Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Republicans and Scrooge

For this holiday season, we need to remember an old story by Charles Dickens, a Christmas Carol. A large chunk of the population of this country has the feeling that everything they have they have a right to and don't have any responsibility to share anything, and can pay their employees wages as low as they want.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The cost of denial

The best literary examples of denial and believing that everything is perfect revolve around Denethor in The Return of the King. The first is that he wouldn't accept that Mordor was now a threat and was trying to govern the country of ten years previously, and the second was that his son Faramir had become a brave adult, which ultimately led to Denethor's death when he couldn't handle the truth due to such a huge gap between the world he wanted and the world he was in. Such behaviour caused him to commit suicide, and is a good reminder that people need to recognize reality and not live in the world of wants, but live in the present and dream for the future. Such behaviour destroys relationships (Denethor-Faramir) and people.
This form of denial also exists with politicians with the right wing in Europe and the United States refusing to admit that laissez-faire economics is ineffective at creating growth, and climate change deniers.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Why is Canada doing better than America?

Today I found a great article on the BBC talking about how Canada has a much lower unemployment rate than most European countries and now has a shortage of labor for the booming oil sands in Alberta.

This made me wonder why Canada is doing so much better than the US and Europe and what the underlying differences are between the three major economics (Europe is for obvious reasons more fragmented but their economy is in recession as a whole and that is where people are coming from).

Looking at the underlying features between the US and Canada they are very similar. They have extremely similar labor laws, extremely similar proportions on who works in what industries, and almost every other major figure is similar except for three important features:
  1. Canadians are paid more at the lower wage levels.
  2. Capital Gains are taxed at a progressive rate in Canada, but not in the United States.
  3. It takes only a day to start a business in Canada and they are ranked by the World Bank as the best country in the world, meaning competition in the private sector.
These three features are why Canada is doing so well right now and are finding such a developed economy.

The first point, higher wage levels, means that there is a higher demand for goods and services in Canada at the local level nationwide than in the US or Europe. The US is having a lagging economy right now, almost certainly due to lower consumer demand. Wal-Mart and other retailers are not finding people to purchase their services which is contributing to poor economic performance. Companies cannot stay open if no one will buy their product. Canada doesn't have this problem because everyone working full-time can survive. This helps small businesses and the entire economy.

Taxing capital gains as regular income solves the problem of the government not losing a lot of money during a recession, which keeps deficit low. However, I can't observe a difference in the stock markets so it doesn't dissuade people from removing their money from the market.

The United States has a similar sector makeup, and the oil boom is isolated to Northern Alberta, and the United States is also having an increase in drilling in different regions. But Canada's entire economy is doing better than the US and Europe, so blaming the oil boom is not enough, since it accounts for less than 19% of the economy.

So, the response of the stock markets is the same, the sector makeup is the same, all but one major feature of these economies I find are comparable, and that feature is distribution of wealth.

After the recession in 2008 the rest of the world came back (except Europe, but only after the implementation of austerity) and there was high demand for goods and services. The average Canadian is paid more than the average American, their distribution of wealth is a lot more equitable, close to what Americans want actually. Because of this difference, the change in economic spending wasn't so large in these other countries. a lot of America's economic growth of the past 40 years was also based in a lot of lending, through a system of government incentives for people borrowing for houses, and schools, which is more than other countries that have seen more steady growth. When the economy collapsed, millions of workers were laid off, and demand struggled. Without massive incentives to change this fact and increase the quality of life we will continue to see a major shift in economic growth. Nick Hanauer (an entrepeneur) made a TED talk talking about how the economy is an ecosystem (I'm paraphrasing) and that it requires transactions to be made, and when one large group of people are unable to make the transactions the entire ecosystem/economy falls apart. Other developed countries don't have this problem like us, and it is the only major characteristic that separates the US and Canada.

If we want to see growth and faster recoveries from recessions we need to increase our economy from the bottom so more people can participate, because no entrepreneur can start a business in a market where there is no demand. This is the reason the American economy is stagnating. It is also similar to the reason why the European economy is in depression, because millions of people have had their income taken from them and the aggregate demand curve has collapsed, leaving firms new and old with no demand, decreasing employment, and decreasing GDP, creating a cycle that has been feeding on itself. Western Europe (which has had large economic ties for the past 40 years) is now divided between north and south (though it hasn't always been to the same extent) between the employed and the unemployed, and this has reduced demand for goods and until they find that people in Southern Europe have opportunities restored, I have little doubt Europe will remain in recession. Other major economies are still growing at increased rates (as long as they didn't implement austerity).

I also predict that Canada saw a reduction in their GDP growth in 2012 because they are so heavily tied to the American economy which hasn't been growing as fast as we need to.

We need more avenues to the middle class so everyone with the skill and will can be as well off as possible. It will be a huge boom to our country's economy.

Sources: economic growth by country where available Summary of distribution of wealth TED Talk

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Austerity is turning out to be Merkel wasting German taxpayer dollars

I am reading this article and the one thing that comes to my mind is none of this had to happen. Everything that has happened with the European economy over the past few years was always completely unnecessary and all of the responses have been wrong.

If we review the European economy in 2008 the picture was very different. Greece and Germany (the "model good" and "model bad" economy the media loves to talk about) were doing just about as well in their economic statistics, and one wouldn't anticipate anything that Merkel has turned out to be for the world.

Then the economic collapse of the world happened. Greece and the United States had been having good economies for a good long while on paper, and all three had been running annual deficits since 2001 when the so-called "fiscal conservatives" were in power in these countries.

The reason Greece had a deficit in the first place is that the government didn't have income to pay for the goods and services people in developed countries expect. It is the same in every country where some people get all the benefits of being in the country but hide their money in income tax free countries to avoid paying money. This was why they had a deficit and besides that one factor, everything else in 2009 was not looking unusually terrible. All of the countries in the EU were looking really good.

Today there are riots on the street in Greece and Spain because their economies is so poor today.

The EU government (led by the European People's Party, EPP, the right wing organization) decided the solution to the lack of revenue for the government to provide countries was to fire millions of public workers and somehow through magic this was going to balance the budget.

But the problem was that firing millions of employees was going to dry up their spending, and the contraction expanded to the private market, which is why Spain and Greece have unemployment rates north of 20%. The only major change over the past few years has been the austerity, with crashing demand for services and businesses folding as they are unable to get income to stay afloat as the economy contracts which feeds on itself.

The European Union government took a situation that was not ideal and turned it into a depression.

What should have been done is look at the issue, Greece needs to keep borrowing more money to pay the previous borrowers which means the interest will be compounded, and if Greece was ever unable to get borrowers (which I am unaware of any time this has ever happened, it sure didn't happen to Japan with their Debt/GDP ratio over 200%, the highest in the world) it would mean they would need to find some way to pay creditors, but this wasn't happening. If Greece wanted to pay off its debt it would need to find a way to cover the debt (which is preferable and keeps a high credit rating) or write it off (and no one would ever lend to the Greek government again). The solution then is to find revenue to cover expenses. This is not what the EU Parliament mandated however, and Greece has found their economy contract in an epic proportion, because they tried to screw a screw with a chainsaw.

Greece today has a demand curve that has shrunk which means there is no money to be made by starting a business (which is how economies grow) and it needs to grow somehow.  Being part of the Eurozone, it is represented in parliament and the decisions with the central bank are made together, and as long as the EPP controls parliament they are unlikely to do measures that will move the demand curve north so that starting businesses becomes profitable. People won't start making businesses in Greece if they are basically destined to fail. They need to adopt Keynesian economics and expand the demand curve by hiring unemployed Greeks and Spaniards so that it becomes profitable to start businesses because that is the only way the economy will grow.

On top of all these mistakes the northern states now need to subsidize the southern states to grow their economies so the EU can stay strong, which will waste French and German taxes on something that never had to happen. Fiscal conservatism at its finest.

Unless if the EPP wants to destroy the EU, and if that is the goal they are doing exactly what they would want to do, because continuing austerity from parliament will turn into so much apathy towards the north and parliament (and the majority of Europeans live in the North) which has the potential to divide the European Union. The resentment has the possibility of being a powerful force to drive Golden Dawn and other xenophobic parties into power in Greece and Spain (think Franco) on the anger towards Northern European governments which will be bad for the world.

I would rather see the EU work towards getting Greece, Spain and now Cyprus on their feet. Merkel (the de facto leader of the EPP and EU) saying that they will not support Cypriot banks is what really caused the current recession which was completely unnecessary and poorly though out. If someone wanted to destroy the Europe Union they would vote for the EPP because that is exactly what they are doing. If someone wanted to start a fascist revolution the first step would be removing the Schengen Treaty and Council of Europe which will remove the peaceful regional means of communication between national government and remove the peaceful means of reconciliation which can't lead to anything good.

I really hope the EPP is removed from power in the next election after their brutal mismanagement of the world's richest continent. I may be American, but Europe is our strongest ally and largest trading partner and I plan on going back to Europe ASAP, so I have a lot riding on the next election as does everyone in the world.

One extra source:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

RIP Madiba

RIP Mandela, you were the bravest man in the world and my hero. You showed the world that no matter how despotic and fascist the country can be the people still hold power and freedom always wins. To people who believe government is futile you give real proof that there is always the possibility of making the worst situation better. South Africa is now one of the freest nations in the world, and you and your country showed us that everything good is possible. The whole world is South African today, the whole human species has lost our brightest living light.

No matter how much the Apartheid government tried to break your spirit you stayed strong at Robbin Island, and as President showed that democracy does work. You were no African freedom fighter turned dictator, but remained a freedom fighter until your last breath, and that alone makes you the most amazing man in the history of the world.

I never met you, I am much younger than you, but I love you Madiba. You were the best man in the world since Dr. King was assassinated in 1965, and I can't wait for people in the Arab world to follow your adventure and make freedom expand even further. You were my hero, my idol, and my favorite public figure bar nobody. The only other person who comes close is the Dalai Lama, and I await the next great leader of freedom in the world of my generation to appear.

On top of this Warren has said she won't run for president making this the worst day of the year by far. Unless if a strong Left wing candidate appears in the next two years, I'm likely to abstain in 2016 for President, because Clinton is weak, frequently votes alongside the Republicans, as I have already wrote about and I just don't trust her. At least I can mostly trust Christie. I'm not comfortable with Clinton. A bad day for the world.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The terrorists won, the PATRIOT ACT is still on the books.

I was reading an article by The Week talking about how al Qaeda is not as much of a threat as it was 12 years ago because it has very little leadership and has become more of a brand name than a fully functional organization.

But one thing I would argue is that al Qaeda has already won. Al Qaeda opposes liberalism (the idea that individuals can make choices) and see America as a respresentative of that liberalism, because our country was founded on it. Al Qaeda wants to implement laws to make it so women can't drive, no religious freedom, and other things that are very common in the nations they are allied to. The goal of 9/11 was to make Americans so scared that we would implement laws to fulfill their agenda. Starting in 1978 with the Foreign Intelligence Service Act the United States government started requiring warrants for international surveillance, and this was increased a lot following the attack on America. With the increased airport security which is extremely intrusive, increased custom requirements with Canada which I doubt has any positive results on illegal materials, warrantless wiretapping on American civilians, and other intrusive limits on American freedom. When the PATRIOT ACT and the other major bills that limited our liberties were passed the terrorists won and they will have won until such bills are repealed by either legislation or courts.

By keeping us thinking al Qaeda is still a major threat we will keep having the warrantless wiretapping, intrusive airport spying, and other limitations on our freedoms, which is keeping al Qaeda's progress in their War on Freedom they have been waging. The only way to win the War on Terrorism is to encourage the expansion of freedom which is exactly what al Qaeda doesn't want. Also, by keeping the telecommunications contracts for the warrantless spying we are continuing to buy billions of dollars worth of equipment from political donors (AT&T, Comcast, etc.) which is the incentive to our politicians to not stand on the infringement of our constitutional liberties.

Repeal the PATRIOT ACT, reduce airport security, open the border with Canada, and fight al Qaeda by making America more free. If someone is dangerous the government can get a warrant, restrict them from flying and buying weapons or other reasonable restrictions that will protect the freedom of the many while protecting us from people being dangerous to others.

If the rest of the world sees us be secure and free they will want to be like us, but as the largest developed nation in the world we need to be the leader and fight al Qaeda by destroying their gains against our freedom. Only then will we defeat their war against our freedom.

The Week

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Every lock has a key

A lot of companies today have approached the internet in the same way they used to approach television. They think they can control who can watch what from where and want to continue to censor what can be viewed based on location. They state they are saving money. This couldn't be further from the truth. Every major media corporation today is losing money by this outdated approach to producing content.

It is extremely easy to bypass DRM. You can by a DRM-free DVD player, or change the code on the Blu-Ray player to read all Blu-Rays irregardless of where the Blu-Ray disk was sold. People do this every day, the only people it stops are the people who don't know how to bypass the censors. It's only inconvenient until you know how to open the lock.

Instead of trying to limit people from watching (which in today's fast technological world is not just impractical but impossible) companies should try to capitalize in foreign markets.

American companies usually block commercialed access to their shows to foreigners. The United States has 317 million people, or 4.4% of the world population. These companies that have art that people want to view across the world (think of the Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, Family Guy, etc.) and they won't let them watch them using programs like Hulu, meaning they cannot sell advertisements for those 197 countries, losing potentially millions of dollars of revenue each. The math is simple. Let's assume the owners of Hulu expand to the EU, Australia, and Canada, a population of 550 million people. Assuming only 1% of the population (5.5 million people) watch 100 videos a year (someone who watches 2 shows a week on average) and each viewing generates only a cent of profit (it is probably more than that) they are throwing away $5.5 million of profit. If the BBC did the same thing for the rest of the EU, the US, and Canada (a population of roughly 310+30+20+500-60=800 million) using the same state they are throwing away $8 million of profit a year. I wish I was so rich that I could throw away that type of moolah! I'm surprised the shareholders of the companies that own Hulu aren't protesting at their pointless sacrifice of over $5 million.

Viewers and fans of great TV lose nothing from this censorship, it is merely inconvenient. The real losers are the censors who choose not to make millions of dollars from willing international audiences. This is the present reality, the future is to make it profitable for content creators. They are the real losers in this system they have designed. Making laws to "fight piracy" reduce your own revenue is a stupid thing to do. If they want to fight piracy they will bring content to where it is being demanded and make profit where they currently are making nothing.

The internet is where people are looking for content today, and broadcasting is a thing of the past. Multicasting is the present and the future, and the sooner content creators accept this fact the sooner they can make the profit they should be making.

This is why DRM is the biggest financial drain of content creators today.

Monday, November 25, 2013


Increasing in purism:
A lot of younguns today desire wireless internet access in their places of work and home. They want everything to be available to them to purchase and use, thinking it is unreasonable when these things are made inconvenient. Personally, I think we should do away with internet. If you want to talk with someone call or text them with a cell phone, it's good enough. The internet is unnecessary, phones are good enough and we should be grateful for dial-up. Don't be so demanding.

A lot of people today are very disconnected from others because they use phones. They want everything immediately done and not have the anticipation of waiting for something to go across the country on a pony and have that long lifelong conversation. When everything with a phone takes so little time people spend a lot less time talking. We should bring back the pony express. Phones are unnecessary because everything can be transferred by pony, it won't kill you. Don't be so demanding.

A lot of people today feel like they need to write things down. Back in my day we committed everything to memory and recited the old stories on the beginning of the world which we know so well we don't need to write anything down.  Writing is unnecessary, memorization is enough. Don't be so demanding.

The only difference between these three statements is when they were popular.

The good is the enemy of the best.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Direct action

This is a response to a photo I found on Facebook overs year ago. It has been slightly edited.

Someone who associated with what occupy became once said, "if voting changed anything they would make it illegal"

Which is exactly what is happening across the country as ballot access is being restricted under the false premise of voter fraud. The same thing was done under every fascist and communist country in history. In other words, voting is being made illegal for many. It obviously matters.

This nonsense about "direct action" on changing government by protesting Wall Street in a camp when the corruption is on K street will never work. Unions didn't win until they pressured government under President T Roosevelt, passed anti-trust laws, and formed the progressive party which got seats in congress (Theodore Roosevelt ran as a Progressive in 1912). They then elected President Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 who passed regulations on Wall Street to protect Americans with a supportive congress which brought all of America out of the great depression, the rich, middle class, and even the poor. The progress continued until 1978 when union members stopped voting and the Republican Party had 14 years of undisputed dominance in government. Regulations were stripped, and America didn't complain when they saw their purchasing power plummeting year after year, and kept abstaining, and nothing has changed yet. The median American households real value falls every single year. Occupy chose this direct action bullshit which has never succeeded, using the same strategies those WTO protests in 1999 used which have failed every time they are tried without fail. Direct action has never succeeded, and it isn't illegal, though protesting is in some places, voting has a stellar record, and it is being made difficult in the south right now.

Suppoerters of direct action will often point to Ghandi and Mandela on how it worked, but Mandela won from prison while he was running for office, and Ghandi was in every way looking for massive political changes, to have India be political independent. Martin Luther King jr persuaded politicians to pass laws ending discrimination as a major tactic as his final goal, equality under the law, and he had two presidents who supported him on it. What occupiers called direct action is protesting against changes without actually running candidates to vote on the bills that will make a serious difference in the laws of our country. The only movements I can think that have done this without any political action (which many occupiers opposed) are the anti-globalization and animal rights movements, and they haven't succeeded by any stretch of the imagination.

Global change requires action. Action requires politics. Direct action is in reality inaction because there is no change after it is complete.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Kennedy was one of the greatest presidents in American history. This is something I truly believe for several reasons. His push towards social spending led to Medicare and Medicaid among other social programs that helps support Americans who have bad luck. He supported human rights more than any other president in American history, passing numerous bills to help African Americans, an issue long ignored by the politicians. His support of Germany which wanted to be unified was a message not of another war in Europe but of unification, and he would be pleased today to see the European Union and Schengen treaty today. When it comes to domestic issues he was the greatest president in American history.

Not to say Kennedy was a perfect president. He supported the government in Iraq that would lead to Saddam Hussein, and significantly increased our military non-humanitarian support of Israel, both of which made the world less free. Like every president he is complicated. Whether he would or would not have invaded Vietnam is a matter of gigantic historical debate, and I don't know what he would have done.

That aside, his economic policies loosened the monetary policy of the federal reserve which led to increased lending by private banks and led us to 8 years of GDP growth averaging around 5%. He was one of the greatest presidents our economy has ever seen.

Let us not forget Kennedy and the contributions he made to this country. I may be too young to remember him, but I recognize the benefits I have today from the great President John Fitzgerald Kennedy for his accomplishments which are significant.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A history of compromise

In my political science class we had a discussion about compromise and most of the classmates who spoke said compromise is a good thing and said they desired for the parties to "work together" and "find the middle". Some compromises are better than others, and some are just plain rotten. I can pinpoint no compromise that was completely good, though there are some (like Kansas-Nebraska Act) are just plain rotten. Here is a list of the seekers of this very romantic concept:
  • The Great Compromise which created our bicameral congress made it so we have a congress that is hard to get things done, but is the best compromise on the list because it made it so the large and small states would stay together.
  • What was maybe the only good compromise in history was the Missouri Compromise under Madison, which stated that slave states had to enter along with free states which allowed the nation to grow and postponed the ending of slavery.
  • Millard Fillmore (our 13th President) compromised with the Kansas Nebraska group which historians agree (which is rare for historians to agree on an issue) helped make the civil war happen sooner.
  • The Compromise of 1877 aka "The Great Betrayal" removed troops from the south which allowed them to implement the first Jim Crow laws.
  • Franklin Roosevelt compromised in 1937 with Republicans to lower the deficit, but the private sector wasn't strong enough yet to support the jobs the government was supporting, so he quickly reversed course in the Second New Deal.
  • President Clinton compromised on DOMA trying to get other bills done, which never happened.
  • President Obama compromised on ACA which left it without a lot of teeth to fully reduce the cost of health care and delayed its implementation by 4 years after it passed. Some say this might be necessary, but the PATRIOT ACT (a much larger bill that expanded bureaucracy far more than ACA's original form was going to) was in full force just months after its implementation with an entire new department! The only remaining reason to delay it by 4 years is because it gave people time to doubt its implementation, put it after the Congressional and Presidential elections so that it gave the Republicans a chance to win (which failed for the Presidential election but did give Republicans the House, despite losing the popular vote last year for the house thanks to gerrymandering).
I oppose compromise as a policy intiative because if you are running for office and say you want to do something, you had better do it, or expect that people will not like you. Our greatest presidents in my opinion were Washington, Lincoln, both of the Roosevelts, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Lyndon Baines Johnson (Andrew Johnson was a toad). The difference between these presidents and the presidents I listed above is they ran on a particular platform, and then worked towards their platform because all of them had the support of the American people. If you are an honest person and mean what you say you will do it. You won't walk into the German Bundestag and then reach over to the Neo-Nazi National Democratic Party and ask them what they want. They lost the election! The people chose your vision, you had better give it to them! If someone is an honest person they will do this, like the 8 presidents I list above. If Americans wanted the Republican vision of health care in 2008 we would have voted for Sarah Palin and John McCain, but we didn't. It was irresponsible and just plain rude for Obama and the other Democrats to then reach over to the Republicans and destroy their own bill that a majority of Americans had voted for in the previous election. They might have been able to retain the house in 2010 if they had actually stood by their platform, but instead of then stepping aside and giving into the insurance companies who have no interest in a stable reliable health care system they lost the election. Obama should have vetoed the NDAA in 2011 but he didn't. If something is right it should be done.

I respect the Republicans for one thing, and that is they stand by their word. If the Republicans state they want to privatize our schools, end Social Security, ship weapons to Israel, Iran, the Mujahideen, invade Grenada, veto the Americans with Disabilities Act, make it illegal for workers to organize, or put Habeas Corpus on hold you can believe they are going to do it, and for that I respect them. I don't trust their judgement as can be seen with the 2008 financial collapse, opposing bills meant to expand freedom etc, but I trust the Republicans will do what they say they are going to do given their history, I just think their platform is irresponsible and the wrong direction for a variety of reasons. But I do trust they will do what they say.

I have no respect for Mainstream Democrats, even though at times they make some good decisions like Obama talking to the President of Iran to reduce the tensions and bring Iran (which is one of only two ways to go over land from India to Europe, a geographic/economic position of unmatched importance) back to talk with Western nations so they can have freedom and the world can be better, the majority of the Democrats' decisions have been poor. Here is a list:
  1. President Obama has postponed a number of parts of the ACA over the past year, meaning it will be over 5 years since passage when it will come into effect. The insurance exchanges are only now coming into effect now, if the PATRIOT ACT came into effect it would have come into effect in 2004. The Supreme Court has granted access to people who challenge the ACA (apparently the GOP has standing) but has refused to grant access to challenges by civil rights groups on the PATRIOT ACT (who apparently have no standing even though the government is snooping in their records without independent warrants, and prisoners who have been given no habeas corpus even though last time I checked no enemy troops have been on American soil attacking us in a war for the past 12 years, meaning we haven't been invaded).
  2. President Obama has not made an honest attempt to repeal the PATRIOT ACT and has signed its re-authorization every single time. Obama is a conservative. The Terrorists won, the PATRIOT ACT is still in force. America will only defeat the Terrorists' motives when we reinstate our freedom.
  3. President Clinton caved to the Financial industry on deregulating Over-The-Counter Derivatives which allowed people to make dangerous trades that were a major part of the financial collapse in 2008.
This is why I have no respect for the Democratic Party as an institution and limited respect for President Obama. When a party wins an election, it has the ability to make its platform that the people chose become policy of the land but the Democrats haven't done this since the 1960s. President Carter attempted, but with the Republicans taking over Congress halfway through his term and being unable to convince the American people that it was foreign states increasing the price, not the American government, he couldn't do a lot else.

The one time the democrats really led was when they didn't compromise on the debt ceiling last month. Hopefully they will continue and get real progress done. I don't know what they will do next.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


First it was the existence of a German style health care system,then it was Benghazi, then it was the insurance exchange not working. 

The corporate media has been trying to get Obama on every little thing that didn't go just right, as long as it doesn't benefit their owners. None of them are looking at the real failures of the Obama administration, giving up the public option and other downright concessions regarding his most important bill, signing the NDAA of 2011 which is plain embarrassing, because each of these benefit the companies that donate to politicians campaigns and almost certainly have stakes in the private corporate media. They would put it as "holding the presidents feet to the fire."

What is really interesting also is that when it came to his predecessors decisions to invade Iraq, our the bill of rights on hold via the Patriot Act, the similar problems with Medicare part D's rollout, give the banks money they will never have to pay back, appoint extremely biased judges that have ruled that there is no limit to how much a corporation can donate to campaigns if they form a Super PAC hitch undermines our democracy and creates conflicts of interest for our elected officials, there was very little to none of this call for "accountability" when our bill of rights was put on hold.

It is so obvious to me how biased the media is and where their interests truly lie. There are problems they should be reporting, but since they serve their interest they get little to no screen time.

1. President Obama has made a number of concessions too soon, with the ACA, NDAA of 2011, and with a large exception of the fiscal cliff disaster (the disaster wasn't the debt, it was the closure of many government services that had a noticeable impact on our economy) has given a lot of ground to the republicans and got nothing in return, like how Clinton held the office (led is too strong of a word) back in the 1990s.
2. The Democrats have not made serious efforts to repeal the PATRIOT ACT, give justice to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other military prisons, give justice to immigrants being held in TSA prisons across the country, reform our immigration laws so we can have enough farm workers come here legally, repeal citizens united and implement mandatory public financing for political campaigns which will help destroy conflicts of interest and is used in New Zealand which is routinely listed as the least corrupt country in the world, renew the part of the Civil Rigts Act which requires some federal oversight in states where there is a history of gerrymandering, demand accountability on where and who we ship weapons to, making sure the process of who receives federal contracts is fair and accountable, or changing our tax code to be more progressive and help bring stability to our economy like exists in Australia. These types of actions will fire up the base of the Democratic Party and get people excited. There has been no progress on any of them. This is a major failure of the Democratic Party. The only 2 major bills the past 5 years have been watered down (even though neither one got a single Republican vote) and were very limited in scope. This isn't so much about appeasing the republicans as it is appeasing the corporate interests who are corrupting our system.
3. The surveillance of American citizens is unconstitutional without a warrant. There has been no serious effort by the President or his party to change those laws.

These are serious problems that threaten the ability of people to get fired up about the Democratic Party, I'm not very fired up personally after all of these concessions and am hoping for a third party if our electoral system would allow it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Basic Income

I saw an interesting post today on Facebook talking about a new method to jumpstart small poor economies. After watching the video of the people in India and thinking of how government spending is done today having some direct-to-citizen cash transfers makes sense to me.

The US government spends hundreds of billions of dollars on recipients, many of them extremely wealthy companies.

Seeing what is being done right now in Madhya Pradesh is stunning seeing how giving people these small gifts (100 Rials is just over $3.00 USD) turning their lives around. Not everyone is so wise, but given the amount of economic value added to these people's lives and the amount of change it makes for them, it makes sense for the government to do small things to help people become financially independent. When people are able to work to their full capacity we have a greater economy. When the average consumer increases his/her income there is a larger demand for normal goods which incentivizes producers of these goods to increase their demand. In economics there is a concept called marginal utility. As someone buys more and more of a good there comes a point where the value added decreases. When we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on (primarily) military contracts for these large companies it makes a very small impact on the economy because the people who own the majority of these companies have everything they want and have no incentive to buy more goods when their income increases. If I already can afford all the electronics, books, vehicles, and trips I want in a year, increasing my income is not going to make a significant difference to my quality of living or spending, so I will put it in stocks.

Investment is important, but businesses need both investment and demand. If no one else is able to purchase goods the investment is worthless. If businesses don't see demand for their services rise they will not grow. Businesses have to pay back the money that is invested in them at a future date (sometimes specified in bonds, sometimes not in terms of stocks). The money that they make from income is theirs after expenses. As a small business owner, I would prefer customers over investment after I meet my expenses.

A better solution would be what the Basic Income people are proposing and seeing the impacts it makes to people in India. Instead of passing out food stamps and assistance that is dedicated to some things it would be better to just give them cash, which is actually what Milton Friedman argued for and why we have an alternative minimum tax. If the federal government gave small businesses grants and state governments ensured that licenses are processed in a timely and efficient manner, our economy will be much better off. If you take someone who was making $20,000 a year and double their income you will find that their consumer spending will change in a far more significant way than someone who is making $20,000,000 a year. A $10,000 grant to someone working minimum wage who wants to start a business makes a huge difference to someone , while it would take a hundred times that to make the same proportional difference to someone making 1000 times that, which means it is a far less expensive method to boost our GDP. If we provided free education to every American (as I have posted in other blog posts) and we had 10,000,000 students, it would cost roughly $20,000,000,000. Lockheed Martin alone received $31,000,000,000 last fiscal year, excluding the other big fish of Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, GD, etc. People who say we can't afford this just haven't seen the facts.

The government already gives small business loans, we should shift these to be grants which will be an even bigger stimulus to our economy.

As a sidenote, I personally suspect that the amount of money the government grants to these companies is caused by the enormous sum of money they pay to politician's campaigns, which is why I still want to have Occupy's goal of publically funded campaigns. These companies need to diversify away from military, there are many other things they are manufacturing because it is just too expensive to support such a complex.

The European Proposal:

American spending by recipient:

Major campaign donaters:

President Eisenhower:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Peace in the Forgotten Continent

Today the M23 Rebellion in the Congo ended. It is the front page news story on Wikipedia, but it takes a good amount of scrolling to learn this on the BBC, Aljazeera, and doesn't even appear on the US Google News homepage. This is a major development for world peace and the development of Africa and is clear bias against Africa in the global news media. Hopefully the United States and EU will move to help Central Africa develop now so that it can stabilize and develop in sustainable ways.

The other part of this is even though this happened today, I can't find it anywhere but Wikipedia's front page without scrolling through to look at Africa or subscribing to news sources from across the world, and the front page of has the peace treaty, but most people won't look at such a region-focused website. I'm unusual in this way.

The global news media needs to be more aware of Africa, home of a billion people and a vast array of cultures. Most of future of global economic growth is in Africa because it is mostly undeveloped and a lot of millionaires and billionaires are going to be made when Africa develops and the people who invest in Africa really make a large difference. Estimates put the Democratic of the Congo with the largest potential GDP in the world given its untapped potential. There should be more reporting on Africa, given how it is the future.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2013 election and implications

So the 2013 election has just ended. The most important part was undoubtedly the governor's races in New Jersey and Virginia. Solid Republican Chris Christie led a gigantic victory in a deeply Democratic State. His campaign speech talked about showing how he can make sides work together. I find him undoubtedly the leader of the Republican Party's center wing, and the entire party. The other three wings are the Libertarians who are led by Rand Paul or Justin Amash who is the leader of their caucus, the Tea Party which is led by Marco Rubio, and the Far-right Christian Republicans is probably Bobby Jindal of Louisiana given his extreme social views, leader of the Republican Governors Association, and rising status in the party, but they have been less prominent since the rise of the Tea Party. Of these five people, the only candidate who has potential of winning over the hearts and minds of centrist voters is Chris Christie. The Libertarians are seen as outsiders as a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists, the Tea Party is seen as anti-government, and the Far-Right Evangelicals are unable to appease to anyone outside their small group. In Congress John Boehner routinely gives his power to the Tea Party's wishes, so he is not an effective leader, and Mitch McConnell is not someone who routinely speaks out on issues on national TV and when he does is seen as extremely arrogant with his comment on making President Obama a one term President his number one goal. In short, no one comes close to Chris Christie in his leadership of the Republican Party today. He brilliantly toured New Jersey with Governor (R) Susana Martinez of New Mexico, a brilliant move to reach out to Hispanics which is exactly what the Republican Party needs to stay relevant in the future as America becomes a majority-minority nation and will help keep Texas Red in the future. This will make far-right conservatives angry but keep it relevant for the other 80-90% of Americans who don't see Hispanic immigration as a threat. His speeches yesterday and today are a very clear election pitch, and he will be the Republican nominee in two years. He is a coalition builder like Ronald Reagan was with the libertarians and Far-Right Christians which will keep the Republicans from splitting and becoming irrelevant, only centrist and not extremist while Reagan was divisive and Christie is becoming a potentially unifying figure. He will bring them back to the center. Tonight's election is an important shift in history. If he had lost today the Republicans would be completely leaderless but for the next three years at least Chris Christie will be the face and voice of the Republicans.
The Virginia Race has several very important lessons for the nation. The first is the rising face of the Libertarians as a political force taking over 6% of the vote. The Libertarians in this election stole from the Democrats as we can clearly see by comparing the numbers for the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Virginia is a swing state and showing a 55.5% vote for a Democrat in a statewide election shows how it is still a swing state as it has been since the 1970s (where it has gone between Democrats and Republicans 5 times now) given how the last governor was a Republican. The Republicans need Virginia to win, and have won Virginia every time they have won since 1924. Virginia also has two Democrats in Congress. It is too early to say how Virginia will vote in the next Presidential election, but it is extremely important because there is no way a Republican can win the Presidency without Virginia, it hasn't happened for 89 years. There are only three true swing states in America that voted for the winner for the past four elections and the margin of victory in the last election was under 5% and they are Florida, Ohio, and Virginia. Even if Chris Christie takes all three of these three states in the next election the Democrats will have 272 electoral college votes unless if he takes at least one more state. This is going to be a large challenge for Christie.

The Democrats are going to need a candidate that can get their base to turn out in 2016 and capture the votes of people who don't usually vote and convince people that she is better than Chris Christie. Many people think Clinton will do that, but Clinton will not get the votes of people who lean close to center and no votes of people who lean slightly right, and she will be unable to get a lot of left leaning votes because she is very similar to Chris Christie's views in many ways, neither has a record of supporting gay marriage (Bill signed DOMA and Hillary is very similar to Bill in her views), and Chris Christie probably has the upper hand on economics. I actually might vote for Chris Christie over Hillary Clinton if she becomes the Democratic nominee given their similarities. I trust Christie more than Clinton. However, if the Democrats were to run Elizabeth Warren I would vote for her given her advocacy of consumer protection and Warren has the potential to defeat Christie heads down because when she gets on the stage with Christie in 2016 it is going to be a very interesting debate that will move America to the left. Looking at Christie's funding he got the majority of his money through public funds and has no incentive serve anyone but the people and it will be extremely interesting to see if he will be able to see how he will do on the national scale on campaign finance in comparison to the Democratic nominee and where his positions will be on more national problems over the next few years. I am certain he will be the Republican nominee, and he has real potential to win the Presidential election in 2016 if he stays true to his values. I have little doubt he will beat Clinton in 2016 since he will get most centrists, and neither candidate is getting over 50% when the two are matched up.

This doesn't mean he is a Keynesian though. His education policies are definitely right wing. The election will be very dependent on whether Christie keeps his more moderate positions or moves right like Romney and who the Democratic nominee is and how shall presents herself. The Democrats can use this to their advantage.

I am Progressive, and I actually have some respect for Chris Christie, in fact he is the only Republican politician that I have any respect for today. It is going to be a very interesting next three years. The Republican Party is about to irreversibly change significantly under Christie's leadership. The Tea Party will soon join the Know-Nothings in the history books. Christie (if elected) will become as important to the future Republican Party as President Franklin Roosevelt is to the Democratic Party today in how he redefined his party, there really is no other historical comparison to what Christie is becoming. I must say I like how the Republicans will become closer to center and we will be able to get real progress done.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The early 1980s recession, a non-apologetic summary

I'm working on another post when I started looking at the 1980s recession. My primary reading is Wikipedia which is pulling from the CBO (since I don't want to spend hours doing this project).

The recession began in January 1980 by GDP growth which was quickly reversed by an expansionary economic policy by President Carter and the Federal Reserve which moved the economy back to above-average economic growth. When President Reagan got into office the unemployment rate had stabilized and the economy was growing until August 1981 when the Reagan administration arrived and the interest rate jumped to record highs. The economy entered recession until late 1982 with this policy unemployment hit its highest post-World War II levels peaking at 10.8% (0.8% higher than October 2009, the peak of the last recession). The short way to put this is they did exactly what Keynes would say not to do and the response was exactly what Keynes said would happen. They then reduced the interest rates and raised taxes in 1982 during the worst point of the recession. and the unemployment rate collapsed and growth was restored, exactly as Keynes predicted.

Shame on the Keynesians who didn't point this out and boast in the early 1980s, but if we are to blame anyone we need to blame the Democrats for not making this failure of policy which really disproved laissez faire and proved the efficacy of Keynesianism in the most effective way (trying both solutions and finding normal results) a major tenant of the 1984 election which both the economists and politicians of the day failed to do.

The 1980s should be seen as the triumph of Keynesianism, but since there were clearly no great economists in that era a golden opportunity to make some amazing papers on what types of policies should be practiced in different times. This needs to be public knowledge, and the policy that Reagan did that really brought the economy to recovery was Keynesian policies. It is unbelievable we took this recession as proof that neoliberal policies work because we should take the exact opposite meaning out of it.

Reagan's tax policies of the era:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Where do we go from here? October 2013

Right now the United States is potentially in a major shift of political power that will change the future considerably. If the President plays his cards right he can make the Republicans' opposition to Obamacare doom their party from ever being favorable to a majority of Americans outside of some backwards welfare filled trailer counties, mostly in the South.

Obamacare is rising in approval and could potentially see its approval rating be positive (more positive than negative) if the Obama administration implements the law well. source Ideally the Obama administration can fix the problems seen over the past few weeks and show how having a public marketplace to compare rates can save people money. This will bring people closer to Obama when they see how it works once the bugs of are fixed. Next time we will hopefully use public employees next time. Why are we employing contractors from health insurance companies to design a site whose purpose is to lower the cost of health insurance?2 It seems like a conflict of interest for the company.

We can move towards a more stable economy with more progress than any other nation in the world if we play our cards right right now, and I think President Obama has the responsibility to push our country in that direction. If President Johnson could push the Civil Rights Act through Congress with practically half the country opposing it, than Obama (as one of only 17 presidents to win an average popular vote of over 50%, 21 presidents who were elected did not win such an impressive margin. The last president to win an average above 50% was Ronald Reagan.) can push through more legislation like Obamacare. It was a major issue in 2012 and over 50% of Americans said yes.

If I were the President I would make large moves to push the following through:
  1. Make more moves to make immigration laws humane and expand opportunities to work visas for farm workers. Obama could build a coalition with farmers on this issue so they won't have to hire illegal immigrants to get enough workers for their farms, which could change the composition of the House and Senate in next year's elections and change the governorships for some more conservative states potentially if he makes it a major issue. If Obama and the rest of the Democrats make moves so farmers would be able to fill their work positions with legal workers from Mexico it will make a significant difference for our economy. As their representatives fight against this the Democratic Party can offer an alternative that is good for small farmers. This should be along with the Dream Act, which is supported by 70% of Americans. This alone will make a huge difference in how people vote in future elections. This issue will help cement voters in Texas which could be a major game changer for the political landscape of America.
  2. An overwhelmingly majority of Americans support background checks for guns. This can be a major wedge issue the Democrats will win on.
  3. He should stump for a lot of Democratic candidates in Texas in the next house election because this could change the entire political landscape of America. source
  4. Make sure the continuing rollout of Obamacare is as good as possible as soon as possible. This will help people get better health coverage and debunk the self-proclaimed major tenant of the Republican platform as it demonstrates itself to be better than predicted by FOX News.
  5. Push for more student aid as opposed to loans, which will help everyone who is in college, and make it so parents of students could change their decisions on how they vote as the Republicans push against help for students as they try to give larger bonuses to the banks that bankroll them. When the Republicans push against it it will help get college students voting by giving them an issue that will help motivate college student to vote Democrat. Hopefully a good number of grandparents will think about who is serving their interests.
  6. He can cement support in cities by pushing for more mass transit and making it a major policy initiative of the Department of Transportation if the Republicans win. This will help local economies by improving opportunities for commuting. This will further cement support of people in large cities and help them see the parties as being diametrically different on these issues.
  7. The major issue that the Democrats have not addressed so far is the drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan that more and more have been demonstrated to hurt civilians more than terrorists, which is absolutely immoral and a war crime. If Obama ends the drone strikes he will gain back the respect of left-wing Democrats and help improve turnout in the next election by cementing the support of his base. He needs to do this soon. It will help our image abroad considerably too, which is something that always helps our influence abroad and needs significant help after a long time with diplomacy being on the back burner and some major failures abroad.
Of course, if the Democratic Party makes these seven issues even more important tenants of their platform they will need to follow through in 2015, If they win the election and don't keep pushing for what they fought for in the election they will contribute to people's apathy towards politics and belief that both parties are identical, but if they actually make movements to improve the country they will be the dominant party and we could surpass Europe in standard of living which would be amazing.

There is a lot at stake here too, here are just a few reasons why I think the Democrats are better for America's future:
  1. There are disturbing racist undertones and overtones to the Republican fight against immigration.
  2. The Republican opposition to gay marriage is immoral.
  3. Republicans over the past two years have put everything into fighting Obamacare and the status quo for American medicine has given worse results at higher costs for Americans than other nations. We deserve better.
  4. Mass transit is critical for our economy to grow and the Republicans have damaged our national infrastructure. If I wanted to kill a country's economy, my first target would be infrastructure.
One last thought is that when I look back in 20 years I expect that most people will see the Republican Party's demise as a self-inflicted wound.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Real statistics on cell phones and driving compared to other issues

The percentages used in this paper are the probability of a single individual being involved in one of these scenarios, so the number of incidents/American population (310,000,000 with two significant digits).

385 people (1.2x10^-4% of Americans) die every year from accidents involving cell phones (not necessarily being caused by cell phones). 21,000 people (6.8x10^-3% of Americans) were injured in accidents involving cell phones (again, regardless of whether they were the actual cause). 660,000 people (0.2% of Americans) use a cell phone at any point in the day.

So, 385/(660,000*365) is an incidence rate of 1.6x10^-4% chance of being involved in a cell phone related death while using a cell phone while the chance of being struck by lightning is 1.4x10^-4%. The probability of being in an accident where the driver is using a cell phone is 8.7x10^-3%, . But since that first number is far higher than the real probability of being caught in an accident since it is not a daily rate but any point in the day. It is probably closer to that number divided by 16 (assuming we sleep for 8 hours in a day) yields a more likely rate of being caught at 1x10^-5% which means you are more likely to be struck by lightning than to have your use of a cell phone lead to a fatality. The chance of an accident is 5.4x10^-4%, only 5 times more likely than being struck by lightning.

These numbers are not very significant when compared to other problems. 40,000 people or 1.3x10^-2% of Americans die from antibiotic resistant bacteria every year, over 10 times the probability of being injured, and over 100 times the probability of being killed in an accident involving (but I must stress not necessarily being cause by) a cell phone. 11,078 people were killed by firearms in homicide in 2010, 3.6x10^-3% of Americans, 30 times the number of people killed in accidents involving a cell phone. 17,500 people died from from AIDS in America, 5.6x10^-3% of Americans. 38,285 people died from suicide in 2011, a rate of 0.012%, 1000x the probability of dying from an accident involving a cell phone. Kidney disease killed 45,731 people in 2011, 0.015% of Americans. There are 8 more causes higher than Kidney disease. The number one killer was heart disease with roughly 600,000 deaths in 2011, or 0.19% of Americans, over 10,000x the probability of dying with a cell phone.

We love to think cell phones are dangerous, that they kill people with cancer, accidents, and probably Big Foot, and that by just purchasing and using a bluetooth our rate of being in trouble diminishes. However, it just doesn't stack up to other causes of death and the rate of injury doesn't come close to the large killers. There has been a lot of press attention and nothing else is really notable. If we really wanted to make an impact to our death rate we would work on making guns harder to acquire, increase funding to research to reduce the deaths from illness, and cell phones don't even make the radar compared to other causes. I would predict the incidence rate of driving while talking on a cell phone and getting into an accident is not significantly higher with other car activities such as talking with a passenger, listening to the radio, adjusting the thermostat, or other things that you do while you are driving, which means this does not pass the placebo test and the issue should be discarded as a witch hunt.

I don't join witch hunts, and this fear of cell phones is a witch hunt based off of exaggerated data. I just can't get excited on this issue after seeing the data.

Also remember that there is a lot of money to be made with Bluetooths.


Friday, October 25, 2013

Brilliant picture

This picture is from the page "I Fucking Love Science" on Facebook.

The author of this picture is very perceptive, and I can think of so many issues that this applies to. Here are only 2.

  1. Oil
    1. First we think that oil will never run out.
    2. Then we say that it is too expensive and too large for the United States to switch to another source of energy.
    3. We then say we can't focus on it because we are working on defeating communism, terrorism, drugs, or some other war.
    4. We then state that global warming isn't happening, pull out unreviewed papers on "global cooling" and other rubbish trying to excuse the fact that a lot of people are making a lot of money off of oil.
    5. We then find out in 50 years that we have run out of oil and we haven't done the work to preserve our economy in the long-run. I plan on living past 2070, so I will live in a world with no oil. So we will more to natural gas and repeat this cycle when we run out of natural gas (hopefully not).
  2.  Concentration of wealth
    1. We first state that it is inevitable that we will have such an unequal distribution of wealth (The United States has the 5th most unequal distribution of wealth in the world, only Denmark, Switzerland, Namibia and Swaziland have a more unequal distribution. The next developed country with an unequal distribution is Chile.
    2. This problem most likely will have the 2nd through 4th stages at once, claiming there is nothing we can do about it, claiming it is actually good for us, and many other excuses.
    3. In the end it turns out the distribution of wealth has made so many people poor that when they say they want equal opportunities to education etc. it turns society upside down and many large changes need to be made to prevent people from revolting.
I could think of more examples if I really though about it, but these seem to be good enough, and there are more things I want to write about.

Hong Kong as a model of supply-side economics

Hong Kong has long been regarded as an example of the successes of the economics policies of Milton Friedman. As a review, Milton Friedman's laissez-faire school usually has the following points:

  1. Very low taxes, usually as a flat tax.
  2. Little to no regulation on businesses and very low taxation.
  3. In the most pure forms as are being advocated for by the modern Republican Party in America, Conservative Party in the UK, and CDU in Germany (in their European policies) most things should be privatized.
  4. No minimum wage

When I read about Hong Kong however, I find the following:
  1. A Progressive Salaries Tax, along with other Keynesian style taxes, with the one notable exception of no capital gains tax.
  2. Regulations on their stock market
  3. Public health care and public schools
  4. A minimum wage
This is looking very Keynesian too me. They have no corporate income tax but most economists would agree this is a good thing (which is unusual for economists). The reason they are ranked as the most liberal economy is not because of the normal things Friedman proposes but the ability to form a business is the second easiest in the world, and wages in Hong Kong are really high compared to the rest of China (except Macau and Shanghai) which means people have expendable income and there is demand for new businesses. They have a lot of trade going through their port which is a major boost to their economy, and having a large free market is admirable (which both Keynesians and neo-liberals can agree on). But to go so far as to claim that Hong Kong is neo-liberal based on their tax code (which is regressive in the way that it lacks a Capital Gains tax) ignores all the other things the government does.

In one way, Hong Kong is actually the most socialist state in the free world because all land is publicly held. This isn't capitalist to any stretch of the imagination. This is why I think labeling Hong Kong as a neo-liberal example demonstrates a lakc of understanding of how Hong Kong actually works.

If anything, Hong Kong is a great example of how Keynesian economics work very well, as well as Australia, the only developed nation to avoid the 2008 recession.

Sources: Dissent and Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

One simple change

Most of the deadlocks in America's government can be brought back to the rules of how our legislators work at the state and federal level. The one we hear about is the filibuster, but Rand Paul filibustered the bill to do surveillance on Americans but nothing changed.

A lot larger than this is the big doozie of a rule which gives the speaker and heads of committees the power to stop bills from even being voted on. This is why the original budget didn't pass the house last month, John Boehner didn't even let the bill com to a vote, even though it would have passed. This normal rule has blocked so many other bills that people support. The solution is to make it so that bills must be brought to a vote and the leaders of legislatures and committees must let all members vote on passage before moving to the next bills unless a majority votes to table the bill. This will make our government far more efficient.

Electric cars are coming

There is a new technology that has recently been developed to store electricity and it is made of carbon. Carbon fiber batteries are now being made for small appliances and the Swedish manufacturer Volvo has developed an electric car where the sides are carbon fiber batteries.

This is a major solution to two of the largest problems with infrastructure and economics in the developed world and solves the major hurdle to making electric cars a convenient option. The first is how do we reduce and eventually eliminate our excessive greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, and this car is carbon neutral. The second is how do we do this in a way so we don't give a handful of countries or companies immense power over the world economy. This solves both major problems and will be the ticket to energy independence that is not dependent on a limited supply of fuel, because it is dependent on electricity which can be produced in many different ways, and unless the sun runs out, the wind stops blowing, the waves stop crashing, or the Earth cools down there will always be a way to get electricity without using coal, natural gas, oil, or another limited resource.

Until now, I have disregarded electric cars as unrealistic given their limited range and long charging times makes old fashioned electric cars a method that people will not choose because they were too inconvenient. Carbon fiber batteries don't have the long charging time problem that old lithium-ion and nickel-cadmium batteries had, which means using electric cars will be as convenient as internal-combustion engine cars in terms of charging. This also means that charging all electronic devices will be better as we move all of our batteries to this new technology. The first phone company that makes a battery out of carbon fiber, besides being more environmentally friendly, will be able to advertise a short charging time.

This is why last night when asked which time period I want to live in my answer was the future, which is going to be awesome.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Temp Economy, why America lost

Every once in a while I see friends talking about working two or three jobs, and over 40 hours a week to make their ends meet. Some people will say this is showing that they are strong and will do anything they have to, and that it is a good thing.

I disagree. A developed country shouldn't require someone working a job that doesn't deal with living organisms like microbiology or agriculture to pull hours that are irregular or over 40 hours a week. Microbiology and agriculture are different because bacteria don't wait for your shift to be at the point you need to do the infection, and no agricultural society works in the middle of the day, they take a break from 11 to 3 because it is too hot to work, and instead work from 7-11 in the morning and 3-7 at night because it is far more efficient and you won't exhaust yourself. If you are working in customer service in any developed society you should be able to work 40 hours a week and have enough to live and a little left over. This means you will be more efficient, you will have enough to spend on non-essentials, and some to save for rainy day and retirement. You will be more valuable to the economy as a consumer than as a wage slave. When people who have the potential to be professionals are forced by their situation to take jobs below their possibility their overall value added to the national economy is diminished, and at a large scale I predict this is having a large toll on Ameica's GDP growth.

Assume ten million people are working under capacity at an average of $50,000 a year and this is a $500 billion decrease to our GDP every year, or Nobody wins.

Hopefully we will transition back to a job where people will have real careers and our economy can improve.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Interesting ad

I just saw an interesting ad on Obamacare from the far-right Heritage Foundation claiming how Obamacare is going to create long waiting lines and lower quality care.

However, this is not true because Obamacare is modeled after the German system (an individual mandate with a public option which was killed by the Dixiecrats) and the German system sees lower waiting times than the United States currently does. They are basing this off of Canada's system but Obamacare is not Medicare by a long shot. We also find with the OECD data that the wait times in the UK (which they are probably also basing their information off dropped by 52% from 2008 to 2010 with the NHS, meaning that the correlation between public health care and long wait times is fallacious.

Also remember that Canadian physicians are mostly private like the in the United States and Germany. Blaming it on having public or private health care is irresponsible.

I really wish organizations wouldn't make claims that are so completely wrong so frequently.

This took me less than 5 minutes to debunk the commercial's central complaint I haven't already addressed with the extremist's biggest fear, numbers.


Canada is working towards making progress like the UK.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Mass Transit, a followup

In my previous post I started talking about the costs of different modes of transportation, and here I want to elaborate on the type of necessary economic analysis that is needed when making such crucial decisions.

Let's assume we are talking about a city where there are 1 million potential riders in a city and each rider rides an average of 35 miles a day and they will do this 300 days a year. This yields 10.3 million passenger miles. This is the input information and everything changes from here.

Option 1 is to have each person drive themselves. Let's say the average miles per gallon is 30 which is more or less standard for sedans. Some cars will be Priuses, some cars will be SUVs, and it will average out in this example to 30 MPG. The cost per gallon is $3 per gallon (to be generous) and parking is $10 for the whole day (to be extraordinarily generous, I should probably say something over $50 but it isn't necessary for this example). The average person is going to use 1.12 gallon and spend $3.36 on gasoline, for a total cost of $13.36 to get to and from work every day. The total cost to society is $4,008 a year per person and $4,008,000,000 for society. (1,000,000 people * 300 days * $13.36)

Option 2 is to have buses which go as fast as cars. Each bus gets 20 MPG at $3.00/gallon and pays the driver $25 per hour. The bus gets caught in traffic so it takes one hour to go the 35 miles (which is pretty normal for buses). Each bus carries 50 people so you will need 20,000 bus routes per day. Each bus will use 1.75 gallons of gas per route, at a cost of $5.25 per route, which means each route will cost $30.25 for every route. The total cost for this is $181,500,000 million for society, or $181.50 per person. This is a $3,826,500,000 stimulus to the local economy over the course of a year compared to everyone driving. Imagine if you got an extra $3,826.50 in your pocket every year because that is what converting a million commuters to buses does.

Option 3 is to use light rail to cover these distances. The average train costs 20 cents per passenger mile and goes 35 miles per passenger 300 days out of the year for 1 million passengers. This costs (1,000,000 passengers * 35 * $0.20 * 300) $2.1 billion a year in maintenance. The driver of the train earns $25 per hour (to be consistent). The train will go 80 MPH (which is reasonable for such a route) which means it will take 26.25 minutes to do the distance, which means it will cost $10.94 per route for the driver. Each train will carry 100 people which means you will need 10,000 routes per day. This yields a cost of $2,032,820,000 for society which seems like a lot of money because it is. This is why accounting methods are inaccurate. However, this is going to save people roughly 45 minutes per day which means if the average person is worth $20 per hour that saves $4.5 billion for the economy (1 million passengers per day * $20 per hour * .75 hours * 300 days = $4,500,000,000 saved). If you take this time savings into account rail turns from the least affordable to option into a $2.467 billion stimulus without taking into the dollar account for the other options, which in reality is a $6.475 billion stimulus for a local economy. Who wants $6,457 in savings and extra income per year? Opportunity cost makes the difference between being in debt and being rich. If we did this in our hundred largest cities the increase in efficiency will be large enough to significantly raise our GDP.

What makes a mass transit system great?

I've been looking at how different mass transit systems run and downloaded maps to my computer, some of which I will use here to demonstrate my points.
When you look online, you will find lists of "America's greatest cities for mass transit". Some lists have some really good information, and Wikipedia has a list of which cities have the highest levels of ridership.

First, here are the biggest reasons I can think of as a Millennial for why we want to have great mass transit systems:
  1. On the user end, you can do more on a bus or train than you can if you are driving. I can read a book, read the news on my phone, get work done, almost any quiet activity I want. With a car I have to be focused on the road. As long as I am not carrying anything large it really makes no sense to drive.
  2. The user can save a lot money on parking. Parking in New York tonight can range from $10 for an evening to $50 for an evening.[1] As long as it costs less than $5 for me to take the Subway into New York it is less expensive than driving, not including gas.
  3. Parking in cities is a hassle and expensive. If you find the $10 parking lot, it will almost certainly be full because the lower price creates a much higher demand for that parking lot. During big events such parking prices just don't exist. It might be a long way from where you want to be, and all of this means you spend more time and money. Driving in traffic is also frustrating and no fun. Putting 50 commuters on a bus saves a lot of space on the road compared to 50 different cars in the middle of a big city. Everyone wins when there is good mass transit.
  4. Light rail is faster than driving when they are available. If you take a light rail train and run it between two major cities in a metropolis (let's take Los Angeles at 3 million and Anaheim at 300,000 people) and put in an affordable light rail system you can bypass the traffic jam and get people to the center of the city. You can run them frequently, let's say every 15 minutes to start, and routinely fill them. As people find they are saving time and money it will become more popular. Running a train at 80 MPH (140 KM/H) can done while running a bus at 75 MPH (110 KM/H) in the center of a metropolis is impossible.
  5. Light rail is inherently faster than buses. If you run a bus from point A to point B along the freeway and you have stops between A and B, you will probably need to leave the freeway and get back on the freeway which becomes real time lost for a commuter. A train can stop for a short period of time along the track and then start back up on the commuter routes from the suburbs and doesn't have to reenter the freeway. For longer routes, like Dale City to Washington or Fort Worth to Dallas, it makes far more sense to use light rail than a bus.
  6. It reduces pollution which makes the environment more healthy and more pleasant.
  7. More money stays in the local economy as opposed to going to the oil industry, acting as a local stimulus.
  8. It creates local jobs that cannot be outsourced with the people who maintain the fleet of trains and buses, and drivers etc.
  9. Bus rapid transit is an oxymoron. Buses running at rush hours get caught up in the same mess as every other commuter, meaning you save no time and end up with a mass transit system that is doomed because the buses won't run on time and people will choose to drive, meaning that the city will have wasted all of that money on new buses only to find themselves in the same place. Widening freeways will be shared with cars, which will make trips marginally faster, but if people then just go on the wider freeway (because if you take the narrower freeways people use them less even when they are going the same direction) you find yourself netting nothing in the end. If you find that demand is high (if the system is designed well it will be) you need to put on another bus on instead of just putting another car on the train, which is really simple, and the only way to make bus rapid transit to work is to make special roads for buses which don't stop between places and need to be regularly repaved, or just put in a track which doesn't have to be repaved every few years. If the buses are never on time, people with options won't ride them and the system will need constant funding to be poured in or close down. The other problem with Bus Rapid Transit is speed. Running a bus at 150 km/h (90 mph) is really difficult and inefficient. Running a train at 150 km/h however is quite normal for longer distances, and relatively efficient.
  10. A smart system doesn't stop at every house for the long-distance trains. A smart system will have multiple layers, long-distance trains that can pass the congested carpool lanes connecting Washington and Baltimore for example with minimal stops in between, and shorter distance buses connecting stations with businesses and houses.
  11. If the mass transit is faster than driving, people who have more money than time will have incentives to use it.
Those are the best reasons I can come up with, and there are certainly more. The other piece to the puzzle is how you set up the system. If you look at Munich, Cologne (Köln), Berlin, Paris, London, Shanghai, among other global cities you find that they are designed to get people from the outer towns into the center of the city and there are routes carrying people directly in a reasonable amount of time that beats driving in time, and the maps they have are designed to do it. Most of all, the most important routes are few in number, Munich has only 8 major trains, and 8 minor trains serving a metropolitan area of 2.6 million people. The schedules are predictable and go where the people are, so people use them. If they had less frequent service or ran the same 16 trains along routes people didn't live, it wouldn't be nearly as successful. Here are the most important points and a few examples:
  1. The routes must be frequent and the local government must be willing to expand service when needed. Very busy people with more money than time who have cars and can afford to park are not going to rearrange their schedule around a schedule that doesn't fit their needs. Work schedules tend to be very predictable, people go to work around 8 in the morning, and leave around 5 in the evening. People want to get from home to work in as little time as possible for as little money as possible. The routes than must be efficient. If the routes run out before people get off work or are very infrequent around the time, people have no flexibility and will not use it. In Seattle, the Sounder between Tacoma and Seattle only runs at peak times, and not overly frequently either, you then have to take the bus which leaves out other suburbs, which takes the same amount time and serves fewer people.
  2. Don't run buses or trains back to the station with no passengers. If you look at the Sounder schedule from Seattle-Tacoma it only goes at certain times and then goes up empty from Lakewood (south of Tacoma) to Seattle. This is ridiculous and wastes money. Always let the circuit run through the whole distance picking up passengers.
  3. Look at the costs. People frequently look at the upfront costs of installing track (which most cities really don't need when starting) as a way of arguing against light rail. I found real numbers in an easy to read fashion here: which shows as I expected (given Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and all of Western Europe have chosen this) that the real cost of buses when calculated is not as low as people think in many examples and we need to take in all pieces when deciding which is right, beyond the costs of congestion.
The biggest issue is comparing the costs of rail vs. other methods, and this becomes very complicated. I have found good hard numbers that have been researched at the NY TimesAPTA, and this advocacy site. One good source analyzing Britain's spending found that the privatized British Rail is costing far more than roads, but this is in fact due to privatization and costs between 1.5x and 2x that of other European nations. America's costs are close to that of Britain, and we also have private infrastructure. It seems like public goods that are not competitive should be public. The New York Times has pointed out while acknowledging his bias that it is hard to make AMTRAK profitable. The best way to get around this would probably to make the railroads public, because they are public in most of Contintental Europe and they are much less expensive to run The University of Leeds produced an amazing paper analyzing the costs of Finnish and Swedish railways, which like most of economics found the variability was huge and there are ways to make tracks less expensive by upgrading, and I recommend it to people who have time to read a very thorough statistics paper, because some of the ideas could help reduce the costs of transportation here in America, like upgrading the tracks so they don't have to be repaired as often.

The biggest question when designing a mass transit system is whether it will make sense for the community. If it costs 20 cents per passenger mile and there are 10.3 billion passenger miles (1 million passengers travelling an average of 35 miles round-trip 300 days a year) in one year the cost would be around $2 billion to maintain the track. (which is of course extremely rough) When deciding whether to build we need to figure out if the community will receive over $2 billion in benefits to the local economy. If those 1 million people were going to pay over $6.67 for parking for one day ($2 billion divided by 1 million divided by 300), than that alone will be saving the difference for the economy in savings and every passenger will be saving personal money. Another way to calculate is if this saved those 1 million people an average of 30 minutes a day 300 days a year and the average workers is worth $20 per hour than one would be saving $3 billion in opportunity cost right there. Both of these ways of calculating savings can then go to the economy in a better way, without the savings of gas, congestion, worker's time, and emergency services! Looking at the opportunity cost of a situation frequently gives a much different picture than first appears, and it is always more accurate. I am certain this is why European and Chinese cities have done massive investment in their mass transit, because they look beyond the immediate cost when investing in their economy. Because of this, I am not too worried about the costs of mass transit in cities if they are done correctly and people know they exist.

This is a very complicated issue the more I look at it and it is very easy to stop early before bringing all data, shows that the difference between rail costs goes between $451 in Dallas to $124 in Salt Lake City, so making the decision of which is better is highly variable and has to be done on a case-by-case basis. Basically, by playing our cards right we can get the advantages of high speed mass transit in our larger cities which is synonymous with light rail, but only if we choose to.

If we can get the benefits for riders along with the cost savings, there is no reason we shouldn't do it, and this is why we need to have economists who are able to publish excellent studies on this issue where people can find them. If we can save money and lives by reducing congestion, accidents, than we have to. There is a lot of work to be done.