Saturday, December 27, 2014

Economy of Georgia, end of 2014

The Republic of Georgia is a country I personally have a very close connection to, and have visited since I have friends there through scientific research. As a young political economist, I am extremely interested in their development and how to see their economy grow to a point where they can join the European Union and have a better life for all Georgians. While looking at their economy to see where they are standing relative to other European States, I noticed that their GDP growth in 2013 was only around 2%, while the annual average over the last 10 years has been between 5% and 6% with the exception of 2008 due to the war with Russia.

2013 in Georgia saw a rapid decrease in foreign investment as Georgian Dream came to power after 8 years of being an almost single-party state in its parliamentary make-up, although there were opposition parties which competed in elections and received some seats. This saw a rapid decrease in foreign investment which hurt the economy of Georgia and caused the rapid decline in their GDP growth (although the economy was still growing). 2014 has however seen Georgia return to its historic long-run average and this will hopefully continue as time goes on.  This is from a monumental shift in the Georgian economy from Foreign Direct Investment to more domestic sources, which can be seen how their GDP growth in 2014 returned to it's long run average but FDI stayed constant.

Georgia has an unusually good legal foundation for economic growth. They have an extremely good Ease of Doing Business Index rating, on par with the most developed economies of the world. These reforms which Saakashvili pushed for attracts foreign capital and is what has allowed them to grow so rapidly. Another good thing is their prices have been extremely stable over the last few years, which is highly unusual. Another good thing is Average Monthly Earnings have risen every year since 1999, which stimulates short-run consumption and economic growth in the most effective way possible.  Investment as well has also increased every year for which there is information, which is essential for long-run growth so Georgia will have the capital it needs over the next few decades.

Georgia is in an unusual status-quo which is good for long-run growth. As time goes on they will continue to get to where they need to be, and will hopefully get to join the European Union in 10-20 years from now at the longest extent. The future looks bright for Georgia.

Additional References:

Friday, December 5, 2014

My reading list

I am currently undergoing a time of education on top of my senior year in college right now (my major is economics and political science) where I am listening to and reading some great books of philosophy. The following is the list of what I am going to read. Suggestions for books I should read which are not here are appreciated!

To be clear, this list is trying to be inclusive of most points of view, but there are a handful of schools I am not interested in reading, one is existentialism (which I read some of in high school and hated) and anything having to do with or influenced by Ayn Rand. There is no Subjectivism on this list either. It also is focused on post-Renaissance European/American philosophy. I hopefully will do another survey of Chinese philosophy in the future, and hopefully Indian as well. It is also focused on political philosophy. I've tried to include at least one book from every major philosopher. Some such as Mill, Kant, and Rawls are too important and influential to pick one so I've tried to pick their most influential books. As time goes on I will 
  1. The Prince By Niccolo Machiavelli (1513)
  2. Essays by Francis Bacon (1597-1625)
  3. Leviathan By Thomas Hobbs (1651)
  4. Principles of Philosophy by Rene Descartes (1644)
  5. Two Treatises of Government by John Locke (1689)
  6. A Treatise of Human Nature by David Hume (1739)
  7. Candide by Voltaire (1759)
  8. The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1762)
  9. Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant (1781)
  10. The Federalist Papers by James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton (1787/1788)
  11. Critique of Practical Reason by Immanuel Kant (1788)
  12. Critique of Judgement by Immanuel Kant (1790)
  13. Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841, 1844)
  14. Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
  15. A General View of Positivism by Auguste Comte (1856)
  16. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill (1859)
  17. Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill (1861)
  18. Das Kapital by Karl Marx (1867)
  19. The Division of Labor in Society by Comte (1893)
  20. The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper (1945)
  21. Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1953)
  22. My Philosophical Development by Bertrand Russell (1959)
  23. The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon (1961)
  24. Anarchy, State, and Utopia by Robert Nozick (1974)
  25. Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault (1975)
  26. A Theory of Justice by John Rawls (1971)
  27. Political Liberalism by John Rawls (1993)
I have already read On Liberty and Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill, and they have greatly effected the way I see politics and the world. I have also read The Wretched of the Earth and Discipline and Punish so I will just skip over them. I include them for people who are interested, and I recommend them all.

I also thank the people who wrote these two very different lists giving me some ideas on which political philosophers to include: and

Monday, November 24, 2014

Police violence

The recent rial of Darren Wilson is a very sad event for our country, but hardly an unusual event. Reading the story of the encounter Michael Brown was definitely had problems (since he had just stolen a box of cigars less than an hour before the shooting) and Darren Wilson overreacted. He didn't have to shoot to kill, there are other ways to make sure someone who is a suspect (as Brown definitely was) can be held in custody and tried. This is definitely one of those cases.

When it comes to police shootings in the United States the biggest issue is that they too often go right to shooting people where they will die on the spot. This was the biggest issue with the latest publicized story, and is truly a tragedy. The saddest thing about all of this is this happens every day.

Wikipedia has to organize police shootings in the United States by month because there are so many. In comparison, there is only one page for police shootings in Canada and only one for Germany. The different has many factors, and they have to do with economic factors as well as the social systems set up in this country.

The first problem behind this major issue is the poverty of people (predominately African American) who are shot more than any other group.

The first goal of all police officers should always be to bring suspects in alive to minimize casualties. It is far better to bring someone in if you are suspicious they have committed a crime than to end their lives on the spot. People can and should be rehabilitated, it is wasteful to not do this.

Fivethirtyeight points out piece of the puzzle which is the rate of indcitments is far lower for police officers than other people. Such a difference is almost certainly due to less than honorable factors.

When it comes to getting the biggest picture possible, there is no searchable FBI database. This is the most insulting and infuriating thing of all about this issue in my opinion. Such a massively important issue requires that we have good data so we can be certain certain case fit within the general trend so we can know the general trend. This is necessary for good analysis along with ensuring we make the right policy and appropriately understand what is going on in our country. We need to understand the big picture of these issues, and in order to have the big picture accurately means we need to have the pertinent details for the issue. gawker

Despite this failure of our system (which should be remedied ASAP) what data social scientists do put together in surveys of police shootings all demonstrate that people are far more likely to be shot if they are African American than if they are any other race. This is an absolute tragedy and we need to find ways to end this once and for all. Mother Jones

We have a lot of work to do in order to make our system work for all people. We need to finally be able to put together the big picture in one master database in a Federal agency so everyone can know the truth and put together the demographics to find trends. This will move forward to hold all people in the system accountable for their actions and lead to a better society.

We need to build a great society and fight poverty in communities across this country, because it is the right thing to do.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Bank regulation proposal

  1. A bank which fails will be taken over by the FDIC regardless of size, the Federal Reserve will have the full authority to print money as needed to cover deposits. There will be no bailouts of any company.
  2. A bank which is shut down that is within one state will be handled by the Federal Reserve bank it is located in and will be bought out by other bank(s). It may only be bought out by banks which do not have interstate operations. This is to keep diversity within the financial system with lots of lending institutions.
  3. A bank which is shut down which crosses state lines will be divided by state, and be bought out by banks which do not have interstate operations. This is to insure diversity of the banking system and prevent any one bank getting too big to be a systemic risk. It will also increase the number of banks which is an essential part of a fully functional market.
  4. Banks will be allowed to form in any region based on the credentials of that one bank’s operations regardless of the other banks operating in that region. A historic problem has been restricting the growth of the banking sector which has stifled the number of banks in this country from what we can have. One key to a successful market is having lots of sellers and this will ensure that will occur.
  5. Current regulations that require banks to meet certain thresholds of reserves will continue and be more thoroughly enforced. Banks will have an extra penalty on loans they cannot collect on that will be paid into the FDIC fund.
  6. A bank must retain at least 10% of the loans they make on their books. A bank may not sell a package of mortgages or other loans without information on the creditworthiness of the people and businesses in the package. The failure to do so after a long time will make it so they must pay higher interest rates when borrowing from the Federal Reserve and will be fined proportionately to the bank's asset value.
  7. A bank must leave all of their investments on their balance sheet. If the regulator discovers a bank left investments off of its balance sheet for 3 different inspections will have its charter revoked and be treated like a failed bank. Every member of the Board of Directors, the CEO, CFO, and other people in charge of leading the bank will be charged with fraud as a felony and serve time in prison.
  8. The FDIC will have full authority to invest and use its funds as needed. There is no reason not to use these funds and have them grow to create a strong fund.
  9. Interbank lending will be fully insured up to 2% of deposits for all banks, so when one bank fails it won’t spread to other financial institutions. This is so future bank crises won't spread. They spread because banks lend to other banks, so if one bank fails and another bank has a large amount of deposits in another this creates an imbalance in the bank's balance sheet which is how banks fail. This is meant to protect well-functioning banks from a few bad apples because our economy is (and should be) highly interconnected.
  10. Stricter regulation of credit rating agencies to ensure they accurately rate financial tools. The regulator will have full authority to punish credit rating agencies when they inaccurately rate financial instruments.
This is because if we bail out banks we create a problem that they cannot lose if they make bad decisions and will then take more risk than they can handle (Economists call this moral hazard). We need to keep the managers of banking institutions accountable to their actions, and this requires that we do not bail out banks when they start to fail because it means they will be more likely to put their institutions at risk. We need to protect depositors money, while still keeping the managers of the banks responsible for their actions. Otherwise we will have more banking crises because they will take more risk than they can handle which will create a larger financial crisis.

The other problem with this is the key to a successful free market is having a lot of sellers of goods and servies, and bailing out big banks creates a concentration of power where there should be many different types of banks. This policy outline aims to create a more diverse banking sector which will benefit lenders, borrowers, and also benefit banks because there will be more options to borrow with one another which leads to a more stable financial system. Bailing out banks defeats this important piece of the economy which harms everyone when lending and borrowing freezes.

I have also omitted the major parts of Glass-Steagall legislation (restricting types of banking and where banks can be formed) because it restricted competition between banks and restricted consumer choice. It also had the negative impact of increasing the price of loans for consumers without significantly stabilizing the financial sector. No other country in the world has ever done this type of legislation, and the proposals outlined above are designed to get the stability of banking without the costs of high lending fees and lack of choice that Glass-Steagall created. It is a very simple equation in economics, if you reduce supply this will increase price and this is always bad for consumers.

To be clear, this isn't about being pro-bank or anti-bank. This about ensuring that banks have the resources they need to operate without being destructive to the financial system, and ensure that borrowers and depositors are protected. In this way this plan tries to strike a balance between policies which are pro-lender, pro-bank, pro-borrower, and pro-investor. I think I have made the proper balance for a stable financial system which will lead to a stronger economy for America and protect everyone regardless of income level of profession.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

More on Visa Policy

Since George W. Bush was in office the United States has mad large efforts to alienate us from the rest of the world, to the point where only Canadians, Palauans, Marshall Islanders, and Micronesians can enter the United States without some sort of visa. There are two ways this happens, either through the "Visa-Waiver Program" which is a misnomer, and through the normal visa system.
For those who don't know, the Visa-Waiver program is offered to 38 countries, and this requires people to sign up before they land in the United States (one major characteristic of a visa) and they pay a fine of $14 (it is basically a special type of visa). This has no real effect on catching terrorists (the people who bombed the World Trade Center and Boston Bombers all had visas) but only serves to inconvenience people who want to visit the United States by making them have to pay more money and spend more time before arriving. It is more expensive meaning more processing time for people across the world without actually protecting us.
Now Canada is going to start their own Visa Waiver Program, for everyone except the US (because we're friends) which will seriously inconvenience people who are able to visit Canada without providing any realistic benefit. I am not Canadian, but they should not give in the United States government on this issue. Unless if we were starting a customs union with Canada (which would be a very good thing for both countries) this action is completely counterproductive for Canadians.

Instead of further tightening of our border what we should do is eliminate the Visa Waiver Program altogether and institute visa-free travel from all the countries currently under it which requires no pre-registration, like every other free country except Australia practices today. Individuals who are known to be dangerous from foreign countries we have a visa-free regime with will be blocked from entry, and their passports will be blocked, and this has the advantage of blocking those we do want to block without inconveniencing everyone else. I personally am on the ultra-liberal side of having as few restrictions on travel for this issue, because I see it as a tool for furthering goodwill among nations and making for a better world altogether. I also don't see the threat when the total number of terrorist attack in every other country that has an economy like the United States and doesn't have a large group of home-grown extremists doesn't see large numbers of terrorist attacks.

I don't see any reason to believe that this prescreening works at all, and see no reason to ask people from our closest allies to fork over money to visit America when we don't have to do the same in their country. Plus, we already scan everyone's passports when the enter the country (like every other country I know of that isn't participating in a customs union with other union members) which means we will have records of who is coming in.

In general, this is the wrong direction for Canada and America. We need to fully analyze the costs of having pre-authorization for people from Europe, Japan, Australia, Taiwan, South Korea, and other highly developed stable democracies and not go backwards on such issues.

We will only know peace when the majority of people can meet people from other cultures and know that we are all human. This is how we fight extremism, and we do this by allowing as many people as possible to travel freely.


For further information, read about the "Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness Action Plan" which is the official policy between the US and Canada.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Obama's record

We have two and a half years left until President Obama will retire... and he has had a mixed presidency. He can repair his presidency and is starting to by speaking his mind. I am convinced that President Obama has been doing what President Clinton did during his presidency (according to Locked in the Cabinet by Robert Reich) where he has been listening to his advisors who are telling him to move to the right to capture votes, which hasn't worked once in the last 21 years the Democrats have been trying the strategy, and Elizabeth Warren has diverted from the strategy and is now the most popular politician in the country. So, how would I rank Obama today and how can he make his presidency count?

There are some problems:

  1. His hunting Edward Snowden (who is a whistleblower) is unconstitutional. He should immediately grant Edward Snowden a pardon.
  2. He has not stood against the vast bulk surveillance of the NSA which is unconstitutional. 

There are some issues he has struggled with:

  1. The Affordable Care Act was not as strong as it could have been and could/should have been implemented 4 years ago, not this last January.

There are some major successes:

  1. The Affordable Care Act increases competition between insurance companies by allowing people to switch more frequently (which reduces prices) and increases the ability to purchase medications at lower prices.
  2. Congress has increased taxes on the wealthy while he is president which he signed into law and his party actually passed. I am not certain whether he could have vetoed this bill because he cannot veto budgets.
  3. His environmental policy is flawless. After years of people speculating on Keystone XL he has stood his ground and he halted petroleum exploration in the Arctic.
  4. The so-called "bailout" of the automotive industry was paid back in full, and we still have a large automotive industry with new management which is profitable.
  5. He raised the minimum wage for federal government employees and contractors. Source

He has been blocked on some initiatives:

  1. He passed an executive order to put all prisoners at Guantanamo Bay on trial on 22 January 2009, but this was overturned on 27 January 2009. Text of order and details
  2. Immigration reform stalled in the Senate since he entered office and there is no chance of it getting passed a Republican controlled House.
Finally, when looking at President Obama's record we must take into account the response of Congress to all likely initiatives which means that we need to keep this reality in our analysis. With the resistance to his every action, it explains why the approval rating of Congress is 30 points below the President, showing people somewhere know where the real problem lies on why so many of these issues have stalled.

I stand with my President, he is a true progressive. I stand with Denny Heck and Elizabeth Warren as well.

I stand against the Democrats who try to appear liberal but are just in corporate hands which include Pelosi, Reid, Sanders, Murray, Cantwell, and most members of the Democratic Party.

A true progressive is not determined by his membership in a caucus but his voting record.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

2014 election and implications

The 2014 election on Tuesday is following some extremely predictable patterns of American politics. It saw the lowest turnout since 1940, which is probably due to the general malaise of people saying "both parties are the same", which has some truth with some members of the Democratic Party being right-wing, such as Landrieu of Louisiana, and a few others who lost on Tuesday, but this malaise is likely a symptom of single-winner districts and first past the post. I have more information below.

NCSBE and Election Project along with US News have good data

This turn to voting for another party despite being partially cause by low turnout is also a recurring pattern in American politics known as the Six year itch.

Section 1: Turnout
If we wanted to measure how turnout decreased and where it decreased we would want to have the following information, which I have already done in a spreadsheet:

  1. We will want to know if having a governor's election increased turnout substantially.
  2. We will want to also know if having a senator's election increased turnout substantially.
  3. We will want to know if political alignment of a state changes voter turnout.
  4. We will want to know if political polarization of a state changes voter turnout, whether a state like Ohio and Florida which are extremely close in number of Democrats and Republicans will have a different turnout than a state like Hawaii or Utah.
There are more types of things we can do when it comes to seeing what effects turnout, but these are the four measures I am going to choose to analyze.

I took this data and measured in a spreadsheet the data based on them, here are my results:
  1. States with governor elections had a voter turnout of 37.44% (with a standard deviation of 8.2%) versus a turnout of 36.17% (with a standard deviation of 6.4%) for states that had no governor with a correlation of 16.7%. This demonstrates a very weak correlation between voting for governor and people turning out. The long-term average shows a turnout increase of 3% (governor = 43% vs. non-governor of 40%) with a standard deviation of 5% with elections and 7% without elections. Their correlation is 19%. This demonstrates that having governors elections still has a weak correlation. The other way we can measure correlation is to take two elections and find the correlation between them for each state, and the correlation between 2010 and 2014 for all 50 states is 78.3%, which is very strong. This means voters in states tend to vote year after year or not, with a little dependence on whether they are electing their governor. Lurking variables include voter access laws, and state corruption.
  2. States electing a senator had a voter turnout of 38.3% versus 35.9% for states that were not electing a senator with a correlation of 23%.
  3. Political alignment has a correlation of 27.04% with voter turnout. Political polarization has a correlation of 27.50%. The more polarized a state is the more likely it is people will vote, so this empirically demonstrates that one way to increase voter turnout is to have competitive districts as opposed to safe seats.
So in order to increase turnout we should implement an election system which ensures that every vote counts which means every district must be competitive. The best way to do this is STV, which I have written about a lot.

Section 2: 2016 (focused on strategy options)
History tells us that when one party takes over congress in the 6th year of a presidency it is almost always followed by a changing of the party in the next election, This has in fact occurred 14 times now in American history (out of 16 two-term presidents) which is a rate of 87.5%.

This type of arrangement where Congress is controlled by one party and the President is controlled by another has occured now 11 times (including this new instance), and out of 10 previous occurrences only one of them has not seen the Presidency flip parties, which started in 1946 and ended in 1948 when both houses of Congress became controlled by the Democrats and President Truman was reelected. This bodes well for the Republicans if history repeats itself again.

Then if the Democrats want to maintain control of the Presidency it is prudent to study President Truman and the Republicans of the late 1940s. It was a time of economic recovery, and there was a recession after World War II which helped the Republicans a lot in 1946. An economic recovery would then probably help the Democrats a lot. President Truman was also up for reelection which is different from this time. The election of 1988 is also pertinent since the last two years of Reagan's presidency saw the Democrats dominate both houses, and all of George HW Bush's presidency for a total of 6 years, which is unusual because out of the past 10 times this arrangement has happened 5 have lasted only 2 years, 1 lasted 4 years, 3 lasted 6 years, and the longest lasted 8 years. This is in other words a very unstable political arrangement. This means there is a 50% chance that 2016 will see a new party arrangement.

For the Republicans, the best they can do is have a charismatic leader who can capitalize on their advantage and take the Presidency. They need a strong Vice Presidential candidate who can turn on centrists as opposed to Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan. For the House they want the map to stay the way it is, which will not happen since Florida is already going to change. 

For the Democrats, they want a politician who people can look up to. They need someone who can get people to turn out to vote and vote for their local representatives. Turnout is going to be key, and they need to run strong candidates in every congressional district in the country to try to take as many seats as possible. Florida is going to be forced to redraw their districts to not be so gerrymandered in favor of the Republicans, and there are other states where this can be done, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Texas which will make the house elections much more balanced in the next election. They need to appear more liberal than the Republicans and not complacent in their demands. Getting new faces into the party who are from the progressive wing would be useful, and speaking to women, African Americans, and Hispanics would help get the vote out. Hopefully there will be a primary season with candidates who have experience to move the party back in line with their voter base. This will give the Democrats a massive advantage in the next election. Pushing for ranked voting would be another very smart move.

Section 3: Policy
The next two years will be difficult, and the Republicans will put forward budgets which will be from the interests they represent. Fortunately, President Obama has a veto pen and will hopefully use it. The only danger is that since we do not have a Line-item veto it is likely the Republicans will put things into budget bills that Obama would veto, but since he does not have the authority to veto budgets they will pass. People will inevitably blame the President for this Congressional decision, but it will not change the fact of who makes these changes. Gay marriage will continue to move through the court system, and the Supreme Court will likely support gay marriage in the very near future. Supreme Court nominations from Obama over the next two years will need to be moderate to get past Congress, I however doubt that there will be any retirees or deaths.

It is not going to be an exciting two years away from the courts, and there will hopefully not be a lot of court action on economics given the economic makeup of the court of 1 libertarian and 4 conservatives. This is very favorable to conservatives, so even though it will be dangerous it is likely more decisions like Citizens United v. FEC will be filed.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Presidential Poll

Democracy For America is an organization committed to moving the Democratic Party back from its base and away from the special interests which dominate Washington today. I voted in the poll, and my choices were Warren (of course) followed by Russ Feingold and then Brian Schweitzer to round off my ballot (because he is a very great governor when it comes to health care policy and is not corrupt). The number one candidate on the poll is Elizabeth Warren, meaning that it is not just me but a large number of people who want her to be president in two years.

I did not vote for Bernie Sanders because he is dishonest on a number of issues, which I have outlined earlier.

I would not look to either Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi because they were terrible at leading their party when they had a majority of both houses in 2009 and everything took too long and was too little. The same with any of the other dominant Democratic Politicians.

I did not pick my senators because
Robert Reich would probably be my 4th choice out of the candidates on this list.

Deval Patrick and Julian Castro would probably be my 5th and 6th choices if I could have filled out more places.

The only two individuals I would look at for being Presidential candidates would be Jay Inslee (Governor of the great state of Washington), Jerry Brown (Governor of the great state of California), and Representatives Denny Heck and Jim McDermott of Washington who have shown great leadership. That fills out my top 10 choices for President of the United States. I could go on why I would not put other prominent people. Most other governors I do not know enough about to put on my list of people I would look to for becoming President.

Still, it is nice to see that Elizabeth Warren is so loved by so many people and that gives me hope about the future that the Democratic voter base loves her more than anyone else, and Quinnipiac agrees as well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bernie Sanders' Record

Bernie Sanders is one of the most publicized senators in Congress by left-wing pages on Facebook and the press. He calls himself a socialist and claims he decrees all the corruption in congress... but after looking at his record, it is really hard to believe anything he says.

Bernie Sanders has been the Senator from Vermont since 2007 and was the sole Representative of Vermont from 1991 until he became a Senator. In this time period he has voted on many important bills that have effected the United States, and I am going to here analyze his record by looking at the rolls of important bills since 1991 that he has had a chance to vote on.

  • Civil Rights Act of 1991: Yea
  • Motor Votor Act: Yea
  • NAFTA: Nay (more detail below)
  • Digital Millenium Copyright Act and Sonny Bono Copyright Act: Unknown
  • Gramm-Leach-Bliley: Nay
  • No Child Left Behind Act: Yea (see below)
  • TARP Bailout: Nay
  • Closing Guantanamo Bay: NAY,
  • Affordable Care Act: Yea
NAFTA was the first vote where he voted against the working class. This is because NAFTA expands foreign demand for American high-value added goods. It also lowers prices expanding the purchasing power of the working class and all other people. My earlier blog post on the details of NAFTA goes into depth on why Bernie Sanders made a mistake on this.

He voted for the No Child Left Behind Act which limits funds to public schools unless if they go through regulations which pulls money from productive activities and wastes class time. 

He voted against the closure of Guantanamo Bay, creating an extra hurdle to block what he had been calling for for years beforehand. 

Most of his votes as we can see from his record are in line with what he claims, but when it comes to the most important bills of the last 23 years there are a few major issues where his walk and his talk are not in line. Generally though he has been one of the better members of Congress in terms of his honesty, but this is a very low bar, especially since Reid and Pelosi became the leaders of the Democrats in Congress.

The biggest problem of all of course comes from his current discussions regarding Obama's presidency which make me lose most of his respect for him. He is talking about how Obama has betrayed the American people with the tax reform packages, such as the 2010 Tax Relief and how bankers have not been sent to jail.

It is true that most speeches are meant to please the base of a politician but this is unusually so. The Affordable Care Act and Obama's first act as President, to close Guantanamo Bay Prison, when they left his desk to go to Congress as proposals were very progressive. The ACA was deeply modeled after the German Health Care System which functions as Universal Health Care, and GITMO's prison is one of the biggest embarrassments of this country today. However, the ACA was watered down significantly by Congress and the closing of GITMO's prison was blocked completely. The bill that was sent to the President included it as one line and if the President was going to send the bill back to Congress where over 80 Democrats in the Senate voted on passage the military would have been unfunded and it is highly unlikely that these Democrats would have passed the bill. We don't have a line-item veto in this country so this also prevents the President from sending particular parts of the bill back to Congress which is a flaw. When we consider the situation the President is in with his own party tearing apart the legislation they say they support on the campaign trail the President doesn't have much he can do. Instead of ripping on the President who can't choose which parts of the bills he supports and which he doesn't, Bernie Sanders should tear into his opponents in Congress who are blocking the actions the President passes and proposes who are preventing him from acting. This would be an honest response and focus on where the real problem lies, and he is being dishonest to his supports when he blames the wrong branch of government, even though he is usually one of the good guys.

There are three ways to fix the bundling of legislation, requiring bills to stay to a single subject which is problematic because many issues are interconnected and telling which things are and are not connected are subject to interpretation. Another potential is to have a word limit on how long bills will be, but since large programs can't be written in 250 characters are less this would be more problematic. The final solution is to have a line-item veto, and this is actually a very reasonable proposal.

Requiring the President to pass the whole bill or only part of it frequently puts him into a Prisoner's dilemma where he can either vote for the whole bill or none of it which means he frequently gets blame that he doesn't deserve and can easily have his reputation damaged when Congress passes him bills which he would oppose lumped in with bills that he is forced to sign. This will save the President from being blamed for things that he doesn't want to do but is effectively being forced to, giving him the ability to always do what he believes to be right ending any question of where he stands. Some of President Obama's most controversial actions on the left (GITMO, wiretapping by the NSA) are due to being bundled with things that are necessary. These problems will be fixed by a line-item veto. However, it isn't a cure all since the government's failure to expand AMTRAK as proposed is due to Congress not providing him funding, A line-item veto won't fix the entire problem, but it is a step to getting a government that is less confusing to the masses and is easier for people to point the finger at the people who are truly causing the problem, and it is a big step forward.

Example of his current speeches:

The biggest problem with him is how he doesn't accurately represent the relations between the parties in congress in his speeches and misportrays our system. Instead of tearing into the President (who is what he constitutionally can) he needs to tear into the other members of Congress who have repeatedly prevented the President from acting on his platform. If he was serious about what he wants to do he would be supporting Democratic challengers to both incumbent Democrats and Republicans across the country who are serious about progressive values. His talking about how a President who has a progressive record is against things he is actually for, and voting against progressive actions the President actually does do is dishonest. I cannot support someone who lies to the American people about how their government works.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

China is the world's largest in one way

The IMF today announced China now has the world's largest economy in terms of purchasing power, but jumping to the conclusion that China is number one also needs to take into account a lot of other factors:

  1. In terms of the raw size of the economy calculated by real GDP they are still only around $10 trillion versus America's $17 trillion.
  2. China and the United States have roughly the same distribution of income. This will have long-term effects on the power dynamics of China's government and access to opportunity.

Other things about China's economy I must point out:
  1. China's GDP was 44% from industry in 2013. It has been in the 40s since about the 1980s, which shows that their economic growth has been unusually even across all industries. This is probably due partially to keeping their currency artificially deflated by printing lots of currency to keep it cheap relative to the US dollar, which is probably the largest dispute between the two countries today. This is very different from the narrative that we often hear about China. (IMF)
  2. Their GDP per capita PPP is currently around $13,000 while the US is around $54,000. There is no question that the US beats China on this metric and it is going to take a long time for China to catch up to us on this. GDP matters for geopolitics, but China won't be a really serious contender for being the world's strongest power until their GDP per capita gets above the middle income stage, which is where it is right now. (IMF)
  3. Leaving inequality aside, and using statistics that sidestep this issue, America currently has the 4th highest median household income (which controls for inequality) in the world at around $31,000 (World Bank), while China's median household income is around $4,600 (27000 RMB) which shows a massive difference in the income of people in the United States and China. China has a long way to go to meet us on this mark.
  4. When it comes to Household final expenditure per capita the United States is currently around $31,000 and China is at $1,300. China is rapidly rising and hopefully will continue to rise in the future. (World Bank)
  5. They rank 91st on the Ease of Doing Business Index, the United States ranks 4. The best city in China to start a business is Hangzhou and it takes an average of 31 days to start a business, which is close to the national average, versus an average of 5 days in the United States. The amount of capital you need to pay in on average is 71% of national income in China versus 0% in the United States. This has a very real effect in the ability of entrepeneurs who are not well connected and already wealthy to start a business.
  6. The rate of poverty in China below $5 a day remains above 50%, though the rate of poverty under $1.25 a day has plummeted from around 63% in 1992 to 6% today (adjusted for price inflation). China has come a long ways in the reduction of poverty and there is still a long ways to go in its reduction still. The trend however is towards less poverty.
  7. China currently has large problems with corruption, ranking at number 80, while the United States ranks at number 19. This is a deep threat to the economic and social stability of China.
IMF data:

So the future of the global economy is going to see China continue to grow, and this will be a good thing for people in China. The following policy changes would fix or at least start to fix the current problems:

  1. Make it easier to start a business. This will immediately increase the demand for workers, push wages up, which will decrease their GINI coefficient, which will increase their multiplier, which will in the medium run increase their GDP growth again.
  2. Open up private banking to increase investment opportunities.
  3. Bring back the state health care system.
  4. Increase access to education in rural areas.
  5. Repeal all restrictions on migration around the country to increase the ability of people to seek out new economic opportunities.
  6. Implement trial by public jury to separate the courts from the political process. This will help reduce corruption.
There is still enough room for development of the political and economic situation to merely say that China has overtaken the United States is rather silly, and misses most of the picture. Hopefully China will continue to develop and see it move forward even further.

Given that China has a population over 4 times that of the United States it was inevitable that they would someday overtake us in one GDP metric or another soon, and is actually a good thing because it allows their economy to grow so their GDP per capita can start to approach a developed level, and hopefully continue to see a rapid decrease in poverty along with other problems.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

America loves Hong Kong and China

We are currently witnessing what could be the largest revolution in the history of the world in China, with the people of Hong Kong finally standing up against the government of China's illiberal policies. China currently ranks at 181 out of 201 nations and self-governing territories, while Hong Kong ranks at 18, higher than the United STates. But since Hong Kong is part of China and the Chinese authorities are trying to implement one of the worst human rights records in the world in one of the most free areas in the world. This of course is leading to trouble for the Chinese authorities because the people of Hong Kong don't want to be under such a government like all other people in the world.

This however will hopefully not stay isolated to Hong Kong, since the rest of China has a similar situation of not having free, fair, and open elections. I am hoping that in the next week or two we will see the student rebellion expand to other cities in China which will scare the dickens out of the Chinese government. If the military realizes that they have the same interest as the students who will lead the protest then the emperor will have no clothes, and the Communist Party will fall. I hope this will happen so the people in China will see an improvement in their situation in the near future and the Republic of China will return to the mainland (which currently ranks at 43).

This is the latest chapter in the long struggle between the Confucian leaders of China who claim obedience to the government as one of the highest values and the Mohist faction which has survived 1500 years of persecution by the Chinese government and is one of the earliest if not the earliest form of liberalism in the history of the world. It is currently prevalent in Taiwan and hopefully the students across China can make it dominant in the political sphere.

America loves China.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I've never been so glad I was so wrong

An important issue when it comes to social change is how to effectively make the change because it isn't enough to just have good intentions but no strategy to make your plan a reality and ensure it will come out with the ideal result. Good intentions without meaningful action don't put bread on the table and end injustices.

One issue I have been skeptical of until recently is how effective gender quotas are. I have focused on many other issues that I have never studied this issue as deeply as I want to. I have now done reading from and others. Fortunately gender quotas are effective in increasing representation for women and this means we have been doing the right thing for the last few decades, which makes me very happy.

Interesting reading:

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lebanon's Elections

Lebanon is currently undergoing what I consider a constitutional crisis, and has been since the 23rd of April. In order for a President to be elected he must be elected by a 2/3rds majority of Parliament, more like a Prime Minister in other countries. This however means if no one receives a 2/3rds majority there will be a second election and this continues on forever until someone is elected.

The Presidential election was supposed to happen in April and it is now September. This has taken a total of 5 months so far, and is showing no signs of stopping. This makes me think it is time for Lebanon to look at alternatives to electing their president and the only mechanism I can recommend is to make the President popularly elected using IRV which will prevent future problems and ensure that every vote counts with no wasted votes or spoilers.

Hopefully someone with influence in Lebanon gets the message that a better system is possible. 5 months is just too long to wait for an election to finish.

Open up Relations With Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry announced on Friday that Iran will have no place at talks regarding the Islamic State due to their support of the Syrian regime.

This however, does not represent the whole picture. It is true that the Supreme Leader of Iran holds almost all the political power, but the current President of Iran, Rouhani, is a reformer and has stated that the future of Syria should be decided by its people.

This has created tension within the Iranian government, between the ideologically right-wing supreme Leader Khamenei who has been in power since 1979 and Rouhani. We should not let this opportunity go to waste and should start dialogue between Rouhani and the United States. If we do this than there is a possibility of renewed protests like we saw in 2009 and since the majority of people support Rouhani as we saw in the 2013 elections we can be fairly certain which side the people are on. This is further proven by how the 2009 elections were clearly fraudulent and the 2005 elections had suspicious characteristics. Basically, most Iranians favor relations with the West along with liberal ideas which gives us a huge advantage over Khamenei.

So, the United States should not unilaterally go into Iran and take out the Supreme Leader given his opposition to his policies. That was a frequent occurrence of American foreign policy and is destructive because it is illiberal and causes people to not support our policies. It also makes it hard to be a liberal nation. George W. Bush (in Iraq), Ronald Reagan (in Grenada), and Richard Nixon (in Chile) performed these policies which made us hated abroad. The future should be more collaborative and focus on expanding the ability of people to determine their own future. When we depose people such as Allende in Chile our image abroad is damaged, decreasing global freedom, and making it harder for America to perform foreign policy. Hurting the people of a nation hurts our ability to have relations with that nation and can take decades to recover. If we want to make long-standing trade relations they need to be beneficial to both sides, make a situation where the people of the nation will favor of our policies and cooperate with foreign governments while respecting sovereignty. This is the most effective way to build long-standing relations, which is what we have done with Europe and Japan and has made those some of our strongest relations in the world with some of the highest approval ratings of the United States. Our relations with nations in the Middle East have been filled with decisions which make them distrust us which makes it the place where people most hate the United States to our peril, and theirs. Overthrowing dictators by bringing the people to our side and improving our image will make this world better in a more effective manner than any other method.

So, this is why we should open the door to the President of Iran who has the support of the people to someday make our relations stronger so Iran can be a land where people have the rights they deserve and we need to change course. We have a golden opportunity right now to help the People and expand freedom and if we are serious about our founding values we will take it. We need to be the peacemaker which will make people across the world love us and want to work with us. Iran is a nation of 77 million people, and if we have them as an ally in a collaborative way we will be better off, and Iran will be able to have freedom.

America loves Iran.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Beware the pigs

In the 1880s the British South Africa Company moved into what is modern day Zimbabwe and got a concession from the King for mining rights in the region in 1888. The British started to enslave Zimbabweans and established settlements of Englishmen. The natives no longer had any sovereignty and over the next 60 years until the 1950s they were in a feudal system. The colonial era saw the resources of the people of Africa be stolen by the colonial powers. This ended when the Africans grew tired of their colonial oppressors and formed independence movements to have more rights. In 1963 Rhodesia gained independence along with other African nations in that era, after which they were led by Ian Smith until 1979. Rhodesia was set up so there were separate voter rolls for people based on property (not indifferent from the United States when we were founded where you had to own land to vote) which effectively gave the landed white settlers most of the political power despite being a minority. In this era the government reserved a majority of seats in Parliament for whites and made it almost impossible for African political parties to get enough power to represent the majority. The way Rhodesia was set up was being decreed as racist by the rest of the world. (Source: Wikipedia) Of course, we can't blame Ian Smith completely because he was merely a figurehead of a massive governmental organization which was nominally democratic for those who had land, and was outspoken on supporting Mandela while the United States and Israel maintained good relations with the Apartheid regime, and he had started to work to try to bring majority rule to Rhodesia before 1979. It is easy to demonize him given that he was president of a country with minority rule (and while I started writing this article I found myself falling into the same trap given similarities between him and other African leaders who led for such long periods of time) but it is important to look at an individual with the context of his time and place and the power dynamics at play to diagnose the entire system as being racist and not blaming everything on the head of state when there is a congress or parliament with considerable power.

In 1979 however Mugabe came to power, under the guise of freeing Zimbabweans from their white oppressors. He promised progress and change, but his economic reforms quickly turned the country into one of the poorest and most backwards in the entire world. He has established a one-party rule where anyone who speaks against his regime is arrested or killed, frequently landing near the bottom of the rankings of all freedom indexes. He did not become as so many hoped a figure for freedom for all Africans and has frequently committed crimes against other tribes, and the white minority who are for the most part disenfranchised and have left Zimbabwe as refugees. He tries to portray himself as black empowerment and given how Africans have been abused for so many generations many see this as a good thing, but no one chooses the color of their skin and even though it isn't in the order we usually think of when it comes to racist regimes Mugabe is indeed a racist and continues to pursue policies which have made Zimbabwe a backwards state for all Zimbabweans, including targeting certain tribes of natives disspelling any notion of him being a freedom fighter for Africans.

This is in comparison to South Africa where after the truly brutal racist regime that lasted almost 50 years Nelson Mandela rose to lead South Africa to become the most economically advanced nation in Africa whose speed of economic development is close to that of China. He did this not by looking at it in terms of an us vs. them mentality but as a real liberal tried to bring all South Africans to a place where they could leave peacefully without creating a refugee crisis. They are now the freest nation in Africa for native Africans and all people compared to all other nations on the continent. The rights of people in nations in Africa where they didn't look for a multilateral liberty-based approach but instead a Marxist relativist approach where it is seen as a conflict between different classes (which were deeply aligned with people's ancestry being either European or African for the most part) have not improved since decolonization and their standard of living is the worst in the world.

When trying to advance rights for one group of people, be it Africans in Africa, women across the world, homosexuals, transsexuals, and other groups it is paramount to not turn it into an us vs. them mentality but attempt to make the value of all men being created equal a reality. A rising tide raises all boats.

Freedom in the world does not have a limited quantity and the amount of freedom in a society goes up and down over time. When one person gets the ability to speak freely this does not mean another person cannot publish their thoughts as much. My writing this blog without my government cracking down on me if I say something they do not like does not prevent another person from writing a blog of their own. This is how the world works and the great thinkers of liberalism, John Locke, America's founding fathers, and John Stuart Mill all understood this. When Europe passed the Schengen treaty the average amount of freedom in the world increased, but the amount of freedom that Americans had did not decrease because the border between Germany and Poland was opened. This is also of course what happened in Animal Farm by George Orwell who noticed this in the USSR and ended with one of the greatest quotes of modern literature, "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." which is applicable in Zimbabwe.

When expanding the rights of one group we need to ensure that we don't also make it harder for one group to have what they deserve. When we continue to expand rights for African Americans across the United States so that those who live in poor communities (because not all African Americans are poor) have police services that respect them we need to deal with the problem directly by implementing laws that hold police accountable for their actions so that they keep their actions within the law which doesn't always happen which is a great shame on our entire nation. Decreasing the quality of police in majority-white areas will not make people in majority-African American areas more free, in fact I would expect it would have the opposite effect. We need to write laws that directly address the issue along with caveats which will inevitably occur so that we can have programs that work effectively.

If we don't we will end up being no better than Robert Mugabe who talked about a Zimbabwe where Africans would be free only to turn back on his progress and make it worse for all Zimbabweans. We must be true liberals and focus on the rights as the end goal and divorce ourselves from the notion of one group always being the oppressor and one group always being the oppressed, because roles can and at times have switched in brutal fashion. When we realize this we can have freedom.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Median Household Consumption

In economics when we are trying to describe the various quality of life of different countries we use different types of metrics. Each of these metrics has their own benefits and their own flaws. The following are the ones that I think are the most important:
  1. GDP per capita PPP. The advantage is it is super easy to calculate. The flaw however is it doesn't take into account income distribution so the number could be very different from what the average household actually feels like.
  2. GNI per capita PPP. The same as GDP except it includes income earned by expatriates of that country and excludes income of expatriates within that country. Same advantages and disadvantages.
  3. Real Median Household Income PPP. The advantage to this over GDP per Capita is that it takes into account income inequality, and excludes non-workers. If we had two nations with 100,000 households and a GDP PPP of $1,000,000,000 but in one of them one person had an income of $900,000,000 we would have a very skewed society, and Real Median Household Income will show that this nation is really quite poor at a Income of around $1,000 versus a Household Income approaching $10,000 in a more equal society. This is important because it gives a more accurate picture than using GDP per Capita relative to the average family.
  4. Average Wage. This is the same as the last metric except that it subtracts taxes. This is the most accurate we currently have except it has one problem. Let's say we have two nations like the last example with 100,000 households and a GDP PPP of $1,000,000, but in this case they have perfect income equality meaning that each household earns $10,000, and both of these countries tax their residents at at an effective rate of 20% of their income, leaving disposable income of $8,000. But the issue with this comes into play where lets say in nation 1 the person in the middle gets back 75% of their taxes in the form of services from the government meaning their actual consumption is $9,500 while in the second country only 10% of their taxes go back to the citizen in the middle in the form of services from the government meaning their actual consumption is $8,200. This has a large effect on true consumption when we talk about corrupt nations, and why I think we should include this in a further analysis.
I call this metric Median Household Consumption because it is measuring not the disposable income of residents but their actual average consumption. This would be calculated by taking the Average Wage and then adding in the value of government spending that is seen by the average family.

This would significantly clarify the picture when comparing the United States to countries such as Sweden when it comes to issues like education as I explain in my critique of Average Wage. The median person could see a massive increase in their total consumption if there is an extremely progressive tax structure and strong welfare state versus what average wage will state.

We would then to calculate the median household consumption only need to look at how many government services the average person consumes over the course of a year and add that to average wage. It should also calculate the multiplier effect of spending (such as military) which effects the income of all people which is data we have and does impact everyone else in the economy to a certain degree because people working for the military (for example) spend their money stimulating demand in other sectors which effects wages. This will give us a more reliable estimate for the actual consumption of people in different countries than any other metric used to date, because for most economists the question is about how to improve the quality of life for all people at the end of the day, and we need the tools to tell us which country's government policies are working correctly.

We need this to be able to better evaluate policies so we can improve our world and have more fair and accurate comparisons between countries.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Book Review: "Does North America Exist?"

I checked a book out from my school's library by a Canadian economist Stephen Clarkson "Does North America Exist?" which analyzed the impacts of NAFTA up to 2008 when the book was written and various impacts seen by the three nations involved.

I read this in what has become my usual way where I don't read every word but do more of a Cosby Method type of reading which allows me to read the book much faster while still learning what the book has to say. I find this easiest with physical books which is why I still read physical books along with the electronic copies which I find to be harder to read quickly than a paper copy. I highly recommend the Cosby Method.

The first big compliment I have for the author is he did a superb way of academically laying out his book so that people can easily answer any question they have within his topic. The other glowing point is the 80 pages of references he uses which is very professional.

One main argument is how NAFTA has a power imbalance given how the United States has the 1/4 of the population and over 80% of the economy in the agreement. This means that there is a reduction in the decisions Mexico and Canada can make unilaterally when it comes to decisions effecting all the involved nations. There are solutions for this, with a court system with NAFTA and other actions which would balance out the power dynamics of the free trade area.

The book discusses how NAFTA effects agriculture and textiles which are the two most controversial industries effected by NAFTA. It lays out the statistics on the arguments downplaying most misconceptions on both sides of the aisle. It really makes it clear that NAFTA was neither an absolute bust to the economy or a cure-all for all the economies woes.

Banks are a non-issue more or less in NAFTA since there is no real central organization dealing with transborder banking, and the book lays out details. Other issues include capital markets and copyright law. I highly recommend the detailed descriptions on these issues.

In general, those are the basic arguments the book makes, and the data behind it makes them more or less irrefutable. I have learned a good bit from this book.

ISBN: 978-0-8020-9653-1

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Education, Unions, Politics, and Eating your Own

I recently came across a collection of Harper's Weekly from 1872 in the house that I live in. In it on the front page of the August 3rd issue it talks about President Grant and Education regarding the ongoing election of that year where President Grant was running against Horace S. Greeley. The issue was that President Grant (while he wasn't a perfect president) had expanded education access in the South to all people. The South had been until President Grant's term the most culturally backwards place in the Western world (to compare apples to apples) with the lowest literacy rate and the slavery being the worst in the entire world. The article talks about how Horace Greeley would reverse the policies, but looking at more detail it turns out that this was not true how Horace Greeley would change such policies and he had been campaigning for years for progressive policies. This is a classic case of media twisting the words of a politician in a way that is dishonest and misleading.

Besides the deliberate misrepresentation of Greeley the article does have some really good points. Democrats had historically been the party of racists, and the period of 1865-1909 was the period when they moved from their racist roots that extended back to 1825 when Andres Jackson became President, so it is natural to not expect a party with such deep roots in fascism to change overnight. There were also a lot of Democrats in the South who had maintained their earlier convictions all the way up until Richard Nixon courted them in 1968 in his Southern Strategy which made them realize that the Republican Party post-1968 had the policies that they have agreed with since before the founding of our nation. The opposition to that great progressive American ideal of equality of opportunity has always been a deeply held Southern tradition.

This movement in the North to expand public education by using the resources of the Federal government has been one of the great accomplishments of American Democracy. The Southern Economy is much more diverse today than it was in 1965 and the gap between Whites and African Americans is smaller today than it used to be. It is still too large, but the campaigns of Lincoln, Grant, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and LBJ have made immense progress. This is a major threat against the traditions of the South of subjugation and their goal of slavery because it proves that the federal government can be immensely successful when used appropriately at making sure everyone has the opportunities they need and when these programs are done the leaders of freedom gain more power which means that those who would turn the South back 200 years to a nation of slavery if they could is more difficult.

In response to this by 2001 the Old Southerners needed a new strategy so they proposed the No Child Left Behind Act. This misallocation and destruction of the American education system was never designed to improve education and everything in it has been disproven by professional studies of what works and what doesn't. It gives money to massive testing companies who have a stake in politics which is the short-term benefit in higher campaign funding for them but the larger long-term benefit is it helps turn teachers off of looking for a more egalitarian system where people can get a high-quality education through the state because the state's system has been severely damaged. This is working to undo almost 150 years of American policy to ensure that every American child has the ability to get as far as possible and how it shouldn't matter how much your community has you can still get a high-quality education with the latest technology, and it doesn't mater how much your family or local community has. This was what President Grant begun and has continued, which ended up with high schools and public education extending all the way through college. The highlight of the time was when in the 1950s and 1960s college was extremely affordable and it didn't matter how much your family had you could still go get yourself an education. The result was a growing middle class and a booming economy.

The issue for these people who oppose public education is that in their misguided view on the economy they think there must be someone who has to be subjugated in order for themselves to get rich. Only recently are we finally seeing them listen to the reason of economists and the voice of reality that you can be wealthy and treat your employees extremely well. With this misguided viewpoint they (the business owners and the politicians they pay) have tried to destroy our public education system. The beginning of this resurgence against education was under Ronald Reagan when we saw massive increases in tuition for college which effectively priced a large number of working poor out of the system. The latest action in this success for the Republicans at elimintating opposition to their destruction is opposition to common core without any real proposal to make certain students aren't learning creationism in science classrooms and other fairy tales. This is a direct response of the No Child Left Behind Act, which I believe was calculated, and has succeeded remarkably well at giving local school districts the ability to destroy their education systems which has resulted in a remarkable amount of doublespeak and killing of opportunities. With teacher's unions moving away from the common core which is the way to end this destruction of our education system it is a victory to people who would move our country away from science. This removal of the best advocates for our schools from the public debate and their attacking politicians who want to ensure no student leaves high school without ever touching a real science book harms everything that makes this country great. This is the classic eating of your own which I have observed the left to be so fond of doing. Teachers should be collaborating with the government to construct a common core that has the pieces that are essential and gives teachers time to work with their students without being rushed. They should advocate for policies based on research as opposed to running away from the issue and demonizing those who are proposing to end the destruction that has been done to our education system particularly by Reagan and Bush either directly or indirectly.

The next step for the Confederates is the privatization of schools which if the public schools degrade far enough should get teachers moving to private schools which will price even more students out of getting even a basic education. The ideal of education as a human right, while not codified in law, has become an important part of American politics and is being constantly targeted by these Southerners which will destroy our economy.

This will lead to a less educated work force which will push our country back in time to a place more similar to what President Grant was fighting in his advocacy of public education which did make an impact in the South (since the vast majority of African Americans can now read) and decrease our competitive advantage which is the engine of American economic growth. The decrease in civic knowledge as well will hurt our democracy.

For the racists of the South (such as Bush and Perry) they cannot speak out today in racist terms so instead they use more nuanced terms this is a great threat to the deeply held Southern Traditions of slavery and segregation. This is why they talk about privatization and other Trojan Horses, but in the end they have always been looking for the same thing for over 200 years. Nothing about these people's goals have ever changed in the history of this country.

Fortunately, not all is lost. There are still some people who are trying to ensure that students do not leave high school without a science education with President Obama and Arne Duncan pushing to make it be required that students learn science in the schools among other important topics which are frequently omitted by the truly crazy inheritors of the Stars and Bars. Hopefully in the future we will see a further resurgence of Progressivism in American with Elizabeth Warren speaking her mind and being able to make sure that the American people hear the truth and hopefully not try to whittle it all away with Compromise. President Grant's second term was marked with great compromises which destroyed many of his accomplishments and gave more power to the Confederate Democrats who wanted a return to slavery. Fortunately the first term made immense progress that not even compromise could undo, it only slowed the march to freedom for all people in this country.

Note: I unfortunately cannot get an online copy of the article that prompted this besides going past a pay wall.

Friday, August 1, 2014

United States Farm Job Corps

The Department of Agriculture is a large government agency. They do everything from crop insurance to farm loans and assistance to rural housing which directly benefits over 2% of Americans (the percent of our labor force in agriculture) across the country. These are important and most should be continued because the free market will not insure farms because of the high risk which would cause premiums to be too expensive for most farmers.

I've done farm work and I know it is neither glorious or well-paying. But it is a job and an important part of the global economy. Because most Americans are very well educated the United States is full of workers who are severely overqualified for such work, since most Americans make more in a year than one can make on a farm (which is minimum wage). The current system means finding enough domestic labor to fill our surplus of jobs is impossible.

The current immigration system requires farmers to make an effort to fill positions before they hire foreigners in this country which given the number of people looking for such work is extremely difficult. For people who want such work they merely have to sign up at to get a job as a farmworker immediately. They were interviewed also on the Colbert Report which demonstrated how they are having a really hard time getting Americans to work to work on the farms. It is laborious, time consuming, and expensive for farmers to get the labor they need so many decide to forego the legal requirements and hire foreigners without the paperwork because they can't afford to wait 45 days because their crops need to grow.

Instead of putting burdensome regulations on our farmers across America we should change the system to make it easier for farmers to get the labor they need to stay in business. Instead of making it hard to get workers ICE and The Department of Agriculture could make a program where farmers can choose to post their jobs and are open first to Americans for the first week and then after that period the remainder will turn into visas for those jobs in particular open to foreigners. We might limit these workers to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, which will be politically feasible. The foreigners would apply through the American embassy in their country after which they would go through a background check from the embassy to ensure they are not dangerous at which point they would receive the visa valid for the extent of the position plus one month when they can freely work in the United States. Along with this any dependents under the age of 18 will automatically receive visas so they can attend school and their spouses will also receive a spouse visa. Employers will be required to pay for the transportation of their employees. I propose calling this program the United States Farm Job Corps which will help both small and large farms in our country.

Canada already has system like this called the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program which is a well-run program that protects workers and gives farmers the labor they require, which is something we should work on. This program is not identical however because it will also work for people within the United States and give Americans the first choice at farm jobs which will be politically feasible.

This will fix illegal immigration and create a solution so all farmers can get the labor they need, and illegal immigration will stop being such a major political issue. We should implement this policy soon to protect people and keep our agriculture running efficiently and ensure farmers treat their workers ethically. The current farm worker program


I don't go to the White House website as often as I probably should, but seeing the front page today (30 July 2014) showed me exactly why I voted for President Obama. The front page talks about eliminating loopholes in our tax code that makes it so large corporations are able to avoid paying taxes. This is one major step to fixing our tax code in the short-run which will help balance the budget (which we will need to do when our economy recovers). This is as the President said, a fairness issue because the loopholes that wealthy corporations use are not available to new businesses who are the major source of new jobs in the economy. NBER This is frequently interpreted as being small companies because when companies start out they are naturally quite small, but new corporations naturally tend to be smaller than established companies because they haven't had the time to grow.

This is, of course, only a first step. Our income tax code has far too many loopholes, the vast majority go to those who already make millions of dollars. They love to claim how the home mortgage interest deduction goes to the middle class while the benefits go to those who are able to buy the biggest houses, as in those who already have a lot, meaning that it is an extremely regressive tax cut. Giving capital gains a flat rate increases taxes on seniors who have invested beyond a specified retirement plan (unless if you withdraw over $230,000 from your stock fund) and decreases taxes owed by those who have millions of dollars in income per year. A flat tax is by definition a regressive tax and since people with lower incomes spend a larger percent of their income they are bad for the economy.

Hopefully with a President pushing for such actions there can be real change which will balance the budget which will increase funding for education and health care without cutting necessary services.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

John Boehner is a fool

The latest headline is that the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives is going to try the President for overextending his authority in the Democrat-majority Senate. The idea that there is any chance Obama will be impeached is absolutely ludicrous, and the only purpose of this is is to play to the Tea Party base that Obama has overstretched his authority (despite that he has done an unusually small number of executive orders and has until recently been extremely reserved). The executive orders he has made have been comparatively less strong than those made by other recent president as well. If the democrats take this to voters there is a very large chance this could give what existing Republican-held swing districts currently exist to the Democrats. If the Democrats led by Elizabeth Warren succeed in proposing an alternate vision that is closer to the reality this decision by John Boehner could be the end of the Republican Party. But only if the Democrats want to.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

When we shall have peace

A ceasefire just started in Israel, which hopefully will continue, but given the scope of the destruction in Gaza and who is currently leading both sides I doubt it will last. The beginning of this conflict was justified, but the way IDF went about it was completely unjustified with targeting non-military targets. If the IDF had only targeted the military base of Hamas and used their immense intelligence gathering effectively there would be absolutely no doubt that Israel would have been on the right side of the conflict. Instead there have been far too many attacks by the Israeli government on civilian homes which brings them down to the level of Hamas in how they target non-military targets and they blew it big this time. There are now pending charges for crimes against humanity on both sides which I have no doubt are legitimate and hopefully will remove military support from both sides.

The Israeli government has continued to breed extremism with their latest onslaught on houses in Gaza but have not targeted military targets, with most of the deaths being those of civilians. This is a war crime and there needs to be justice. As long as Israel continues to bomb Palestinian homes in these events and evict them to build settlements in the West Bank without due compensation young Palestinians will continue to have nothing to lose. As long as the blockade on Gaza prevents them from trading with the outside world (For cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World ~ US Declaration of Independence) and preventing food and medical supplies from reaching the people who need them and preventing the development of the Gazan economy people will have no other option but to revolt against the Israeli government. Trade is invaluable to people because it brings opportunity. The other major barrier to peace is the taking of Palestinian land without compensation which no wise government in history willfully takes the land of people who live on their land because if they steal too much there will be a  revolt. It unfortunately worked in the Americas because disease killed the Native American population before they could fight back (which is the largest genocide in the history of the world) but the Israelis don't have diseases that will kill the Palestinians before they will fight back against the evictions. All of these actions make people look for any way to improve their well being and this is how groups like Hamas are able to get people to follow them because they offer a way to get people's homes back, even though their ideology is extremely misguided and historically doomed to fail.

One important point is that Israel is a democracy and when center-left parties have been in office there have been improved relations with Palestine. The attacks on Palestinian homes occur when either Likud becomes the government in Israel or Hamas becomes the government in Palestine. Attacks by Israel like the one this month are invariably linked to the leadership of the right wing. Attacks on Israel (such as the Yom Kippur War) are of course rightfully defended and every state has the right to self-defense. This means if there is to be peace in the region the government of Israel needs to return to the center-left led by Kadima which will almost definitely lead and sign an armistice agreement with the Palestinian Authority. This is essential to any path to peace,

There needs to be an agreement that the UN will defend any side that is in the defensive given a resumption of attacks. There needs to be a right to education for all people in the area. Property rights need to be absolute and if either government takes land from anyone there must be just compensation. Access to courts is absolute regardless of citizenship.

Also, Israel needs to change their laws and have real freedom of the press which currently doesn't exist under a system of gag orders which exacerbate extremism and lack of information for Israelis increasing the power of their extremist government. This policy is contrary to the claim that Israel is a free democracy because no nation can be free when you need the government's permission to publish information that doesn't have to do with things whose release would threaten national security, such as nuclear passwords.

The cost in Israel of these extremist governments increase the number of Israelis who support these sorts of policies. Racism is increasing among people on both sides of the conflict of all ages. There is no global leader today, except maybe Pope Francis, with the cultural clout to help bring people back to a place where we can live together in peace. This is what we need. The world needs leadership and we have no one who is willing to use their power effectively. I hope President Obama will prove me wrong with his current actions on the Southern Border which has become a humanitarian catastrophe, but given 6 years of compromise (which historically was the bringer and keeper of slavery in the USA) it will take a lot more work which I hope will come. We cannot afford to have a humanitarian crisis in the Middle East with either side getting annihilated which is what the current Government of Israel will cause if they continue the actions they are doing with disproportionate attacks.

We also need to increase communication between people on both sides of every conflict. Peace cannot happen without dialogue and once there is dialogue we will realize we are all people and that war is a pointless endeavor.

With all of this we need strong treaties that are proportionately reinforced and strong leadership that can bring people together to recognize that we are all brothers and we are all our brothers' keeper. Only then can we have lasting peace. Otherwise war and suffering will continue.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Economy of the Central African Republic

The Central African Republic is one of the poorest countries in the world. They rank at 188/189 on the ease of doing business index, have a GDP per Capita (PPP) of $700, and unemployment of 8%, with 23% unemployment in Bangui, the capital.

Demographically this is a classic case of a country which is not unified by tribe, with the largest tribe being the Gbaya at 33% of the population, with hundreds of other groups with their own languages and cultures. 80% is Christian, and 10% are Muslim. The Gbaya and Banda together make up 60% of the population. Only 4% of the population is over 65 years old.

The CAR became independent in 1960. They were under an extremely mismanaged dictatorship by Bokassa from 1965-1979 who held the country back economically, and was overthrown by the French. The 1980s were unstable under General Kolingba. The first free elections were held in 1993 when Patassé was elected. He led a violent and corrupt government until 2003. 2003 saw Bozize overthrow Patassé. The Bush War that followed ended in 2007. There continue to be Rebel Groups operating in the country that prevents development. They are currently under an interim government.

The CAR is currently in a period of transition with an interim government being formed, and this is a period of incredible potential for the country.

So, what to do? Well, the first step is to make sure that all people are included in the government. This is best done using a ranked voting system which will allow the establishment of parties that represent each group of the population and ensure all voices can be heard. I recommend Single Transferable Vote and multi-member districts because it will prevent artificial quotas and ensure that there will be less corruption because people will be able to elect opposition parties. Their legislature should be unicameral and be composed of regional representatives. They should reduce the term of the President so that there are more frequent elections. The President should be directly elected using IRV. The President can only act within the law. The court system should be independent and there should be trial by jury to separate the courts from politics. The Supreme Court should be directly elected by the people. Elections should be publically financed. Voting should be made convenient to people so everyone can vote.

When it comes to economic policy they have more work to do than almost every other country. Their Doing Business ranking is the second worst in the world, and they need to make it easier for people to start their own businesses. This will increase employment and allow them to advance technologically. Tax payments should be moved to an annual cycle which will save a lot of money in hiring accountants and allow business owners to put more time into doing things that are productive. They need to reduce the initial cost of getting electricity which is a significant barrier to development. They should have a simple tax system combined with a progressive income tax (which treats capital gains as income), progressive inheritance tax, and a carbon tax. They need bank reform so banks can be a safe place for people to deposit their money along with insurance for depositors, along with laws against financial devices that damage the economy. An example of dangerous financial devices are Ponzi Schemes. They need to protect unions so that workers can be competitive and get paid a living wage. This will create the economic growth to free up labor and resources to solve other major problems.

A major threat to the economy is illiteracy. The government should set up schools for adults to learn how to read and write and continue to mandate education for children. They should work with education organizations to ensure that education is done in a way to benefit children the most given their resources.

Healthcare is an incredibly important issue and a major problem for the economy. Access to contraceptives is important to help bring down their birth rate which is currently around 5 children per woman. This will make a significant improvement to the livelihood of everyone in the country when people have fewer children. They need to attract more doctors and keep working with the WHO to implement reforms. Developing the economy by eliminating unnecessary regulation and streamlining what is left will create the revenue needed for the government to make massive improvements in health care.

The CAR among other African countries has the potential to be a model green economy if developed correctly. The largest and most immediate hurdle is the extreme corruption which hurts workers and business owners and need to be reduced. Then they will have the ability to cover other issues such as their dire healthcare system. If they don't improve their economy they will like many other countries not have the ability to fix the other problems which perpetuate misery for far too many millions of people.

This is a time of incredible opportunity for the Central African Republic and hopefully they will make a large step towards democratic elections.


Monday, July 14, 2014

I am not my views

I have a habit which I don't think is a bad thing where I will speak freely and sometimes inadvertently offend people. I don't mean to offend people, but it can happen when saying less popular and less well-known things. I also share things because I believe very strongly in the sharing of ideas and information in order to further knowledge of myself and others. I believe very strongly that in order to change the world starts with education about what is going on which once deliberately moved into action can change the world. In fact, this is the only way change has ever been done.

But nobody is perfect, especially me, and when I have imperfect information I could be missing a very important piece. I am always open to new information (as long as it is from a generally accurate source, things like FOX News and chain letters do not count for me) and when I get new information will modify my views to fit what is really happening.

One issue I am reading about right now is women's rights.  I am extremely curious about how to most effectively make it so every woman has equal access to positions of economic and social power as every man given that everything else is equal. A highly qualified individual for a position who has a good head on her shoulders should not be barred or discriminated against from a position, and it is the duty of society to make certain that she is able to use her talents to make herself better off by getting decent pay and share her talents with everyone. Society loses when women have extra burdens to enter the workforce. I am going to write a lot on this and learn as much as possible. During a recent conference I was worried that quotas would have the same type of impact as carbon emission limits but one of my friends really helped me see how it is easy to misapply information which is something I need to work on any why I surround myself with those types of people.

Nonetheless, if I ever make a mistake and say something offensive when it is clearly not true, it isn't because I am trying to be insensitive but I am probably just missing information and bouncing ideas off of people.

On the other hand, I am a debater and as a debater can see the multiple sides to every issue (which does not make me a moderate on every issue, I am not moderate on slavery, gay rights, wage theft, global warming, and other crucial issues which have a clear moral bent) which means sometimes I can rub shoulders with people I agree with, though this only happens on a few relatively minor issues such as free trade which I am right down the center on.

In short, if I have offended you and you feel like I misunderstand something, understand it is not intentional and that if I am missing something I would love for you to share more information with me for the first time which will help me see the world more clearly and this dialogue is what makes people able to change the world in the long and short run. I will never be offended by being corrected, it is an honor to be respected as such when someone shares that kindness.