The sum of all fears

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/03/28/spiders-could-theoretically-eat-every-human-on-earth-in-one-year/?utm_term=.d0ace23ec804

This is less than optimal, right?

The DNC platform: a commentary. Part 2.

The Democratic Party Platform, was approved July, 2016. This is Part 2 of my page-by-page commentary, attempting to clarify the things with which I agree and the things with which I disagree.

In Part 1, I covered the Preamble and first major section of the platform. There are thirteen major section. This post covers the second, which is much shorter than the first.

CREATE GOOD-PAYING JOBS

[Page 7]

The prologue to this section is very good. It is inspiring and noble.

Building 21st Century Infrastructure

“If we are serious about reversing the decline of the middle class, we need major federal investments to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure…”

I agree. One of the main parts of our infrastructure mentioned in the opening, the Interstate Highway System, points to the difficulty of infrastructure. It is difficult and expensive to put in place, and it remains difficult and expensive to maintain. People tend to be motivated to sacrifice when it comes to building, but they also tend to relax after that and become much less motivated to maintain. That is what has happened in many places. The focus has turned from what was built and has been given to many other items. Tax money that was meant for infrastructure has been redirected to other projects which, as important as they might be, take away from what the money was meant to do. Providing infrastructure is one of the legitimate uses of taxed income.

“Democrats will also create an independent, national infrastructure bank…”

I don’t know what a national infrastructure bank is or what the possible up/downsides of it are.

Fostering a Manufacturing Renaissance

“Democrats believe one of the best ways to innovate, prosper, and create good-paying jobs is to make more in America…”

True. There are some good things in this paragraph. I’m going to point out the not-so-good.

“We must…claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas…”

That’s a creative way of saying we’re going to tax companies more if they have manufacturing outside of the country. Making it more expensive to manufacture elsewhere only makes goods more expensive here; it doesn’t  help the middle class.

“Democrats will defend the Export-Import Bank…”

Something else about which I know nothing.

[page 8]

Creating Good-Paying Clean Energy Jobs

Yes.

Pursuing Our Innovation Agenda: Science, Research, Education, and Technology

The first four paragraphs are largely non-specific. There’s nothing to disagree with there.

“Democrats support a free and open internet at home and abroad, and will oppose any effort by Republicans to roll back the historic net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission enacted last year.”

This sentence actually says two very different things. I understand the intent of the net neutrality rules, which are commendable. However, those rules do not produce a “free and open internet”. They do the opposite. They create an internet controlled and managed by the State.

“We will protect the intellectual property rights of artists, creators, and inventors at home and abroad.”

Good.

[Page 9]

“We will strengthen support for NASA and work in partnership with the international scientific community to launch new missions to space.”

Not everything NASA does is worthwhile, but I’m still in favor of the general purpose and would rather err on the side of aggressiveness over caution in this area.

Supporting America’s Small Businesses

“The Democratic Party will make it easier to start and grow a small business in America…”

That’s good. So many other things in the Democratic agenda point to this not being the case, but I’m will to suspend my disbelief. The rest of this paragraph is non-specific and aspirational.

Creating Jobs for America’s Young People

“Democrats will make investments to spur the creation of millions of jobs for our young people.”

Does the phrase “Democrats will make” mean that they will all be contributing to some fund or contributing in addition to their regular tithes and offerings, or do they really mean they will be taking more money from citizens to fund State-run programs?

I’m all for the first one. Not so much for the second option.

“Democrats will provide direct federal funding for a range of local programs that will put young people to work and create new career opportunities.”

Well, there’s the answer. So, no, I’m not in favor. More jobs for young people are needed, but State-created employment is never the answer in the long run.


End of the section major section.

You might ask, why now? Why didn’t I write all this back in 2016, before the election?

Um…I was stuck in a meeting I couldn’t get out of and the electricity went out in the building and we were trapped on the 18th floor and the telephone system blew, too. Amazingly enough.

Regardless of the delay, the Democratic positions on most things have not changed and many of the disagreements happening today are a result of what they believe vs. what is believed by their opponents.

So, now I’m writing.

Next: “Fight for Economic Fairness and Against Inequality”

The DNC platform: a commentary. Part 1.

The Democratic Party Platform, was approved July, 2016. This is my page-by-page commentary, attempting to clarify the things with which I agree and the things with which I disagree. Though at times I resort to sarcasm and outright ridicule in areas of disagreement, it is not meant as disparagement of persons with whom I am disagreeing. People of good character and vast knowledge can be found on both sides of most disagreements. These are my opinions.

The DNC platform consists of a preamble, followed by thirteen major sections.

Here we go…

Preamble

[Pages 1-3]

The preamble is a general statement of what is to come. The sentiments that are most emphasized are unity, commonality, and togetherness. Noble sentiments.

RAISE INCOMES AND RESTORE ECONOMIC SECURITY FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS

[Page 3]

“Democrats believe we must break down all the barriers holding Americans back…”

Democrats believe the barriers are not holding back all Americans, just the middle class. What are the barriers? “A rigged economy” designed by “the top one percent” along with “Republican governors, legislatures, and their corporate allies.”

Democrats believe these barriers are prohibiting us from achieving the “hallmarks of a middle class life—owning a home, having access to affordable and quality childcare, retiring with dignity”.

Raising incomes and having economic security are goals with which I agree. I also agree that the “hallmarks” are nice to have. However, the economy is not rigged like Democrats would insist. There are elements that favor the rich, but I’m not poor because the top one percent have my money. And while we could argue about whether home ownership, childcare, and comfortable retirement living are hallmarks of middle class life, I’m not sure why achieving those hallmarks are the sign of a healthy economy.

The “one percent” of earners that the Democrats like to target is an easy mark. You and I will not be in that one percent, so we won’t feel threatened when they are targeted. It is easy to rail against these unknown, unnamed people, who must not care about the poor and who must be so despicable and repulsive.

Any failure of our economy isn’t due to the success of the one percent. The one percent doesn’t have to give away their money in order for the ninety-nine percent to prosper. They need to spend it. The money the government takes from them, they will not spend; so, instead of the money going to the areas of the economy that have earned the right to receive it, it goes to whatever pet program legislators determine.

As you can tell, the Democrats are not getting off to a good start.

Raising Workers’ Wages

Now we get to specifics. Sort of.

“Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage…We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour…”

If one person were trying to raise a family of four on 40 hours of work at minimum wage, yeah, that wouldn’t be good.

However, that’s not the purpose of the minimum wage.

I believe the Democrats lost the Presidential election on this plank in their platform alone. The absurdity of this boggles the mind. Why stop at $15 an hour? Why not $20 or $30? While we’re at it, let’s mandate that everyone gets a unicorn.

This is socialist economics at its worst. It doesn’t work. Math doesn’t allow it. In order for employers to pay $15 an hour, it has to come from somewhere. “Record profits!” Democrats insist. That doesn’t work for non-profits, does it? And what about the thousands (millions?) of small businesses that aren’t Apple or Exxon?

“We believe that Americans should…have the right to form or join a union…”

I agree with this. I also believe that those who join a union should fully enjoy the consequences of that union. If a union achieves better working conditions and fair wages, all members should enjoy those consequences. This is when unions are at their best.

If a business closes because of the unreasonable demands of the union, all members should enjoy those consequences — unemployment — as well.

“The one trillion dollars spent annually by the government on contracts, loans, and grants should be used to support good jobs that rebuild the middle class.”

So…no more contracts, loans, and grants? Or all these contracts, loans, and grants should support good jobs that rebuild the middle class? Is there no commonality at present between the two?

I’m thinking that there must be some of that one trillion dollars that could be justified apart from “good jobs that rebuild the middle class.” But I’m also thinking that some of that one trillion dollars goes towards things the Democrats still want to do, whether or not it supports jobs and the middle class. This is all remarkably vague.

What would happen if, instead of the government taking one trillion dollars from the American people, the American people had the opportunity to spend that one trillion dollars? I’m thinking it would produce some pretty good jobs.

I also wonder: why, after eight years of Obama’s leadership, does the middle class have to be rebuilt?

[Page 4]

Protecting Workers’ Fundamental Rights

“The Democratic Party believes that when workers are strong, America is strong.”

Agreed.

“Democrats will make it easier for workers, public and private, to exercise their right to organize and join unions.”

In theory, I agree. However, there are potential pitfalls, as I’ll discuss below.

“We support binding arbitration to help workers who have voted to join a union reach a first contract.”

If I understand what they’re saying, a group of workers vote to form a union. Then the employer and the union go to binding arbitration to determine what the workers will get paid. Right?

I’m guessing this is because Democrats believe that the State can decide what is fair, where supply and demand would make things unfair. I disagree.

“Trump rejected some attempts by his own employees to unionize and has personally hired union-busting firms to undermine workers’ rights.”

I support people being able to form a union. I also support businesses that don’t want to have union employees. I certainly wouldn’t want to be forced to hire an employee I didn’t want to hire. I believe a worker has a right to receive the compensation to which they have agreed to receive for the work they have agreed to perform. I believe that any promises the employer makes to the worker should be fulfilled, or the worker has the right to leave. I believe that if the employer fulfills their promises, the worker should fulfill their promises as well.

If Trump doesn’t want union employees, he shouldn’t have to hire them. If people don’t want to work for Trump, they shouldn’t apply. The State shouldn’t have any say in that.

“Democrats believe so-called “right to work” laws are wrong for workers…and wrong for America.”

According to the National Right to Work Foundation, “A Right to Work law guarantees that no person can be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or not to join, nor to pay dues to a labor union.”

I disagree with the Democrats. I shouldn’t have to join a union to get a job. Unions are especially strong in government sectors, like education, which seems ridiculous to me. Think about it — the government insists that workers join a union to make sure that the government treats them right.

You start a business. You’re paying your employees $15 an hour. Then you insist that they join a union, and pay part of that $15 towards union dues, in order to raise their wages to offset the amount of the dues. Dumb.

“The Democratic Party believes consumers, workers, students, retirees, and investors who have been mistreated should never be denied their right to fight for fair treatment under the law.”

Add employers to that list. I agree.

“…we…support efforts to limit the use of forced arbitration clauses in employment and service contracts…”

I agree that forced arbitration is not good. However, if someone signs a contract knowing that if something goes wrong they will be forced into arbitration, rather than being allowed to go to court, the mistake is theirs in signing it. And why is forced arbitration bad here, but it’s good when a union is formed? Is it only good when the State forces it?

Supporting Working Families

“We will fight to secure equal pay for women…we will combat the discrimination they face on and off the job.”

Agreed. Strongly.

“Democrats will [pass] a family and medical leave act that would provide all workers at least 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a personal or family member’s serious health issue…[and] to allow workers the right to earn at least seven days of paid sick leave.”

Break out the unicorns. More good things that Democrats assume employers can pay for without significantly impacting their business.

Let’s say you have a worker that earns $600 a week. As an employer, you need to have an extra $7200 sitting around to pay their temporary replacement while they are out. That is $7200 you can’t use for…whatever.

“We will ensure that family caregivers have the support, respite care, and training they need to support their loved ones. We will create a strong stable paid caregiving workforce to help meet families’ needs, by raising wages, improving access to training, and giving workers the opportunity to come together to make their voices heard in support of a stronger system.”

Good concepts, unworkable in practice. How do you create a “strong stable paid caregiving workforce” by “raising wages”, while not making it more expensive for those who need care? Who pays for this?

“We will…make quality childcare more affordable, boost wages for childcare workers, and support the millions of people paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging relatives or those with disabilities.”

It’s almost like words have no meaning. More affordable. Boost wages. Support millions who pay for it.

Unicorns. Millions of unicorns.

[Page 5]

Helping More Workers Share in Near-Record Corporate Profits

“Corporate profits are at near-record highs, but workers have not shared through rising wages.”

Let’s suppose there are 10 people. Person #1 is the owner of a company that employs the other nine. Person #1 earns $150 an hour, while her nine employees earn $15 an hour.

In the Democratic world, Person #1 is evil. Not only is she the Top One Percent, she makes more than all the 90% combined. In the Democratic world, economic disparity is evil. Everyone must earn the same amount, otherwise, someone is going to be in the Top One Percent.

In the Democratic world, if profits go up in Person #1’s company, she must automatically share those profits with all her employees, because…well, she just should. It would be unfair if she didn’t.

It might be unfair, but should the State dictate what is fair? Are there no other factors that might compel Person #1 to do what is right?

“That is why, working with business, labor, and other stakeholders, we will incentivize companies to share profits with their employees on top of wages and pay increases, while targeting the workers and businesses that need profit-sharing the most.”

Incentivize. “I’d like to offer you a deal you can’t refuse.” Uh-huh.

Democrats fail to realize that “companies” are made up of people. Everyone doesn’t do the same work. Everyone does not have the same value in the work. It’s why different positions get paid different wages.

Sharing profits on top of wages and pay increases sounds more like a disincentive. Why would I take all the risk and responsibility if I’m not going to be commensurately rewarded?

I especially dislike the all-knowing way the Democrats take with this. They want to “[target] the workers and businesses that need profit-sharing the most.” How does the State determine who needs profit-sharing the most?

Expanding Access to Affordable Housing and Homeownership

“Democrats will continue to fight for those families who suffered the loss of their homes [in the housing crisis].”

Sounds good.

“We will help those who are working toward a path of financial stability and will put sustainable home ownership into the reach of more families.”

Still sounding good. The big question is, how?

“Democrats will also combat the affordable housing crisis and skyrocketing rents in many parts of the country, which is leading too many families and workers to be pushed out of communities where they work.”

That’s good.

“We will preserve and increase the supply of affordable rental housing by expanding incentives to ease local barriers to building new affordable rental housing developments in areas of economic opportunity.”

This actually sounds promising, if by “easing local barriers”, it means reducing the red-tape and regulations that unnecessarily make housing too expensive to build, or that prohibit new housing construction altogether. Also, regulations that prevent older buildings from being used for housing in many urban areas need to be eased.

Of course, an increase in rental housing also impacts houses for sale, lowering those prices as well.

I’m not sure how well people with nice homes will take it when their property values go down when the new low-income rental housing goes in next-door.

Actually, I think I know how they’ll take it, since the same thing could very well happen to me. I don’t think they’ll like it. Oh well. It just means that my house isn’t worth as much. At least my taxes won’t be as high, right?

“We will substantially increase funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate millions of affordable housing rental units. Not only will this help address the affordable housing crisis, it will also create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. Democrats believe that we should provide more federal resources to the people struggling most with unaffordable housing: low- income families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly.”

Think about it. The Democrats want the State to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate millions of rental units. This would take billions of dollars. Democrats claim this would create millions of jobs. Yes, it would…in the construction industry.

But the billions of dollars would be taken from citizens. Those same citizens would no longer have those billions of dollars that they would have spent across a wide variety of industries, where businesses would no longer have money to hire, give raises, or even pay employees.

This is the inevitable cost of using federal projects to “create millions of good-paying jobs.” The jobs might happen in one industry, but at the cost of many other industries.

In addition, the construction industry itself gets damaged as the supply of housing increases and resources are constrained by fiat of the State.

“We will expand efforts…We will also expand programs…We will reinvigorate…programs…increase funding…we will fight for robust funding…We will engage in a stronger, more coordinated, and better funded partnership…We will build on and expand President Obama’s promising initiatives…”

If you read that paragraph and the clanging cash register sound didn’t keep ringing in your ears…you’re either too young to remember that sound or you’re a Democrat. These initiatives and desires sound nice, but much like a thousand-mile wall, how do we pay for it!?

“We must make sure that everyone has a fair shot at homeownership…”

I agree with this opening sentence, and I think I agree with this entire paragraph.

Protecting and Expanding Social Security

“Without Social Security, nearly half of America’s seniors would be living in poverty.”

How many of America’s seniors are living in poverty with Social Security? Just wondering. And how many of America’s seniors would be living in poverty, if there were no Social Security, but they had been able to privately invest the money Social Security took away?

“Social Security is more than just a retirement program.”

Is that part of the problem?

[Page 6]

“Democrats will expand Social Security…”

…on the strength of unicorns…

“We will make sure Social Security’s guaranteed benefits continue for generations to come by asking those at the top to pay more, and will achieve this goal by taxing some of the income of people above $250,000.”

Are “those at the top” and “people above $250,000” the same thing? Is “pay more” and “taxing some” the same thing? How much is more? How much is some? If Social Security is deeply in the hole — as many say it is — how do you guarantee benefits simply by increasing taxes, unless those taxes are significant?

All incentives in this type of thinking are to stay poor, stay small. Don’t make the effort to make more, because it will simply be taken from you and given to those who don’t make as much. (This is not the same as making more so you can give to those who don’t make as much. Giving means I get to direct where it goes. Taking means others decide that for me.)

Ensuring a Secure and Dignified Retirement

The older I get, the more I am for this.

“Democrats believe it should be easier for Americans to save for retirement and prepare for unforeseen risks and expenses.”

Me, too. Once again, it all comes down to details. How do Democrats intend to make this happen, by letting the State control things, or by giving citizens the freedom and opportunity to do what they think is best?

I don’t know enough to comment on this section. It all sounds good, but I don’t know what the Conflict of Interest Rule is or what the Older Americans Act is, or what other issues come into play.

Revitalizing Our Nation’s Postal Service

I’m not sure how this fits into restoring America’s middle class, but I guess it fits here as well as anywhere else.

“Democrats embrace a vibrant, public Postal Service that offers universal service, and reject any effort to privatize or marginalize it.”

As a former USPS employee, I have mixed feelings. I understand the original concept and need to form a State-run postal service. I’m just not sure that the need still exists.

No State-run entity can achieve the same efficiency or economy that a privately-run entity can. It doesn’t mean that it won’t outperform a privately-run entity, but it doesn’t have as much potential.

“We are committed to eliminating the unsustainable mandate to “pre-fund’ retiree health costs.”

I’m not sure if this was intended to be in this paragraph or with the previous paragraph. Either way, I’m not sure what the problem would be with pre-funding retiree health costs.

“Democrats also advocate for expanding postal services.”

It’s an ongoing theme. Expand what the State does. Even though it is inherently less cost effective to do so.

Think of it this way…if I take a dollar from you, in order to give that dollar to someone else, that is inherently less efficient than if you give that dollar directly to someone else. Not only does it take more time for me to take it and pass it on, I’m going to need to be compensated for my time and effort in taking the dollar and giving the dollar. I either take part of the dollar before I pass it on, or I take the dollar plus a little extra.


That is the end of the first major section.

Next: “Create Good Paying Jobs”
[This formatting of this post was edited 03-23-17, 4:00pm, to provide additional clarity.]