What happened to those bootstraps?

Does anyone else find it supremely ironic that republican and conservative voters elected Donald Trump on the promise that his government would bring jobs back? Because I certainly find this sentiment to be the epitome of hypocrisy.

For decades now, all we’ve heard from the GOP and other conservatives is that the government is horrible and meddlesome, and everything would be better if there was less government interference and everyone took more personal responsibility for their lives.

Conservatives 2008/2012: “The government just makes things worse. Get rid of the government and everything will be fine–it’s not the function of government to create jobs, you libtards.”

Conservatives 2016: “PLEASE BRING BACK MY JOB, GOVERNMENT!”

It’s galling to me that the party of moxie and rugged individualism is now the party that applauds a government that directly gets involved in business and trade negotiations–the very things conservatives were crying the government should stay out of for the past 30 years.

How many times have we seen conservative politicians and voters say the following about welfare or the minimum wage: “We don’t believe in handouts. If you want to make more money, improve your situation, work harder, etc. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps like a real American.”

Well apparently conservatives in 2016 have thrown out their old bootstraps.

This article on CNN interviews people in a Kentucky town, “the poorest city in America,” that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. Here are some snippets:

Beattyville residents want jobs, especially ones that pay more than the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. They think if anyone can bring jobs back, it’s Trump.

Yeah, of course. The guy whose Trump brand suits and ties are made in Chinese factories is going to bring your job back. The same guy who immediately nominated the CEO of a fast food company who hates the minimum wage, Andy Puzder, as labor secretary.

Here’s what one of the men Kentucky elected to the senate, Mitch McConnell, had to say about the minimum wage: He cited a Congressional Budget Office study that he claimed said raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would “destroy half a million to 1 million jobs. […] That’s not the way to grow our economy,” he added.

And here’s what Kentucky’s other senator, Rand Paul, had to say about raising the minimum wage: ‘The minimum wage is a temporary’ thing, Paul said. ‘It’s a chance to get started. I see my son come home with his tips. And he’s got cash in his hand and he’s proud of himself. I don’t want him to stop there. But he’s working and he’s understanding the value of work. We shouldn’t disparage that.’”

Good luck getting jobs that pay beyond the minimum wage, Beattyville. You elected people who propose the very opposite of that, who think, in Paul’s case, that trying to raise a family on a minimum wage job is great because it’ll build your character and teach you the value of hard work!

“If you got a job here in Beattyville, you’re lucky,” says Amber Hayes, a bubbly 25-year-old mom of two, who also voted for Trump. She works at the county courthouse, but is paid by the Kentucky Transitional Assistance Program (K-TAP), a form of welfare.
The vast majority of Beattyville residents get some form of government aid — 57% of households receive food stamps and 58% get disability payments from Social Security.

But I thought that welfare was just for the takers? Isn’t that what all the conservative politicians campaign on? Haven’t we all heard some iteration of that from conservative friends and relatives? Isn’t that what Mitt Romney said just 4 years ago, that 47% of the country votes to just get free stuff?

Here’s what Kentucky’s own Mitch McConnell said about food stamps as recently as last September: Asked about the improving economy, McConnell scoffed: Business leaders tell him they have “a hard time finding people to do the work because they’re doing too good with food stamps, Social Security and all the rest.”

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Residents of Beatyville would apparently beg to differ with Mr. McConnell.

From the outside, it’s easy to wonder why people in Beattyville don’t just move somewhere else. But out of all the people CNNMoney met in Beattyville, only one wanted to leave. The rest are drawn to the beauty of the place and the friendly community. “I’m country to the core,” laughs Puckett. He husband of 39 years nods beside her. Judge executive Mays puts it this way: “We’re perceived as a hillbilly, backwoods, all this and that. But we’re a good people.”

Again, whatever happened to those bootstraps, hmm? That’s what Paul Ryan or Rand Paul would tell you to do–work to improve your own situation and don’t depend on the government to save you. If you lose your job, find another, even if it means moving. Retrain yourself. Oh, you can’t pay for that? Well, you just need more gumption and definitely less of that darned government in your life, always making things worse.

Look, I have lots of sympathy for the people of Beatyville. They’re certainly in a bad place. Yet at the same time, they and the rest of their state have repeatedly voted for people who have told them that the government will make their life worse. That getting rid of food stamps will create an incentive for people to get a real job. That social security and medicaid should be cut or outright privatized. That the problem with America in general is too much reliance on the government.

In the end, Beatyville and other red cities in red states that are suffering are the victims of their own voting. It’s particularly tragic that they now expect the same government that believes that the government shouldn’t be engaged in safety net programs or other forms of public assistance to save them. If the democrats were smart, they’d get out grassroots campaigns to go to towns like Beatyville and help explain this to residents.

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I guess we’ll see what happens in 2018.

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The protest condundrum

Well, over a million people marched in protest of President Donald Trump yesterday. And while I definitely agree with the protesters and their messages, I couldn’t help but think of one thing as I watched the coverage on the news:

Where the hell was all of this during the election?

If all of those protesters had poured as much energy and organization into the election, I would bet that we wouldn’t be talking about president Donald Trump right now. So while I think the protests were totally awesome on one level, on another level it seems like it’s too late. Trump has already been sworn in and he’s sitting in the oval office right now.

Trump, Pence, and the republicans in congress probably don’t give a rat’s ass about the protests because they already won and protests aren’t going to change that.

But that kind of activity probably could have changed the outcome of the election. Of that I have very little doubt. This past election suffered from pretty low voter turnout. People just weren’t excited about Donald and Hillary, so they stayed home.

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But imagine if all of these people who protested had mobilized in a similar way before the election. Imagine if they worked that hard to drum up more excitement for voting. The outcome probably would have been different. Imagine if they’d all worked that hard to ensure that he didn’t get elected in the first place. These protests should have started the moment Trump won his party’s nomination, not after he took office.

There’s always 2020.

Vote your conscience, you idiots

So tomorrow marks the day that all the electors in the electoral college get together to formally elect the president of the United States. Lots of people are hoping that these electors will see Donald Trump as unfit for office and vote someone–anyone–else into office instead. Which they could technically do, because they’re not constitutionally bound to vote for whoever won their respective states. Unless of course you ask the electors themselves.

With only a handful of exceptions, most of the republican electors plan to vote for Donald Trump, even if they think he is unfit to be president. Why? Well, just ask this idiot from Texas: “Each of us signed a pledge that, as electors, we will support the nominee when called to Austin on December 19.” You hear that a lot when they interview these electors. “Well, you know, I just have to serve the will of the people.”
NO YOU DON’T YOU FUCKING TWAT. That’s the entire point of having an electoral college. So that when people DO elect someone who isn’t fit for office, you can nullify the whole damn thing.

Which makes the whole entire process pretty useless huh? If that’s your view, then why even have an electoral college at all? Why not stick with the popular vote if all you’re ever going to do is reaffirm “the will of the people”?

Not that that would be a bad thing. If we went by the popular vote, Clinton would be taking office right now and we’d all be fondly remembering president Al Gore. But that’s a subject for another blog.

Right now I’d like to focus on the electors and the fact that they apparently aren’t even aware of their own role in the damn process. Which begs the question: how the hell do people become electors in the first place?

They campaign for it. Then there’s a vote by the state party. That’s it. So any dumbass can become a member of the electoral college simply by showing up to meetings and throwing their name into a hat.

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No special qualifications–just pure, unadulterated party loyalty! Which seems to be why the whole goddamn system is fucked up the first place–people voting party over substance and policy. So sure, I guess it only makes sense that the electoral college isn’t immune to the bullshit that permeates every aspect of our society.

If we are going to have an electoral college as a kind of check or balance against populist idiots like Trump assuming the mantle of the presidency, then you’d think that there would be at least SOME qualification for choosing the president other than your ability to fill out paperwork and show the fuck up to the vote.

Like…a civics class! Or some demonstration of critical thinking. Or at LEAST an understanding of policy. Hell, far be it from me to defend the system that gave us Bush v2.0 and now Trump, but the whole point of the electoral college was to ensure that we didn’t have direct democracy, because the framers of the constitution thought that the masses were stupid enough to elect an idiot to office. Which apparently they are. But the very system that was designed to protect us from that eventuality wound up being populated by the very idiots that the founders didn’t want directly choosing the president.

I fully expect the electors to honor their pledges. Which pains me to write. It pains me that the very people who toss out sentences like, “I have to vote for the will of the people,” are going to elect the man who didn’t win the most vote–in essence, who WASN’T the choice of the people.

Maybe it’s because America is full of idiots. Or maybe it’s because we let the idiots run the place.

A tale of two Americas

Like many people, I’m still reeling from the fact that Tuesday night, Donald Trump was elected our 45th president. I’m saddened, dismayed, fearful, distraught even. But one thing I can’t say that I am is shocked. And that’s because there really are two Americas.

Politicians use that line on the campaign trail frequently. So do pundits. There’s Main St. vs Wall St. There’s red vs blue. There’s rural vs urban. Whites vs minorities. In the post-Trump victory, people were scrambling to figure out which group of voters was responsible. But the division between the two Americas isn’t a demographic one, it isn’t a geographic one. What this election unequivocally demonstrated for me is that the difference between the two Americas is this:

Intellectualism vs anti-intellectualism.

A vote for Donald Trump is a vote against reason, pure and simple. It’s not just a vote to smash the establishment, it’s a vote against everything that science and progress has led us to. And it really highlights the division between Americans:

America A

In this America, people value science and evidence. They allow it to guide policy. They believe in a secular society. They believe that they’re responsible for their fellow man. They believe that things like healthcare and education are rights and an investment. They believe in diversity, that we’re stronger when we’re more inclusive and tolerant. They seek enlightenment and progress. They believe that the height of being human is to learn and explore, and that those are the endeavors that lift everyone up.

America B

In this America, people value the Christian bible over all else. They think that every law and the constitution itself should be interpreted through a biblical lens. They think that expecting one to help everyone succeed is tyranny. They think the individual is stronger than the community, and that a hand up and a hand out are harmful to their fellow man. They think that a cluster of cells is the same thing as a person. They don’t value science and evidence, and don’t see a point in exploration and inclusiveness. They think that business and commerce is the highest thing human beings can aspire to. They think that the planet is something to use rather than safeguard.

Those two Americas can’t coexist. They’re diametrically and thematically opposed to each other. Asking us to unite and act like one country is a waste of time because we really aren’t one country, we aren’t one people. We’re two distinct groups who are trying to share one space and one government. I don’t feel kinship with half this country, or at least with 60 million people in it. And I don’t apologize for that. I shouldn’t have to try and force some sort of positive feeling about someone who’s every action and belief is harmful to my way of life. I shouldn’t be asked to unite with a racist or a bigot. At this point, I feel more kinship with people living in places like Iceland and Denmark than I do with half the people in my own country, because those places reflect the values and ideals that I hold. Asking me to come together with people in rural Pennsylvania is like asking me to feel a special bond with North Korea at this point.

A poignant and symbolic example of this from the past is the Carter/Reagan transition in 1980. During his time in office, Jimmy Carter put solar panels on the roof of the White House. It was during an energy crisis, and it showed that he represented a group of people that were willing to try to innovate and use science to solve their problems, to move forward and seek out alternatives.

When Reagan took office, the first thing he did was rip the solar panels off. It’s an incredibly symbolic act to me. It showed that he represented a group of people who wanted to take two steps back instead of going forward. People who wanted to double down on a solution that didn’t work. People who were either unwilling or unable to exhibit any critical thinking or creativity, and who couldn’t or wouldn’t seek out alternative solutions to problems.

And let me be clear, this is not a liberal vs conservative thing. There are atheist conservatives. There are conservatives who believe in climate change. And there are liberals who are anti-science (vaccines, GMOs). This is simply science vs anti-science. Reason vs anti-reason.

And it becomes clearer and clearer to me as time goes on that this isn’t a sustainable situation. I don’t want to live in America B, and those people don’t want to live in America A. I don’t think anything will ever get better until we finally cut those string and separate. In the aftermath of Trump’s win, many people are talking about petitions for referendums on seceding from the US. I’d gladly sign that and I’d gladly vote yes. I’m sick and tired of having some Hillbilly in Oklahoma decide which policies and people affect my life, just as I’m sure that Hillbilly is tired people from places like California doing the same.

It’s abundantly clear that we don’t want to live together, so it’s time for a divorce.

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The jobs are never coming back

If you listen to Donald Trump, he can bring back all of the jobs that we’ve lost in the last several decades. Yes, Donald Trump, all by himself, is going to reverse three decades of globalization. It’ll be a thing of beauty, believe him. It was all he could talk about at the first presidential debate.

Except that those jobs aren’t coming back, ever. Those jobs and the US are just like Taylor Swift and any of her exes–they are never, ever getting back together.

To think otherwise is just plain ignorant. Those jobs are gone, it’s impossible for them to come back, and they probably would have left no matter what. I say this based on several things:

Automation. All of the jobs that Trump talks about bringing back are based in the manufacturing area. We lost a lot of those jobs because foreign labor is cheaper (more on that in a bit). But we also lost a lot of those jobs because technology started making workers obsolete. And guess what? That threat continues today. Technology will continue to replace workers for years to come, in all sorts of industries, not just manufacturing. In fact, some estimates show that by the next time we’re ready to elect another president, the world’s biggest economies will have lost a little over 5 million jobs to automation. And this time that extends to business and administrative work.

It’s no secret that workers are more productive than ever, but wages and employment haven’t kept up. The reason for that is technology, as laid out here by these fine folks from MIT. I’ll let the infographic do the talking:

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Those jobs that Trump likes to talk about were destined to be lost one way or another. If it wasn’t because of trade deals, it would be because of technology.

Wages and Benefits. Those jobs also left because companies suddenly found themselves in a position to pay a whole lot less for labor by outsourcing it to countries where they could pay employees pennies on the dollar. Why would a corporation bring back jobs to the US if it means having to pay higher wages and provide benefits like healthcare, sick days, etc? No American worker would settle for less than minimum wage and benefits, and many companies wouldn’t provide them for employees if they didn’t have to. It’s a pipe dream to think that someone could bring those jobs back. In order to do so, they’d have to essentially make the American worker equivalent to the overseas worker, and that wouldn’t fly.

No, taxes aren’t the problem. That’s the problem if you listen to Trump and other conservatives. The taxes here are just too high! How can anyone do business at a rate of 35%? First of all, that’s a rich argument coming from someone who probably hasn’t paid one red cent in taxes for the last twenty years. But two things come to mind whenever I hear this argument. First, American businesses and individuals have paid a lot more in the past, and the economy did just fine. Great, in fact. As evidence that this tax business is a red herring, Exhibit A:

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Corporations have never contributed less to the economy than they do now. Companies like Apple proudly boast that they stash billions or dollars overseas. Which bring me to Exhibit B:

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Many companies don’t actually pay 35%. What they’re taxed on paper and what they actually pay is quite different thanks to lots of loopholes, legal maneuvering, and offshore funny business. In fact, many companies end up paying pretty much 0% in taxes, like these assholes. So unless Trump plans to drop the tax rate to 0%, I don’t think there’s really anything else he could do.

But more to the point, how does Trump plan to increase military spending after he’s lowered the nation’s income? How does he plan to pay down the debt if he’s reduced the nation’s income? He could slash other programs, but that would mean either cutting or eliminating popular programs like social security, which wouldn’t go over well with voters and politicians.

It’s all empty rhetoric. I get why it resonates for people in the rust belt, who did lose out thanks to globalization and automation. But to believe that Trump can somehow “bring jobs back” is absolutely not true. The best thing to do would be to put forth a policy that created new high paying jobs in sectors where automation and globalization weren’t as influential. And right now, that probably means infrastructure building and rebuilding, because the last time I checked robots still didn’t repair bridges or roads. And it isn’t like our country isn’t in dire need of such repairs.

But I’m sick and tired of political seasons where we continually have this debate about a fictional economy. Conservatives love to talk about an economy that doesn’t exist, and Donald Trump has just upped this game by a factor of a thousand. In this fictional economy, employment never rises, the economy never grows, and stimulus packages never work. However, all of those things are demonstrably false. It’s great to have a robust debate about the state of our economy and the direction that we’re headed in, but it’s impossible to do when one candidate is essentially basing his entire campaign on an economy that only exists in the halls of Fox News.

Why Donald Trump might be the next president

We’re almost to the end of the primaries, and Donald Trump has a commanding lead on the republican side of the aisle, while it looks all but certain that Clinton will be the nominee on the democratic side. But surely, everyone is saying, Donald can’t become president. He either won’t get the nomination, or he isn’t electable in the general election. And even though I hate Donald Trump, I have to admit that he has a legitimate chance of ending up in the white house. There are lots of factors that could lead to us seeing Donald moving into the oval office, like…

  1. The Cruz/Kasich alliance is bound to backfire. It looks great if you’re a strategy wonk to try have the other candidates acquiesce to each other in states where they hold an advantage to steal votes from Trump. But at the end of the day it simply won’t work. Trump is running as an outsider, and two establishment candidates coming together to try to hijack the election just plays right into Trump’s narrative that the whole system is rigged. It makes him look MORE like the outsider. And most Americans already agree with Donald that the system is rigged.
  2. The only person people hate more than Trump is Hillary. Both of these people have high unfavorability ratings. I mean, really bad. Almost two thirds of voters have an unfavorable view of Trump, and a little more than half feel the same way about Clinton. Such unfavorable candidates could mean low voter turn out, and low voter turnout almost always favors republican candidates. And speaking of voters…
  3. Trump could build a nice coalition of voters. If republican voters are anything, they’re loyal to the party. It’s very unlikely that republicans would vote for Hillary just because they don’t like Donald. So he’s probably got the conservative vote. But independents make or break an election, and I see this going one of two ways. The first way is that at least some of the independents who are angry at establishment politics and would have voted for Bernie will switch to Trump. The second is that the #bernieorbust people will simply not vote. And any vote that isn’t for a democratic candidate is one more advantage to the republican candidate. And like him or not, Donald has indeed done a good job of getting more republicans and independents to come out and vote.
  4. If the GOP tries to nominate Cruz or Kasich, all hell will break loose. And I mean that literally. Trump is only 249 delegates short of winning the nomination. He could very well hit that naturally all by himself. A new poll shows he has support of 50% of conservative voters. With 10 states left, it’s very possible for him to win before the convention. But even if he doesn’t, he’ll get very close. Close enough that if the party tried to nominate Cruz or Kasich over him, A LOT of people would be upset. It would solidify and cement Trump’s message that the system is rigged, that the party’s will is greater than the will of the people. The GOP would probably fracture into two parties. The establishment would be foolish to try and “play the game” at the convention.
  5. Trump is a stronger candidate than Hillary. I know that sounds absurd, but let me explain. Clinton has a record, Trump doesn’t. In a general election, she’s going to be constantly on the defensive, trying to defend her record, her choices, and her gaffes. You can bet that Trump will drag all of the Clinton’s skeletons out of the closet. She’s going to have to defend her email scandal. She’s going to have to relive Benghazi. She’s going to have to try and explain and validate every foreign policy choice she ever made.  And let me tell you, constantly having to defend your record on the campaign trail isn’t how you win; it’s how you end up looking like the weaker candidate.

And if that isn’t enough, the latest polls show Clinton with just a 3 point lead over Trump. Here, see for yourself. Donald and Hillary are essentially tied in the polls once you take the margin of error into account. Canada is looking nicer and nicer every day.

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