Universal Basic Income and the Dearth of Good Ideas

Andrew Yang isn’t doing gangbusters in the Democratic polling, but of the bottom tier Democratic candidates, he was one of two that I found most interesting (the other of course being Tulsi Gabbard).  Although when you aggregate all of his mostly left leaning positions, there is no way I could have voted for him.  However I acknowledge that he was out there with a message that needs to be addressed; and that message?  The Robot Apocalypse of course!  Not the Skynet-destroy-all-humans, but the Skynet-destroy-all-jobs type.

I’ve been worrying about this for several years, and wrote about it in 2014 when I discussed the problem.

Automation over time has made things easier for us since it’s reduced the demand of physical labor, which we’ve benefited from.  But automation is not only continuing to reduce the number of boring, repetitious jobs, it’s now going after higher end jobs.  An Oxford Study predicted that 47% of US jobs could be lost to automation in 20 years.  Burger flippers and baristas for sure, but also lawyers and doctors are at risk. There is a lot fewer tax preparers now then there were in the days before tax preparation software.  So it’s not just low end drudge jobs that will be going away, it’s upper end jobs that require education that used to provide a lot of middle class and upper middle class incomes.

These long term trends will lead to pretty dire economic consequences in our lifetimes.

If these trends continue, with more and newer jobs being for the more educated class and few new low skilled jobs created, what are we going to do with people who are just not smart enough? We are improving automation along the lines of Moore’s Law, but there isn’t a Moore’s Law for human intelligence or ability. That is my concern. Not that we hit the Singularity and every human is unemployed and targeted for termination, but that the gradual change in the economy means few jobs for people on the  left hand side of the Bell Curve. We’ll have a growing cadre of people permanently unemployable no matter how great the stock market is doing or how much increase in GDP there is.

So it’s the economic and social robot apocalypse that I worry about.  And in the several years since I’ve really become aware of the issue, there just hasn’t been a good solution presented.  Yeah I know, “more money for education!”  After all, look how well that’s worked out?  But wait; there is one more go-to idea when the issue of automation eliminating jobs comes up; Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Andrew Yang’s proposal is the Freedom Dividend.”  As Yang’s campaign website put it, “Technology is quickly displacing a large number of workers, and the pace will only increase as automation and other forms of artificial intelligence become more advanced. ⅓ of American workers will lose their jobs to automation by 2030 according to McKinsey. This has the potential to destabilize our economy and society if unaddressed.” 

He’s not wrong about the problem but the solution?

“Andrew would implement the Freedom Dividend, a universal basic income of $1,000/month, $12,000 a year, for every American adult over the age of 18. This is independent of one’s work status or any other factor.”

Whee!  Free Money!

“Other than regular increases to keep up the cost of living, any change to the Freedom Dividend would require a constitutional amendment. It will be illegal to lend or borrow against one’s Dividend. “

Well good luck enforcing that one.

So to the question, what do we do about no jobs, Yang’s answer is simply free money.  However I will give Yang credit. Unlike most advocates of UBI, Yang actually has a way to pay for it, a 10% Value Added Tax.  That is at least a more honest answer than the one you usually get from UBI advocates, which range from “the rich,” some version of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), or an Ocasio-Cortez-esque “You Just Pay for it.”

Free money sounds great and I can absolutely see the attraction to it.  Would I like an extra thousand bucks a month?  Absolutely!  Most people, and certainly a voting majority, could use extra cash each month.  In fact, it’s hard not to even discuss UBI without fantasizing about what we would do with the money.  It’s almost like lotto winnings, and like lotto winnings, it would wreak havoc on the recipients.

As much as I would love an extra twelve thousand bucks a year, Universal Basic Income is a total disaster as a social policy. We already have some great examples of a society dependent on welfare.  We have ghettos all over this country, of all races, in which cash benefits have totally flipped the incentive structures that a normal society has.  The bourgeois norms of thrift, work ethic, and responsibility have totally broken down in those areas, and I can’t imagine anyone who would want to replicate that nationwide.  In spite of Yang’s alleged safeguards, it’s easy to see how this would reorder politics into those who want to increase benefits (for the people!) and those who want to hold the line.  If history is any guide, the hold the line types are destined to lose.

UBI as a societal cancer probably won’t discourage those who want the government to make it rain with dollars, but even if UBI was the smartest idea ever, why would you want to institute it now?  Unemployment rates across all demographic groups are at historic lows. It certainly sounds difficult to justify a multi-trillion dollar program for a problem that has not arrived yet, and we don’t have a clear idea when it will arrive.  Of course, when the automation hammer falls, it’s not going to fall on the people who advocate for it now, primarily young people who can’t wait for an extra thousand bucks a month for weed and pizza.  It will hit people, in the way automation advances always have, on middle aged and older workers who suddenly find themselves laid off in their 40’s or 50’s with a set of work skills that are now obsolete. Common sense would seem to dictate that at the point it becomes a real societal problem, a program to provide a bridge for older workers to retirement would make more sense than starting a Freedom Dividend retirement program for people who are just graduating from high school.

The robot job apocalypse is a real issue that needs to be addressed.  The only solution out there, UBI however, is probably the dumbest of all answers. UBI doesn’t fix the problem.  People who are left unemployed by automation will still be unemployed, they’ll just have a long term welfare/unemployment check to buy groceries and pay rent. Of course, I didn’t have a solution in 2014 and I still don’t have one, but I don’t want to make things worse with an idiotic universal basic income scam.  It’s simply an end-stage democracy idea to buy votes.

This election season has the Democrats running on a maximum wish list of items that totaled up, exceed the GDP of the entire world, let alone the United States.  Between a Medicare for all, Green New Deal, Fee healthcare for illegals, and free college for all, the country would have long been a smoking financial ruin before UBI ever got put on the agenda.

Andrew Yang won’t get the nomination, but like reparations, UBI will continue to exist as a Democratic talking point and will probably show up as an issue in every Presidential election from here on out.  Why not?  It’s only money.

What Michael Bloomberg is Thinking

Back in September I predicted that Elizabeth Warren would probably be the Democratic nominee, and I’m still sticking with that, but there is a new wrinkle afoot.  Last week’s announcement Michael Bloomberg was preparing to file to qualify for the Alabama Democratic primary seems rather a late entry for what should be a serious contender. Bloomberg has been one of those perennial “will he or won’t he” types during previous election periods.  But absent a compelling ideology other than nanny-statism, he wasn’t going to waste time, money, and effort for a simple issue or statement campaign.  He wouldn’t be making a point, he would want to win.

This doesn’t mean that Bloomberg is definitely going to run, but it’s clear he’s serious enough to make sure his options are open, since he’s having his team run down other filing deadlines.  Now why would a billionaire do that?

My guess that Bloomberg’s thinking on this runs like this:  Biden is faltering and it’s clear by now that he is probably not going to be the nominee.  He’s showing his age too much on the campaign trail.  Elizabeth Warren is rising and is far more popular with the kook base that energizes Democratic primaries.  Of her sins, she has two that are unforgivable:  A wealth tax and her desire to break up the social media monopolies.  What’s worse, she actually seems to be serious, not simply throwing out boob-bait to the hippies.  This has suddenly caught the attention of the oligarchs that are running the country.  Mark Zuckerberg of all people is suddenly talking about free speech!  Bill Gates is suddenly hesitant about a wealth tax after praising it as recently as September.

Of course, back in September Bill Gates probably thought that Biden was the likely nominee.  Now his pious (and phony) virtue signaling is getting a little too real.  A potential Bloomberg candidacy could represent an opportunity for Wall Street and Twitter/Facebook/Google to buy their own candidate, and they have lots of money and lots of social media savvy to do just that.  It’s unclear if having lots of money and the ability to manipulate search engines and banning accounts can substitute for base activism (and of course votes) but the rich Democrats who have bankrolled the Democrats for decades may finally have run out the end of the rope and discovered they’re the ones dangling from it.

 

My Pre-Primary Democratic Nominee Prediction

If there is one thing I’ve been sure of, it’s that the conventional wisdom of the past few months that Joe Biden was the locked in choice for the Democratic nominee for President, was wrong.  At no time, did I ever think that Biden had a chance. Not because he was a gaffe machine; that’s something that plagued him his entire career, but that he was too old and it would show on the campaign trail, and Democratic Primary voters just wouldn’t think he would be up to the job (the job of beating Trump, not being President).

However for the longest time I wasn’t sure which of the many Democratic candidates was going to rise to the top spot, but now I think I’ve gotten an idea of who could win the nomination, and that candidate is Senator Elizabeth Warren.  Yeah, it’s a surprise to me too.  Going back to 2012 I had pretty much discounted Warren because of her “Fauxcahontas” scandal, one that has provided many hilarious updates since then. But actually running in a Presidential race provides a great opportunity to separate the Presidential wheat from the chaff.

Four years ago if someone had asked me who was likely to get the 2020 Democratic nomination I would have guessed…Hillary?  For her second term?  But Corey Booker would have been my second choice.  As Mayor of Newark he seemed a dynamic Obama Part two, but since becoming Senator, he’s revealed the truth of the Peter Principle; Booker is not up to his current position and looks a good deal weaker and less consequential then he did as a mayor.  Apparently Democratic donors and polled Democratic primary voters agree.  He doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Kamala Harris who started out the gate strong, also seems to be faltering.  I would have given her much greater odds earlier in the race.  The Democratic primary voter seems to want a socialist, just not a white male one (sorry Bernie).  In 2016, Bernie was the only socialist in the race, now, when there are plenty of socialists available of every color and sex…err I mean gender, voters can be pickier.  CNN’s Don Lemon disputed that Harris could even be called an African American.  That’s actually a fair point since Harris, whose mother is Indian and father is mixed, is about as black as George Zimmerman.  However Harris identifies herself as African American.  Why she doesn’t identify as Indian American I don’t know, since that would be more accurate, but I suppose there is more electoral cache in that than in identifying as Indian.  That didn’t help Warren.

However Warren has managed to get through three debates without saying something stupid, or at least stupid for a Democratic debate.  That may be a new candidate record.  On the other hand, Biden can’t get to a commercial without saying something stupid in every debate.  The only thing keeping his candidacy afloat is the idea that he can beat Trump, but the more he turns into Grampa Simpson, the less likely that seems, and it gives the opportunity for other candidates to rise.

And, as this NBC/WSJ poll shows, Warren is catching up with Biden.   At this rate, Warren could catch Biden in a month or so, and then even talking heads will have to take notice.  Fair to say, some of them have.  I’ve noticed the pro Biden Morning Joe starting to turn to highly complementary things to say about Warren.  It looks to me that they are preparing their MSNBC audience for a new front runner. Biden won’t fade out quickly however.  He has a lot of money behind him, and I for one wouldn’t mind hearing more rambling stories about Biden fighting “Corn Pop” with a chain.

 

China Policy vs the Democratic Candidates

“China if you’re listening…”

In an age in which no matter what Trump says or does, Democrats feel duty bound to do the opposite, Democrats are now the biggest supporters of “free trade” and are siding with China against the United States in our trade dispute with China. So it’s no surprise that both China and the Democratic candidates must have felt like they achieved some sort of victory when Trump backed down on his threatened China tariffs and postponed them until December.

Online I find numerous posts about how Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing and his trade policy is a disaster, and it does seem uneven, but my sincere question of “what’s the alternative?” go unanswered.  And for good reason; there are no Democratic talking points on dealing with China other than restoring the pre-Trump status quo, in which China had a free hand to do whatever they wanted, and some vague mutterings about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).  So rather than have a China policy, Democrats have a China reflex; if Trump wants it, they’re against it.

US China policy is a great example of how rule by experts has brought us to the brink of disaster. In the 1990’s, every pipe smoking academic, State Department East Asia expert, and think tank economist was preaching the gospel of turning China from a poor communist dictatorship into a rich beacon of democracy, all through the magic of trade. For example (from 2000):

“China expert Michael Oksenberg of the Asia-Pacific Research Center at Stanford University believes, nevertheless, that over the long run the trade deal will help make China a more “humanely governed” land.”

How did that work out?  Is China more “humanely governed” than it was 20 years ago?

So the Clinton administration pushed, and Congress finally approved, granting “Most Favored Nation” status in the World Trade Organization (WTO).  However to be fair, this wasn’t just the Clinton administration supporting this; there was a bipartisan push for this.  Republicans and Democrats alike supported China’s entry in the WTO.

Normalizing trade relations with China counts as one of the major strategic blunders of the United States has committed.  We actually helped create not just an economic giant but a military power that threatens the US interests in the Pacific region.  China’s goal is to become the world’s “number one power,” displacing the United States, and we helped get them on their way.

So what do the Democrats suggest?

Nothing really except they oppose tariffs on China.  American Greatness detailed, Kamala Harris, Steve Bullock, and Beto O’Rourke all criticized tariffs on China all while the US was trying to engage in negotiations with China. Lefty journalist Peter Beinart observed:

“Bernie Sanders says nothing about China on his website. Neither do Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker, or Kirsten Gillibrand. All Joe Biden says about China on his website is that it’s “rising.” On hers, Amy Klobuchar pledges to “invest in diplomacy and rebuild the State Department and modernize our military to stay one step ahead of China.” Kamala Harris’s website says the United States should “work in lockstep with our partners” to confront “China’s unfair trade practices.” That’s about as substantive as it gets.”

Of course the rust belt edge that Trump gained over Hillary was all about China.  I think a nation that has engaged in unfair trade practices since we’ve started trading with them, has engaged in intellectual property theft on the order of $225 billion to $600 billion annually, requires joint ventures in order to control any company that invests in China, and has vowed to replace us as the world’s leading power should be taken seriously as a threat.

Meanwhile the Democrats are resorting to their old habits from the cold war as viewing a Republican President as a greater threat than the Soviet Union and now China.  The Democrats might wise up some day, but my guess is it won’t be soon and will be way to late when they do.

 

The White Vote will be less important in 2020

The New York Times gives away the game yet again in another opinion piece on demography, liberal Democrats style.  I didn’t find this until after the string of mass shootings of the past week, so it probably reads a bit different to me than was originally intended.

Democrats Can Win by Running Against Trump’s Racism

“In every presidential election for the past 50 years, a majority of white voters have voted against the Democratic nominee, and the overwhelming majority of people of color have sided with the Democrats.”

This is the major political divide in the US, and has been for a long time.  Good luck trying to get this clarity on TV news, but on print in the Times, it probably feels like a safe space, with no one not in the club listening.

“What we learned in the 2016 election is that 37 percent of the white vote is enough to win the popular vote by nearly three million people. Obviously something went wrong in three critical states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — where Mr. Trump prevailed by nearly 80,000 votes, tipping the Electoral College in his favor.”

Despite the overwhelming Electoral College victory Trump enjoyed, it was hanging by a hair, and that will be doubly true in 2020.

“Mrs. Clinton came exceedingly close to winning those states. Had she secured just 0.5 percent more of the white vote, she would be president.

…The number of voters who stayed home in 2016 in Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia was far larger than the margin of Democratic defeat in those states.”

This matches my conclusions from the result of the 2018 Midterms.  Democrats have finally cracked the code on midterm turnout, and a turn out increase during a Presidential election year could yield big wins for Democrats.

“As people of color become a bigger portion of the voting population, the number of white votes required to win steadily shrinks. In fact, a group of think tanks released a report last year showing that if all of the country’s racial groups replicate in 2020 their voter turnout and partisan preferences of 2016 — essentially a “do-over” — the Democrats would win Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, just because of the demographic changes over the past four years.”

Did someone just say, “Demography is Destiny?”

“America is getting browner by the hour, given that every single day, as of 2016 data, the United States population increases by 8,000 people and 90 percent of that growth comes from people of color. Moreover, an additional seven million teenagers of color will have turned 18 since the 2016 election. With this demographic revolution transforming the country, Democrats do not actually have to increase their level of white support — they just need to hold it steady, as the core of whites who vote Democratic have done for 40 years.”

I find myself in complete agreement with these conclusions.  All things being equal, Democrats win just letting things continue as they have.  It’s a bit amusing that this New York Times piece basically agrees with the El Paso shooter’s manifesto.  That’s why I’ve found no comfort in the full measure of insanity that the Democratic Party has embraced.  They’ve gone so far left so quickly, that Biden and Pelosi, liberals their entire political lives now find themselves “moderates.”  But none of that really matters in modern day America.

The real question is can the GOP increase their percentage of the white vote to counter this?  My obvious answer is no, since the establishment GOP doesn’t even accept this analysis.  They still think tax cuts and political positions matter.  Trump’s policy positions did matter to the 80,000 votes won in three States in 2016, but those people will likely be drowned out by the rising tide of identity politics voting.  That’s why I think Trump’s chances of winning, even with the benefit of being an incumbent, are slim, and are shrinking as the author of that piece says, “every single day .“

Tick tok.

China Making a Play to Interfere in the Election

Last night’s Democratic debate yielded little real news, other than my surprise that the party actual still has some moderates. Former Congressman John Delaney made a play for moderates in the party, gambling that much of the party hasn’t yet gone off of the “Squad” deep end.  Based on the latest post-debate polling however, Delaney is still down around 1%.  Who is up and who’s down in these early Democratic debates will mean almost nothing in the long run of course.  Of far greater import, and a story that may bob up and down for years, is the article veteran national defense reporter Bill Gertz posted yesterday at The Washington Free Beacon.

China Covertly Subverting Trump Reelection

China is conducting an aggressive disinformation and influence campaign designed to block the re-election of President Trump in 2020, according to a dissident Chinese billionaire who until recently was close to senior Beijing leaders.

Guo Wengui, an exiled Chinese real estate tycoon-turned-anti-communist critic, said in an interview that details of the influence operation were disclosed recently by Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan in Beijing.

The campaign has been underway since the 2018 mid-term election and involves enlisting pro-China elements inside the United States to end the Trump administration after four years.

This actually makes sense.  Can you name a President who has been more of a thorn in the side of the Chinese leadership since the Korean War?  It has to be Donald Trump.  China is facing an economic slowdown due partially to Trump’s trade tactics, and if the Chinese leadership could choose the US leadership (which they are apparently trying to do) they would anoint China friendly Joe Biden in a heartbeat.

“For the 2020 U.S. presidential election, the security committee has given very clear instructions that it is not permissible for Trump to win the 2020 election,” Guo said speaking through an interpreter.

By deploying its intelligence and influence resources in the United States, the CCP is working to exploit the harsh political divisions between Democrats and Republicans in seeking to unseat the Trump administration.

“President Trump has already caused a lot of damage to the CCP, so they have declared he will not be allowed to have another four years in power,” the dissident said.

And how is China going to interfere?

Regarding Wang’s disclosure, the Chinese vice president reportedly said China plans on using “four weapons” to derail Trump’s re-election.

“I must tell you that you that you need to heed these four weapons because they pose a very real threat,” Guo said.

The first weapon to be used against Trump is the use Wall Street financial leaders.

The second political weapon in the anti-Trump campaign are those political leaders and lobbyists in Washington who can be enlisted to oppose Trump. “There are quite a few of these individuals who have been corrupted by the CCP for many years … and so they will be the No. 2 weapon,” Guo said.

American mainstream news and social media outlets, many of which have been shown to be hostile toward Trump, are a third tool in the Chinese campaign.

A fourth line of attack is China’s effort to co-opt the overseas Chinese and Asian-Americans, groups that have grown in political power through increased wealth and subsequent political donations and voting power.

At this point the third political tool to fight Trump seems the most interesting.  Would a mass media that’s spent the last two and a half years in hysterics over election interference gleefully cooperate with the Chinese to help them sabotage a US election to defeat Donald Trump?

Damn right they would!

 

The Democratic Open Borders Debate

To an outside observer, the Democratic debates last week looked like a one way trip to crazy town.  As The New York Times noted:

“Raise your hand if you think it should be a civil offense rather than a crime to cross the border without documentation?” José Díaz-Balart, one of the moderators, asked.

Eight candidates raised their hands, some more eagerly than others. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. raised a finger.

When pressed by Mr. Díaz-Balart about whether he would deport undocumented immigrants without a criminal record, Mr. Biden did little to clarify his specific stance, instead defending the Obama administration’s policies that deported roughly three million undocumented immigrants.

So come on in!  How a “civil offense” would work in real life was left unexplained.  If the Border Patrol comes across some border crossers, do they just write them a ticket and send them on their way?  “Civil Offense” is just another way to say we’ve stopped enforcing borders.

But that wasn’t even the craziest part.

As The Washington Times notes:

Every single Democrat on the debate stage Thursday said he or she would grant government health insurance to illegal immigrants, plowing new ground well beyond the boundaries of Obamacare.

“Our country is healthier when everybody is healthier,” said Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Even former Vice President Joseph R. Biden said he would extend coverage to illegal immigrants — a reversal from his stance in the Obama administration, when Democrats considered and specifically rejected the idea as too controversial and unfair.

“You cannot let people who are sick, no matter where they come from, no matter what their status, go uncovered,” Mr. Biden said. “It’s the humane thing to do.”

Democrats are so enthusiastic about illegal aliens, they’re going to give them healthcare.  I imagine the 7 billion plus future Americans all around the world know who they’re supporting! And yet, in spite of this insanity, I saw the media weekend damage control on the rounds of cable TV insisting that the Democrats were not open borders.

Really?

Although this debate was as in-your-face on open borders as you could imagine, it’s not actually a new position.  They’ve just decided to stop hiding it.  During the 2014 border crisis, prominent Democrats couldn’t wait to embrace all of border crossers who made it onto US territory.  Of course that was a different time, when President Obama could stack illegal children in cages like cordwood with zero bad press for his trouble.

It does make you wonder, who is the voting constituency for all of this pandering to non-Americans?  Is the desire for open borders really that strong among the Democratic base?  And even if it is, why is Beto campaigning in Mexico this week? Even by Democratic pandering standards, this is bizarre.  Well I hope the asylum seekers in Ciudad Juarez ask some tough questions of their candidate.