Monday, July 25, 2016

Is Trump an Alternative to Sanders?

A day after New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist Mark Di Ionno reported how Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ support springs from the same cultural roots (Sanders success sign of middle class revolt—see my last post), the Star-Ledger argued, after Sanders’ nomination chances died, that Trump cannot satisfy Sanders voters' need for change. In urging Sanders supporters not to switch to Trump, the Star-Ledger writes that Donald Trump:

wants to expand his base by adding millions of voters who believe in using government to solve real problems that affect us all.

And that has been at the heart of Bernie Sanders' appeal throughout the campaign. For nearly a year, he has built a movement based on bringing as many people as possible into the circle of opportunity, and only a strong, progressive government does that.

Only government can lead the fight to reform education and Wall Street, expand health care, save our infrastructure, and rebuild the middle class.

This is not the kind of stuff Trump is selling, which most Sanders supporters should have discerned by now.

So it's mind-boggling that 20 percent of Sanders primary voters say they will support Trump in the general election in a Washington Post poll.

Yes, Trump is a statist, just like Sanders. Nonetheless “anyone,” writes the Star-Ledger, “who believes that Trump serves under the same flag is in for a grim reality check.”

I left these comments:

I’m disgusted with Trump as the GOP nominee. He is an authoritarian. This he shares with Bernie Sanders.

But the similarities diverge there. As the Star-Ledger says, “anyone who believes that Trump serves under the same flag is in for a grim reality check.” True. Trump is infinitely less bad than Sanders. Under the classic statist guise of creating a government that “works for all of the people,” Sanders means to strip the people of the individual freedom to live by their own judgement in support of their own lives, goals, values, and happiness. He is a self-described socialist, the very philosophical premise of which is to repudiate individual sovereignty and liberty on principle in favor of corralling us all into a chain gang controlled by a whip from Washington.

The Sanders movement encompasses people who more resemble the clueless inhabitants of Animal Farm—who blindly followed the pig leader Napoleon into tyranny, destitution, and slavery—rather than morally, economically, and historically enlightened American voters. Leaving aside Sanders’ specific policy proposals, which are secondary, my full thoughts on Sanders are laid out here: China’s Recovery from Socialism vs. Bernie Sanders, The Most Evil Politician in America.

Related Reading:

Sanders’s Open Socialism Blows the Cover Off of the Left’s Stealth Socialism

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Do Sanders’ and Trump’s Electoral Success Signal a ‘Middle Class Revolt?’

In a recent New Jersey Star-Ledger article, Mark Di Ionno argued that the electoral success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders is a sign of middle class revolt. He writes:

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump voters are like first cousins in an estranged family. They say they don't like each other, but they share the same DNA.

Anger. Frustration. The sense that the American dream, or the America they dreamed of, is slipping away.

The seeds were flung with the scattered formation of the tea party in 2009, followed by Occupy Wall Street. Different political views, yes, but same viewpoint:That America was no longer a place by the people and for the people. That it favors politicians and their corporate/special interests financers, and chews up and spits out the little guy. [sic]

When campaign workers at both Sanders and Trump headquarters described their demographic yesterday, they sounded identical.

"We have teachers, police, firemen, union guys. They all say the middle class is falling apart."[sic]

"Trump and Bernie supporters come from the same line of frustration," said [NJ state Assemblyman John Wisniewski. "They see bankers engaging in reckless behavior and destroying the economy, and never punished. They see a culture of political corruption."

There may be some truth to this line of analysis. But the question is, is this really a middle class revolt? What, exactly is the middle class? What are its roots? One of the biggest beefs, referenced several times in the article, is the issue of “good-paying manufacturing jobs going overseas.” What do these Sanders/Trump supporters demand? That it be stopped, freezing the status quo? Did stagnation build the middle class? Is ‘middle class’ synonymous with an entitlement mentality and government favoritism?

I left these comments:

How did we get to the point where the American Dream is threatened and diminished by a system that “favors politicians and their corporate/special interests financers, and chews up and spits out the little guy?” [sic]. In short, the mixed economy, regulatory welfare state—now at its vastest, most intrusive size ever.

Politics is the realm of government force. Economics is the realm of voluntary cooperation and exchange. Politics and economics should not mix, for the same reasons politics and religion should not mix. When they do, what do you get? In religion, you lose religious freedom and the opportunity to live by your own conscience, religious or non-religious. Likewise, when government force into the economy grows, voluntarism diminishes, along with freedom and its corollary—economic opportunity. And then you get a politically corrupted economy whereby the government becomes the tool of politicians and special interests—not just financiers—competing to forcibly impose their agendas by law; i.e., to “rig the system” in their favor at others’ expense. That’s how we got the 2008-09 financial crisis and Great Recession; the result of politicians, allying with a handful of mortgage lenders and eventually coercing the rest, employing the vast accumulated regulatory apparatus of the state to push “affordable housing” policies on the economy in the 1990s and 2000s, leading to a Perfect Storm of government intervention that triggered a monumental housing bubble, bust, and ultimately economic collapse.

The favoritism increases in proportion to government’s power over the people’s economic affairs. Make no mistake. The favoritism starts with government controls, not “corporate/special interests financiers.” The dollar is no match for a bullet. Without the government’s corrupting regulatory and tax powers, there could be no “rigging” of the economy by any private economic faction, be it the environmental, labor, business, or whatever lobby, and no incentive to do so. A private company can set its own $15 minimum wage, but it cannot outlaw all sub-$15 jobs by imposing it across the entire economy. Only government can do that. Likewise, a private financier can bail out any incompetent bank or auto company with his own money if he chooses, but he cannot force taxpayers to help fund it. Only government can do that. The same goes for all economic controls and favors.

Yet what do these alleged middle class rebels gravitate towards? Do they demand more economic freedom and less government control, the only kinds of reforms that can protect “the little guy?” No. They gravitate toward two authoritarians whose idea of “help” consists of continuing to expand the very regulatory powers that incentivize, enable, and feed the growth of cronyism and political corruption of the economy—one a self-described “democratic socialist” who would increase “public control of the means of production”—more government control over the economy—by stripping the individuals that comprise “the public” of the economic freedom to produce and trade for his own benefit; the other a nationalistic pragmatist who would subordinate the individual’s economic control to his shifting whims and deal-making skills.

The true middle class is marked by enlightened self-interest, self-reliance, respect for achievement, respect for the rights of others, and a self-sufficient attitude that doesn’t seek handouts or favors, but instead exploits the freedom to work and rise by voluntary trade with others. A true middle classer does not expect the entire economy to stagnate for his benefit. A true middle classer, for example, would recognize that a company has as much right to fire a worker as a worker has to quit a job; that a company has a much right to hire the workers of its choice as a job-seeker has to accept the best job offer he can find; that just as the worker is not a slave of a company, the company’s owners are not slaves of their workers; that each has the moral right to pursue their own economic self-interest, whether their interests align or diverge—and that any attempt to politically infringe another’s economic freedom for short-term gain eventually hurts us all.

I sympathize with the “Anger [and] Frustration” of the revolt, such as it is. I sympathize with “The sense that the American dream, or the America they dreamed of, is slipping away.” But not with the revolt’s misidentification of the causes or solutions. There are government policies that drive investment and jobs outside our borders for other than sound economic reasons. But the policies—e.g. the corporate income tax—not the global economy, is the problem. Xenophobia on trade is not the solution.

These pseudo-middle class rebels more resemble the clueless inhabitants of Animal Farm than the enlightened middle class rebellion we really need. If Trump and Sanders are the extent of the rebellion the middle class can muster, the American Dream—which is really nothing more than the political and economic freedom to pursue your dreams without any coercive human impediments—is in deeper trouble than anyone imagined.

Related Reading:

Trump’s Antitrust, Tax Attack on Bezos Still Not Enough Reason to ‘Dump Trump’

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Anti-Fossil Fuel Group ‘Food & Water Watch’ Would Restrict Energy Needed to Produce Plentiful Food and Clean Water

A letter appeared in the New Jersey Star-Ledger claiming that Fracking has been greenwashed as climate-friendly:

In a recent editorial, The Star-Ledger called green groups' opposition to fracking a "travesty" [Fracking, a help in the climate fight, deserves respect from greens. See my posts on this editorial here, here, and here.] The real travesty is how fracking has been greenwashed by the industry and the Obama administration as climate-friendly.

Pipelines and oil trains are crisscrossing the region to rush fracked oil and gas to LNG export terminals and refineries, which pose an immediate threat to drinking water, air quality and public health and safety.

We must reduce both carbon dioxide and methane [a byproduct of natural gas] to address climate change. We must stop the oil trains and pipelines. This means we must stop extreme fossil fuel extraction (which includes fracked gas and oil) and move decisively to true, green energy.

This letter was submitted by Jim Walsh, the New Jersey-based Mid-Atlantic Region Director at a group calling itself, interestingly, Food & Water Watch.

I left these comments:

The author of the letter accusing the Star-Ledger, the industry, and the Obama Administration of “greenwashing” fracking identifies himself as “Jim Walsh, the New Jersey-based Mid-Atlantic Region Director at Food & Water Watch.”

But exactly what food and water does this organization watch? Water doesn’t just come out of our taps automatically from nature. Nor does enough food to feed 7 billion people just happen in nature. Walsh apparently wants us to believe that water and food are just there in nature, and fracking destroys it. But, if Food and Water Watch actually had their eyes open, they’d recognize that the opposite is true. Both adequate clean water and plentiful, nutritious food require massive amounts of reliable fossil fuel energy to produce and deliver, and fracking is the most important energy advance contributing to that flow of water and food producing energy in a long time.

Yet climate witch doctors are trying to take away this vital energy, in the quasi-religious hope that someone, somehow will figure out a way to make “true, green energy” replace it. But nowhere on Earth has “green” energy—solar or wind—proven capable of serving as a primary, dependable energy source. Why is India turning massively to fossil fuels to bring clean water to the 40% of its people that don’t yet have it? Because no fossil fuels, no clean water. Why is our air cleaner than where people from unindustrialized, non-fossil fuel-using regions must rely on dirty, open wood-, coal-, and dung-burning indoor fires for cooking and heating? Because of central fossil-fueled power plants, equipped with modern anti-pollution technologies. Why do we live longer, healthier lives than ever before? Why are we safer than ever from climate-related extreme weather dangers? Fossil fuels.

Anti-fossil activists are not interested in making “green” energy capable of replacing the economical, reliable, industrial-scale energy now provided mainly by fossil fuels. Observe that no one proposes to stop “green energy” from competing in the market. Observe that the Greens want to use government force to shut down our life-giving, proven energy in the hope that “true, green energy” will miraculously do what it hasn’t yet been proven capable of doing—provide economical, reliable, industrial-scale energy. What will happen when we “stop extreme fossil fuel extraction (which includes fracked gas and oil)” and our lights go out, our water stops running, our food becomes increasingly scarce, our heat doesn’t work, our hospitals and schools and factories shut down, and our way of life grinds to a halt, because “green” energy isn’t ready?

There certainly is an “immediate threat to drinking water, air quality and public health and safety”—the energy enemies, armed with unsubstantiated climate alarmism and blind faith in green alternatives. Fracking may not be green, by Walsh’s standards. But neither is “green” energy—far from it. And fracking is great for human life. As long as Walsh, pop-up activist groups like “Food and Water Watch,” and their ilk maintain their war on fossil fuels and other reliable energy sources like nuclear and hydro, the one motive they have no moral right to claim is concern for human well-being.

Related Reading:

Fossil Fuels and Climate Change: Remember Life Before Them

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Missing Ingredient in the Debate Over the Constitutional 'Fix' for NJ's Pension 'Crisis'

In November, New Jersey voters will choose whether to amend the state constitution to require the state to fully fund the state pension system, which is now deeply in the hole. The amendment would require the state to make fixed annual payments to the pension, come hell or high water.

Mark J. Magyar, the policy director for the New Jersey Senate Democratic Office and former adviser to Republican Gov. [Christie] Whitman and the independent Daggett for Governor campaign, argued in a New Jersey Star-Ledger guest column in favor of the amendment.

Some have come out strongly against it. While Magyar clings to the classic magic Leftist fix for all of society’s problems, taxing millionaires and business corporations to fund the pension payments, others strongly disagree:

The governor and his pension commission leaders — Tom Healey, a former assistant U.S. Treasury secretary under President Reagan, and Tom Byrne, the State Investment Council chair and former Democratic Party leader — argue vociferously that making the pension payments would require massive [sales and income] tax increases on all New Jerseyans and draconian cuts to school aid and other government services.

The problem is, neither side wants to alter the basic structure of public sector union benefits. I left these comments, somewhat edited for clarity:

The constitutional 'fix' for the pension 'crisis' misses the fundamental problem—the disconnect between funding and beneficiary. Under the current setup, politicians can and do over-promise benefits to public sector employees while kicking the issue of how to pay for it down the road to future governors and legislators. The result is “crisis.” The loser is the general taxpayer.

This disconnect is inherently corrupt. The best reform long-term is to have the beneficiaries pay for their own benefits. This can be done in one of two ways; either convert to a defined contribution plan, or turn the retirement funds over to the unions to manage.  

The later way would involve setting a contractually fixed “total compensation package” for public union employees, and then let the employees, through their unions, set their own benefit schedule and then divide their total pay package between benefits and pocket salary accordingly. That’s the way it works for private sector trade unions. I am a retired member of a private sector plumbers local union. Our union membership, through an elected board of trustees—and working within the confines of a total pay package fixed by periodic contractual agreements negotiated with union contractors’ representatives—controls both the pension and health benefits funds. (The board includes employer representatives.)

We the union membership, through our trustees, are responsible for keeping contributions and benefits in line. The membership understands that simply demanding increased benefits is not enough. We must also be willing to provide appropriate funding. If the funds become underfunded—e.g., because of a bear market in stocks—we the union membership can not simply go back to the contractors and demand they make up the shortfall, as public sector unions now demand of taxpayers. The total pay package is set by contract. We must decide either to cut our benefits or increase funding by reducing our wages. You’d be amazed at how responsible people can be when they are actually responsible for their own financial affairs. All of the incentives tend toward responsible management of the funds.

Turning the retirement funds over the public sector unions would leave a much smaller state fund for non-union employees (of which my wife is one, now retired), which can then be frozen and replaced with a defined contribution plan. The upshot would be that the public sector unions would no longer be able to conspire with political allies to boost benefits with no regard for funding. Taxpayers would know exactly what their government employees are costing them. End of crisis. End of perpetual political brawls.

Magyar’s article is titled The truth about N.J.'s pension crisis and how to fix it. But the real truth about NJ’s pension crisis is that if we don’t fix the fundamental problem, a constitutional amendment would only make it worse. Fix the fundamental problem, and we can leave the constitution out of it, as we should. As for the current underfunding “crisis,” if taxes must be raised to pay for the unfunded promised benefits, the tax burden should be spread proportionally among all taxpayers, rather than unfairly dumping the burden on a small minority whose only crime is economic success.

Related Reading:

NJ’s Pension Funding Crisis and Public Tax Hypocrisy

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Democrats’ Proposed Wall Street Trading Tax is Immoral and Regressive

The Democrats’ proposed party platform is full of unabashed statism. For example, Bloomberg reports Democrats Assail Wall Street With Plan That May Hit Mom and Pop:

Democrats are courting progressive-minded Americans by calling for a tax on Wall Street trades. If the party succeeds, the mom-and-pop investors they’re wooing could bear the brunt.

The Democratic Party’s platform doesn’t specify the size of the tax. A bill Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, introduced Wednesday would tack on a 0.03 percent fee onto stock, bond and derivatives trades in the U.S. He said it would “discourage the same speculative financial trading that led to the 2008 Wall Street collapse and 2010 ‘Flash Crash.’”

Though that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s enough to potentially make a difference to the high-frequency traders investors rely on to complete their trades.

First, notice the bias: Bloomberg refers to supporters of the tax as “progressive-minded Americans.” But this and similar taxes that target specific segments are not progressive. Such targeted tax punishment is regressive, because it’s based on political inequality, not equal protection of the law. Further, the tax is intended to coercively enforce behavior that conforms to what government officials think should motivate people. As one supporter reportedly said, the tax is intended to “stem volatility and promote a long-term view among investors.” Such arrogance indicates the mentality of a thug who fancies himself more knowledgeable about what other people’s financial interests and goals should be than they are, and there’s nothing progressive about nanny thuggery.

Then notice the Big Lie, the standard Left statist mantra that switches the blame for the financial crisis away from the government culprits and unto private sector scapegoats; in this case, the “Wall Street speculators.”

Worse still, this proposed tax offers a peek inside the “progressive” mind. As Bloomberg reports, the tax will chill trading and reduce liquidity markets depend on, hurting small investors:

Tim Buckley, the chief investment officer of Vanguard Group, said taxes on financial transactions can backfire, upsetting a natural part of the market’s ecosystem. Vanguard, with more than $3 trillion in assets, is the investing gateway for millions of Americans.

“High-frequency trading plays a critical role,” he said. “When you put a tax on transactions, you risk damaging liquidity. As mutual fund investors we rely on having liquidity,” he added. “A drop in liquidity is bad for fund shareholders.”

Another opponent of the tax, Bloomberg reports, said

“If you look at what most of those high-frequency traders actually do, they are doing things that really support long-term investors,” said James Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University in Washington, adding that the trouble with financial transaction taxes is that they “wind up being paid for by the mom-and-pop investors at the end of the day.”

So much for the Democrats’ concern for long term investing.

There may be differing opinions about how such a tax will affect the average investor. But one thing is sure: “progressive-minded Americans” don’t give a damn about the poor or the middle class or mom-and-pop or “the little guy.” They’re motivated primarily by hatred of success and wealth. They’re also motivated by power purchased by buying votes with promises of handouts. “The money could fund college tuition, Sanders argued during his campaign.”

The bottom line is that taxes targeted at unpopular or politically disfavored groups, or intended to coercively encourage or discourage behavior according to politicians’ whims, or motivated by envy or demagoguery or powerlust, are immoral as well as economically destructive. But this is the face of the modern, nihilistic, New Left Democrat Party.

Related Reading:

Wall Street’s ‘Unfairness’ Shouldn’t Scare the ‘Little Guy’ Out of the Stock Market

Friday, July 15, 2016

This Year’s Election Choice: 3rd Party or Best Platform?

Former New Jersey Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman penned a NJ Star-Ledger guest column calling for a vote for a 3rd party candidate in this year’s presidential election. Whitman had previously announced that she would not support Donald Trump, and might even consider voting for Hillary Clinton. Now, she says in light of the e-mail scandals,

The problem with Hillary Clinton's deceptions and Donald Trump's disregard for the truth or the Constitution is that it leaves the American voter with unacceptable choices.

I left these comments:

True. The choice stinks. But a 3rd party candidate is not the only viable alternative. There is another way to look at this year’s election; as a choice between major party platforms.

The Democrats have lurched more heavily toward statism and nihilism as ever before. If their platform recommendations are adopted, they will call for a war on reliable energy, in the form of going 50% “green” energy  within 10 years and elimination of fossil fuels by 2050; a war on individual diversity and achievement, in the form of an anti-economic inequality crusade; and a war on free speech and intellectual freedom, in the form of a call for blatantly fascist Justice Department investigations and criminal prosecutions of dissenters from the Left’s climate catastrophism dogma under cover of “fraud.” The Democrats stand clearly with tyranny and regression.

If the Republicans counter with an equally radical pro-liberty platform, a vote for Trump, distasteful as that may be, would be immensely better than allowing Hillary to backdoor into the White House on the back of an electorally split political Right. If he surrounds himself with appointments loyal to the GOP platform, a Trump presidency could not only be less bad than expected but progressive.

If the Democrat Party were still led by “Old Left” liberals like Scoop Jackson, JFK, Hubert Humphrey, Patrick Moynahan, and Joe Lieberman, a 3rd party protest vote would be a viable alternative, because a Democrat victory wouldn’t be so bad. But the modern Democrats have become dominated by neo-communist “New Left” enemies of capitalism, technological progress, and the Declaration of Independence.

I’ve toyed with the idea of voting for a 3rd party candidate such as the Libertarian Party ticket, or simply abstaining from voting for a presidential candidate. But the 2016 Democrats are just too horrendously dangerous to stomach. Once the conventions are over, I’ll study the party platforms and vote accordingly. From what I’m reading, the Democrats will end up with a thoroughly authoritarian egalitarian, environmentalist, and anti-First Amendment platform. With the Democrats adopting such an undisguised fascist identity, I may well find it unthinkable—pending a convincing GOP platform alternative—not to vote Republican, even with Donald Trump at the head of the ticket.

Related Reading:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The NJ Star-Ledger Misses Essential Problem With Anti-Trump 'Protesters'

In a recent editorial, A suggestion to anti-Trump forces: Keep it civil, the New Jersey Star-Ledger chastised the anti-Trump protesters for their disruptive tactics, which range from “senseless acts of violence” to “F-bombs and other bilious assaults.”

Why stop the disruptions? Because, the Star-Ledger laments, they “provide all the ammunition the candidate needs to justify his campaign of unapologetic thuggery.”

Here's the best option for the anti-Trumpers: Stop.

Stop giving him what he wants. Stop being played like a sucker. Stop signing up as  extras in his tent revival routine. Stop being part of the WWE chair-tossing horde. Stop giving the press hours of B-roll they can run in a loop over their dirge-like narration.

And stop bringing protests into the building for the purpose of disrupting his polluted stream of consciousness, because his campaign feeds on that, gains strength from it, like some deadly virus bred in George Wallace's basement.

Violence is something Trump welcomes.

Not a word about Trump’s right to speak. Freedom of speech isn’t mentioned once.

I left these comments:

So the only reason to oppose anti-Trump protest tactics is that it strengthens Trump? What if the thuggery hurt Trump in the polls? Would the violence then be acceptable? That’s the implication.

The Star-Ledger’s position is hollow. True, violent and disruptive protest is uncivil. But the much more important—and essential—reason to oppose the anti-Trump tactics is that everyone has the fundamental, inalienable, moral, constitutional right to speak his mind without coercive interference. Rather than criticize the ‘protesters’ on shallow partisan political grounds, the Star-Ledger should have unequivocally defended Trump’s right to advocate his ideas.

J. K. Rowling, speaking at the Pen Literary Awards Gala and a Trump opponent, showed the right approach:

Trump’s freedom to speak . . . guarantees mine.

Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination: If you seek the removal of freedom from an opponent simply because they have offended you, you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture and kill with exactly the same justification.

That’s how you oppose disruptive or violent protest (as well as any government attempt to trample free speech). As Rowling also correctly observed, the power to shut down the next guy’s speech can easily be turned against you. After all, how does one counter disagreeable ideas? With your own free speech rights. On this point, President Obama, whom I rarely agree with, had these words of wisdom at Howard University’s commencement:

So don’t try to shut folks . . . down, no matter how much you might disagree with them.

Have the confidence to challenge them, the confidence in the rightness of your position. There will be times when you shouldn’t compromise your core values, your integrity, and you will have the responsibility to speak up in the face of injustice.

But listen. Engage. If the other side has a point, learn from them. If they’re wrong, rebut them. Teach them. Beat them on the battlefield of ideas.

There is no civil society without an unencumbered battlefield of ideas. There is no battlefield of ideas unless everyone’s free speech is defended and protected absolutely and without caveats or apologies (within the context of the inalienability of all of our political rights, the only kind there are). Rowling and Obama have it right. The Star-Ledger has it wrong. The Star-Ledger exploited the anti-trump thuggery merely as a sleazy opportunity to bash Trump, when it should have taken the moral high road of defending free speech.

Related Reading:

Title 2: A Lesson on Activism - from the Left