wonderful as supplemental knowledge or even as a coequal plank in a larger platform of civic education, but they are not acceptable as a substitute for secular education. And the list goes on.

2. NYC DOE should launch a charter program (with the acquiescence of state law if applicable) wherein public educational funds are allocated to haredi charter school companies willing to subcontract the public duty to educate its citizenry. Such companies would be compelled to follow state minimal requirements of secular education as a condition for their funding, while being allowed to foster a distinctly haredi milieu suitable for current haredi sensibilities, however distasteful they are.

The financial incentive to the community of such a scheme is too great to resist en masse. I predict that at least some haredi sects would utilize such a program if it were to exist, notwithstanding the major reforms they would be forced to institute as a condition for funding.

Depending on where the winds blow in the future, the secular studies requirement in such charter schools could be expanded or contracted. If there is fierce resistance, for example, to the study of American History, it can be dropped or swapped with a similar civics subjects. Conversely, if the state detects that the community is within the zone of proximal development (to borrow a Vygotsky psych term) of a new civic breakthrough, then it should encourage the school to make that foray into new territory by adding additional or more rigorous courses.

3. Ultimately the essential libertarian ethos is indestructible


I noticed that I have been becoming more and more conservative lately. As I was reading yesterday about the steady coservatization of this country since about the 1980's, it was apparent to me that I personally have undergone a comparable reversal in my general disposition. What I would like to do is record what my current opinion is on major social, economic and political issues. I have done extensive reading over the years on these topics, so my opinions are fairly informed and deliberate.

So, without further ado, here's an outline of the contemporary sticky points on which I shall render an opinion:


  1. abortion
  2. gay marriage
  3. police brutality
  4. unequal pay for women
  5. overturned convictions (Louis Scarcella)
  6. affirmative action
  7. NAFTA
  8. rape
  9. immigration
  10. The Iranian threat to Israel and America
  11. ISIS
  12. America's relations with Israel
  13. Israeli settlements
  14. Palestinian Suffering under occupation
  15. Two-state solution
  16. education
  17. infrastructure
  18. tax reform
  19. defense spending
  20. health care

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1. Abortion

I believe abortion should be legal. The actual act is questionable from the standpoint of the person undergoing the procedure. I don't think women who seek abortion are callous or do so lightly. But it's ultimately their decision, not the public's, since there is clearly no public interest in an increased population and there is no clear aggrieved party.
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2. Gay Marriage

One thing is clear. Sodomy laws have been rightfully scrapped by the states and eventually banned nationally by a supreme court decision in Lawrence v. Texas in 2003. I fully and unequivocally respect the right of a homosexual to have a permanent homosexual relationship, including cohabitation, intimate acts and even inheritance.

However, when it comes to the term "marriage" I don't see the compelling reason to expand it to include the union of two parties that cannot reproduce and thus do not readily forge a traditional family. From a federal standpoint, I want the government to be more tolerant, and I thus am happy to see DOMA struck down as unconstitutional. I think the federal government should recognize for tax purposes homosexual unions that are bona fide. However, if a local jurisdiction, be it state or municipal government wants to refuse to grant such marriage certificates, that should be their prerogative. I am this disappointed in the SCOTUS ruling that the 14th amendment compels states to issue marriage certificates to homosexual couples.

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3. Police Brutality

I think the matter is overblown. Much of the hoopla surrounding this is kindled and inflamed by video footage and the social media. Those sources are notorious for partiality. People post and watch and are incensed only by the footage that incriminates the police, not the one that incriminates the perpetrator. This is not fair. Likewise, social media allows readers to insulate themselves in a bubble of news and commentary that reaffirms their convictions, thus creating a general perception of police brutality within this bubble that doesn't mesh with reality.

Another contributing factor here is the institutional problems with the criminal justice system. It being unmoored from any rehabilitative purpose and from efforts to improve overall conditions within the ghettos that give rise to crime, people take out their anger at "police brutality" as a proxy for frustration with the system. President Obama has hinted as such in his reaction to some of the recent scandals. Accordingly the real solution is not to tame the police, but rather to assume whole new approach to policing and community building among the poor and uneducated, which of course would involve economic and social action, as well as a new moral conviction.
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4. Unequal Pay for Women

I am against this newfangled cause celebre. I think it detracts from real economic and social inequities out there. Women are naturally different from men and it's absurd to force the round peg of "equal pay" into a square. In other words, it may very well be that that women make less due to biological and resultant social conditions. A biological condition would be propensity to emotion vs. reason, and a social condition would be the need to take leave for child care (at least if they fulfill their natural duty to care for their young). Bottom line is that I don't see any compelling reason to interfere with market forces in this regard.
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5. Overturned Convictions

I noticed something very peculiarly unifying about virtually all famous cases of overturned convictions: the convicted felons are all guilty of OTHER offenses even if we may be occasionally become absolutely certain that they did not commit the particular crime imputed to them, IN THE MANNER portrayed in the indictment. Very often they are likely accomplices to the crime or are habitual thugs who associate and collaborate with other outlaws. I don't see any reason why we should seek to investigate a case that has been adjudicated a very long time ago and there is no question as to the general culpability of the convict. The NYT never seem to mention the convicts general culpability in these stories, and I find it to be a glaring omission that most uncritical readers don't notice.

Bottom line is I am against revisiting these cases and in any rate convicts in such cases should NOT receive any compensation from the state, even if the state chooses to release them early based on recent DNA evidence. A democratic state should never have to apologize to its citizenry so long as it is carrying out the wishes of its citizenry in good conscience. Once again, in most if not all the cases, the State was going by the evidence available at the time as gauged by standards used at the time. The state need not apologize if it exonerates someone later based on subsequent better technology.
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6. Affirmative Action

I am generally for affirmative action, even now (after decades of use). It is clearly in our best interest to have an egalitarian society with respect to race, meaning that we ought to strive for equal opportunity (I hate this cliche) with respect to a person's ancestral heritage. We don't want a society wherein someone who was born in Nicaragua and has dark skin and plebeian demeanor is eternally locked in this mode of living for themselves and for their eternal offspring. We should do something to enable them to reach parity with other members of society who are born with innate advantages (such as money, political power, connections). To that end, affirmative action lowers the standard for such disadvantaged but high-potential individuals. Whereas normally a 90 percentile in required for admission, the Nicaraguan immigrant might be admitted at an 80 percentile.

Having said this, I am not sure that the way affirmative action is now commonly implemented is wise. Two essential conditions for affirmative action to be fair and productive are: a) We strive to offer equal opportunity but NOT an equal outcome. Thus using the previous example, the Nicaraguan who scores in the 80th percentile will be admitted to law school, but we won't graduated him if he falls short, or if we do graduate him due to affirmative action, the private sector will not be induced to hire him. At some point the buck stops and the day of reckoning arrives. If the individual is still not up to snuff, then so be it. b) We do not lower the standard in our quest to achieve parity. In other words let's not say "gee, this test is too difficult for minorities. let's make it easier for everyone so that they too can pass!" or worse yet, let's not say "the reason the Nicaraguan is failing is that they have a different cultural background that doesn't value the kind of stuff that we value". This is cultural relativism which I don't believe in.

To rehash: whereas I do uphold affirmative action as an overall guiding principle, it cannot be applied exhaustively in all stages and in all cases. We should curb its application and use good judgement therein.
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7. Nafta and other free trade agreements (such as the recent TPP)

Free trade agreements have gotten a really bad rap in the liberal circles. The argument goes that they are beneficial to corporations by allowing them to produce goods more cheaply abroad and bypass the American worker, thus increasing their profits. In my opinion, however, globalization and its partner in crime automated technology are both inevitable forces in the labor market. They cannot be resisted! It's the natural order for things to move in this direction. Therefore, while it's okay to be cautious and deliberate about such agreements to ensure that the nation obtains a clear net benefit from it, it's not wise to reject any and all free trade agreement outright, or simply dilly dally.

Conversely, what could and should be done for workers in order to offset the deleterious effects of such agreements, is government training of workers for new industries that are commensurate with our status as a developed country with a better educated workforce and better working conditions. Our country WILL be near the top of the production pyramid. So instead of fighting to retain sectors within the lower tiers of the production pyramid, let's allow market forces to eliminate such sectors and instead channel our energies in creating fertile ground for workers to be part of the new higher-tier economy.
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8. Rape

Recently there has been a slew of reports about the prevalence of rape in college campuses and military units. I read many such stories and I was not convinced that this problem is real. Similar to the police brutality outburst, rape scandals seem to be driven by a culture in which women are overly sensitive to male advances and they feel pressured by feminists and other liberal activists to assert themselves.

I do not diminish the gravity of sexual assault if and when it's real. However, as the recent article in Rolling Stone that turned out to be based on a fabricated account demonstrates, many liberals are too eager and willing to accept the story of the alleged victim without due scrutiny. It plays into their philosophy of remaking our society in an all-around equal manner. I vehemently reject this quest and the concomitant attitude that unjustly terrorizes and vilifies those who are perceived to be in power.

In short, rape accusations need to be taken seriously, but if the context shows that no rape has occurred and that the female made a choice of partaking of the activities that ultimately led to sex, then we ought not treat it as rape. A slap on the wrist may be in order if the male exerted undue pressure, but no more.
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9. Immigration

We are a nation of immigrants --many waves of immigration over the centuries. Continued immigration is what enabled our economy to grow so fast in the 19th and 20th centuries leading to a mature and stable economy in the new millennium. At this point it is no longer in our best interest to encourage or permit mass immigration. However, it makes perfect sense to allow those who did arrive here many years ago and who have positively contributed to our economy to legally stay here and become naturalized here.

Thus, the tens of millions of latinos who are already here should be given a pathway to citizenship. Some should be deported and we should enact laws that make it clear that future illegal immigrants will not receive similar white glove treatment, but those who are already here should be allowed by and large to remain here and be incorporated fully into the fabric of our nation.

Often I hear talk about securing the border first before we can deal with the naturalization question. This is a silly diversion from the grave problem at hand, since the border will always be porous to some extent. And besides, this doesn't address the injustice and nationally self-inflicted harm of millions of workers not being able to rely on the various government organs for protection AND not paying any taxes. Come to think of it, the whole issue of worker migration is more trivial than it seems. Those workers do not come here merely to soak up the largesse of our rich nation. They come here to work so that they could make money and live a better life. Thus they are contributing inasmuch as they are "taking" and so there's no rational reason for us to hate them (other than for partisan political purposes). If you are determined to reject them because you believe that they take in the form of medical care, police protection, road use, etc... more than they contribute in the form of taxes, then the American worker would fare no better, and so why the distinction? Yes, we are an overly indulgent society and I do think we should do something about it but this is outside the scope of the topic of illegal immigration.
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The Nanny State's Vigilance on Child Rearing

Yesterday, Kelly and I got enmeshed once again with a child neglect case by overzealous neighbors and law enforcement.

It all started around three o'clock in the afternoon while I was in the Tavares library and Kelly was at the apartment compound playground with Katie and other kids playing. Kelly had to go to work soon, so I asked if she needed me back by 3:30 and suggested that she drop Katie off at the library on her way to work, so that I don't have to return home by 3:30.

Kelly texted me that Katie is "playing with a bunch of girls at playground" and that "she left her at the playground with the girls". At 3:09 she Kelly texted me that she instructed the girls to "drop Katie off at the door at 3:30 if they have to leave". At 3:30 she texted me that she had locked the door when she left and that Katie is home with the TV on. I later found out that the girls had returned Katie to the house before Kelly had left the house, thus the change of plan from her being monitored by the girls until I arrive to her staying in the locked home watching TV until my arrival.

But I was busy at the library and didn't arrive home until 4:13 pm. By that time I noticed cops standing in the front of the house and they looked at me when I passed them and asked "what's going on?" I said "what happened?" and the cop said "do you know where your daughter is?" I said my wife had said she left her in the apartment. He said they found her downstairs wandering around unattended and someone had called the cops. Craig was standing there cooperating as part of the "investigation". The white cop then went over to the "juvenile" girls and took down their testimony from down the sidewalk. He left me with the black cop. I told him that Katie had apparently figured out how to open the lock, something we didn't know she was capable of. He asked to see the text messages on my phone. I showed him the messages, which he photographed, including the time stamps. I took custody of Katie, who had been kept by Craig's wife while the police were investigating, and went up to the apartment. Later there was a fire alarm and everyone left the building, but we returned soon thereafter and I did not have any further contact with the cops.

It seemed that the incident was going to be written up and filed but no more. By that time I had notified Kelly what was going on and so when the cops showed up at her workplace (they had asked me where she worked and I had told them) she knew what it was about. She asked that they talk outside so as not to disturb the restaurant environment. After the cops left the restaurant with Kelly they verified that Kelly had a car and asked her to follow them to Eustis the police department building. Kelly asked "why, how long is this going to take? if it's just a half hour or so, why don't we talk here so that I can return to work promptly?" When the white cop (who was the supervisor) heard it, he immediately order the black cop to handcuff her. He said "okay if you're not cooperating we're going to arrest you". At that point, Kelly tried to comply and said she is willing to follow, but the cop refused to cancel the arrest.

They took her in to the police department in handcuffs and the black cop then proceeded on a task of several hours duration to write up a report and a grammatically faulty one at that, albeit a mere 1.5 pages long. Not until after 10:00 did they get through with the report and transported her to the county jail in downtown Tavares. The cops notified me that bail would be $2,000 and that it would take some time for the jail to process her taking her fingerprints and such before she could be released on bail; so I said to Kelly (who was conferenced in on the phone call) that I won't be leaving the apartment to post the bail until they are ready and that she should call me at that time. That phone call I finally received at 11:37. Caller ID identified the phone call from "Securus" and asked me to accept a collect phone call by entering a credit card number. Since I knew what the call was about I just hung up, but the calls kept coming in one after another. It was interfering with my driving as I was trying to follow Google Maps to the Ruby Street address that Kelly gave me. It turned out that that was the wrong address. The sign on one of the municipal buildings that directed to "county jail" didn't seem to lead anywhere. Eventually, I found the entrance to the correct building. There was noone at the security lobby so I walked straight through the metal detector and tried to open the second door. There was a an unlit green button at that door that I pressed to try to alert someone that I was there but noone seemed to notice or care. At a distance I could see several guards sitting behind thick glass one of them monitoring sections of the jail through a collage of closed circuit television screens; they seemed to either not notice me or pretend not to. I tried the other door, marked "exit", and discovered that it was unlocked, so I entered and walked up to the window. I said "I'm here to bail out my wife". He asked "how?" I said with cash. He seemed taken aback. He asked for her name and seemed not be sure how to process a cash bailout. A colleague or supervisor assisted him to fill out the appropriate paperwork, which took some time. at 12:27 (after a 20-30 minute wait) he finally was ready to accept the cash. He had a receipt filled out but said that he couldn't give it to me just yet and that it would be given to her upon actual release, which would take yet another while, since they were busy having just received a few inmates. I verified that Kelly would have access to her personal phone then, not having to use the cumbersome county phone system, and left the jail, not wanting to wait there another hour. Sure enough, I didn't receive Kelly's phone call until 1:34 am. She was emotionally drained and very furious. She first didn't even want to enter the car. I had to return again later to take her home.

Now she is officially charged with "child neglect" FSS: 827.03-2 B. The report contained some info which I hadn't known until I read it. It says that a black kid returned Katie to the apartment twice "once before on that day", seemingly a reference to the 3:30 drop-off but not clear. It also states that Katie defecated outdoors. The report emphasizes that Katie did not have underwear on and that she walked down the stairs 30 feet from the 3rd floor apartment where we lived, and that our apartment is 100 feet from the "busy roadway of Hufstetler Dr and David Walker Dr. In conclusion the report reads that "After speaking to all parties involved I determined Yujie had committed child neglect. I went to Yujie's place of occupation... I advised her of the allegation against her. Shortly after speaking to Yujie I arrested her for child neglect. She was transported to the Eustis P.D. for booking without incident". The arresting officer printed at the top is listed as Wayne G. Perry, though the signature at the bottom seems to be of a difference officer, one Cap. Philip A. Levingston.

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Analysis:

This episode, is and will remain a major and cumbersome burden on us, especially Kelly, emotionally and probably financially (if we hire an attorney), not to speak of the time, hassle and grief this is engendering for us both.

But none of this was inevitable, especially the the external actors (other than Kelly and I) who are being overzealous and/or using very poor judgement. Let me start with the internal actors, Kelly and I.

I -- I could have been either more insistent that she drop off Katie with me at the library and not leave her with the kids or at home, OR I could have rushed home quickly so that I arrive at or immediately after Kelly's departure.

Kelly -- While leaving a child home in safe predictable conditions for a few minutes is fine in my opinion, as I elaborate below, she could have (should have?) known that our nannyist society doesn't tolerate it in present times and so prudence should have been practiced here. In our case there was no emergency and it was perfectly expedient for Kelly to drive Katie down to the library as I had advised her. It is possible that her Chinese cultural background, a country in which provincial children commonly play with one another unsupervised by adults, led her to consider it okay, which I understand. But it would have been averted had she known the national norm and zeitgeist here.

Craig B. Yates, the groundskeeper. -- His decision to either call the cops himself or refer the matter to Patty for her to do so was harebrained. The intuitive thing to do with an unattended child about whose welfare you are concerned is to contact the child's guardians if they are known to you. He and Patty have ready access to my phone number from the residents database if they don't already know it. Why didn't they call me or Kelly instead?

In a later conversation with Craig's wife, I explicitly asked her whether she thought she did the right thing by calling cops instead of calling us or dealing with it in a less punitive way. She smugly and blithely said yes. She mentioned that this wasn't the first time --there were prior incidents. When I asked what they were, she repeated what she had said a total of 4-5 times during the conversation "I'm not gonna stand here and have this conversation". (We were standing n front of the house; she proposed that I be invited in to her house at an appointed time to discuss it there.) She then condescendingly said "you're angry now" even though I wasn't yelling or using foul language or anything that would be suggestive of anger. In the end, she either refused to answer the question of why she called cops or answered it inadequately. She doesn't have a valid answer.

It's all part of the liberal scourge of nanny-statism: the belief that the state --and by extension, all responsible citizens-- are liable for the actions of individual member of society EVEN WHEN SUCH ACTIONS DO NOT HURT ANYONE ELSE IN SOCIETY. The liberal ethic is to determine what is considered proper behavior with respect to one's own welfare and then enforce by law. The classical example of this is the mandatory seat belt law (which, regrettably, all states have on their books except for New Hampshire). The flaw in this is that even if it's true that seatbelts SHOULD be worn at all times while driving, --which, incidentally, in my opinion is unproven, unreasonable and incorrect-- that doesn't justify the government using force to get me to do so. Why should the government force someone to do the "proper" thing (granting its propriety for argument's sake) when there is simply no discernible benefit to the larger society?

Patty -- Craig states that he notified Patty and she is the one who called the police. I'm going to believe him on this, but this doesn't excuse him from culpability in Kelly's legal troubles resulting from this. He indisputable escalated this to a higher level imprudently. He could have dealt with it informally and less intrusively and punitively, and as the instigator I would lay more blame on him than on Patty, just as I lay more blame on both of them than on the police, who are trained to magnify offenses to justify their jobs and feel good about their work. Clearly, both of them are now officially on my enemies list.



Why I'm Glad RyanCare (AHCA) Failed in Congress

Even though I voted Trump in the 2016 elections and I generally lean Republican, I was not a fan of the healthcare bill Paul Ryan devised to replace Obamacare.

Ryan was opposed to the individual mandate and to the government regulation of care (e.g. setting a baseline for things that must be covered by all insurers participating in the Marketplace). The Republican proposal was to eliminate the Marketplace and regulation thereof, drop the mandate, and instead offer tax credits toward the purchase of coverage in the private market.

The problem with this plan --and I'm surprised that Ryan didn't recognize it before it blew up-- is that is doesn't solve the problem that triggered the ACA in the first place. The only was "repeal and replace" could have worked is if the replace more or less solved the basic problem of lack of access and affordability, albeit in a conservative, free market fashion. Now even though I lean conservative, I am not a free market hawk. I certainly don't believe that free markets are ALWAYS correct and the answer to all societal ills. Nevertheless, if the "replace" effectively addressed the national health care problem I would probably have supported it since I recognize some serious faults with the current, ACA, health care law.

Why does Ryancare not address the problem? It all has to do with the individual mandate. Since Ryan insists that individuals should be free NOT to purchase any health care coverage if they so wish, it poses a problem for insurers as only those who are already sick or prone to become sick would seek coverage and the premiums would therefore skyrocket (unless insurers could deny an application due to preexisting conditions). Ryan's bill, therefore, allows insurers to charge significantly more to older age groups (though not to individuals within the group who are sicker than normal). Also, since, the government offers only tax credits, not a financial contribution of its own money for those who could not afford premiums, someone who earns too little money, does not owe enough in taxes to get enough in its "credit" offset to pay for the high premiums in old age. Result: poor old people cannot afford coverage (while young healthy and wealthy people pay nothing and are easily "covered"). This is hardly a desirable outcome toward which to strive in any federal program. Inequality is already prevalent in our society; we don't need government to make it any worse, or even to administer a neutral program that keeps private money where it is and doesn't solve the problem it was meant to.

The Real Problem

Obamacare recognized this in passing and I give it credit for it. It seems to me in the current "repeal and replace" debate, however, that this matter was virtually never mentioned: the problem of cost.

You see, a hundred years ago, nobody had health insurance, even though we lived in a much poorer society overall, with less medical technology, less expert physicians and less knowledge of how to live well and stay safe. In other words, Americans a hundred years ago seem to have risked a lot more by choosing not to be covered by a health care insurance plan. And yet there was no outcry back then.

The key to this puzzle's solution, cost, is critical and should be at the center of our current healthcare crisis. For various reasons the cost of care was much much lower back then than it is now. I will briefly touch on the three main reasons:

1. No malpractice lawsuits.

It used to be unthinkable to sue a doctor. Someone who made a sincere and good-faith effort to save your life or cure you from an illness couldn't and wasn't sued in court for damages when things went wrong. These lawsuits now account for a very large chunk of the cost of health care. For example, one act of a failed surgery (whether by error, bungling or misfortune) could elicit a one million dollar compensation award by settlement our of court of by court ruling. This is 4 times the surgeon earns in a year. If such an incident (or a combination of smaller ones that add up to such an amount) occurs on average once in a decade, it results in a 40% increase in the cost of health care. In other words, because of those those exorbitant compensatory awards, as rare as they are, EVERYONE, including the poor who could lease afford to, pay 40% extra every time they visit the doctor.

2. No defensive medicine.

But there is an additional hidden cost to the litigative epidemic, that is perhaps even greater and more pernicious than the financial one: defensive medicine. Out of fear of being sued if they don't cover every single base, doctors are trained to run every possible test before making a diagnosis and prescribing a course of treatment. Intuition is seen as the enemy; it may lead a doctor to make an "unscientific" and thus "negligent" diagnosis for which he would then be found liable to the tune of millions. "It's not worth it", declaims the professor at medical school. "Run the tests. Back up every single pronouncement of yours with tests and data. If you are not 100% sure about a diagnosis based on the tests, then don't even mention it. why scare the customer needlessly? Train yourself to say 'I'm sorry sir but we don'y yet have the results of the CT scan, so I won't be able to tell you that right now'."

Back in the good old days, when someone had flu symptoms and went to see the doctor (or the doctor came, kit in hand, to visit the patient, as was very common in the past), there was no appointment necessary, there was no nurse preceding the doctor's visit, there were no weight measurements, temperature taking, heartbeat and pulse gauging, and almost no medial equipment. The doctor quickly saw you, asked you two or three questions, examined your mouth, listened to your cough, rolled his eyes this way and twitched his nose that way and then exclaimed confidently "You've got the flu, young man (not "sir"). Don't go out in the cold. Drink lots of fluids, preferably warm ones and you'll be fine in a week." No tests. No nurses. No appointments. No medical records. No medical devices. No malpractice insurance. Cost of the visit? $1.

3. No government regulation.

People underestimate how costly industry standards and government regulations are. For example, the HIPAA law makes it very cumbersome for medical records to be efficiently shared between doctor and patient. The result is, even to this day, that patients don't have access and knowledge of their own medical history, nor does the physician who sees them for the first time. consent and acknowledgement forms must be filled out and processed before the doctor can start treatment and clerks must be hired to perform the work.

Another, much costlier example of expensive regulation is the FDA's authoritative grip on the pharmaceutical industry. The FDA demands extensive, lengthy, and very expensive testing of all new drugs concocted by Big Pharma. This federally mandated testing is in fact so expensive that it far eclipses the cost of the drug's manufacture.
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Now I'm not necessarily saying that Great Depression-era practice was superior overall to ours (though this could certainly be argued) and that there is no merit at all in the changes we have implemented in the three domains enumerated above. What I am saying is that we have overdone it. We have gone too far in holding doctors accountable for their negligent care. We have crushed intuition and elevated tests and data too much. And the regulation and standardization of the industry is much tighter than the optimum.

Note that on all of three domains I enumerated, we are doing too much, not too little. Naturally, therefore, we are expending greater effort and cost in the process, and the result is a higher price tag for the medical consumer.
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Legislating a solution to the cost overrun in medical care is not at all easy, not in a society where both the right and left cherish liberty and despise government-imposed regimentation of our lives. If the government were to require doctors to revert to old-days simpler and more intuitive approaches to care, it would be as revolting (or more) as the government "protecting" us by establishing strict standards of care. The federal government can and should do certain things to ameliorate conditions in the abovementioned three domains, but the ultimate solution will evolve gradually as people change their attitudes and expectation of what ideal medical care looks like. Here are some of the things that I would like to see happening:

1. Abolish employer-provided coverage.

Health care coverage has nothing to do with employment. Why then was it standard prior to Obamacare enactment for people to obtain coverage through their jobs? It happened by dint of historical accident at a time when we didn't think much of it. During WWII when employers wanted to raise their workers' salaries despite the caps that were in place then, they resorted to the circumventional "salary by benefit" tactic. If an employee could get health insurance as a benefit, it was tantamount to a monetary raise by virtue of the dictum "a penny saved is a penny earned". What's more, BOTH employers and employees could write it off as a non-taxable expense to be deducted from their totals before calculating income tax liability. The significance of this tax benefit and the potential it had in store for distorting and degrading health care was not appreciated at the time. The big problem with this scheme is that by introducing an additional middleman into the chain of flow of care from provider to consumer, it made providers less efficient and less accountable to their clients (as would happen in any market where the consumer is far removed from the creator of the product or service). Whereas a doctor would be highly motivated to accommodate a patient who pays them per service out of pocket --maybe even one who pays the doctor indirectly through the patient's insurer-- there is much less motivation to do so when the doctor knows that the patient did not choose the doctor, the patient's employer did.

An incidental, equity problem with employer-insured health care is that it creates unlevel grounds for consumers who choose not to go that route. One who chooses to take matter in their own hands and buy their own coverage, are forced to pay income taxes BEFORE they pay their premiums. Also, by rejecting this "bargain" benefit that their employer is eager to give them, they are indirectly impelling their employer to pay them more in "full-price" compensation (either monetarily or through some other non-discounted benefit), thus rendering their employer less competitive with other enterprises in that industry that shell out less for equally satisfied employees. Both the business and the worker in such an enterprise are thus penalized if everyone else but them do choose to avail themselves of the tax benefit.

2. Medical Malpractice Tort Reform.

I am leery of legislating the precise contours of liability. What I envision, ultimately, is that juries will start seeing malpractice case in a different light. That they will be less reflexively sympathetic to the apparent victim. That they will be conscious of the price-raising effect of their awards and that such higher prices then hurt the very socio-economic class of people whom the juries are trying to champion.

But judges play a very critical role here. Baby boomer judges are just as much complicit in this problem are their contemporary baby-boomer jurors. This whole generation must go and a new generation not intoxicated with the doctrine of social justice by "making them pay" must come to the fore. I don't know if my Generation X fits this bill, but it certainly is a better candidate for it than my predecessor.

Lastly, laws could and should be rewritten to protect physicians from liability for undesirable outcomes of their professional acts done in good faith.

3. Open Government Clinics (on the state level).

As the constitution stands now, there is no basis for the federal government to administer such a program. Neither am I convinced that economies of scale and the resultant efficiency could be realized by operating such a program federally as opposed to regionally. This program does NOT suppose a government takeover of the entire industry. It would work something like this:

The government would use tax dollars to gradually purchase or erect clinics throughout the state. any resident of the state (by showing their ID card) could then walk in to the clinic and receive care for free (or for a nominal, heavily discounted fee). Such care would range from diagnostic tests, to prescriptions AND their fillment, to surgery.

The government clinics would "lag behind" private hospitals and clinics and follow their lead in adopting new technologies, treatments and drug prescriptions. There is a two-fold benefit in this: significant cost-reduction (generic drugs could be much cheaper than name brands, as are traditional treatments over modern ones such as taking aspirin for clogged arteries instead of having bypass surgery), and the curbing of runaway unproven (but costly) medical technologies. On this second point, even if the newfangled treatment were be cheaper than the old one (which is never the case!), there is still merit in questioning it on the mere basis of it being more intrusive and liable to engender side effects compared with a less intrusive legacy treatment.

In effect, the government clinics would be employing its medical resources conservatively and judiciously, and this may well be perceived as rationing (which it is!) but it would have the effect of reining in spending by the private market. As it stands now, the profligate method of health care delivery has no competition. What we need is for government clinics to offer an alternative "competitive" approach to medical care that may or may not catch on but it would incontrovertibly offer more choice and force private market practitioners to justify their higher-cost method on solid grounds.

Many people, especially those in the middle class and up and those who worship at the altar of science, progress and technology, would still choose to be served by the private market (however that may be organized), and that's perfectly fine. In fact, that would alleviate the burden on the government clinics thus saving taxpayers' resources even while accomplishing the core mission of such clinics, namely to insure that no citizen ever faces a situation where they cannot afford to pay for an essential medical treatment.
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To return to the issue of Ryancare and to elaborate further on its shortcoming, it's that it was neither fish nor fowl. Freedom Caucus members were right that the bill was still too liberal in its government involvement. Moderate Republicans were right in their criticism that even thought they believe in private market solutions to societal problems whenever possible, we can still not have a situation wherein millions of people do not have affordable access to an essential life-sustaining service. The new bill was more an Obamacare protest, seemingly driven by a tribalist oppositional mentality, than a thought-out, smart, and ideal solution based on conservative principles. No wonder it failed.

Friday, April 08, 2016

How did Bernie Get Here?

This is --somewhat surprisingly-- never reported in the mass media, not even the pro-Bernie outlets, but is nonetheless well-understood by the cognoscenti: The reason Bernie Sanders --a grumpy old socialist who is not even a Democrat-- is the one running against Hillary in this 2016 primary is that no Democrat could do so, NOT that there weren't any qualified Democrats who would have loved to do so. Hillary Clinton has amassed so much power within the Democratic party by dint of her status as First Lady, NY Senator and the dozens of other roles she has played in the party over the last 20 years, that she is now demanding her just dues: nomination for the highest office. She has effectively attained such a tight grip over the party apparatus that no other Democratic-affiliated operative dare challenge her. The mechanics of this is simple: run afoul of her and she will divert DNC campaign funds from you, (or worse yet channel it to your primary opponent) and ensure that you never get to rise the party ranks through choice appointments and so on. Every Democratic politician knows this and so plays ball. They know that this is Hillary's time to run for the the Presidency and whether she is the best candidate or not, they MUST support her on pain of political suicide, because SHE has earned it.

Thus, no Democratic politician has taken up the primary bid in this election cycle. Biden and Warren, both of which could have been very viable challengers demurred in the face of the Clinton behemoth. Sanders, however, as a non-Democratic officeholder was not bound by this vow. Furthermore, he has never received funds from her DNC fundraising efforts, and as an independent has nothing to lose by not joining ranks with the Democrats on this or any other issue.

All of the aforementioned is well understood. But what just occurred to me today is something novel. If Hillary REALLY wanted to nip Sanders in the bud, she may have been able to do so. She may have dispatched some honorable progressive Democrat, such Elizabeth Warren, whom Sanders truly has enormous respect for, to prevail upon him NOT to rain on Hillary coronation parade.

But Hillary's didn't do this. The campaign probably reasoned that she needs some token opposition or else it the system may seem rigged or the media may not give the process enough desirable attention. What Hillary's campaign CLEARLY didn't reckon is that Sanders would be at this level of popularity --and rising-- both in popular esteem and delegate count. In the media, Clinton surrogates will of course continue to say that her nomination is virtually inevitable, that is "almost certain" to be the nominee, but this is all posturing in an attempt to manipulate voters, since no American wants to vote for a loser. Winning six out of the seven last primaries and being neck in neck in NY polls is alarming news for Hillary.

And so to restate: Hillary ALLOWED Sanders to run out of utter disdain for him. As a non-Democrat, Socialism-espousing, septuagenarian, she had no problem with him running at first. Now that he's thriving beyond anyone's (including Sanders' own) imagination, she's in a panic.

Anecdotal indicators on the ground seem to be pointing at a Sanders win come the NY Dem primary election day, April 19 2016. I am assessing Sander at even money beat Hillary in NY. The official polls are of course always behind the latest trend of Sanders' surge, so they're not much of help here, but they peg him at 10 points behind Hillary. Yet, I am amazed that the Predictit market is giving Hillary an 80% chance of winning NY.

Saturday, April 02, 2016

My Rebuttal to Carles Blow's ridicule of the Bernie or Bust movement

See the article at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/31/opinion/campaign-stops/bernie-or-bust-is-bonkers.html?_r=0

If Sanders wins the nomination, liberals should rally round him. Conversely, if Clinton does, they should rally round her.
Liberals surely will rally around him if Sanders wins. But why should they rally around Clinton if she wins? She is demonstrably NOT a liberal on economic issues. So, no, they should not and many of them will not rally around her if she wins (as indeed the poll you cite indicates).

When Al Gore ran against George W. Bush in 2000, some claimed that a vote for Gore was almost the same as a vote for Bush and encouraged people to cast protest votes for Ralph Nader. Sarandon supported Nader during that election. Bush became president, and what did we get? Two incredibly young, incredibly conservative justices, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr., who will be on the court for decades, and two wars — in Afghanistan and Iraq — that, together, lasted over a decade.
In addition to setting the tone and direction of the country, the president has some constitutional duties that are profound and consequential. They include being commander in chief, making treaties and appointing judges, including, most importantly, justices to the Supreme Court. Bush demonstrated the consequences of that. 

Okay, this seems like a good point on its face: If Susan Sarandon hadn't made the "mistake" of supporting Ralph Nader in 2000, maybe we would have had a Gore presidency and averted the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the conservative Supreme Court appointees.

What's flawed in this argument, however, is that it doesn't proceed to its logical conclusion: that a Gore administration (which, evidently, Sarandon and others considered closely-enough-bad to a Bush presidency) would NOT have invaded Iraq, and would have nominated justices who were more "progressive".

As it turns out upon close analysis, this isn't at all necessarily so. Without the famous, supposedly liberal, NYT-published Judith Miller "endorsement" of the Iraq War (as it were), it's unlikely that Bush would ever have gotten a sizable number of Congressional Democrats to support the war resolution and thus have gone to war. If the Democratic-affiliated NYT can so easily push for this sort of aggressive and expansionist foreign policy, then I'm not at all convinced that a Gore administration would have not asked Congress to virtually declare war.

What Blow and many establishment pundits don't get, is that true policy differences are no longer divided along partisan fault lines, but along establishment/revolution battle lines. Establishment Democrats are more liberal only on social policies. When it comes to things that really matter to working-class Americans --as in the kind of policies that will affect their paychecks-- there was no demonstrable difference between Gore and Bush, just as there isn't any in the current election cycle between a hypothetical matchup between Jeb Bush (he has already dropped out) and Hillary Clinton, both members of the aristocratic power establishment.

Ditto to Blow's point about the Prez's power to nominate liberal justices: Sanders supporters and true progressives don't care about Elena Kagan and Sanya Sotomayor -type liberals. They are liberal about social policy alright (gay marriage, abortion, etc...) but these are distractors. The real challenge is overturning Citizens united, reforming the tax code, ending the corporate loopholes, taxing investments, ending foreign entanglement. Clinton stands for none of the above. Trump does stand for some of them. If anything, Trump is likely to nominate justices who are more favorable to the working class in those respects. What's more, it could be argued that his nominations could sail through Congress breezily since the Obama-obstructionist right-wing will now supposedly be on the same party Prez's side.
 The real estate developer is now talking carelessly about promoting nuclear proliferation and torture (then there’s Ted Cruz’s talk of carpet bombing and glowing sand).
He's completely taking Trump out of context here. Chris Mathews asked Trump whether he would take the nuclear option off the table. He responded with the common-sensical: why do we have nukes if they are not on the table? Mathews then continued to press Trump on whether he would use them on China, Europe etc... I was, frankly, disgusted by his line of questioning, which was obviously meant to fearmonger the audience. Why doesn't Mathews ask this question ANY OTHER candidate? Would Clinton or Sanders or Cruz answer any differently? If so, they're either fools or lying. OF COURSE it's on the table. It doesn't mean that it's even remotely LIKELY that nukes will be used in any given presidential tenure. But it's possible. (Recall that at the height of the Cold War, c. 1960, most people believed nuclear war was imminent. They would have been astonished and appalled by a presidential candidate running on a platform of taking nukes off the table).

Regarding torture, I know that many libs are against torture. Personally, I agree with Trump and other Republicans that there was and is nothing wrong with waterboarding and other torturous (a.k.a. "enhanced interrogation") techniques to extract information from suspects, in the interest of investigating an imminent national threat. I am surprised at how forgetful people are of 9/11 and the consequent necessity to gather intelligence by all reasonable means on possible future attacks. Is torture of a suspected terrorist enemy-sympathizer too high a price to pay for our national security? I don't think so!

I would in fact go a step further and support such torture even against American nationals (who are public enemies and have information that could avert a public disaster). And, no, I don't think this is prohibited by the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, since this it is investigative in nature, not punitive.

Furthermore, Toobin laid out the diversity of the Obama transformation, writing:
“Sheldon Goldman, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a scholar of judicial appointments, said, ‘The majority of Obama’s appointments are women and nonwhite males.’ Forty-two percent of his judgeships have gone to women. Twenty-two percent of George W. Bush’s judges and 29 percent of Bill Clinton’s were women. Thirty-six percent of President Obama’s judges have been minorities, compared with 18 percent for Bush and 24 percent for Clinton.”
And beyond war and courts, there is the issue of inclusion.
Take Obama’s legacy on gay rights. He signed the bill repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” And in 2012, Obama became the first sitting president to support same-sex marriage. Last year, Obama became the first president to say “lesbian,” “transgender” and “bisexual” in a State of the Union speech.
Of more substance, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute:
“To date, the Obama-Biden Administration has appointed more than 250 openly LGBT professionals to full-time and advisory positions in the executive branch; more than all known LGBT appointments of other presidential administrations combined.”
There is no reason to believe that this level of acceptance would continue under the real estate developer’s administration. In fact, the Huffington Post Queer Voices editor at large Michelangelo Signorile wrote an article in February titled, “No, LGBT People Aren’t Exempt from Donald Trump’s Blatant Bigotry,” responding to a trending idea that the Republican front-runner wasn’t as bad for queer people as other Republican candidates:
“It’s absolutely false — he’s as extreme as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and will do nothing for LGBT rights — and it’s time to disabuse the media and everyone else of this notion once and for all.”
To summarize: Blow argues that the current Obama administration, as well as a Clinton or Sanders administration, would be active in appointing more federal operatives who are:
  • women
  • black
  • Latino
  • LGBT
But I find this argument (a little but) not much worse than the argument to vote for Hillary because she's a woman. Whenever we address the question of how inclusive our civil service sector should be, the first thing we ought to ask ourselves is: are we talking about appointing a minority person because they belong to a disadvantaged group or despite that. There is a big difference. The former is affirmative action and is contentious policy; the latter is just, fair and open-minded policy. There is, in my view, no moral imperative to appoint minorities because they are minorities --to give them a leg up in the hiring/appointment process even if they do not measure up to the talent and qualifications exhibited by other, majority-identified candidates.

If Obama's reasoning in appointing two women, one of them Latino, to the highest judicial office is that we ought to make a symbolic overture to show that such underrepresented groups are fully equal citizens and nurtured and respected by our society, even if they are not the most highly qualified candidates --a compelling, though controversial argument to make--, let us yet at least agree that it is not a national priority above the problem of money in politics, and gross income and wealth inequality. If we are forced to choose between a candidate who does not support affirmative action but does support campaign finance/wealth distribution reform, on the one hand; and a candidate who does support affirmative action with respect to public servant appointments but does not support the above reforms -- I, and other BernieOrBusters affirm that the former (Trump) trumps the latter (Clinton) on this.

Then there are all the other promises — threats? — the real estate developer has made. He has said he would deport all undocumented immigrants, build a border wall between the United States and Mexico, end birthright citizenship, dismantle Obamacare and replace it with something “terrific” (whatever that means), defund Planned Parenthood and temporarily ban most foreign Muslims from coming to this country, among other things.
I find none of the above proposals terribly offensive. Hey, I am generally pragmatic when it comes to public policy. I want to see politicians who represent my interests. Frankly, as Rick from Casablanca would say, I stick my neck out for no one. EVEN IF (and this is a big if) it is morally wrong to do all or some of the above things, it is very far-fetched to argue that such policies affect me or other working class Americans negatively, or will do so in the future. Conversely, the positive consequences are fairly concrete: higher wages for Americans if illegals immigrants are deported, less public expense for children of illegal immigrants who come here for the express purpose of achieving birthright citizenship for their children and thus anchoring the whole family here, and so on.

Again, I grant that these are arguable points. But what I'm saying is that they are abstract moral questions with no absolutely definitive answer. What a working-class person does know for sure and feel it in their bones every day is that health care for all would be a huge relief, that higher education for all would be an enormous benefit, and that better infrastructure and better-paying jobs would make life for working-class citizens so much better. Those are the things Sanders fights for, not a pseudo-liberalist platform which centers on social issues and is meant as a red herring to divert our attention from the stuff that is consequential, namely the economic issues.

It is unfortunate for Sanders, who seems infinitely sober and sensible, that some of his surrogates and supporters present themselves as absolutist and doctrinaire. As Sanders himself has said, “on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and president than the Republican candidate on his best day.”
Yeah, I know, Sanders did say that. I am not sure that he fully meant it, though. What we do know is that Sanders could have attacked Clinton and contrasted his philosophy with hers much more emphatically, but he strategically chooses not to. We also know that Sanders isn't a real Democrat -- or should I say that he isn't a contemporary, corporatist, centrist, "neoliberal", Clintonian Democrat (though he would fit right in with the FDR-type Democrat). He is running on the Democratic ticket because that's by far his best chance to win the presidency in a two-party political system, such as we currently have. Consequently it is only natural that Sanders would show loyalty to the party if he is to run under its mantle. This doesn't mean that his supporters, who are by and large non-partisan, ought to take Sanders' words here that "Clinton would be an infinitely better candidate" at face value.

But even if Sanders really means what he says, we citizen-voters do not heed him nor serve him. He serves the revolution; he serves the cause; he is elected to address our outrage at the absurdity of us getting so little of the rising national wealth, whereas the top 1 percent is getting so much. This is our revolution, not Sanders'. We are electing him into office. He doesn't get to tell us whom to vote for, though I would certainly respect his advice and take it earnestly into consideration at the ballot.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Why I prefer Trump over Hillary

This 2016 presidential election cycle is the most bizarre I have ever witnessed. The party system seems to be on the verge of collapsing.

The front-runner in the Republican party is Donald Trump, a non-politician and party outsider; he was not aligned with Republicanism any more than with Democratism in the height of his business career, during which he donated to both parties and his sole interest was favorable legislation for his enterprises. He is despised by Republican party establishment politicians who view him as a loose cannon who does not represent the party platform interests of war/defense industry, foreign entanglement, deregulation, low taxes on the rich, and so on. (Interestingly, this party elite doesn't care about his relatively pro-abortion stance, which issue it only espouses due to its evangelical constituency, one that doesn't constitute the core of the Republican party.)

On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is growing stronger by the day and poses an enormous, underrated, threat to topple its establishment frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Sanders is not even a Democrat and was not originally seen as a viable contender by the party elite.

Thus on both sides we have strong party candidates who are aiming for non-establishment interests and the establishment in either party is scrambling to figure out what to do to regain control of the situation.

Overall I consider myself a centrist/independent ideologically. In some respects I agree with Democratic principles, e.g. sensible business regulation, high taxes on the rich and basic provisions for the masses. In some respects I lean more Republican, e.g. moral absolutism, authoritarianism (as in submission to "authority" without the pejorative connotation of the word), personal responsibility, elimination of affirmative action and a conservative judiciary. However, the current Republican party, hijacked by the 2010 Tea Party radicals, sworn to never compromise on its principles, and oppose the Obama Administration no matter what it proposes, is hardly the Republican party of Reagan. So I would normally vote Democratic (which governs from the center for the most part) in elections.

But like I said, this election cycle is different.

Whereas I am a strong Bernie Sanders supporter (for which reasons I won't discuss right now), it isn't because I bear any loyalty to him personally, let alone the party under which auspices he is running. I do not agree with everything he says, especially on moral issues (I am believe in greater moral absolutism and sterner government enforcement of the law), but I don't see elections as ever being black or white propositions. One most vote for the best of the bunch, not for the perfect one. Fortunately, I consider Bernie Sanders a very good representative for most of my interests as a member of the working class, struggling under many years of widening income and wealth inequality.

And I emphatically disagree with his statement that any Democrat would be better in the White House than any Republican, and that the policy differences between him and Hillary are negligible compared to any policy platform proposed by the other side. I'm not sure if he really means it when he says it; perhaps it's something he is expected to say, now that he is running for the Democratic ticket.

The reality of the situation is that Trump's actual policies, not his obnoxious persona or the things he says, are quite tolerable. Conversely, taking a look at Hillary's policies and her modus operandi as a politician I find her grossly repulsive.

So here's a breakdown of some Trump positions, takes from his website and how much I agree with them.

On Healthcare:
Completely repeal Obamacare. Our elected representatives must eliminate the individual mandate. No person should be required to buy insurance unless he or she wants to.
 Okay, I applaud this libertarian lean, but let's see how he solves the problem...
Modify existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines. As long as the plan purchased complies with state requirements, any vendor ought to be able to offer insurance in any state. By allowing full competition in this market, insurance costs will go down and consumer satisfaction will go up.
He's scapegoating here. Lack if Interstate competition is NOT the culprit for high premiums. There is plenty of room for competition within a state. Eliminating state lines on the provider side poses a problem if we agree that states should still be allowed to enact their own healthcare, insurance, and business laws
Allow individuals to fully deduct health insurance premium payments from their tax returns under the current tax system. Businesses are allowed to take these deductions so why wouldn’t Congress allow individuals the same exemptions? 
I fully agree with this position, insofar as we take for granted that business ought  to be able to deduct their healthcare expenditures from their income. Even better would be, however, to scrap the healthcare deudction altogether.

As we allow the free market to provide insurance coverage opportunities to companies and individuals, we must also make sure that no one slips through the cracks simply because they cannot afford insurance. We must review basic options for Medicaid and work with states to ensure that those who want healthcare coverage can have it.

Sounds like an expansion of Medicaid to me. Isn't this EXACTLY what Obamacare did, and isn't this the one component of Obamacare that conservatives got the Supreme Court to strike down, and Republican governors had successfully repelled? Oh, right, it is. So when it comes to substance, Trump's position here isn't all that anti-Obamacare, or "conservative".
Allow individuals to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Contributions into HSAs should be tax-free and should be allowed to accumulate. These accounts would become part of the estate of the individual and could be passed on to heirs without fear of any death penalty. These plans should be particularly attractive to young people who are healthy and can afford high-deductible insurance plans. These funds can be used by any member of a family without penalty. The flexibility and security provided by HSAs will be of great benefit to all who participate.
I fully agree with HSA's as a major improvement to the pre-Obamacare state of affairs. HSA's are essentially a logical extension of the "insurance premiums should be tax deductible" doctrine. As I said earlier, I would have preferred that this be abolished altogether, but a selective application of it, as was the case prior to the ACA is patently unfair to those who do not get employer coverage. HSA's are also a very effective motive for acting responsibly in planning for a rainy day, all the while NOT involving the insurance company middleman, which is monumentally grievous distorter of the natural healthcare market. Prior to the ACA many young people went uninsured if it wasn't employer-provided. If HSA's were available to them, they may well have used them. As Trump insinuates, HSA's may not have enough money in the account to cover catastrophic care, but catastrophic insurance policies (as exemplified by high-deductible policies) are much more affordable.
Require price transparency from all healthcare providers, especially doctors and healthcare organizations like clinics and hospitals. Individuals should be able to shop to find the best prices for procedures, exams or any other medical-related procedure.
He couldn't have said it better! And I agree that government has a legitimate role to play here for the purpose of ensuring a fair marketplace. (This would thus meet the Libertarian principle of government action being justified to prevent fraud, as stipulated by Charles Murray.) Transparency in pricing also encourages HSA's as opposed to insurance policies, since consumers can then shop around and pay perhaps less than what an insurance company would pay for care on his behalf.
Block-grant Medicaid to the states. Nearly every state already offers benefits beyond what is required in the current Medicaid structure. The state governments know their people best and can manage the administration of Medicaid far better without federal overhead. States will have the incentives to seek out and eliminate fraud, waste and abuse to preserve our precious resources.
I agree with this. If a Medicaid program for the poor is to be implemented, the federal government is best off leaving the states to decide what constitutes poverty, and what and how benefits ought to be distributed. This is due to regional differences in income.
Remove barriers to entry into free markets for drug providers that offer safe, reliable and cheaper products. Congress will need the courage to step away from the special interests and do what is right for America. Though the pharmaceutical industry is in the private sector, drug companies provide a public service. Allowing consumers access to imported, safe and dependable drugs from overseas will bring more options to consumers.
I love this item the most! Trump takes a swipe at the omnipotent pharmaceutical industry here, which is so so overdue. Sanders comes at it from a completely different angle of course. But I do agree that if the free market is going to provide healthcare, the least the government can do is prevent powerful conglomerates from forcing the public to pay obscene amounts for basic necessity drugs. In this respect, I disagree strongly with Murray's libertarianism, in that the government does have a very legit role in regulating markets that provide basic necessities to the public.

Providing healthcare to illegal immigrants costs us some $11 billion annually. If we were to simply enforce the current immigration laws and restrict the unbridled granting of visas to this country, we could relieve healthcare cost pressures on state and local governments.
I agree that the illegal immigration problem is especially exacerbated with respect to health care. There are anecdotes of illegal immigrant expectant mothers coming here to give birth, both to have an "anchor baby" citizen by which they will remain moored to the U.S. and protected from deportation, and to get American-style high-quality neonatal care for free.

Although Trump doesn't mention it here, I also agree with him that the legal citizenship status of such babies is dubious. We need to to take a second look at the traditional assumption of birthright citizenship. The writers of the 14th amendment almost certainly didn't intend to grant citizenship rights to those "born or naturalized in the U.S." in this way.

Whether this $11 billion is accurate is immaterial. We shouldn't have to spend a penny on illegal immigrants, especially if they are deliberately entering our country for the purpose of receiving free benefits, knowing that we will be compassionate.

Finally, we need to reform our mental health programs and institutions in this country. Families, without the ability to get the information needed to help those who are ailing, are too often not given the tools to help their loved ones. There are promising reforms being developed in Congress that should receive bi-partisan support.
Not sure to what type of "information needed to help those who are ailing" he is alluding here.

Regarding Trump's Tax plan:

Too few Americans are working, too many jobs have been shipped overseas, and too many middle class families cannot make ends meet. This tax plan directly meets these challenges with four simple goals:
  1. Tax relief for middle class Americans: In order to achieve the American dream, let people keep more money in their pockets and increase after-tax wages.
This vision is highly dubious. With a staggering national debt, a crumbling public infrastructure and a bloated government, no responsible economist recommends a tax cut to ANYONE, including the middle-class. But certainly, if he considers me the middle-class, I could use a tax cut.
  1. Simplify the tax code to reduce the headaches Americans face in preparing their taxes and let everyone keep more of their money.
Right on!
  1. Grow the American economy by discouraging corporate inversions, adding a huge number of new jobs, and making America globally competitive again.
Touche!
  1. Doesn’t add to our debt and deficit, which are already too large.
Okay, then, how will you give a tax break to the middle class -- if you stipulate the tax break cannot result in an increasing deficit?
  1. If you are single and earn less than $25,000, or married and jointly earn less than $50,000, you will not owe any income tax. That removes nearly 75 million households – over 50% – from the income tax rolls. They get a new one page form to send the IRS saying, “I win,” those who would otherwise owe income taxes will save an average of nearly $1,000 each.
Wow, this us huge! This means that I will owe nothing in income taxes. This is so so welcome, but more importantly, the right thing to do! People like me who work extremely hard but make little income should not be taxed if the tax can be made up by increasing the burden on those who got lucky and are raking it in hand over fist.
  1. All other Americans will get a simpler tax code with four brackets – 0%, 10%, 20% and 25% – instead of the current seven. This new tax code eliminates the marriage penalty and the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) while providing the lowest tax rate since before World War II.
Sounds good.
  1. No business of any size, from a Fortune 500 to a mom and pop shop to a freelancer living job to job, will pay more than 15% of their business income in taxes. This lower rate makes corporate inversions unnecessary by making America’s tax rate one of the best in the world.
This solves the problem of global competitiveness for business headquarters.
Oh no, Mr. Trump. I am a very strong proponent of the estate tax. It serves to level the playing field and counteract the Matthew Rule (the rich get richer and the poor get poorer). Most importantly, it minimizes the effect of luck on material prosperity and lets grit, talent, and dedication shine.
  1. No family will have to pay the death tax. You earned and saved that money for your family, not the government. You paid taxes on it when you earned it.
But then again, what can one expect from such an egotistical person, as Trump? He knows only of his own success, and that certainly would not have been possible without his hefty inheritance.
  1. Reducing or eliminating most deductions and loopholes available to the very rich.
  2. A one-time deemed repatriation of corporate cash held overseas at a significantly discounted 10% tax rate, followed by an end to the deferral of taxes on corporate income earned abroad.

  1. Reducing or eliminating corporate loopholes that cater to special interests, as well as deductions made unnecessary or redundant by the new lower tax rate on corporations and business income. We will also phase in a reasonable cap on the deductibility of business interest expenses.
Income Tax RateLong Term Cap Gains/ Dividends RateSingle FilersMarried FilersHeads of Household
0%0%$0 to $25,000$0 to $50,000$0 to $37,500
10%0%$25,001 to $50,000$50,001 to $100,000$37,501 to $75,000
20%15%$50,001 to $150,000$100,001 to $300,000$75,001 to $225,000
25%20%$150,001 and up$300,001 and up$225,001 and up
Love it, but I need to see the numbers here. Do the rich pay less than a 25% "effective" marginal (non-investment) income tax rate presently?
10% is letting them off the hook. I don't see why it should be so little.
Agree.

For those Americans who will still pay the income tax, the tax rates will go from the current seven brackets to four simpler, fairer brackets that eliminate the marriage penalty and the AMT while providing the lowest tax rate since before World War II:
With this huge reduction in rates, many of the current exemptions and deductions will become unnecessary or redundant. Those within the 10% bracket will keep all or most of their current deductions. Those within the 20% bracket will keep more than half of their current deductions. Those within the 25% bracket will keep fewer deductions. Charitable giving and mortgage interest deductions will remain unchanged for all taxpayers.
Simplifying the tax code and cutting every American’s taxes will boost consumer spending, encourage savings and investment, and maximize economic growth. 
I hope that Trump is proposing these tax be marginal. It would be absurd to say that if a couple earns $49,000 it owes nothing in taxes, but if its income goes up to $50,000 its tax liability is now $5,000, thus netting less for greater productivity. If, on the other hand, these brackets are not marginal, it would explain why those in the lower brackets will have a wider range of allowed deductions.

However, if the goal of tax reform is to eliminate its complexity, then why not eliminate ALL deductions, period.

While I'm at it, I'm of the opinion that both charity and mortgage interest should be fully taxable. Those deductions have a distorting effect on the natural incentives of the market (e.g. buying or renting a home) and so it's bad policy.

Too many companies – from great American brands to innovative startups – are leaving America, either directly or through corporate inversions. The Democrats want to outlaw inversions, but that will never work. Companies leaving is not the disease, it is the symptom. Politicians in Washington have let America fall from the best corporate tax rate in the industrialized world in the 1980’s (thanks to Ronald Reagan) to the worst rate in the industrialized world. That is unacceptable. Under the Trump plan, America will compete with the world and win by cutting the corporate tax rate to 15%, taking our rate from one of the worst to one of the best.
This lower tax rate cannot be for big business alone; it needs to help the small businesses that are the true engine of our economy. Right now, freelancers, sole proprietors, unincorporated small businesses and pass-through entities are taxed at the high personal income tax rates. This treatment stifles small businesses. It also stifles tax reform because efforts to reduce loopholes and deductions available to the very rich and special interests end up hitting small businesses and job creators as well. The Trump plan addresses this challenge head on with a new business income tax rate within the personal income tax code that matches the 15% corporate tax rate to help these businesses, entrepreneurs and freelancers grow and prosper.
These lower rates will provide a tremendous stimulus for the economy – significant GDP growth, a huge number of new jobs and an increase in after-tax wages for workers.
It's a bit unclear here what his proposal is. It seems to me that he's saying that the low 15% tax rate will apply to not just corporations (which are taxed twice) but also to individual proprietors; in other words, EVEN if the business owner nets more than $100,000 (for a married couple) in personal income from the business --in which case ordinarily they would fall in the 20% bracket-- it will pay only 15% because its entrepreneurial income as opposed to labor income.

I can't say I agree with this. For genuinely small business owners I'm sort of okay with it. They often take significant risk in starting the business, so they should be able to reap a greater reward as a proportion of their gross income. But what if one owns a large, very wealthy enterprise that yields tens of millions in profit? Should he still pay a mere 15% tax rate, as opposed to the 25% that, say, a successful doctor/lawyer would pay for their $350,000 income? This makes no sense to me, nor to most Americans, especially those in the labor class who are treated adversely compared to the entrepreneurial class.

Regarding the essential premise that the corporate rate should not be greater than 15% lest it encourage inversions, I am fairly skeptical about this approach as well. As it stands now, even such "inverted" corporations, must legally pay the higher tax rate for the portion of its income generated in the U.S. So the inversion isn't all that straightforward. The reason it works is that accountants are attributing a greater share of the profits to the supposed host country that offers the lower rate. But if this tactic can be legally curtailed, then it won't work. Bottom line is that it's not true that we are helpless in our quest to get American business operators to pay the rate that WE deem appropriate based on OUR tax and budgetary considerations, as opposed to the lower rate offered by countries that have a lower per capita public expenditures than us.

This brings me back to the question of globalization. I don't believe we should relish the flattened world we live in. I believe it's totally fine to keep some trade barriers between countires, even at the expense of technological progress and cheaper consumer goods.