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Thoughts on the Electoral College

The Electoral College was carefully designed to fulfill a similar purpose of the constitution, to apply a break on majoritarian tyranny.  The framers understood that democracy and demagogue had the same root.

To the greatly disappointed Democrats who lament the second election in memory where their candidate lost while having a larger popular vote, I offer three thoughts to consider.

Expand your time horizon.  A wise politician once warned that you should be wary of endowing any political power to any position unless you can envision that power in the hands of your worst nightmare.

That would apply to the executive power of the president, or the legislative creep of the Supreme Court.  It all seems so palatable when they reinforce your preferred view, but you must remember that political power is a fleeting thing in America.

After the 2004 election Karl Rove spoke of a permanent Republican majority. Two years later the GOP lost the House, two years after that they lost the Senate and The White House.  The Democrats assumed a mandate they did not possess, marginalized any opposition, passed the ACA with no bipartisan support and alarmed us with other extremely partisan agendas. Two years later they lost the House. Two years after that they lost seats in the Senate, two years after that they lost the Senate and more House seats, and two years after that they lost both houses of Congress and we have Donald Trump in the White House.

Fully one third of the Democratic House seats are from three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts. While the Democrats may control these populous states and that may have given them the popular vote, note the trends.  California and New York are losing populations and businesses to southern states like Texas.  At the same time, demographic trends towards Hispanics and minorities are growing in many southern states and the GOP majorities will be threatened there if they do not attract a broader demographic base. You may live to respect the electoral college.

Secondly, it should be hard to ignore the color of the electoral map. The map is overwhelmingly red.  The blue vote is largely focused in large urban coastal centers. Not only are the Democratic House seats narrowly focused the Democrats have weak political power among the states. Of the 50 states, only 18 have Democratic governors, and only FIVE have the trifecta of a Democratic governor and both houses of the state legislature. This compares to 27 states which have a GOP trifecta, and 18 states with divided power.

This explains why the Democrats have such a weak back bench.  The states are the training ground for future national leaders. The alternative to the deeply flawed Hillary was a 75-year-old socialist.  The Republicans had a broad bench of young elected leaders, whose names we can all still remember even though we are also trying to wrap our heads around the reason Trump was the ultimate victor. Rather than deplore the electoral college, however, the Democrats need to address their utter failure to relate to the vast majority of the country. This hurt them far more them the failure of the Republicans to reach minorities.  While it has become politically correct to contemptuously decry white privilege, there is one privilege they retained and that is the vote.

The final thought is the power of contempt.  It is a strong negative emotion.  The voters remember the contempt of the Elizabeth Warren statement, “you didn’t build that.”  They remember the statement from Jonathan Gruber about the need to lie about the ACA because of “the stupidity of the American voter.”  They are tired of constantly being talked over, shouted down, degraded as anti-intellectual, anti-science, racist, and stooges of Fox and oil companies. They are concerned about the intellectual intolerance of the left on our college campuses.

It is intellectually lazy to demonize rather than understand. Unfortunately given the horrified responses to the election this lesson is not being learned.  In spite of Trump’s clumsy and stupid statements that have incited such response, the voters who supported Trump are not the racist troglodytes they are made out to be. Effort to make it so just reinforces this ‘contempt’ factor that helped elect him.

The most productive aspect of the Trump victory may be a rediscovery of the Constitution and the incredible wisdom in it, including the electoral college, that we should be extremely cautious about overturning.

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The Trump Bubble

jonahgoldberg

From Jonah Goldberg in National Review, Bursting ‘Beltway Bubbles’:

If all you heard in his answer was the box-checking boilerplate and not the needy cries of his id, then you’re in a bubble. If all you saw at the Al Smith Dinner was a man speaking truth to power, you’re in a bubble. If you nod along when he says “Nobody has done more for civil rights than I have” or “Nobody respects women more than I do” you live in a bubble (I have a theory that he paid a staffer to change his name to Know Body, so he can say that stuff with a straight face). If you really buy the idea that the polls are faked and the election is rigged, you’re in a bubble. If you think that his huge rallies are all the proof you need that he’s going to be swept into power, you live in a bubble. Lots of people go to the opera. Lots of people attend Nickelback concerts. Huge crowds attend WrestleMania. Even all together, that’s not a winning coalition in a presidential race.

And if you believe that if only the couple dozen — at most — “Never Trump” writers and activists suddenly endorsed Donald Trump he would get a boost of 4–5 percent in the polls, you live in a bubble. A friend of mine insisted to me the other day that if the Never Trumpers, women, and Republican friendly independents rallied to Trump he’d be in the lead. That’s true. It’s also true that between me and Charles Koch, our combined assets are in excess of $40 billion.

The ire aimed at Never Trump folks is understandable. But that ire isn’t an argument for why reality is wrong. The belief that the supposed traitors are to blame isn’t a rational belief, it is an irrational passion that only seems rational deep inside a bubble. And shouting “You just don’t get it!” won’t change the fact that the people shouting are the ones who just don’t get it.

HKO

The soundness of one’s ideas can be gauged by the tolerance for dissent or difference of opinion.  The Trumpers who have demonized every Republican who has actually won an election and actually governed are now intolerant of any conservative who does not support their savior.  A basic understanding of political reality in American politics is that winning requires assembling a coalition of views and interests that can win.  This coalition is different from the one required to win a primary.

Trump has offended almost every possible group except his hard core base, including critical elements from his own party.  In this campaign and in this election cycle, and especially against the incredibly unpopular Hillary Clinton,  any credible Republican candidate should be twenty points ahead.  Any loss by Trump, no matter how small should be viewed as a humiliation. And there is no one to blame but himself and those in the Trump bubble.

Those who understand his shortcomings and support him only because Hillary is so detestable should take corrective action against their party who let this disaster happen.

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The Age of Obfuscation

from Heather Wilhelm at National Review – The Golden Age of Fibbery

Ha! I kid, I kid. In 2016’s not-so-grand race for the White House, lying is more popular than ever, duplicity is all the rage, and the Internet, bless its poor, bedraggled heart, isn’t exactly doing a bang-up job of helping us sort things out. Witness the past few weeks, which have seen more lies and contradictions and absurdities and mishaps than perhaps all seven seasons of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills combined.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? In the midst of the great information age, we’ve wandered into an equally great age of obfuscation. Here’s to the truth working its way out.

HKO

It is the human wish to be told lies that keep us as primitive morally and socially as we are. I am persuaded that a lie grounded in human desire is too powerful for mere reason to kill.

 

 

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Hypocrisy Knows No Bounds

 

If a doctor of oncology treats a thousand patients, but five hundred of them die, is he still a good doctor?

If a preacher saves a thousand souls but one hundred end up in hell is he still a good preacher?

If a film producer makes twenty films that win academy awards, but also makes five box office bombs is he still a great film producer?

If an equity manager buys twenty stocks that on average triple in value but also buys three stocks that go bankrupt is he still a good equity manager?

If an entrepreneur starts forty companies, but four of them file bankruptcy is he still a successful entrepreneur?

Life is full of risks and failures are a part of the deal.  The American culture embraces failure as part of the path to success in a way few cultures can emulate. It is the secret to our success. It is the reason Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, IBM, Boeing and thousands of other ground breaking companies start in this country in spite of our inequality (maybe because of it) and the declining quality of our educational system.  It is the reason that over 40% of the Nobel prizes are awarded to Americans regardless if where they came from.

And this is not because of the hyper regulatory state, but in spite of it.  Yes, our institutions provided protections for property rights and our bankruptcy code was designed to recognize failures quickly and reallocate the capital to better uses.  The fastest growing industries are often those that happened so fast that the regulators failed to recognize their significance in time to apply the soul and spirit killing regulations that would have killed them at birth, or partial birth.

The venture capitalists, the shareholders, the employees, the customers and the entrepreneurs know precisely who built those companies and it was not Elizabeth Warren, President Obama or Hillary Clinton.

The controversy over Trumps tax loss carry forwards displays how ignorant the left is about what creates wealth in this country.  Trump lost money in a recession in the casino business in Atlantic City. Does anybody remember how cheap hotel rooms were in Las Vegas in 2009?  Does anybody think that anyone should pay income taxes on a business that loses money in a reporting period? Does anybody think that losses in one period should not be allowed to offset profits in another period?  If I make $1000 on one stock and lose $1000 on another stock and I sell them both at the same time should I owe any taxes on the two transactions?

To make Trumps tax losses appear to be either illegal or even unethical is pandering to ignorance.  Trump is no genius because he used losses to offset subsequent profits?  Anybody with an accountant that can pass the CPA exam would do the same thing.  There is nothing sinister, illegal, or in even incompetent in doing so.

If you want to find sinister examine the profits of a couple who made over $100 million dollars in a decade with nothing but political connections.  Examine the same couple who deducted a million dollars to their own foundation which paid less than 10% to charitable recipients, often in the form of lucrative contracts to their cronies, while they kept her political staff on the payroll until her campaign started, and spent millions flying them around the world in private jets.  Examine the ex President who got $18 million in pay from a private for profit school while a competitive school was shut down by the government. Examine the ex Secretary of State who collected $15 million in speaking fees, including $225 thousand addressing a college where she noted, get this now, the high cost of college.

How isolated in a bubble can one get to make such accusations?  How tone deaf can one become?  How ignorant does one think the voters are to buy this malarkey?  How ignorant are the voters and the media to accept it without asking questions any first year accounting student could answer?

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal (The Apology of Donald Trump)  accurately notes that this is why she is not 50 points ahead.  As Doc Holiday (wonderfully played by Val Kilmer) in the movie Tombstone said, “hypocrisy knows no bounds.”

PS

Economist and blogger John Cochrane in The Grumpy Economist offers a more thorough analysis in Trump Taxes.The tax code is complicated and there are certainly other tools Trump may have used other than mere tax loss carry forwards. Cochrane uses the story to make the case for a consumption tax.

While normal tax compliance may have reduced Trump’s income tax, his enterprises are still paying property taxes (unless the local and state authorities exempted him, which they sometimes do to spur development), sales taxes, and payroll taxes.

From Holman Jenkins at The WSJ, in Harmonize this Eurocrats,   (posted nearby)

Companies receive their revenues from their customers and distribute them to their suppliers, investors and employees. Thus corporate taxes can be eliminated in complete comfort that the revenue will pop up elsewhere as taxable personal income or taxable consumption expenditure.

The only real function of a corporate income tax is non-transparency. Taxing a company is a way for politicians to pretend they are not taxing any actual voter to pay for programs that voters find desirable as long as they seem not to come with a price tag.

Drop the pretense that citizens don’t have to pay for the amenities they want, and real harmonization becomes possible:

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The Freshest Ideas from 1916

 hillary-clinton-thumbs-up (1)

from the editors of The National Review, Hilary’s Disastrous Economic Plan

But it is a statement of Mrs. Clinton’s priorities, which are giving handouts to her corporate allies, strengthening the whip hand of politicians over health care, bribing the Sanders-Warren element with new entitlements, and otherwise engaging in a great deal of wishful thinking about how this gets paid for and its long-term economic consequences.

That’s Hillary Rodham Clinton in short: Partly dishonest, partly ignorant, misrepresenting the very economic policies whose results are the sole reason for any surviving nostalgia about the presidency of her intern-bothering, perjuring, sanctimonious husband.

It is the worst sort of superstition to believe that putting another Clinton in the White House will revive the economic boom of the 1990s. Mrs. Clinton instead offers the cutting-edge thinking of 1964, when she isn’t distracted by the freshest ideas from 1916.

HKO

Hillary claims to be a Progressive Democrat but Progressivism is exhausted. The Progressive era was held afloat by a war based economy and global competition neutered by the destruction of that war while we remained protected by two oceans. She and the rest of her party want to return to a period with conditions that no longer exist. She wishes for the conditions of the past, ignores the conditions of the present, and depends on myths and wishful thinking to make it all work.