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Friday, May 16, 2008

West Virginia, not a vacation spot for anyone that is not white or Christian!

In the recent West Virginia Primary Hillary Clinton won by a landslide, the numbers according to Fox News, CNN, MSNBC all had the votes approximately 67% going to Hillary Clinton and 26% going to Barack Obama. This margin is significant due to Obama's recent win in North Carolina by a large majority. So the question remains why did people vote in an overwhelming majority for Clinton instead of Obama. The answer falls right in line with Bryan Caplan’s analysis of rational irrationality with respect to politics. So how does this play into the discussion of Hillary Clintons overwhelming defeat of Barack Obama in West Virginia? Some voters were asked why specifically they voted the way they did, and their responses were shocking, although maybe not if you consider the state in question. According to The Daily show where I saw this news story on May 14th some of the responses were about race, and conflicts the voters have with people of a different race. Also Religion, Obama is a Muslim and some of the voters refused to vote for him based on that, and lastly my favorite one woman said she “didn’t like the Hussein thing”.

Gay Marriage, Both Parties Agree.

May 15th California Supreme courts ruled that gay marriage was legal. The issue of gay marriage has basically been a non issue until the recent change in California’s marriage law. It is still said to be a non issue in this election with so many other major issue at the forefront of the candidate’s campaign. Oddly enough all three major candidates agree on the issue of Gay marriage in that they all agree it should not be legalized. The democrats feel that civil unions and rights should be given to gay couples, but marriage should be reserved for a man and woman. McCain agrees with the latter. It surprised me how clear these opinions were, quite frank to be exact. Very rare in politics especially with the upcoming election hmm.

Fed Challenging Creditors

The subprime mortgage mess, no doubt, has wounded our economy. Many people claim they foresaw (hindsight bias, anyone?) the problem coming, and say the Fed should have to. The government has taken much heat for not quickly reacting to the problem.

In addition to the mortgage problems, we also have a serious credit crisis on our hands. Many people took on much more debt than they could handle, and it shows in the marketplace. However, it does not seem as if the credit card providers are doing much to help solve the problem. Recently, an interest rate on a credit card of mine increased, even though I have not used the card in months. In fact, many credit card companies have been arbitrarily increasing rates on outstanding balances, and only applying payments to the balances with lower interest rates. In a sense they are charging interest on repaid debt.

According to the Washington Post, “The proposed regulations, which could be finalized by year's end, would label as "unfair or deceptive" practices that consumers have long complained about. That includes charging interest on debt that has been repaid and assessing late fees when consumers are not given a reasonable amount of time to make a payment. When different interest rates apply to different balances on one card, companies would be prohibited from applying a payment first to the balance with the lowest rate.”

It’s good to hear that the credit problems are seen for what they are. However, one thing that concerns me is the government’s current involvement in the markets, for example, the unprecedented rate cuts and government backed bailout of Bear Stearns. It seems as though the government just can’t keep its hands off the markets. As student of economics, we all know that markets tend to adjust themselves in the long run. By creating more rules and regulations, seemingly every month, the government is reducing risk and incentives that characterize a free market economy.

Gas Tax Holiday

Not too long ago, Senator John McCain called for a summer-long holiday from gas taxes.

"To help people weather the downturn immediately, McCain urged Congress to institute a "gas-tax holiday" by suspending the 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day. By some estimates, the government would lose about $10 billion in revenue. He also renewed his call for the United States to stop adding to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and thus lessen to some extent the worldwide demand for oil…Combined, he said, the two proposals would reduce gas prices, which would have a trickle-down effect, and "help to spread relief across the American economy." (MSNBC)

Senator McCain’s reasoning behind repealing the tax is to spread relief across the economy. However, would this really spread relief? Assuming the average gets 20 miles per gallon, and the average person drive somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 miles per month, that would mean people would save, on average, somewhere between $27.60 and $55.20 over a three month period. While every penny helps, saving this amount of money over a three month period will not really have much effect on the average consumer. The total three month savings, in this scenario, is less than 10% of the tax rebates, and those are delivered in a lump sum, rather than over a three month period. Looking at this from a cost-benefit standpoint, the government would be losing $10 billion in revenue. This money is necessary to improve poor quality roads and highways. Basically, we would be gaining something as insignificant as a dinner at Old Chicago’s (which would take us three months to save for), and in exchange the quality of our roads will be seriously hurt. This just goes to show us how politicians will say virtually anything to get elected, without considering the economic impacts of their proposals.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The text book says McCain will win.

Link to the article http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24576479/

So I remember reading a book and it explaining how a politician can win an election by attracting more than fifty percent of the voters. Maybe it was a text book that I read, that would explain the overwhelming obviousness of the statement. Anyway, the main point from what I can remember was that both left and right wing politicians during elections will try to cross over the political boundaries to score some votes. Even though they are going over to enemy territory, the hardcore right or left voters will still vote for them. The politician can rely on the fact that these hardcore voters will not jump ship, well they may lose a few but all will not be lost. This allows the politician the opportunity to grab the moderate votes of the other side, allowing for more than fifty percent of the votes to be obtained.

What does that translate to in real life? We should see that both right and left politicians will cross the line and support typical topics that are supported by their opponents. I just read an article that said that McCain, if elected, would go back to the negotiation table for the Kyoto treaties. He also said the he would like to see the emission levels of the country reduced by dates we will of course not meet. Just as the text book said, McCain is crossing the typical political boundary to score some votes. What I will predict is that Clinton and Obama will battle it out for the hardcore voters that will determine the nomination. They will forget to cross over to the republican side to attract votes for the general election. Mean while, McCain has secured the republican nomination and can focus on gaining the moderate democratic votes. During the general election McCain will have a better chance at winning the presidency because Clinton and Obama were to worried about the super delegates and not putting effort into gaining republican votes. Hum, is this the underlying strategy for Rush Limbaugh’s project chaos or whatever he calls it. Make Clinton and Obama fight tooth and nail to get them all battered up so in the general election whoever wins will be too sore to fight anymore. So going of what the book said, McCain will win the presidency.

Why bother with regulations on immigration?

An illegal immigrant protesting for their rights seems like a silly concept, but May 1, 2008 many immigrants gathered to protest for reforms. Although they are here illegally that still feel that they have the ability to help persuade governmental changes. It is surprising that they think that it will even be relatively successful to protest for reforms when they are not supposed to be here in the first place. Changes in government take a long time to occur. It is extremely difficult for even those immigrants who are here legally to gain citizenship, what makes those who are here illegally think that they are automatically entitled to the same rights as a natural born citizen?

I do not want to discount the hard work the some of the illegal immigrants do, but it is hard to ignore the fact that there are many people who try to gain citizenship the legal way, and never are able to do so. If the U.S. actually follows the policies that have been set up then the nationwide protests that occurred would have been a good time to find those immigrants who are here illegally by checking for proof of citizenship. The issue of immigration is not a particularly easy one that has clear end results, but it is important for those immigrants who are here to be accounted for and to be held responsible for the same obligations that natural born citizens are also responsible for. Why are there policies and regulations in the United States if it is so easy to turn a blind eye?

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24409739/?from=et&print=1displaymode=1098

Equal Healthcare for All?

Private healthcare versus public healthcare is not just a question for the United States. It is a question that is facing many nations today. Which form of healthcare is the best is debatable, but most people have their opinions on either side. Is it possible for there to be a combination of both forms of healthcare, or by using one form are we automatically locked out of the other? The issue of healthcare is at the forefront of discussions in South Africa presently and probably will not be resolved any time in the really near future.

The Minister of Health, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang is trying to incorporate both private healthcare and public healthcare into their society and trying to do so in what she believes is the most effective way.

“The system currently requires that medicines manufacturers charge extremely low prices to the public sector and compensate for this by loading the prices they charge to the private sector. This uncompetitive practice must be eliminated, and medicines should be marked at the same price wherever they are sold. However, patients should be able to claim rebates on the cost of these drugs according to the income-based formulas that already apply to public hospital admissions, whereby the poorest patients receive free services, and fees are charged at progressively higher rates according to income.”

By eliminating some of the costs of healthcare and medicines onto those who make a higher income, Tshabalala-Msimang looks to be trying to level out the gap between the richest and the poorest people in South Africa. I would only wonder though that if by making those with a greater income pay more she might be inadvertently creating a black market for the rich whereby those same medicines can be accessed at a lower price. (Most people will probably just pay the more expensive prices.)

Public sector hospitals are often less efficient and more crowded than private hospitals, but Tshabalala-Msimang would like to change that as well by making private hospitals more accessible. Hopefully in making private hospitals more accessible they will not lose some of the better care and shorter waiting times that the private hospitals are able to give to their patients that are willing to pay a higher price. Healthcare should be available for all people, but it is not necessarily a right that everyone receives the same level care in the same amount of time.

Source: http://www.int.iol.co.za/general/news/newsprint.php?art_id=vn20080511090

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What would it take for Obama to lose to Clinton?

In this fury of political analyses, one might get lost in all the hoopla surrounding the candidates! But, there is hope. I came across this article on msn.com...


title: Obama Doomsday Scenario Contest Results!

So, clearly at least some people think that Obama have it in the bag. I suppose something can be said about Hillary loaning her campaign 5.6 million dollars... Actually, that is one thing I'd like to comment on. She supposedly gave her campaign 6 million dollars earlier in the running, but what does it mean to loan her campaign money? Is that something that will have to be paid back? How would it get paid back, and by whom? Not to mention, it must be nice to have a measily 11.6 million dollars laying around to contribute and loan to one's campaign! I think she hopes money will win this race for her.

But, we're focusing on Obama right now, so back to his inevitable win.

Readers responded with how Obama might lose, one of my favorites was something along the lines of "There is only one unforgivable crime in America … dogfighting!" by one Tom Bianchi. I like this because it strikes me as ridiculous that a sports star (Michael Vick) could go to prison for some 2 odd years for cruelty to animals... that I assume belonged to him. Sure, I'm an animal-lover and I think Vick is trash for engaging in such a despicable sport, but since when do animals have rights? Since when can government, or animal advocates, dictate what a person can do with his/her private property? Personally, I think Vick was just bored with what was going on around him and hoped dog-fights would entertain him.

You thought I was going to say that football was the despicable sport, didn't you? That I was going to make a play on words for the sake of humor; well, I happen to like football! Speaking of football, my girlfriend doesn't understand the sport at all, so she hates it! I bring this up to come full circle to politics. I think that people don't understand the sport so well, and thus hate politics! This hatred leads to disengagement from their ability to constrain government, and thus hilarious online articles about Obama doomsday speculations. I hope you all got to read it!

The more I understand about predatory governments and the logic of collective action, the more frustrated I get about things going on around me. It's to the point where I am cynical about something as made-for-TV-movie as Hillary dipping into her own personal fortune to run for president! I don't believe she would perform as commander-in-chief, I don't think she would work to understand the encompassing interest of the nation, and I don't think that she is really all that afraid of a nation headed by Obama! I think that the loan she made to her campaign would be paid back, with interest, in the form of book-contracts about being the first woman president, or her come-from-behind win, or some other best-seller piece of garbage that goes down easier for readers of her book(s) than they would otherwise get frustrated over not knowing whats really going on with their country. Instead, they swallow ideas of hope and change and read stupid online articles that do nothing, if not cause a negative contribution to the political-economical edification of the masses.

To think that people would so freely surrender their powers of constraint of government, I'm half a mind to not care as well. Maybe I'll join a political lobby so that I don't feel insignificant. Maybe I'll just pay no attention to politics, the same way my girlfriend pays no mind to football. Or maybe I can hope that neither Clinton nor Obama will be president. Hope... there's that word, again...

Oh, and according to the online article, Third Place was this...

3rd place: Hillary appeals to the Supreme Court, which, based upon a 2000 ruling, decides that the candidate with fewer votes wins the election.—John Kirkbride

Ah... the Supreme Court! Our tool to constrain government and to uphold the Constitution! Funny, but scary at the same time...

Saturday, May 03, 2008

War in Iraq

The Platforms currently, in the presidential race, are pull our troops out now, pull our troops out over the course of a few months and finally leave a permanent presence in Iraq. The purpose of this blog is to decide which of these is the best policy approach. Stealing some information from Power and Prosperity one fundamentally point is that those who rule have the greatest capacity for violence. This implies that until the greatest capacity for violence is achieved then a power struggle will result. Therefore only countries with a government, that has this capacity, will be stable. It doesn’t help to decide who or what actions to take, or any moral/normative stance should be used. This leaves us with three basic models: Liberty, Economic Efficiency, and Just and Unjust War (or the social contract). Economic Efficiency, in this case, will defer to the government to provide security and mandates that that government has the greatest capacity for violence, and will, therefore, be ignored because it doesn’t help try to figure this situation out. Liberty could come into play in this case. When trying to figure out liberty, though, we must ask who is counted in the liberty perceptive. If the people of the United States are the only counted then it reverts to the constitution. The constitution states the US may enter and exit war through an act of congress to be executed by the president. This doesn’t, to my opinion, result in much clarity over our choices. Anyone of the choices is the same moral level as any other. This leaves Just and Unjust War theory (Walzer). A theory based upon Social Contract Theory.
The act of going to war. Self defense and the defense of others seem to be the only acceptable acts of war. Any aggression seems to be prohibited morally. One except is a preemptive strike, but this option needs to be where the states survival is at stake, and doesn’t allow a state to enter war to prevent possible future attacks, but must be an attack that is likely to follow in the very near term (certainly less than one year and must likely less than a few months). Therefore, if the US plans to go to war it must be for the defense of either its self or of another state fighting a defensive war. To review the Iraq case the government wasn’t a direct threat, even in the long run, to US security and wasn’t currently engaged in any wars of aggression. This leaves to option of the people of Iraq and the poor government of Iraq.
Self defense for others. If a person is outside a bar and is jumped by a group of people one could engage the group of people in the defense of the other; however, does one ever have to engage into the defense? No, if one had to engage into the action then the act of heroism would be a nonsensical meaning. Also, since my direct liberty is not in jeopardy and I don’t know the circumstances of the attack, it may be that that man murdered one of the groups children. This might be a case of vigilantism and would call the police to set a correct response, but by jumping into the fray I may in fact be condoning the actions of the man being jumped. This leads to the Iraqi people. From the outside it looks as though a section of the population is being treated unfairly, but however unjust this appears we don’t have a necessary condition for defense unless genocide is taking place. I freely admit that I am not expert on Iraq, but there doesn’t seem to be a case for genocide Iraq, and no moral imperative about entering. Yes people were dying unjustly to their government, but most people viewed themselves better off with the dictator than they would otherwise be. So, this leaves that a self defense of the people argument without teeth; yes one could argue for the Invasion, but it isn’t as clear of a case.
This the leads to the occupation. The going to war part was on shaky ground this leaves the fighting of the war and occupation to complete the analysis. Our are methods or conduct just? The war and invasion used the military power against another military power (regardless of how small), and ended when the other army was soundly defeated. The occupation, however, presents different challenges. There is no longer an army to fight, in fact the army there now is with the US forces. This leaves only one thing left; fighting an insurgency. The US military is then, de facto, the police power of the state of Iraq. The US military has no social contract with the people of Iraq and doesn’t achieve its legitimacy from the Iraqi people, instead it achieves its legitimacy from the US. This leaves one argument left. The greatest capacity for violence. The US military has some capacity for violence and currently maybe is the greatest, but it is only temporary. Therefore, its capacity (constricted by the people, congress and president) is lowered because it is know that is force won’t be the final with the greatest capacity for violence. This leaves the US to put pressure on the Iraqi government and army to show the greatest capacity for violence, but it can’t show that capacity without removing US troops and seeing who arrives as the victory.
If civil conflict will bring out who has the greatest capacity for violence then maybe the US can stack the deck. Train troops, console the government, diplomacy with the neighboring states, and money. These options will limit the amount of social strife and allow the state to assert its power over the people to force the disbanding of militias and Al Queda. Therefore, it is my assertion that a pull out of US troops the quicker the better, or the STATED policy of the US of permanent presence are the only ways out. If the US is unwilling, either at home or aboard, of stating permanent occupation then the only option left is a quick withdraw to lower troop causalities and allow the Iraqi state to limit the scope of its civil strife.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Health Care & Equity

The health care policy issue seems to involve equity normative concerns. In order to give you a little information on such concerns I would like you to read a couple of blog posts that you will find here and here .

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