Mar 18

Not All Political Tribalism Is Created Equal

RNC Oregon Sign - Political TribalismI head Sam Harris say something in a video from some time ago. Basically, it was this, “There is no reason why a person’s position on guns should correlate with their position on global warming.” And he went on to discuss political tribalism. It’s not surprising that I share the same concern that he does. There are a lot of thing I agree with Harris about. Just the same, as usual, I think Harris’ thinking is simplistic. And his example is bad.

For one thing, in the US, the liberal position about guns is that they should be regulated. I’m sure that Sam Harris — who is very pro-gun — is nonetheless on the “liberal” side of this. Of course, what he writes is very clearly designed to appeal to gun fanatics. But if you press him, he’s for the same kinds of gun control measures that Barack Obama is. So in that regard, he would be in the same liberal tribe.[1]

Political Tribalism Is a Given

But the broader observation is worth talking about. People are tribal in their political beliefs. This is hardly surprising given that humans are social animals. If we weren’t, we certainly would have gone extinct by now. But from a political standpoint, it is troubling. I’ve seen people transition from both liberal to conservative and conservative to liberal. And it is usually a single issue that does it. I am right now watching a liberal friend turn into a conservative because of transgender rights. And it won’t surprise me at all if she’s wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat the next time I see her.

The problem is that there are good reasons for correlations that Harris mentioned. For example, there is an evidence base for reducing access to guns and for doing something about global warming. That’s true to a very large extent on the left in this country. Now that may be because the left in this country is really just the center in a global sense. We have, of course, heard that liberals who believe in evolution and global warming insist that vaccines cause autism. But it turns out that it is actually conservatives who are most likely to believe this hokum — by a large amount.

Partisan Differences

I’m really skeptical because I am a liberal (in a general sense), but it certainly seems that tribalism on this side of the isle is based on a general belief in science. And my personal experience is that more politically involved liberals will grudgingly accept unpleasant evidence — eventually working it into their world views.

On the right, we see far more tribalism. And on this we have some evidence. John Dean lays it out in Conservatives without Conscience. In that book, he documents that roughly half of the Republican Party is made up of authoritarian followers. So it is hardly surprising that conservatives would be tribal. In the US, conservatism is almost the definition of authoritarian.

Still, on the left, we are tribal. In some ways, I wish we were more so. I’ve often been bothered by how quickly we are to cast aside public figures who allegedly act inappropriately. Conservatives are more likely to stick by such people until the evidence is overwhelming. And I have a fair amount of respect for that. Think of Shirley Sherrod and ACORN. But I don’t think that’s so much about tribalism as it is cowardice. As a Democrat, I can say with much justification that this is something we really need to work on.

Levels of Tribalism

But there are different levels of tribalism. In its most pure form, you will never disagree with what your group believes. But there are more moderate forms of it too. Most liberals I know do have a knee-jerk reaction to things (I very much include myself in this). If the Cato Institute announces that they have a new healthcare bill, we are ready to pounce. But in general, we are open to being wrong.

It’s not like tribal beliefs are random. In the United States, the main thing that doesn’t make sense is the Republican Party. When I talk to conservative people, I usually find that their beliefs are far more coherent. But the party itself is effectively a con: a party dedicated to the interests of the rich, which advertises itself as the opposite. That’s where the authoritarians come in. The Democrats couldn’t get away with such a bait and switch.

It’s Not All Bad

But it clearly is tribalism that causes someone to start with “I don’t want boys peeing in girls’ bathrooms” to “The estate tax is a communist plot!” But going from “Now I see that we need a mandated a living wage” to “Women should have the right to control their own bodies” doesn’t strike me as necessarily tribalism (given that having a baby is one of the biggest economic decisions you’ll ever make). So I don’t think that all tribalism is created equal.

Just the same, tribalism does bother me — especially when I see it in an extreme form on the left (or even worse, in myself). But in general, people bind together because they already agree with each other. There are liberal ways of looking at the world and conservative ways. There are also authoritarian ways of looking at the world. That’s the most dangerous kind of tribalism. And that’s roughly a quarter of our population — and overwhelmingly on one side of the political spectrum.

Afterword: Libertarians

Libertarians love to flatter themselves that they break the mold and just believe in “liberty.” I don’t want to get into it. But libertarians are just as tribal as anyone else. Look at how libertarians are anti-union almost to a person. There’s no reason for this. In fact, “right to work” laws are explicitly limiting the rights of employers and employees to make contracts, yet libertarians usually love them. I think it’s fair to say that libertarians are just following the herd on this. If not, I’ll have to lower my opinion of them even more.


[1] After the Sandy Hook massacre, Harris wrote The Riddle of the Gun. Note this amazing bit of false equivalence:

Fantasists and zealots can be found on both sides of the debate over guns in America. On the one hand, many gun-rights advocates reject even the most sensible restrictions on the sale of weapons to the public. On the other, proponents of stricter gun laws often seem unable to understand why a good person would ever want ready access to a loaded firearm.

So on one hand you have those who think mentally ill people should be allowed to roam the streets with machine-guns. And on the other, you have people who can’t get inside the heads of gun enthusiasts. This is particularly stupid when you consider that there are people who would like guns to be completely illegal.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/18/political-tribalism/

Mar 18

AHCA Does None of the Things Trump Says It Does

Ezra Klein - AHCA Does Literally None of the Things Trump Says It DoesOn March 8, Trump laid out his case for the American Health Care Act. Here’s what he said:

It follows the guidelines I laid out in my congressional address: a plan that will lower costs, expand choices, increase competition, and ensure health care access for all Americans. This will be a plan where you can choose your doctor. This will be a plan where you can choose your plan.

These talking points are familiar enough that it’s easy to let them fade into the background. But it’s worth taking them seriously. This is Trump’s case for the bill he’s backing. Does he know that literally every single one of these points is wrong?

The AHCA doesn’t lower costs. Apples to apples, the Brookings Institution estimates “that premiums would be 13% (~$1,000) higher under the AHCA than under current law, holding plan generosity and the individual market age distribution fixed at their current law levels.” To the extent that the AHCA sees lower premiums, it’s because older people can’t afford care and younger people buy sparer plans. That is no one’s idea of lowering costs.

The rest of the problems flow from there. Most people will have fewer affordable choices under the AHCA because their subsidies will be so much smaller (and many people will have no affordable choice at all, and so will go uninsured). Competition is likely to fall as the marketplaces shrink — fewer consumers wielding smaller tax credits will not prove an attractive market to insurers.

The idea that the AHCA will “ensure health care access for all Americans” is sufficiently absurd that I’m not even going to spend time on it.

But the idea that it will let you choose your doctor and plan is more interesting — it seems entirely possible to me that Trump doesn’t realize the limited choices people complain about in Obamacare are the result of people being unable to afford more generous plans with broader networks, and it seems likely to me that he doesn’t know the AHCA will make that problem worse, or why conservative health reformers think that’s a good thing.

–Ezra Klein
Does Donald Trump Know What the GOP Health Bill Does?

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/18/ahca-trump/

Mar 17

Serial Comma Goes to Court

CommaI am proud that my opinions change over time. Often this is because I get more information, but it is just as often because I start thinking about something differently. In fact, I’ll soon write an article about my changed thinking regarding the ellipsis. But there are issues on which I am rigid. And regular readers will know that one of those is the serial comma.

The serial comma is the comma that comes right before the “and” (and “or”) in a list. For example, “This, this, and this.” Many people don’t use the serial comma. So, “This, this and this.” The Associated Press Stylebook goes along with this. But it adds, “Put a comma before the concluding conjunction in a series, however, if an integral element of the series requires a conjunction: I had orange juice, toast, and ham and eggs for breakfast.”

The very idea of this makes me shake. Why?! Since you have to use the serial comma sometimes, why not use it all the time? The problem is that it is often not clear when you need a serial comma and when you don’t. If you always use it, you won’t have to worry about it.

When Bad Grammar Leads You to Court

A great example of the importance of the serial common can be found in a recent court case in Maine, Kevin OConnor v Oakhurst Dairy. In this case, delivery drivers were suing the dairy for overtime pay. The dairy claimed that the drivers did not qualify for overtime.

The issue all comes down to Maine law which says that the following kinds of work do not qualify for overtime: “The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods.”[1]

The question before the court was whether the last item in the list of work was “packing for shipment or distribution” or “distribution.” The style guide for Maine legislation is the same as it is for The Associated Press: no serial comma. And that means, we really don’t know. If the style guide said that the serial comma was always used, we would know that it was the former.

If “distribution” is meant to be the last item, then the drivers do not qualify for overtime pay. The first court ruled that this was the correct reading and so found for the dairy. The case was appealed, and the drivers won. It didn’t all come down to the serial comma. (How could it? It’s a mess with the missing “and”/”or.”) But if the Maine style guide simply required the serial comma, there would have been no question.

The Case on Grammar Grounds

To me, the appellate court is right for purely grammatical reasons. The way that the dairy wanted to read the legislation was clearly motivated by what they wanted it to say. Here is the list as the dairy saw it:

  1. Canning
  2. Processing
  3. Preserving
  4. Freezing
  5. Drying
  6. Marketing
  7. Storing
  8. Packing
  9. Distribution

Items 1 through 8 are all gerunds: verbs ending in “ing” that are used as nouns. And then we have the plain old noun “distribution.” Why not “distributing”? Now I know that people write lists that are all mixed up. I have complained about this before, Illiterate Filmmakers: Last Man Standing Edition. But it is usually the case (as it is in that article) that the list is screwed up randomly. In this case, the list is perfect — except for that one item that happens to make the dairy’s case.

What’s more, “shipment” and “distribution” go together. So the obvious reading of this sentence is the way the drivers read it. You can get into other aspects of it. It just so happens that “packing for distribution” makes sense. And why would it be packing only for shipping that was exempt for overtime? (I doubt seriously if the dairy paid overtime for people packing for delivery.) It bothers me that the lower court found for the dairy. It doesn’t speak well for the objectivity of our legal system.

Just Use the Serial Comma, Dammit!

I suspect that on my deathbed I will be reminding people about this. “Okay, so my will’s in order. Good. Now promise me that you’ll always use the serial comma…” I find it shocking that we still have to talk about this. But even the writer of the article I linked to above seems confused on the matter. She wrote, “Opponents say that it’s redundant, aesthetically displeasing, and potentially more ambiguous.” I have yet to see a sentence in which the serial comma makes a sentence more ambiguous.

What’s more, I personally find the serial comma aesthetically pleasing; its symmetry pleases me. But in the link she provides for “aesthetically displeasing,” there is no discussion of aesthetics; the writer of that article talks exclusively about ambiguity, even quoting Bryan Garner that “its omission may cause ambiguities, whereas its inclusion never will.”

I’ll yield the point on redundancy. But a tiny amount of redundancy is more than offset by occasional ambiguity — some of which lands people in court!


[1] Note that when using semicolons instead of commas, one would never not use the “serial semicolon.” The truth is that the reason people don’t use the serial comma is the same reason that Americans use quotation marks stupidly: because typographers decided it. And typographers care about how things look, not about how clear they are.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/17/serial-comma-court/

Mar 17

Seven Other Problems With Obamacare Repeal

Michael Hiltzik - Seven Other Problems With Obamacare RepealThe headline findings in the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Obamacare repeal bill produced by House Republicans are brutal enough: 24 million Americans losing their health coverage, healthcare costs soaring for many millions more, and the evisceration of Medicaid, all while handing the richest Americans a handsome tax cut.

But in its fine print, the CBO report identified at least seven other ways the GOP proposal would damage the US healthcare system. Some would have effects reaching far beyond the middle- and low-income buyers of insurance on the individual market who are the Affordable Care Act’s chief beneficiaries.

  1. Shopping for health insurance will become tremendously more complicated…
  2. Individual insurance plans will tend to offer skimpier benefits…
  3. Out-of-pocket costs will be much higher…
  4. Employer-sponsored insurance might start to disappear…
  5. A key program promoting public health will be axed…
  6. Patients of Planned Parenthood clinics would be cast adrift…
  7. The continuous coverage rule would drive 2 million people out of the market and make the overall insurance pool sicker…

–Michael Hiltzik
Seven New Ways the GOP’s Obamacare Repeal Bill Would Wreck Your Healthcare

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/17/obamacare-repeal-4/

Mar 16

New on Psychotronic Review: Night Gallery

Psychotronic ReviewNew at Pychotronic Review: Night Gallery.

The set-up on Psychotronic Review is that we have pages for movies — and now television series. This works especially well for television series, because we may want to write about particular episodes. And that’s even more true with Night Gallery, because the content was so varied. I just wrote an article on a short segment called “Hell’s Bells.” In addition to this, I transferred the article that I wrote here about “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.” It will be fun adding to it. I’ll undoubtedly get around to doing The Twilight Zone. But it is better appreciated and therefore less deserving of the attention from Psychotronic Review.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/16/new-psychotronic-review-night-gallery/

Mar 16

True Freedom vs Republican Freedom

Brian Beutler - True Freedom vs Republican FreedomChristopher Ruddy, the CEO of the right wing site Newsmax and a personal friend of Trump’s, weighed in Tuesday with seven suggestions for Trump to revive Trumpcare, including the following: “Reject the phony private health insurance market as the panacea. Look to an upgraded Medicaid system to become the country’s blanket insurer for the uninsured.”

Converting Medicaid from a safety net for the poor into a safety net for anyone who finds themselves uninsured is an idea that would be very popular with Trump supporters, and is thus under consideration by nobody with any power. Where Trumpcare is practically optimized to screw over Trump’s base, replacing Obamacare with a Medicaid-for-all option would eliminate the ACA’s narrow disincentive to work harder while continuing to free motivated workers to voluntarily leave their jobs.

It would be genuinely liberating. Not in the sense proffered by GOP Congressman Jason Chaffetz, that people would be free to forgo buying iPhones until they can afford bad insurance; or in the sense that it would give millionaires a big tax cut; but in the sense that the fear of injury or bad health would no longer be a tool the government uses to scare people into keeping jobs they’d otherwise leave.

Trumpcare, by contrast, enshrines indenture as a facet of personal liberty. As a governing philosophy, it is the freedom to work until you die. And if it weren’t for Medicare, it may well be the freedom Trump and Ryan would bestow on all of us.

–Brian Beutler
Trumpcare Is the Opposite of Freedom

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/16/true-freedom-vs-republican-freedom/

Mar 15

Federal Reserve Continues Looking Out for the Rich

Federal ReserveAs should shock no one, Federal Reserve Raises Benchmark Rate as Inflation Approaches 2 Percent Target. As I’ve noted many times before, the 2 percent target is a joke. First, it is a number that Alan Greenspan pulled out of the air (perhaps in a tight cavity located at the bottom of his torso). Second, the Fed increasingly treats that inflation target like a ceiling. Since 2009, US core inflation has been consistently below 2 percent. It is only for the last year that it has been slightly more than 2 percent.

Who the Federal Reserve Works For

It’s clear who the Federal Reserve is working for. Having a 4 percent inflation target would make us no more likely to suffer from high inflation, much less hyperinflation. Given that our current 2 percent target is not based on any evidence or theory, it can’t be said to be better in economic terms. The only thing you can say about the 2 percent target is that it is good for people who have a lot of money. If we had a 4 percent inflation target, it would mean that people with a lot of money would effectively be taxed a little bit on it. But it would also mean that millions more people would have jobs.

That’s a fair trade-off. The rich would be slightly less rich. But in exchange, millions of poor people would have jobs and thus would not be nearly as poor (or poor at all). Our libertarian friends would now like to play the smallest violin in the world for people on fixed incomes. But those on Social Security wouldn’t have to worry, because it would simply be adjusted for inflation. It would harm those few remaining people retired on defined benefit plans. Those are all but gone, so we wouldn’t have to worry about them for long. And for the time being, we could help them out too. (Although note: they would get Social Security too, so we aren’t dealing with poor people.)

It’s the Rich, Stupid!

So the Federal Reserve is working for the rich. Remember that because it’s scary. Regardless of who controls the government — Democrats, Republicans, or a mix — the Federal Reserve is there to make sure that the rich stay rich. Yes, it’s true that if there are more liberals on the Fed OMC, things are better for the people. Lael Brainard, for example, is fighting the good fight. But as an institution, the Federal Reserve is not on the side of the people.

Economy Isn’t Doing As Well as Fed Thinks

But what’s interesting about this rate rise is that it shows that the Fed thinks the economy is doing just fine. I hear the words “full employment” a lot. This is something that I just don’t understand. The employment-to-population ration for people 25 to 54 years old was 79.9 percent right before the economic crash of 2008. (It was 80.3 percent a year earlier.) Today it is 78.3 percent. There’s no reason to think that 1.6 percent fewer Americans want to work than they did nine years ago. Everyone’s focused on the 4.7 percent U-3 unemployment rate. But clearly, it isn’t taking everything into account. Unemployment could go way down before inflation starts accelerating.

Of even greater concern is that the Fed doesn’t seem to be concerned about what’s going on in Washington. We all know that the Republicans’ new healthcare law is estimated to make 24 million people uninsured compared to those who have insurance now. But there has been very little talk about its broader economic effects. The truth is that it could cause catastrophic damage to the healthcare and insurance industries. And this alone could throw the world economy into recession. That’s one bill — one that doesn’t even deal with the economy explicitly.

Danger of Rate Rise

A problem with the Fed’s eagerness to raise rates has always been that the risks are unsymmetrical. If they don’t raise rates, inflation might tick up a bit. But more important, the Fed would have no difficulty dealing with this problem (in as much as it would be a problem). If they do raise rates and the economy falls into recession, the Fed is pretty much impotent (as we have seen over the last 9 years).

Now I’m not saying that this interest rate increase is going to hurt the economy. But I do think that anything the Republicans manage to do in terms of the economy will be to make things much worse for working people. But the Fed is just sitting back, acting like everything is just like it has been. It isn’t. Of course, the rich will be fine. And that is, after all, the only thing that the Fed truly cares about.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/15/federal-reserve-rich/

Mar 15

Trumpcare Is Anti-Populist

Paul Krugman - Trumpcare Is Anti-PopulistObamacare helped a large number of people at the expense of a small, affluent minority: basically, taxes on 2 percent of the population to cover a lot of people and assure coverage to many more. Trumpcare would reverse that, hurting a lot of people (many of whom voted for Trump) so as to cut taxes for a handful of wealthy people. That’s a difference that goes beyond political strategy.

But one way to say this is that Obamacare was and is a truly populist law, while Trumpcare is anti-populist. That’s reflected in the legislative struggles.

And yet, and yet: Trump did in fact win over white working-class voters, who thought they were voting for a populist; Democrats, who did a lot for those voters, got no credit — rural whites, in particular, who were huge beneficiaries of the ACA, overwhelmingly supported the man who may destroy their healthcare.

–Paul Krugman
Populism and the Politics of Health

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/15/trumpcare-anti-populist/

Mar 14

Glibertarians, MRAs, Alt-Right, Oh My!

Libertarian Party: Just Kidding, We're Republicans!We’ve been getting a lot of comments, apparently, from the crew that runs Glibertarians.com. Most of the comments have made me rethink my definition of glibertarians: people who don’t think about politics but have a vaguely libertarian mindset. I can see how the word does apply to people who think themselves libertarian but who have never taken it seriously enough to learn about it from even a basic philosophical perspective. I see that I’ve generally been mixing with a better class of libertarian in recent years. The comments are so filled with talking points that’s they’re hard to argue against because the people don’t take the political issues seriously. And looking at the site, there’s little more than a patina of libertarianism.

I did receive one reasonably thoughtful comment. I started replying and eventually decided to turn it into this post. So this is a mishmash of thoughts, but it does get to the heart of why talking to these people is a waste of time. How do you teach astronomy to people who not only believe the sun circles the Earth nightly, but who don’t even realize that this is an assumption. And I am getting tired of dealing with people of all political stripes who have no recognition of how thoroughly American propaganda has defined their world view. I don’t take it as given that private ownership of land is right. Thus it’s kind of hard to have conversations with people who think the only proper role for government is to protect a principle I find debatable.

The Liberal Straw-Man

What’s most annoying is being straw-manned constantly — having to answer for the beliefs of mythical hate-radio-created “liberals” who despise freedom and love big government. The whole thing started off with an exchange with someone who goes by the name of Sloopyinca who knew, despite my repeated denial, that I was in favor of luxury taxes. Why? Apparently because it’s the only example anyone on Glibertarians.com can come up with to illustrate the evil unintended consequences of taxation. It’s an extreme example, but like libertarians big and small, all these people assume I don’t know much about economics.

One person pointed out that taxes on one income group can affect others. Yes, I know the economy is complex and that a tax on one group is not limited to that one group. A related example of this is the EITC; estimates indicate that about one-quarter of it goes to employers because it allows them to suppress wages. Economics is very complicated indeed. That alone should stop people from being libertarian. Libertarianism is based on the most basic — “I got a B- in Econ 101” — level of economic thinking.

Deficits and Debt

However, there are many things that our Glibertarian.com friends think that just aren’t true. For example, “Deficits cause inflation.” This is one that most people find irresistible. It seems to be obvious: the economy has a certain value. Thus, the value of money is that value divided by the total amount of money that exists. If you “print” more money, the money has to be worth less. There are several problems with this. One is that the US government doesn’t print money. It does what all individuals and businesses do when they need extra money: it borrows it. This is done by issuing bonds, which are bought; the government then pays them back.

The reason deficits can be bad is because they can crowd out private borrowing. But this is only true when the economy is running at full capacity. This pretty much never happens anymore because of our excessive level of inequality. Regardless, it’s a mistake to get too focused on the deficit. If the government wanted to pay off its entire debt, it could just sell off some its many resources — or tax more.

Discussions of the deficit are almost always disingenuous — whether from the left or the right. People use them to justify cutting government expenditures that they don’t like. We should just talk about that and end the nonsense. My problem with military spending has nothing to do with the deficit. And conservatives’ problem with Medicaid has nothing to do with the deficit.

Interest Burden

Regardless, if there is a problem with government debt, it is the interest burden. And right now, the interest burden is less than half of what it was when we had a budget surplus in 2000.[1] There was nothing to worry about then and there is nothing to worry about now. Most people who have purchased a home have debts that are far greater than their annual salary, but they don’t get upset about them. They are simply focused on whether they can make the payments.

Taxation

Another issue brought up was that regardless of the various changes to the top tax rate, the average rate of federal tax revenue has been about 18 percent. This is pretty much right. The total federal tax rate as a percent of GDP has bounced around between about 16 and 20 percent with an average of roughly 18 percent. What this has to do with anything, I’m not sure. I think the implication is that I think we can fix our funding needs by soaking the rich. Like the luxury tax, this is not my position.

But there is something interesting about our tax system: it isn’t fair; it is managed by and for the rich. They have a low baseline and the Republicans might decrease it a little and the Democrats might increase it a little. I think our federal tax rate should be higher, but more than that, I think what we get for our tax dollars should be better. Despite spending as much on our military as almost every other nation on Earth combined, we are told we don’t spend enough, and that we are in great danger. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands die early because we don’t provide healthcare for everyone (this is usually justified by the “fact” that we just can’t afford it).

Local Government

Unlike most libertarians, I’m interested in taxes (and laws in general) at the state and local level, where the rich have even more power and where taxes are actually regressive. But libertarians are mostly laser-focused on federal taxes. Libertarians talk about the rich like they are some poor minority group that needs to be coddled. There are libertarians (I used to be one) who criticize the government because it is corrupt and helps the rich at the expense of the rest of the country. But this is a tiny minority. Most libertarians exhibit an almost religious admiration for the rich. And this is why they fit right in with the Republicans.

Let’s look at Rand Paul for a moment. Is he a libertarian when it comes to drugs? No. He’s for the legalization of cannabis, but not drugs that he deems too dangerous. That isn’t a libertarian position; that’s a paternal position that is simply on the liberal side of American politics. Like all prominent libertarians, tax cuts are his top priority.

My Own Liberty

I care a great deal about liberty, but taxes have never been a major impediment to my liberty — and I say that as a successful freelance writer and editor who pays a lot of money in taxes. (In 2011, I paid a higher percentage of my income as federal tax than Mitt Romney — and 2011 wasn’t a very good year for me.)

When it comes to regulation, it has always been the local government that’s been my biggest pain — not the federal government that libertarians love to claim is so bad. In general, liberty is harmed far more often by the local than federal government. (And don’t get me started about the ways that the private sector decreases my liberty.)

But libertarians always tell me local government is better. Why is that? Part of it is the neo-confederate roots of American libertarianism. But regardless, the belief that local government is necessarily better than federal government is not based on evidence; it’s just a faith-based belief. It seems like local governments would be more responsive to their citizens. But I don’t think that much matters when it is so much easier for the rich buy off the local government.

Libertarians vs Glibertarians

I still find it interesting to discuss politics with serious libertarians. But the people at Glibertarians.com are not interesting. I fear it is mostly due to ignorance. In their About page, they claim, “America would do well to return to the ideals of our founders as they pertain to our government’s relationship to us.” Really? They were men who disagreed about just about everything. And one of their prime ideals was that dark skinned people were not only inferior, but so inferior that they should be considered property.

So it is hardly surprising that the people who hang out on the site would not understand much about politics and economics except in as much as they justified their existing faith-based beliefs. The more thoughtful ones might eventually get past their glib approach to politics. But I rather doubt it. The more I look at it, I see it’s more MRA and alt-right than it is libertarian.

Glibertarian? MRA? Alt-Right?!

When this whole deluge of Glibertarians.com comments started, it was Sloopyinca, telling me, “You know nothing of glibertarians.” I guess that’s true in as far Glibertarians.com doesn’t seem to know what libertarians are. Or maybe this is always what libertarians were. Everything else is affect. It was always just an intellectual facade covering frightened white guys who can’t deal with a changing world.

Afterword

As always, I’m interested in comments. But I’d be especially interested to see comments from Glibertarians that have something to say other than repetitions of your usual talking points. You might even — Shock! — engage with the material. You could respond to the fact that poor people are taxed more than rich people at the state level. Or you could explain how the liberty that is created by public libraries is more than canceled by people having to pay taxes to support them. Or you could show how monopsony in labor markets doesn’t make them unfair. I don’t plan to respond to anyone, so this is your perfect chance to show that your support of “glibertarianism” is something more than just a sociopathic hatred of the weak and a general lack of empathy.


[1] Note that this graph stops at 2013. The only ones I could find with more up-to-date data showed that the interest burden has actually gone down since 2013. But I didn’t use them because they were focused on their own models that show that the interest burden will rise sharply in the year ahead. These same models have been predicting this same thing for the last 8 years. The truth is that as the economy improves, the interest burden should increase. This is not a bad thing and certainly is nothing to panic about.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/14/glibertarians/

Mar 14

Obamacare Replacement Will Take Insurance From 24 Million CBO Says

Thích Quảng Đức Self-Immolation - Republican Obamacare Insurance ReplacementHouse Republicans’ proposal to rewrite federal health-care law would more than reverse the gains the Affordable Care Act has made in the number of Americans with health insurance, while curbing the federal deficit, according to a widely-anticipated forecast by congressional budget analysts.

The analysis, released late Monday afternoon by the Congressional Budget Office, predicts that 24 million fewer people would have health coverage over the coming decade, nearly doubling the share of Americans who are uninsured from 10 to 19 percent. But the GOP legislation, which has been speeding through House committees since it was introduced a week ago, would lower the deficit by $337 billion during that time, primarily by lessening spending on Medicaid and government aid to help people buy health plans on their own.

The report predicted that premiums would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher in the first year compared with the Affordable Care Act and 10 percent lower on average after 2026. By and large, older Americans would pay “substantially” more and younger Americans less, the report said.

The 37-page report provides the most tangible evidence to date of the human and fiscal impact of the House GOP’s American Health Care Act. It also undermines President Trump’s pledge that no Americans would lose coverage under a Republican remake of the ACA…

Democrats used the report’s finding to continue attacking the House GOP plan. “The CBO score shows just how empty the president’s promises, that everyone will be covered and costs will go down, have been,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E Schumer (D-NY). “This should be a looming stop sign for the Republicans repeal effort.”

Specifically, the analysis predicts that the number of people without health coverage would rise to 52 million by 2026, compared with 28 million if the ACA remains intact. That erosion would mean that fewer than one in five US residents would be uninsured by 2026 — compared to one in 10 uninsured now and one in six who were uninsured before the ACA was enacted.

The reduction would result from three factors. A provision rescinding the penalty imposed on the uninsured would prompt many Americans to drop their health plans. After that, tax credits that are less generous than current subsidies would make insurance unaffordable to many more. Finally, some states may undo the expansion of their Medicaid programs…

The measure derives most of its budget savings through cuts to Medicaid, while nearly all of its cost comes from the proposal’s system of tax credits, which would replace the ACA’s federal insurance subsidies.

While the deficit would be lower, the analysis says, the legislation also would reduce federal revenue by $592 billion by 2026 by repealing several taxes that the ACA created to help pay for more people to get insurance — notably taxes on high-income Americans, hospitals. and health insurers.

“I would hope that this would make the Republicans say ‘we can’t do this,'” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of Democratic leadership.

“Twenty-four million people lose their coverage, it is total chaos to the country and I hope they pause, say ‘This is not what we should be doing,’ and move on.” …

The Affordable Care Act has increased coverage by 20 million to 22 million — almost half of those through the insurance markets the law created for people who cannot get affordable coverage through a job, and the rest through an expansion of Medicaid in 31 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the report, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured in 2026, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under the current law…

The estimates projected a significant drop in Medicaid enrollment. Next year, the forecast says, about 5 million fewer people would be on Medicaid. By 2026, the program’s rolls would shrink by nearly 15 million — almost one in four of the 68 million currently in the program.

The CBO also predicted substantial disparities in the effect the legislation would have on insurance premiums for younger versus older consumers.

If the GOP plan is enacted, a 21-year-old making $68,200 would pay an average of $1,450 for a year’s worth of insurance premiums after the new tax credits, compared with $5,100 under current law.

On the other hand, the cost of a year’s worth of premiums would stay about the same for a 64-year-old at the same income level. For a 64-year-old making $26,500, the cost would rise sharply from $1,700 to $14,600…

Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) recalled Trump’s promise that the healthcare plan would insure everyone.

“President Trump said that he wants as many people covered as under Obamacare,” Cassidy said. “He said that healthcare should be affordable. If there’s 14 million people losing insurance — of course it’s concerning. I try to avoid hyperbole and adjectives, but it’s concerning.”

–Amy Goldstein, Elise Viebeck, Kelsey Snell, and Mike DeBonis
Obamacare Revision Would Reduce Insured Numbers by 24 Million, CBO Projects

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/14/gop-insurance-replacement/

Mar 13

New on Psychotronic Review: Ishtar

Psychotronic ReviewNew at Pychotronic Review: Ishtar.

We have a new system at Psychotronic Review. We create pages for films. And those pages contain one or more articles about the film. In this case, the article is, Ishtar Is a Funny Movie — Why Haven’t You Watched it? You should know that a film this maligned must have something going for it. And when it’s written and directed by Elaine May, how can it miss? Well, it can’t. It’s just that for some reason, the studio decided to kill it and a whole bunch of people decided to hate it without seeing it.

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/13/new-psychotronic-review-ishtar/

Mar 13

Bitcoin Drops 22 Percent for No Good Reason

Bitcoin Drops 22 Percent for No Good ReasonThe value of bitcoins plunged more than 15 percent on Friday afternoon after the Securities and Exchange Commission rejected an application to create the first exchange-traded fund (ETF) for Bitcoin. The proposal would have made it easier for ordinary investors to buy bitcoins, but the SEC is worried that these investors could be cheated in the largely unregulated Bitcoin marketplace.

The ruling has been closely watched in the Bitcoin world. A favorable ruling would have given the cryptocurrency a stamp of approval from an influential regulator, and it also could have sparked a surge in Bitcoin’s price as it provided an easier way for people to invest in this exotic new asset class…

The proposed Bitcoin ETF was the brainchild of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twin brothers who once sued Mark Zuckerberg for allegedly stealing the idea behind Facebook from them when they were all students at Harvard. After settling that lawsuit for millions of dollars worth of Facebook stock, the brothers began investing in Bitcoin startups. They announced plans to create a Bitcoin ETF in 2013, and their proposal has been working its way through the SEC ever since.

But the SEC wasn’t impressed with the proposal. The law requires the SEC to make sure that a newly traded asset existed in a well-regulated market that adequately protects people from manipulation and fraud. But the SEC saw little evidence that these conditions were met. Bitcoin is primarily traded in unregulated markets located overseas, especially in China, and as a result, the price of bitcoins is extremely volatile. In the SEC’s view, Bitcoin exchanges are not yet mature enough to justify opening them to the general public…

The ruling hammered bitcoin’s value. In the minutes after it was published, the value of one bitcoin fell from $1,290 to less than $1,000. As I write this, it’s back up to $1,100, about 15 percent below its value before the ruling was announced…

–Timothy B Lee
Why Bitcoin Lost 15 Percent of Its Value in a Few Minutes

Permanent link to this article: http://franklycurious.com/wp/2017/03/13/bitcoin-official-approval/

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