Shuttersparks

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Category: Politics

“Right to Work”

Sounds great. It’s supposed to sound great.

Rand Paul is trying to make “Right to Work” the law of the land. Hah.

Republicans have been trying to destroy unions ever since I started paying attention to politics, which was 49 years ago. In the 1970s, I was opposed to the concept of unions, and there were reasons for this. Then, I learned some more and realized that my situation was very unusual — like 0.1% unusual. I learned more history and more about capitalism, and reversed my position. Then I spent some years in different countries and learned some more.

Unions are vital, especially in an unregulated capitalist regime like we have here in the USA today. Businesses will abuse workers unless prevented by law or by unions. That’s just how it is. So, unions it must be.

It’s common in politics to name things the opposite of what they are, and “Right to Work” is a great example. It’s right up there with Hitler and Goebbels including “socialist” in the name of their party — a fine joke it was.

Problems with Populism

Or, why populism irritates me.

Economics and sociology are mind-bendingly complex because of the human element. Humans are mind-bendingly complex and often irrational, and we bring that mess to everything we do. That’s how we are. We’re not robots. Each of us is unique, composed of our life story, experiences, hopes, fears, wants, knowledge, and neuroses. Politics is a mixture of economics and sociology, so it’s equally complex.

My observation is that populists oversimplify. Populists think they have all the answers. They think they’re real smart. They think they know more or see more than the rest. In fact, they know less and see less. That’s why they don’t see the complexities of reality and think things are simpler than they really are.

Because populists think everything is so simple and obvious, they’re like a bull in a china shop, with little respect for the complexities of humans. They look down on and ridicule people who have a genuine understanding of the complexities.

Populists are often idealists. They’re unwilling to compromise. This is a fatal flaw when it comes to politics because the practice of politics is the art of compromise. That’s what politics is. You never get what you want. If all goes well, you get something closer to what you want than what you had, but that’s all you’ll get. In politics, if you try to stand your ground, you’ll get run over and end up worse off than when you started. That’s how politics works, how it’s always worked, and it will never change because: human nature.

All of these things that I see in populists today are way too familiar. Populists remind me of libertarians. Back in the 1970s I was a libertarian and I exhibited all of the flaws I describe above, and so did all my libertarian friends. We used to hang out and talk about how all the world’s problems could be solved if we just did a few simple things, A, B, and C. It was all so obvious. How could anyone with a brain not see it? Unfortunately, the truth is that we didn’t understand the problems because we omitted human nature from our analyses. In particular, we omitted human greed and its overwhelming power. This is breathtakingly ironic because libertarians are all about capitalism. What is capitalism? Capitalism is institutionalized greed. Greed is the engine — the only engine — that drives capitalism. This and its ramifications somehow never occurred to us. It was like some kind of blindness that I still find astonishing to think back on.

Populism is enabled by a similar form of selective blindness and/or refusal to accept reality. There’s an old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt”. It’s true in my case. When I talk to populists today, it’s like I’m talking to who I was in the 1970s and it irritates the heck out of me.

By the way, this rant was triggered by a good post here: https://truth-sandwich.com/2019/02/15/tastes-like-chicken/

Criminal Malpractice?

It used to be that your doctor, who knows you and your medical history, made the decisions about your medical care. Today, a top cardiologist might make such a decision, decide on a certain procedure, but then must get approval from an insurance company. Procedures deemed necessary by the doctor are often denied.

So, insurance companies are practicing medicine without a license! That used to be a crime. What’s going on here?

Sure, insurance companies have doctors on staff to set up and adjust the rules used by the computer systems that make the decisions. But, the computer systems base decisions mainly on actuarial tables and statistics, not on medical knowledge, and certainly not on familiarity with the patient and their particular problems. The decision is not made by a doctor.

Even if a doctor becomes directly involved in the decision on a certain case, that doctor doesn’t know the patient and isn’t interested in the patient. That doctor wants to keep his job, to keep his employer happy. What’s more, such doctors are clearly less qualified and less experienced than a cardiologist who makes these life and death decisions every day. They’re not real doctors. They’re people who have earned a doctorate in medicine but are working for insurance companies and not practicing with real patients like a normal doctor.

An insurance company is not a doctor and yet it practices medicine. Is a crime being committed right under our noses, but we don’t recognize it as such because of the complicated context and acceptance of the status quo? Everyone’s doing it so it must be okay.

$1.5 Trillion Tax Cut Fails to Deliver What Congress Promised

Time: December 2017
Place: Washington, DC

Congress: We’re going to restructure the tax code and give you corporations an enormous $1.5 trillion tax break.
Corporations: Great. Thanks.
Congress: We believe this money will cause big corporations like you to increase your capital expenditures, which will stimulate the economy.
Corporations: Why would we do that? We’ll use the money for stock buybacks that drive up the price of our stock and we’ll pocket the rest of it.
Congress: Wait. What? Well, we’re going to do it anyway because our big donors want it and Trump wants it.

Reuters: $1.5 Trillion US Tax Cut has No Major Impact on Business CAPEX.

Please comment below.

IRS Building, Washington DC

IRS Building, Washington DC

Bridge Collapse Sign of Things to Come?

A bridge collapsed this morning in the West Deptford area of New Jersey sending a train loaded with toxic chemicals into a creek.  It was reported on CNN here: http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/30/us/new-jersey-train-derail/index.html

CNN Photo:

The American Society of Civil Engineers publishes an annual evaluation of the infrastructure of the United States.  There are tens of thousands of bridges in the U.S., most of them built long ago and ill maintained.  The ASCE says that a quarter of the nation’s bridges are “structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.”  Water systems, dams, and other infrastructure is also old and in need of repair.

But politicians are reluctant to sponsor remediation projects because they lack appeal and pizazz.  It’s much more exciting and attractive to voters to grandstand about a new project.  There’s no interest in spending money on existing structures and systems.

The ASCE estimates that $2.2 trillion needs to be spent repairing existing infrastructure.  Imagine how many jobs that would create.  But remediation projects are boring so we’ll have to wait until serious failures become common and people die before something is done about this problem.

The American Society of Civil Engineers publishes the results of their evaluation here: http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

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