Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Draining the Swamp? Trump Swelling It with Carrier

Carrier gets a sweet deal from President-elect Trump and VP-elect Pence to keep jobs in Indiana. 
In the end, UTC agreed to retain approximately 800 manufacturing jobs at the Indiana plant that had been slated to move to Mexico, as well as another 300 engineering and headquarters jobs. In return, the company will get roughly $700,000 a year for a period of years in state tax incentives.
But Indiana is still losing more jobs than it is gaining. It will keep 1,100 jobs and lose 1,300.
Some 1,300 jobs will still go to Mexico, which includes 600 Carrier employees, plus 700 workers from UTEC Controls in Huntington, Ind. The company has plans in place to offer displaced workers employment and relocation in UTC’s aerospace business, or to provide funding for reeducation.
Apparently Carrier isn't new to this game. They've already gotten lots of tax breaks. But, with Trump's campaign posturing, they were able to get more.
This is congruent from what we know about the sort of tax breaks Indiana and Indianapolis has already offered the firm. Back in 2011, the city gave the company a six-year property tax abatement, which allowed them to forgo paying $1.2 million in taxes, according to the Indianapolis Star. The company has also taken advantage of funds the state allocates for job retraining, and had reached a deal with Indiana to return several hundred thousand dollars for contributions it made to the company’s retraining programs as a part of the state’s Skills Enhancement Fund.
Though most small businesses would jump through hoops to get a $63,600* subsidy per employee for years, it may be small potatoes for Carrier's parent company. The real problem is the stick of a Trump administration taking away United Technology's military contract business if the company doesn't make Trump look good on this.
Furthermore, there is reason to believe that this deal isn’t just about the tax breaks. The New York Times points out that United Technologies may very well be more concerned with angering the President than it is with saving the small amount of money relative to its overall revenue that the Mexico-relocation would provide. “While Carrier will forfeit some $65 million a year in savings the move was supposed to generate, that’s a small price to pay to avoid the public relations damage from moving the jobs as well as a possible threat to United Technologies’ far-larger military contracting business,” according to the Times.
Isn't this exactly the sort of carrot/stick strategy Republicans and conservatives would have praised had it been the Obama administration "urging" energy companies to support policies combating climate change (né global warming)?

Good life in the swelling swamp.
*This is for jobs paying $20 to $25 per hour. That's $800 to $1,000 per 40 hour week; $41,600 to $52,000 per year before withholding. So, depending on fringe benefits these are likely "free" employees.
Even with that, however, once the layoffs were to begin in mid-2017, most of the workers would have had a hard time finding jobs that paid anywhere near the $20 to $25 an hour that veteran line workers earn.
Most anyone could run a profitable business with free labor. Nice!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Ben Sasse

I not only like this man, I think he has more understanding in his little finger than the people in the highest offices have in their whole body. And when he talks, he explains so that people can understand.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good . . . [though] we have behaved wickedly

Abraham Lincoln's proclamation, October 3, 1863
1 Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

2 Who can speak of the mighty deeds of the Lord,
Or can show forth all His praise?

3 How blessed are those who keep justice,
Who practice righteousness at all times!

4 Remember me, O Lord, in Your favor toward Your people;
Visit me with Your salvation,

5 That I may see the prosperity of Your chosen ones,
That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation,
That I may glory with Your inheritance.

6 We have sinned like our fathers,
We have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly.
. . .
44 Nevertheless He looked upon their distress
When He heard their cry;

45 And He remembered His covenant for their sake,
And relented according to the greatness of His lovingkindness.

46 He also made them objects of compassion
In the presence of all their captors.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
And gather us from among the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name
And glory in Your praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
From everlasting even to everlasting.
And let all the people say, “Amen.”
Praise the Lord!

Psalm 106

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trump: They've used you. They've stolen your votes . . . and given you nothing.

"Politicians like Hillary Clinton have failed you, and they've failed you badly. It's all talk. It's no action. They have failed. They've used you. They've stolen your votes for decades, and they've given you nothing. I will give you everything. I will give you what you've been looking for thirty, forty, fifty years. They have given you nothing, and you need something new." (emphasis added)
Donald Trump, May 2016
Donald Trump has "moderated" some of the positions popular with his voters.

1. He's not so high on torture. Yay!
"After sparking controversy during the campaign by saying he would allow waterboarding, Mr Trump suggested he had been swayed by James Mattis, a retired general being considered for defence secretary, who told the president-elect at the weekend that he “never found it to be useful”."
2. He may keep the climate treaty after saying he was going to cancel it and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs.
In an interview with the New York Times, Mr Trump said he would “keep an open mind” about whether to abandon the climate treaty.
Also, probably why Sarah Palin isn't on the short list for heading up the Department of Energy. (Or apparently on any list. Kellyanne Conway said a couple of nights ago: "I haven't seen her as part of the cabinet mix." 6:25 mark)

[Update: Apparently Palin is on the list for Secretary of the Interior.Up against Jan Brewer among others.]

3. He will not prosecute Hillary Clinton. Okay with me but not with lots of the people who voted for him and believed he would appoint a special prosecutor.
The moves were capped by Kellyanne Conway, Mr Trump’s campaign manager, saying the president-elect had decided not to prosecute Mrs Clinton over her handling of secret information, arguing the move would help her “heal” from her loss. In the interview with the New York Times, Mr Trump said: “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons.” 
4.  Trump was going to "drain the swamp" of personal enrichment in Washington, D.C., but now, meh--at least regarding his own enrichment.
Speaking to the New York Times, Mr Trump pushed back against allegations he is using the presidency to advance his business interests, saying that conflict of interest rules did not apply to the president. 
For all Trump voters who believed him, my condolences.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Problem for Trumpcare: Ban on Pre-Existing Conditions Is a Primary Cost Driver for Health Insurance Premiums

If you like your perks, you can keep your perks--but at a cost.

Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner explains in health care terms why there is no such thing as a free lunch.
President-elect Trump has made waves by saying that though he plans to repeal Obamacare, he wants to keep the aspect of it that bans coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. But this is not possible without broader changes to the healthcare system.
The pre-existing condition ban is ultimately one of the primary drivers of the premium hikes we're seeing within Obamacare. The reason is that with insurers forced to offer coverage to anybody who applies, they incur higher medical costs, and they thus require more signups from younger and healthier people — but those signups aren't materializing in a large enough volume to offset costs.
The problem with the pre-existing condition ban is that it's a perfect example of how bigger government begets bigger government. That is, once lawmakers ban pre-existing conditions, they have to come up with a way to make it affordable. Otherwise, insurers could just say, "Sure, we'll cover people with heart problems, but for $2,000 a month."
There are some proposed fixes.

1) Have a high risk pool subsidized by the government. (The old it doesn't cost money if the government pays for it trick.)

2) Allow people to sign up only once every two years instead of every year. (Why Avik Roy thinks this would make a significant difference is beyond me. Younger people don't usually think: "I can make it for a year at a time without health insurance, but two years is way too dangerous." I don't think so.)

3) Health status insurance (which is kind of the old catastrophic insurance). (This would bring more people into the insurance pool, but not a lot more money, and it's money that's lacking.)

4) Klein doesn't mention the single payer insurance plan, but some suggest that. Sort of the VA expands to cover everyone. (Given the VA's poor showing in some areas, this probably wouldn't be popular and has the same money problem as idea 1.)

Klein ends with a warning:
So, there are various ideas out there for addressing coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, but it would have to be done as part of a broader effort to replace Obamacare. Republicans couldn't simply repeal all of Obamacare and carve out the pre-existing condition provision without decimating the insurance market.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Dems Lose 870 Major Elected Positions Since 2008

Here's a warning about tying your political future to a narcissistic star. 2008 seemed to be a wave election with Democrats taking control of the federal government (including a filibuster proof senate) and state governments as well.

However, Democrats have lost 870 major elected positions since 2008.

And having one star who makes the major decisions is dangerous business.
The truth — as exposed by Clinton's stunning loss to Donald Trump on Tuesday night — was that the Democratic bench was (and is) remarkably thin, a sign of both the relative ill health of the party downballot and the isolated appeal of Obama.
. . .
The reason for the “Clinton or bust” strategy was simple: There simply wasn't anyone else. Vice President Biden was a possibility, but the death of his oldest son, Beau, in May 2015 effectively sidelined him. (And at 73, Biden isn't exactly a spring chicken.) Beyond Biden and Clinton, name someone else who looked ready to make a serious run at a national nomination. There isn't anyone. (Trust me, I have thought about virtually every possibility.)
Contrast that to what the Republican field looked like as the 2016 election shaped up: A dozen and a half candidates including a handful of 40-something rising stars (Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz) as well as a number of other prominent voices (Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, John Kasich) within the national party who had deep and impressive résumés. And a true outsider who was making his first run for president.
In 2008 Barack Obama sucked all the air out of the room for Democratic leaders. In 2016 so did Donald Trump. In fact he gave some of the rising Republican stars adjectival names that will stick: Little Marco, Lyin' Ted, Low Energy Jeb. Not a bright thing for him to do or for Republicans to tolerate (if not celebrate).

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Will Republicans End the Filibuster (Already Weakened by the Short-Sighted Democrats in 2013)?

On November 21, 2013, the Democratic-controlled Senate ended the filibuster to block approval of executive and judicial branch nominees (except for the Supreme Court).
Under the change, the Senate will be able to cut off debate on executive and judicial branch nominees with a simple majority rather than rounding up a supermajority of 60 votes. The new precedent established by the Senate on Thursday does not apply to Supreme Court nominations or legislation itself.
The Democrats were able to employ their newly won power for 13 and 1/2 months. On January 3, 2015, the Democrats lost their majority in the Senate.

The Democrats were able to block Republicans from using the same power for another two years while Barack Obama was president. But, on January 20, 2017, President-elect Donald Trump, will assume the presidency. Then the Republicans will be able to use that unfettered appointment power against the Democrats for at least two years.

So far the loss in power for the Democrats is turning out to be 23 and a half months (January 20, 2017 to January 3, 2018) vs. 13 and 1/2 months of gain (November 21, 2013 to January 3, 2015). Not quite a 50% failure, but close.

The question now is will the Republicans be equally brainless and end the filibuster on Supreme Court nominations (and legislation)? Will Senator Mitch McConnell heed his own words?
“You think this is in the best interest of the United States Senate and the American people?” asked the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, sounding incredulous.
“I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this. And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think,” he added.
Regret has come to the Democrats in less than four years. Will Republicans be willing to destroy one of the nation's jewels of checks and balances* for two years of power and one supreme court appointment that at best will put things back to the status quo ante? Get out the popcorn.
*The filibuster is a delaying tactic that ensures important decisions have the acquiescence of at least 3/5ths of the States through their senators. If 2/5ths plus one senator are against a nomination or piece of legislation enough to hold up Senate processes, it means the issue is serious enough to be considered further until 3/5ths of the senators clearly decide to oppose the filibuster. It is a protection of the significant minority from majority overreach and gives 21 states protection from being crushed by the other 29.

Whatever New Voters Were Found Both Trump and Clinton Lost Old Voters

Turns out not only were more people fired up about Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton in 2008 and 2012, but more were fired up about Mitt Romney in 2012 than Donald Trump in 2016. This is not good considering the U.S. population ticks up 2 to 3 million people each year*.

Even when you add in third party candidates (as in the chart below) significantly fewer people cared to vote this year.

Not really a surprise with the two most disliked major party candidates since polling began. But, still sad that fewer and fewer people and a smaller percentage of the voting population think it worthwhile to vote.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Remember Trying to Explain to Trump and Trumpers Why Winning with More Delegates Rather Than Votes Didn't Make an Election Rigged?

Remember trying to explain to Trump and Trumpers why winning with more delegates rather than votes didn't make an election rigged? Apparently the message finally got through! Heh.

Strange how when your side wins what used to be horrible, anti-democratic and against "we the people" is perfectly okay.

Democrats have been really great at this, and Republicans are proving themselves to be just as capable.

Remember when the filibuster was a fundamental tradition of the Senate and needed to prevent majority overreach? Watch all the arguments against it by "conservatives" and Republicans when it is used against the Trump/Republican agenda to block the will of the "we the people" minority who won the election fair and square like George W. Bush in 2000.

Too few understand the importance of the electoral college and the filibuster any more. They both are part of the checks and balances system that slows down the rush to legislate and use government force for this or that popular idea.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Republican Healthcare Insurance Proposals Mired in Obamacare Expectations

I've been following some of the commentary on Republican proposals for replacing Obamacare.

Seems Republicans and President-elect Trump want to keep the popular portions of Obamacare. Inability to be excluded for preexisting conditions and kids staying on their parents' plans until age 26 being two of them.

Some are saying the money problem with preexisting conditions is that people don't have to buy insurance until they are sick. The fix is supposedly to require that people have ongoing insurance if they get to keep being covered. Thus, you force people to pay for insurance when they are well if they want it when they are sick (the usual carrot for buying any kind of insurance) ever onward.

But, how that differs from the pre-Obamacare model of not being accepted if you have a preexisting condition is a question. If you already had healthcare insurance then you would already have been accepted before getting your condition. So preexisting condition would not be an issue. (However, the change would help those who were dumped when a serious health condition came on or for those who had a preexisting condition as children before ever getting their own health insurance.)

More importantly, the individual market is not presently a big generator of health insurance premiums. Only 7% of people currently covered do it through the individual market. The elephant in the room is employer coverage. That amounts to 49% of the coverage given.

It's hard to find apples to apples statistics, but Kaiser Foundation research shows that the average individual employer covered plan cost $6,251 per year in 2015. By contrast the 2015 average "second lowest cost silver plan" for "a 40 Year Old Non-Smoker Making $30,000 / Year" before subsidies was $3,192. So, employers pay about double the average rate as individuals for an individual policy. That would make employer covered policies the biggest income producer for health insurance companies.

So, the employer mandate requiring companies to cover their employees is much more important for health care insurance providers than the individual mandate requiring individuals to buy insurance. This is both in terms of the premiums paid (about double) and the number of policies issued (about 7x more).

Obamacare's nice benefits cost money. So, if we're going to keep requiring health care insurance companies to provide them, we can't expect health insurance costs to go down. Or at least not without insurance companies being forced to pull out of markets or go bankrupt.

Full service healthcare for everyone is a wonderful goal. But, it costs lots of money. And when people don't directly see how much a service costs and have a stake in paying that cost, non-essential services will be recommended and accepted just because they're available at little or no extra cost. Similarly, high cost peripherals will be used because they are as readily available as lower cost options. In almost every other area of life (food, clothing, transportation, education, recreation, technology) you choose the level you want and pay for the level you choose. But, if the "Virgin Mobile paylo healthcare plan" costs about the same as the "iPhone healthcare plan", who wouldn't choose the iPhone version?

There needs to be a clear incentive for the individual to cut medical costs to services and supplies that are important or essential. Until then we're fooling ourselves about this plan being substantially better than that plan. Right now the Republicans do not have a plan significantly different than Obamacare.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Donald Trump Mellows or Returns to Type--Whichever You Prefer

President-elect Trump on Hillary Clinton:
Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country. (emphasis added)
Actually, I agree with this statement. I'm not a Hillary hater even though I think she is vile at times. Shoot, I even stood up for her against the poor treatment the media gave her in 2008. (here, here and here) So, this is not a new position for me.

I don't want to see her in prison any more than I wanted to see Richard Nixon in prison or Bill Clinton in prison. I don't like punishing presidents for less than true "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors" (and am not sure what high misdemeanors might be even after reading Justice Story's Commentaries on the Constitution).

President-elect Trump on President Barack Obama:
“I have great respect. . . . I very much look forward to dealing with the President in the future including counsel. . . .Very good man — very good man.” (emphasis added)

(minutes 1 to 4)

The meeting lasted for 90 minutes instead of the 10 to 15 minutes scheduled. There was super-friendliness between them. Obama said very positive things about wanting to make Trump a success.

Does that sound like how President Obama has talked about any Republican in the last eight years? Certainly not his attitude toward House or Senate leadership. Or his attitude toward outgoing President George W. Bush. That was pretty icy. No kissy-kissy even though Bush went out of his way to welcome Obama to the White House.

So, is this all just "hail-fellow-well-met" stuff like the upper class usually does to each other? Or is the friendliness due to the fact that Trump has been a liberal all his life up to eight years ago and has really not changed that much.

Perhaps the insults were not Donald Trump but his act. The "believe me" statements were not what he believed, but an act.

The good thing about either Donald Trump suddenly mellowing or having put on an act and actually being a mellow guy all along is that he will not be the "burn down the house" agent of change that many of his followers think he is. He might turn out to be a mellower version of Hillary Clinton--not driven as far left as she was by Obama and then Sanders.

In other words, we may have missed the bullet of a contentious far left presidency under Hillary and only be in for a moderate left presidency under Trump.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Looks Like We're Going on Another National Spending Binge

Looks like we're going on another national spending binge. This time compliments of Republicans.

From President-elect Trump's speech last night:
We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it.
The inner cities will be fixed (!) under the Trump administration. Well, that's good news.

The federal government will rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals. (Why would anyone think that bridges, tunnels, airports, schools and hospitals should be a local responsibility? Obviously, Washington, D. C., knows better than the local folks do.)

And millions of people will be put to work on short term federally-funded projects. That should fix unemployment.

Lots of money running through the federal trough. That should drain the swamp.

Lots of money that won't get funded through taxation but through borrowing. That should help the national debt.

This was a "bring us together" speech, and it certainly did the trick. Why, oh, why didn't Republicans not only back but encourage a big increase in Obama's meager "second stimulus" in 2010? We could have been on the same page six years ago. Our economy would have been humming by now.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Poor Sarah Palin Attracts Small Crowds for Trump

Sarah Palin has been called back in to campaign for Donald Trump after living too far away to attend or speak at the Republican Convention in Cleveland this summer.

Yesterday and today she spoke to some small crowds--50 to 100 people. Even her larger crowds at Fayette County Airport (about 200) and Alpena, Michigan (about 700) are nothing like crowds she attracted in the past. More like a normal politician's crowd.

Here's her facebook photo of the crowd in Zanesville.

Her appearance at a Detroit tavern drew about 50 and a fight. Here's a newspaper photo.

Some people in the tavern protested and were tossed out. When they tried to come back in an inept Palin/Trump supporter sprayed them with pepper spray. Unfortunately the wind blew the spray back into the tavern.
“The guys who were put outside were beating on the window, and some guys went outside,” the eyewitness said. “Then the protesters were trying to come back in but then the next thing I knew there was pepper spray. Me and the rest of the people sitting near the door couldn’t breathe all of a sudden. Of course the man was trying to spray it at the protesters, but the wind took it back inside.”
Gateway Pundit reported that a "leftist goon" did the spraying.  Jim Hoft links to the report done the next day which posted the photo above. But, apparently didn't search well enough to find the report done the night before which printed the above account. So much for blog fact checking. I wonder if Hoft will do any sort of retraction.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Make American Selfishness Great Again?

I've laid out in many posts the most serious charges against Donald Trump's policies and character. But, here are two lesser points that rankle.

1. What sort of person wants the poor to subsidize them? I've had some hard financial times in my life, but I've never wanted to grab money out of the hands of people much poorer than I. Still, that's what the "make Mexico pay for the wall" Trump boast is about.

Mexico is so much poorer as a country than the United States. I know that by per capita adult wealth the U.S. isn't the richest nation in the world (we're number 4 at $352,996 per adult). But statistics lie. The United States is hands down the richest country in the world. Mexico isn't even close. Nor are any of the countries Trump wants to beat on trade deals. When is the last time you heard a trade tirade against the wealthiest nations?

1. Switzerland
2. New Zealand
3. Australia
5. Iceland
6. Norway
7. United Kingdom
8. Sweden
9. Luxembourg
10. Singapore
11. France
12. Belgium
13. Denmark
14. Canada
15. Italy

So, who is supposedly eating our lunch? #53 Mexico at $25,949 (NAFTA!), #59 China at $22,513. It's hard for me to work up anger at trade policies with countries that have 6% per adult of what Americans have.

I lived in Brazil #73 for awhile. I have nothing but compassion for the many poor in that country. For the kids begging on the streets. The people living in favelas. People who pull junk carts around on hot days up and down hills trying to make a living. People who work hard.

I just can't work up a feeling of being victimized by people who have a tiny fraction of the wealth that I have. I am so incredibly rich compared to the rest of the world even though my net worth is in the bottom 20% in the U.S.

2. Punishing American companies for taking manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. to much poorer countries.

Much worse are the people like me who send money to charitable agencies that give money to the poor in those countries without making them work for it. Right? No, but isn't giving people a job what we want? Not only for the poor around the world, but for the poor in our own country? We don't want people on welfare. We want them working. Work builds character and gives self-respect besides adding goods and services to the local community and beyond.

It seems these two positions above of Mexico pays for the wall and no American company jobs abroad support the "it's all about me" selfishness and entitlement mentality that is pervading American culture. It's make American selfishness great again.

It's like complaining that the disabled get too many special benefits and privileges. Ramps, parking spaces, social security benefits. Who would argue for leveling the playing field so there are no special accommodations for the disabled?

In the Old Testament, there were special rules for the poor. Their "surety" was to be given back each night. They were allowed to glean after the first picking on other people's land, and land owners were told not to go back over their fields but to leave what was left for foreigners, the poor and animals. Actually, that's part of the story line of the book of Ruth.

A society that doesn't value self-discipline and sacrifice is a society in collapse. A society that looks on the goods of the poor with greedy eyes is despicable.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Pew Research: Harder for Clinton Supporters to Respect Trump Supporters than Vice Versa

I didn't see this coming. Maybe because of the "Put her in jail" chants with no corresponding "Put him in jail" chants. Though there is low level chortling about Trump ruining his brand and literally paying for it in low revenues in the years to come.

Pew Research:
Nearly six-in-ten registered voters who back Clinton (58%) say they have a “hard time” respecting someone who supports Trump for president; 40% say they have “no trouble” with it. Nearly the opposite is true among Trump supporters, with 56% saying they have no trouble respecting someone who backs Clinton and 40% saying they do have trouble with it.
Blacks (50%) , Hispanics (53%), senior citizens (49%), and those without a college degree (46%) are the most accepting among Hillary supporters. White Women (68%) and college grads (66%) are most negative among Clinton supporters.

Trump supporters 65 and over (48%) have the hardest time respecting Clinton supporters. Younger Trump supporters, 18-35 (69%), find it easiest.