Math Still Needs to Matter in Government

The moment that Bernie Sanders went from “harmless old man” to a problem for me happened in New York. It wasn’t primary day though. It was when he bombed the New York Daily News Editorial staff interview. It’s not a matter of his ideas, but rather that he really had no idea how he would do any of it. There was no substance in his plans. Just catchphrases. Bernie was pretty much exposing himself as unprepared to be President.

I’m not sure Democrats are in a better place with the left as we approach the three year mark. Last week I engaged with a Twitter follower who supported Bernie and loves AOC and noted the lack of a funding plan for many of their big ideas. Their response was chilling to me- that we need to stop holding political leaders to the standard of paying for their ideas, because “that leads to conservative outcomes.” In other words, will away the inconveniences of governing.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Tulsi Gabbard, and Ro Khanna voted against the House Rules package crafted by Nancy Pelosi on January 3rd, and their stated reason was opposition to a rule called “Pay Go,” a provision that requires you to find the revenue, through taxes, spending cuts, or spending shifts, to finance any new plans. The rule came about in her first tenure as Speaker, after George W. Bush has cut taxes, fought two wars, passed Medicare Part D, and done No Child Left Behind with no funding mechanism- all as debt. The United States was running trillion dollar debts in those days, as we are now, after the Trump-Ryan 2017 tax cut debacle.

It’s important to remember two key things about Pelosi’s “Pay Go” rule.

  1. She can lift it for major legislative priorities, and she pledged to do so. While “Pay Go” applies day-to-day, it is not a hard and fast rule. It is there to institute discipline on the average, but the Speaker can instruct the House Rules Committee to lift it on priority legislation, such as Medicare for All, if she chooses. She has pledged, as I said above, to do so when major priorities come up.
  2. We are projected to pay $364 billion in FY 2019 on debt services (interest). That’s what we’re paying just to finance our debt- not fix a single program. You could dramatically expand Medicaid or improve ACA subsidies with that, if you weren’t paying it to rich people for buying our debt. You could finance a major green jobs bill, an infrastructure bill, or any number of other major bills. We quite literally spending half the Pentagon budget to sell bonds to finance our debt. This is clearly a waste, to any sane person.

The fiscal behavior of Republicans, post Bush 41 raising taxes to deal with deficits, has been atrocious. They only worry about costs when money is being spent to help poor and middle class people, and otherwise are willing to bankrupt the country. The idea behind Pelosi’s rules package was simply to not be Paul Ryan– not block a national health care bill.

But back to the argument made at me on Twitter- screw paying for the things we want, just pass them. I get the moral equivalency argument, why should Democrats limit themselves when trying to do good things, Republicans just do the bad stuff they want. The difference though is that Democrats are the party that believes in using the government to solve problems, so they have a responsibility to make it work right. Running up more debt because math is hard is setting up the government for financial issues later. The price of debt (interest on bonds) is pretty much directly tied to the price buyers are willing to pay at auction, which is based on their confidence in the investment. It’s worth being responsible, if only to check that.

The real problem I have with the lefties that argue debt doesn’t matter, and we shouldn’t have to fully fund “good” programs is that they’re just lazy- there are actual questions to some of these questions, which people sometimes even get close to proposing. In AOC’s defense (I don’t do that often), proposing a 70% tax on income over $10 million, which she loosely suggested to fund her “Green New Deal” is popular, not overly radical, and has historical precedence. Elizabeth Warren’s suggestion for a windfall tax on wealth may be plausible. You could expand Medicare and Social Security massively if you raised the ceiling on payroll taxes to apply to 90% of earnings, as Ronald Reagan did in the 1990’s- and the majority of earners wouldn’t even pay a dime more. While you can’t realistically cut the Pentagon the way some on the left propose, a 10% cut of waste spending on weapons we don’t even use could finance a nationwide free community college and trade school program that would greatly alter the landscape on college tuition costs. There are actual ways to do their plans, and you don’t even have to be brilliant to figure them out. They’re just lazy, or willfully ignorant.

My guess is that some of these lefties know this, but still want to live in fiscal fantasy land for one reason- politics. Selling tax increases is hard. A national health care plan and climate change plan was incredibly popular in 2007 and 2008, but by 2010 it was contributing to Democrats losing the House. The devil is always in the details. Unless you don’t do the details, and just say we don’t have to pay for it. Then you can live in ignorant bliss forever, and propose any crazy idea you want, without consequence.

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A Bold New World View, Part 3- the Revolutionaries are Idiots

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

It’s not usually that hard to see what’s wrong. That’s usually in front of your eyes. Diagnosing the problems within our political system, from money in our campaigns to hyper partisanship, isn’t hard. Seeing a problem is not solving a problem though. When it comes to solutions, that usually is far more complicated than calling them out in the first place.

We all know that money in politics is a bad thing. We all hate it. Why not just ban it? Well, the Supreme Court is one blockade. Even if you went the route of a constitutional amendment to ban money, you still don’t solve the major problem of campaign money- campaigns are expensive. If you take the money out of politics, how does anyone but self-funding candidates get themselves known? You run into these roadblocks on issues all over the political spectrum. How do you actually finance a “Medicare for All” plan that requires as much additional funding as the entire current Federal budget? We know we need to get away from fossil fuels, but how do we survive in the short term if we do that? Big problems require big solutions, and that’s hard. It doesn’t mean solutions are impossible. It means you should be skeptical of anyone with simple solutions and talking points as their solution.

Unfortunately, our current political climate isn’t short on unserious people. Some of them think we can simply spend money forever, without any thoughts of deficits or taxes. Some think that cutting taxes on rich people and corporations will both create jobs and not blow a hole in the deficit. Rather than coming up with serious solutions, they cling to fairy tales and nonsense.

Unfortunately, in the era of Trump this is made even worse by our divisions. People of little substance, peddling fairy tales that meet the desires of the foaming mouthed masses emerge and build massive followings. Whether they are “deplorables” or “resisters,” there are hucksters, grifters, and con-artists infiltrating our politics and poisoning the public. They do so by baiting our biases, by telling us what they want to hear.

If someone offers “perfect,” or “simple” solutions to complex problems, you shouldn’t believe them. If someone tells you they can solve the problems of our political system by force of personality, or through “political revolution,” run away. If they tell you all the opponents are “corrupt,” question them. If they tell you that we “just need to try harder,” know they are wrong. If they tell you the “establishment” or “mainstream” oppose any solution, question them.

There has not been a problem worth solving yet in our history that was solved perfectly, all at once. Solutions require imperfection, because they require compromises. Anyone who says you can have it all has no plan at all. When someone seems to have all the right ideas, you’ll probably see a person who lacks legislative achievements or life successes, or someone who has bankrupt a casino.

One Month of Christmas, Day 11

Welcome to the “oops” edition! I missed yesterday, so today gets two posts. Here’s the post for Wednesday, December 5th, 2018…

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Oh, Dubliner

How can I forget thee? I can’t, so I went there last night and had a few drinks and some corned beef and cabbage. I’ve seen plenty a Senator there over the years, but last night it was the Chuckster- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, who was in and out in about three minutes time, while I was outside on the phone. I guess he was in a rush…

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The Phillies Were Right to Hold the line on Corbin

So the Washington Nationals tried their hardest to remain relevant in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes, paying Patrick Corbin the bank, and giving him the desired sixth year. Obviously I would have liked to sign him, but I’m glad the Phillies didn’t go six years to do it.

Obviously this doesn’t look like “spending a little stupid,” and Corbin is good, but even the deepest pockets in the NL East have to pick their battles. Save that extra year to get Harper. The Nats don’t have the fanbase to sustain contracts like Scherzer and Corbin, even though attendance has improved. They’re a stagnant, underachieving team that has an owner who’s very rich, but not richer than John Middleton. Use the cash we didn’t spend on Corbin to bury that team once and for all, and take the face of their franchise.

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Don’t Feed the President’s Ego

Donald Trump thinks he behaved during George W. Bush’s state funeral. No, really, just ask him. By not making a total fool of himself, he thinks he did well. I guess if you ignored his twitter account, maybe- but you can’t do that. And besides that, why are we giving credit for him not attacking Jeb all week. I mean really, the man’s a child. Treat him like one.

One Month of Christmas, Day 9

Happy Monday, December 3rd, 2018. Here’s today’s random thoughts…

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In DC

I’m in DC- it was a lovely night being an Eagles fan in enemy territory. The Eagles and Redskins are playing on Monday Night Football. I must say- nobody gave me an issue. A few beers and some food later, all’s well.

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Compassion for the Homeless? Not Here…

I just walked past a group of homeless people sleeping on Pennsylvania Avenue. They’re just laying on the sidewalk. I’m walking to the Capitol to see a President’s farewell and these people aren’t even treated as people.

Who are we?

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You Have to Cheer for Ewing

I went to see the Georgetown Hoyas beat the Liberty Flames tonight. The Capitol One Arena is nice, and the Hoyas need to start filling it. That will mean tournament wins, Final Fours, and yes, a title. Georgetown expects to win, not just games against Liberty, but big games too. Tonight was an expectation for the Hoyas.

I’m not a fan of the Hoyas, but I’m pulling for Ewing. How many Hall-of-Famers go coach their alma mater? The risk of fraying the relationship is too much for most. That he’s taking it on is enough for me to pull for him.

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May Jean be the First

Jean Segura is coming to Philadelphia. The two-time All-Star will be the Phillies shortstop in 2019. Juan Nicasio and James Pazos will join the Phillies as well.

I’m in a minority that is sorry to see J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana gone, but don’t mistake me as opposing the trade. I think Crawford will blossom, and Santana is still a positive player. I think Segura is good now. If you want to win now, you need players like him.

If you want to sign Bryce and Manny, you do this.

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Paying my Respects to 41

As I said above, I’m going to see George H.W. Bush’s body lie in state at the Capitol- in fact, I’m in line now. It’s not bad, slightly cold, but the line is moving. I’m signing off for tonight to do this.

God speed, sir: God speed.

One Month of Christmas, Day 8

Happy Sunday, December 2nd, 2018. There are 23 days until Christmas. I’m on the way home from dropping my sister back at Philadelphia and just listened to the Sixers win their 17th game. #TrustTheProcess.

Here’s tonight’s random thoughts…

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Wild-Eyed Critics Need to Lay Off of Susan

My new Congresswoman, Susan Wild (D-PA-7) has already run afoul of my “friends” (to be read- lunatic Berners) on the Socialist-Left. Congresswoman Wild did join the Progressive Caucus in the House (which to be fair, isn’t as selective as it once was), but that’s not enough for them. They’re angry she joined the New Democratic Coalition Caucus, or as they call it “The Wall Street Dems” conference.

I voted for Susan in the Fall, but have some misgivings. This isn’t one of them. She didn’t run as an anti-capitalist screecher in the primary or general election. She’s not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and never claimed to be. Her joining an ideologically diverse Caucus is not a bad thing.

I’ve appeared on these types of freaks’ radar before, most notably their anti-Bernie hit list in 2017. Susan, keep doing you. You won doing so.

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LOLOhio State

To hear Ohio State fans tell it today, it’s not a big deal to lose to Purdue by 29, or deserve to lose to Maryland, or to win a crappy conference. To hear the Buckeyes fans tell it, they should be the #3 team in the land, over an undefeated Notre Dame. They look and sound ridiculous.

The Big Ten sucked this year. Wisconsin was trash. I love Penn State, but they weren’t that good. Michigan State was terrible. Michigan was a wildly overrated, poorly prepared team, when it mattered. Ohio State has no signature win, really. They won an overrated conference. They lost by 29 to Purdue. Not only are they not better than Notre Dame, they’re not better than Georgia and Oklahoma.

The committee got it right- but it doesn’t matter. Alabama is going to kill any #4 team that gets in.

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I Was a 41 Fan

I liked George H.W. Bush. I liked him as a young kid. I like him now. In 1992, I forced my Clinton supporting parents to get me a Bush-Quayle sign in 1992 (9 year old me believed in supporting the President). I wrote his White House after the 1992 Election, and got back a photo of him at the Grand Canyon.

I grew to appreciate his Presidency more as the years past. I find some of the far-lefty attack articles on him this week to be beneath the dignity of a response. President Bush 41 had plenty of faults. On the whole, I don’t think he’s on the negative side of the ledger though.

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You Like the NFL for the Reasons I Don’t

I watch the NFL for the same reason I watch cop shows- you can’t take your eyes off a wreck. The NFC stinks. With a win, the Eagles could pull within a half-game of the Wild Card. With another win next week, they could lead the division. The Eagles and Cowboys might both make the playoffs, with like nine wins.

I’m sorry, this slop is trash. I like excellence, not parody. I like the longer term rebuilds in MLB and the NBA. This over-night change crap in the NFL is garbage.

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DC Trip 1 Starts Tomorrow

Tomorrow I hit the road to DC, my first of two December trips to the nation’s Capitol. I’ll be doing a Georgetown game, meeting with a couple of Chiefs-of-Staff on the Hill, having a Happy Hour, and having some Russia’s best (vodka). I’m also going to try to get to President Bush’s lying in state. Should be a good trip.