Republican Hypocrisy

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You know, it’s funny:

The government investigated Bill Clinton for four years, and the charges from that four-year investigation led to his impeachment.

Many Republicans applauded.

The government has been investigating Hillary Clinton for decades, and is STILL investigating her.

Nary a peep from many Republicans over the length or cost of those investigations, beyond a complaint that she hasn’t been prosecuted yet.

Donald Trump has been under investigation for a few months.

I have lost count of the number of Republicans crying “This is a witch hunt! If he were guilty, they would have found something by now! This has dragged on far too long! End the investigation!”

It’s an interesting contrast.

Charity should replace Welfare Myth

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Charitable giving is not a substitute for government social services, as the objects of donors’ affections typically reflect the donors’ backgrounds, business connections, and desires for social status. To be blunt, the money pours into the nation’s greatest private universities, opera companies, medical centers, and art museums, but the poor and disenfranchised from races or backgrounds very different from those of the largest donors are infrequently the beneficiaries of commensurate largesse. There also is an argument that charitable support is in some respects more degrading to recipients than government income maintenance programs; such support certainly is less reliable, as donors’ preferences and financial resources fluctuate. Location 5952

Note: Beautiful takedown of Jon’s common charity argument and other such nonsense

“Why should I be forced to pay for someone else” argument

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Taxes must first flow into the Treasury, and then out to a group of individuals, rather than being forcibly paid directly from one group to another. Only some insureds have insurance claims in any given year, but every insured benefit from the existence of that insurance. This is why Grover Cleveland was wrong in 1887, and why there was so much well-deserved anger at those members of Congress who sought to block the Hurricane Sandy relief bill: the federal government of the United States offers, through disaster relief and similar measures, de facto disaster insurance to all regions of the United States. And more directly, the “transfer payments” that Epstein finds offensive in fact are social insurance programs from which all of us, even Epstein, benefit, because the programs exist for all of us, should our circumstances change. Location 9139

Revolutionary argument about redistribution and a new way of thinking about “robbing someone by gunpoint to give to another.” Every program is a collective social program available to everyone, just like an interstate is a public good available to everyone. Just because someone is using at one particular time and another is not, doesn’t mean that the person not driving on the highway at that moment is being robbed and his money given to the people who are driving on it. He has access to use the public good as well, when he chooses or needs to. The same is true of social insurance, food insecurity programs, or health and education. Yeah, we know, you are awesome, and “don’t need help.” But if fortune turned against you, and the state of affairs were to tip wrong and help was needed, now rich republicans could get food stamps or TANF if they needed to at some point. It’s a whole new way to thinking of “redistribution.”

The Myth that CEO pay doesn’t affect you

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Why should ordinary people care about whether or not corporate CEOs and fund managers really deserve to make hundreds as opposed to tens of millions of dollars? First, poorly designed pay packages can have harmful effects both on the companies paying them and on the economy as a whole. Excessive compensation reduces profits for shareholders, a group that includes not just the wealthy but also ordinary people whose retirement funds are invested in the stock market.

The Right wingers like to say CEO’s provide jobs, hire, support you, and their pay doesn’t affect you. The economy is zero-sum, and the pie gets larger. But each company does only have so much money, and if it goes to the top, you get less. 

CEO pay, if they appoint the board

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Instead, business is a team sport: not only is it impossible to quantify a single leader’s marginal product; it’s hard even to describe it clearly.45 Because no one knows what a CEO is worth, her pay is whatever she can convince her corporation’s board of directors to give her. This is hardly an arm’s-length negotiation, however. The CEO is usually the most powerful person on the board to begin with. In half of Fortune 500 companies, the CEO serves as the chair of the board. Even without that title, a CEO still has disproportionate influence because of her knowledge, her relationships, and the fact that she is difficult to replace quickly. A savvy CEO can recruit allies and place them on the compensation committee, which recommends her compensation package, typically based on an analysis of similar companies—a comparison group that can be weighted toward those with highly paid CEOs. The committee invariably proposes to pay at least as much as the median comparable company, because no board wants to admit that its company has a below-average leader. Some portion of the package will be linked to certain performance targets, but the CEO can encourage the committee to select metrics that will be easy to satisfy.

The economist John Kenneth Galbraith described it perfectly: “The salary of the chief executive of the large corporation is not a market reward for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.”

Minimum Wage, another good first pass

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In typical Conservative examples, a higher minimum wage will raise labor costs. But many companies can recoup cost increases in the form of higher prices; because most of their customers are not poor, the net effect is to transfer money from higher-income to lower-income families. In addition, companies that pay more often benefit from higher employee productivity, offsetting the growth in labor costs.*2 Justin Wolfers and Jan Zilinsky identified several reasons why higher wages boost productivity: they motivate people to work harder, they attract higher-skilled workers, and they reduce employee turnover, lowering hiring and training costs, among other things. If fewer people quit their jobs, that also reduces the number of people who are out of work at any one time because they’re looking for something better.15 A higher minimum wage motivates more people to enter the labor force, raising both employment and output.*3 Finally, higher pay increases workers’ buying power. Because poor people spend a relatively large proportion of their income, a higher minimum wage can boost overall economic activity and stimulate economic growth, creating more jobs. All of these factors vastly complicate the two-dimensional diagram taught in Economics 101 and help explain why a higher minimum wage does not necessarily throw people out of work.16 The supply-and-demand diagram is a good conceptual starting point for thinking about the minimum wage. But on its own, it has limited predictive value in our much more complex real world. Location 1232

Homo Economicus and perfect information

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The utility function is an abstraction; it does not exist in reality as our ability to feel temperature or see light does. Not being able to optimize an imaginary utility function does not mean that we are altogether silly, but we need to recognize that in actual decision-making optimization is beyond our capacity. It would be too burdensome even if we had the cognitive ability to do so. Off the blackboard we have too many serious limitations that constrain us from attaining an optimum consumption bundle. These limitations might be lack of information of price or quality, limitations of our own intelligence to ascertain the conditions specified in a contract, inability to assign probabilities to future events, inability to pay attention to a salesperson’s presentation, forgetting to ask all relevant questions, or misunderstanding the terms of a contract. The limitation might also be information overload by which one has too much information for the brain’s working memory capacity and it leads to confusion, misinterpretation, or misjudgment, or it might be time pressure—not having enough time to think about a problem.13 If we are harried or under stress we may not be able to concentrate on understanding all the properties of the product we are buying. The causes of bounded rationality are innumerable. (What Every Economics student should know, page 44)

An all around passage and argument that undermines the Conservative myth of Homo Economicus, or perfectly rational man, and suited to address countless arguments of the family “It’s your own fault.” This does not absolve everyone of all poor choices and conscript everyone else into paying for all others mistakes. It serves to remind us that we cannot navigate the world without mistakes or “poor choices.” That pooling risks collectively results in a far less cruel “floor” than an atomistic view that everyone has to bear the cruelest possible brunt of living in a world of imperfect information, i.e., just because you weren’t perhaps a genius who started a worldwide online book company and became a billionaire, it does not follow you deserve to die from lack of medical treatment because you couldn’t afford $500,000 in medical costs. 

You couldn’t have known everything, and to assume one could have, is to assume perfect information and limitless time horizons, involving aspects of psychology, chaos theory, and economics. It’s not reasonable. “It’s always your own fault” is a ridiculous argument. To argue against it isn’t an excuse, it’s human reality. 

Now assuming it’s not your own fault, it still does not follow that others are required to fix your problems. Separate arguments are necessary to support many forms of welfare, which are often individually given. But large-scale public health and societal concerns wherein collective action work best – universal healthcare, infrastructure, and education can be addressed here.  

In short, you are always going to fuck up, and it’s not always going to be your fault. Some arguments like BD’s “Everything is always your fault” would rely on the premise of perfect information and perfect decision making. It isn’t one’s fault if they cannot bench press 1000 lbs. It was not physically possible for them using the muscle fibers they had and the motor control they were born with. Mental tasks and decision making aren’t fundamentally different. It’s not someone’s “fault” that they cannot count every star in the heavens or remember pi to 8000 decimal places, or beat Magnus Carlson in chess. Some things are beyond an information horizon, locked behind a wall of knowledge some people cannot get to. 

Healthcare – Differences in a bill

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Obama and the Democrats spent a year crafting their healthcare bill out in the open for everyone to see so they could insure over 20 million more people, control costs and save lives.

Republicans keep trying to rush it through with as little scrutiny as possible and they may make it on the 3rd or 4th try. No public comments. No CBO scoring. Nothing. And they’re doing it so they can strip insurance from millions of people, let costs spiral out of control again, send people to their deaths and give a fat tax cut to the rich.

Both parties are the same? Go fuck yourself.

Social Welfare in a nutshell

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Question: Should Government be involved in social welfare? Why or why not?

Yes. Maintaining a certain level of social welfare benefits the entire community. Poverty creates crime. The impact of poverty on children is often insurmountable. The ethics of letting people suffer needlessly aside, the community itself is better off when eveyone is taken care of.

Dawn Swisher Nelsen, Facebook May 2017

Need, Want and Luxuries

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Wants and Basic Needs

Although the convention is to consider demand exclusively in terms of “wants,” it is essential to distinguish between three sources of demand depending on the type of goods demanded (necessities, comforts and social necessities, and luxuries):

(A) Necessities are goods that fulfill basic survival needs, such as food sufficient to avoid hunger, safe drinking water to relieve thirst, shelter that includes sanitation facilities, clothing appropriate to the weather conditions, and medical care; we could not continue to live without these goods and services for long. Natural needs derived from the instincts of reproduction would also be in this category.11

(B) Comfort goods or products are considered socially necessary to live a dignified life in a particular society, such as an automobile in most areas in the United States, for example, because of the shortage of public transportation and the large distances that need to be traveled on a daily basis and the need for mobility for daily needs. Access to education, computer, and telephone are also in this category, as we cannot function effectively without these things in the society in which we live.

(C) Luxuries are goods that are not necessary for life either biologically or socially but (i) are consumed on account of an acquired taste; or (ii) are consumed because we are manipulated into wanting them; or (iii) are consumed in order to obtain social status by virtue of their being trendy or because of their exclusiveness due to their price. These are also called luxury goods, Veblen goods, or positional goods. These goods differ from the goods in the two previous categories in that they confer social status and thereby create a negative externality on others: envy. The share of these types of goods in total expenditures has increased over time from 20 percent in 1901 to 32 percent in 1950 to 50 percent by 2003.12

The strongest and most useful articulation of the concept of needs vs wants we have come across, and profoundly useful as a utility knife against those who always go to their standard tool on the shelf – that we can’t say what a need is, so we can’t make policy based on need. Obviously, dumbass Chris uses it the most often. 

Poverty Deniers Series: Comparative Argument 1

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Piece of Crap Conservative: Here we go again, with the Bleeding Heart Liberal’s subjective use of poverty to complain and take my money. The “poor” here in America are better off than xx% fo the world’s population (low income here are better than poverty stricken third world shitholes.) So it’s not a problem or they shouldn’t complain (or some other family of argument like this.)

Rebuttal  1) In Burkina Faso, West Africa, less than half of young people can read. Only a third of girls can. Imagine if your child came home with all Fs on his or her report card. Imagine in response to your anger and disappointment upon seeing this, I came up and said “Hey, but your child can read, period. What are you bitching about? He’s better off than most people in a broken third world shithole, so you should stop complaining. There is no need to strive for better.” Maybe now you can see how stupid you sound when you set the bar at the absolute lowest possible threshold, and claim there is no issue nor need for improvement if the shittiest possible standard is met. Conservatives tacitly claim “Anything above a third world shithole is fine!” Liberals strive for a better world.

Rebuttal  2) In the poorest countries in the world, more than 10 percent of children never make it to the age of 5 because of lack of food and medicine. Teenagers in those countries could count themselves lucky to have survived. If you have 3 or 4 children, and one of them dies of dysentery or disease, should I message you and say “This is common in the poorest parts of the world, so you should just shut up and stop complaining. We need not waste money on medical research to prevent this because hey, it happens all the time in Burundi. Stop making up arbitrary survival percentage thresholds we should aspire toward.”

There are plenty of analogies, but the argument pattern is the same. You can choose an analogy where there are places in the world with abysmal standards – and show how incongruent it would be to use that standard as a measure of success here in the US – such that no issue needs to be addressed. Some people starve literally to death in Ethiopia. If the homeless here in the US are at least staying alive, does that really mean it is the case there is no issue or problem in American worth addressing? 

More welfare bitching and “they take our money” idiots

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Idiot: Liberals wonder why they keep losing Americans….well, stop hating those that don’t believe your messages, stop stealing OUR hard earned money to feed your voting blocks, and start calling out those who proliferate criminal behavior.

Smart Person: Exactly how are liberals “losing America”. Last i checked, the last liberal Presidential candidate actually had MORE votes than the “conservative” candidate. So basic math proves your statement wrong.  I suggest you do a little research to see who is really stealing your hard earned money to feed voting blocks. 9 out of the top 10 states who receive the most federal welfare are Republican states. Almost all of the ones who receive the least are blue states. So who is mooching off the government again? Also, red states are the ones who are the closest to insolvency (I’m looking at you Kansas), so I guess conservative practice isn’t really as effective as they would have you believe.

Both parties are for the 1%?

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Both parties support and are beholding to the 1%.
Which party is cutting funding for disabled veterans, prenatal care for poor women, food programs for children, endowments for the arts, PBS and children’s educational programming, and funneling money into a program to build a wall along the U.S./ Mexico border instead? It certainly isn’t both parties.

Attacking Welfare as Zero Sum 1v1 Transfer

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Taxes must first flow into the Treasury, and then out to a group of individuals or allocated into some program, rather than being forcibly paid directly from one group to another. Only some insureds have insurance claims in any given year, but every insured benefits from the existence of that insurance. Everyone possesses the same social insurance that they may draw from if needed. This is why Grover Cleveland was wrong in 1887, and why there was so much well-deserved anger at those members of Congress who sought to block the Hurricane Sandy relief bill: the federal government of the United States offers, through disaster relief and similar measures, de facto disaster insurance to all regions of the United States. And more directly, the “transfer payments” that Epstein finds offensive in fact are social insurance programs from which all of us, even Epstein, benefit, because the programs exist for all of us, should our circumstances change. Rage toward those on “welfare” is just anger at someone collecting insurance at a given point in time from a program that insures everyone. 

This is paraphrased from the book for pragmatic use, but it reminds us that the framing of “welfare” is often wrong. No one comes to your house and puts a gun to your head, willing to kill you up until the moment you open your wallet and directly give someone else money. Everyone pays into a pool of social insurance. Some people just draw from it at different times, but you are as covered as anyone. Bitching is just temporary privilege because you don’t need it right then and there. 


Hatred for Taxation blinds up to what is possible

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This book argues that the strand of contemporary American political thought that defines itself through its hatred of taxation is narcissistic self-pleading wrapped in a flimsy sheath of economic lingo. Personal economic liberty, of course, is one foundational principle of our country and our economy, but it is not the only principle that defines us; and the emaciated government that this philosophy demands is not the way to promote the happiness of society, if by that we actually mean the society composed of all of us who identify ourselves as Americans. Our fixation on taxation means that we have turned our thinking upside down: instead of focusing on what government might usefully do, and whether we can afford it, we obsess over the taxing side of things, and ignore the purposes to which those tax revenues are applied.

Pragmatic Single Parent issues and health

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$30 to get a mandatory doctor’s note because Jordan has been sick all week. Ouch.
Now consider if I were a single parent. My choices were A. Take off the whole week and miss work, possibly losing my job if I were in a job without benefits, B. Pay someone a lot of money to watch him if I weren’t lucky enough to have a support system in place or, C. Send Jordan to school with the flu.
Also consider that even keeping him home to recuperate properly just cost me a significant chunk of a monthly bill because more than 2 days requires a note. Now, we’re fortunate enough that we can afford for me to be a stay at home but millions of people do not have that option.
So when Republicans tell you that the poor just need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and shouldn’t get help, what they’re doing is holding the heads of the poor underwater and blaming them when they drown.

Justin Rosario, Facebook Feb 2017

The Safety Net as insurance

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Contemporary political discourse’s fixation over moral hazard in the context of social insurance—of course usually phrased less genteelly, by relying instead of “moral hazard” on terms like “mooching” or “taking”—has completely obscured a far more fundamental point, which is that insurance, whether private insurance or social insurance, has tremendous social value. Insurance mitigates the catastrophic outcome—say, the financial loss incurred when one’s cargo goes down with a ship sunk by storms—and replaces that outcome with a known alternative that can be priced and accounted for in the calculus of whether to undertake the voyage.

The same is true with social insurance, particularly once one sees that the progressive rate structure of the personal income tax functions in part as a form of social insurance premium. Knowing that the tax-funded “social safety net” exists, a young person takes a gamble, and sets out to develop the next great app. She knows that if she succeeds, her returns will be reduced somewhat by a tax bill (the implicit insurance premium), but she also knows that if she fails miserably she will not starve in the streets. Because her downside is now tolerable, she takes the risk with her time and her life that otherwise would have been foolhardy.

Social Insurance is an institution that protects all citizens from the cruelest aspects of unallowed market outcomes and serves to mitigate some of the risk associated with many forms of entrepreneurship or participation in a market system. Apparently for the majority of people there is a psychic value to the knowledge that things may get bad, but that you won’t be left to freeze, or starve to death over failure. The term “taking” or “mooching” in addition is not entirely accurate, since you and everyone else have the same rights and license to make use of the social insurance system, if only you needed to. Those on it just happen to be collecting on the insurance policy at that particular time. Viewed in this light, it is not particularly different than paying for health or car insurance but not using it. Those using it aren’t “taking” from you but using the program that you paid into to disperse risk across a larger pool, mitigating the worst outcomes of an entirely unprotected state of affairs.  If they stopped using it and you began to use it, you would be “taking” from them. But to suppose that anyone is so insulated from an accident, poor choice, or requirement for aid is more than a little deluded and arrogant, and usually the sign of a person thinking only from a position of privilege and temporary comfort. As good as you have it, things can change very quickly, even for those with lots of savings. “Self-Reliance” is noble, but it’s doubtful that if you were literally on the edge of life or death due to medical care, or starving in the street along with your children, you would really rather perish than accept any help from what amounts of a shared insurance pool.   

Social Insurance – Best description ever seen

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The government of every developed economy offers a range of insurance products that are baked into that country’s social compact. In the United States, Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are all examples.    These instances of social insurance have in common the themes that every citizen is in the insurance pool (although of course not every citizen claims benefits at any given point in time), that premiums (which may or may not be determined through actuarially accurate insurance principles) are collected through the tax system, and that the purposes of the programs are to mitigate the harshness of unalloyed private outcomes—by offering minimum income to the elderly, a food budget to the impoverished, and so on. Social insurance in fact operates as true insurance, in that it relies on risk shifting and risk pooling to turn egregiously bad potential outcomes into more tolerable ones, at the cost of annual premiums collected through the tax system.

These instances of social insurance have in common the themes that every citizen is in the insurance pool (although of course not every citizen claims benefits at any given point in time), that premiums (which may or may not be determined through actuarially accurate insurance principles) are collected through the tax system, and that the purposes of the programs are to mitigate the harshness of unalloyed private outcomes—by offering minimum income to the elderly, a food budget to the impoverished, and so on. Social insurance in fact operates as true insurance, in that it relies on risk shifting and risk pooling to turn egregiously bad potential outcomes into more tolerable ones, at the cost of annual premiums collected through the tax system.

It’s hard to say for certain what the most important, or more useful rebuttal to common Conservative complaints or arguments would be. It’s hard to condense all they could say into a few quick refutations. It is however likely that if we had to pick, no Conservative arguments against Liberals would be more common than some variation of the family of argument that goes as follows: “It’s not my responsibility to pay for someone elses poor choices.” Or “Why do you have a right to someone else’s stuff?” In short, Liberals take away from productive people and give the stuff to non productive people. All forms of Social Insurance, from school lunches all the way to outright cash benifits from Welfare, fall under this catagory. It is the central foundation between the concepts of Conservative Privatization and Liberal collection action through public programs. Healthcare, Education, Welfare, Minimum Wage, worker protections, and all all forms of the poisoned word “redistribution”, all work themselves down to some form of the argument, someone is being forced to give up something for someone else. 

This portion of We Are Better Than This, short of being an outright refutation of the argument – does explain Social Insurance in all forms, better than ever seen before. It can serve as a springboard to reframe the debate from “stealing by gunpoint labor from the productive to give to the sloth” to “The creation of a social insurance system against utterly unalloyed  and potentially overwhelming market outcomes by putting everyone in the insurance pool thereby reducing adverse selection and spreading the risk of the market system throughout the pool, so that everyone may get dinged in a minuscule amount, but no one is destroyed.” 

There are winners and losers in a market system in terms of purchasing power. Social Insurance is simply a human attempt at creating an option whereby the losers don’t outright die from lack of money. 

Insurance and Victim Blaming, to some extent.

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“Individuals in modern societies are unable to predict the magnitude of events that profoundly affect their well-being. Insurance, in all its guises, is the institution that mitigates the influence of uncertainty.” 2 By eliminating some uncertainties, insurance allows people (who generally are risk averse) to take on risks with which they are more comfortable— for example, the baker who can deal with changing tastes for baguettes or new competition, but who does not have the wherewithal to assume the uncertain prospect of his bakery possibly burning to the ground.

Sitting from the armchair of a comfortable office or living room, healthy and relatively free from stress, any possible misfortune that could befall a person is rationalized through the lens of hindsight as a deserved punishment for laziness or poor decision making. Syrians fleeing for their life from war with cell phones are seen as deserving of their misery, because, somehow, they should have sold the iphone and used the money to, fix things I guess? This is a good passage explaining how it’s just not possible to predict everything that can happen, and that sometimes, public insurance and a reasonable safety net shared among a large pool of the population can serve to mitigate the cruelest verdicts of a market system, or of the world in general.

Education in a nutshell 2

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In every country, investments in human capital are understood as properly the purview of government as investor, because every member of a society deserves a comparable level of investment, and because a broad commitment to public education (to investment in human capital) maximizes the potential of each citizen. As in the case of public infrastructure investment, public investment in human capital yields positive private productivity returns in the narrow sense, but equally important, happiness returns as well, because education is the key both to a productive career and to our ability to realize our native endowments, with all the satisfactions that implies. The middle class cannot buy its way out of poor public education, but their children when they mature will compete on a global stage in more and more instances as the world’s economy evolves.

Of course, the terminology “deserves” here will rise the ire of many on the right who will begin shitting themselves with bulging eyes and spittle flying from their gaping, screaming mouths upon their viewing it. But freedom and the ability to realize one’s potential is almost the definition of opportunity, which is something supposedly available to everyone in equal amounts. To suggest that a child with no possible means to pay for school who grew up with an inability to compete against wealthy children who were getting the best education money can buy, and found himself in a poor paying job with little prospect was a result of “his own poor choices” would be an astonishing claim to make that would border on self-parody. 

Education in a nutshell 1

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We all understand that children are our future— except, apparently, when it comes to educating them. Our country’s economic progress, and more crassly its ability to pay those of us now old enough to read this book the various old age benefits to which we believe ourselves accustomed, will depend on how successfully we invest in human capital today, because returns to labor are the principal drivers of economic wealth. Today’s education yields tomorrow’s economy.


Why public goods are often underinvested in

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If a provider cannot exclude freeloaders from the use of an asset, we can expect that private capital will underinvest in that asset class, even if it is useful to society at large, for the simple reason that private investors will not be able to capture the full economic returns to their investments, and therefore will stop investing well before the classic microeconomic equilibrium point, where the marginal cost of the next profit just equals the marginal returns therefrom. This is a very important point: if private entrepreneurs do not capture all of the returns from a class of investment, the total private pool of such investments will fall short of the optimal level from the perspective of society as a whole.  Most economists therefore agree that public investment of one kind or another is justified in the pursuit of public goods (perhaps more accurately, non-excludable goods). In some cases, like research and development, public investment often takes the form of subsidies (in the United States, in the form of tax credits); the theory is that the subsidies compensate the firm for its inability to capture all of the value created by a new discovery as it ripples through the economy. In other cases, like roads and bridges, the more straightforward way to get to the socially optimal level of investment is through government directly funding and owning the asset.

The same rationales for public investment suggested earlier of lower cost financing, longer investment horizons, and absence of financial profit markups apply generally to all public infrastructure investments, including those in support of public goods. In addition, public infrastructure investment often yields “positive externalities,” which just means that the investment benefits all of us indirectly as well as directly. If, for example, a new commuter rail line improves air quality by reducing automobile traffic congestion, that is a positive externality. A private investor contemplating building the rail line has no reason to include that indirect benefit in its profit and loss calculation, but government effectively can.     One important positive externality is that infrastructure investment means good quality construction jobs. As chapter 3 described, the United States today has a disappointingly low overall level of employment. This excess labor capacity erodes personal dignity and family structures, reduces individual welfare, and lowers national consumption, thereby holding back the overall economy. We can talk until we are blue in the face about the New Economy and knowledge-based jobs, but they are not for everybody. Infrastructure investment puts people to work in productive ways, and thereby supports a broader and more prosperous middle class. The jobs are there whether the investor comes from the private or public sector, but government fairly can take into account the positive spillovers from creating useful and remunerative jobs in judging the viability of a project.

There are dozens of explanations for public goods and positive externalities, but there really is no need for all of them. It would simply be more clutter to sift through, and make finding what we need harder. This is pretty much as good as any of them, and all you’d need in the time you’d have for a realistic face to face, or even decently researched online exchange. There isn’t really much more you can add to this. Negative and Positive externalities, and investment in necessary infrastructure and goods that benefit society as a whole but would be underinvested in by private markets and investors due to distorted market signals, which rely on returning profit from investment – which assumes the capture of all user returns and payments from only those paying to use the service or good. When this condition isn’t met, when people can enjoy it without paying, there isn’t an incentive to pay and the profit falls. And if benefits are conferred onto society but aren’t captured in the market, the money isn’t returned to investor and his impetus to invest falls. But, weather satallights, schools, roads, and research damned sure has provided more than it’s cost.

Taxes are a form of wealth

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When you set out to buy a house, you think carefully about how big a house you can afford, but in the end you are not poorer for the money you spent, because you acquired something useful, namely, a new home. Why then in fiscal debates do we look only at the cost of government, and not at the collective goods or services we thereby acquire? Unsurprisingly, once we phrase tax policy as a collective exercise in fiscal masochism, our threshold for tax pain turns out to be very low

You don’t “lose” that money. Not really. When you purchase something, you aren’t poorer because you are getting value. Taxes aren’t “gone” when taken out. They go back into countless public goods from weather forecasting that allows us to prepare our work day, to schools that allow our children to grow into workers that create more growth, to domestic protection, property enforcement, road safety, monetary policy, and as stated dozens of times before, all of the things that make civilized life as we know and enjoy it today, possible. It’s frustrating, sure, because you could spent that money on an Xbox or car or camera or gun, since most of the people who bitch about taxes are Conservatives. But if “everything were privitized,” you’d have to purchase most of this ala carte anyway, we wouldn’t have the world we do today, many problems you’re not even considering would arise, and there is no reason of any sort to suppose you’d wind up with all that money back in your pocket. 

“You don’t have a right to get drunk, or you don’t have a right to certain kinds of sex.”

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I mean, I think the bigger take away is that we cannot limit our definition of “right” to mean “only what is strictly spelled out in either the US or a State Constitution.” Those things do not give us rights, they only specify the manners in which certain rights are meant to be protected.The Constitution doesn’t GIVE us the right to freedom of religion; that is a natural right, and the Constitution just protects it. In fact, the Constitution LIMITS rights by prohibiting certain actions, and that’s really the only thing it was intended to do when it comes to what rights we actually have: it doesn’t give any because it’s based off of the idea that men are free to do as they please, but obviously we can’t do EVERYTHING that any of us might want to do so here are some things that we’re saying you can’t do.

The Constitution doesn’t GIVE us the right to freedom of religion; that is a natural right, and the Constitution just protects it. In fact, the Constitution LIMITS rights by prohibiting certain actions, and that’s really the only thing it was intended to do when it comes to what rights we actually have: it doesn’t give any because it’s based off of the idea that men are free to do as they please, but obviously we can’t do EVERYTHING that any of us might want to do so here are some things that we’re saying you can’t do.

And then it provides us with means of changing that list, because the Framers recognized that what might seem right or might work for people in one time might not work for all people always. So no, there may not be a “Constitutionally PROVIDED for” right to ANY particular type of sexual expression, but as Eric above said, that includes the fact that there isn’t a “right” to engage in sexual activity inside of monogamous heterosexual marriage. Because the Constitution wasn’t meant to itemize every single “right” that we have; that would be far too strict and narrow and unjust, and the Founders and Framers knew that.

The best response for, believe it or not, those people who set the default switch to “illegal unless stated otherwise” and “guilty until proven innocent.” John Galt once said “There is no such thing as a ‘right’ to get drunk’ as justification for cops just going into taverns and arresting people. No, you have to make a law first, and then have someone break it, before you say they don’t have a right to do it. The set of all possible things a person could do, yet aren’t explicitly stated as “rights” would be infinite, and so basically freedom would not exist period, and you could be arrested for anything. 

Poverty and Global Poverty, Birth Control and Foreign Aid

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Two Days After The Women’s March, Trump F*cks Over Women Across The World

Bryan Walker: Why the fuck is it America’s responsibility to make sure other countries have birth control? What the fuck is wrong with you people? (Typical Conservative Frame of Selfishness and Greed.) 

F Kay Baumann: Because birth control  is the first defense against poverty

Justin Rosario: And global poverty is bad for America. It A. Drives the immigration the right hates and B. Makes the markets for our goods smaller and C. Increases infant mortality rates.

So from every conservative angle, it’s in the right’s interest to provide contraception to the planet.

Now feel free to ignore all of that. Bryan. (Good snark at end)

Drug War and opiates

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People are overworked, under-paid, stressed, this leads to trauma, injury, chronic illness (and most can’t even afford decent healthcare leading to more of the same). Disconnection and pain lead to the need for pain medication. War on drugs prohibits everything but opiates for high, chronic levels of pain. Disconnection and increasing tolerances for pain medication lead to addiction. Addiction leads to fallout. Drug War continues to criminalize addiction and prevent access to alternatives. Capitalism + the Drug War lead to addicts not being able to take care of children, which leads to orphans and wards of the State. The cycle continues, the meat grinder of Capitalism continues to chew through human fodder. It’s a good thing a bunch of rich old White Guys can have more digits on the screens of their bank accounts and other old White People can feel morally superior about being against those evil drugs while popping painkillers themselves, though, that makes it all worth it.

Raleigh made a pretty good point on Facebook about “opiate addicts” being blamed for “leaving children behind,” when we have all sorts of reasons to believe there are far larger and more sinister actors at work. 

Min Wage and shared prosperity in Finland

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In recent years labor activists have been fighting to raise the American minimum wage from the federal $ 7.25 per hour to $ 15. At the center of this fight sits the fast-food industry, where workers typically earn wages barely above the legal minimum. The Nordic countries don’t have national minimum wages; instead minimum levels are set by collective-bargaining agreements that all employers must adhere to. The result is that in Denmark, for example, fast-food restaurants pay their workers the equivalent of twenty dollars per hour. In Finland the average wage for a McDonald’s worker was about fourteen dollars per hour in 2014. Not only that, fast-food chains in the Nordic countries must give their workers the same paid vacations and generous paid parental leaves as all other companies. And what is the horrible cost to consumers of all this? A Big Mac in Denmark costs about a dollar more than one in the United States. In 2015 the Finnish and American Big Macs cost exactly the same. Surely this state of affairs must have crushed the Nordic fast-food business by now? On the contrary, all the Nordic countries have thriving fast-food industries, from McDonald’s on down to local chains. From the Nordic perspective, it’s not this Nordic approach that is unsustainable—it’s the American approach that’s eventually going to implode. For in the United States more than half of fast-food workers rely on some form of public assistance to get by, meaning that American taxpayers are actually subsidizing the fast-food industry in the United States, to the tune of billions of dollars per year. If we’re hunting for countries practicing socialism, the United States appears to be a pretty strong contender.

Empirical, demonstrable evidence showing that fast food workers can be paid far more than they are here in the US, without blowing up the companies or causing our prices to skyrocket. Also, it sidesteps the common rebuttal to the Nordic arguments – namely that they are all European white people with a small population. The forces at work aren’t racial or size related. They are principle based. They just work because the principles of Economics work. Employers stay longer, there is less cost to train new ones, CEOS don’t make as much, nor do they need to, and they give half a shit about their job. Plus, you’re paying for them anyway through social assistance because they cannot support themselves. Even with Republicans in all three branches, you’re not getting rid of food stamps, so there is no sense in bitching about it. You’re either going to help pay Min Wage or you’re going to pay a little higher for a burger. 

Simple formula for middle class success Nordic Style

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The reasons for all this Nordic success in business are, once again, not complicated. They result from deliberate policy choices inspired by the fundamental values and goals of the Nordic theory of love: making sure that families are composed of strong and independent individuals who function well as a team, that workers are healthy and well educated and not overly dependent on their employers, that infrastructure is top-notch, that institutions are transparent, that the justice system works in the public interest, that corruption is low, that technology permeates society, that trade is free, that regulations are reasonable. Another way of saying all this is that the Nordic nations have cultivated the single most valuable resource a society can have in the twenty-first century: human capital. That dynamism, innovation, and prosperity result should come as no surprise.

It’s going to be hard to come up with the right thing at the right time when you need it more often than not. But, when articulating a simple and agreeable formula for success, here you have it. Nordic style, hard to disagree with, and proven to succeed. When most Libertarians or Republicans say they agree with it, explain that this is confusing based on their support for politicians that want to cut regulations, cut public spending on science and research, do not vote for candidates that support infrastructure spending (or worse, Libertarians who believe it should all be privately built – where is the incentive), and fight at every turn left efforts to get everyone educated and leaving them with crippling debt.

Mobility in Nordic Countries

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But survey after survey reveals that upward social mobility has declined in the United States, while it has increased in other places, especially in northern Europe and particularly in the Nordic region. There is no shortage of clear and convincing evidence for this. For example, take the correlation of a father’s income with that of his son. A Canadian professor named Miles Corak found that in the United States and Britain, the least mobile societies, nearly half of the advantage that a father may have had in his time is passed on to a son in adulthood, and this was not the result of the son’s own hard work and personal successes but can be explained by the advantages of belonging to the right family. In the Nordic countries, by contrast, there is far less of this sort of unfair advantage. Some of the most cited studies on this question have been led by Markus Jäntti, a Finnish economist at the University of Helsinki, who with his colleagues looked at inherited disadvantage— in other words, how much worse your chances are for success if you’re born into a low-income family. They found that in the United States, 40 percent of men who were born into the lowest income bracket stayed in it. In the Nordic countries, that figure was only 25 percent.

Trickle Down, and Taxes don’t kill growth

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The idea that the American economy would be destroyed if the wealthy were asked to pay their fair share of tax revenue has been refuted many times; when the Clinton administration raised taxes in the 1990s, an economic boom followed. The government could start taxing investment income at similar rates as wage income, as it used to do under Ronald Reagan , or it could pass the so-called Buffett Rule—inspired by the billionaire Warren Buffett himself— that would ensure that all million-dollar earners and above pay at least 30 percent of their income in taxes. Or, the government could simply eliminate the copious tax breaks and loopholes that have crept into the tax code, which have made it so complicated, so unfairly beneficial to the well-off, and so burdensome to everyone else.