Socialism begins at home: Bernie Sanders staff demands $15/hour

Article from Newsweek:

Campaign workers for Bernie Sanders have taken aim at one of the senator’s key policies in his 2020 presidential run — raising the federal minimum wage. According to The Washington Post, some members of Sanders’ campaign team have been lobbying to raise their wages so that they make the $15 hourly rate that the Vermont senator has frequently called for both on the campaign trail and in Washington D.C.

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Why isn’t Pete Buttigieg the front-runner among Democrats?

Readers: Please take a look at this video of Pete Buttigieg speaking in April 2017 and tell me why this guy isn’t the front runner among Democrats.

Like Barack Obama (whose victory I predicted in December 2007), he makes the challenges that face Americans seem trivial and inexpensive to address.

He’s obviously intelligent. He didn’t sue his spouse and split up his children’s family the way that former divorce plaintiff Elizabeth Warren did. He didn’t have sex with a married 30-years-older politician in order to get ahead (Kamala Harris). Since he currently claims to identify as a gay man, he isn’t likely to be accused of touching women (Joe Biden).

He doesn’t express as much contempt for Republican voters as the rest of the hopefuls, does he? (Atlantic says that he attacks Christians, but actual Christian believers are now rare in the U.S.)

He does claim credit for the success of South Bend, something much more likely attributable to (a) the trend toward urbanization, (b) population growth in the U.S. (all of the immigrants and their kids don’t tend to settle in rural areas), and (c) South Bend being home to a university. But success has many fathers!

Simply based on the above-cited video, I would be happy to vote for this guy from a purely emotional point of view. For how many other Democratic candidates can one say that?

[Separately, what is the risk that people will start referring to this candidate as “Pete Butthead”?]

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Elizabeth Warren’s student loan forgiveness idea is flawed…

… because it doesn’t go far enough!

Economists have found that most of the benefits of subsidized federal student loans went to colleges, which used the money to overpay administrators (how do we know they’re overpaid? look at the quit rate!).

Colleges seem to charge students however much they think a family can cough up. When the Feds added guaranteed and/or subsidized loans, colleges just raised their prices. Students did not receive a better education because they paid more. The extra money was used for more administrative bloat and higher salaries for existing administrators.

Instead of merely forgiving student loans that haven’t yet been paid off, what would be fair is if the government admitted this was a welfare scheme for universities and, in addition to forgiving unpaid loans, refunded all payments made under these ill-advised programs.

Readers: Is it time to admit that the government helped universities fleece American families and give back the stolen money?

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Americans with elite educations advocate for socialism because they are shocked at not being rich?

“If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” was a common expression in New York City during my father’s youth (Great Depression and World War II).

I’m wondering if this way of thinking explains why so many Americans who’ve obtained degrees from elite institutions and earn above-median wages are advocates of socialism. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem rational for people who earn 4-5X the median wage to say that income inequality is a national emergency and to be more enthusiastic about socialism than are people who earn below-median wages.

Pre-2016, my neighbors here in Eastern Massachusetts were upset when politicians and bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. would make decisions without consulting them. Since they knew themselves to be the smartest folks on the planet, why wouldn’t President Obama, the Wise One, call them up to ask for advice? Upset turned to rage following the country’s choice of Donald Trump.

What’s even more upsetting than not having one’s desired level of political influence? Not having one’s fair level of financial reward.

In a fair market, someone with a Ph.D. in humanities would get paid more than someone with a high school degree, at least if the Ph.D. in humanities is allowed to define “fair.” Yet an American bond trader with a high school degree can easily earn 10X what a liberal arts professor may earn (100X if we compare to an adjunct!). Thus we come to slightly newer adage: “When the market gives you an answer you don’t like, declare market failure.”

Readers: What do you think? What accounts for people with incomes that are well above the median advocating for “socialism”, which would tend to narrow the income distribution? Could it be rational? As the U.S. population expands and there is a brutal competition for scraps of desirable real estate, for example, will it help the Ph.D. academic to afford a beach house if central planners won’t give the bond trader enough to buy 10 beach houses?

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Private versus Government infrastructure costs

I was chatting with the owner of a small public-use (but privately-owned) airport. He’d gotten $3 million in state funding to repave the sub-3000′ runway and a parallel taxiway.

I said “That’s nuts. How do the airparks afford to maintain their runways when they might have only 30 houses?” (It would make a lot more sense to build the hangar homes next to a quiet publicly owned airport that is eligible for federal and state funds, but the regulations around “through-the-fence” access are complex.)

He said, “Oh, if you did it with private money it would be $1 million. When the state runs a project, the costs are a lot higher.”

He went on to explain that he had recently installed a Siemens-manufactured VASI next to the runway (these are the red/white lights that tell pilots whether they are above or below the standard glide slope for landing). With a bit of pitching in by based aircraft owners, the cost was $8,000. A nearby publicly owned airport installed the same Siemens-built equipment with federal money. The cost was $120,000 (15X).

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Elderly Democrats Discuss Joe Biden’s Candidacy

I tend to visit the gym at hours when the only other patrons are less than 5 or over 65. The other day, two Medicare-eligible gentlemen were discussing (in moderately strong Boston accents) the 2020 Presidential campaign.

  • Democrat 1: “Joe Biden has to keep his hands off the young women if he wants to stay in the race.”
  • Democrat 2: “I thought that was the whole point of being a politician.”
  • Democrat 1: “What is he? 77? He’ll never be able to keep up with the young ones.” [Biden is actually only 76]
  • Democrat 2: “You’ve got to hand it to Donald Trump [72]. The guy has a lot of energy.”

Readers: Why would voters want to elect Biden? He was born in November 1942 so he’d turn 79 during his first year in office, right? And be 82 when running for reelection?

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Maria Butina: Piper Warrior student pilot turns out not to be a master spy

Nearly a year ago, the New York Times carried the story of the master spy Maria Butina (post). One photo showed her as a student pilot in a Piper Warrior (market value: $30,000?). Later it turned out that she was planning to move to South Dakota in order to more effectively continuing her spying on the Federal government. Vladimir Putin claimed not to know her (CNBC), exactly as we’d expect if she were a critical Kremlin asset.

Now this from CNN… “How the case against Maria Butina began to crumble”:

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have acknowledged that Butina is no Russian spy. But they insist her crime was still nefarious and that she acted as an “access agent” to help spot people who could be recruited as intelligence assets down the road.

“Butina was not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country. She was not a trained intelligence officer,” prosecutors acknowledged in a court filing. But, her actions “had the potential to damage the national security of the United States.”

Maybe next time our counterintelligence agents can be trained to look for spies in turbine-powered aircraft?

[U.S. taxpayers, in addition to paying for the investigation and prosecution, now also get to pay for 18 months of incarceration, Butina’s sentence for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist.]

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Late middle age Democrats wanted to be led by the elderly, but now they want to be guided by children

My Facebook feed is a good indication of how Democrats aged 40-65 think.

In 2016, these folks yearned to be led by a senior citizen. They would have been happy with Bernie Sanders (77 years old) or Hillary Clinton (71), for example, tottering up the stairs to the White House.

In 2018, they were admiring Stormy Daniels (40) for her bravery and her attorney, Michael Avenatti (48), for his determination and possible Presidential candidacy.

These days, however, they post panegyrics to the wisdom of people young enough to be their children, e.g., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (age 29; “in the media mostly because she’s good-looking,” says an independent friend) and Pete Buttigieg (37).

This seems fickle to me. Google and Facebook don’t change their minds every few years about what age person they want to see in various roles within their companies. Why would passionate Democrats swing wildly between thinking that a senior citizen has the requisite life experience to be their leader and deciding that actually the most sensible choice is to follow the guidance of a 29-year-old?

[More worrisome to me personally: Why the apparent dismissal of those of us in, um, later middle age?]

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Trump Presidency Crisis Continues: Stock market up only 33 percent

According to the New York Times, the crisis that began when Hillary Clinton failed to defeat Donald Trump on November 8, 2016 only intensified with the release of the Mueller report. Some recent items…

“It’s Not the Collusion, It’s the Corruption” (by David Brooks):

The first force is Donald Trump, who represents a threat to the American systems of governance. … The second force is Russia. If Trump is a threat to the institutional infrastructure, the Russians are a threat to our informational infrastructure. … The third force is Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. They are a threat to our deliberative infrastructure.

“The Mueller Report and the Danger Facing American Democracy” (Editorial Board):

But the real danger that the Mueller report reveals is not of a president who knowingly or unknowingly let a hostile power do dirty tricks on his behalf, but of a president who refuses to see that he has been used to damage American democracy and national security.

“In a Functional Country, We Would Be on the Road to Impeachment
Mueller laid out the evidence for members of Congress to take action against President Trump. Will they?”
(Michelle Goldberg):

There are a lot of reasons Trump’s election remains a festering wound. It was a horrifying shock to many of us and, given his decisive loss in the popular vote, an insult to democracy. … It was probably naïve to think that Mueller could cut through such a thick web of falsity. But if anyone could have, it would have been him, the embodiment of a set of old-fashioned virtues that still ostensibly command bipartisan respect.

[The hero with “old-fashioned virtue” charged with uncovering Vladimir Putin’s puppet control of the U.S. government spent most of his time looking into which young women were paid to have sex with which older guys?]

“Mr. Mueller’s Indictment” (Editorial Board):

it turns out that Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators found “substantial evidence” that President Trump broke federal law on numerous occasions by attempting to shut down or interfere with the nearly-two-year Russia investigation. … In addition to pointing to possible criminality, the report revealed a White House riddled with dysfunction and distrust, one in which Mr. Trump and his aides lie with contempt for one another and the public.

“Mueller Hints at a National-Security Nightmare” (Joshua A. Geltzer and Ryan Goodman):

President Trump may claim “exoneration” on a narrowly defined criminal coordination charge. But a counterintelligence investigation can yield something even more important: an intelligence assessment of how likely it is that someone — in this case, the president — is acting, wittingly or unwittingly, under the influence of or in collaboration with a foreign power. Was Donald Trump a knowing or unknowing Russian asset, used in some capacity to undermine our democracy and national security?

The public Mueller report alone provides enough evidence to worry that America’s own national security interests may not be guiding American foreign policy.

“Mueller’s Damning Report” (Noah Bookbinder):

The fact that Mr. Mueller explicitly did not resolve whether the president engaged in criminal conduct only reinforces the need for Congress to consider whether Mr. Trump violated his constitutional obligations to the American people. … Congress and the American people have every right to insist that the individual who swears an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” has not abused his powers to protect himself or his associates from the reach of justice.

One thing that professional investors like to do when someone predicts forthcoming trouble for a company is ask “How’s the stock?” The implication is that the market is smarter than individuals and if a company is going to crash it should already be reflected in the price. (This kind of thinking took a beating in the Collapse of 2008!) Boeing seems like an obvious disaster, for example, but its performance is barely distinguishable from the S&P between October 1, 2018 (before the first 737 MAX crash) and the present. So the market isn’t too worried about Boeing even if most of us would rather buy a ticket on an Airbus.

U.S. stocks have been great performers compared to international peers since November 8, 2016. The S&P 500, for example, is up by roughly 33 percent (compare to 14 percent for Germany’s DAX). That’s seemingly inconsistent with the media’s portrayal of grave peril facing our nation and the need for every citizen to be outraged. Why do investors want to buy into a country that is controlled by foreigners who have an incentive to hold back the U.S. economy so as to limit American economic and military power?

If the NYT journalists and readers are convinced by their own hysteria, why aren’t they cheerfully (leveraged) short the S&P and preparing to enjoy a comfortable retirement in Switzerland once the big meltdown does occur?

Related:

  • Paul Krugman’s NYT prediction, Nov 9, 2016: “It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover? … If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”
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Supercharged ionized alkaline water too pure to be tested by pH strips

The only thing that our neighbors love more than spending $250,000/resident-learner on a new school building is expressing contempt for stupid Republicans and their “anti-Science” attitudes.

What is the beverage of choice for these folks who consider themselves highly intelligent and experts on science? As evidenced by what sells well enough at the town supermarket to merit endcap marketing:

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