Monday, January 2, 2017
Congrats, America. We got the corrupt, lying, narcissist for president, and and have cemented control of the Republican Party.
Certainly the Democrats need to do better in the next elections. I would imagine a combination of better economic policy for those on the bottom two-thirds of the wealth spectrum, and somehow breaking through to change or appeal to the conservative white rural culture. Cannot say I have anything close to an easy answer for that given the gulf in media, social contact, and cultural assumptions. There is the possibility that economic mismanagement from the Republicans will do the immediate work for us, though that only bought the Democrats 2008 and had some effect on 2006. Sure came back to bite us in the ass in 2010 and a better plan is needed.
So, yes. What to expect in the next few years while the left attempts to rebuild its electoral strategy?
It's going to be hell.
Given Trump's lack of policy details and his erratic personality, it is difficult to predict what kind of hell, but with the Republican Congress and the advisers Trump is promoting, we can get some general outlines. Those outlines would be increased inequality, barriers to trade, more damage to the environment, increased militarization, and increased risk of war. All while stumbling towards fascism.
For overall government plans with taxes and expenditures, I expect the Tea Party/Norquist dreams to be put into force. Paul Ryan's plans may mostly go through, cutting taxes for the wealthy and reducing government finances. I expect to see the shredding the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. Permanent removal of the ACA may be out of reach, but vastly weakened, with millions losing health insurance. Social Security spending my slashed. I certainly expect to see financial regulation reduced. Dodd-Frank did not go far enough, but what little it did will be pared back.
Perhaps the one area that might see increased government expenditure, outside the military and police, will be the infrastructure improvement that the Republicans blocked throughout Obama's administration. Yay hypocrisy! While I do support a significant boost in infrastructure spending in this country, Trump's plan looks extremely unpleasant by funding the infrastructure through tax credits for toll roads and bridges.
Trade is a big unknown. Trump makes a lot of noise about protecting American workers from unfair trade deals, and wants to boost tariffs. Trade restrictions may benefit some parts of the economy, but at the cost of inflation. If a full scale trade war breaks out, well, that alone could blow up the world economy.
With the tax reduction and potentially increased infrastructure spending, we will potentially see some boost in growth and inflation. We'll also see a significant boost in government debt that the Republicans fought so hard against when it was Obama in charge. Who knows where things will go with trade, but the uncertainty will be unstabilizing. Paring back financial regulations will also leave us much more open to bubbles. America has been in one of the longest periods of economic expansion in history. It has been slow and unequal, but it is going to end at some point. I would take good odds that it'll happen in the next four years. Question is how bad it will be.
Outside of economics and healthcare policy, there's the horror show facing civil liberties, the environment, birth control and abortion. Education and science research will be cut.
Then the big one for a lot of Trump's base, immigration. He's made enough noise about this that I am more certain of action on this than on most of his other half-baked policy proposals. Given that the number of illegal immigrants in the US has been declining since 2009, and Obama has already deported more people than any other president, we're already in that direction, but the degree sounds frightening. If Trump does manage to deport, say 3 million people in the next year or two I can only imagine the results. Hell for the immigrants themselves of course, and the second order effects will be unpleasant. America is already at its lowest population growth in 80 years, and if we expel that many immigrants, I wonder if we could tip towards negative.
Ah, and I almost forgot, foreign policy. Another frightening unknown. Given the hawks it looks like Trump is appointing, I wouldn't be surprised if we end up in a new shooting war with Iran. Or if we trade the Ukraine to Russia in exchange for ownership of Venezuela. Or how dangerous things will get with China. Who knows? I'm speculating. Unfortunately Trump is erratic, inexperienced, and what will happen is a damn mystery that could easily leave a lot of people dead.
Outside of politics, economic and technological trends are going to continue to not be kind to the rural areas that voted for Trump. Manufacturing automation will continue. Online delivery services will continue to rip out local retail. Soon as we cross the Rubicon of automated trucks and delivery drones, that's another few million jobs gone, though that may take another ten years. All the voters in coal country that enthusiastically supported Trump are still going to see demand for coal fall as natural gas remains cheap and solar prices thankfully continues to fall. Unfortunately, the Republicans won't provide support for those left behind. Resentment will build.
A big question I have is whether there will be any increase in communication between the left and right in this country, or if the opposing sides will keep living in their own bubbles, hating the other. Unsure how to get around that problem. Possibly work by tech and media companies to force people out of their filter bubbles. Possibly a significant push in cities for more housing construction in order to lower the cost of living and allow more to move to urban areas.
Sigh. See what happens in 2017. In America, I expect hell for the poor and minorities, possible boon for the wealthy. Increased risk of another economic meltdown. Increased global instability. Brace yourselves.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
A few hours after my last post, sitting in the backseat of a car as we cross the interstate highway system, and I realize my attempted explanation of the election was only partial. A framing of how things went pear shaped, as opposed to a direct answer.
Why the hell did rural America and a balance of the suburbs settle on a millionaire (potentially billionaire, who knows?) real estate mogul from New York?
Was it just the tribal politics of being Republican? The few keywords of "abortion is bad!", "foreigners and immigrants are stealing our jobs!", and that's all it fucking took? Would Cruz or Kasich have done essentially the same in place of Trump? Would Bernie or Cory Booker or O'Malley or Elizabeth Warren have lost by the same margin as Hillary?
What could Hillary have done differently that would have won it for her?
Yes, blind tribalism is incredibly significant, and it does look to be increasing, but, presidential elections still go back and forth. What does it take to shift the few undecided voters, to increase the turnout in a few states?
Maybe a new politician who's not part of "the establishment" would have done better than Hillary. On the other hand Obama still has very high approval ratings.
Maybe it is simply better addressing the concerns of rural voters, and Bernie would have won enough of them over and provided the turnout needed.
I'm not sure. It does not appear to be policy, and I do not know what it takes to tip the balance of the cultural divide, much less break through it.
There have, of course, been many think pieces investigating the loss, and explanations seem to settle on a couple of main themes. There is the idea that Hillary lost the white working class. There is the counter proposal that it had little to do with class, but instead whites rejecting Clinton out of a conservative, racist, misogynist backlash1, 2. I lean towards saying it more accurate cultural divide is more rural vs urban than it is conservative vs liberal, but are the two becoming the same? Other ascribe the difference to less talked about markers such as education. Or is it simply that Hillary was an unlikeable establishment candidate, hamstrung by her own mistakes and decades of Republican attacks.
Compared to 2012, the gender gap increased slightly with five percent more men voting more for Trump than men for Romney, and more one percent women for Hillary than women for Obama.
The education gap increased significantly. Those with college or postgraduate degrees voted Democratic by eight more points than in last presidential election. The education divide is especially significant when combined with race. Whites with college degrees shifted ten points to Democrats, and whites without degrees shifted 14 points to Republicans.
People earning under $50,000 a year, though they did vote primarily for Hillary, voted more Republican than in 2012. Those earning between $50,000 and $200,000 voted for Trump by a very small margin, but voted more Democratic than in 2012.
The overall contours of the racial divide appear similar to 2012, with whites voting primarily Republican, and non-whites voting Democratic, though all racial groups voted slightly more Republican.
The above give some credence to the theory that it was the lack of support amongst the white working class that cost Hillary the election, but I find it hard to say that it was the primary reason. It does depend on your definition of working class, some would say that working class is mostly in the income range of $50,000 to $80,000. Either way, Those earning under $50k still voted primarily for Hillary, if by a lower proportion than previously. Those earning between $50k and $100k voted more Democratic than in 2012, but still voted for Trump 50% to 46%.
If Hillary had had the same support among the income under $50k demographic as Obama did, she may have won the necessary states. However, you could also say that about the votes she won from blacks and Latinos. Both could simply fit under the explanation of a lack of Democratic voter enthusiasm.
I find less evidence that it was a white revolt. White voters apparently only voted one percent more for Trump than they did for Romney. There was significantly more racist rhetoric used on the campaign trail, but I would hazard that more revealed existing cultural divides then brought about new ones.
In the end, I find the rural/urban divide to be the most powerful summary explanation.
As in recent elections, rural voters went Republican, urban voters went Democratic, and suburban voters were fairly close. The NYT exit polls I linked to irritatingly lack the arrows indicating transitions from 2012, but they cover the topic here. The divide is significant and continuing to grow. Due in large part to this, the number of people living in landslide counties that voted for one party over the other now stands at 60%.
There are of course many causes for the election outcome. Economics, and the declining standard of living in the middle and lower classes is a significant factor. The Democrats should have done a better job of addressing this, but I do not view it as the fundamental divide, though it likely contributed to enthusiasm. The Democrats push far harder for the poor and working classes than the Republicans do, and it has largely been the Republicans in Congress preventing Obama from taking further action on this the last few years. There is definitely cultural and racial resentment, that is partly attributable to economics with people wishing for jobs, but I believe far more of the cause goes to the rural vs urban divide, and the cultural splitting of America.
As a partisan leftist/liberal Democrat living in San Francisco, Trump voters seem culturally alien and terrifying. I say this despite having some long ago friends from high school from back home and possibly even some relatives who voted for Trump. These days, my social circle has essentially nil Republican voters. Across this cultural divide the two sides rarely talks to each other, they view different media, and believe their own facts. It looks like the best explanation for this is the actual physical divide between urban and rural citizens. The cultural divide is increasingly a result of the different sides living in different neighborhoods, in different counties.
A book I enjoyed tremendously a few years ago, The Big Sort, still holds a lot explanatory power today. The author Bill Bishop has some good thoughts on how the trends he noted in 2004 have continued in 2016. I highly recommend it to anyone with a concern for the US. It provides a wealth of data about how communities have become more politically and culturally homogenous over the last forty years as we sort ourselves out, and the effects thereof on political extremism.
I fear for what happens next. The entire world may be drifting right. America is becoming more divided, culturally and economically, and Trump and the Republican Party seem hell bent on increasing the divide.
Sunday, November 13, 2016
Sunday, August 7, 2016
I have a visceral revulsion to Trump, and what he represents for our government, for our culture. The strongman, willful ignorance, and hatred of the other makes my skin crawl. The man appears to me as a literal monster. The worst parts of Nixon, Mussolini, and the dreck of Fox News rolled into one.
Yet, on the right, there are similar feelings for Hillary, and I have a hard time having empathy for this position. I have certainly tried. All the books and articles about the diverging cultures in America, the diverging economies, and it still gives me no intuitive understanding. I find it hard to empathize with the pro-Trump articles I read as anything other than frothing right-wing hatred and conspiracy theories that are suggestive of needing to be checked into a mental institution. In my social circles I do not have one associate openly advocating for Trump.
But the polls! Depending on your sources, the polls have been frightfully even at times. I have been a tremendous fan of FiveThirtyEight the last eight years, and only a few weeks ago it was painting a picture of close to even odds. Fortunately, the polls have swung back to Hillary, but it is still 90 some days to go. I honestly have a hard time grasping why Clinton is not, at minimum, up twelve points in the polls against Trump. Even the current odds, which are tremendously better than two weeks ago, are about the same as the odds of surviving a round of Russian roulette.
How would I explain what I have learned in trying to understand the millions of people that would vote for Trump? There is a tremendous amount of anger in America, from people across the spectrum. But why is Trump the result of this?
There is the economic side. Many people are left behind by the economy, with increasing wage inequality and the decline of middle class careers, especially for those with less of an education. I certainly agree that our economic system is more divided than ever, but, damn, why would you turn to the Republican party for salvation? Fair, if you can discern a pattern out of the incoherence spouting from Trump's mouth, he may be pushing the Republican party to the left economically. He is arguing for revising trade agreements, protecting social security, and increasing infrastructure spending. Still, that argument seems tenuous. First, it's hard to trust the Republican Party wanting to do anything for the poor or disadvantaged. Second, it's hard to trust Trump to do anything in particular.
Past economics, what of it is culture? There are many who do not like how our culture is changing, or feel imposed upon by the coastal urban centers. There are simply those who are partisan Republicans the same way I am a partisan Democrat. And then a lot, if not all, of Trump's support is racist, nationalist, misogynistic, culturally-conservative bastards who hate the other. That might explain things, but it doesn't give me much in the the way of empathy. I am for a political force that helps everyone, but that is a movement that deserves to be stamped out of existence.
So what positive could I say about Trump if I squint hard enough? He is anti-establishment, and a change from politics as normal. Not being beholden to the Republican establishment, he may shift policies in a new direction. He does pay attention to those left behind by the unexciting recovery from the Great Recession. And...
That's about it.
Let's hope we we survive through November.
Monday, June 6, 2016
It is, for the most part, a moot point, as Hillary has an essentially insurmountable lead in both the pledged and superdelegates. After the votes this weekend in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and the latest shuffling of superdelegates, the A.P. just called the race for her a few hours ago. Bernie is, of course, soldiering on and vowing to fight on to a contested convention, though I imagine Obama, Warren, and a throng of others will be endorsing Hillary tomorrow. Still, a win in California may prolong things.
Why my conflict with this? Why not say of course to the adamant fighting on for principle till the last vote is counted?
It is possible that I've become more supportive of Hillary, despite the private email server mess, and the unchanging aspects of her overly hawkish foreign policy, and unfortunately close relationship with the financial industry. She is after all, by most counts outside of the 2016 primary, quite to the progressive side of the Democrats, is extremely experienced, and an excellent politician.
It is certainly in large part because of fear of the festering boil that is Donald Trump, and a desire for the Democrats to focus on tearing him out root and branch.
Lastly, yes, some of it has been disappointment with Bernie. That is where my conflict is. I admire Bernie, I trust his personal ethics and commitment, and his desire for large scale revolutionary change. On the other hand, his policy plans, and the numbers behind them, seem near as wistfully inaccurate as the ones coming out from the Republicans. And at this stage of the game, he, and the followers he inspires, seem to be on the verge of tipping over from resolute defiance to self-destructive delusion. The Facebook friends of mine that swear they'll vote for Jill Stein if Bernie doesn't win the nomination make me want to scream. Doesn't anyone remember 2000? Christ, yes, I know we have a political system with a first-past-the-post system that forces us into a two-party system, and that that is hideously offensive to many of our beliefs, but we're not going to change that in the next six months. You want viable third party candidates, we'll need to rewrite the constitution. Believe me, I'd love to. I want a greater degree of proportional representation or instant-runoff voting, or at least abandoning the Electoral College. But right now, we have to keep Trump out. The odds on Trump winning are likelier than they should be. Would that more of our electorate were sane and educated and tolerant. I remember W far too well and that disaster of a human is head and shoulders above Trump.
So, there I am on the Democratic primary. I would still prefer Bernie to be president over Hillary, and so will most likely still vote for him, but I cannot say I will do so with as great an enthusiasm as I had hoped for.
In local news, I am likely to support the endorsements of the SF YIMBY slate and SPUR. As another personal conflict, that puts me to the moderate side of the local housing debate, as apparently resisting new housing is what makes you a 'progressive' in local SF politics.
Sigh. This may be the getting older I feared.
Sunday, April 10, 2016
For those of you who don't read over my shoulder everything I skim on the internet, what exactly is a basic income? Wikipedia has the intro on basic income covered, but as I have seen it presented, the idea is to give every citizen, or every citizen at age of majority, a direct income. Simply a check every month or similar, with no means testing, generally so as to replace all, or most other, social programs such as social security, food stamps, welfare, etc. The amount of money that would be paid out in such a system is up for debate, with some arguing that it should be enough to survive on, and others wanting just a baseline level of aid. The minimal level of aid could be along the lines of what is already done with the Alaska Permanent Fund, or Norway's similar distribution of oil revenue through the Government Pension Fund of Norway.
Firstly, what is the reason one would want to do this? Looking at the collection of American law and regulation designed to provide aid and a reliable source of income, I see a complicated mess. As a software developer, it is the sort of situation that makes me dream of throwing it out and rewriting it from scratch, in as simplistic and direct a way as possible. Giving the same amount of money to everyone, through one singular program, with no means testing, is pretty much that ideal. Presuming it works, and is affordable, of course.
So, what might the benefits be? Beyond the simplifying of bureaucracy, there are, theoretically, a number. The system, being so simple, would be harder to corrupt. Furthermore, it removes a good share of the perverse incentives seen with many welfare systems. If you only get aid when you are below the poverty line, getting an income that would boost you above the poverty line is, if not a negative, is less of a positive than it would otherwise be.
The overall goal, of providing aid, and putting a floor on poverty is, in my mind, necessary. We've got a vast proportion of our population that's in poverty or unfortunately close to poverty. Wealth is becoming increasingly concentrated. There's a lot of risk in the future that jobs will be wiped out faster than people can train for new ones. Giving every citizen an equal amount of money will help equalize things and prevent abject poverty and social stratification.
There is the question of what to set the level of payments at. If set too low, you are providing less aid than with current systems, and some people are losing out. If set too high, you create a system that we cannot afford, and discourages people from wanting to work at all. Much as I would like to hope otherwise, I think we're at least a few years away from the futuristic utopia where robots do most of the work and we can all get by on five weeks of work a year. Maybe not too far, but not something we can just start tomorrow.
So, what could this basic income level be set at? Of all the papers about it I've seen on the net, I've seen very few with direct numbers.
As a first thought experiment, what would happen with a revenue neutral basic income? Do not change current tax rates, or total social program spending. Simply get rid of social security, food stamps, minimum wage, welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, etc, and just give every citizen a check each month. What happens then?
For the roughest of back of the napkin calculations, bear in mind I'm not an economist, it looks like we spend ~2.25-2.5 trillion per year on the programs I mentioned. And there are ~320 million Americans, ~240 million of them over the age of 18. So, if we gave each of them an even distribution of that money, that would be approximately, $10,00 a year for citizen over the age of 18. That actually lines up fairly well with what New Zealand, Finland, Canada, and the Netherlands are experimenting with,
Not enough to get by on, certainly, which mostly avoids the problem of discouraging people from working, but how would the end result work, and who suffers? If you're giving this money out to all citizens instead of some subset of citizens, there are going to be people getting less money. Looking into that, I realized that I had no idea what the max social security distribution is in the US. Apparently it's about $2,639, for people who have contributed the maximum taxable earnings for 35 working years. For maximum benefits through welfare, SNAP, Medicaid, etc, I have even less of an idea, but after a brief internet search looks like for some people is greater than one thousand a month.
Distributing all this money perfectly evenly, instead of targeting it, would thus, of course, create a number of winners and losers. Despite the efficiency gains of such a program, a number of people currently hurting the most, would have aid reduced.
Furthermore, what are the efficiency gains? There are all the potential benefits of removing perverse incentives, but measuring that is mostly up to ambiguous econ theory to debate, Then, how many fewer people would it take to administer such a program? As not-an-economist, and spending a few seconds looking on the web, I see the US currently employs 62,000 people in the Social Security Administration, and after that, sifting through docs from OPM gets complicated. I imagine a good number of jobs would no longer be needed, but hardly enough to have a sizable impact on the amount of payout such a system would be able to give.
What if you wanted to increase the amount of basic income, in order to compensate for those losing out due to decreased payments? As a basic income is being given to all people, tax burdens on people not currently receiving aid, but who would under a basic income system, could be increased without changing their effective income levels, but then it all becomes a question of tax policy.
I love the aesthetics of such a basic income plan, its ideals, and basic argument, but still need more details to have any idea how it would actually work. Glad they are experimenting with it in other parts of the world, and look forward to seeing what happens.
Monday, April 4, 2016
This week, after taking care of a work project that had consumed a good share of my free time the last month or two, I finally got around to a number of the items on my to-do list that I'd been ignoring. One of which was plugging in my new Dexcom G5 continuous glucose monitor. Now I have not one, but two Bluetooth enabled devices that plug in underneath my skin. Woo! It's the 21st Century alright. Not long until my eyes glow and I can punch through walls, right?
I've been a type 1 diabetic for a little more than 24 years now. This is cause for a moderate amount of watching my diet, frequently testing my blood sugar via finger pricks, and adjusting insulin dosages five to ten times a day. For the most part it's an inconvenience, admittedly with a constant dread that my long term health will suffer. Frequently though the blood sugars do something unexpected, either spiking high and leaving me feeling like shit for hours, or crashing low and leaving me with less than full mental faculties, sweating profusely and stubbornly refusing aid while my friends have to consider wrestling me to the ground to stuff food into my mouth. Occasionally with the screaming seizures or sprinting off into the woods. Ah, memories!
Thank you all, family, friends, and loved ones who have dealt with me in those situations.
About four or five years ago, after one such attack, I made my first such investment in cybernetics, moving away from the traditional usage of syringes for insulin injections. I got a Medtronic insulin pump, and Enlite continuous glucose monitor. The insulin pump was a wonderful success, and dramatically improved my blood sugar control. The pump has the benefit of having a varying basal rate, that continuously drips a background level of insulin into me, that can be easily calibrated. It talks wirelessly with my blood testing kit, and calculates, based on the time of day and how much I tell it I eat, in order to give me a more proper amount of insulin. Further, it remembers how much insulin has been injected into me. I had been doing this all in my head between the age of seven and twenty six, but the machine is a bit less prone to forget or overlook those important details.
Medtronic's Enlite CGM sensor system unfortunately left something to be desired. This was four years ago, and I'm sure Medtronic's tech has improved a good bit in the meantime, but the sensor then was so poor that I stopped using it after a few months.
For those of you not the most familiar with diabetes, a continuous glucose monitor is a system designed to, well, continuously monitor your blood glucose level. The ones on the market, both then, and now, do so with subcutaneous sensor that you implant in yourself for some number of days, and has a wireless/Bluetooth communication system, to beep out your blood sugar every minute or five.
As I was saying, the previous one I had left many things to be desired. Only lasted three days, had to be attached to the body with tape, easily fell off, and was inaccurate to the point of not being worth the trouble. I tossed it.
Over the years, the technology seems to have improved. Fellow diabetics recommended the newer Dexcom brand systems to me, and I finally took them up on their suggestion. The differences, though minor when describing them, add up to something that is exponentially better. The Dexcom G5 attaches without requiring additional tape wrapped over the top, and is a good share smaller and more comfortable. Most importantly, it has proved far more accurate, and to have less of a lag.
I have yet to see this Dexcom G5 be off by more than twenty percentage points or so, its alert system is timely, and in the week I've had it has kept my blood sugar in a much tighter range than I would normally be under. Don't think I've had a blood sugar above 190, and haven't had anything low without being awake and able to respond to it quickly.
The also checking while asleep is a significant benefit, one that of course existed in the previous CGM system I had, but with the added benefit of greater accuracy, and not waking me up without cause.
Managing blood sugars is a lot of dealing with lag. Insulin gets injected into your subcutaneous fat, and even with the quicker acting insulins, Humalog for me, it only starts to really have an effect half an hour after injection, peak effect perhaps hour and a half later, continuing effect out three or four hours. Eating food also has a similar lag time for raising your blood sugars. Non-diabetic bodies are a lot better with dealing with this, because pancreases are plugged in more directly to the arteries and veins, and can sense and respond to blood sugars much more quickly. Us diabetics though, with our putting insulin into subcutaneous fat, and with the continuous glucose monitors sensing the blood sugars in that tissue, we are on a delay.
Hence, once of the the great benefits of a continuous glucose monitor that happens to be accurate is that it can give you not just your close to current blood sugar, but the rate and direction of change. The derivative of your blood sugar, to think about high school calculus. Us diabetics are going to have the lag time in adjusting to our blood sugars, but being able to see the direction of change gives the ability to predict where it'll be in the next hour and to get ahead of it.
My other compliments to Dexcom are the very excellent UI, ease of viewing the data, and general ease of use.
Of course it's not perfect yet. Won't be perfect until we finally get around to curing diabetes, which has been promised to me as "five years away" since I was diagnosed in 1992. For more direct criticisms, I am irritated that there is software to access the data from the sensor for iOS devices but not Android. As an Android dev who often sees Android apps not started until a year or two after the iOS versions, I understand, but damn. Related, it's made by a different company than Medtronic, so it doesn't talk directly to my insulin pump, and I'm manually feeding data between the two. Sure be nice to have an open API for the two to plug into. Bloody corporate competition, and/or overzealous FDA regulation. Additionally, it's another thing sticking out of my skin, and I certainly can't do jujitsu with it. Then again, have to peel of the insulin pump insertion sight anyways to be able to do that, but now with two such peripherals stuck into my body, makes that sport less than practical. Some day, they'll either cure it, or it'll be subdermal. Then I'll get the Deus Ex future I've been hoping for since 2000.
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Had a relaxing early escape from work this weekend, as I went down to Arizona for the wedding of two close friends from college days. Congrats to Anneli and Erich! Was a wonderful wedding, and great to see all the friends collected in one place. As another plus, got to meet all of my girlfriend's family, as they happen to live in Phoenix. Learned how to make some wonderful Puerto Rican food for Easter.
Outside of the work and social gatherings, haven't had too much time to think of things to write. Politics and the economy are trundling along. World news is about what it has been, perhaps with an unfortunate uptick in terrorist attacks the last few days. Sigh. Beyond that, perhaps I can write about the latest books I've been reading. You should all read The Expanse series, by the way.
For now though, sleep. To write later. Be well, all.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Two weeks ago I was thinking about potential realignment in US political parties, and how I should first evaluate what it is that I would like to see out of our political system. I have seen some related articles in the last few weeks, asking what might come out of such a potential realignment that seems to be staring down America. If Trump wins the Republican nomination, and the more establishment Republicans flee in horror, what is it that the Democratic party would attempt to do in the general election? Appeal to the establishment Republicans, or follow through with Bernie's appeal to the working class?
Trump supporters, not that I particularly understand them, but most of what I have read describes them as primarily working class people who are pissed off that the economic system has deserted them. Of course, there is a good share of bigotry, xenophobia, and anti-intellectualism walking hand-in-hand with that economic insecurity, and that puts them in a rather different camp than Bernie supporters. Still, there are at least a few similarities, in so much as "the system is broken" is a similarity.
Personally, I would hope we do not have to make that choice. Why you can't both support the cosmopolitan intellectuals and the poor? Are these really the wedges that are opening in the American political parties?
That question might be too open ended. If I can dream of a political system, I can dream of all humans being intelligent, foresighted, empathetic, etc. Sadly, that's not that likely to occur. If I were instead to imagine what I want out of a political party, that is perhaps more productive, but immediately concedes to cynicism. Politics is tribal. As much as we would like it to simply be about the best way to organize the government and associated economics and so forth, it is as much about dividing into camps, and fighting the other side.
To get back to my earlier question, what exactly is it that I want?
As Ray Smuckles said about his political stance, "People want to eat some fuckin' dinner and have some fuckin' money! What the fuck do you think gettin' up in the morning is about?!"
I can empathize, despite being lucky to be well off, a tech worker in 2016 San Francisco. Hard to complain, but, still, things seem askew. For many of my friends, 20 and 30 somethings, with no kids, making well into six figure salaries, the idea of owning property is laughable. That, in large part, can be blamed on local politics. In the grand scheme of things it is hard to complain, but still, far from ideal.
Speaking of wanting a narrative, what might it be? Blanket libertarianism is a horribly broken approach to the economy, but of course there are a number of economic or business laws and regulations that are awful for the public. Democrats pay some service to this idea, but I have yet to see a cohesive plan or argument made with it. Republicans are much louder in making this argument, but to no significant effect that I have ever seen. Mostly they bankrupt whatever state they gain control of. Both sides support the regulations that benefit their side of the aisle and attack the other's.
The political system is corrupt, in that it is often encouraging these inefficient laws. When writing the laws, legislators pay more attention to the lobbyists surrounding them then to the people. So, yes. I want electoral reform, campaign finance reform. All the stuff Lawrence Lessig is campaigning for.
Where is the leftist critique of bureaucracy?
So, what do I want?
I want a functional, fair, and non-corrupt political system.
I want acknowledgement of, and attempt to fix, the lack of fairness in our economy and our culture. We benefit the wealthy, the white, the male, and have been exploiting those not in that group since the founding of America. I would like at the very least an equality of opportunity, which should be a self-evident goal, but seems laughably distant at the moment.
I want a support of intellectualism, a willingness to support testing ideas and to defend them with evidence.
I would like to not worry that we are plunging towards future disaster, brought about by the shortsighted, greedy, and willfully ignorant. My main concerns with regard to this are climate change, resource depletion, and over population.
So, yes. Find me a political that supports the above and I'll be for it.