Friday, November 1, 2019

They Hate Taxes -- and Government!



I have gone to demonstrations at the state capitol for the past few years. I know those groups and the type of liberals there pretty well. I also drive around the state doing outdoor activities. I see the other half. It is probably 50% here, or even more in rural counties. In the nation it is some 40%. These are the people that voted for Trump. But they are not going away. They work minimum wage, and you can get by with that in the middle of the land. Rent a one-bedroom apartment or hang on to the little house you inherited. It has a one car garage. The husband leaves the pick-up outside in front of it. It may even be full of junk. This family makes enough to pay a little federal tax. State tax is maybe 2.5%, but there may be a low limit where you do not pay that.

They get something for that state tax. They get roads, they get police and fire while driving around the state. The city collects a tax as well, and property tax goes to pay for public schools. Very few of these people can afford home schooling with a parent staying home. That is for their pastor’s wife, and for a few big shots in their church.

At the gas station I heard a few of these people complaining about the new ¼ cent sales tax added to take care of roads. No bike paths, parks or extra fluff is to be paid out of this. It is for cars. Yet they complain. “What happened to all that other tax I pay to the city?”

It would be fruitless to explain city finances to these people. They do not care. It is fruitless to explain about immigrants and jobs. They do not take any of the jobs that you would take, unless it is mowing or roofing that you do at minimum wage. Outdoor jobs.

In general they do not care about politics. Sometimes they do follow AM radio, where the all the talk can be summarized as “government is bad and it will take away your guns.” But they would not be able to explain city funding, city politics, city officials and services. “I don’t need any services. Just the state park sticker so I can go camping, boating and fishing.”

They buy lottery tickets. It’s like cigarettes and beer, it’s a habit. But even there they are suspicious of the “millions disappearing” into those “Democrat politicians’ pet projects.”  Schools and nature. “We have enough trees already!”

Often, without much knowledge, there is a kind of resentment of someone who is “getting something for free.” They actually are envious of those who are poor enough to be on Medicaid. “That old black guy has COPD, he earned it. Why should I pay for his oxygen tanks?”

The bottom line is that there are millions of people out there who do vote, but get very few facts. Even if they did, they have a mostly libertarian bent in politics. Trump is not the last to use this. We will need to give them something. The infrastructure jobs that would give them a benefit, for example. They may not even know that the contractor they work for is paid by that awful FEDERAL government.

Healthcare

Healthcare does not seem to play a big role in these people's lives. Some may owe a lot to hospitals, mainly for injuries. They seem to mostly avoid doctors.

This means that they will vote for whatever candidate seems to cost them the least. Many may see NOT buying health insurance as a great choice.

Democratic candidates will not win votes based on healthcare. They may eventually be positive towards it, once they have the coverage. Especially if they have kids.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Trump Will Be Impeached

This is not a political year. In local politics there were no real elections. Yet, since 2016, since I had shortly moved to a great plains state, I can't ever forget that at least half my neighbors voted for Trump. The Republicans I can understand, in the sense that they never vote for a Democrat. Never. They could possibly stay home and not vote.

But here we are. The president made a quid pro quo deal with Ukraine.


The simple minded man stated on the white house lawn this week that he will keep doing this, in hte name of seeking out corruption.

I just came to the awful conclusion: maybe Trump is as dumb as he seems. He seems to be the typical conspiracy theory follower. He is not qualified to run the country. Is this high crimes and misdemeanors or just a flaw, like a physical flaw that one might have but still function, more or less? He seems to justify the principle that what is good for Trump is good for the USA. All else is treason.

Hannity releases a conspiracy theory, perhaps distilled from Alex Jones or Breitbart. A week or two go by. Next we know, Trump is directing foreign policy by this. Joe Biden and Hunter Biden were in Ukraine at the same time, there must be a conspiracy!

The other part of Trump doing all these things is to do with people surrounding him not ever disagreeing with him. Their only job is to prop up his ego and flatter him. Sometimes they try to spin things he said to lessen the damage.

Board members and directors are hired by corporations to look good in a PR sense. They put pictures of them in brochures etc. It is sort of impossible that there is not some corruption in the Ukraine, a developing country. The CEO of the company Hunter Biden worked for actually had a seat in the Ukraine bureaucracy giving essentially himself permits. But this is not a matter Hunter Biden let alone Joe Biden was involved with. Board members meet a couple of times a year to see that a company is run properly. An accountant report from an independent agency shows the business. Stockholders get all this info. This and a few bigger changes is ALL that board members do. They are not there to bribe or help a business along in some illegal manner.

Trump will be impeached. Trump votes will say "the Democrats got away with it again, the Bidens are crooked." And the Senate will vote to keep Trump in power to the end of 2020. Or nearly so.

The evidence for Biden blame is weak, other than the mentioned Burisma CEO himslef. NBC has a good story on it:

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2020-election/there-s-no-evidence-trump-s-biden-ukraine-accusations-what-n1057851

ALTERNATIVE INTERPRETATION

Thinking about Trump voters, who get their info from Foxnews and Breitbart, there is a possible explanation of what Trump is doing.  He want to be in the press, fake or not:

1 He gets Democrats and the press outraged. This just plays into his hand, because his base LOVES him trolling the Democrats

2 He is planting the seeds of his 2020 message: Biden is a politician. All politicans are crooked, but Biden especially working as vice president was able to obtain personal gain in connection with foreign contacts, After all, Hillary did! (according to them: uranium One). It is his launch of the Biden version of "but her e-mails." It now becomes "But Biden and Ukraine."


Sunday, July 21, 2019

American Carnage

A book on the Trump era by  Tim Alberta is worth a look, to understand what we are heading for in the 2020 election. My prediction is that if we have Biden running, he is going to look weak against Trump. Facts are out the window. It is all about appearances.

Guardian intoduces the book with these words:

Trump surveyed the rusty hinterland of what used to be God’s own country and vowed that “this American carnage stops right here and stops right now”. Since he lies whenever his mouth moves, the opposite was true: the carnage – of constitutional norms, international accords and rules of civilised conduct – was about to begin and for Trump, who says at one point in Alberta’s book: “I fucking love this job!”, it has been a gleeful carnival, an opportunity to foment an almost cosmic chaos.

Link to buy the book:
Book

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Farming issues

I complained last time about economists ignoring farming in general audience books of how the world works. There are other books that have lots of facts in a different manner:


The book is also sold under the name
What's Really Happening to Our Planet?: The Facts Simply Explained

One page points out the soil issue which should become a major issue as the climate changes:


More on this topic, and the reasons for organic farming is explained in another book. Basically we kill all the organic matter in the soil, including bacteria and other life, between crops. If you leave that matter in the ground, it prevents erosion and also retains water. Natural soil retains water.


it is the combined use of farming chemicals and leaving bare soil that causes that. No till agriculture leaves some stubs over the winter and helps retain soil, and can be done with "chemical" farming as well.

A related video:


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

A little economics

Much of farming and ranching has to do with politics. It is a complex story, having to do with lobbyists, farm bills, industry related to it (Monsanto, food processing), subsidies, crop failure issues etc. The farmer in the prairie tends to be Republican. I'm not going to get into the details of that, other than to mention that their main intent is to keep state money in the state and to direct as much of federal tax collected as possible back to the state. They understand the need for some federal control and support, such as is flooding and river issues. But still, they have not found Democrats addressing their concerns.

Aside from a recent interest in the workings of politics (not so much politicians), I have gathered a few books on economics. Very few of them mention agriculture. In the US, only some 2-3% make a living producing our food at farms, ranches and orchards. The more broadly defined "farm industry," which includes the farmers and ranchers as well as some support networks, employs 11% of the work force. If economists look at food at all, it is a measure of poverty. If you cannot eat the quantity of starch, protein etc. one needs daily, you may be close to the poverty level. One of my books tells that Japan eats enough food that if they were to raise all their own food, they would need five times the land they have. Many Asian countries are in that situation. Whether rich or poor, they have to export goods to eat.

What we all do for work:

Some of that work is in fact in rural areas, but is not farming. For example, there are seed plants, chemical plants and ethanol plants. Some food processing takes place in rural towns. These are for example in Western Kansas, where there are slaughter houses.


I was out West bicycling with a group. We saw many trains with a few hundred coal cars. Many of the rocky mountain states have coal. It comes from Wyoming, Montana and states South of these. Much of your electricity is still made from coal. It is one of the cheap sources of fuel. For agriculture, the fuel is mostly oil or ethanol based.



Other trains bring containers from the West. A good part of them contains consumer goods from Asia. Much of the clothing and personal items of the farmer and rancher working on the prairie. Why do we need to haul it so far?






It has to do with wages. If you make Nike shoes at 3 dollars a hour in Asia, compared to 15 dollars an hour in the US, the shipping cost becomes clear. If a pair of Nikes costs 50 dollars, the labor is a small part of that (it does not take an hour to make shoes by machine or even partly manually.) But the shipping actually is a long process, and many hands are employed getting your shoes to the store. My guess is that the shipping is equal to the costs of labor to make the shoe, and not anywhere near the cost of making it here. The stores and distributors take their major cuts.

Another way of looking at the costs is to assume the 3 dollar worker in Asia (Vietnam) makes 10 pairs of shoes at 3 dollars an hour. The US worker makes the same 10 pairs of shoes at 15 dollars an hour. Therefore, it must cost less than 12 dollars to ship the 10 pairs across the ocean. The shipping within the US does not enter into the comparison, as you would have to ship it to distribution centers in any case.


How shoes are made: Video 1
A more traditional method: Video 2 

Big Things are still made in the USA. International Harvester used to make the combines for harvesting, but a series of mergers with heavy equipment makers has left the company with a product but all new names. The combine is explained here:
LINK: Combine

The harvester is now Case IH: https://tractors.fandom.com/wiki/Case_IH

Red tractors are no longer made in Iowa or Illinois, the plants have moved to Wisconsin:  News story


The cows were everywhere when we bicycled. Wheat was here and there, where irrigation was not needed. 






And corn was common where center pivot irrigation was used. Corn is another story. Corn and soybean are a major source of animal feed. To feed one American, about two acres of land is needed. Those Asian countries want to raise animals, but with the shortage of land in Asia, we export feed to them. Much of out food is made from the agricultural raw materials by a few giants such as Conagra.






Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Patriotism

Donald Trump has his base supporting him and those 40% will vote for him no matter what. But there are states that still are borderline. Given a 5% error in polling, the states of the rust belt still matter.
This is where patriotism matters. Trump is in a position to act patriotic and strong. His tweets and acts support a strong effort, though no military action. If Putin took over Ukraine, we would do nothing.

As it is, he appears patriotic in front of crowds, and there is some appeal to simple working class folks who celebrate Fourth of July with a bang. Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet and all that. There is nothing wrong with being loyal to your country, to enlisting in the military, to feel good about your country. Provided we are in a situation where our military actions get the support of our allies.

The Democrats are in a position of weakness. Though Clinton got talked into some military action, he was a centrist. Hillary is history as well. Our trend is not to support nation building. We see the exporting of "democracy" as mostly a failed effort. Oil states rotate toward a dictatorship because the people in general do not own the land oil.

Our military efforts would be in support of our allies or toward stability in trouble spots, such as Kosovo. None our acts are seen by voters as "strong" or particularly patriotic. The Trumpsters, as I now understand, just want us to be boss in every situation. Negotiation is not seen as patriotic. We just want our way, they say. Trump is doing exactly that at least in appearance, and tweets. Basically he says fuck you to any foreigner, any unamerican party or view. We will go alone!

The Democrats tend to attend to matters more important at home: veterans, firefighters at 9-11 (as expressed by John Stewart to Congress recently). We go about it differently: less cheer leading.



Problems come from appearances. Trump appears patriotic to his fans. it is difficult to understand that most of them do not see it as a con. He represents them, whether he is sincere or not!

Bush was a rather useless president to start with. His golden opportunity was provided by Bin Laden. It is kind of sad we could only rise to the occasion when assaulted. But that is how things went. Bush was not as good as Trump at appearances, though Trump hugging a flag and Bush lading on an aircraft carrier amounts to the same. Just showmanship.

Trump's fight against "foreigners" and "China" or "Mexico" is seen as patriotic. This is a problem. We need to deal with immigrants in some manner, and the Democrats better get a clear message on that soon. Biden could use to his advantage that Obama deported 2.5 million illegals.

Trump plans big Fourth of July celebrations on 2019 and 2020. presidents normally do not participate. I hope the people will come to see that it is now  ALL ABOUT TRUMP. He is stealing our national holiday!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Abortion

Missouri became a leader in the anti-abortion movement all of a sudden. Quietly, clinics have closed by arbitrary rules. The major urban area at the Western end, Kansas City, has no clinic. Curiously, very conservative Kansas next door has a clinic in nearby Overland Park.

Nationally, white men have been ruling on abortion in all these states. Missouri had a Democrat for a senator, and even a governor. But now it is fully conservative. When the economy is doing well, the conservative issues, like abortion and guns, become campaign issues. The death penalty is also a popular campaign item. The Missouri house and senate look like this:


Nationally, Joe Biden was holding on to 20 year old ideas on abortion. These things were always decided by men. But as we have several women candidates running, Biden had to change his mind on this immediately. He no longer bans federal funds for abortion.

Nobody wants to face abortion personally. The rules put in are there to scare the single women, who have no means to support a child, to carry the child to term and put up the newborn to adoption.

The facts concerning abortion are the same as any other item you can look up on the internet. The truth lies out there, but you have to search a bit deeper. Start with Wikipedia.

Fetuses have a heart beat to exchange oxygen with the mother through the placenta. This not mean a fetus of 8 or 12 weeks is a functioning being. At 8-9 weeks it has limbs, fingers and toes. You can look up pictures of it.

Survival at past 20 weeks is only 50%, and the whole thing becomes a healthcare cost issue. Do you want the senators to pay for it? If not, what business do we have deciding? The options for the mother at 20 weeks are few, depending on insurance and local rulings. At this point, all options should be purely medical angles. Past 30-32 weeks survival is quite optimistic. But the whole thing is still quite in the medical arena at this point. The decision should be between parties involved and the doctor. The senator of the state or the US senate has no business inside the uterus at this point. There are medical reasons even for late term abortions. These are rarely done, something like 1-2% in most countries. Before we had abortion, women had to carry a dead fetus along for 9 months and give birth to a dead baby, if it did not abort on its own. It was quite common.

Added note: Biden was still struggling with this issue. It's not complicated. Katie Porter explained it to Bill Maher: Your mother made a choice. You are the consequence of that choice. We are all here because of that choice our mothers made. (Well, past 1960 something).

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Someone else is getting something for free!

Global warming is not real. The foreigners are taking all the jobs. Foreigners are not smart and we should not them into the country. And we absolutely should not ban plastic bags, how else will the owner of this pick up get his fishing snacks and supplies to the lake?

He was at the local lake, popular for all joggers, grannies, fishermen, kayakers and all. And me. He honked at me, passed me and came out to direct me to the bike path. The bike path around the lake is gravel, some of it was under water, and there were plenty of people at the shore using it. Dog walkers. I get to ride it when it is empty in November. He however is annoyed at my blinking tail light and HIS paying for my bike paths that I did not use. I was on the paved road. The road is used to get to locations in the park. It is useless for through traffic. He was going back and forth on both shores of the lake, "policing" it by his rules.

The main principle these people have with public spending is that "someone else is getting something for free that I do not." The thinking is close to that of libertarians, but not as well thought out.

There is no guesswork in deciding that he voted for Trump. These people are not interested in spending any public money for any group, any cultural activity (other than 4th of July rockets), anything different from the mainstream. Fishing is OK, "guys do it," because they need to get away from their wives on weekends. Bicycling is some liberal crazy thing. Jogging is almost as crazy. Half the funding for our trails is there for joggers. We host a well known half marathon. Crazy spending! Actually the marathon brings income. Billy Bob approves of baseball diamonds, and might even support the tax money supporting a local small time baseball team. At least the stadium. The games get ticket income for a little support to the athletes and staff.

Billy Bob must be really hurting when we have our once a year trail event, with thousands of cyclists and families doing loops that are cut off from car traffic on a June weekend. Trails are used for about half the distance.



Billy Bob is happy to know we do not spend public money for abortions. That is for the crazy socialist Europeans.

I wonder if Billy Bob favors education? He must have kids and grandkids in town. Do we need to have them learn modern life? Just the basics? Anyway, I am paying for his kids to learn, I pay property tax. I don't mind. I do not have kids or grandkids in town. some other Billy Bob will have to pay for their education elsewhere in the country.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Politicians

Who wants to make a career as a politician? What skills do they have? What motivates them? Who wants to spend decades in an office building with meeting rooms? Suppose you are in Montana or Idaho and are public minded, and here is where you go, or even a more plain office block building built in the 1900s. There the passionate Republicans can debate for days and days about acceptable ways to execute criminals or perform abortions. Or to ban the clinics in some technical manner, making the abortions more or less impractical. The abortion is only a bus ride to Seattle and back, but that itself is mostly impossible.


If I had the inclination to go into politics, I would tackle some practical matter for one or two terms, such as trash, and be done with it. Even there, you get people on the right or left to oppose NEW IDEAS, sometimes together.

The people out there is sparsely populated states have the same tasks as in the populated East. Police, city utilities, highway patrol, flooding and all the practical matters of life. The Kansans had to finally deal with their penny pinching Republicans and collect funds to take care of mounting problems. I admit that when Republicans are forced to deal with a practical problem, they can do it. I also admit that Democrats can also solve those same problems, but perhaps with more spending and debt. They want to fix it RIGHT, for the long term. The Republicans, however, are  more likely to be buddies with the contractors and play golf with them.

In middle of the road states you get the pendulum effect. The right merely has to cut taxes and spending for as long as possible. They never have to solve problems that cost money. They have to do things  they were voted to do: stop abortion, stop gay marriages, stop liberals. This costs nothing! Well, actually costs a lot, in the form of social problems and crime that follows. But the voters do  not see the connection.

Then in the middle of the road states the Democrats take over for 4-8 years and fix the stuff the Republicans refused to fix.

As an effective use of taxed money, politics is not the solution that spends the least money. They rarely use trained professionals, such as city managers who actually do know how to do public spending. Those type of managers do not get involved in social programs, only remotely, such as providing housing.

But there are forward thinkers, and eager young people launch into a career to push medical marijuana or wind power or some other thing. I guess there is a place for them. In many ways a dictatorial system such as China is better equipped to deal with practical problems: roads, infrastructure, health care, dams, waterways, harbors, airports etc etc. They also have allowed capitalism to enter in the form of manufacturing. This makes us dependent on them and war less likely.

I don't need to think about being a politician. I could only be and adviser. Where I live, they would not vote for an outsider and an atheist.