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.

More Hysteria Over Another Syria Withdrawal

I must be the only person left who is not in a full-fledged panic over President Trump’s decision to pull out 50 to 150 US troops in northern Syria.  In fact, every news article on the issue that I came across dealt more with the “backlash” to the decision rather than the actual decision itself.

Of course the decision shouldn’t be that much of a surprise.  It’s very much in line with the Trump Doctrine.  Trump views foreign policy through a narrow lens of US national interest, an abhorrent concept to most of our media and political establishment.  Trump’s withdrawal of troops leaves northern Syria open to Turkish attack, which is…bad I guess, but I’m not sure what the alternative is.  We are allied with Kurdish groups that are categorized as terrorist groups by Turkey, our NATO ally.

I believe it was a good decision to withdraw, or at least a “not bad” decision, but it was, as usual with Trump, handled poorly. It came out of the blue when really he should have called in the relevant GOP senators and briefed them on his rationale so they would at least have understood his reasoning, even if they disagreed with it. Instead, they’re caught flatfooted. However I think at this point we know Trump just isn’t going to do that, so every few months he makes a unilateral decision that catches everyone by surprise, with no media or PR prep.

As for the decision itself, at some point we are going to have to realize that we are trapped in a military alliance with an Islamic authoritarian that we have very little foreign policy agreement with. This decision is a good example, while we have interests with the Kurds and interests with the Turks, and they both want to kill each other. I sympathize with the Kurds and admit they’ve gotten a raw deal historically, and if there was true justice in the world, they should have their own state.

However Turkey is in NATO. So that’s that. No one wants to deal with the consequences of that, and it gets brushed over in our public discourse, but it’s at the root with dealing with the Kurds. We can’t accept that if it were not for NATO, Turkey would be, if not an enemy, at least an adversery.  We really need to have a discussion about NATO.  In a post-cold war era, does it really make sense that we’re joined at the hip with an increasingly erratic Erdoğan?  Either the United States doesn’t belong in NATO or Turkey doesn’t.  I’d rather not wait until we’re dragged into a war not of our choosing to think about dealing with this.

 

 

Why Watch the News? They’re going to Lie Anyway

My morning routine as I prepare, and start work includes a healthy dose of TV news. First I start with the local news (gotta stay on top of that traffic and weather!), The Today Show, which provides a bland wind up to the day’s major events, and then a switch to MSNBC for a little Morning Joe.  Some may argue that’s not a healthy way to start the day, but I’ve always felt it was important to know what the enemy is up to by monitoring their communications.

I’m starting to have second thoughts about that.  The first story out of the gate on the Today Show this morning was, of course on “Ukraine-gate” and the fake scandal that instigated Pelosi’s impeachment inquiry that I wrote about the other day. It was the usual nonsense blather, which I expected until we hit about a minute and fifteen seconds into the piece when Savannah Guthrie goes to Jeremy Bash, NBC’s “National Security Consultant.”

https://www.today.com/video/whistleblower-s-claim-is-most-serious-against-a-president-in-us-history-analysts-70066757559

In reference to the Whistleblower complain, Savannah asks for Bash’s reaction.

“This Savannah, is the most serious allegation against an American President in our country’s history. That the President used his office to press a foreign country to interfere in an American election. That he enlisted the Justice Department to investigate a political rival and that White House officials were so alarmed by it, that they launched an elaborate cover up.”

This…is a goddamn lie.  It’s a lie and Bash knows it.

The Whistleblower complaint came out publicly yesterday, in which the Whistleblower made these sort of accusations without having any first-hand knowledge of the phone call with Ukrainian President Zelensky.  However as I wrote on Wednesday, the transcripts of the call had already been released by the White House.  Specifically this passage:

President Zelensky: … We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps. specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.

The President: I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it.

This isn’t about Trump asking Zekensky to dig up some opposition research on Biden (which is how it’s been reported virtually everywhere), but on assisting on a Department of Justice investigation into the origins of the FBI counterintelligence probe into Trump during the 2016 elections.  The investigation, announced in May, perfectly dovetails with Trump’s request to cooperate with the Attorney General.  Discussing this latest fake scandal online, I was shocked to discover that most of the left leaning posters had no idea that there even was an investigation ongoing.  The things Rachel Maddow won’t tell you…

So, since the actual transcripts were released before the Whistle blower complaint and the Whistle blower never even had first hand contact with the call, that means the allegations by the Whistle blower were already revealed to be bogus before it was ever released.  And that’s why Jeremy Bash is a liar, because he knew the actual call didn’t support the allegations, but reported them as if they did anyway.

I’ve previously expressed my disdain for TV “national security experts.”  They seem as untrustworthy as any other cable news commentator crafting their message to get more bookings on TV.  But Bash’s lie was so blatant; I mean all the evidence to the contrary was already out there, that he seems to have reached a new low in whoring out his resume.

I had previously given up on TV and cable news after the Charlottesville “good people” hoax.  Then gradually crawled back because I still, as I stated at the beginning of this post, wanted to see what the enemy is saying.  But after Bash’s lies I cut the TV off, tuning out the MSM news for the rest of the day.  I’m not saying I won’t go back eventually, but it won’t be today, or tomorrow…or anytime soon.

 

The Impeachment Shoe Dropping

At the beginning of the year I made my annual list of predictions, and included by prediction of impeachment for some time this year, “The House Judiciary Committee will vote on articles of impeachment this year. I’m not going to guess whether there will be enough votes to bring the issue to the floor of the House, but the Judiciary Committee will for sure be voting on it.  It’s too tempting to leave that candy in the pantry.” Of course, we already had a vote on impeachment back in July so this isn’t all that new.

Apparently that candy looked really good, and as the number of Democrats who were in favor of impeachment slowly rose throughout the year, it became apparent that eventually Nancy Pelosi would have to either go along or get left behind. She decided that she would rather drive the train than get run over by it, and so announced an impeachment inquiry, a made up thing that has no constitutional or legal basis.  However it does announce the official beginning of the Impeachment Bowl, “play ball!”

This trigger, the outrage over the President’s call to the Ukrainian President, hasn’t caused such uproar since…a few weeks ago during the Scottish Airport scandal, when Trump was allegedly directing military flights to his resort.  That scandal turned out to be fake as I suspect this one will be, although the difference is that the impeachment machinery of investigations will remain. After all, Pelosi announced her inquiry yesterday before either the whistleblower’s complaint or the contents of the phone call transcripts were known.  So it didn’t matter what the actual accusation was or what the content of the transcripts were, impeachment ho!

Reading the transcript, I was surprised at how banal it was, not at all the snarling Trump threatening the President of Ukraine to bring him Oppo research on Biden or no aid, as I had been prepped by MSNBC to expect.  So…no quid pro quo for military aid.  Like every other fake crisis about Trump over the past two and a half years; a nothingburger.

Meanwhile, three Democratic Senators wrote a letter to Ukraine’s prosecutor urging him to reopen investigations involved with the Mueller probe and of course, good old Sleepy Joe himself successfully got the investigation of the company Burisma shut down.  As Marc Thiessen noted in The Washington Post:

“And then there is Joe Biden. In 2016, the then-vice president threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees to Ukraine if the government did not fire the country’s top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin. According to the New York Times, “Among those who had a stake in the outcome was Hunter Biden … who at the time was on the board of an energy company owned by a Ukrainian oligarch who had been in the sights of the fired prosecutor general.” The Post reports that it is “unclear how seriously Shokin — who was under fire by U.S. and European officials for not taking a more aggressive posture toward corruption overall — was scrutinizing Burisma when he was forced out.” But what is clear is that Biden bragged about getting him fired, declaring last year: “I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a b—-. He got fired.””

Well there is some quid pro quo right there! It would be hilarious if the Democratic Congress, in attempting to smear Trump with yet still more nonsense, actually drops a ton of crap on Joe Biden.  Then again, maybe that’s their plan after all…

The UK as the 51st State?

I came across an interesting twitter thread the other day which posited an interesting question.

It’s an interesting question, as a pure theoretical, but my short answer is no way.

The US and the UK are too dissimilar to form a cohesive union. The almost 250 year separation has led to totally different economic, political, and national cultures. The UK couldn’t tolerate either a First or Second Amendment; both are alien concepts in their political culture, and there are no doubt many other aspects of our political culture that the UK would simply find intolerable.

The US doesn’t need any more States (I’m looking at you Puerto Rico!) The trend of a few massive super states, the condition we found ourselves at the beginning of the 20th Century, has reversed itself, usually after each war. The Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and decolonization have left a multitude of nation states (and chaos) as a result. That process is still going on. Scotland, Catalonia, and a multitude of others want to be independent countries, and of course here in the US, we have California…

That being said, in a post Brexit Britain, we should seek closer economic ties.  President Trump has proposed a trade agreement with the UK and that will probably be an economic necessity for the British economy after leaving the EU.  I would suggest going further with a common market among the Anglosphere nations, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.  This isn’t just my daydreaming, but a serious proposal.  None other than the current British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has endorsed that as a goal.

An Anglosphere common market and relatively easy movement would be more than an economic match for the EU and China.  It has a lot of the benefits of freer trade without the downsides that the US has fallen into by seeking trade agreements with third world countries that serve as large “sucking sounds” of US manufacturing to take advantage of third world wage rates. The economies and wage rates of the Anglosphere countries are more or less equivalent, meaning competition will depend on more than who can pay their shoeless employees even less money.

I’m no isolationist, but isolationism is a better alternative than the course the US has been following for the last 30 years; a race to the bottom for wages and the deindustrialization of the American heartland. An Anglosphere alternative would help provide a better alternative, larger markets among equivalent national economies.  Will it happen?  I wouldn’t bet on it but there is a better alternative than the one we’ve been on for the past few decades.

 

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.

Get Out Of My Country: POC Edition

Back in the days of my youth, there used to be a fairly popular saying among the Archie Bunker class, “America, Love it or Leave it!”  It was generally directed against anti-war types, hippies, and meatheads of various sorts, including recent immigrants who decided to make it a personal mission to bitch about every aspect of their new home.  Clearly there is no actual place to exile native born American citizens, although I’ve long suggested a plan to offer to buy out their American residency and send them on their way.  Even at a price of a couple of hundred thousand dollars per miscreant, it would be money well spent to reduce the general annoyance level of the country.

These fond remembrances came back to me after President Trump’s recent tweet to “The Squad,” The Democratic House’s Scooby gang of meatheads, Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley, and Tlaib.

I had written about Ilhan Omar before since I regard her as the most dangerous one of the quartet.  Pressley, I hadn’t even known was part of this little Legion of Doom until Trump started tweeting about the Squad.  AOC on the other hand, is, on balance a net plus for the GOP.  Her goofy statements provide lots of clicks on right leaning websites and her ability to push the entire Democratic Party to the left, tweet by tweet, helps make the entire party look like crazy town.  Of course, that’s a double edged sword.  I seem to recall someone else who rode their twitter account all the way to the White House…

Since there is a media consensus that Trump’s tweets are racist, there is no point in trying to contradict that.  They decide, you shut up and take it.  Of course, to me, the issue wasn’t about race at all, merely the ignorance of telling native born American citizens to go back to their country.  If he had just directed it Omar, it would have been an accurate tweet.  And frankly, I wish Omar would go back to her country.

To the left/Democrats/mainstream media however, any insult directed to a “person of color” is racist simply based on the color of the person the insult is directed to, not the actual content of the insult.  A racial insult can now be race free!

Ah, progress…

By that ridiculous standard, that makes Trump’s tweet against Pressley and Omar “racist” since after all, they’re Black.  But with Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez, it’s a bit more complicated.  Rashida Tlaib is Palestinian, which according to the US Census makes her White. Ocasio-Cortez is Puerto Rican, and claims mixed ancestry, but who’s to know?  It’s unlikely she’ll be as dumb as Elizabeth Warren and submit to a DNA test.  Just going by the eyeball test though, if her last name were Italian, French, or Greek we wouldn’t even be having this conversation.  There is no paper bag test applied to people claiming to be “people of color.”  If it were, you would need to be at least this brown to ride this ride:

Person of Color Test

Person of Color Test

Instead, we have this term, People of Color, who’s purpose seems to be to separate everyone in the world from a couple of hundred million White people.  In fact, quite a few Caucasians seem to qualify as people of color not by virtue of race or skin tone, but by some sort of amorphous layer of oppression. You can even be a European from Spain or Portugal, where you are considered white, but once in the US, you would magically become, “a person of color.”

In popularizing that term, someone, somewhere, thought it would be useful to have a term that separated the rest of humanity from a certain type of white people.  There are human beings (the People of Color) and then there are some strange oppressive Orc like subspecies; white people.  The term and its use have no cultural or phenotypical purpose; the purpose is political; to demonize a small segment of the human race as the Kulaks of planet Earth.

It might be useful to start fighting back on this term, since it’s been allowed to grow like kudzu for years, and is becoming more and more important in separating “them” from “us.”  Who is “them” and who is “us” is becoming more and more important in multicultural America .