February 24, 2016
I think I get it now. Why would the GOP insist on backing a man who has never garnered more than 25% of GOP voters in any primary? Why back a man who is “O-for” in every primary (no wins) and probably will not win his home state of Florida over Trump?
Rubio has no executive experience, no business experience, can’t manage his own finances and tends to panic in crunch time. We all know why Cruz will never get the backing (i.e. everyone who has ever worked with him really, really dislikes him), but why not Rubio? Although Trump’s rhetoric and style is crass and harsh, his targets as likely to be Republican as Democrat. If a blowhard like Christie can destroy Rubio in a debate, how would he ever withstand the Clinton attacks? Dems would much rather face Rubio than Trump.
Rubio’s policy positions are just as extreme as Trump’s. If either one actually does what they propose, it would be equally as disastrous for the country (e.g. both Rubio’s and Trump’s tax plans would nearly triple the deficit in one year). But we all know that these extreme positions are just red meat for an essentially sub-cortical Republican base: say the right words and they respond. No rational human being would actually do what they say they will do, and no rational human being believes them either. So what gives?
The answer is as simple as this: control. They can’t control Trump. The political class and the donor class both know who they can control. They know that Trump is just as likely to cut a deal with Congressional Democrats as he would with Republicans to get what he wants from Congress. Congressional Republicans know this — and so do their donors. You can’t work with a man you can’t buy and who has an alternative means to get the job done. Trump doesn’t need either party because he is just as prone to use either party.
Rubio, on the other hand, has a history of taking the positions of the highest bidders and of backing down and falling in line. He follows script. His history on Immigration Reform is illustrative of this quality. Once a supporter of compromise, he now can’t back away fast enough from his own legislation. He is a hollow suit … a bella figura. What both Sanders and Trump represent is an existential threat to the control that the same forces exert over both parties.
What to do if Trump wins, but Bernie doesn’t???
February 12, 2016
In addition to all of the public health issues from the lead-contaminated water in Flint, we now have evidence that the Snyder Administration deliberately with-held information on the outbreak of Legionnaires Disease in Genesee County related to the water pipe situation. It also appears that the State failed to follow through with an offer by an Ohio expert on the disease for assistance. If this isn’t criminal it should be, and if Snyder doesn’t resign then he should be kicked out of office. “Sign the recall petition before you are poisoned” should be the mantra of recall efforts. Once again the Snyder Administration knew about a critical public health situation and, once again, was criminally negligent. At least four deaths have resulted from the outbreak.
Flint is a public health disaster created by the Snyder Administration, but the most infuriating aspect of the disaster has been the repeated attempts of Snyder appointees to cover up the problems and allow people to be poisoned and die. Is political power so important to these people that they are willing to destroy the lives of an entire community, or is there some aspect of Michigan politics that attracts people with no conscience? I don’t know which answer is true but it is certain that the Snyder Administration is populated with sociopaths. Anyone with a conscience would have never done what they did, let alone take another paycheck from tax payers.
The most frightening aspect of the recent expose on the cover-up of the Legionnaires Disease outbreak is that we don’t know what else Snyder is hiding about problems in Flint or in the rest of the State. That is the real man-made disaster: the Snyder Administration.
February 11, 2016
The growing problem of income inequality is one of the political issues du jour for all of the current candidates for president, to some degree or another. The problem of rising income inequality is real and serious – and it is a direct function of our politics. However, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, none of the candidates appear to have any grasp of the problem, or at least any sincerity of interest in addressing the problem. Virtually all of the GOP candidates advocate an even greater open market as the solution, while Sanders (and, depending on the day, Hillary) advocate imposing greater regulations on markets. To economists, the differences in the political parties is the equivalent of the Republicans saying “the house is on fire, we need more wood” vs. the Dems saying “the house is on fire, blow it up.”
Most economists have already reached a consensus that income inequality in the U.S. (greater than any industrialized country in the world) is not the result of globalization or of market forces. Rather, income inequality is the result of political forces creating an economic system which virtually guarantees that wealth will be increasingly concentrated. The problem extends beyond just the fact that wages have been stagnant so long that many American families no longer can earn a living wage. When wealth becomes that concentrated, it has an affect of reducing productivity in general.
For those of you who would like a good, common sense and understandable explanation about the causes and potential solutions of income inequality, read Joseph Stiglitz’s book “The Great Divide.” It is a non-ideological analysis by the Nobel Prize-winning economist (who happened to grow up in Gary, Ind.). Stiglitz is a believer in the free market, but argues that the avalanche of market deregulation and the lifting of restrictions on campaign contributions by corporations since the Reagan years has had a predictable effect that is not only economically destructive, it’s immoral. Imposing common sense regulations on markets (such as investment banking), reversing tax laws that favor corporations and the rich, and restricting corporate contributions to political campaigns might re-impose some fairness and mobility in the economy, but it might already be too late for that.
Stiglitz is a great read, but be forewarned – it will probably make you feel even less hopeful that the system will change anytime soon … or any time before a real economic catastrophe arrives.
February 1, 2016
As the story of the poisoning of Flint continues to generate national attention, one of the more controversial debates is “why Flint”? Many people (including presidential wannabes Clinton and Sanders) correctly point out that Flint is poor, majority minority and Democratic-leaning politically.
Of course they have been blasted for speculating about a racial/class explanation (rather than the leading alternative explanation of gross incompetence of the Snyder Administration), but research on water quality in Michigan areas provides a clear – and very disturbing — trend.
Few people realize it, but lead content in the water in many other areas of Michigan actually exceed the levels found in Flint. It’s true… “Pure Michigan” is potentially poisoning far more people than those in Flint. That is shocking enough … that water quality in a state surrounded by the largest volumes of fresh water in the world is worse than third world counties in many areas, but a study of water quality by mean income is even more revealing.
The areas with the highest lead content in the water are areas with the lowest mean incomes in the state, and are predominantly minority populations. Flint is the tip of an iceberg of the failure of government, primarily conservative Republican government, to serve the most vulnerable citizens. For data on the lead content in your zip code check out this site: