Both Parties are the same series

TheGrandmaster Uncategorized Leave a Comment

1) Since I didn’t watch the debates, can anyone tell me if the candidates discussed the size of their penises, how much they hate immigrants, how much they want to cut taxes for billionaires, how they want to punish women for having sex, or how they want strip the LGBT community of their rights and turn America into a theocratic hellhole run by old white men?

What? None of that happened?

Then I guess we can definitively state that anyone that says “both sides are the same” is too fucking stupid to be taken seriously.

2)  Right now, in America, one side is having a lively debate about the best way to bring universal health care to the people.

The other side is having a lively debate about the best way to torture brown children.

If you’re still saying “both sides are the same,” you are too fucking stupid to be taken seriously.

Socialism we take for granted

TheGrandmaster People's writings Leave a Comment

I didn’t even get into the fact that Social Security, Rural Electrification. Federal Home Loans, School Lunch, Medicare/Medicaid, Head Start are all socialized programs that redistribute wealth in some form or another…The extreme Centrists certainly love all that stuff and resist any changes to it, but they are the first to wag their fingers and flap their gums about how Bernie is a Socialist and Medicare FOR ALL and Minimum LIVING Wage or a Guaranteed Student TUITION Program is not pragmatic…Everything below was always radical to begin with and was never pragmatic until it was sufficiently watered-down and loopholed…

Radical Liberal – Facebook

When they start gobbling and hollering and yelling about Socialism, a quick back of the napkin list of a few things that are pretty uncontroversial that are pretty much just Socialism. 

Capitalism, sweatshops horrible conditions, choice and regulation.

TheGrandmaster Personal Commentary Leave a Comment

While capitalism does many good things in a society, there is no denying that it excels also at taking advantage of desperation and destitution. That you can get almost anyone to do almost anything, if only they are already miserable enough, and call it “choice” or “improvement.” Sweatshops, low wages, and unbearable working conditions are justified under the banner of “free choice.” In this way, corporations, capitalism, and exploitation can masquerade as heroism, if only you offer sweatshop labor to the most miserable on Earth. You will often be told that “people are better off than they were” when markets and capitalism builds sweatshops in third world countries. But this argument can also be used in domestic environments too, where regulation for horrible working conditions is dismissed as unnecessary. 

Electronic devices and Sweatshops – The people who build these devices live lives of such unendurable drudgery, that they regularly hurl themselves off the rooftops at the factory where they work. Nets have been installed to catch their falling bodies. This is the standard, this is the baseline that we’re told these people are supposed to be appreciative of.

That in order to improves people’s lives, your system has to co to a place so devoid of happiness and human spirit that the prospect of performing menial, dangerous and deadly boring work for a few dollars a day is the standard for “improvement.” Your system takes people who’s lives aren’t worth living and puts them in a position where the best course of action is to go ahead and commit suicide. Kudos.

If you have to go to an unimaginable, unendurable, third world shithole to find people who are better off working for you and your system you probably don’t have anything to brag about, and your system and job probably has even less to recommend it.

This, I suppose, is how you measure success in Hell.  

Blame the victim is here because people in horrible jobs are often told it’s ‘their own fault’ after they made a horrible choice from a menu of even worse ones.

Market Fundamentalism is related here because the wonder and grandeur of markets doesn’t just perform magic and lift people out of poverty, it often only “improves” people in a god awful situation, who wind up better off dead anyway.

Regulation is relevant here, because “the capitalist,” in an environment of terrible conditions and no competition, may have no incentive to offer anything like human conditions or safety to desperate people, according to market theory. Here, human beings step in, and a human mind insures that “freedom to make a terrible choice from a menu of even worse ones” doesn’t mean you are “choosing” to work in an insufferable death trap. We regulate these places when competition and incentive won’t, for the sake of human dignity and the reduction of the most abysmal human suffering. Let the capitalist remind you that he doesn’t care about human suffering, while he prattles on about how noble he is. 

Choice theory is obvious here, because it reminds us choice doesn’t reveal preference, and making an abysmal choice in an a world of unbearable alternatives doesn’t mean you are offering someone a “good” choice. You don’t have to be responsible for the conditions either, to be taking advantage of a person. If you came upon a women who was being beaten and was about to be murdered for certain, and told her that you’d save her only if you could rape her, it would take a rather sadistic and demented mind to think you were really “helping” her, and no one would say you weren’t taking advantage of her. 

Paradox of tolerance Example

TheGrandmaster Meme's and Quotes Leave a Comment

An example of the Paradox of tolerance, a construct often used by the right wing and conservatives to justify hate speech, racism, and bigotry, while vilifying any public indictment of such speech as “hypocritical.” “You’re intolerant for not believing in my right to say all gays should die!” Special argument is required to point out the faulty analogy.

When liberals call out hate speech, or call for action against white supremacy, racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia and many others things, things commonly seen on the right, conservatives often gleefully see this as an opportunity to try to point out hypocrisy on the Left. “See, you guys are the intolerant ones! You don’t accept my brand of freedom, which happens to be corrosive hate speech!” Conservatives rely on two major fallacies, Ad hominem tu quoque – “You do it too” argument, and Faulty Analogy. Understanding Paradox of tolerance is very helpful in this type of argument. In summary, there is a difference along with a distinction in our example. Freedom to be who you, while hurting no one, and remaining unharmed is a freedom worth protecting according to liberal values. The freedom to harm another for being who they are is not a freedom necessarily worth protecting. One groups claims to be harmed just by other people existing. The other group is legitimately harmed and is just trying to get it to stop. 

Real Racism

TheGrandmaster Meme's and Quotes Leave a Comment

Racism doesn’t usually look like someone shouting slurs, it looks like people eagerly looking for a reason why a black kid deserved to die. 

-Circulated on Twitter, 2019. 

Socialism is used as a scare word

TheGrandmaster Meme's and Quotes Leave a Comment

Socialism is a scare word they’ve hurled at every advance the people have made. Socialism is what they called public power, social security, deposit insurance, and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for anything that helps all people. 

–Harry Truman, 1952

Socialism might have some bite if the right hadn’t tried to dilute it so entirely by throwing it around for everything they don’t like. They attempt to strawman any new public policy that helps people as a whole, like healthcare, consumer protection policies, even minimum wage as Socialism. In doing tho, they attempt to take the most common public goods and extrapolate from them a full blown comparison to Mao’s China or Stalin’s Russia, with the proclamation that “Socialism killed hundreds of millions.”  Either they have to reject this faulty comparison, that public policy alone isn’t socialism, or that if it is socialism, then socialism isn’t even usually bad because fire departments, highways, and libraries usually aren’t responsible for “the death of millions.” 

Republicans – textbook example that they hate the poor

TheGrandmaster People's writings

“HUD Secretary Ben Carson to propose tripling rent for some low-income Americans receiving federal housing subsidies”

Washington Post Article 

They see people of low income as ‘problems’ in and of themselves. The only conception of help, to make this world ‘better’ is upon seeing someone drowning, to throw them not a life raft but a brick. The notion that, if people suffer, making them suffer even more is the only solution, because the only way to help someone in agony is to make them worse, so that they are in so much agony they will immediately find a magical solution out of it. Sadism and cruelty is their only conception of “help.” That, in their suffering…they are only their because they are stupid and lazy, because obviously they would have found a way out if they ‘wanted’ to. And to make them go through incalculable agony, will expose their sloth, and show everyone they really could have if they’d tried. The reality is in fact, when you throw drowning people a brick, they just sink and die. The proposition that helping the suffering by making it worse is the solution, is a product of minds so demented as to be inhuman. The idea in these people’s head, is that those with the most will only work harder if you give them more, and those with the least will work harder only if you give them less. And this dichotomy exposes the truth of American Conservatism: It is clear by this astonishing fallacy of logic they don’t intent to help those with the least. That, it isn’t only that they hate poor people – it’s that their journey can never be complete until they make them as miserable as humanly possible. That the only solution for having not become as wealthy as they think you should have, is to enact punishment. A boot to the face instead of a helping hand. The rich are to be applauded, and rewarded with only more. It’s this single minded obsession with surgically targeting the least well off for destruction, that makes any attempt at a rebuttal on their behalf that they care about anyone outside of the rich, naive and flawed. We all care about our self interests, and we all care more about our self interests than others, and that’s fine. It could be one thing if they only catered to the rich, and ignored the poor or struggling. They would only be heartless, selfish, or sociopathic at that point. But at least it could be said they just want to be left alone to pursuit their own profit. No. It is events like this that shows that their own profit is never enough. It is never enough, unless they destroy the vulnerable. That their self interest actively includes to suffering of the struggling. That money isn’t of any use to them, unless they know when they sleep at night, that they have hurt others as well. Viewed in this light, it is why it is easy to argue that the modern Republican party is more than just useless, harmful, and sociopathic. It is that they are truly demented, psychopathic, and pure evil. It is in this light we see that there can be no negotiation with monsters. Their destruction is the only pathway to well being in a world where garbage like this exists.

Republican Hypocrisy

TheGrandmaster Uncategorized

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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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

TheGrandmaster Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality

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

TheGrandmaster Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality

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

TheGrandmaster Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of Inequality

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

TheGrandmaster What Every Economics Student Needs to Know

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

TheGrandmaster People's writings

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

TheGrandmaster People's writings

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

TheGrandmaster What Every Economics Student Needs to Know

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

TheGrandmaster People's writings

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

TheGrandmaster People's writings

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%?

TheGrandmaster People's writings

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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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

TheGrandmaster People's writings

$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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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.

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

“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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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

TheGrandmaster We Are Better Than This

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.