Bostonians protest Melania Trump

“Boston Medical Center employees to protest Melania Trump’s visit on Wednesday”:

Some 250 people who work at Boston Medical Center are protesting a scheduled visit Wednesday by first lady Melania Trump to a hospital program that helps babies who were exposed to drugs in the womb, according to opponents of Trump’s appearance.

A local reporter asked on Facebook for “thoughts” on this visit. Here are some sample responses regarding this high-achieving immigrant woman from the locals who describe themselves as “feminists”:

Could be part of a series on other parasites, bedbugs,vampire bats, ticks

She can stay away! We dont want her hypocritical interest in children here. Please! Is she only going to visit the rooms of white kids? What if there is an immigrant child staying there? Will she kick them out of the hospital? The visit is a joke!

Differences between escort services in New York and Boston.

[One difference is that the escort who gets pregnant in New York harvests a maximum of $100,000/year (tax-free) for 21 years while in Boston the child support profits are potentially unlimited and the payments last for 23 years. See Real World Divorce and “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage”.]

Fake breasts, fake personality, fake husband

My comments might not be suitable for the Globe…they won’t be too kind. Worst FLOTUS of 45 of them…#BeBest Zero sense of irony – married to the world’s biggest cyber bully and she picked that as her cause? While he puts children in cages and separates mothers from their babies? She had a chance to use her global platform to do good. #epicfail

Every single comment is a no to Melania’s visit! I’m so glad that we live in a smart state!

Now they are moving from NYC to FLA, because we haven’t treated him nicely…Trust me as a life long New Yorker who knew all about DJT when he was just another sleazy socialite, we do not want him here! Floridians you have our deepest sympathies, but please keep him…puhlease!

How much do we need to raise to cover her pre-nup? Freedom for us and the civilized world if we ante up and she spills the beans. My checkbook and pen are at the ready.

No win situation. She’s coming to see an amazing program but also one that confirms a narrow view of brown and black people held by the White House. Yet Bmc depends on federal dollars so protesting- which seems obvious when an anti immigrant admin visits a remarkable institution that welcomes all— puts Bmc funding in jeopardy. It’s a perfect set up for a vindictive small-minded president to confirm his preconceptions and cut funds. Another chance for we liberals to play into trumps hand. For an idiot he sure knows how to agitate us and get the result he wants.

[This last one is my favorite, an acknowledgment that “Big Medicine” depends on “Big Government”.]

It occurred to me that the haters are part of a community that produced enough babies addicted to opiates that a special hospital program had to be created. On the other hand, Melania Trump has, to the best of my knowledge, never produced a single opiate-addicted baby.

Also, given that many of the above sentiments are from women, where is the solidarity among the sisterhood?

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Bill Gates: Income taxes great; wealth taxes bad

“Bill Gates criticises Elizabeth Warren’s plan for tax on super-rich” (BBC):

Under the original plan, households with a net worth between $50m (£39m) and $1bn (£780m) will be charged with a 2% “wealth tax” every year. This would rise to 3% for any households with a net worth of over $1bn.

But last week, Ms Warren suggested doubling the latter rate – from 3% to 6%. She said the money raised from this new tax would be used to fund her healthcare plan, which is expected to cost the federal government $20.5tn over 10 years.

Mr Gates hit back at the idea during a talk at the New York Times DealBook conference in New York on Wednesday.

I’m all for super-progressive tax systems,” he said. “I’ve paid over $10 billion in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine.

“But when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over,” he added. “You really want the incentive system to be there without threatening that.”

(I don’t understand his statement that he has paid $10 billion in taxes. If he mostly let his Microsoft stock sit or donated it to his foundation, why did he have to pay capital gains tax? Certainly he would not have had a substantial amount of ordinary income that would attract the high ordinary income tax rates that he has advocated. Maybe the $10 billion is capital gains tax on venture capital investments that he made on which he was forced to exit, e.g., due to an acquisition? Plus some from selling Microsoft stock to diversify? Or he is referring to corporate taxes paid by Microsoft (see below) that he paid indirectly?)

He’s “all for super-progressive tax systems,” but with one exception!

Related:

  • Microsoft’s pre-Trump corporate tax system: “By conducting sales from places with small populations and low tax rates, and routing some profit through virtually tax-free jurisdictions like Bermuda, Microsoft has cut billions of dollars from its tax bill over the last decade.”
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Fast-food economics in Massachusetts: Higher minimum wage leads to a shorter work week, not fewer people on welfare

One reason for a $15/hour minimum wage cited by advocates is that current minimum wage workers are generally on welfare (public housing and Medicaid if not also food stamps, etc.) and therefore, the theory goes, the employer is being subsidized by taxpayers.

(How a $15/hour job would lift a household above the welfare thresholds is unclear; in our corner of Massachusetts, a family of four is entitled to housing and/or health insurance subsidies up to $130,000/year. At $15/hour, that’s 167 hours/week, 52 weeks/year.)

I recently talked to the owner of 12 fast-food outlets here in Massachusetts. He is a Democrat and enthusiastically supports the party’s proposals for increasing the number of migrants to the U.S. “Immigrants work harder than Americans,” he said, “who have been on welfare for multiple generations and don’t have a culture of work.” He also appreciates immigrants as customers.

There is one part of the Democrat platform that he does not agree with: the $15/hour minimum wage. “Every time wages go up,” he said, “my employees ask to work fewer hours so that they don’t lose MassHealth [Medicaid].” On his side, he does not want anyone working more than 30 hours per week, the threshold that would trigger a requirement for him to provide health insurance under Obamacare. Out of 160 workers total, he provides health insurance to only 10. “My premiums are sky-high,” he noted, “because we have so few people on the policy.”

(This may show the irrelevance of Econ 101 principles in a half-planned economy like the U.S. Econ 101 says that the higher wage would induce workers to supply more labor hours, not fewer. But Econ 101 never met MassHealth and other means-tested programs!)

Related:

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49 percent of Washington State voters see themselves as victims

Yesterday’s post regarding Kshama Sawant, the immigrant running for reelection on a platform of “the rent is too damn high,” motivated me to check the election results. Ms. Sawant was the only incumbent to have lost. More interestingly, 48.7 percent of Washington State voters say “yes” to reinstating affirmative action:

I-1000, the measure passed by lawmakers, aims to increase diversity in public contracting, employment and education, while barring the use of quotas or preferential treatment.

Affirmative-action supporters say such measures are necessary to address longstanding and broad discrimination against women and people of color. One example they cite is data showing a drop in contracts with the state for certified women- and minority-owned businesses.

But throughout the campaign, opponents of affirmative action — led by a group of Chinese immigrants — said the policy gives the government the power to discriminate.

If we assume that people vote their self-interest, then we can conclude from the election result that nearly half of the voters in Washington State expected to benefit from official victim status.

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U.S. southern border versus Syrian northern border

Facebook is alive with outrage regarding Donald Trump’s scaling back of our military involvement what will soon be the 9th year of the Syrian Civil War.

The same people who demanded the abolition of ICE and the pulling back of armed U.S. forces patrolling the U.S. southern border are demanding that armed U.S. forces patrol the Syrian northern border. The people who advocate for a wave of migration from Central America into the U.S. are opposed to a wave of re-migration of Syrians currently in Turkey back across the northern border into their original home (map from the BBC, which says “Turkey launched the offensive in northern Syria a week ago to push back from its border members of a Syrian Kurdish militia called the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and create a ‘safe zone’ along the Syrian side of the border, where up to two million Syrian refugees can be resettled.”

Readers: Is Trump wrong? Should we spend the next 10-20 years patrolling the Syrian border and trying to keep our NATO ally Turkey (population 80 million) from doing what it deems prudent in its immediate neighborhood?

[If Elizabeth Warren prevails in 2020, will she solve both of these problems by relocating U.S. Border Patrol forces over to northern Syria?]

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Academics and NYT stirring up envy

“How to Tax Our Way Back to Justice: It is absurd that the working class is now paying higher tax rates than the richest people in America.” (NYT) is kind of fascinating for what it says about our media and taxpayer-funded universities.

Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, economists at UC Berkeley, figured out that the “bottom 50%” of Americans earn $18,500/year on average and pay a tax rate of 25 percent.

Here’s my comment on the piece:

I wonder if these guys ever leave their offices on campus.

If they were to walk down to one of the less genteel neighborhoods in their fair city of Berkeley they would discover folks who are living in taxpayer-funded housing, signed up for taxpayer-funded health insurance (Medicaid), receiving taxpayer-funded food stamps, and using a taxpayer-funded smartphone.

Unless you’re going to turn all of these noncash welfare programs into some kind of cash income equivalent, there is no meaningful way to calculate the tax rate paid for an American on welfare. Given that 71 million of us are on Medicaid, for example, the numbers presented in this article cannot possibly be correct. The economists have the “bottom 50%” with an average annual income of $18,500. The income limit for welfare in the writers’ native Bay Area is at least $117,400/year (see https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/06/25/the-eye-popping-definition-of-what-is-low-income-in-the-bay-area-increases-again/ ).

Maybe they found some people with a cash income of $18,500, but that isn’t their spending power. If it were, these folks could not afford to live in the U.S. at all (since, if they have a kid or two, health insurance would consume 100% of their income, leaving nothing for food or shelter).

The truly amazing thing here is that middle class Californians are being taxed to fund these two professors!

The article has a lot of information about how the rich are getting richer.

Since it is obviously absurd to talk about the tax rate paid by people who are mostly living on welfare, what could the purpose of the article be other than to sow discord and rage? (the authors hint that they have been advising Elizabeth Warren and presumably would be on track for central planning jobs if she were to be elected)

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Programs to raise female wages will secure a voting majority for Democrats?

Democrats advocate more low-skill immigration. This makes sense politically since roughly 80 percent of Americans on welfare will vote for Democrats (stats at end of this article; 88 percent of folks who benefit from public housing are loyal Democrats, for example). With 10-year waiting lists for public housing, though, it is unclear that low-skill migrants are a sustainable resource for the Democrats.

How about women? The Economist: “unmarried women are spectacularly loyal to the Democrats … The ‘marriage gap’ dwarfs the sex gap, by which women as a whole have long favoured Democrats.”

Is there a way that Democrats could increase the percentage of unmarried women and thereby secure permanent control of the U.S. political system? In general, it does not make sense for women to marry men who earn less than they do. So for every additional dollar that women earn relative to men, support for Democrats becomes more secure.

[See “Mismatches in the Marriage Market”, which notes a “shortage of economically attractive partners for unmarried women to marry” (if the economists who wrote this wanted a one-line summary, they might have said “Men see women as sex objects; women see men as success objects.”); see Real World Divorce for the ruinous exposure to alimony and child support lawsuits that a woman incurs by marrying a lower-income man (or having a child with one; see Sarah Palin’s daughter sued for child support by a Marine Corps veteran); see “Burning Man: Attitudes toward marriage and children” for a finance executive saying “I worked my ass off for 17 years for what I have. I am not going to risk losing it,” regarding the idea of marrying a man who earned less than her (way above average) salary. “Men from poor backgrounds ‘twice as likely to be single'” (BBC).]

Consider Melinda Gates, a supporter of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation (side question: are foreign governments still donating to this foundation now that Hillary Clinton is out of power?). She explains “Here’s Why I’m Committing $1 Billion to Promote Gender Equality”:

I am committing $1 billion to expanding women’s power and influence in the United States. I want to see more women in the position to make decisions, control resources, and shape policies and perspectives.

Previously, in Harvard Business Review, Melinda Gates “We still aren’t earning as much” and “a stubborn 20% gap persists between men’s and women’s pay.” (Note that this might not be a reasonable measure; see “Gender equity should be measured by consumption, not income?”; Melinda Gates herself is a great example of a person whose income was negligible (went to $0 after marriage), but whose spending power is in the $billions (due to her sexual relationship with an older high-income man).)

Elizabeth Warren has been an advocate for increasing women’s pay relative to men’s (e.g., press release). She recently mocked men who don’t earn enough to attract a wife: “then just marry one woman … Assuming you can find one” (New York Times). If the typical woman in the U.S. earned more via wages than the typical man, Elizabeth Warren (or any other Democrat) would easily defeat Donald Trump.

Male Democrats are also passionate about increasing female wages to the point that marriage (and voting Republican) won’t make sense for them. Here’s a 2014 Obama Administration web page on the subject.

Readers: What do you think? Are efforts to boost wages by those who identify as “women” at least partly motivated by a desire to reduce the number of women who vote for Republicans?

(And, don’t forget that as long as this massive wage gap exists, a company can make crazy huge profits simply by hiring only women and thus having a big labor cost advantage over competitors with a mixed-gender workforce.)

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Are American interests harmed when the Syrian government governs Syria?

My Facebook feed is now 99 percent hysteria regarding the U.S. policy shift in Syria. Trump has decided to scale back involvement in the Syrian civil war, now in its 8th year. My friends who identify as Democrats are demanding continued U.S. military action (none has demanded a 600-ship Navy yet, but I remain hopeful!). Note that none of these folks are actually in the military or young enough to join, so they take no personal risk by advocating that others fight.

From a recent New York Times article:

The Syrian government had been almost entirely absent from the northeast since it withdrew or was chased out by armed rebels. The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia that worked with the United States to fight the Islamic State, soon became the region’s overarching political force.

If Syrian government forces can reach the Turkish border to the north and the Iraqi border to the east, it would be a major breakthrough in Mr. Assad’s quest to re-establish his control over the whole country.

In other words, while complaining that some Russians may have purchased a Facebook ad falsely asserting that Hillary Clinton was an elderly tax-and-spend Democrat, we have been supporting a group trying to carve off part of another country and run it for themselves.

(I recognize that Bashar al-Assad may have shortcomings as a leader, but he has a challenging task and it is unclear that the Syrian government is worse than a bunch of other governments worldwide. If it is legitimate for us to help an armed rebellion against Assad, shouldn’t we also be helping armed rebellions all around the world?)

Readers: Plainly it would be better if Syrians were more like the Costa Ricans and the Syrian government were more like the Costa Rican government. But, given that Syrians are not like the Costa Ricans, does it make sense to be continuously outraged that the Syrian government is not like the Costa Rican government? What are we buying with the money and American lives spent over the last eight years in Syria?

Is it enough to say “Because terrorism”? Why is it obvious that some government other than Assad’s would do a better job of discouraging Muslims in Syria from waging jihad? None of the September 11 jihadis were from Syria and, in fact, all came from countries whose governments we have supported.

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Drama on Martha’s Vineyard

Preparing a short talk for an upcoming aviation gathering…

My friend David landed his Bonanza at Martha’s Vineyard and the police were waiting for him. “Do you live in Katama in the gray house with the ‘I’m with Her’ lawn sign and the Black Lives Matter and Rainbow flags on the pole out front?” David affirmed that he did.

“We have some bad news for you, sir,” said the officer. “Your house burned down and your children are at the hospital being treated for smoke inhalation. They might have to bring in Boston MedFlight to take them to Children’s Hospital.”

“That’s terrible!” said David. “Do you know how the fire started?”

The police officers shuffled a bit and looked at each other. Finally, one spoke up. “I’m sorry to have to tell you, this, sir, but I think you know that Barack Obama recently bought a waterfront house in the neighborhood. It seems that he was having an affair with your wife. They were smoking in bed, the marijuana cigarette got tangled up in the covers and ultimately set the whole house on fire.”

David looks stunned and takes a deep breath. He puts his right hand on his heart and bows slightly.

“Barack Obama? Came to my house?”

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Why haven’t Democrats realized their own goals in Democrat-run states?

U.S. states are sovereign, have the authority to impose income, wealth, and consumption taxes, can borrow money, can make it illegal for employees to work for less than a threshold wage (and also illegal for an employer to pay more than a limit wage?), handle law enforcement and criminal justice for most issues, etc.

Why haven’t states run by Democrats achieved at least most of the social justice agenda that Democrats say they want?

Consider income inequality. California, for example, has a top income tax rate of 13.3 percent and a minimum wage of $12/hour. There is no reason the state income tax rate couldn’t be 30 percent with a minimum wage of $20/hour, right? (California Democrat and Presidential candidate Tom Steyer says that he wants a higher minimum wage that is a “living wage,” which would be roughly $50/hour in California to lift a family above the welfare eligibility thresholds.) That would narrow the spending power inequality (can be a measurement challenge) considerably, a goal that is related to the “income equality” goal that Democrats say is important to them.

(Same deal here in Massachusetts. Off-the-charts support for reducing income inequality and, simultaneously, among the highest levels of inequality in the U.S. Nobody in Washington, D.C. could prevent us from establishing a progressive income tax, raising wealth/property taxes, etc. and redistributing the money to poor residents. Yet we don’t do it, nor do we raise our minimum wage from $12 to $15 (or $20!)/hour.)

One objection to high tax rates is that people will move to avoid them. Yet Sweden was comfortable with this during its experiment with high tax rates back in the 1970s. If rich citizens moved to Monaco, the happy middle class Swedes said “good riddance.”

(Swedes experienced with multi-national business on our recent Northwest Passage cruise said that Sweden now has lower effective tax rates than the U.S. The nominal personal income tax rate in Sweden is comparable to Federal+California, but executive or entrepreneur Swedes are generally able to avoid this by turning what would have been ordinary income into capital gains.)

Democrats (e.g., Kamala Harris and Tom Steyer) say that they want a universal health care system. One third of Californians are already on Medicaid (“Medi-Cal”). Californians older than 65 should be on Medicare. Why not use the revenues from the above higher tax rates to automatically enroll everyone else on Medi-Cal and they can use it if they don’t have employer-provided insurance?

California Democrat Kamala Harris says that she wants free four-year public college (PBS). Why couldn’t California’s legislature vote to eliminate tuition at the University of California and Cal State?

Democrats say that they don’t want children to inherit wealth from parents. States have the power to impose estate taxes and a bunch do. Why wouldn’t the Democrats who control California change the state constitution to enable the collection of an estate tax?

California Democrats say that they would like less car-emitted pollution. They have the power to impose high annual registration fees on older high-pollution cars, highway tolls that are partially based on emissions output, and congestion fees to eliminate urban traffic jams. Yet they don’t do any of these things and instead blame the federal government for not letting them dictate emissions standards for new vehicles (which would do nothing to get a 20-year-old high-pollution car off the California roads).

Related:

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