The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Predictable

It's as predictable as a sun rise in the East. Whenever any politician suggests that:
  • taxes are too high,
  • those high taxes stifle economic growth,
  • too few people pay most of the freight for the larger majority,
  • a significant minority pays no income taxes at all and therefore ha absolutely no incentive to question the federal spending that drives the demand for higher and higher taxes,
  • far too many special interests get far too many unjustified tax breaks,
  • completing the average tax form should tax minutes, not multiple hours or days,
  • record keeping requirements are onerous and unrealistic, and in recent years,
  • the taxing authority (the IRS) has been used to target some citizen who don't have the 'approved' political views
the Democrats go ballistic. The party of big intrusive government pulls out the same tired arguments against tax reduction, revs up it class warfare narrative, and screams bloody murder. In many cases, the demagoguery works and any reasonable attempt at tax reduction and reform is buried in hysteria over "the rich" paying less in taxes.

Kim Strassel illustrates this by commenting on a The New York Times "news" story about Donald Trumps suggestion that major tax reform is necessary and outlining the basic principles he will advocate. She writes:
Here’s how to know a Republican president has scored big on a proposed tax reform: Read the New York Times —and chuckle.

The newspaper’s headline Wednesday lectured: “White House Proposes Slashing Tax Rates, Significantly Aiding Wealthy.” The story said that Donald Trump had offered a “radical reordering of the tax code,” though one that he “rushed” so as to “show progress before the 100-day mark of his presidency.” The proposal was but a “skeletal outline” and “less a plan than a wish list.” It contained “no explanation of how the plan would be financed.” And, oh, it would “richly benefit Mr. Trump” personally. This was a news article, by the way, not an editorial.
Trump's tax proposals have not been fully fleshed out and will be modified by the Congress, but his ideas are big ideas—a significant revamp of tax rates including corporate rates, a major modification to deductions that almost always benefit special interests, a simplification in income tax reporting, and as a consequence, a major stimulus for job creation and the economy in general.

I have no doubt that I'll offer many additional posts on taxes and tax reform as we move forward. At this stage, however, it is amusing to see one party suggest change while the other uses the same tired talking points and the same class warfare memes to maintain a status quo that has led to economic malaise.

UPDATE:
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The Democratic faithful who make the argument that any tax reform proposal is designed solely to help "the rich" are either innumerate or disingenuous. As a grossly simplified example, assume that a tax proposal suggests that "the rich" get a tax reduction of 4 percent, while the middle class gets a tax cut of 10 percent. The middle class taxpayer originally payed, say, $12,000 in taxes and will get a reduction of $1200. The rich person payed $45,000 in taxes and gets a reduction of $1800. The Democrats cry, "The rich are getting a bigger tax cut than the middle class—the horror!"

Of course the overall tax bill for the middle class taxpayer becomes $10,800 while the overall tax bill for the rich taxpayer is $43,200—about 4 times higher. But for far too many Democrats, the mathematics of percentages appear to be far too complicated, and as a consequences, they rely on absolute numbers, but only for the tax cuts, not for the number of dollars actually paid in taxes.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Unworthy

Chris Stirewalt comments on the current state of American politics with specific emphasis on academia and the Left's insistence that speakers who oppose their views be barred from speaking at many universities.* In fact, in some instances, leftist "anti-fascists" who are actually totalitarian thugs, have threatened violence should an opposing speaker be allowed to present his or her views. From Stirewalt's comments:
Let’s start with that basic stipulation. America is not just better than its politics; its politics is actually unworthy of a republic so magnificent.

This bears mentioning just now because while this concept is perfectly obvious, it is also apparently easily forgotten – as is evidenced by the foolish fashion in which large numbers of our countrymen are conducting themselves.

The very fact that there is a conversation taking place about the rights of people to express even the vilest ideas should be terrifying to people who understand that politics should be subservient to liberty. Our Constitution says that the government may not prohibit you from speaking, but our civilization tells you that being offended may be a necessary component of that larger freedom.

The current controversy surrounds what could charitably be called the failed American higher education system and the unwillingness of students and faculty members to tolerate opposing views.

Mostly the conflict is cast as a left/right issue in which liberal “snowflakes” are refusing to allow putative conservatives from speaking on campus. This simplistic definition favors the interest of both sides in these little dramas. Opponents of free expression can style themselves as anti-fascist and provocateurs on the right can pretend they’re being persecuted for their views rather than their provocations.

But this isn’t about politics. It is about the cancer that is growing within our country: ignorance.
It is undoubtedly about ignorance, but it's also about moral preening and the false certitude that the Leftist ideology is the only acceptable path. Who ordained the leftist members of the media, of academia, of the entertainment industry, and of the arts as the final arbiters of what is just and right? Who made the judgement that opposing views are ignorant, or racist or bigoted or represent any of the many "isms" that the Left likes to hurl at its opponents? The answer is the Left itself, making their selective outrage at opposing views much like a child's tantrum, but far more dangerous.

The ignorance that Stirewalt mentions is about a fundamental lack of historical knowledge, a willful disregard of the failure of the socialist experiment in places like the Soviet Union, in North Korea, in Cuba, and recently in Venezuela. And it represents the victory of fantasy thinking over reality.

Finally, there's a certain viscousness to all of this. The anger that has fueled the Left since the sound defeat of a Democratic candidate is nothing less than astounding. The excuses—"Russian collusion, James Comey, misogyny, "winning the popular vote," blah, blah, and blah" is nothing short of ridiculous. The outrage may be real, but that doesn't mean it's justified.

In fact, this recent behavior is truly "unworthy" of the great country that provides every outraged member of the Left with the freedom of expression that enables them to express their outrage and viciousness.

FOOTNOTE:
----------------

* Jeremy Peters of the decidedly left-wing New York Times writes:
...across the country, conservatives like [Ann Coulter] are eagerly throwing themselves into volatile situations like the one in Berkeley, emboldened by a backlash over what many Americans see as excessive political correctness, a president who has gleefully taken up their fight, and liberals they accuse of trying to censor any idea they disagree with.
A number of Twitter responses highlight the utter hypocrisy of Peters' suggestion that conservative speakers are purposely putting themselves into "volatile situations" with the long outdated and misogynistic notion that women in provocative clothing are inviting rape.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Science is Settled

Last week in major cities across the country, the Left marched in large numbers in support of science. On its face that's a very good thing, but when those same people argue that any discussion of climate change is moot because "the science is settled", their advocacy for the scientific method breaks down rather badly. Anyone who has any knowledge of science understands that science is never "settled." We learn more, we improve understanding, we create better analytical and empirical methods, and sometimes, conventional wisdom is jettisoned as a result.

Jeremy Samuel Faust summarizes the marches nicely when he writes:
... Little of what I observed [at the marches] dissuades me from my baseline belief that, even among the sanctimonious elite who want to own science (and pwn anyone who questions it), most people have no idea how science actually works. The scientific method itself is already under constant attack from within the scientific community itself and is ceaselessly undermined by its so-called supporters, including during marches like those on Saturday. In the long run, such demonstrations will do little to resolve the myriad problems science faces and instead could continue to undermine our efforts to use science accurately and productively.

Using science "accurately and productively" demands that one never utter the phrase, "the science is settled." A case in point:

Bradley Fikes reports on the results of a major medical study:
In another blow against decades of accepted medical wisdom, one of the most prestigious, long-running studies reports that lowering sodium intake doesn’t reduce blood pressure.

The study also implies that most Americans are consuming a perfectly healthy amount of salt, the main source of sodium. But those who are salt-sensitive, about 20 to 25 percent of the population, still need to restrict salt intake.

Consuming less than 2,500 milligrams of sodium daily is actually associated with higher blood pressure, according to the Framingham Offspring Study report, given today. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily, equal to a teaspoon of ordinary iodized table salt.

High blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Hence, lowering salt intake is supposed to lower blood pressure and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. But the study found that supposition to be unfounded.

Moreover, the lowest blood pressure was recorded by those who consumed 4,000 milligrams or more a day — amounts considered dangerously high by medical authorities such as the American Heart Association.


But ... but ... but ... science said that salt was bad for you and many believed that the science was settled, right?

An assessment of the effects of salt on blood pressure is orders of magnitude (I suspect that many of the marchers have no idea what that phrase means) less complex than the effects of dozens of parameters and their quantitiative impact on global climate. If blood pressure's affects were not settled science, I think it's reasonable to assert that the underlying drivers of climate change are also not settled science. To state otherwise is a profound display of ignorance, even if the statement is made by a "scientist."

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Over a Cliff

During the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, we watched as appeasement of North Korea and Iran was raised to an art form. After all—goes the conventional wisdom—isn't it better to wait patiently using "diplomacy" to defuse a dangerous state than to confront it as it moves toward weapons of mass destruction. Kicking the can down the road is a perfect political strategy—it avoids immediate problems and hard decisions (for the elites) even as it creates bigger and more dangerous problems for future politicians and peoples.

Victor Davis Hansen discusses this when he writes:
Acting crazy has worked for rogue regimes, but Western appeasement is not a long-term solution.

How can an otherwise failed dictatorship best suppress internal dissent while winning international attention, influence—and money? Apparently, it must openly seek nuclear weapons.

Second, the nut state should sound so crazy and unpredictable that it might just use them, regardless of civilization’s deterrent forces arrayed against it. Third, it must welcome being “reluctantly” pulled into nonproliferation talks to prolong the farce and allow its deep-pocket enemies to brag of their diplomatic “strategic patience” and sophistication.

The accepted logic of the rogue state is that the Westernized world is so affluent and leisured, and life is so good, that it will understandably grant almost any immediate geostrategic or monetary concession to avoid serious disruptions of the international order. The logic of appeasement is always more appeasement — especially in the one-bomb nuclear age.

North Korea sounds as if Pyongyang is an expendable hellhole, but not so Seoul, one of world’s great commercial and industrial powerhouses that exports Hyudais, Kias, Samsung, and LG appliances.

The logic is that of the proverbial crazy country neighbor, whose house and yard are a junkyard mess, whose kids are criminals, and who periodically threatens to “mess you up” unless you put up with his antics, give him attention, and overlook his serial criminality. The renegade neighbor’s logic is that you have lots to lose by descending into his world of violence and insanity, while he has nothing to forfeit by basking in it, and that such asymmetry allows him to have something on you. And it makes him something other than just the ex-con, creep, and failure that he otherwise is.
Iran is no better—suggesting, for example, that it could wipe out Israel with a single nuclear weapon—you know, the weapon that Barack Obama guaranteed Iran would have after a single decade of abiding (ha!) by the "deal" his Team of 2s put together.That would be the same deal that almost all Democrats blessed without so much as a peep.

Enter Donald Trump. To his credit, his administration has signaled that "strategic patience" is over. He has singled this is a variety of symbolic moves that make the usual "diplomacy forever crowd very nervous. To his additional credit, he has enlisted China to assist in defusing North Korea, although even with Chinese efforts, it's unlikely that any real progress will be made—unless Chinese patience truly is over.

We live in perilous times, but to suggest that all of this is somehow the fault of current politicians is dishonest. What we're seeing is the can bouncing toward the very end of the road. One can only wonder whether the end of road goes over a cliff.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Children and Adults

Donald Trump is threatening to cut the subsidies that are a cornerstone of Obamacare. He shouldn't do it.

The Obamacare legislation is among the most poorly conceived and ineffectively implemented major government programs in the history of our country. The Democrats own this debacle, but insist that it's strong and effective legislation. Okay ... let's wait and see.

The reality, despite media spin and the Dem's fantasy assessment, is that Obamacare far more costly than projected, provides "insurance" costs that are escalating rapidly (because policy holders are forced in coverage they may not want or need); has ridiculously high deductibles, and is increasingly hard to get in many parts of the country. Insurance companies are losing money and dropping out. "Exchanges" are failing. The program is collapsing under its own weight. Trump should not throw the Democrats a lifeline by allowing them to use his subsidy cuts as an excuse for the program's failure.

Let's be very clear. The euphemism "subsidies" means taxpayer money that might otherwise be used for infrastructure development, educational reform, tax reform, economic development, etc. Or ... possibly, money that might remain in the taxpayer's pocket. Specifically, taxpayer money is being use to subsidize insurance payments for those who cannot pay the full cost of insurance. On a humanitarian level, we have done this for decades, using taxpayer money to pay for Medicaid. The Dems have simply expanded the Medicaid entitlement to cover many, many more people. That would be okay, except for one key fact—Medicare/Medicaid are rapidly moving toward bankruptcy.

In their anger and disappointment over their election loss, the Dems refuse to work with the GOP to reform the healthcare program they, and they alone, created. It's as if the children stayed home and started a fire that wrecked their house. The adults return home and decide the only way forward is to tear the house down and rebuild. The children scream that a little paint and a some wallpaper will fix the damage, while at the same time denying that there's any damage at all. The adults note that the walls are collapsing, the floor is buckled, and the roof has holes in it. Looking at the burnt out shell of the house, who are you going to believe?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Revolution

The "revolutionary" spirit seems alive and well among young activists and students as they demand "safe spaces" to protect them from ideas and words that call their leftist ideology into question. At the same time, they congratulate themselves for their bravery as they demonstrate in places like Berkeley, CA or New York City. They regularly scream epithets at police who generally threaten them with nothing more than contempt. When they do become violent and break things (and they sometimes do), the biggest danger they face is tear gas and a ride in the paddy wagon with subsequent release on their own recognizance. Wow ... truth to power and all that.

Yesterday, I noted that the democratic party has lurched hard left, now led by the likes of Bernie Sanders, an 75 year old avowed socialist. Bernie tells cheering crowds that the United States needs a "revolution."

It's worth noting that our South American neighbor, Venezuela, experienced Bernie's socialist revolution less than 20 years ago and is rapidly descending into chaos. Demonstrations by Venezuelan students and activists are escalating throughout the country. But unlike their counterparts in the USA, these students and activists are fighting the very leftist revolution that Sanders espouses. In the process, they have no safe place.

The Venezuelan poor are are literally starving in the slums of Caracas and other cities and tell reporters they don't have enough energy to protest. The slum dwellers were Chavez' and Moduro's base of support at the turn of the century as these corrupt socialist leaders promised a "revolution" leading to a socialist utopia. Does any of this sound vaguely familiar?

The Wall Street Journal reports:
Venezuelans living through their own socialist political revolution appear to have decided they’ve had quite enough of it. Reuters reports today that “Venezuelan security forces fired tear gas as demonstrators staged what they billed as the ‘mother of all marches’ against President Nicolas Maduro.” Reuters adds, “Opposition supporters protested in Caracas and other cities, denouncing Maduro for eroding democracy and plunging the economy into chaos.”

On Tuesday night in Kentucky, the Socialist Mr. Sanders said Democrats need to go beyond their “zone of comfort” to promote their agenda.

Venezuelans have by now learned all about leaving their zone of comfort. On Monday the Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady noted that the Maduro government “is running out of money to buy imports, and since it has crippled domestic production, privation is growing more profound.”

Reuters reports today that “Carlos Moreno, 18, a student, was on his way to play soccer in Caracas and did not plan to take part in the demonstration when government supporters approached an opposition gathering and fired shots, according to witnesses and a family member. Moreno was shot in the head, they said.”

... So far this month pro-government militias or the police have allegedly killed three protesters in and around Barquisimeto, the capital city of Lara state. A demonstrator was fatally shot in Valencia—the third largest city in the country—and the governor of Carabobo state has admitted that the police were responsible. Another young protester was killed in a satellite city of Caracas, and an 87-year-old Caracas woman died when tear gas inundated her home.

Ms. O’Grady added that roving “bands of government-sponsored militias terrorize civil society.”

But protesters seem increasingly unwilling to be intimidated. “It’s time to stop being poor and hungry. I’m going to stay in the streets until we get rid of this government,” 21-year-old graphic designer Rolisber Aguirre told the Associated Press last week.

The news from down south gives American voters an opportunity to consider just how revolutionary they want their leaders to be.
The Dems might be advised to give all of this just a little thought as they flock to listen to Bernie et al push them increasingly leftward.

UPDATE:
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Bernie Sanders' calls for "revolution" and his suggestions that the Dems move beyond their “zone of comfort” is by veiled reference, a call for more government control, more income redistribution, and a more anti-business regulatory environment—sort of the Obama era (and an Obama economy) on steroids.

As if Venezuela's socialist government decided to demonstrate the end game for Sander's philosophy, today it announced the takeover of a GM plant in Valencia. At the beginning of their reign, socialists tout free enterprise, but before long, they must feed their ravenous hunger to control every aspect of society, including free enterprise. After all, capitalistas don't deserve to keep what they built, right? NBC News reports:
General Motors said Wednesday it has been forced to stop operating in Venezuela after one of its plants was illegally seized by local authorities.

The seizure, in the country's industrial hub of Valencia, comes amid a deepening economic and political crisis that has sparked weeks of deadly street protests.

General Motors Venezolana, GM's local subsidiary, did not provide any details about the seizure, other than to say the facility "was unexpectedly taken by authorities, preventing normal operations." It said other assets, "such as vehicles," had also been stripped from the site.
"Unexpectedly?" Not really.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Keep Digging

The Democratic party's national chairman, Tom Perez, along with his co-chair, Keith Ellison, and Bernie Sanders are touring red states with the intent of energizing the base in those states. The Dems obviously believe that after the Obama years, they simply aren't left wing enough. That's why they are now led by a chairman who contends that Donald Trump didn't win the election, a co-chair, who in addition to being far-left, is also anti-Israel and fundamentally an anti-Semite, and a Senator and hard core socialist who never saw a taxation and income redistribution scheme he didn't like.

The Democrats have made a fascinating transition over the Obama years—from a party that was certainly progressive, but had some degree of moderation, to a party that is increasingly hard left. They have become the party of identity politics; a party that criticizes many aspects of government and yet ironically are champions of even bigger, more intrusive government; a party that believes that higher and higher taxes are required to service the siren call for federal spending; a party whose base clearly despises a significant segment of the people who oppose their positions, subscribing, I think, to Hillary Clinton's characterization of them as "deplorables;" a party that sees "racism or misogyny or xenophobia" behind any opinion or action that calls their own world view into question; a party that increasingly believes that open borders are desirable; a party that prefers to ignore the threat of Islamic terrorism to Western institutions; a party that has descending into crazy conspiracy theories in which the Russians worked with Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton, and of course, the party that is so intent on opposing the Trump administration that it sometimes votes against its best interests and long-tern strategy (the opposition to Justice Neil Gorsuch comes to mind).

But Perez, Ellison and Sanders are off on their excellent adventure. They'll say all the right things to energize the base, but the real question is, will they energize anyone else?

John Daniel Davidson comments:
Party leaders have concluded, quite incorrectly, that if they want to be competitive at the state and national levels they must adopt the economic socialism of Sanders and the identity politics of Ellison, an African American and one of only two Muslims in the House.

But Ellison is also a fervent progressive and a radical leftist. Besides being the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and an early endorser of Sanders, he has some rather disturbing ideas about Israel and Jewish people, an abiding affection for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and a host of other deeply unsettling views.
Of course, the Democrats' trained hamsters in the mainstream media spend relatively little time discussing the long term impact of the Democrats' lurch to the left, except of course, to praise it without equivocation. They refuse to explore Sanders' and Ellison's "unsettling" views. The trained hamsters are an arm of the Democratic party, and yet, the Dems can't seem to win at the local, state or congressional level. That will change, it always does, but winning should have been a slam dunk with the media solidly in their corner. That might say more about the genral public's acceptance of their current lurch to left than many Democrats want to admit.

Again from Davidson:
... for all the changes afoot in the GOP, the real transformation in American politics is happening on the Left, where progressive zealots have taken over the Democratic Party and all but named Bernie Sanders [and Elizabeth Warren] their quixotic leader.

The irony is that those who lionize Sanders still don’t seem all that concerned about the things he cares about. Asked about the unity tour earlier this month, Sanders said, “It’s absolutely absurd that the Democratic Party has turned its back on working people in literally half the country.”

Sanders is right on that count. Working-class Democrats voted for Trump last year in all the places Clinton needed them to vote for her. Sanders’ concern about his party’s alienation of these voters is justified. The problem is, he’s now the de facto leader of a party that has embraced his socialism but written off the white working class, which it needs to win national elections.
Every time the Dems smile and arrogantly use the term "while privilege" or refer to our leaders as "old white men," they sink ever-deeper into a hole they just keep on digging. Every time they suggest that Hillary lost because of misogyny, they keep on digging. Every time they blame the Russians, they keep digging. Every time they allow anger and disappointment about the past election to shape their party's positions, attitudes, and strategy, they keep digging. I just hope as they dig deeper, the walls of the hole don't collapse around them.