Now everyone’s been Trumped

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Analysis
So its Trump, how can 60 million people be that dumb! Many are trying to put the spin on it, that it was working class Americans in rust belt states fed up with how they are treated in Washington that swung the election. Well no, the polling data (both before and after the election) shows the vast majority of Trump voters are middle class or upper class whites who generally have a better than average income. The majority of low income whites still voted for Hillary. Certainly some more of them than did vote for Trump than would normally be expected in an election, but in theory this was cancelled out (to some degree) by an increased level of turn out and voting for Hillary by ethnic minority voters.

Indeed its worth remembering that she carried the popular vote, Trump carried the key swing states by only a tiny margin. The reality is that a Trump victory should have been mathematically impossible had it not been for large number of both wealthy or middle class Americans turning out to vote for him. So Trump is on their head, they are now responsible for whatever mess he makes.

A more crucial factor was that the “never Trump” block within the GOP clearly dithered at the final moment. I mean Republicans are such hypocrites. They launch all of that assault on Bill Clinton and Obama, go around thumping their bible complaining about how America now has no morals anymore….then vote for “grab them by the pu%&X” Trump, who is worse than Bill and far more corrupt than any president or candidate has ever been (Trump university for example, shady deals, Mafia connections) and will be spending some portion of his presidency in court. He may actually end up being indicted on bribery charges before he takes up office. And we can’t just point the finger at white men, the polling data shows a majority of white women also voted for him in certain older age groups. And least we forget Trump is likely to run up a massive deficit, far larger than Obama, so all that BS from the GOP about the debt ceiling over the last few years was clearly just political street theatre.

One fact is clear, is that facts no longer matter anymore. We are truly in the post truth world. And don’t even take my word for it. The analysis of a neuroscientist of Trump supporters is that there’s something wrong with their brains. They have an enlarged and overactive Amygdala, which means they are much more likely to overreact to perceived threats (whether real or imagined). They also have demonstrated an inability to be capable of separating fact from opinion, a trend we saw over in the UK prior to the brexit vote. In short, they believe crazy things because they don’t want to look bad in the eyes of their peers and because they gain some sort of sadistic pleasure out of the fact that it winds up liberals when they do this. Many of these are also increasingly getting their news from Facebook, or Alt-right websites who have both been accused of polarising subscribers by only showing them web pages that won’t challenge their views in an effort to get up site hits.

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And there is also the Dunning-Kruger Effect, by which many overestimate their own ability. I see this all the time as a lecturer. The people who will most overestimate their performance tend to the low achievers, who then can’t understand how it is that they failed (I’m not joking they’ll be on like 18% and want it remarked convinced that somehow we got it wrong). By contrast some of the high achievers tend to underestimate their performance (and come to me straight after the exam with the “well I know I’ve failed, what now?” line….when in fact they finished top of the class!). Or put another way, many Republicans don’t realise how dumb they actually are.

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And finally there is the racism. As in the brexit vote, some will try to argue that Trump winning had nothing to do with racism. Actually no, it very much had everything to do with it. Again the polls show that. The two leading reasons given for voting Trump were terrorism and immigration (i.e. no more darkies). On economic issues, even with low wage blue collar workers, Hillary won out easily. The simple fact is that many Americans who voted for Trump were quite willing to sacrifice some of their economic well being to see the wall build and America become a more racist place. There’s no way to sugar coat it. What Trump shows is that America is a very racist and misogynistic place.

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If Trump and his supporters aren’t fascist, why do they keep getting caught making fascist salutes

Which is hardly surprising given how the GOP have been pushing those over stimulated Amygdala buttons for many decades now. They’ve effectively brainwashed a large chuck of the US population to the point where they cannot separate fact from fiction and believe in new age myths over real data and statistics. Where some fantasy pedalling creationist, climate denying whack-job is given the same credibility as a Nobel prize winning scientist. In doing so they’ve done great damage to American democracy. I mean I was talking to someone from China the other day and enquired what he thought of democracy and he just laughed. I mean seriously, if you were Chinese, horrible thought the Communist party is, would you rather have a system that elects Putin, Trump or votes for brexit?

Trump’s other supporters
And then there’s the other group of Trump supporters, Jill Stein and Gary “Aleppo” Johnson voters. Let’s be clear, you effectively voted for Trump. Go through the data, you’ll see that in the 5 key swing states (any 3 of which would have handed the election to Hillary) and if only half of those who voted for Stein and Johnson voted for Hillary she’d have won (or if all those in 3 of those states who voted for Stein voted Hillary, she would have won).

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When Jill met Putin…..

One can’t argue with the maths, Hillary is not the president thanks to these voters. In effect by voting for either of these candidates in a swing state was the moral equivalent of taking part in a firing squad, but convincing yourself that you fired the blank round every time. Trump is on your head as well. I hope you like him, because its now your fault as much as it is the Republicans.

Hillary robbed at email point

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Hillary tries on her inaugural gown

And given how narrow the victory was one has to look back at the e-mail scandal and the FBI’s last minute intervention. This clearly had an impact, its difficult to believe it didn’t. Now while its clear the polling data was off, it still had Hillary in about an 8% lead prior to Comey’s letter. The final polls put Hillary about 4% up. So one assumes that it caused a 4% swing against Hillary, while the polls were actually off by about 4% as well. I’m reminded of this scence from the Simpsons where Mr Burns runs for office.

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Hillary had a massive lead prior to the Comey’s intervention

While Hillary has to take some of the blame, she may not have been the best choice of candidate (recall I never said I liked her much myself, its just I could see the difference between her and Mr Disaster). And she lost this election more than Trump won it (she got several million less votes than Obama got, while Trump got less votes that Romney got!). But clearly she’s right in pointing the finger at the FBI’s intervention, noting that if true, then Comey broke a long standing electoral law and should, along with Rudolph Giuliani and Senator Chaffetz be subject to a criminal investigation. Of course with Mr stop and frisk now likely to be the attorney general, that seems unlikely to actually happen.

Bernie
Inevitably some of the Bernie brigade are chirping about how Bernie would have won it. And yes I’ve seen polls showing that. However we have to put this in context. He hadn’t just fought an election campaign and have baseless racist/sexist smears thrown at him by the GOP, with the direct assistance of the FBI. Yes, he might just have pulled it off (this election favoured the outsider), but equally its possible is that he’d have still lost, perhaps by a larger margin.

Most Americans are trained from birth to consider anyone calling themselves a socialist to be coming for their wallet, their gun and their bible,in that order. Now I know that’s BS, but that’s still what many think. And there are large number of Americans, including quite a lot in the electoral block that typically vote democrat, who will not vote for an atheist as president. Bernie may have tied down a bit more of the white working class vote, but he’d have seen lower turn out among ethic minority groups from strongly religious backgrounds. And Blomberg would have followed through with his threat to run as a 3rd party candidate.

Again, look at the demographics of those who voted for Trump (who actually voted, ignore this myth about angry blue collar voters) its difficult to see Bernie making a bigger dent. Yes he might have won, but it would have been close. Then again, technically Hillary won, it was only this dumbass electoral college system that stopped her.

Trump v’s reality
So what can we expect from Trump? Well he’s biggest opponent is likely to be this little thing called “reality” and he can’t build a wall around that. Take for example his plan to put a 45% tariff on China and 35% on Mexico. Ya, that’s the thing, stick it to the Chinese, that’ll show’em….hay why’s my I-phone now 45% more expensive? And gas prices just went up, and when I went to buy new tires for my buick they were 35%….oh wait, now I see!

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The only thing protectionism will achieve is it will make everything more expensive. Now while that’s not a big deal for those who can afford to pay 45-35% more for everything, its not so great news for anyone on a tight budget. Yes some companies might move their factories into the US, but only those who exclusively sell to Americans. As other nations will retaliate with tariffs of their own, they’d be shutting themselves out of the international market by moving into the US. It would in short, make more economic sense for Apple to relocate out of the US and abandon the American market than lose the rest of its world sales. America simply lacks the economic clout to fight a trade war with China or the EU. Trump and his supporters might think its 1928, but its not.

Then he wants to build the wall and deport all of the immigrants. Now ignoring the engineering and practical problems with all of that, the enormous costs and the fact that the Wall has been obsolete since the Wright brothers invented this thing called “planes. And who is going to do their jobs? Do you think unemployed people in the rust belt are going to trek halfway across the country to take up manual labour jobs picking crops and cleaning toilets in California or Texas for 6 months a year, then go home again? The end result of his policy will be labour shortages and crops left to rot in the fields. As a result of Trump’s policy we could well see queue’s forming outside shops, much like in Venezuela recently, as certain items become scarce.

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Economists fear the US deficit exceeding 100%….

Then there’s the deficit, his plan is to run up a massive deficit, up to $5.3 trillion to $10 trillion. Certainly, he’d push America pass the long feared threshold of 100%, at which point its likely investors will start to panic, US debt will be downgraded and interest rates will soar.

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…..because it raises the risk of national bankrupcty

Now Trump says, oh I’ll renegotiate the debt or print more money. Ya, and you do realise that will devalue the US dollar? Meaning beyond a certain point, he’s no longer a billionaire (because a billion bucks suddenly ain’t worth that much). And this would also have to push up salaries, including those of state employees. government contractors will start charging the state more for their services. Lenders will charge a higher rate of return, so again interest rates go up. In short economic meltdown.

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Another member of the Billionaire’s club! Trump’s plans would make everyone a billionaire just like him!

Certainly the “print money” option is a good idea, in a crisis, as a temporary means of restoring order. But as a long term debt management strategy its the equivalent of buying Trump wine and mixing it with water and then trying to sell it, only nobody wants to buy it at the original price, instead they’ll only buy it at a discount price. Trump is basically trying to argue that he can still make money selling this diluted wine at a lower price than he buys it. And recall the largest holder of US debt is pension funds based in the US not China.

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Trump v’s congress
The second problem for Trump is that a number of his policies will not last long in congress.

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For example one of the first groups he’ll be upsetting with any trade tariffs will be the US automotive lobby. This is a cabal of car makers, fossil fuel companies, construction firms (who build and maintain roads) and auto dealerships. A lot of US auto parts are shipped in from abroad (most notably Mexico), as is lots of its fossil fuel supply. They will be more than a little upset at the thought that their cars should be more expensive and their profits should take a hit. And these are not the sort of people you want to mess with. Keep in mind the global warming denial machine is just one tiny part of this lobby group. At a local politics level, these guys wield a lot of power (as this Adam ruin’s everything mentions), typically 20% of local sales tax comes from automobile sales. Who do you think local politicians will listen too, Trump or the guys who fund their campaign and the main source of local tax revenue?

In short, Trump messes with these guys, and they’ll see to it that the GOP will get crucified in the mid-terms. And the GOP know that, so they ain’t going to endorse a lot of the things he’s proposed. Likely they’ll pick and chose. For example his tax cut plans, they’ll go for the idea of cutting taxes to the wealthy or getting rid of estate taxes, but likely leave out the bit about closing off loopholes. Which given how ruthlessly Trump has relied on those loopholes himself (he’s probably not paid any tax for 18 years), its likely he’ll go along with. This will, as noted, push up the deficit, leave many poor Americans worse off, while the wealthiest one % are much better off. As fo

The GOP will also go after various ideological issues that play well with their electorate, e.g. repeal Obamacare, ban abortion and gay marriage, deport migrants (although oddly enough not his wife!), make gun ownership compulsory (except for Muslims and minorities of course!), etc. The environment, well they’re pretty much going to ban that, with consequences much like in this Simpson’s sketch  (its scary how old Simpson’s episodes are starting to play out in reality).However, they will likely face Filibustering tactics from the democrats, who will effectively now try to shut down congress and count down the clock on Trump’s presidency. And the GOP can hardly complain as this was essentially their tactics under Obama. In short, its likely the log jam in US politics will get worse under Trump not better.

There are some positive policies that might emerge, the GOP and Trump being the hypocrites that they are, they can be prone to a strong element of “not invented here” syndrome. e.g. Obamacare. Mitt Romney was dead set against this, and I mean who the hell came up with this job killing idea?Mitt Romney did, Obamacare was modelled along the lines of similar policies in various American states…including one brought in by Mitt Romney! This explains Trump’s dithering on repealing Obamacare. He’d be replacing it with something very similar, just a bit more expensive and not as effective.

Similarly he might get certain things passed, who knows maybe even some modest gun control measures, some job creation through another stimulus package (much of which will inevitably find its way into his and his supporters pockets of course), simply because he proposed these things rather than Obama or Hillary. But beyond that, I’d brace yourself for disappointment.

Trump v’s the world
Trump will also face opposition worldwide. Pulling back from the Paris climate deal is not that straightforward, its now entered into international law, he’s going to find it very difficult to pivot away without suffering blow back. And the deal explicitly states that a country must give 4 years notice before leaving, so that’s not even possible within his presidency.

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He also wants to make friends with Putin and break with the NATO alliance. Ya, run that by your generals first! They would be appalled and point out the dangers in such a policy towards US interests. Most of America’s forward deployed forces are in Europe. They rely on European airspace to supply forces in the middle east, conduct intelligence in Russia and watch for possible missile launches. Losing that is simply not acceptable as far as his generals will be concerned.

And I take it he doesn’t want to get re-elected? You do know that one of Putin’s allies happens to be a little place called IRAN who took delivery incidentally of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles a few weeks back. These missiles effectively make it very unlikely that Israel could now carry out any attacks against Iran without losing a lot of aircraft. As one US general put itIran is now Israel proof”. Even the US forces would now have to accept causalities from any bombing missions against Iran. Which means Trump would upset the Israeli lobby by cosying up to Putin.

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And it takes some doing to have the Israeli’s and the Arab world against you. Those Muslim’s he wants to stop from coming into the US happen to control over 50% of the world’s oil production and hold many strategic bases. They now might just go away and form an alliance with the Chinese.

More worryingly its very easy to see how Trump and Putin could get into conflict with each other. For example, egged on by pro-Putin rhetoric from Washington Putin goes into the Baltic states, much like how Saddam mis-read signals from Washington and went into Kuwait. NATO forces, including American forces respond. And note that US commanders in the field don’t necessarily have to call the president before opening fire. If US forces or civilians come under attack, (or NATO allies ask the US commander for assistance) they can respond without waiting for a presidential order. So Trump would have to explicitly order his forces to stand down, even if it meant abandoning American civilians and military forces to be shelled and bombed. He’d be committing the very crime that the GOP tried to claim Hillary committed with regard to Benghazi, except on a much larger scale. He would be vilified, even by his own supporters as a new Benedict Arnold and likely Congress will have him out of office so fast his wig will spin.

Wall street’s man
And the bad news for anyone who did vote for him because your angry about the elites in Wall street in congress, well your a moron, stay away from ballot boxes in future. One little feature of election night I noted, firstly the Asian stock market crashed, dropping 1000 points in a few hours (as you’d expect if you’d followed the campaign). So heavy were these losses that the Dow didn’t open the next day, as it had lost 5% as a consequence of these losses in Asia. Then when it opened rather than the expected falls continuing, instead it barely moved.

Then the Asian markets regained their earlier losses within 24 hrs. To me this indicates that Wall street insiders knew something the Asian stockbrokers didn’t know (but quickly worked out), the fix is in. This behaviour means one of two things A) Wall street knows that something’s planned, Trump will not be president, he’ll have himself a little “accident” in a few days time, the electoral college will vote for Mike Pence or Hillary instead, etc. Or B) He’s been fixed, they’ve got some dirt on him or bought him, he’s their man.

I’m tending towards the second option, given that he’s now talking of repealing the Dodd-Frank act, a key bill brought in by Obama to prevent another financial crisis. In short all that BS during the rallies about going after wall street and draining the swamp, no it was all lies. He’s going to do nothing of the sort. If anything he’s going to make it easier for Wall street to screw the little guy, not the other way around.

Either that or the first option is correct and he’s not going to be president for some reason.

Trump and the UK
There are some in the UK who cheered Trump’s election. Theresa May won’t have been one of those. Firstly, after going to all this trouble to get brexit to kill off UKIP it does not suit the Tory agenda to now have UKIP going around portraying themselves as the UK Trump party. Also there has never been any doubt the UK could get a trade deal from the US, the question was always how beneficial it will be. Its a bit like trying to buy a car. If you’re in a hurry you’ll get it if you pay more than its worth. You want a fair price it takes a lot longer. You may have to walk away from a few deals first.

And again, remember Trump will have to get the details of such a deal past Congress. Recall the US auto lobby. Recall May has essentially committed to getting tariff free trade for the UK car industry. Its not possible to square those two circles. If Trump concedes on this point, he’ll face massive opposition from a very powerful lobby group (who been trying to stop European made cars, essentially those owned by their bitter rivals in Japan, from gaining a foothold in the US market), with their fingers in many swing states (and the pockets of many politicians) and some of the very voters who put him in power work in this industry. If Theresa May concedes, she can be looking at hundreds of thousands of job losses in the lead up to an election. There’s a solution, but its not that easy, it will take time and careful negotiation.

And if the UK ends up part of some sort of transatlantic trading bloc, they could face sanctions and punitive tariffs from the EU and China. Given that the UK does more of its trade with the EU than America, if it has to pick a side, the logical thing to do would be to pick the EU (of course there I go with my “logic” and “facts” again). This is the whole reason why so many voted remain. The UK is too small to be a world power by itself anymore. Its option are to either pool its resources with the rest of Europe, or become a vassal state of an existing empire, literally the 51st state in all but name.

And another reason for voting remain, is that the fear of the UK becoming essentially airstrip one (of 1984 fame) if it leaves the EU. You may enquire what’s to stop the US moving its forces in Europe and stationing them in Britain. Well, firstly geography (the Middle East is too far away! And you’d still need overflight rights from the Europeans). Secondly, this would be political suicide for the Tories. All of that controversy back in the 80’s over US missiles in the UK would spark off again. This is exactly the sort of controversy that could blow the Scottish independence referendum wide open or give Corbyn a fighting chance in 2020.

Trump’s Impeachment
The GOP wanted to impeach Hillary “in her ball gown. This does seem unlikely, most of the controversies she has been accused of were simply made up or over-egged. More importantly the GOP have now set the bar for what constitutes grounds for presidential impeachment so low, its basically a given that any president whom they don’t like, if they can get the necessary votes, he can be removed from office.

And Trump has been involved in numerous scandals already, as noted he will be spending quite a bit of time in and out of court as it is. Also there are already warning signs of where a possible future scandal will erupt. Making white supremacist Steve Bannon as possible white house chief of staff for example, or that odorous brown envelope distributing toad Myron Ebell as head of the EPA, appointing his own relatives to senior posts, yet they also are trustees on the trust fund that will manage his finances during the presidency. You could start a sweepstake on how long before the balloon goes up.

And the democrats show every sign that they are going to come out of the gate swinging on the 21st of January. They feel that they have been cheated out of the presidency and are likely out for blood. They don’t have a majority enough to start impeachment, but they can start making waves. The GOP will likely try to hang onto Trump, so long as he’s useful. If he proves himself to be the disaster many expect him to be, the democrats won’t have to try very hard to convince enough of the Republicans to back impeachment. Personally I reckon a Trump impeachment attempt (successful or not) is essentially a matter of when not if.

Rise of Fascism

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Of course we are making a very dangerous assumption here. That all the checks and balances of the US government will work. But what if they don’t? G. W. Bush should have been at the least investigated over the Iraq war and those “black flights” but he wasn’t (even Trump agrees with this). Its quite clear that Trump and a number of his inner circle have fascist tendencies. The way he’s now flip flopping like John Kerry at a summer footwear convention does suggest that they regard their own supporters as sheep. Mindless drones in a cult of personality who are too be manipulated, control and where necessary betrayed.

Keep in mind that Hitler was helped into power by the very sort of people who helped Trump into power, because they saw him as a useful idiot, who could be used to keep the plebs in line, while they the establishment still secretly ran things. Of course they didn’t count on Hitler ending democracy and relying on his cult of personality to rule by degree. The checks and balances of the US state are about to be subject to destructive testing that will test them to their limits.

If they fail the consequences are pretty grim. As Obama pointed out, one has to worry about a vain insecure man like him, who can’t be trusted with a Twitter account, having access to the nuclear codes. We are very close to midnight I fear.

And if the checks and balances fail, let us remember who got us here. Republicans, (so called) conservatives, plus Jill Stein and Libertarian voters, this one is on all of you. Historians of the future may judge your actions very harshly. My own guess its we that Trump in power probably signals that the US has receded from its high water mark. The US has essentially voted to go backwards, to retreat from the world, to be a less progressive place, to be the new “sick man” of world politics (by putting a sick man in charge). And that is the real problem with this election result.

You’ve been Trumped too

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All in all, I think Trump was summed up rather well by Michael Forbes, the farmer who opposes Trump up in Aberdeenshire. In the recent film you’ve been Trumped Too, he reminisced that when Trump came to Scotland half the country loved him (including Alex Salmond) and half hated him. Now everyone hates him as they realised he’s a complete con artist, who tells tall tales, never delivers, he just fills his own pockets and massages his own ego.

My guess is that this is the reality, Trump is out for one person – himself. He doesn’t care if the country falls apart so long as he comes out on top. And that’s who America voted for!

Bigoted Britain

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One of the more unsavoury aspects of the brexit vote is how the bigot brigade now feel they can throw their weight about. There’s been a worrying rise in racist and xenophobic incidents, up 14% nationally, but as high as 70% higher in some hot spots. A number of foreigner visitors (some only here as tourists) have reported all manner of stories of random abuse being shouted at them, eggs thrown at them, shop windows smashed or being attacked in a public park. Even Lily Allen has reported how she had abuse shouted at her by a cab driver who refused to accept her fare (she’d said something earlier in the week about how the UK should take in more refugees). And this is on the mild side. We have of course the recent murder of a Polish man (now being investigated as a hate crime) and of course just prior to the referendum, there was the murder of MP Jo Cox by a pro-leave bigot.

Unsurprisingly given that Britain has become a more racist and unwelcoming place, some have had enough and there’s stories of how some Polish people are now moving out of the UK, now no longer feeling welcome. I’ve even heard talk from one or two people I know who are thinking about leaving. We’ve even got the rather embarrassing story of how the descendants of Jewish families who came to Britain to flee the nazi’s, are now fleeing back across the channel and seeking to regain their German citizenship.

The word “Britain is increasingly being seen in international circles as synonymous with the word “bigot. And anyone who voted brexit, let us be clear this one is on your head. Make whatever excuses you want, but by voting leave you made common cause with the sorts of racists and bigots a previous generation of Briton’s died to stop from taking over this country. By voting leave you betrayed every principle the UK was founded on. For shame! History will likely judge your actions very harshly.

Far right out of the closet
Stateside some Americans might be tempted to take the moral high ground and say how awfully racist the British now are…yet they still can’t explain why so many want to vote for Trump. Maybe I can offer an explanation.

In part it has to do with “the bloc”, that being the GOP voters, who for various reasons (ideology, religion, down right ignorance and stupidity), will always vote GOP no matter what. The GOP could nominate Kim Jung un, he could campaign on a platform of selling them all into slavery and randomly shot into the crowds at his rallies and I guarantee you the GOP would still carry most of the “red states”. Even if the reincarnation of George Washington was the democrat candidate.

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Secondly, Americans, much like the British, need to accept that they are a much more racist country than they have ever realised. Case in point, the Bundy brigade who held up a wild life preserve at gun point, then after a stand off, car chase and shoot out (which left one of their number dead) recently beat the rap and walked out of court without any punishment. By contrast, protesters against an oil pipeline in Dakota have been harassed, suppressed and imprisoned. A reporter, who was filming the protests, now faces 45 years in prison. Edward Snowden would get a “mere” 30 years if he arrived back in the US.

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Spot the terrorist (PS, according to the Trump bigot brigade, its not the guy with a gun)

And in other news missed within the election coverage, a Saudi student was killed in what is believed to have been a racially motivated attack. Plus, as James Comey’s blatantly politically motivated actions have illustrated, parts of the FBI are filled with racist rightwing partisans.

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An African American church burning…in the name of Trump!

One is reminded of the bad old days in the deep south where the Klan would go out and lynch someone, get caught and walk out of court scot free. Meanwhile any black or northern college activists who tried to do something about segregation would be followed around by the cops, get beaten to a pulp while the cops looked on and then get themselves arrested and the book thrown at them for the most minor offences…..then also get lynched and murdered themselves.

The unfortunate reality which this election campaign has exposed, is that racism in the US did not end with the Jim Crow laws. It just went underground, it went dark. The reality many Americans need to accept is that probably about 1/3 of the country, or at least 3/4’s  of “the block”, are racists and bigots. They do not believe that a black person is equal to a white person (some even argue that blacks were better off as slaves!). Nor is a catholic, a Jew or a Muslim equal to a WASP like them. That Hillary is automatically disqualified from being president, not because of her emails or her politics, but because she’s a women and a women can’t be in charge of a man.

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And its obvious the US far right plan to try and intimidate ethnic minority voters during the voting on Tuesday. Already some of them are showing up at polling stations with guns. The irony is their excuse is they fear the election being rigged…..so they plan on basically rigging it themselves! One can only assume that if they win, much like how the brexit brigade were emboldened in the UK, they’ll go on the rampage. We’ll be hearing stories of burning crosses on people’s lawns and ethinc minorities being driven out of white neighbourhoods.

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Again spot the terrorist…hint he’s the guy who isn’t white

Making the West history
And what are the likely consequences of all of this? I mean if foreigners leave it will mean more jobs for British people? Actually no! If one or two of the people I know leave, well yes I suppose a British person could take their job…..if they’ve got a PhD in a particular narrow field of chemistry or engineering and about ten years experience! Oh, and if they leave they take their research grant with them and the half a dozen British technicians who work for them get the sack.

As for lower paid workers, it is often argued they are doing the jobs the British won’t do. That’s not quite true. Often the problem is that these jobs are temporary posts in locations far away from unemployment blackspots. A Polish person will have no problems relocating to Inverness for 6 months to do a minimum wage job over the summer. But a Britain person in Skegness with a house and kids in school often isn’t willing to do so. Remove the option to hire the Polish person just means one of three outcomes, the job will be unfilled, raising the risk of the company shutting up shop or move overseas. The company may increase its wages to tempt a British person to take it (but that pushes up the cost of the services it offers, making it more expensive to UK customers and potentially rendering the company uncompetitive internationally). Or,  the company may seek to eliminate the job by automating it altogether. All in all, the likely outcome of this rise in racism is likely to be less people in employment not more.

As I’ve pointed out before, the UK is not Australia (i.e. a combination mining colony and holiday destination). Running a knowledge based economy in an ageing country without the ability to bring in young minds (and tax payers) and fresh ideas is likely to be a recipe for economic disaster in the long run. The next generation of inventors and innovators will skip Britain (and the US) and head for less racially charged nations. Neil Ferguson pointed out in his series a few years ago, The west, and in particular Britain’s, success in past centuries boiled down to a number of “killer apps”. Competition, Science, rule of law, etc. Now you (like me) may dispute some of this theory here, even perhaps devise your own set of “apps”, but one cannot help but point out that many of these “apps” only work on the implicit assumption that the West remains open to foreigners to coming in and open to new ideas (i.e. none of this anti-science malarkey also on the rise since brexit).

And keep in mind that the UK is at a disadvantage to other Western states because it lacks the natural resources of the US, Canada or Australia. It doesn’t have the high value exports and warm climate of Spain, Italy or France and its got nothing like the high tech industrial base of Germany. Indeed per capita, even Ireland ranks above the UK for industry as a proportion of its GDP (20% in Ireland v’s 10% in the UK).

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So brexit now threatens to undermine the UK’s ability to bring in new talent (such as scientists, doctors, etc.). Indeed the country may now lose the people it has as they seek their fortunes in other parts of the world (as the falling pound means a massive drop in relative salaries). Already quite a few recent engineering graduates are heading for the exits.

Also the other “killer app” of the UK (relative to the rest of the West) has been its relatively free markets and easy access to finance. Given that the banks are on the verge of jumping ship (for better or for worse) that crosses off that one. An orderly evacuation of New York is possible if Trump wins. And the post-brexit UK is now an economy based heavily on government intervention and political patronage, as the Nissan and Hinkley deals make clear. Those who bend’eth the knee before the brexit high sept, will have gifts lavished on them. Those who are seen to be out of favour (e.g. wind farms which have helped cut UK carbon emissions by rather a lot recently and stabilise energy prices in he wake of rising gas prices thanks to brexit) are punished for their success. Keep in mind that its likely the Nissan deal could work out as extremely costly to the UK, and Hinkley C is likely to cost the taxpayer tens of billions (on top of the hundreds of billions bill payers will have to stump up over its 50 year life). And its recently been revealed that the government will have to pick up the tab for the plant’s eventual decommissioning (which generally has worked out more expensive than building the plant in the first place).

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And one cannot help but point out the irony of a brexit won on the back of a lie that we’d get money back of johnny foreigner in Brussels to spend on the NHS….instead the UK is likely to have to pay out billions to foreign multinationals and billionaires, while the NHS is screaming for funding, with dire warnings of possibly collapse in the provision of certain services if something isn’t done quickly. Hardly progress is it! And as a whole the UK government is already facing a £14 billion shortfall due to falling tax revenue.

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And this post brexit bigotry also raises a more serious risk, the breakup of the UK. I would argue that hidden in the small print of the contract that is the UK is the long standing principle that the English, who make up the majority of the UK’s population, will not use their majority position to force English nationalist domination onto the other parts of the country. Brexit and the bigotry it has spawned obviously suggests that this particular contract has been torn up. And if that’s the case, then the UK itself is on borrowed time. I’m not sure if the Indyref2 will go the SNP’s way, we’ll have to see. I will certainly be voting yes, if only to get away from all of this awful xenophobia. But even if its another no vote, I’d still argue a future break up of the UK becomes a matter of “when” and “how” and no longer “if”, unless something is done to kill of this rising tide of bigotry. The lessons of history are not on the UK’s side here.

Recall how the Soviet Union tried to hold things together as the Commonwealth of Independent states after the fall of communism, which very quickly broke down, once the other nations saw a rising tide of Russian nationalism. Similarly Yugoslavia broke up, when the other nations feared domination by the Serb majority. Czechoslovakia split down the middle as well. And the Austro-Hungarian Empire imploded after World War I once it became clear the scale of the mess the Hapsburg’s had dragged the various ethnic groups in the country into. And least we forget Ireland left the UK also thanks to World War I because the view was taken that we could no longer tolerate English interference in Irish affairs, or being dragged into European wars that we wanted nothing to do with.

One of course hopes the future breakup of the UK will be peaceful, but speeches along the lines of how “we came into the EU as one nation and will leave as one”from the brexit brigade sound eerily similar to what was coming out of Slobodan Milosevic’s mouth in the lead up to the Yugoslav civil war. Trying to stonewall the Scots in the event of indyref2 (which seems to be Theresa May’s plan) is a potentially very dangerous tactic.

Equally headlines branding Judges “enemies of the peopleis the sort of thing I’d expect to read in Der Sturmer in the 1930’s, not the UK in the 21st century. And of course one cannot help but put point out the irony of how one of the arguments for brexit is that British judges should make decisions like this….now the British judges have spoken they’ve been vilified. There’s a very real risk that if there is a vote on brexit in parliament, of it being turned into a rerun of the 1933 Enabling law vote in Germany.

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So if brexit means bigotry, then I would argue its a price that is too high. The price is likely to be the future economic prosperity of the UK, if not an end to the UK itself. Thus brexit must be stopped, or failing that it must be set up to screw over the bigot brigade. A soft brexit, with open borders, a relaxed policy on refugees (here’s a thought, the regions which voted the most for brexit should be required to take in a higher proportion of them!) should be a priority.

And there needs to be a change in the law to drive the bigots back into whatever gutter they crawled out of. Fines, prison sentences, a block on claiming benefits or working in a public sector related job, all should be increased to make them think twice before opening their dirty racist pie holes. I’d argue this taxi driver who refused to pick up Lily Allen should be stripped of his cab license for life. Anyone who is convicted of racial hatred, I say treat them like the UKBA treats migrants to the UK. They’d have to go through several years of paying taxes but going without benefits payments or tax credits or voting rights. Then, assuming they behave (else we reset the clock and they have to start all over again), they earn the right to reapply for citizenship to get all of these things back (paying through the nose for it, going through citizenship classes & tests, etc.). That might teach them a bit of respect!

The future of work

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Many from working class areas of Britain voted for Brexit because they fear their jobs are under threat from migrants. Similarly support for Trump has been growing in parts of the US rust belt. And there’s a major divide, both sides of the Atlantic, when it comes to education. If you have a college degree, you are very unlikely to be a Trump supporter and less likely to have voted leave.

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Now it has to be said that the argument that migrants are taking jobs isn’t backed up by the facts. A strong leave vote was seen in the parts of the UK with the lowest number of migrants, while places like London with very high rates of migrant tended to vote for remain. Similarly, major US cities, where migrants tend to concentrated tend not to be the places where there is strong support for Trump. So either these migrants are holding down three of four jobs (and presumably being rapist, drug dealers and claiming benefits in whatever limited free time this busy schedule allows them), or the risk they pose is being vastly overestimated.

When I hear the story about how, oh I can’t get a job because the company down the road just hired a load of Poles/Mexicans who will work 60 hours a week for 3 bucks an hour, my response is A) don’t you think you should report that to the proper authorities? because its kind of illegal! B) leaving the EU ain’t going to help, you do realise Switzerland and Norway have more migrants per capita than the UK? C) In a globalised world, restricting the movement of labour will result in jobs moving overseas, so its foreigners staying at home and taking your job we need to worry about (far more jobs have moved overseas than have been taken by foreigners moving here) and D) do you have these guys number? cos I’ve got this bit of decking…..

But there’s an elephant in the room here that I think both sides of the debate are missing – automation and technology. In short, even if it were true that you’re in competition with Poles or Mexicans working for £3 a hour (which you aren’t, its just a neo-fascist myth), how do you expect to keep your job when you are competing against a machine that will do the job 24/7 for nothing?

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Like the frog in the saucepan, technology has crept up on us and we’ve not noticed. And yes it is changing the workplace as we know it . Think about it, when was the last time you rented a video? I’m guessing you get your video fixes from youtube or netflix these days? In fact when was the last time you saw a video store? Are there any young people reading this who need me to explain what a video store is? How about booking a holiday or flight in a travel agent? And I mean in an actual office, not online? Same with car insurance or other financial products. What about paying your taxes online? don’t tell me you actually take a day off work so you can go down the tax office and do in manually (obviously you’ve way too much free time!).

Online shopping is now much more common. And in shops these days various tasks are becoming more and more automated. We have those self service checkouts. Its conceivable in the not too distant future that shelves could be stacked by machine (we have machines that can do that already) or even provide customer service (yep, they’ve prototype machines that can do that).

Automated cars are now being developed and while I reckon it will be some time before they become a day to day reality (not because the machine’s aren’t smart enough, but because they have to share the road with dumb humans). But they are probably going to happen eventually, which will have numerous implications…. and meaning a whole host of jobs disappearing or changing radically. And there are similar plans to automate entire ships, cargo planes or trains.

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Could the Johnny cabs of Total Recall become a thing of the future?

In short technology has changed the world of work and it will continue to do so. There will still be jobs available, but many traditional jobs will disappear, and the skill set you need to get those jobs still available (or the new jobs created by technology) will continue to rise. This is the problem facing certain segments of society. As they see it, the bar keeps going up, they can’t get over it anymore, so they have it in their heads that we can somehow lower the bar again and keep everything the same, but we can’t, not without reversing many recent technological trends and isolating ourselves from the globalised world.

In manufacturing engineering for example, we are well ahead of the curve. There’s still plenty of people working in UK factories and the UK still makes lots of stuff. Prior to the Brexit vote the UK was on course exceed its 1970’s peak in car production by the 2020’s, even though the work force is a fraction of what it used to be (i.e. automation has made a smaller workforce more productive). However, nobody gets a job these days in a factory without some sort of qualification. The days when, like in Bruce Springsteen’s “the river”  (or Jimmy Nail’s “big river) , your dad could have a word with the guys down at the plant and you could walk straight into a unionised job for life are long gone.

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Many traditional jobs will increasingly disappear in future

And my prediction is that this will now roll out across the entire economy. The blunt message I’d give to people is that if you don’t have some sort of third level qualification (a degree or professional qualification of some kind) you will probably struggle to remain employed in future. So for those who voted Brexit, or are thinking of voting Trump, I’d say leave migrants alone, they are not the main threat to your employment, you need to get educated.

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And to be honest, you won’t want to be employed in future if you don’t have a qualification. What few unskilled jobs that remain will be increasingly the really crappy jobs that nobody wants, with the highest levels of job insecurity and the worst pay. The sort of jobs which will only be taken by students (who will take anything while they pay their way through college), recently arrive migrants (who just want some cash while they settle in), or those suitably desperate who can’t find anything else. Indeed, the employees of Sports Direct will argue this is already reality for them. You could argue that quite a number of those who voted Brexit (or Trump) are the canaries in the coal mine, as they are already seeing these effects.

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Feel worthless at work sometimes? Others have it worse

However, their actions are likely to prove counter productive. Restricting migration does not mean locals will find it easier to get work. What’s likely to happen is employers will just move jobs overseas, or you’ve just given them a very strong financial incentive to find a way of developing a machine to do those jobs instead.

So clearly such a future of work means some profound changes for society. Obviously the costs of third level education means its beyond the reach of many. Hence why I think of all the proposals from Bernie Sanders that Hillary needs to endorse, its reducing college tuition costs. Yes, I realise that won’t be cheap (i.e. can she afford it and still reduce the deficit?), but I suspect it will be a necessity in future, if a massive level of social stratification is to be avoided.

And in the UK far from putting up fees, we need to start cutting them. Is it any coincidence that in countries like Germany where higher education is free, there is less unemployment and less people whinging about migrants?

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And this is not just for the benefit of those who don’t have a degree yet. Even those of us who have one will likely need to return to university to learn new skills from time to time. A recent trend in academia has been a move towards what are called massive online learning courses. And these are mostly aimed at post-grads (rather than undergrads) looking to learn a new skill. I won’t be surprised if a few years from now, the main job of universities is supporting courses like this, rather than teaching degrees to undergrads in RL.

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The future of work will likely be a future where we need to accept the fact that change is good, its normal. We need to be intellectually curious and willing to learn new things and try out new ideas. Of course if you’re a conservative voter, changes are you’re not intellectually curious and you don’t want things to change. You are also more likely to reject ideas like global warming and evolution. The roller coaster of technology is going too fast, they want it to stop so they can get off.

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In the future all of us will need to re-train and change careers from time to time

But getting off the roller coaster would mean giving up what we have. Given that I can’t see us banning the use of the internet for commercial purposes (I mean how would you even police that!) or introducing soviet style jobs for the boys policies (you join one queue and then another), I don’t see how these future trends can be halted. Technology has created many problems for our society (e.g. global warming) and often as not, the solution to these problems is more technology (e.g. renewables, electric cars). So the “getting off the roller coaster” option that conservatives are aiming for would come with a price and I don’t think they understand that this price is probably more than they are willing to accept (you’d have to live sustainably without fossil fuels or renewables…. so basically become Amish!).

Another question we have to ask is whether full employment is a realistic goal for future society. Our entire economic system assumes that anyone who can work will work, but that may not be true in future, there might not be enough jobs to go around in the future.

Now in theory this shouldn’t be an issue. Technology merely means making a smaller pool of workers more productive. In Germany and Scandinavia, yes the manufacturing sectors are smaller than they were a few decades ago. But they avoided the wholesale decimation of working class areas seen in the US or UK, with some districts being reduced to little more than welfare colonies. This I would argue is because the bulk of these job losses were due to miss guided neo-liberal economic policies in the US and the UK. Reversing these policies would seem a sensible solution, although voting for Trump or Brexit amounts to asking for a double helping of more of the same.

So in theory, full employment is still a possibility. But we need to remember that more productivity often means more energy and resource consumption. Now with good recycling policies and a 100% renewable energy grid this shouldn’t be a problem, but we don’t have that yet. So its possible that full employment will not be possible in future (at least for some period of time). Which means some profound changes to society. Given that already the number of workers is falling in Western states thanks to an ageing population, this means even less and less people having to pay more and more of a nation’s taxes to fund the welfare for those who aren’t working.

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Migrants are increasingly needed to help fund retirement for an ageing population

And incidentally curbing migration, which means less young people coming into the workforce and paying taxes to fund the pensions and healthcare of retirees, is likely to prove entirely counter-productive. It could well be a recipe for national bankruptcy.

My view is that we may need to change how the entire tax system works. This is one of the reasons I’ve long favoured a system of carbon taxes, or taxes on things that are generally bad for society (e.g. high VAT on alcohol or fatty foods), a Tobin tax (i.e. a tax on financial transactions) and of course higher rates of corporation tax. In all cases, the goal here is to spread the tax net away from simply funding everything off of income taxes and pushing those rates up every time the state coffers run bare. Which of course tends to provoke much whinging from the fewer and fewer workers stuck paying incoming tax.

And as for distributing welfare, well one alternative to the current system is that of a basic national income paid out to everyone. This would be enough to fund housing and keep people out of poverty. You want more money, you want the luxuries, get a job and work for it. No more whining about lazy people on benefits, everyone is on benefits, indeed presumably this system would come with the clause that such payment would be withdrawn if anyone commits anti-social behaviour (e.g. petty crime, dodging taxes via your offshore account, the usual!). Just this year the Swiss at a referendum on implementing this. Now while it was rejected, I think this was because many didn’t understand the underlying issues. So I won’t be surprised if such ideas don’t catch on in future.

So in essence our society is at a crossroads. I’d argue that we are at the end of a 2nd gilded age. Like the first gilded age, this was a time when neo-liberal capitalists ran wild, we all had a big party and nobody complained a lot because everyone was doing rather well out of it (as this moment of Zen from the film Margin Call summarises). But now, like in the 1920’s we’re stuck with the hangover. And like society in the 1920’s we face a choice.

On the one hand we can opt for a new deal of continuing down the path of social and technology progress. And let’s face it, progress is good. The factories of past era’s, yes there was full employment, but they were awful places to work. Repetitive backbreaking labour while being exposed to extremes of heat, noise, toxic chemicals and rotating machinery. Many had to retire from such jobs in their 50’s because their job ruined their health. Technology means that cars and other products these days are safer, more reliable (used to be the best way to make money from TV’s was selling warranties to fix them), more energy efficient and more user friendly. I mean is anyone reading this seriously suggesting that they hate Microsoft/Apple/Google so much that you want your old Commodore 64 back?

Or, as some societies did in the 1920’s and 30’s, we may end up taking the regressive path of fascism, blaming foreigners and other convenient scapegoats for all of our ills, restricting trade, reversing past policies, going backwards and focusing inward….until said leaders realise they need a war to prevent national bankruptcy and likely end up starting world war 3 in the process!

US election update

Out of Cruz control

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Well the big news I suppose was Ted Cruz dropping out of the race. To be fair, he was something of a forlorn hope, as many argued Ted Cruz was as bad as, if not worse, than Trump. I mean let’s read of a few of his ringing endorsements:

Ted Cruz is Lucifer in the Flesh” John Boehner

If you shot Ted Cruz on the floor of the senate, and the trial was held in the Senate, nobody would convict you” Mitch McConnell

Voting for Cruz over Trump is like picking between being shot or poisoned, I choose to be poisoned, who know’s maybe they’ll find a cure” (ya its called Hilary Clinton!) Lindsey Graham.

And that’s his supporters talking! His policies were crazy, a little less fascist than Trump’s yes, but not by much. Needless to say, even if he unseated Trump at a messy convention, his chances of winning against Hilary were pretty low, once people realised what they were signing up for by voting for him (basically national bankruptcy and stern authoritarianism).

John Kaisch also dropped out. He actually had a fighting chance against Hilary (in that he’s vaguely sane!), he’s rated well in the polls. Although that’s probably more because many people don’t know much about him, i.e. that he was a Lehman brother executive.

These two candidates dropping out at the same time does sort of hint at orders from above. As always with the GOP, we have to read between the lines to figure out what’s happened behind the scenes. Its possible the republican establishment has made peace with Donald Trump, although the current lack of endorsements from past presidents, candidates or the speaker suggests otherwise….its equally possible they are planning to back Hilary!

My guess is that the GOP establishment have simply decided to write off this year’s presidential election, instead focusing on senate and congressional races. Hilary is arguably the most right wing democratic candidate to emerge in recent years, so contrary to the anti-Hilary rhetoric you will hear from Fox News, the bottom line is they can live with Hilary as president.

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The polls put her at least 6 points ahead already. And such polls often ignore the 12% of “don’t knows”. The trouble for Trump is that “don’t knows” tend to pick the safest and least radical candidate, the one promising the least amount of change, which in this election is Hilary. So the balance of probability is her winning and winning by a significant margin, not least given how well she’s doing in certain key demographics (in truth Hilary could finish behind Trump nationally and still win, just via the way certain swing states will likely vote).

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Hilary would rate as the least radical candidate still in the race….and this is the Wall Street Journal talking!

Keep in mind (based on the 2012 results), a 5 point lead gives her all of the swing states and at 10 points even states like Georgia, Missouri, Arizona or Indiana become vulnerable. And any significant shift by GOP voters to a third party (e.g. the Libertarians) could lead to near total wipe out for the GOP.

Already the Koch brothers have stopped funding presidential super-pac’s and started moving money the way of senate and congressional races (which would have been another factor in Cruz and Kaisich dropping out). Ultimately if they can control the senate and congress, then they can control the white house regardless of who is in charge. They’ll want to deny Hilary a majority, although with Trump as the candidate, that might now be impossible. Even John McCain is getting worried he might lose now Trump’s the nominee.

So at the very least they’ll want to deny Hilary a large majority. At between 55-60% the democrats will be able to over ride filibustering (depending on how many Republicans they can get to support said bill). This means they will be able to present bill after bill after bill. In theory the first 100 days of Hilary could see more legislation passed than 8 years of Obama, if enough senate and congressional seats can be won.

All in all, the GOP establishment probably now see Trump as the best way for them to win back control of their party. They let the baby have his bottle, wait till after Trump’s crashed and burned and then they’ll be able to say to the Tea party types “you guys had a simple job to do, pick between Tweedledum and Tweedledee (Bush and Rubio!), but instead you picked someone as racist and retarded as your redneck inbreed trailer trash selves. And what did it get us? The worst election performance since Herbert Hoover, loss of the senate, congress, supreme court, Hilary as president, Nancy fu&%ing Pelosi as VP (actually it could well be Wesley Clark) and Elisabeth Warren as chief justice. So next time you guys need to do what you’re effing told and leave the thinking to us, that how the GOP is supposed to work dammit!”

How bad could Trump be?

Well just a taster from some of his recent announcements regarding economic policy (see a Young Turks video on this here). Basically he proposed to borrow massively, then renege on those debts and drive the country over the fiscal cliff as and when he can…………………. ……..I’m pausing right now so that any bankers or economists reading this can get back up off the floor…..Trump winning would be disaster for both them or indeed anyone with any interest in this thing the rest of us call “money” (so Bernie Sanders supporters have nothing to worry about then!).

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Trump’s tax plans would require a significant rise in borrowing, even assuming no rise in public spend (to pay for wars, walls & border guards, etc.)

Obviously with the threat of a national default looming over them, many investors will stop lending money to the federal government, as they will only do so if they consider it low risk (pension funds are all but legally obliged to only take on certain forms of safe investments). The value of the dollar will plummet as those hanging onto US bonds dump them, interest rates for the US government (if they are able to borrow at all) will rise, which will then have a knock on effect across the wider economy In short, mortgages will go up along with personal and business loans, insurance, etc. And we are talking rises of 10 perhaps 15% (about what happened last time there was a major crisis like this). At the same time the costs of buying in goods from abroad will go up, likely leading to higher inflation (bad news if your on a fixed income like pensioners).

Keep in mind that what caused the last financial crisis was the fact that assets previously considered to be triple A safe (mortgage backed securities) turned out to be not so safe. Banks stopped lending to one another as nobody knew who was holding the bag. This same scenario would play out again, except now there would be no bailout, as the Federal government would be what’s in trouble. While the IMF would normally step in at this point and restore order, its difficult to see them reaching a deal with Trump. Given that the first thing they’d demand is that he commits to paying back all bond holders and balances the US books through a crash program of austerity and tax rises that would make what Greece when through seem mild.

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So in essence a vote for Trump could well be a vote for economic chaos. Its no wonder he and the establishment are at odds with one another.

Crash and Bern

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So primary season is over you say? well no, Bernie Sanders, who is wildly popular with youngsters who don’t understand how politics work millennials, is still running. His supporters still think he can win, they need to learn about this thing called maths .

Bernie’s supporters point to polls which put him well ahead of Trump and suggest he would be better able to beat Trump than Hilary. Certainly, I do agree that Hilary’s biggest problem…is that she’s Hilary Clinton. There’s a certain segment of US society who have been indoctrinated by the media to sooner gnaw their own arm off than vote for her, but there-in lies the problem for Bernie supporters. Bernie is only ahead in these polls because many aren’t as familiar with him than they are with Trump or Hilary. If we were to put together a poll of Hilary v’s David Franklin or Franklin v’s Trump you’d probably find Franklin winning…at least among those who didn’t know Franklin’s a convicted serial killer!

The fact is going around America calling yourself a socialist isn’t exactly a way to win an election. Now okay, to be fair the US has its own form of socialism, in the form of massive subsidies to certain special interests (farmers, anyone who drives a car, republican leaning states, corporations who supply the Federal government, etc.). Its basically the united states of France. The only difference is that in other countries such spending is more evenly distributed and they are better at raising taxes to pay for it. So what Bernie is proposing isn’t that radical.

But there have been many Americans who have been raised from birth to believe that socialism is the work of the devil. That its anti-democratic and will involve the “feds” coming to take away all of your wealth, guns, grandma (to the death panel) and ban all religion. Now yes, that’s a pile of grade A BS, but its the sort of thing that would cost Bernie a lot of votes, and he’s not been doing very well in certain key demographic’s he’d need to carry key swing states.

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If Bernie wins – A party election ad for Trump (actually its a Chick Tract, but same thing!)

Don’t get me wrong, I am not necessarily a Hilary supporter. Indeed I think its a travesty that the democrats could not come up with a compromise candidate somewhere between the extremes of Hilary and Bernie. But we are where we are. The fact is that Bernie continuing to run benefits only one person – Donald Trump. Bernie supporters who say “Bernie or bust” need to realise that this is the equivalent of declaring that you will vote twice for Donald Trump. Bernie needs to quit the race and endorse Hilary asap.

House of Cards

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I wonder if some Americans wished they could vote for Frank Underwood…given the likely choice in November

Technical problems

The RNC have had to cope with a serious technical fault with their latest GOP establishment service drone Rubio the robot. In previous elections voters had complained that GOP drones came in only one colour (white!), were all fairly old and dated, wore identical suits, same colour tie and weren’t as cool as the service drones on offer from the democrats. So based on focus groups, the GOP came up with something they thought might be a winner.

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Unfortunately, the GOP forgot that the bulk of the party base are white and mildly racist. They have been opting instead to go for a variety of foreign imports or have been conned into installing ransomware in the pay of a criminal syndicate.

Meanwhile the democrats are having technical difficulties problems of their own with their latest product Clinton 2.0. This is based on the highly successful Clinton 1.0, a much admired product from the 1990’s. It had many handy features, such as double digit growth and came with a balanced budget. Unfortunately, it also came with a number of hardware problems, notably the tendency of a certain bit of hardware to turn on and then refuse to turn off whenever young interns came near.

The democrats were confident that they’d fixed all these problems, however Clinton 2.0 has proven vulnerable to the Millennial bug. It also has a habit of shutting down and hiding e-mails, or storing them in unsecured servers. And Clinton 2.0 might be vulnerable to a piece of GOP malware known as “Benghazi”.

The reckoning

Jokes aside, the dropping out of Rubio benefits only two people – Ted Cruz and Hilary Clinton. Rubio was the GOP’s best shot at defeating her and while her victory is certainly not assured, I doubt you’ll find many bookies taking bets against her winning now (last I checked they were quoting odds of 5/6).

She is well ahead of both Trump and Cruz in some polls. And even those polls where she is neck and neck with Cruz, I would point out that this is largely because the media haven’t focused on him as much as they have on Hilary or Trump. The fact is, the GOP have been slinging mud at Hilary for the last twenty years. Anyone who was going to be persuaded by negative campaigning against her has already made their minds up.

However neither of the GOP candidates have been subject to that level of scrutiny. If Trump thinks the primaries have been tough, wait until the election proper starts and all the gaff’s, racist taut’s and unworkable policies get flung back at him.

This is what worries the GOP establishment about Trump and Cruz, they remember what happened with Sarah Palin. She was a wildly popular pick as VP within her own party, but she probably cost McCain the election. Hence the balance of probability is that once the campaign proper starts Hilary will start to pull ahead of either GOP candidate (and she’s already got a clear lead on Trump) and will likely win easily .

Indeed I would argue the major threat to her is that a number of the left wing of her party defecting to some third party on election day. The irony is, that she’s actually one of the most centrist (if not right wing) candidates the democrats have fielded in a long time.  Although the crazier the GOP candidate is, the less likely it is that such defections will happen.

Shooting the hostage

And all of the above assumes essentially ideal conditions and a united GOP. Which doesn’t seem likely! There are further signs that some elements of the GOP simply will not accept Trump (or Cruz) as either the GOP candidate or as a president. They would sooner back Hilary. Recently the EIS rated Trump winning the election as one of the top ten risks to the global economy. Rumours abound of secret meetings between senior GOP figures discussing various strategies to use procedures and rules against Trump to stop him getting the nomination. There is also talk of getting some conservative figure to run as the third party candidate against Trump, thus guaranteeing that regardless of the outcomes of the primaries that he will lose.

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In essence Trump has been holding the GOP hostage by threatening to run as an independent. Now the hostage is about to pull out a gun and threaten to shoot them both if he doesn’t back down. Most of the big financial donors would likely back this third party option (or Hilary). So if Trump wants to make a pointless and doomed run, he’ll be doing it on his own dime. There hope is that he’s got at least some business sense to see that he’s snookered, upon which he’ll resign and drop out.

Although personally I doubt it, as some of his ex-staffers have been pointing out their boss is an egomanic who is just about stupid enough to make a run. Take how he reacted to Romney’s attack on his failed businesses. He tried to claim they are all still up and running and that he owns them all. Well that ain’t so (the steaks came from a butcher, aptly named “Bush). In essence he proved that everything Romney accused him of was true, that he’s a liar and a fraud, who cannot accept his own failures, even when they are staring him in the face. Like the black knight, he’ll keep charging in and then claim victory even when left legless and armless.

The Presidential derailer option

And in other news, Obama has made his pick for the Supreme court. To the surprise of some he picked not a young card carrying member of he ACLU, but a moderate centrist with experience in anti-terrorism cases. This could be seen as an olive branch to Republicans that they can team up to take down Trump or work progressively with Hilary. And there is, it should be noted, a last ditch method by which Trump could be stopped, even if by some miracle he won the election.

The President and Congress, in Obama’s last few weeks, could transfer the bulk of the powers of the President to the House of Representatives (in essence they would be separating out the offices of head of state and head of government, with the speaker of the house effectively becoming the equivalent of the an American PM). With a complaint house (i.e. a majority of republicans in favour and willing to vote down any filibuster attempts by Trump supporters) this is possible. It would render Trump a neutered president. He’d get to cut ribbons and open shopping malls, throw the first pitch in the baseball season, make a speech once a year, but that’s about it.

The trouble is, once enacted it will be very difficult to undo. It would require (after Trump’s gone) a three-fifths majority of both houses, a complaint president and likely a referendum too. In the meantime US decision making will be even more constrained than now, as the role of the US federal government will be reduced to simply waiting out the clock on Trump.

Alternatively, Obama could be laying a trap for the Republicans. If they follow through with their threat and filibuster the confirmation hearings, he and Hilary, can justifiably point to this as showing that they are to blame for everything that is wrong with politics right now (Trump, the deficit, the economy, ISIS, etc.) and that it has been their obstructive behaviour that is holding back America. The GOP would be risking not just a loss to Hilary in the presidential election, but in the Senate and Congress too. Knowing full well that if Hilary wins she will almost certainly punish the GOP by picking a much more liberal candidate (maybe she’ll put Sanders or Micheal Moore up for the job!). In essence Obama has just kicked a live hand grenade into the GOP’s office. The question is will the pull the pin on it?

Double Team

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Anyone got a sick bag handy?

Another thought is that of Trump and Cruz teaming up. Some wing-nuts seem to think this would be a great idea. Both of them on the ticket sounds like the ultimately tea party wet dream….well if your Hilary that is! Trump and Cruz appeal to the same class of voters – angry white males. However as discussed, there are lots of people who will not vote for Trump, ever! This includes large segments of his own party. Similarly there are a lot of people who will not vote for a religious nut like Ted Cruz (plus many who think an American should get the job!). Putting both on the ticket doubles the number of people that will be turned off voting for the Republicans. Again, this would make it easier for Hilary, not harder.

A better job description

In all, is it asking too much of America to write out a basic job description before the next election, listing certain “essential skills” that every candidate must meet. Failure to meet them and your application for the job of president won’t even be read and you won’t get on the ballot. Such skills could include “must be sane”, “must have read the US constitution…particularly the bill of rights”, “must understand the word hypocrisy….and the candidate should not be a textbook example of this word”, “must not have filed for bankruptcy…once let alone multiple times! A command of basic arithmetic, geography and world affairs would also be key requirements (most companies these days hold a technical interview prior to the main interview, so a similar process for each candidate would weed out the chaff).

And naturally all candidates would have to fully declare their recent financial activity (something Trump hasn’t done…nor will he ever do, as that would likely get him arrested) and release birth certificates (preferably American not Canadian!), show some ID (its ironic how American voters have to go through more hoops to get registered than those standing for president!), etc. This would have all made the primary process so much smoother.

Tripping up Trump

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I pointed out last week that the GOP was facing a version of the prisoner dilemma, whereby they could stick together and try to stick it to Trump or act in their own selfish self interest and cosy up to the heir hair apparent (as Chris Christie did….and what the hell was he thinking while he stood there behind Trump!).

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Well it would seem after Super Tuesday, the rest of the GOP tried to imagine a Trump presidency… and after seeing visions of mushroom clouds, or him being hauled away in a straitjacket to the funny farm on his first day….or (more than likely!) Hilary giving her victory speech after sweeping the electoral college….they dug in their heels, threw their toys out of the pram and said hell no!

Over the last week, Trump has been subjected to a barrage of criticism from both his fellow candidates and from many GOP grandees. Mitt Romney called him a phony, a big fat phony. John McCain, joined in declaring him unfit for office, while 116 members of the GOP national security committee (which includes several ex-cabinet minsters, advisers and defence analysts) declared in a letter that Trump was “wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle” “He swings from isolationism to military adventurism within the space of one sentence”.

And of course the Bush family do not like him (meaning we can add both still living Republican presidents to his enemies list). And as for those who see Trump as another Reagan, well as I discussed in a recent article, that is not the case and furthermore Reagan’s own son has been critical of Trump. So when we say the GOP establishment is against him, let us be clear, we mean pretty much an entire generation of the GOP including all living presidential candidates, presidents, many of the senior staff in those regimes and much of Congress including both the leaders of the house and senate.

I also mentioned in my prior article how Fox news faced a dilemma, in whether or not to go after Trump. The latest GOP debate suggests they’ve clearly decided to get the knifes out. They ambushed him on a number of fronts, notably Trump university (a degree mill scam Trump set up to capitalise on his Apprentice fame). Fox also introduced a new feature to the debates, a sort of “bullshit corrector” whereby if any of the candidates came out with some ridiculous grade A BS, the moderators would flash up an infographic proving he was talking codswollop.

Needless to say, Trump fell foul of this regularly, notably over his claim to be able to save $300 billion from the Medicare budget by negotiating a better price with drug companies. It was pointed out that the US spends a total of just $78 billion on drugs through Medicare, so even if he got all the drugs for free, he’s still be short by about $222 billion! Although oddly enough Trump was more interested in defending the size of his….hands.

I would note that I’ve long called for this in debates before (some sort of BS detector so that outragious claims can be proven to be false), notably in EU debates involving Farage and the out camp. It also does seem to suggest that Fox aren’t quite as incompetent as they’d like to pretend to be. As the Young Turks commented, Fox can do good journalism when they want to, its just they usually prefer not to as it means they can get away with the sort of silly lies and half-truths (e.g. how Birmingham is totally Muslim) they broadcast instead. But I digress….

The Red Convention

Plan A for the Republican National Committiee (RNC) had been to wait and let Trump self destruct all by himself, same as happened to many of his business ventures. While this will probably happen eventually, it probably won’t happen until after the primaries, perhaps even after the election and the RNC don’t want to wait. Plan B was to clear the field and leave in one clear challenger. But that hasn’t worked out either. So plan C seems to be to keep as many of the contenders in the field for as long as possible and deny him a majority. In effect they plan to sabotage their own primary voting system, so that the decision on the candidate will then fall to the RNC grandee’s at the convention in July, who are already working out how to knife Trump as painlessly as possible.

However, this tactic will benefit Ted Cruz more than anybody. Trouble is, there are plenty who consider him as dangerous, if not worse than Trump. And he is likely to be equally unelectable. While some polls do put him ahead of Hilary, this is probably because many voters aren’t familiar with his policies. For example, Ted Cruz wants a flat tax of 10%. The US gross domestic product is $18tn, the federal budget is $3.8tn. Even if the 10% tax is somehow applied to the entire GDP (which it won’t!). That still leaves him short by about $2tn! Doubling the flat tax might work, but that would amount to a massive tax hike for everyone who isn’t a millionaire and a tax cut for the wealthy.

I suspect the RNC plan is therefore to ice Cruz at the convention also, probably by leaking some documents regarding his ineligibility to be president to the press at a critical stage of the convention. I have this vision of Romney (who speaks French) calling out to him as he enters the convention hall “Bon Chance” and Cruz replying “Merci. Or maybe one of his aides will be caught at the border shipping in maple syrup (some varieties are banned in the US) and poutine?

That would push things the way of the chosen one Marco Rubio. He stands the best chance of defeating Hilary, but let’s face it he’s just a kid. I’m convinced he shows up to these debates on a skate board shouting cowabunga to Trump as he passes him. Rubio is the preferred candidate by the RNC simply because he can be controlled. And he can be controlled because if doesn’t anything he wasn’t supposed to do his mom will ground him.

In short, the GOP convention in July could get as bloody as the red wedding in Game of Thrones. But its likely that neither Trump nor Cruz will go quietly. If Trump has captured the most delegates, but is denied the nomination, then he’ll likely walk and run as an independent, splitting the party. And similarly I can’t see Ted Cruz going down without a fight, likely they’d have to give him a senior cabinet post or something. He might even ally with Trump or run as an independent himself.

Alternatively if the RNC don’t get their way, Trump being anointed at the convention could well prompt a series of high profile resignations and defections to the Democrats (perhaps giving Obama enough of a majority to push a few more things through). I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of some moderate republican (perhaps Romney or Paul Ryan) even running against Trump as an independent.

Why the GOP has to lose in November….to save itself

All in all, what the GOP has on its hands is a mess and a mess of their own creation. For years they’ve adopted a tactic of bait and switch, manipulating their base with the most outrageous lies, using fear and scare tactics, focusing on what are essentially fringe issues (abortion, vaccines, creationism), or adopting obviously contrarian and hypocritical position on issues (i.e. gun control, ignoring that many countries have liberal guns laws, but strong gun regulation and as a result few gun deaths…and ignoring the ease with which terrorists could exploit a lack of gun regulation). In all cases the intent of these tactics was to prevent the political debate moving onto more pressing topics (such as who was responsible for the financial crisis and is it any coincidence that since Reagan’s cuts to the top rate of taxes the US now has a deficit problem).

Indeed, the GOP’s attempts threat to filibuster to stop Obama appointing a new chief justice highlights everything wrong with the party. With the Supreme court now effectively split it cannot do its job effectively, its back log of cases will grow, and one of its key jobs is to curb the executive powers of the president (so if you are afraid of President Obama one can scarcely think of a dumber thing to do than delay the appointment of a supreme court justice). The court also oversees legislation passed by Congress. So in effect the GOP are arguing for a shutdown of the entire US government for the next 10 months or so.

If that sounds crazy, well the problem is its not that crazy to Republicans, as they’ve effectively shut down Congress for the last few years as they try to wait out the clock on Obama’s presidency, ignoring many of the issues their supporters worry about, be it the rising deficit or the fact that many are still struggling from the aftermath of the Great recession. In essence they’ve treated their supporters like sheep and now the sheep on animal farm are rebelling. Trump and Cruz are the inevitable consequences of this policy and its going to earn them Hilary Clinton as president.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily a fan of Hilary. If I had a vote in November, the only situation I’d vote for her would be to stop Cruz or Trump (although that said fallout boy is a climate denier….from Florida! That’s like being a snow denier from Alaska!) and then only if I lived in a swing state, otherwise I’d probably vote for a third party candidate. Which is exactly what I’d advise any Republicans who genuinely care about their party to do, regardless of who gets the nomination. If you can’t bring yourself to vote for Hilary, vote for a third party candidate or sit out the election. The GOP losing to Hilary and losing big, might just be enough of a shock to the system to knock some sense into the party.

The leadership would be forced to realise that they need to treat their supporters as voters and not sheep and that they need come up with policies that will actually help them, rather than soundbites. While the Tea party wing will be forced to realise that if they keep putting forward wingnut’s for election with crackpot policies they’ll loose every time to ever more left wing democrats.

Debunking the Great Reagan myth

A central founding myth of the Tea Party is the legacy of Ronald Reagan. It is one of the reasons cited for supporting Trump as they see him as another Reagan (although its worth noting that not even Reagan’s own son agrees with this one). Around Reagan, or Thatcher in the UK, cults of personality have grown that border on those of many a despot. Hence why I think it would be prudent and timely to de-construct this myth and expose the realities of the Reagan Presidency.

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Figure 1: Reagan has developed something of a cult of personality that ignores the realities of his reign

Myth #1 – Reagan brought down the Soviet Union

Reality: Reagan wasn’t even in office when the Soviet Union collapsed and there is very little evidence that his policies helped push it over the edge. Economic miss-management and internal opposition offer more plausible explanations for the USSR’s collapse

Reaganite’s have a habit of claiming credit for things that happened when he wasn’t even in office, yet they are often slow to accept blame for events that occurred shortly after he left office, or even when he was in office (as we will see when discussing the economy). But it has to be acknowledged that the Soviet union collapsed after he’d left office.

The massive military spending the US engaged in is often cited as the reason why the USSR collapsed, as it couldn’t compete with the US. However in truth Soviet military spending was fairly static over the course of Reagan’s presidency, with no significant increases. This is why Republicans often cite Reagan’s star wars program for being the final nail in the coffin.

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Figure 2: Soviet military spending and US spending, keep in mind Reagan was in power between 1981 and 1989, ironically there is a steep increase in spending under Jimmy Carter & Richard Nixon!

While it is true that the soviets did initiate a counter program to star wars, but Reagan’s supporters often exaggerate the scale of this program. One of the most expensive elements of this program was the Energia rocket booster which may well have consumed as much as 1% of the total soviet budget for a brief period. However it seems unlikely building one rocket would bring down the soviet empire. And besides Energia was a multi-use program that also launched the Soviet space shuttle and was envisaged as supporting future space station construction or space colonies. And the Russian federation continued to fund this program right up until 1993, two years after the collapse. It would seem strange, if we buy into the propaganda, that if the costs of this program were so crippling to the Russian economy they’d keep spending billions of rubbles on it for a further two years afterwards.

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Figure 3: The Soviet Energia rocket with the Polyus Orbital Weapons Platform test vehicle, on its way to the launchpad

Indeed the Russians continued to fund (and ultimately deployed) a number of other ABM counter measures even after the USSR collapsed. So the neo-con narrative simply does not correspond to the facts.

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Figure 4: If competing with the US star wars system was so crippling to the USSR, why did the Russian Federation continue to fund (and deploy) weapons systems like this Topol-M? (which can evade attempts to intercept it)

Aside – So why did the Soviet Union collapse?

Well the answer is a bit more complicated that the GOP preferred answer so it would be wrong for us to point to any one single cause. Books have been written about this topic. Certainly continued competition with the West did not help, but all the indicators were that the Soviet’s were spending money that they had. Military spending by the soviets was at around 7% of GDP and it was what was going on with the other 93% that was the problem. Western counter-espionage definitely helped, but it was the Europeans, most notably the French, who led the way here. But in simple terms, the Soviet union collapsed like a house of cards because it was a house of cards.

Ultimately the soviet system just wasn’t very good at organising at running a country. The talking heads in Moscow gave out orders and dictates, setting unrealistic targets divorced from reality and expected everyone to magically achieve them. Inevitably this created all sorts of problems. For example, they drained the Aral sea away in pursuit of cotton quotas. The Reactor at Chernobyl was built without adequate shielding and without sufficient numbers of trained staff to operate it (only one member of staff in the control room that night was a qualified nuclear engineer and he was fresh out of college!). The soviets also badly mismanaged their oil supplies, mining and other core industries. One need only look at a Lada of the era as proof of everything that was wrong with the soviet system.

Ultimately three events were largely to blame. Firstly the mismanagement of their agricultural system meant the soviets went from a net food exporter to an importer in the space of a few decades. Now initially this wasn’t a big deal, because they were also one of the world’s largest oil producers and thus they were able to use their petro-dollars to buy American grain to feed the soviet populace. This incidentally counters a key neo-con myth that the soviets wanted to destroy America. Had the Kremlin ever done so, they would have destroyed their main source of food and much of the surviving Soviet population would have starved to death over the proceeding winter.

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Figure 5: Missmangement of agriculture and a dire environmental policy played a major role in the collapse of the soviet system

Soviet oil production ensured they could easily spend their way out of trouble, until in 1988 when soviet oil production peaked. Given that ex-soviet oil production rebounded in the years after the soviet union, it is generally believed that this “peak” was an artificial peak caused by soviet mismanagement, rather than a geological peak caused by a lack of oil. Either way, shortly there after this the soviets started to have financial problems.

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Figure 6: Soviet Oil production, note how it rises again after the collapse of the USSR, suggesting that miss-management by the soviets might be to blame

And as if to make matters worse, the world was struck at the same time by a massive oil glut with oil prices tumbling. This was triggered by the fact that a number of OPEC nations began cheating on their quotas leading the Saudi’s to decide to “punish” them by opening the taps. However they did so right at the same time the global economy was entering into another recession, sending oil prices off a cliff. This pretty much bankrupted the USSR.

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Figure 7: Oil prices around the time of the Soviet collapse

Some Reagan supporters, aware of all of this, have tried to make out that this was all part of Reagan’s master plan. Pro-saudi bloggers claim instead it was the Saudi king’s idea. In reality, the collapse in oil price badly effected the Saudi economy. One of the reasons why many young saudi’s took to Afghanistan (forming what would become Al-Qaeda) at this time was because they had nothing better to do back home. And recall that the trigger for the price collapse was a sluggish economy. So we would have to believe that Reagan & H. W. Bush, along with the Saudi king, deliberately sabotaged their own economies to score a few political points against the soviets.

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Figure 8: The Soviet’s didn’t take down this wall because Reagan told them, the east Germans did it because the communist system had collapsed due to internal hubris

Finally, there were many long standing opposition movements to soviet rule, the Polish Solidarity movement for example, which started long before Reagan ever got into office. Naturally when soviet bloc citizens lost their jobs and got sick of queuing for bread, they began to listen to these people and the rest is, as they say, history.

Myth #2 – Reagan cut back public spending and pushed for a smaller government

RealityThe Reagan administration was one of the most prolific deficit spenders in US history, government spending massively expanded under his reign and much of it was squandered on pointless projects. And far from shrinking the US government, Reagan hired nearly half a million extra civil servants

It is, to say the least strange that committed anti-communists in the GOP will come up with such elaborate explanations as to why the soviet union collapsed when the more obvious reason (it was basically a crap system) is a lot more satisfying. Well that might have something to do with the awkward conclusion that if the USSR didn’t collapse because of star wars, it means Reagan took $209 billion of taxpayers money and urinated it up against a wall.

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Figure 9: Federal spending under Reagan was exceptional high, even higher than Obama or G. W. Bush.

Star wars basically didn’t work and was little more than a massive fraud. Thirty years later and none of the hardware they set out to develop has been deployed. It was the biggest waste of public money in the history of western democracy.

Yet star wars was merely one of a whole host of foolish military projects either started under Reagan, or ones from previous administrations which were a waste of money and should haven been cancelled, but which he continued. The B-1 program for example had been cancelled under Carter, but was revived by Reagan. In another example, he wanted a 600 ship navy (don’t ask me why) so they brought back into service a bunch of old WW-2 era battleships that had been essentially obsolete since the 1940’s.

And, ironically given how many Tea Partiers tend to be conspiracy nuts, the US “black budget” expanded significantly over the Reagan era, as did the secrecy around it. And there is good evidence to suggest it wasn’t being spent wisely. The two programs we know about, the B-2 and F-111 were both budgeted on the assumption of orders in the hundreds, but Congress rightly pointed out that this would be insane given how expensive these aircraft were. Its likely had both aircraft been subject to greater public scrutiny prior to this, they would have been cancelled or re-designed. The similar A-12 program, was able to resist cancellation under Reagan, only to be cut as soon as he was out of office.

And like I said, this is they stuff we know about. In 1987, an oversight saw the US budget include a line item for a half a billion to be spent on a black project called “Aurora. Conspiracy theorist have claimed that this might be some sort of alien spacecraft. I propose a more obvious explanation, the damn thing didn’t work and was such an embarrassing screw up (who knows maybe it crashed on take off) that the powers that be decided to use the cloak of national security to push some soil over the corpse and tip-tow away.

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Figure 10: The US federal deficit soared under Reagan

And it wasn’t just in defence spending that Reagan miss-spent. He’s often remembered for firing air-traffic controllers or cutting spending on welfare programmes such as mental health services. But he also expanded Medicare, the FBI, CIA and other intelligence services. He increased total federal-government employment (excluding the military) by 400,000. And he was doing all this using the country’s credit card. Reagan had been elected because Carter had run up a deficit of $79 billion. By the time he left office Reagan blew through $155 billion. Worse, Carter’s deficit was run up during a recession, while Reagan was running deficits at a time of economic growth.

Myth #3 – Reagan was a tax cutter and this stimulated the US economy

RealityReagan cut taxes for the wealthy but overall he put up taxes. There were three recessions during his reign and any growth during his reign wasn’t as spectacular as it is sometimes portrayed

The wealthy saw taxes fall from a top rate of 70% to 28%. However, the Reagan Adm. also slipped through a range of tax increases. In fact federal taxes increased every year of his presidency except for the first and the last.

This brings us to the question of why the US economy grew under Reagan, because the implication is the opposite of what is claimed by neo-liberals (i.e. Reagan put up taxes which caused economic growth !?! ). In truth there were a host of things going on, that we need to account for. The recessions of the 70’s had been quite severe and thus the rebound effect was equally large. This may have created the illusion of growth that was stronger than it was in reality.

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Figure 11: US GDP adjusted for inflation, note the recessions include two within his term and one during the following Bush(snr) presidency

Also, there was (as noted) an oil boom going on in the middle of his presidency, which naturally pushed up growth. Indeed, for Thatcher, once you account for the 10% added to government coffers each year because of the North Sea boom, the Thatcher era “boom” doesn’t look that spectacular. Back in the US, the early 80’s was also marked by a tech revolution in the form of video games and home PC’s beginning to reaching a mass market.

Furthermore we have to ask whether any growth under Reagan (or Thatcher) due to their market liberalisation was sustainable growth, or just a boom and bust bubble. I’d argue that recent events suggest it wasn’t sutainable growth. But even over the course of the Reagan Adm. there were several economic downturns. The first, was clearly the hangover from the Carter Adm. But the second occurred 2 years through his first term. Sluggish growth inter-spaced with various downturns and recoveries followed, with a further major recession under G. H. Bush (which, if we’re going to blame Carter for Reagan’s 1st recession, its only fair we blame Reagan for this 2nd Reagan recession).

So the growth under Reagan was at best sluggish and uneven and there is little evidence that they can be related to his policies. Noting that those policies including tax increases not cuts.

Myth #4 – Americans were better off under Reagan

RealityUnder Reagan, the rich got richer and the poor got poorer

A rising tide lifts all boats. Well not under Reagan. US unemployment increased under his term in office, largely because while the yuppies in Wall Street did rather well out of it all, many of America’s primary industries were being shut down. The Reagan era is the period when large parts of the US industrial heartland became a rust belt. And in the UK Thatcher too presided over a period when many UK manufacturing towns went from full employment to virtual welfare colonies.

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Figure 12: Wages and purchasing power under different US presidents

And should anyone blame the unions for all of these, its worth noting that many of these job’s didn’t go to Asia, but they simply moved to other Western countries. At the same time for example, that ship building was in decline in the UK, new ship yards were opened in Finland and Germany, which got (and still get) many of the very same liner contracts that used to go to Newcastle and Glasgow dockyards. And in Germany and Finland union membership is actually compulsory for workers in certain heavy industries. Similarly car makers in the UK and US started to slide at the same time that German and Japanese car production rose.

And not only did Reagan or Thatcher do nothing to stop this, they actually encouraged the collapse of heavy industry. Quite apart from Thatcher’s ideologically motivated attack on the coal mining unions, this was also the era of corporate raiders who would buy up a company and then tear it down, firing thousands of workers so they could build apartments on the same site as the factory. This was an era of sleazy destructive economics, with much corruption behind the scenes.

And while the richer certainly got very rich thanks to our dynamic dyo, the lot of many others declined, as large numbers of UK and US citizens suddenly found themselves mired in a poverty trap that their children and grandchildren still found themselves stuck in. Reagan’s tax hikes disproportionally effected the poor and middle classes compared to the better off. To my mind Thatcher’s real legacy is the Ned or the Chav, while Reagan’s is the inner city ghettos of cities like Detroit or LA.

Indeed we could go further, as the fact is that growth under democratic presidents has a tendency to be higher than under Republican presidents. Reagan’s presidency was something of a rare high point by Republican standards, but still lower than Clinton, Johnson or Kennedy.

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Figure 13: GDP growth by US president, Reagan ranks highly by Republican standards, but average (at best) by the standards of democratic presidents.

Myth #5 – Reagan was an active president, with a vision who worked hard for America

RealityHe was an unimaginative, ill-informed and so ill-attentive he frequently fell asleep during meetings and important briefings

It is ironic that Reagan is known as a man with a vision, as this is not shared by those who knew him in office. As William Leuchtenburg (a history Professor from Carolina) describes in a recent book (based on cabinet papers from the Reagan era), Reagan frequently stunned those around him with his ignorance at current events. His mind, according to Peggy Noonan, was “barren terrain”. Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton describes how Reagan once interrupted a meeting on nuclear weapons policy to discuss the plot of the kids movie War Games. Clark Clifford regarded the president as “an amiable dunce” and as William Leuchtenburg summarises it “No one had ever entered the White House so grossly ill informed”.

This forced his staff to work hard to bring him up to speed on at least some basic level, or as David Broder (a white house aid) put it “The task of watering the arid desert between Reagan’s ears is a challenging one for his aides.”. However the fact was he wasn’t a very active president, frequently he would be given briefing papers which he won’t read, instead lazing around watching cowboy movies. On the day before a summit meeting with world leaders about the future of the economy, he was given a briefing book. The next morning, his chief of staff asked him had he read it (he hadn’t even opened it!). “Well, Jim, the Sound of Music was on last night.

As Lou Cannon, his principle biographer put it “Reagan may have been the one president in the history of the republic who saw his election as a chance to get some rest”. And on some cases he did so by dozing off in the middle of important meetings…once while the French President was in the room!

As for his political vision, it was sadly lacking. He simply did not have any, aside from the sort of vague Republican sympathies towards “low tax” or “commies bad”. As George Shultz (his chief of staff) puts it “Trying to forge policy was like walking through a swamp.Donald Regan recalled: “In the four years that I served as secretary of the treasury, I never saw President Reagan alone and never discussed economic philosophy”. You could walk through Ronald Reagan’s deepest thoughts” a California legislator said, “and not get your ankles wet.”.

As a consequence, a Republican senator went so far as to say: “With Ronald Reagan, no one is there. The sad fact is that we don’t have a president.”Of course in the absence of active leadership, the bureaucrats simply ran the country without him.

If Reagan’s government was the best American government ever, then it was a government where the bureaucrats in DC ran everything, raised taxes, expanded the federal government and ruled the people like a king.

Myth #6 – Reagan was a competent leader

Reality Even his own staff considered him mentally unstable and sufficiently unreliable that they drew up contingency plans to remove him from office under the 25th Amendment

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Figure 14: It did occur to Reagan’s staff that their boss might not be the full shilling

As noted it quickly dawned on many in his cabinet that the president might be mentally unstable. At the very least he was a little slow (probably early onset of his alzheimers) and not mentally competent.

This also forced him to rely ever more and more on his wife, who practically became the defacto VP. Now while president’s frequently resort to their spouse for support and advise, giving your wife top secret briefing papers is entirely another thing. And worse Nancy Reagan had a strange obsession with Astrology, something she dragged her husband into. This created something of a national security nightmare for the white house staff, quite apart from the fact that the president was now under the influence of others and not technically capable of carrying out his duties.

So serious was this situation that when Howard Baker took over as the white house chief of staff, he was advised by his predecessor to start making preparations to enact the 25th Amendment, removing the president from office on grounds incapacity. Thus it is very likely that had there been any major crisis during Reagan’s reign (such as nuclear attack), that his staff would have put this plan into action and removed him from office, either putting George Bush (snr) in charge or resorting to some sort of direct rule by the white house cabinet.

Myth #7 – Reagan was a great communicator

Reality Reagan was gaffe prone and treated his presidency much like an acting job

As Reagan’s defence chief Colin Powell put it “the President’s passive management style placed a tremendous burden on us…” . Or as Frank Carlucci, observed: “The Great Communicator wasn’t always the greatest communicator in the private sessions; you didn’t always get clean and crisp decisions. You assumed a lot. . . . You had to”.Many republicans seem to forget than in his early years the president was frequently prone to making all sorts of serious gaffes.

Such incidents led his staff to taking measures in hand to keep their president from the media, in case he blurted out something crazy. He performed all of 6 news conferences in his first year in office, a modern president would do that many in a month. In the end he and his staff took to treating the role of president essentially as an acting job. They would give him cue cards, they would put out a chalk spot to show him where to stand and he would do as he was told. As one staffer put it “Every moment of every public appearance was scheduled, every word scripted, every place where Reagan was expected to stand was chalked with toe marks.”.

The president “cut ribbons and made speeches. He did these things beautifully” Congressman Jim Wright of Texas acknowledged. But in essence the US got itself not a president for 8 years, but instead they hired an actor to play the part of a President. Unfortunately this template of a stage managed actor as a sort of presidential spokesmodel for special interests was something we’ve seen emerge on several occasions since then, most notably with G. W. Bush (jnr).

Myth #8 – Reagan’s tough line with the Soviets, or in the middle east, helped keep Americans safe

RealityHe nearly started WW3 and provoked a series of terrorist attacks against the US, notably the Lockerbie bombing

While we can look back at Reagan’s gaffe’s now with a certain level of amusement, at the time they were a little more serious. His “evil empire” speeches were taken very seriously in Moscow who became convinced that Reagan meant to attack the Warsaw Pact. As a result they were on a heightened level of alert throughout this period. This paranoia reached a head during the 1983 Able Archer exercise, which the soviets feared might be a pretext for an actual NATO first strike. They actually went on full alert a hair’s breath away from firing throughout this exercise. Worst still was a malfunction of a key early warning system (which seemed to indicate a missile attack) just prior to the exercise, which could also have led to a soviet strike had they taken these results at face value.

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Figure 15: Deployment of the Pershing missiles dramatically heightened Cold War tensions

Meanwhile, Reagan’s posturing in the middle east far from keeping America safe, had the opposite effect, leading to a wave of terrorism launched against Americans. Prior to the bombing of Colonel Gaddafi’s headquarters, the Libyans had actually been downscaling involvement in terrorism. However instead this attack lead to a pronounced escalation. It is not clear whether it was Gaddafi or some other middle east group, possibly the Iranians (in revenge for the shoot down of an Iran airliner by a US destroyer) who bombed the Pan-Am flight over Lockerbie. But the very fact that there’s more than one candidates isn’t exactly an endorsement of Reagan’s foreign policy.

And of course there was his regime’s intervention in Afghanistan, which involved giving much weapons and CIA training to a group of Jihadi’s who Reagan went so far as to compare to the founding fathers…..groups we now know as “the Taliban” and “Al-Qaeda”. The actions of the CIA in Afghanistan, were naive at best and dangerously counter-productive at worst. The US was getting involved in a tribal war, which had little to do with geopolitics and they were aiding and abetting Jihadi groups who were arguably as great a danger to the US as the soviets.

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Figure 16: The Taliban who came to Tea, Reagan’s support for Islamists in the 80’s led eventually to 9/11

And then there’s his support for Saddam Hussein, even after he started gassing the kurds and was supplied with a large amount of weapons in the Iran/Iraq war (America also supplied weapons to the Iranians, indeed America’s policy here seemed to be to keep the war going for as long as possible). And of course there was the disastrous intervention in Grenada and Beirut to consider (again this too probably provoked a number of terrorist attacks against the US).

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Figure 17: Under Reagan the US was an ally of Saddam, supplying him with much hardware

That said, we need to consider that Reagan was surrounded by Neo-con hawks at this time, many of whom were urging a much more aggressive US stance on a foreign policy. There are some who argue we should credit the president with reigning in the neo-cons, as they would have almost certainly started WW3 if he had not restrained them.

Myth #9 – Reagan was a climate change denier and anti-science, just like any good GOP president should be

RealityScientific research undertaken during his term of office proved the link between recent warming and CO2 emissions, under Reagan’s term the IPCC was founded based in no small part to research conducted by US scientists

It is practically a rite of passage for any Republican candidate these days to take an anti-science position and decry “evolution”, stem cell research conducted by scientists “with an agenda”. And of course, any presidential candidate must be a climate change denier.

However George Shultz has pointed out that the Reagan white house, for all its faults, took a very different approach. While they cut research funding to a number of environmental causes, climate science funding continued. This led to the founding of the IPCC, with the US agreeing to provide a significant portion of its funding. Now some claim that this might have been a miscalculation by the Reagan white house, attempting to bury the problem in a sea of analysis. But the fact still remains that while modern republicans deny climate change (despite having access to far stronger evidence), the Reagan government was at least open to the idea of doing something.

Also around this time the issue of the ozone layer emerged. And again, while skeptical of the issue, the Reagan Adm. did at least try to tackle the problem, again with further investigation of the science and possible solutions. This eventually led to the Montreal Protocol signed under his predecessor. Again, the contrast between Reagan’s approach to environmental issues, and modern Republicans is pretty stark. Noting that he was not a person known for his pro-environmental views (Carter had solar panels put up on the white house, which Reagan then had taken down).

Of course, given the ineptitude discussed earlier, we do have to wonder how much of this was Reagan’s policy and how much of it was well informed advisers pushing pieces of paper under his nose for signature knowing he won’t bother to read it. But certainly his administration did not take the sort of actively anti-science approach that is now a virtual entry requirement for the GOP. Yes, Reagan was to the left of many modern republicans on the environment!

Myth #10 – Reagan was a racist and pro-gun and would be the ideal Tea Party president

RealityThere is little evidence to support this, his policies are largely neutral on these issues, I suspect Reagan would have been appalled at the Tea Party

To the Tea Party Reagan has become a blank canvas that you can paint anything on to. This is a common thread for the many who see Trump as a new Ronald Reagan. And equally those on the left have tended to view him as a near cartoon like bogeyman. Hence some have been going back through his speeches with a racist code book in hand and picking out various phrases and terms and interpreting them as sign’s of Reagan inherent racism.

As I pointed out earlier, anything we hear from a Reagan speech was generally scripted and not really his words. Indeed, one of his most prominent speech writers is now known to be a racist. So I would take anything said by Reagan while in office with a certain pinch of salt. Furthermore, I would argue that Reagan simply wasn’t the sort of person to form strong opinions. As a privileged white guy from California, who worked most of his life in a film industry that was more white than this year’s Oscar nominations, he probably never had sufficient contact with any minorities to form strong opinions.

But as regards “building a wall” and shipping the Mexicans out, Reagan actually enacted an amnesty that helped 3 million undocumented migrants gain residency in the US.

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Figure 18: Reagan, while supportive of the 2nd amendment, was not in favour of an unregulated free-for all

Similarly, I would argue the Tea Party view that Reagan was pro-gun isn’t entirely supported by the facts. Recall that he was nearly killed by an assassin in his first year of office. An attack that would ultimately lead many years later to the so-called “Brady law”. Over the course of his presidency he passed one measure that relaxed certain regulations on guns, but signed into law another (criminalising attempts to make concealable firearms, indeed the very law those trying to use 3D printers to make guns are likely falling foul of).

Several items of gun control legislation were drafted under his presidency, although ultimately signed into law by other presidents. The Gun-free schools act was signed by Bush (snr). While the Brady law was signed by Bill Clinton (in no small part due to Reagan stating he was in favour of it) as was the assault weapons ban (which Reagan also supported).

On the whole I’d argue Reagan was largely neutral on guns. Like many Republicans he was, at least in principle, in favour of legalised gun ownership. But he certainly wasn’t in favour of the unregulated free for all that we now see many Tea baggers argue for. And keep in mind Reagan wasn’t facing the scenario Obama now faces where spree shootings have become a daily occurrence. I suspect had Reagan faced this sort of problem neither he nor his administration would have hesitated to bring in appropriate measures.

Indeed, prior to the recent measures taken by Obama, the Brady foundation gave him an F for prevention of gun violence, suggesting he was weaker on gun control than Reagan. Yes, if we were to argue that Obama is “anti-gun” we would have to move the goal posts of what counts as anti-gun (i.e. regulation v’s banning them) so far to the right than even Reagan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and many other republicans would have to also count as being “anti-gun”.

And as regards the tea party (aka the American Taliban), while Reagan was something of an outsider within the GOP, he was certainly not a radical, he did not favour burning the house down just for the hell of it. We’ve seen all sorts of self-destructive policies coming out of the Tea party the last few years, no-gun regulations even in the face of mass shootings, no debt ceiling increase, even if it means the US government going bankrupt (recall no President has ran up a higher deficit than Reagan), shut down Congress until Obama scraps Obamacare, or more recently threatening to shutdown the Supreme court for nearly year in the hope they can get a more conservative justice in the job. It is difficult to believe Reagan would have gone along with this sort of behaviour. I suspect he would have considered it as un-American and entirely counter productive.

Myth #11 – Reagan did not abuse his office like more recent presidents

RealityReagan should have been impeached for his involvement in Iran-Contra

Certainly it is true that many US president’s have done things in office that could be seen as an abuse of power. Obama has some tough questions to answer over the PRISM spy network, which was never subject to proper judicial, legislative nor public scrutiny. Clinton’s private affairs, while I would argue they were not grounds for impeachment, they still weren’t the sort of behaviour we’d expect from a US president. And let’s not even begin to discuss G. W. Bush lying to congress and the public about WMD’s and starting an illegal war, not to mention approving torture, detention without trial and co-operating with states known to be hostile to the US (such as Gaddafi’s Libya and Assad’s Syria).

However, its difficult, even for G. W. Bush, to top the high crimes committed by the Reagan Adm. In two works – Iran/Contra.

For those unfamiliar with the crisis I’ll attempt a brief summary, although American Dad provides a more humorous one here. But in short, as part of his efforts to fight what Reagan considered to be communist aggression, he funded various CIA operations against socialist groups in south and central America. One group to attract US attention was the Sandinista’s. Exactly how communist the Sandinista’s were is a matter of dispute. Keep in mind they are currently in government in Nicaragua and while they are fairly left-wing, they are certainly not communist. And even if they were, they were clearly not taking their orders from Moscow.

Unfortunately for the US the main opposition to the Sandinista’s were a group called the Contras, a rebel group known to use terrorist tactics as well as trading in drugs…much of which ultimately ended up on the streets of the US. Naturally congress would not allow funding of the Contra’s, pointing out the hypocrisy of them spending billions a year on a war on drugs, but then help a bunch of drug dealers to found a narco-state.

At the same time the US was approached by the Iranians with an offer to trade US hostages in Lebanon for weapons. The Reagan Adm. approved of this sale and then diverted the funds to the Contras who used the money to buy guns. However, the Contra’s actually used some of the money to ship drugs and then used the profits of this to buy yet more guns. Exactly how compliant the CIA was all of this is still disputed, some argue the CIA actively helped the shipment of drugs into the US, others argue they knew about it but simply turned a blind eye and actively suppressed attempts to expose it. But certainly the CIA and the white house would have known that the Contras were actively using funds that they had supplied to smuggle drugs into the US.

By trading weapons for hostages Reagan was contradicting a long standing US doctrine of never negotiating with terrorists….and then giving the proceeds to another bunch of terrorists! Worse, Iran was at this point considered an enemy of the US. Many other US allies in the region considered Iran to be their main military threat, notably US ally Saddam (who again was at war with them). This is why I think we can dismiss the suggestion earlier than the Saudi’s helped America bring down the USSR by increasing oil production. After this little escapade the Saudi’s won’t have pissed on Reagan to put out a fire.

By aiding and abetting known enemies of the US (and terrorists) many have argued that the Reagan Adm’s actions on Iran/Contra constituted high treason. While that might be going a bit far, certainly his actions meet the criteria of “high crimes” and “abuse of power” laid out in the US constitution as grounds for presidential impeachment. And keep in mind this would have swept up not just Reagan but also Bush (snr) who had his grubby paw prints all over this scandal (again recall he had been head of the CIA).

However Reagan was spared impeachment by a partisan political system (the GOP knew that if they pulled the trigger on this they could kiss goodbye to the presidency next election). And the fact that they had a compliant fall guy in Oliver North….guaranteeing Oliver North would never be short of a few bob, as the GOP made sure he was well cared for afterwards…after all we won’t want him spilling his guts….

But again, we have to ask, how complicit was Reagan in Iran/Contra? I suspect he may have vaguely nodded to his staff when they discussed it, but did he actually understand what it was they were up too and the geopolitical implications of it? If it had come to trial I suspect any good lawyer would have gotten him off on grounds of diminished responsibility.

The Church of the one true Ronald

The reality of Reagan, once we de-construct the propaganda and the cult of personality, is that of a slightly senile retired actor, who through a combination of luck and coincidence managed to blunder into the white house. He was very much the accidental president. However, once in power he was quickly out of his depth and forced to rely on others, be it his wife or a snake pit of neo-con hawks, neo-liberal cheerleaders or big government bureaucrats, whom he pretty left to run the country, with mixed results. In essence for 8 years the US didn’t have a president, they hired an actor who played the role of president. Although due to this pesky thing called “the constitution” they had to give him some input on the direction his character was going to take.

But many on in the GOP will steadfastly refuse to believe this. Indeed another myth we failed to tackle is the idea that he was popular during his reign. Actually his approval ratings were no better than many other presidents while in office, at times in fact they dipped as low as 30%. Reagan’s popularity only really started to rise after his diagnosis with Alzheimers. And since then the myth’s above (and many more) have grown around him.

Reagan’s cult of personality is perhaps an interesting thing to study as it does show you how major religions get started. I won’t be surprised if in a post-apocalyptic future of a ruined America, many worship icons to the one true Ronald, the last of God’s profit prophet, before the end times. And perhaps worryingly, they are already naming everything and anything after Reagan. Thousands of streets, schools, airports, bus stops and landmarks were promptly named after him (including a mountain!). If a hobo laid down on a park bench for too long he could find himself staying at the “Ronald Reagan Restorium” by the time he sobers up. They even tried to get his face carved into the side of Mt Rushmore.

This cult of personality of Reagan is not only delusional and a disservice to the man, but it is also extremely dangerous. It raises the risk of the US repeating many mistakes committed in the past. Or worse, pursuing policies that even Reagan won’t have supported. And electing a genuine nut as President (i.e. Trump or Cruz) might just destroy the country. Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.

Why rednecks need to learn some history…and maths!

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One story that the media seem to be missing out on over here is the occupation of a wildlife refuge in Oregon by a group of self-styled “militia who are threatening to remain there until some vague demands about “big government” are met….indeed they’ve not really been very specific about what their demands were.

Initially they said something about getting two people jailed for arson released (but both disowned any connection between themselves and this group) then they made some comment about wanted to see federal land returned “to the local community”. This relates to a libertarian myth that the government is bared from owning land (not actually true!) and that people can just take over land and ignore the government simply by choosing to do so.

And what do the local community think? They are in fact urging the FBI to go up the mountain and kick these inbreed redneck racist’s out. There two main industries in the local town, tourism and the various federal contracts that arise from managing the national and state parks nearby. Needless to say these “militia” threaten both businesses, indeed the main occupants of hotels right now are FBI agents and journalists, not tourists. Those who work in the refuge can’t return to their jobs, so you can understand local frustrations.

What these “militia”, or indeed most libertarians, don’t seem to understand is that with ownership comes responsibility. If the “local community” owned the land then they’d be responsible for it, and that means paying a lot of costly bills (road maintenance, flood protection and water management, wildlife protection, etc.) notably the cost of protecting it from forest fires (a costly bill, in the order of many million of dollars a year). This is the whole reason why the US has this thing called “the National Parks Service”. They manage large amounts of public land on everyone’s behalf. And crucially, the bill for their services is paid nationally (i.e. spread out across the country with everyone paying a fare share of it) rather than burdening a handful of locals with these costs.

One also has to mention the stand off in Oregon over various environmental issues. Ranchers and loggers want to be allowed to clear cut land, but both state and federal authorities oppose this. In part because of the obvious environmental concerns, but also because if the logging was allowed to continue, then they’ll eventually run out of trees and the industry will collapse anyway. And clear cutting forests also increases the risks of flooding downstream (a cost the government needs to pay for) amongst other things. So authorities have been trying to encourage more sustainable forestry in the state, but that seems not to compute with those who are allergic to the word “sustainable”.

Something that these “militia” driving around in their luxury SUV’s whining about “big government” don’t seem to get is that few are more dependant on welfare than those who live in rural areas (indeed many of this very group are ranchers who are in receipt of federal subsidies). As I mentioned in a prior post many Republican leaning states in the US tend to be net receivers of government money, with many democratic states being net contributors. Well we can iterate this down further. If you live in rural areas (where voters tend to lean to the right) the costs of providing public services tends to be a lot higher per person than in the cities (which tend to vote democrat). And of course wages (and hence tax revenues) tend to be higher in cities, than in the countryside.

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While its a bit of a generalisation, but in most western country’s there tends to be a movement of money from the cities to rural areas via the government. The logic is that we all use the countryside either directly (e.g. when you go for a hike or use roads in rural areas) or indirectly (water management, farm produce, etc.) and it would be ludicrously unfair to expect those living there to cover all the costs. And we only have to look at developing nations to see what the consequences of these libertarian policies would be.

You might well hear NGO’s who work in third world countries talk about “the rural poor”. This reflects that in the developing world, they don’t have a “big government”, nor a national parks service, nor a department of agriculture doling out farm subsidies. So people in rural areas tend to be exceptionally poor, even by the standards of a third world country. Many have a precarious existence, surviving via subsistence farming in living conditions little changed from the middle ages. And when their luck runs out, they end up being forced to migrate to massive shanty towns on the outskirts of the cities, often getting piss-poor jobs making things….such as those nice winter woolies these militia types are wearing!

So if I could think of any advice to these militia men, why don’t they go live in a Favela for a few weeks and then see how they like that? Or maybe they just migrate to Somalia. If libertarians were right Somalia, which has been without “big government” for decades would be the wealthiest country in the world. Instead its one of the poorest and most dangerous places in the world.

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And here in the UK we see the same thing playing out. You would think that anyone who works or lives in the countryside should vote to stay in the EU. The UK receives billions a year in farm subsidies, which we will lose if the UK leaves. Farming bodies have pointed out that this would likely lead to the end of certain types of farming (notably hill and cereal farming).

Well a number of euroskeptics are trying to con those in rural areas, all too aware about how they can push certain buttons with people here (as in the US the countryside tends to vote conservative in the UK and the towns lean towards labour), into voting for the UK to leave….even though this would devastate these communities.

As discussed before, stirred up into a frenzy by various right media pundits (who are also perhaps ironically dependant on a particular form of welfare) many on the right are gripped by the urge to “act out” their political fantasies….much like how serial killers get caught up with similar urges!

How republican hypocrisy undermines US security

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There is evidence that suggests that a recent mass shooting in California might have been carried out by supporters of IS. Naturally this has sent the right wing media state side into full fanatic freak mode. Even before these attacks various Republican candidates (i.e. not just Donald Trump) were calling for all sorts of intrusive measures to be taken against US Muslims. Naturally, this can only add fuel to the fire of such rhetoric and bigotry.

All I can say is that, given America’s lax gun laws, an attack like this was simply an inevitably. Its more a surprise that there haven’t been more such shootings. There have been 353 mass shootings in the US this year, yet it would seem only one of those so far has been carried out by Islamic terrorists (possibly). Which should serve as a bench mark for how rare such views are amongst American Muslims. Also, one has to point out that the easiest way to stop such shootings, be they by Muslims or as is more usual white Christians, is by implementing some regulations and checks on guns.

Of course Republicans will invoke the best way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun is a “good guy” with a gun. Ya, and how are the police or those fleeing a “bad guy” supposed to tell the difference? Also FBI studies have shown very little evidence to support this notion, indeed it suggests that increased gun ownership and carry laws increases gun related crimes.

Keep in mind, that I’m not necessarily arguing that America should adopt UK style guns controls (I think they should, but I release that’s not going to happen ,so let’s be realistic). Several nations around the world allow gun ownership, but they often apply tough regulations. All gun owners must be licensed, their guns are on a register (tied to an address and licensee) with all purchases tracked and logged on a database, which the police have access too. Needless to say a sudden surge in gun or ammunition purchases will be flagged up and likely followed up with a police visit. Such measures would have not only prevented last week’s tragedy, but also several other recent US shootings.

However to the Republicans the one right that trumps all others is the right to bare arms. Even the right to life is secondary. They are quite happy to see hundreds of shootings like this a year, as well as jeopardise America’s security, just so some hillbillies don’t have to fill in a form or two. Or so that they can fool themselves that they need their guns to protect them from “the government”….although exactly how they reckon they can stop an Abram’s tank….or a hellfire missile (or a smart bomb!), with an AR-15 has never been explained.

And since we are talking about domestic terrorism, we have the marked contrast with another mass shooting launched by a anti-abortion terrorist against a planned parenthood clinic in Colorado just a few days ago. The response from the right-wing media? Silence.

As the lawyers for the California killers have pointed out there is a glaring hypocrisy that when Muslims kill people its terrorism (again the Jury is still out on this one), but when white Christians do so its “aggressive protest”. And let’s not even start with the irony of someone who is “pro-life” trying to kill people in defence of the unborn.

And what about those who inspired this attack? Why is Carly “harvest their brains” Fiorina not currently in an orange jumpsuit in gitmo helping the FBI with their enquiries. If her name started with Al and the victims of this shooting were republicans, they’d be either smart bombing or waterboarding her about now for inspiring and provoking an act of terror.

And this is by no means a one off. A few years ago similar republican party attacks against Acorn (a group seeking to encourage those from disadvantaged communities to vote) were launched in the lead up to an election. As with Planned Parenthood, the allegations made against them were later found to have been falsified, something that the right wing media either ignored or were very slow to report. And as now, Acorn activists were ultimately attacked as a result by right-wing extremists, which again the media tended to ignore.

There is a glaring hypocrisy with the Republican movement, whereby they can ignore acts of terrorism and violence committed with guns thanks to lax laws they have enacted, as well as acts that they themselves have inspired. Yet any act by a Muslim, despicable thought the events of last week were, is immediately reason to undo the US constitution….except the bit about guns anyway!

Weekly Roundup

The country that went out into the cold….

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Meanwhile Cameron was in Norway this week to discuss trade. Of course this also led to some reflecting on how much of what is said by the UKIP brigade about how much better off we’d be outside the EU (like Norway) is basically bolix. Does Norway have less issues with Immigration? Quite the opposite if anything in fact! There’s been a recent trend of migrants and refugee’s using a loophole to simply cycle across the border from Russia and entering Norway legally. And of course Switzerland also has many issues with immigration, indeed the swiss are actually a minority in their own country in some districts.

Does Norway have less trouble with them pesky EU regulations?….actually, no they just rubber stamp and sign up to anything the EU passes, they have no right of veto or even a right to discuss such measures. But it costs them less money than actually being a member? Well marginally, the estimate is the UK would still end up paying 94% of what it currently pays, once the costs of EU inspection and regulation are accounted for (like Norway, we’ll be paying eurocrats to come over and make sure we’re obeying the EU’s trade rules). And once the inevitable drop in GDP (of 3-14%) is accounted for, one assumes that would probably make the country much worse off.

Meanwhile Cameron’s secret “negotiations” with the EU seem to have come a little unstuck, after several EU leaders claimed they still hadn’t a clue what changes he’s actually after….presumably whatever cosmetic changes he can get to hoodwink the tabloids into supporting a Yes vote one assumes.

Also this week the US again reiterated the point that Brexit would invalidate all US trade deals with the country. The UK would therefore need to renegotiate such deals, and its doubtful they’d get the same generous terms as the EU has managed. Now to anyone with half a brain this should be obvious. I’ve pointed this out myself several times and this isn’t even the first time the Americans have said this, nor that they’ve expressed disquiet at the idea of Brexit.

However, Farage and the UKIP bigot brigade in Mr Men land don’t seem to be aware of this. They’ve been working under the delusion (one could draw parallels to some of the SNP’s pre-independence delusions, such as automatically becoming an EU member and keeping the pound) that somehow the US will reward Britain’s efforts to destabilise the NATO alliance and harm transatlantic trade by lavishing gifts on the British.

Farage even went so far to accuse the US official in question of being a paid stooge of some shadowy pro-EU conspiracy. Now ignoring the fact that, as mentioned, this is not the first time the US has pointed this out. There is also a certain hypocrisy given that Farage himself is in the pay of various shadowy hedge fund types who plan to profit from the chaos Brexit will unleash.

The Hungry for power games

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The Hunger for power games in the US continues, with the first two cannon’s of resignation fired. This came in the wake of the democratic debate, where it became evident that this is clearly a two horse race between Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton, leading to two of the trailing candidates dropping out.

Meanwhile, in the GOP debate, an attempt by Jeb Bush to cut Marco Rubio down to size failed rather spectacularly. Donald “only a few million” Trump (he’s been telling a story about how he had to work his way up because his father would only led him “a few million” to get started) has now slipped in the polls and is trailing Ben Carson, a retired brain surgeon…..who constantly looks and sounds like someone who conducted brain surgery on himself. Basically if you think Trump is bad, wait till you hear Ben Carson.

The GOP debate has to stand in stark contrast to the democratic party debate (the only time anyone brought up Benghazi et al, was when Bernie Sanders said he was sick of hearing about Clinton’s “damn e-mails”). Which means that on the plus side, its very likely that after the Republicans have finished knocking chunks out of each other, they is less chance of whoever they put forward getting elected.

Argie hypocrisy

You may recall how the Top Gear team were chased out of Argentina over a number plate that seemed to allude to the Falklands war? Well the Argentinians are reopening the case. Are they going to put on trial the “war veterans(many in there twenties who fought in a war thirty years ago!) who attacked the BBC crew and burnt their cars? No, they are going after Clarkson for altering the number plate as they attempted to flee the country. Needless to say this stinks of hypocrisy. One wonders what Interpol will make of it when they ring up. “What you want us to arrest Clarkson for a minor offence regarding a number plate? Ya, why don’t we arrest him for being an arse in a denim free zone while we’re at it?

The imfamous car sporting the offending number plate, several months prior to filming (indeed this source http://jalopnik.com/more-proof-the-original-offensive-top-gear-license-plat-1644835449 points to DVLA data suggesting its been registered to the offending plate since 1991)

The imfamous car sporting the offending number plate, several months prior to filming (indeed this source points to DVLA data suggesting its been registered to the offending plate since 1991)

Also I don’t think the Argentinians understand how this plays out for neutrals. I mean personally, I can’t fathom why the Brit’s nor the Argie’s want the Islands. There is oil in the seas nearby, yes, but I’d argue this is a separate claim’s issue. But instead the Argentinians constantly choose to come across as them being bonkers mad. Ultimately one is forced to ask the question who should control the Falklands, the nutters who foam at the mouth and scream Malvina’s whenever some mentions the Falklands, or the people who are already there (okay, not very sane either, they seem to have this strange thing for Maggie Thatcher…and sheep!)

Every now and then a retired UK Admiral will pop up and say how its impossible now for the UK to protect the Island thanks to recent spending cuts. However I would argue that the Argentinian behaviour on this issue (not just Top Gear, but their defacto blockade of the Island) has now so alienated neutrals that the fact is, it doesn’t matter. Even if the UK failed to protect the Islands they would likely find their western allies taking the UK’s side. Argentina would face sanctions similar to those Russia’s been hit by, except that Argentina isn’t Russia (no oil) and its economy would quickly collapse. No doubt a US carrier battle group would soon show up to conduct “exercises” (Operation Handball?).

In short the British military won’t have to do anything, it would be just a matter of time before the Argentinians retreated with their tail between their legs. And they would have no one to blame but themselves.

Lording it over

Normally the house of lords is the sort of place you expect to more or less rubber stamp the legislation of a Tory government. However this week instead, they chose to reject Osborne’s attempts to emulate Thatcher’s poll tax by cutting working tax credits.

This is a rare, but entirely justified action by the upper house. The Tories went through the election repeatedly claiming that they won’t touch tax credits, yet blink and they were cutting them within a few months. Obviously if the Tories have now moved so far to the right that a bunch of hereditary rich guy’s think they are going too far, this should serve as a warning of how far they’ve drifted from the centre ground.

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Cameron is now talking about expanding the upper house to stack it with pro-Tory peers. Already the Lords has over 800 peers, even thought the seating capacity of the chamber is closer to at most 400. What’s he going to do, find a few hundred right-wing dwarves? High ho, high ho, its off to cut we go, with a hovel and a pick pig and a racist shit….

While I agree that there is a need for some serious reform of the House of Lords, this means cutting the number of peers and making it more democratically accountable, not stacking it with more old rich guys.

Tampon Tax

Finally, we come to the “Tampon Tax. While pistachio nuts and Jaffa cakes are subject to no VAT (because they are seen to be essentials) tampon’s are instead taxed. If ever you wanted to see evidence of how chauvinistic this government is its this. Presumably its never occurred to Cameron why his wife is always running to the bathroom and a little anxious about once a month or so.