Political logic: We can’t pay for the essentials, so let’s spend $1.5 trillion on new stuff

From West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin’s official site:

Every Member of Congress has a solemn duty to vote for what they believe is best for the country and the American people, not their party. Respectfully, as I have said for months, I can’t support $3.5 trillion more in spending when we have already spent $5.4 trillion since last March. At some point, all of us, regardless of party must ask the simple question – how much is enough?

What I have made clear to the President and Democratic leaders is that spending trillions more on new and expanded government programs, when we can’t even pay for the essential social programs, like Social Security and Medicare, is the definition of fiscal insanity. Suggesting that spending trillions more will not have an impact on inflation ignores the everyday reality that America’s families continue pay an unavoidable inflation tax. Proposing a historic expansion of social programs while ignoring the fact we are not in a recession and that millions of jobs remain open will only feed a dysfunction that could weaken our economic recovery. This is the shared reality we all now face, and it is this reality that must shape the future decisions that we, as elected leaders, must make.

We can’t pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and they are “essential” (like marijuana and liquor stores in Massachusetts during coronashutdowns?) so we should probably actually cut spending wherever we can until we can pay for these essentials, right? Certainly, it would be “insane” to spend “trillions”.

Let’s compare the above, from September 29, to “Manchin says $1.5 trillion is his limit on Biden economic agenda amid battle with progressives” (CNN, September 30):

Moderate Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia made clear Thursday that $1.5 trillion was the price tag he was willing to settle on for his party’s plan to expand the social safety net, putting him $2 trillion away from the lowest number progressive Democrats have said they would accept.

I would love it if Senator Manchin came to help us with our household budget: “You haven’t saved enough for retirement, you’re feeding the kids ramen noodles, your supply of essential-for-anyone-from-Massachusetts marijuana and liquor is critically low, and your health insurance bills are past-due, so there is simply no way you can buy Paul Allen’s 414-foot superyacht. That would be fiscal insanity. I recommend that you buy a $15 million Riva 110 instead.”

(The CNN article also has a fun quote from Democratic Party thought leader Ilhan Omar: “We didn’t envision having Republicans in our party”)

Related:

  • Understanding Congress’s solution to the federal deficit problem (2011): “The deal cuts $38 billion from last year’s budget. It’s being called the largest domestic spending cut in U.S. history” … The FY 2011 federal budget is approximately $3.82 trillion (3.82×10^12). Of that, approximately $2.17 trillion will be paid for by taxes collected and the remaining $1.65 trillion will be borrowed from our grandchildren. If we divide everything by 100 million, the numbers begin to make more sense. We have a family that is spending $38,200 per year. The family’s income is $21,700 per year. The family adds $16,500 in credit card debt every year in order to pay its bills. After a long and difficult debate among family members, keeping in mind that it was not going to be possible to borrow $16,500 every year forever, the parents and children agreed that a $380/year premium cable subscription could be terminated. So now the family will have to borrow only $16,120 per year.
Full post, including comments

Zoolander and what it would have taken to get Democrats to support a border wall

President Biden has ostentatiously deported, contrary to international law, at least a small percentage of the Haitians who walked across the river in Texas. This has been done in a manner far more aggressive than anything Donald Trump ever did and thus has revealed that a Democrat-ruled U.S. will roll out the welcome mat for almost anyone, but not absolutely everyone.

In light of this new information, i.e., that there are some migrants whom the Democrats will not welcome, I wonder if the best way to understand the 2016-2020 conflict between Trump and the Democrats regarding the border wall is by studying the Derek Zoolander versus Hansel conflict:

  • Derek Zoolander: “And all he had to do was turn left. [to win the walk-off]”
  • Matilda: “What do you mean?”
  • Derek Zoolander: “I’m not an ambi-turner. It’s a problem I had since I was a baby. I can’t turn left.”
  • Matilda: “Derek, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who can’t turn…I mean, there have got to be some people out there just like you who can’t…turn…turn…left.”

Is it fair to say that all Donald Trump would have had to do to get Democrats in Congress to fund his border wall was find some Black people who would agree to show up on the southern banks of the Rio Grande?

Related:

  • “‘They treated us like animals’: Haitians angry and in despair at being deported from US” (Guardian): The Biden administration’s decision to deport thousands of Haitians under such circumstances drew opprobrium around the world, and prompted the US envoy to Haiti to resign in protest. Haiti is “a country where American officials are confined to secure compounds because of the danger posed by armed gangs in control of daily life”, he wrote in his resignation letter. “Surging migration to our borders will only grow as we add to Haiti’s unacceptable misery.” Last week, the world was shocked by images of police officers on horseback charging at desperate Haitian migrants near a camp of 12,000, set up under the Del Río-Ciudad Acuña International Bridge. Delva was on his way to buy food and water for his family when the cavalry charge sent him and dozens of his compatriots running in a frenzy. “We were rounded up like cattle and shackled like criminals,” he said, having spent the six-hour flight from San Antonio with his hands and legs tied. US authorities were so slapdash in their rapid deportation of the migrants that they also swept up an Angolan man who had never set foot in Haiti. “I told them I am not Haitian,” said Belone Mpembele, as he emerged, dazed, from the terminal. “But they didn’t listen.” New arrivals each received about $50 in cash as well a hygiene kit including toilet paper, soap and toothbrushes, emblazoned with the USAID logo and slogan: “A gift from the American people.”
Full post, including comments

Can the Taliban get Western do-gooders to fund their entire government?

“UN Afghanistan donor conference raises $1 billion with crisis looming” (DW):

The UN says humanitarian aid money would go to maintain medical services, the water supply and sanitation for millions of Afghans. Additionally, funding would support women and children and set up educational projects.

Forty government ministers, including German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, as well as dozens of government representatives are attending both in person and virtually.

The German foreign minister said it was up to the international community to “take responsibility” for the people in Afghanistan.

In other words, so long as the Talibans don’t make the mistake of allocating money to health care, clean water, sewage, education, or “women and children,” Westerners will fund all of these functions of the modern welfare state. The Taliban can spend 100 percent of tax revenue on their military, police, and other tools for remaining in power.

The population of Afghanistan doubled from 20 to 40 million while the country was getting U.S. cash infusions. Over the next 20 years, therefore, so long as the steady flow of German money continues, it seems reasonable to expect that the population will double again, to 80 million (current total fertility rate is 4.72 children per woman; compare to 1.84 in the U.S. (our population still grows steadily, however, due to low-skill immigration)). Afghanistan would then have about the same population as Germany and, essentially, every German would have a corresponding Afghan dependent. Assuming the German-funded schools for Afghanistan result in mass literacy, will it be time to set up a penpal program? (After 20 years of U.S. rule, the adult literacy rate in Afghanistan is 43 percent (CIA).)

Even if the Germans send all of their money to the Taliban, they’ll still have a beautiful beach to enjoy…. fleece jacket weather in August 2016, Warnemünde:

Full post, including comments

Andrew Cuomo as the modern Boethius

Fortuna’s wheel has spun downward for Andrew Cuomo. Who could have predicted this? Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, for one.

From Wikipedia:

In 522, the same year his two sons were appointed joint consuls, Boethius accepted the appointment to the position of magister officiorum, the head of all the government and court services. … In 523 Boethius fell from power. After a period of imprisonment in Pavia for what was deemed a treasonable offence, he was executed in 524.

He went from being the most powerful official in the world’s most powerful empire to being imprisoned, in other words. While in prison, Boethius wrote The Consolation of Philosophy. a book that was required reading for scholars until the Age of Enlightenment began in the 17th century. More than 1,000 years of being a touchstone for every educated person in Europe, in other words.

Here’s a question… what important intellectual work could Andrew Cuomo write during his corresponding period of being on the wrong side of the Rota Fortunae? What would it be titled and what would it be about?

My vote is a work that shows that the 7 elements of the modern catechism are not in conflict. Here they are on a Sign of Justice:

Black Americans are the biggest losers from low-skill immigration (NBER), so “Black Lives Matter” and “No Human is Illegal” are in apparent contradiction. “Love is Love” refers to the full slate of LGBTQIA+ and therefore the next line, “Women’s Rights are Human Rights” doesn’t make sense because the term “Women” is no longer precisely defined. “Science is Real” is the kind of thing that Plato would have liked to consider. Is #Science real like a table is real? Or is #Science more real than a table because #Science is already an ideal form whereas the table is merely an attempted (imperfect) implementation of a real table form? “Water is Life” is confusing without reference to the other elements of belief. Is distilled and UV-sterilized water life? Is it “injustice” when Harvard discriminates against Asians? If so, why doesn’t that threaten justice anywhere, much less everywhere?

I’m not sure what this work would be called.

Related:

Full post, including comments

Revive the abortion bus idea?

Top of the front page of CNN.com on a day when New York City was flooded, with multiple fatalities, by the leftovers from Hurricane Ida:

“Biden launches ‘whole of government’ effort to protect abortion rights after Texas ban” is kind of interesting. Leaving aside of whether the “whole of government” effort to fight the unrighteous in Texas will go better than the 20-year “whole of government” effort to permanently establish the rainbow flag over Kabul, why does it take the entire Federal government to deliver abortions to potential birthing persons in Texas?

From Why can’t Michael Bloomberg run a fleet of abortion buses? (October 6, 2020):

The billionaires trying to cleanse American politics from the filth of Republicanism could, for a tiny fraction of what they’re spending to defeat the hated Trumpenfuhrer, purchase and operate a fleet of buses painted with “Bloomberg’s Abortion Caravan” on the side. Have the buses continuously tour the U.S. and anyone who wants an abortion can hop on to be driven to, for example, Maskachusetts. We have abortion on demand up to 24 weeks; abortion of a “fetus” after 24 weeks available in the sole discretion of a single physician concluding that “a continuation of her pregnancy will impose on [the pregnant woman] a substantial risk of grave impairment of her physical or mental health.”

Essentially there is no time limit for an abortion in Massachusetts since almost any child can be a risk to a parent’s mental health (“these kids are driving me crazy” is not merely a figure of speech!).

Rich Democrats could fund abortion buses privately or, now that the executive branch has been purged of sinful Republicans, the abortion buses could be operated by Medicaid with Joe Biden being propped up to sign an order to print money to pay for the buses and then sign another order to operate them. (To get it going faster, maybe the program could be handled by contractors.)

Given the extensive transportation network in the U.S. and the fact that so many states are 100-percent controlled by Democrats and offer unlimited abortion services, why is this such a fraught issue? Why can’t the people who love abortion organize the service as a transportation+procedure package and not worry about what legislatures do in states where citizens are opposed to abortion?

(Along related lines, why can’t well-intentioned folks fund luxury buses to deliver anyone who is homeless to Santa Monica or San Francisco where rich people say that they want to help the vulnerable and unfortunate? Would it be illegal to deliver 50 indigents every hour to downtown Santa Monica? It seems like a win/win for someone who is currently homeless in, say, Chicago and a Californian who says he/she/ze/they wants to help the homeless.)

Related:

  • “As Texans fill up abortion clinics in other states, low-income people get left behind” (Texas Tribune, 9/3/2021): Texas’ near-total ban on abortions is sending patients out of state for the procedure. Advocates say many immigrants and women of color can’t leave, and that’s increasing the inequities their communities suffer. … “There are going to be thousands of individuals who don’t have that wherewithal, and it’s really particularly going to impact women of color, young women, rural women.” … “The folks that went out of state [for abortions in 2020] and came back to have follow-up care tended to be higher-income, tended to be white folks,” said Bhavik Kumar, a doctor at Planned Parenthood Center for Choice in Houston, recalling patients he saw after Abbott’s executive order ended.
Full post, including comments

How the Taliban can fund and run Afghanistan forever

“The Taliban Have Claimed Afghanistan’s Real Economic Prize” (NYT):

How exactly the Taliban plan to keep all systems running, in one of the poorest countries of the world that depends on more than $4 billion a year in official aid and where foreign donors have been covering 75 percent of government spending, is an urgent question. The state’s bankruptcy has tempted some Western donors into thinking that financial pressure — in the form of threats to withhold humanitarian and development funding — could be brought to bear on the new rulers of Afghanistan. Germany already warned it would cut off financial support to the country if the Taliban “introduce Shariah law.”

But those hopes are misplaced. Even before their blitz into the capital over the weekend, the Taliban had claimed the country’s real economic prize: the trade routes — comprising highways, bridges and footpaths — that serve as strategic choke points for trade across South Asia. With their hands on these highly profitable revenue sources and with neighboring countries, like China and Pakistan, willing to do business, the Taliban are surprisingly insulated from the decisions of international donors. What comes next in the country is uncertain — but it’s likely to unfold without a meaningful exertion of Western power.

One reason foreign donors inflate their own importance in Afghanistan is that they do not understand the informal economy, and the vast amounts of hidden money in the war zone. Trafficking in opium, hashish, methamphetamines and other narcotics is not the biggest kind of trade that happens off the books: The real money comes from the illegal movement of ordinary goods, like fuel and consumer imports. In size and sum, the informal economy dwarfs international aid.

For example, our study of the border province of Nimruz, published this month by the Overseas Development Institute, estimated that informal taxation — the collection of fees by armed personnel to allow safe passage of goods — raised about $235 million annually for the Taliban and pro-government figures. By contrast, the province received less than $20 million a year in foreign aid.

In other words, Afghanistan is in some ways like a super filthy version of Switzerland.

Also interesting, Antonio Garcia Martinez on recent events:

… the cream of American society and the flower of its finest universities, can only understand the world as projections of the country’s own domestic neuroses. Our current elites, whether in media or politics, squint at the strange peoples and languages of whatever international conflict and only see who or what they can map to their internal gallery of heroes and villains: Who’s the PoC? Who’s the Nazi?

And if the situation can’t be mapped, such as Afghanistan or the recent protests in Cuba, it’s utterly ignored for being just completely beyond human comprehension or concern.

This is the true privilege of being an American in 2021 (vs. 1981): Enjoying an imperium so broad and blinding, you’re never made to suffer the limits of your understanding or re-assess your assumptions about a world that, even now, contains regions and peoples and governments antithetical to everything you stand for. If you fight demons, they’re entirely demons of your own creation, whether Cambridge Analytica or QAnon or the ‘insurrection’ or supposed electoral fraud or any of a host of bogeymen, and you get to tweet #resist while not dangling from the side of an airplane or risking your life on a raft to escape.

Full post, including comments

Where does former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani go?

“Russia says Afghan president fled with cars and helicopter full of cash – RIA” (Reuters):

Russia’s embassy in Kabul said on Monday that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled the country with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and had to leave some money behind as it would not all fit in, the RIA news agency reported.

“As for the collapse of the (outgoing) regime, it is most eloquently characterised by the way Ghani fled Afghanistan,” Nikita Ishchenko, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Kabul, was quoted as saying by RIA.

“Four cars were full of money, they tried to stuff another part of the money into a helicopter, but not all of it fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac,” he was quoted as saying.

Where does Mohammad Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai go to spend this cash? (And should Andrew Cuomo join him? Presumably any place that welcomes Ghani isn’t going to be too concerned about the things Cuomo is accused of.)

My guess: Belarus. The EU and the US already hate the government of Belarus. Immigrants enrich us culturally and economically, and no human being is illegal, but it is “warfare” when Belarus allows low-skill migrants from Iraq into the EU (see “Latvia and Lithuania act to counter migrants crossing Belarus border” (Guardian))

Related:

Full post, including comments

What does Andrew Cuomo do for his next job?

Andrew Cuomo was celebrated less than a year ago: “Andrew Cuomo To Receive International Emmy For ‘Masterful’ COVID-19 Briefings” (NPR, November 21, 2020). At the beginning of coronapanic, his stock was especially high among those identifying as “women” (Daily Mail):

Hot for governor! Women confess they are developing ‘MAJOR crushes’ on Andrew Cuomo, 62, as the New York Democrat takes charge during COVID-19 pandemic (and his TV host brother Chris is getting some love, too)

Women are calling the 62-year-old governor ‘sexy af’ because of how well he is handling coronavirus

Twitter users are admitted they’re finding him attractive and in some cases falling in love with him

Fans cite the strength he shows in his calming daily briefings and his humorous interviews with his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo

Democrats’ first choice for 2024 is an 82-year-old Joe Biden, but Cuomo was a close second in August 2020: “Cuomo: “Shocking” to See Poll Showing Him Leading 2024 Democratic Field; A Canadian poll shows Cuomo is the top choice of Democrats if Joe Biden is not on the 2024 ballot” (NBC). Cuomo might have won in November 2020: “‘Draft Cuomo 2020’ groundswell emerges amid the New York governor’s coronavirus response” (ABC, March 31, 2020).

(See also states ranked by COVID-19 death rate, in which Cuomo-led New York is #2 in the nation, and countries ranked by COVID-19 death rate, on which New York State would be #5 if it were its own country, just slightly below first-to-mask-up Czech Republic)

It seems that Governor Cuomo may soon be looking for a new job. “These are the women who were sexually harassed by Andrew Cuomo: AG report” (New York Post):

The independent probe into New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo found that he sexually harassed multiple women, both in and out of state government.

Investigators focused on the allegations of 11 women, detailed in a blistering 165-page report released Tuesday by the state attorney general’s office.

My question is what does Mr. Cuomo do for his next job? New Yorkers thought that he was one of the most capable people on Planet Earth, presumably, or they wouldn’t have elected him to run their enormous state government (as a percentage of state income, the very largest in the U.S.!). Even if the 11 potential plaintiffs referenced above are able to mine out all of the savings that he has accumulated from 40 years of working, one would think that he could start to earn again somehow.

(One of our shuttle van drivers in Oshkosh was 75 years old. He volunteered that he couldn’t retire because he’d lost all of his savings, a house on the lake, and much of his income going forward to his first divorce plaintiff and then did it all over again, losing all of his second batch of savings and house 2.0 to divorce plaintiff 2.0. “I’ll be working until I die.” (Under Wisconsin family law, which provides for unlimited child support by formula, his plaintiffs could have done better via brief sexual encounters with higher-income defendants rather than long-term marriage to a median earner). At a minimum, Cuomo could drive for Uber, but I’m hoping that readers have more creative ideas.)

One idea: Design a line of clothing celebrating achievements and empowerment by those identifying as “female”. Here’s an example from Oshkosh:

“Jerrie” likely refers to “the Flying Housewife” Jerrie Mock (around the world solo in 1964).

“Jackie” is presumably early jet pilot Jacqueline Cochran. But it is unclear what she had to “fight” to get. Maybe it was fight other women to marry the rich guy whom she successfully married?

[After divorcing a husband with mediocre earnings,] Cochran met Floyd Bostwick Odlum, founder of Atlas Corp. and CEO of RKO in Hollywood. Fourteen years her senior, he was reputed to be one of the 10 wealthiest men in the world. Odlum became enamored of Cochran and offered to help her establish a cosmetics business.[6][7]

After a friend offered her a ride in an aircraft, Cochran began taking flying lessons at Roosevelt Airfield, Long Island in the early 1930s and learned to fly an aircraft in three weeks. She then soloed and within two years obtained her commercial pilot’s license. Odlum, whom she married in 1936 after his divorce, was an astute financier and savvy marketer who recognized the value of publicity for her business. Calling her line of cosmetics Wings to Beauty,[8][9] she flew her own aircraft around the country promoting her products. Years later, Odlum used his Hollywood connections to get Marilyn Monroe to endorse Cochran’s line of lipstick.

“Amelia” is Amelia Earhart, of course, who flew nonstop across the Atlantic in 1932, 13 years after John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown and 5 years after Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight.

“Pancho” is Pancho Barnes, air racer and aerobatic pilot.

“Bessie” is Bessie Coleman.

Full post, including comments

Coronavirus became 12X more deadly after just one month of the Biden administration

The CDC, early morning on January 20, 2021 (i.e., the last few hours of the Trump Dictatorship; via archive.org):

From an epidemiologist’s point of view, the best “reference group” for a disease that kills 82-year-olds is 18-29-year-olds. If you’re old, you have a 63,000% chance of dying (“630x higher”).

From February 18, 2021:

After just one month scientific government by President Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, M.D., and President Harris, an old person has a 790,000% chance of dying (“7900x”). Get the great-grandkids to dig 7,900 graves in the backyard.

(Of course, the frightening 12.5X increase in the deadliness of COVID-19 is a result of changing the comparison group for this killer of the elderly to 5-17-year-olds.)

The latest version of the page: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/investigations-discovery/hospitalization-death-by-age.html

(Thanks to a reader, whose identity I must protect from the virtue police, for pointing me to this page.)

See also “With Vaccination Goal in Doubt, Biden Warns of Variant’s Threat” (NYT, June 18):

State health officials are trying to persuade the hesitant. In West Virginia, where just over a third of the population is fully vaccinated, Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s coronavirus czar, said young people were proving especially difficult to win over.

“There was a narrative earlier in the pandemic that is really haunting us, which is that young people are really protected,” he said. “There’s a false belief that for many young people who are otherwise healthy that they still have a relatively free ride with this, and if they get infected, they’ll be fine.”

Dr. Joe Biden, M.D., Ph.D., to the rescue:

“The best way to protect yourself against these variants is to get vaccinated,” the president declared.

That should persuade healthy 16-year-olds that they need to take a few days off to get two injections, recover from the flu-style symptoms, etc.! Certainly they won’t continue to hold the “false belief” that they are roughly 1/8,000th as likely to die from COVID-19 as an old person.

Full post, including comments

Common sense gun safety

From the typical person’s perspective, the most reasonable interpretation of the Second Amendment is that it entitles him/her/zir/them to have a gun and prevents everyone else from having guns.

It seems that at least one of our top politicians agrees. “House Democrat says she sleeps with gun nearby after clashing with El Salvador’s president” (The Hill):

Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said in a new interview that she sleeps with a gun nearby after receiving “hateful messages” for clashing with El Salvador’s president on Twitter.

Torres, 56, is the only member of Congress born in Central America and the co-chairwoman of the Central Americans Caucus. She spoke with the Los Angeles Times for a story published Thursday about trading barbs with El Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele on issues of migration and human rights.

One tweet from last month included a photograph of a Salvadoran father and his young daughter who drowned attempting to cross the Rio Grande River into the U.S.

“This is a result of narcissistic dictators like you interested in being ‘cool’ while people flee by the 1000s & die by the 100s,” she wrote.

Bukele responded by calling on Latin Americans living in California’s 35th District to vote Torres out of office.

“She does not work for you, but to keep our countries underdeveloped,” he tweeted in Spanish.

Contrast to 2019, “Rep. Torres Calls for Common Sense Gun Control Policies” (official house.gov web page):

Congresswoman Norma J. Torres (CA-35) published an op-ed with the Inland Empire Daily Bulletin commemorating the four-year anniversary of the San Bernardino shooting, which claimed 14 lives, including two of her own constituents, on December 2nd, 2015.

“I’ve been on the other end of the line from gun violence,” Congresswoman Torres writes. “I’ve heard the earsplitting crack of a firearm going off, and experienced the horrific moment when a desperate voice on the other end screams in pain and then goes silent. I know exactly what the price is for Congressional inaction on gun violence, and I’m disgusted to see innocent people continue to pay for it with their lives.”

“The problem we have is access,” Congresswoman Torres continues. “We can’t legislate troubled thoughts out of someone’s head, but we can pass laws that prevent a gun from winding up in that person’s hands.

(Mx. Torres was referring to the jihad waged by Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik)

From 2016, “IE Congresswoman Norma Torres On The Future Of Gun Control” (NPR):

Inland Empire Member of Congress Norma Torres – a Democrat representing the IE’s 35th District – was among the representatives who participated in a member “sit-in” in the House chambers a few weeks ago. The sit-in participants were demanding that the majority Republicans in the House allow a vote on stalled gun safety legislation.

See also Giffords.org:

Torres has a demonstrated record of advancing lifesaving gun violence prevention measures and will never stop fighting to keep California communities safe from gun violence.

Related:

Full post, including comments