Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

The Public Has Spoken – Sort Of

Once you understand public choice theory, watching politics unfold becomes less of a frustration and more a source of amusement.

I just heard President Obama lay out his near term agenda. He was elected by a decent majority and will fight for the issues for which he campaigned. The people have spoken, and the people want a Democratic agenda implemented.

But the House of Representatives was also just elected. It is firmly Republican. The people have spoken, and the people want a Republican agenda implemented.

Same voters. Two conflicting agendas.

Some pundits say that voters want compromise. I don’t understand how you compromise between raising taxes and lowering taxes, for example.

I can only conclude that what voters actually favor is gridlock. This restrains both Democrats and Republicans and preserves the status quo. The last several presidents, when given a compliant Congress, have moved the country in unhappy directions. Gridlock forces politicians to take a “timeout” and allows only actions which are broadly acceptable to voters.

voting day in a small town

voting day in a small town (Photo credit: Muffet)

Don’t expect a lot to happen in a gridlocked political system – the public has spoken and inaction seems to be our preference as a nation.

Wisconsin Recall and System 2

Living next door to Wisconsin, I have perhaps greater than average interest in the Governor’s recall election. There are issues of great import involved: what is fair? what are the differences between rights and privileges? what leads to a prosperous society? what leads to a just society? how should we balance our short term interests against our long term interests?

Frustratingly, neither the Democrats or Republicans are expending much energy explaining and advocating anything related to these questions.

Fortunately, I am less frustrated than I might be after thinking about Kahneman’s revelations about human behavior. In a nutshell, Kahneman is saying we have two modes of thinking: intuitive and logical. Intuitive thinking mostly controls our actions; logical thinking requires a lot of time, commitment, and ability; we use logical thinking sparingly. Kahneman calls these different modes of thinking System 1 and System 2.

The important issues require logical thinking; winning elections requires harnessing intuitive thinking. Thus, political campaigns depend on sloganeering, emotional appeals, and very shallow logic. Both parties. Every election.

This isn’t new, of course. What’s new is that I have more toleration for it. For better or worse, this is who we are and how we behave. Changing our minds about the political economy requires long periods of time and thought and will, hopefully, reveal itself gradually. It won’t happen in an election. Neither the winner or loser can take much solace from election results – the consequences of clear thinking come

Wisconsin Welcome Sign

Wisconsin Welcome Sign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

slowly.

Government Shutdown Phase 1

It’s coming down to the wire, but I don’t see anyone other than politicians and media types getting too excited. I see more annoyance. In all the media yakking, an important point is often overlooked: Congress shouldn’t be doing this now. This budget exercise was, by law, due last year when the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Through sheer ineptitude, the Democrats failed in their most elemental responsibility of governance. Now the GOP gets to fix the mess the Democrats left behind. And it’s not looking pretty.

But this is a warm up exercise: the real battle will be the 2012 budget. There are two proposals: Obama’s and Ryan’s, and they couldn’t be more different. It’s hard to imagine what a compromise would look like. We could be looking at a *real* government shutdown next year.

Budget Problems

In Washington, they’re getting lined up for a battle royal on the budget. President Obama’s budget proposal is basically to drive the government deeper and deeper into hock. The Ryan (Republican) proposal calls for major cutbacks. Both rely on long range forecasts that are unrealistic, but for different reasons. A battle is coming. The Democrats are aghast that we would cut spending on such vital national interests as the Cowboy Poetry Festival (I’m not making this up). Republicans want to gently slash everything except our massive military outlays. If nothing else, this will be fun to watch.

I am not convinced that the Ryan (Republican) proposal cuts enough, but it would at least buy some time. The Democrats simply seem to want to throw future generations under the bus. I could be wrong, but that’s how it looks to me.

Whatever happens, it won’t be more severe than the Ryan (Republican) proposal. That’s the upper bound of fiscal rectitude, which means we’ll be in big trouble again – but not as bad as if the Obama budget were adopted.

There’s little you or I can do about this. Angry calls to Congress or letters to the editor are of hardly any value. All you can do is plan your affairs accordingly.

Stimulus – Healthcare – Stimulus

Interesting Stuff:

Triumph of Will – Megan McCardle

But if the Republican Party disappeared, the Democrats would be no closer to their goals, because the Republican Party represents real interests that would continue to exist, and would elect other people who would also oppose the bill.  And at the point when you’re fantasizing about the mass disappearance of a large number of voters, I’d suggest that your political philosophy needs a rethink.  And if the stimulus package were really as 100% guaranteed to make America better off as its proponents claim, you can bet that sensible Republicans would be falling all over themselves to get on board.

‘Too Old’ for Hip Surgery- Nadeem Esmall

The experiences of these Canadians — along with the untold stories of the 750,794 citizens waiting a median of 17.3 weeks from mandatory general-practitioner referrals to treatment in 2008 — show how miserable things can get when government is put in charge of managing health insurance.

The Stimulus Will Fail – The Everyday Economist

As I have previously noted, there are two questions that seem to be at the center of the debate:

1. Can a stimulus package be designed to give a boost to the economy in the short-run?

2. Can the stimulus package get us out of the recession?

Under the current circumstances, with unemployment approaching 8%, the answer to (1) is undoubtedly “yes.” HOWEVER, this does not imply that (2) can similarly be answered in the affirmative as many stimulus advocates would have you believe. Unfortunately, the debate regarding stimulus has diverged to the point in which those on each side are answering different questions and ultimately giving the impression that there is widespread disagreement as to the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus. Thus, this post is my attempt to explain why the answer to (1) is “yes” and the answer to (2) is “no.”

And don’t forget my Shared Google Reader container for shorter tidbits of interesting stuff.

Single Mom’s Plight

This is from Hillary’s article in the WSJ:

Another woman said to me, “I just can’t make ends meet. My health care premiums have doubled, college tuition is up. How am I supposed to make it as a single mom?”

Let’s do some math. In a household with two adults, each contributes at least 12 hours of work a day. This includes earning income, doing housework and yard work, preparing meals, tending children, keeping the car running, etc. etc. This means a household gets the benefit of at least 24 hours of work every day. A single mom can’t hope to match that – doing two thirds as much would be heroic. It is reasonable to expect that the single mom’s household standard of living will fall far short of the two adults household’s.

How do you “fix” this? The only way to “fix” the difference is to transfer the results of work (wealth) from two adult households to one adult households. This, in fact, seems to be a bedrock philosophy among some Democrats.

No News in Iraq

Investor’s Business Daily has commented on the stunning progress in Iraq, then asked why this isn’t in the news and why the Democrats refuse to acknowledge it. Good questions, but I have answers.

Despite suspicions of a vast left-wing conspiracy in some circles, the simple answer to the press ignoring the progress in Iraq is that good news just isn’t news. Only bad news is news. We’ve all heard the cliché about the man and the dog. Sure, progress will be reported when it’s referenced in the context of an event such as a speech or a setback, but otherwise, it’s just not news. That’s just the way news works.

The situation with the Democrats is even more straightforward. If they admit to progress in Iraq, their previous statements will look foolish and they will lose the support of the no war at any price crowd. No politician ever wants to look foolish, rarely want to lose a vote, and very rarely want to admit they were wrong about anything. So their best strategy is to hang tough, hope that people don’t notice what’s happening in Iraq, and change the subject. And, they might get lucky – there could well be setbacks between now and next November or Iraq might be replaced as the voters’ most important issue by something else.

I wouldn’t make any bets about how the next election turns out.