Sunday, November 02, 2008

On the edge of history

It will be an historic moment when Barack Obama crosses 270 electoral votes.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

What now?

John McCain's campaign went down in flames with the race-baiting of his activist's alleged attack. This preludes the blog's title: The New Democratic Majority.

I, for one, am a little worried about the Democrat's controlling the government. It can, if mismanaged, lead to 2002-2006 (and after-effects). The Dems need to stick to a few basic priorities and punish any fraud, mismanagement or ethics violations with force, not encourage them with impunity. Key issues and good governance should be the motto of the new government.

First, the focus should be on the economy. The stock market is the bi-polar predecessor to the old codger that is the economy. We are in a period of serious deleveraging by companies and households. The stock market exaggerates things, but in this case, we have the "PERFECT STORM" raging. One only has to look to Japan to see how painful the economy can get.

The stock markets may recover quickly, or at least stop falling, but don't start blaming that for continued economic malaise. Reducing credit exposure among $300 million is a long, difficult process, especially when accompanied by millions more across the world.

What is needed is strong leadership into the darkness and an understanding that other campaign promises can be filled to the benefit of the world financial system...through hard good companies. Health care, the number one issue, is on the top of this list. Health care adds $1,500 to the cost of every car in Detroit. Sure, we also need to make sure they make cars that people want, but providing healthcare to their workers (and retirees) is a giveaway worth at least a significant uptick in the CAFE standards).

An orderly withdrawal from Iraq with some redeployment to Afghanistan would help both countries, as well as ours. It would also help reduce the off-budget spending that we accumulate in fighting both wars. This reassessment of our military will also lead to the source for savings (apart from the miniscule savings we could realize from eliminating earmarks). Many military projects are earmarks in disguise; projects congressmen and congresswomen want but the military doesn't need. We need regular maintainance and competitive upgrades of our military capacity, but we get much more wasteful spending called that. What we need o do is find the useless programs and cut them and redirect some of the spending towards paying our soldiers a good wage, providing them with healthcare and supporting their families with more generous hazard pay when we send them abroad.

That is the recipe for a better Republic, through good times and bad.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


The current crash gives time to think about solutions going forward. Some argue that home ownership should be supported by more bailouts of the housing industry and home owners. I desagree. Home ownership should be encouraged to a degree but not as much as it is. Currently home ownership is seen as a benefit in and of itself and is treated as so by the tax code. Mortgage interest tax credits are fucking screwing the non-home-owning poor and contributing to sprawl. I don't have data to contribute to my point, but I want to present my argument regardless.

Tax credits for mortgage interest bring many people into the realm where the tax credits make a difference. Otherwise the tax credits don't mean shit. Many tax credits which give low-income people (as people like I, who made $30 grand last year) a tax break don't do squat because itemizing our taxes doesn't do anything for us.

Instead, we get the ideal of one day in the future owning a home. Bucolic goodness. Fuck it. Promoting home ownership as a good in and of itself creates sprawl. Cities with lax regulation see housing booms while cities with more reasonable urban planning see housing inflation in sympathy. That is the race to the bottom. Promoting home ownership creates sprawl, which is harmful. Limit your homes and create equal tax breaks for renters.

I get housing at a reasonable cost, and I provde a meaningful return for my landlord while avoiding sprawl (I live near city center on public mass transit). No tax break for me! Fuck that!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Politics as usual

I like the renewable energy tax credits in the rescue (aka bailout) package passed by Congress but their inclusion in this bill makes me cringe and die a little bit. They are worthwhile but completely irrelevant to the bill (the "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008"). The structure and actions of the government have become inimical to the ideas of our nation's founding principles.

Our nation was founded on the ideas of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" (property was a controversial term in the late 18th century). We were supposed to be a Republic. We elected our representatives directly and they tended to the business on our behalf. This system broke down over time.

Under 14th Amendment rulings, the corporation received personhood without the campaign contribution limits applicable to living beings (U.S. citizens). Their 1st Amendment rights to 'free speech' are greater than mine and they rule the Congress. They also have greater resources (at least most do) to pursue their prosperity through legislative mandate than I do.

It pervades every Congressional discussion. The original rescue bill failed to pass but once it was made amenable to our elected representatives through give-aways, ($150 billion of them) it passed. It's enough to make me cynical.

Fabric of our democracy

In a routine interview on Hardball, we see a new McCarthy. Actually more of a new Salem witch trials. Representative Bachmann (R-MN) produces a screed that places her outside the regular liberal-conservative bounds. In said screed, she calls Barack Obama and unnamed Democratic members of Congress "un-American". In an election where the Republican candidate is more than 10 points behind, this desperation move is predictable.

In addition to spreading racial innuendos (e.g. comparisons of Barack Obama as Osama bin Laden) the McCain campaign is resorting to the Mcarty-ite tactics of labeling one's opponent 'anti-American'.

Enough to make me sick to my stomach. I, like many Americans, want this election to revolve around the starkly different policies of the candidates. A desperate man will do anything to win.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

I like the markets...and InTrade is a pretty good predictor of politics given the 2004 election. Obama has soared in the polls on Intrade (essentially gambling website on politics and other things). The state-by-state electoral map looked close to even before the first Obama-McCain debate -- 290-260, or close to that. Now the "leaning" polls (which show electoral votes if the probabilities of today were the votes of 11/4) shows 338-200. Even the "average" votes which defy the electoral college and divide votes proportionally to the 'odds' on the state show Obama leading 314-224. Either way, the gambling markets show a Obama landslide.

In the age of Bush elections, this is a landslide. Bush "beat" Gore 271-266 in 2000 and Kerry 286-251 in 2004. There has not been a competitive election since the Bush fraud in 2000 (1996, 1992, 1988, 1984, 1980 both had winners with more than 350 electoral college votes out of 538 (# of reps + # of senators + 3 to Washington DC) or 65%). In this polarized stalemate, it takes 300 electoral votes to create a 'rout' (along with the popular vote) which is what the InTrade markets suggest is happening. It's not predicting a rout in the pre-2000 way, but in the 'new reality' that Bush created of 50%+1, 300+ electoral college votes is significant.

I will be happy if Obama takes the presidency regardless, but I will be sadly disappointed to see him win the electoral college without capturing the popular vote. The electoral college (the largest impediment to third paries, a shame) ranks people a different types of "fractional voters". In a state with 100,000 people, each person is 0.00001% of the population. In a state with 10,000,000 people, each person is 0.0000001% of the population. The electoral college system tries to iron this out using the proportionately represented votes plus the equally represented votes to make up the electoral college (plus 3 good will votes for DC, which has equal taxation but no representation). However, this creates issues for both parties: Using 2003 data on population except for 2000 data for DC, each electoral college vote represents 167,081 people in Wyoming, while each represents 650,545 in Texas and 645,172 in California.

This means that electorally, one vote in Illinois is worth 28% of a Wyoming vote while a Delaware vote is worth 61% of a Wyoming vote and an Arizona vote 30% of a Wyoming vote and an Alaskan vote is worth 77% of a Wyoming vote. Not that those statistics mean anything; voting is majority rules in each state, but it is still worth considering alternatives to the electoral system that are more reasonable.

The discrepancies described above are probably built into the markets if these 'efficient market' people are to believed so it's a wonder they're still so cheerily pro-McCain.

Paying Taxes is Patriotic "Overall, the 2007 return shows that last year the couple had an adjusted gross income of $166,080 and paid $24,738 in taxes — about a 15 percent rate after deductions. In 2006, the records show, the Palins earned $127,869 as adjusted gross income, with taxes paid listed at $11,944 — less than a 10 percent rate."

Fuck, I have made between $20,000 and $30,000 a year in the last 5 years since I graduated from college and I fork over 25% of my pay in taxes. Taxes aren't too low, they're to low on those rich fucks who can hire creative Enron accountants.

If I controlled things, we would allow the Alternative Minimum Tax to hit people down to $100,000 a year where deductions are low and then at that point slash the deductions and garbage then take every tax dodge where there's a discrepancy between standard and AMT and get rid of it as long as it doesn't affect those earning under $150k. Those tax breaks should have a limit of $150k.

I hope to be rich and all that and I want to pay my taxes that I owe to keep the infrastructure good (it's shitty now) and keep the possibility of starting a business. Fuck the Palinites, PAYING TAXES IS PATRIOTIC.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Housing bust

If anyone cares, I predicted the subprime bust at least 3 years ago. It was accidental, but I still say through the hoopla. My concern (unlike the markets today) was for the housing consumer. The subprime bubble, which was predicated on nothing but appreciating home values (another fucking bubble that people still are unaware of). Low-income consumers were opting to buy houses they couldn't afford using crafty loan products they weren't told would explode upon them. From an outside perspective (I rent...the housing values bottom out an average of about 7 years after they peak which is also the year I turn the average age people buy their first house, late 20s) it should have been obvious to anyone paying attention. I was fresh out of college when Air America launched (actuallly, add a couple of years, I was 24). All the ads were for either 'interest-only' loans or for 'negative amortization' loans. Either way, the loans were exploitative. Either you relied upon a stable housing market or you bet on your house price rising above its current value. Only they probably didn't tell you that. The crafty mortgage lenders only gave you enough info along the lines of 'you can afford this house' without even verifying how much you earned. Somehow, income and expense were no longer linked from the housing perspective even though most people spend between 33 and 50% of their income on housing (I spend about 34% and, again, I rent). If people with sub-prime mortgages are depending on housing price growth (not to mention the interest rate jumps after 2 years) to fund their house, it's no wonder they got burned. It's a con. Simple as that; mortgage originators wanted volume, low-income folks wanted houses, details were ignored, and, what?, the loans turned out to be no good? Go figure.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I feel I should comment

I was out of town when the Virginia Tech shootings happened, but I think I should comment on it. A good liberal like me should have a post on why gun control is the logical outgrowth of this, but this is self-evident except to the caller to NPR earlier today who believed it wouldn't have happened if everyone was armed.

My point is one of confusion and a lack of understanding. I believe myself to be a good person and understand morals (although I don't belong to a religion that prescribes a set of morals). I don't understand how someone could put a gun to their head and pull the trigger and the confusion deepens. How anyone could decide to go out and kill others, whether in Iraq, Virginia, Belfast, Sarejavo, Rwanda, Congo, etc., etc. The urge to kill is something that is unnatural to humans unless their live is threatened or some mental disease is involved. There are some people who are easily swayed to a tactic and will 'drink the kool-aid,' to use the anniversary of the Jonestown people.

I think peace is our natural state and other events (war, occupation, stirring of ethnic hatred, actions to prevent others' killing) are the main reasons people kill. It seems so unnecessary and it should allow us to reflect on the effect our decisions make in our lives. Specifically, we need to realize that every action we take should be (it won't be) based on rational ideas. No one can control the heat-of-the-moment actions, but living life based on reason (whether guided by religious principles or not) is important. We are not just multi-cellular beings being driven by the market, materialism, religion, etc. We act because we choose to act and any denial of this fact denies our intelligence (whether we believe it came from evolution or as a gift from a deity).