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w.heinlein 137 posts  |  Last Activity: Apr 28, 2016 1:16 PM Member since: Oct 8, 2007
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  • Whenever I tell myself that its highly unlikely that Donald Trump will defeat Hillary Clinton in the general election, I remind myself that "unlikely" is not the same as "impossible". An unlikely event is one that doesn't occur very often--but it occurs. In early 1980, Jimmy Carter held a commanding lead in the polls over Ronald Reagan but by November, their positions were reversed. Carter ran into a perfect storm of negative events and Reagan was a phenomenal campaigner. The combination put Reagan into the White House. Do I think the same thing could happen to Clinton viz-a-viz Trump? Yes, though I don't expect it. But that's the nature of unexpected events--you don't see them coming. Hillary Clinton didn't see Barack Obama coming until it was too late.

    So even though I think Trump is a substance-free charlatan, Democrats and sane Republicans should not be quick to dismiss the threat that he represents. A Trump Presidency would be as close to an utter disaster as I can imagine, simply because Trump knows nothing about government and will consequently become the tool of those who do both within his own party and in the world. Though Trump bills himself a master negotiator, diplomacy is about more than asking for twice and settling for half. Trump would be putty in the hands of Putin, of Netanyahu, of Angela Merkel.. with consequences I shudder to imagine.

    But it might happen and unless the Sanders supporters and the sane Republicans also vote for Hillary with all her flaws.

  • w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 27, 2016 2:45 PM Flag

    Son of Dracula + Cruella de Ville

  • w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 26, 2016 5:30 PM Flag

    I don't disagree at all with what you're saying. I'm just pointing out that an average outcome measure--infant mortality, for instance--combines a (relatively) small number of affluent mothers who have excellent pre-natal care, excellent birth care and a tiny infant mortality rate with a large number of poor mothers who have poor pre-natal care, poor birth care and a high infant mortality rate. And you can make the same point about many other medical conditions. In addition, the USA has an epidemic of diseases of affluence ranging from obesity to opiod addiction that push down our average morbidity and mortality statistics. Single payer health care would not necessarily impact these conditions.

  • w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 26, 2016 1:18 PM Flag


    What you say is true and there's no doubt that there's a lot of waste and duplication in the American health care system. But averages are always tricky. The US average cost includes enormous investments in R&D and state of the art medical technology. If you have any kind of exotic medical condition, you want it treated here rather than anywhere else. In other words, the US health care system is by far the best in the world for those who can afford it. But for the 2/3 of the population who can't afford it, and especially for those at the bottom of the income distribution, the US health care system can be a nightmare.

    So what we see in health care is what we see throughout the economy, a rigid and increasingly ruthless division between the wealthy and everyone else. You want a private room in a superb hospital with a doctor who is a world expert in your condition? If you have enough money you can have all that and more. But if you don't have enough money? if you live in a rural area without a decent hospital with 100 miles? If your family doc is out of touch with the latest developments in diagnosis and treatment? If the drug that will save your life costs $100,000 a year and your insurance (if you have insurance at all) doesn't cover it? Well, better luck in your next life.


  • P-R:
    As I recall, your last political tsunami was named Sarah Palin. Looks more like a dry creek bed right now. So what makes you think the Donald will do any better than the half-baked Alaskan? Trump's ascendancy in the GOP is proof positive that the Republican Party is little more than a house of straw that the Big Bad Wolf from Wall Street can blow over with a few blasts of hot air.

    Barring a true black swan event, Trump will be the nominee and he will lose to Clinton. And he will take the entire ticket down in flames with him. When the Koch Brothers start talking about supporting Clinton, you know that the GOP has hit the skids.

    We are still six months from the election and anything can happen. But unless something really big does happen, the prospect does not look pleasing for the GOP.
    P.S. What is this obsession you've got with SJWs? Sounds like you got turned down for a date to the prom and you're taking your frustration out on every woman who reminds you of the one who told you to stop drooling on your KISS tee shirt.

  • Enthusiasts right and left are rallying for Trump and Sanders, two of the most content-free candidates who have ever run for the Presidency. While it is true that a contest between policy wonks would be like watching paint dry, it would still be vastly superior to a contest between sloganeers whose most common answer to questions about actual policy are "I haven't thought much about that" (Sanders) or "I'll make a great deal for the USA" (Trump).

    Hillary Clinton may be boring, mechanical, uninspiring, hard to like, robotic, fill in your favorite unflattering adjective here__________. But she is probably the most qualified person in the United States to become the next President. She understands foreign policy. She understands domestic policy. She understands how the Congress works. She knows how to trade favors and twist arms to get things done in the bureaucratic swamp of Washington. She is smart and hard-working and tough-minded. She can be ruthless if necessary in a job that occasionally requires ruthlessness.

    Of course she has big shortcomings. Like George H. W. Bush she lacks "the vision thing." In an era when people are fed up wit the status quo in Washington, she is a living embodiment of the status quo. She is too cozy with Wall Street and won't back serious reform of the financial system, no matter how badly it might be needed. And so on. But in comparison to any other candidates in either party, she is the one person who could actually govern in an effective manner. It took Barack Obama, a very smart man, almost 6 years to figure out how to use the power of the Presidency effectively. It will take her about 6 minutes to do the same thing.

    In short, if you want a President who can actually govern, she is the only choice.

  • w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 21, 2016 10:19 PM Flag

    1.8 billion is approximately one year's income for Steve Cohen. At least the fine is not deductible on his federal income tax!

  • w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 21, 2016 5:43 PM Flag

    I would take those polls with a barrel of salt. The Democrats have an electoral college lock right now that would take someone with the personal appeal of a Ronald Reagan to break and John Kasich is no Reagan. Even if the Sanders voters stay away when Bernie finally throws in the towel, she will win enough of the big states to reach 270 in the electoral college without Florida or Ohio. And Kasich has to show that he can stand up under the pressure of a Presidential campaign, something Hillary clearly can do. Remember it was only a few weeks ago that Marco Rubio was supposedly going to waltz to the GOP nomination, then he went into brainlock on national TV and that was the end of him. You have to be able to play on the big stage if you want to become President and Kasich has to prove he can do that.

    That said, Kasich would probably avert catastrophe for the GOP, especially for the House and Senate candidates who may go down in flames if Trump is the nominee.

    On the other side of this question, Bernie Sanders has a lot of liabilities that haven't surfaced yet starting with his age and his uber-left-wing policies. He might also lose a few votes because he's Jewish. He's riding a wave of enthusiasm from a very activist but also very non-representative group of supporters. In the general election, he would have to demonstrate that his policies have appeal beyond them and I don't think he can do it.

  • I honestly have no idea what I said in my post that caused it to vanish but...I did have an internal reference to another home page but without the URL, tho that usually doesn't trigger the censorship algorithm. Maybe Yahoo just randomly censors posts for the heck of it.

    Anyway, the gist of the post was that Trump now looks like a near-lock and an absolute stone cold lock if he wins Indiana. Which raises an interesting question: Republicans generally run to the right in the primaries and to the center in general election, while Dems do the reverse, left in the primaries, then also to the center in the general. But where is Trump? He's neither typically left nor right and who knows what he thinks the center is. Maybe he's the new center (at least in his own mind). I am thinking he would run on an amalgam of populist and nationalist themes, but even saying that I have a hard time imagining what (beyond "Make America Great Again") he would offer as a set of policies and (equally important) what the GOP would be willing to put in their platform to appease him.

    Weird, right?

  • Reply to

    The Shrinking Middle Class

    by w.heinlein Apr 19, 2016 2:26 PM
    w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 20, 2016 6:00 PM Flag

    Hi Vic,

    Of course you're right, which is one reason why it is so hard to define "middle class" on the basis of income alone. A better, but more complicated, approach is to define economic classes on the basis of consumption. In other words, if your income permits you a middle class life style (which is pretty similar no matter where in the country you live) then you're middle class. To achieve that middle class life style might take twice as much income in one part of the country compared to another. But however you define "middle class" there's no doubt it is shrinking (slowly) and the greater part of the shrink is from people moving up rather than down. I think that change is quite consistent with increased feelings of depression and anger on the part of those who don't move up or who move down, and I believe it accounts for a good part of the disillusionment with all politicians that is evident right now, not to mention the appeal of a non-politician like Trump or a party maverick like Sanders.


  • Justin Raimondo:

    The New York Times reports that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is telling the Obama administration that they would be “forced” to sell some $750 billion in US assets if Congress passes a bill that would give a green light to lawsuits alleging that the Saudis played a key role in facilitating the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The families of the 9/11 victims have been pursuing the Kingdom in the courts for years, with judges routinely dismissing financial claims by the families on the grounds of “sovereign immunity,” i.e. the “legal” doctrine that governments cannot be held accountable for their actions. However, a little noticed Supreme Court decision reinstated the Saudis as defendants. The bill, sponsored by Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Chuck Schumer (D-New York), has broad support: if passed, it would pave the way for a close examination of the evidence that the Saudi government had a hand in 9/11.

    The Obama administration has responded to this blackmail threat by capitulating – and threatening Congress with dire consequences if the Cornyn-Schumer bill passes. Trotting out State Department and Pentagon officials to warn of the “diplomatic and economic fallout,” they claim that US companies and citizens abroad would be endangered. The issue has led to “intense discussions” inside the Beltway, reports the Times, where the Saudi lobby is working overtime to head off the possibility that their role in the worst terrorist attack on US soil will finally come to light,
    So I ask: assuming the Saudi threat to sell assets is real, what do you think the President (this one or any other) should do?

  • Reply to

    The Shrinking Middle Class

    by w.heinlein Apr 19, 2016 2:26 PM
    w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 20, 2016 11:08 AM Flag

    Median income over that time period is essentially flat; indeed, as a result of the recession, median income actually declined and hasn't yet recovered to its 2007 level. If you think of median income as a proxy for the middle class, your point is exactly on target.

    I think the simplest way to sum up this picture is that the gains from productivity have been very unequally distributed, with nearly all of them going to those in the upper third of the income distribution, the majority of that going to those in the upper tenth and the majority of that going to those in the upper 1 percent.. At the same time, banking and finance have doubled their percentage of GDP, from 9 percent to 18 per cent, and that sector has capatured nearly all the productivity gains. Can you blame an unemployed tool and die maker if he thinks the system that gives a hedge fund manager a multii-billion dollar income for structuring arcane deals that do nothing but move money around and avoid taxes is broken beyond repair? I can't.

  • Reply to

    The Shrinking Middle Class

    by w.heinlein Apr 19, 2016 2:26 PM
    w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 20, 2016 9:16 AM Flag

    You're right about the taxes and I'm sorry I didn't respond. One obvious change that we ought to make to the tax laws is to remove the income ceiling on FICA. As people move into the upper one-third of the income distribution, FICA becomes a smaller and smaller portion of their tax bills. People with incomes of $114.000 or less, pay the full FICA rate and for self-employed people FICA is typically a larger tax than FIT. Removing the ceiling would boost federal revenue considerably, stabilize Social Security financing, and would be perceived as fair by most people although those who would pay higher taxes as a result--such as me, for example--wouldn't enjoy writing a bigger check to Uncle Sam

  • Reply to

    The Shrinking Middle Class

    by w.heinlein Apr 19, 2016 2:26 PM
    w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 19, 2016 7:17 PM Flag

    AS I said in my post, you can define middle class various ways and you'll get different results. But overall, it should come as no surprise that we are richer than we were in 1971. The economy grew at around 3% per year during the 70's and 80's and around 2% per year since then. That means it roughly doubled in the 25 years from 1971 to 1996 and grew another 50% since then. Not all that growth went to the top tier; as these numbers indicate, a good deal of it went into enlarging the upper one-third of the household income distribution.

    One effect of the great recession was to push a bunch of newly-arrived upper-middle-class (or, if you prefer, lower-upper-class) people back down into the middle class from which they came and, in some instances, all the way down into the lower class. One source of the feeling of economic malaise is the anxiety of the newly-arrived upwardly mobile, families that they could fall back down the ladder even faster than they skipped up it.

  • All candidates of both parties are making pitches to the middle class on the assumption, universally shared it seems, that the middle class is getting worse and worse off. Some recent analysis of income tax data by the Pew Research Institute casts an interesting light on this discussion. Although "middle class" can be defined many different ways, the Pew people chose to break all households down into just three groups based on their household income: Lower ($0-$44,900) Middle ($45,000-$124,900) and Upper ($125,000 +) They then looked at the distribution of household income over those three groups (in constant 2015 dollars) in 1971 and in 2015, and here's what they found:

    Household Income (2015 dollars) 1971 2015

    $0 to $44,900 34% 28%
    $45, 000 to $124,900 59% 52%
    $125,000 and above 7% 20%

    In other words, the middle class (defined as above) is indeed shrinking, but it is shrinking mainly because so many more people have moved into the upper class. We are, as a society, a lot richer (and a lot less poor) than we were 45 years ago. We have 6% fewer poor households, most of whom have become middle class; and 13% more wealthy households, most of whom used to be middle class.

    Amazingly, none of the major candidates has thought to point out that we're a lot better off than we were half a century ago. I guess that's because scare tactics work: the middle class can be scared into thinking that they are about to become poor and the wealthy can be scared into thikni9ng they are about to become middle class.

  • "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you no sense of decency?"

    In a campaign notable for its meanness and spite, Trump lowers the bar to levels not seen since Joe McCarthy. What he needs is not so much to be opposed as to be shamed, because his behavior is shameful. All of the candidates have serious flaws and none of them inspires me at all. But Trump should not be written off as an entertaining buffoon. He should be denounced as a schoolyard bully. His remarks to Megyn Kelly were disgusting, his various threats of violence by his supporters if he doesn't get his way are the talk of a gang leader, not a Presidential candidate. It's time somebody in the GOP leadership grew a pair and called him out for the extortionist that he is.

  • Reply to

    The Real Scandal of the Panama Papers...

    by w.heinlein Apr 13, 2016 2:43 PM
    w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 14, 2016 11:20 AM Flag

    It is ludicrously easy and cheap to create a foreign shell corporation that owns shares in another shell corporation and whose board of directors and executive officers are supplied by the company that creates the shell corporations. You can create these companies in less than a day and locate them in jurisdictions that won't supply information about the owners to anyone including in response to an extra-territorial judicial order such as one coming, for example, from an American court. The result is that even though you risk punishment in the USA if these arrangements come to light, the chances of their being uncovered are in fact quite small. But as I pointed out, that's what Americans do; what foreign nationals do is hide their money here because creating similar arrangements in the USA that shield the ownership of American accounts from foreign governments is also easy. And all those arrangements are legal in the USA and the other countries that provide them.

  • Scott Sumner: Peter Schiff said back in January that the US would have a big recession this year. If we don’t have a recession this year, people will forget Schiff’s false prediction, as well as his false predictions of major crises in the US in 2015 and 2013, and recall his correct prediction of the 2008 recession. (Insert broken clock analogy here.)

    Schiff is the economic analog of Bill Kristol. He's wrong over and over and over but like an unkillable Zombie, he rises from the grave of his last false statement to make yet another wrong prediction. As Sumner notes, every now and then he gets it right by sheer randomness. And yet he still gets exposure on financial web sites like this one, or on CNBC, Bloomberg, etc.

    I have a theory about this: people like scary predictions of financial Armageddon for the same reason they like disaster movies. There is something exciting about contemplating the end of the world as we know it. On the flip side, who wants to see a financial headline that reads "Nothing Important Happened Today"? And yet, on the great majority of days, nothing really important happens. So the operators of the media outlets turn to scare-mongers like Schiff or false prophets like Kristol because their confident predictions of doom drive ratings. Here's an off-center analogy: if I predicted that Mike Trout would hit a home run every time he came to bat, I would mostly be wrong but every now and then I'd be right. If I were Peter Schiff, I'd point to those moments and say, "See I told you so!"

  • is that almost all the arrangements by which people conceal ownership of assets are legal. It is perfectly legal to set up an offshore corporation, install a board of directors provided by the corporate organizer, and have the stock in the corporation held by another entity that you own so that your ownership is completely obscured. It is also easier to create those kinds of arrangements in the United States than almost anywhere else. You read that right: the USA has more opaque banking regulations than the countries that we are pressuring for transparency and disclosure. We want the names of potential tax evaders in Panama, Belize, the Caymans, the Isle of Wight, etc so that we can tax them. But we are not willing to provide other countries with similar information about their nationals who are hiding assets here in the United States. Why? Because it is to the economic benefit of this country to be a haven for flight capital. So even as we strip away legal coverage of Americans who stash assets abroad, we refuse to expose nationals of other countries who are stashing assets here. This does not make us popular with the people we are pressuring for more transparency, to say the least.

  • w.heinlein w.heinlein Apr 12, 2016 4:12 PM Flag

    We see it on this board in the person of page_roler who (if memory serves) spent months here extolling the incomparable virtues and irresistible appeal of Sarah Palin. Since then he's fawned all over Trump...and just about burst an artery predicting the immanent any-second-now indictment of HRC. When these hopes aren't realized, will he sink into despair or start cheering for the new right wing flavor-of-the-month?

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