Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Grand Theft Representation?

So the 2010 Census data was just released. Predictably, the states with lower tax rates saw an influx of people, and the states with higher tax rates saw an outflux. However, there was another phenomenon which was also evident: states with high rates of resident illegal aliens also saw an increase in numbers, which is to be expected (since the census specifically does not ask or care if people are in the country legally, or are actively breaking the law). For federal money to states for infrastructure, this can make sense: the state has extra burdens from extra people, and doesn't deserve to shoulder the extra burden from the federal government's incompetence in securing the borders and enforcing the law.

However, the census also determines representation in the federal government, and this is where the otherwise academically interesting situation graduates into a big problem. In essence, by giving representation based on ongoing criminal activity, we're not only rewarding the criminals with federal funds, but we're encouraging more people to break the law. Even worse, though, we're literally ceding control of the country (in some part) to the criminals, and the states which foster them. How in the world does that make sense?

Lest you think this is a minor problem, think again. For example, according to the census, California has around 37 million people. Now, it's impossible to accurately measure the number of illegal aliens in California, but recent studies have put the number between 5 and 16 million. If you take the average there, that means over 25% of California's population is in the country illegally, breaking the law, and giving California about 13 additional people in Congress! That means criminals in California are being given more representation in House of Representatives than most smaller states, and more electoral college votes for the office of the Presidency! The whole idea is patently absurd, and an affront to the whole idea of representation of the people of the country.

How can we, the [legal residents of the United States] people, expect to stem the tide of criminal activity when we not only reward it, but we give it a voice in determining the future of the country? It's ridiculous, absurd, infuriating, incomprehensible, and probably the most asinine thing our country is currently doing. If we can't fix brain-dead obvious problems like this, what hope do we have a tackling the larger issues?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thoughts on the DREAM Act Bill

The DREAM Act, for those who don't follow politics, is a bill backed primarily by Democrats which would establish a path for illegal immigrants to obtain permanent legal residency through education or military service. It has been opposed by critics as a sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants (which it kinda is), and because it rewards criminal behavior (which it kinda does). It has been proposed and revised several times over the last decade, and is still not popular enough to be passed.

At this point, I'm going to state something which may surprise regular readers: I kinda like this bill, and with a few caveats, I think it would be a good idea.

Before I explain, let's get into a little philosophy on immigration in general. It's in the best interests of countries to encourage and facilitate immigration of skilled workers and other productive members of society, provided that the industrial system in the country can support additional productive work and people. Historically, the US has had no problem with this: the capitalist economic system allows lots of opportunity for job creation, innovation, and prosperity from the ability and willingness to work for it. As long as you're importing quality people, with the skills and desire to work for a living, and the willingness to integrate into your society, they will likely be a net benefit to the society.

This brings us to a question of what would be ideal for the US. First and probably most importantly, would-be immigrants should want to be fully-integrated members of the country; that is, learn the language and customs, follow the rules, like the country, etc. Second, they should be educated and/or skilled enough to be productive members of the society, and not a burden on such. Third, you need to make it clear, both in word and deed, that one person fulfilling the criteria is not a gateway to any others, so that you don't get net negative immigration. Those things being established, let's compare the DREAM Act to them, and see how it stacks up.

The act provides a path to residency for people who are young, complete a college degree or military service, and are of good moral character. That actually seems fairly close to the ideal: military service could do a lot for integration into the language and culture, and a college degree could do a lot for granting the skills necessary to be productive. The youth requirement helps ensure that people granted residency under the act have time to contribute to the society, and there are some restrictions on people who have broken the laws. So, generally speaking, the act does a fairly good job of encapsulating a good immigration policy.

As for caveats, I have a few things that I would like to see also in the bill. Obviously, I'm not in Congress, so these are unlikely to be added, and they are not major, but I'll call them a wish list of small improvements which would make me less hesitant in my support:
- I'd like to see the college degree be in a field which was recognized to lead to a job in something which is in-demand. I realize this would be somewhat hard to quantify in the legislation, but there are a lot of college degrees which do not lead to productive jobs, and giving residency to someone with a degree in "want fries with that?" doesn't seem optimal.
- I'd like to see a restriction on public funds being used to subsidize the education, and a restriction that the school must not have admitted or retained the student due to any discriminatory program (such as affirmative action). If we're going to give residency for people who were skilled enough to get a degree, let's not include people who were not skilled enough to get into college without using the color of their skin (explicitly or implicitly). You could exclude any schools from the program which have discriminatory admissions programs; that would be ideal.
- I'd like to see the program suspended if unemployment in the country is above a threshold. There's no reason to import people to take jobs away from existing legal residents when the economy is suffering, and this might help encourage other programs to keep the economy strong.
- I'd like to see a requirement that the program applicant also obtain a private-sector job (or multiple) for at least one year after completing the education or military service portion. This would prove that the person could be a productive member of society, and act as an additional check that the other provisions were working as designed.

Would the bill be better with these provisions? I think so. However, I don't think the bill as written is that bad, and even without these provisions it is probably positive on the whole. As much as a don't like rewarding criminal behavior, it behooves the US to have a rational path for immigration for those people who would benefit the society, and this bill seems a heck of a lot better than most amnesty proposals. That's my opinion, anyway.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Liberal "Journalism"

Study Confirms That Fox News Makes You Stupid

This article was recently published on AlterNet, although it's not the first time this liberal-media bash of Fox News study has been quoted in the liberal media. So why am I linking it? Well, in some cases, the sheer magnitude of the audacity of something being distorted to support an agenda rises to the level of selective ridicule, and I feel that this is one such piece. So, for amusement, here are the items which were asserted to be "facts", and the number of Fox News readers who disagreed with the liberal talking points "facts":
•91 percent believe the stimulus legislation lost jobs
•72 percent believe the health reform law will increase the deficit
•72 percent believe the economy is getting worse
•60 percent believe climate change is not occurring
•49 percent believe income taxes have gone up
•63 percent believe the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts
•56 percent believe Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout
•38 percent believe that most Republicans opposed TARP
•63 percent believe Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)

Well, just for fun, let's see how many of these statements I would disagree with. Now, I'm not a Fox News viewer, but I consider myself a fairly well-informed, rational person (I'm sure some would argue, but whatever). So, in order:
the health reform law will increase the deficit

Well, if you don't think this is true, you're either ill informed, willing to take obvious lies on face value, or deluding yourself. Seriously, I'd question your ability to think if you thought this was factual; there's really no other way to say it.
the economy is getting worse

This is more of a grey-area. The economy is not yet getting better, and you could certainly argue that Obama's policies are contributing to additional long-term damage to the economy, but short-term the situation is more unclear. Based on continuing increases in unemployment only, though (which seems like a fairly objective measurement), and/or private industry health, this statement would also be accurate.
climate change is not occurring

The factual basis for this would depend largely on how the question was worded, unfortunately. It's fairly clear that some climate change is occurring, however anything beyond that (ie: natural or man-made, cyclic or not, hotter or colder, causes, etc.) is scientific hypothesis and speculation at this point. I'd say this is actually a fact, but probably not as presented or implied.
income taxes have gone up

For the majority of people, income taxes have not changed, so this one is hard to justify. You could argue that implied future taxation has increased due to massive deficit spending, but that's a stretch. Unless people are thinking of state taxation, or non-income taxation, or regulation, or implied taxation, or derivative costs... this is a misconception.
the stimulus legislation did not include any tax cuts

This is true, as far as I know. The legislation provided a lot of handouts, some rebates, and some selective credits, but no tax cuts, or anything to make taxation lower or more fair in the medium or long term.
Obama initiated the GM/Chrysler bailout

Obama may not have publicly initiated the "bailout" (really, wealth confiscation and redistribution), but if you don't think he was intimately involved, I might have some beach-front property available in Arizona which I would sell you for a very reasonable price...
most Republicans opposed TARP

This is another easy point of confusion. Most Republicans opposed TARP as it was used by the Obama administration, which was totally different than how it was pitched when they voted on it. I'm guessing that distinction wasn't emphasized in the survey, so you can forgive a certain amount of ambiguity in the answers.
Obama was not born in the U.S. (or that it is unclear)

Well, to be fair, due to the strenuous efforts of the Obama administration, and complacency by the local [politically-aligned] government, belief in this is a matter of faith, rather than verifiable public record. A conspiracy-minded individual could be forgiven for wondering why such a large amount of effort was put into keeping the documentation secret, of course, or why the highest public servant in the country doesn't have to prove eligibility for the office. I'd say "unclear" is a fair assessment, given the efforts at concealment and faith-based verification.

Hm, so let's see... looking over the list, I'd have to say that the Fox News viewers are remarkably well-informed, given that they represent such a large subset of the news-viewing population of the country. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that accepting the conclusions of this study on face value might not only imply something about one's own political views, but in the spirit of the study itself, might go a long way to prove that you are indeed the stupid one. Maybe there's some deeper double-meaning sociological implication going on here... or maybe this is just another example of retarded liberal "journalism", I leave it to the [more informed] reader to decide.

Edit: Addendum, more on the health care bill, since there's some obvious intentional confusion about how much it will increase the deficit (if at all). The bill itself is expected to cost around $1,100,000,000,000 (at least) over the next decade (that's over a trillion dollars). However, proponents contend that two factors reduce the overall cost:
- Congress has yet to fund most of the provisions, so their costs will be variable based on future legislation
- Savings from reductions in Medicare payments are expected to compensate for the costs
On the other side of the argument:
- Many of the provisions call for funding which is unspecified, all of which would increase the cost if not repealed before funded

As for the Medicare payments, it's true that the government could make the program cost-neutral by cutting Medicare payments enough to compensate. However, before you blindly accept that rosy picture, you should check and see how they are doing at reducing payments to doctors, which are already so much lower than private insurance payments that the supply of doctors for Medicare patients is dwindling rapidly. As the saying goes, there's no free lunch, and effectively adding millions of high-risk patients to Medicare isn't magically going to reduce the cost to the government. Just sayin.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Which Bills are Bad?

There's an old joke about politicians:
How can you tell if a politician is lying?
He/she is speaking.

Now, obviously that is a tad bit of hyperbole, but it's amusing because of the hint of truth in it. People have come to accept that their "representatives" are lying virtually all the time, and clearly more often than they are telling the truth. To that end, I'd like to propose an additional variation of the above observation, with respect to Congressional legislation:
How can you tell if a bill is bad for the country?
Congress is voting on it.

Consider, for example, the latest gigantic pork bill proposed by the Democrats, as an effective rider to the continuing resolution to keep the government operating beyond Dec 18. Now, in a sane world there would be some rule, or procedure, or perhaps even modicum of decency to separate gigantic pork bills from the simple "keep the government operating" resolution, so that conscientious legislators wouldn't be forced to hand out billions of dollars to special-interest pork projects just to not shutdown the government; however, these are the Democrats we're talking about, and they're a special kind of reprehensible.

Really, I wish we had enough decent representatives to vote down this monstrosity, and call out the Democrats for shutting down the government. It seems like we've had nothing but years of capitulation to "just a little more bad" legislative bills and practices, and we've reached the point where you look at the process with fresh eyes, and think, "how did we get to this horrifically bad state?" How did we arrive at the point where handing out billions in public money to special interest pork payouts allocated behind closed doors by mafia-style corrupt thugs was a foregone prerequisite of just maintaining a functional government?

Our government needs a massive enema.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Credit Where Due

I know a number of other "Tea Party" blogs (including likely some readers of this one) are posting articles critical of Obama's latest effort to pump more printed money into the US economy. While I think there's certainly a legitimate point of contention with the idea that the only feasible action for the government (seemingly in every circumstance, but especially when the economy isn't doing well) is to print more money, and Obama certainly did his best to vilify Republicans while accepting the compromise deal, I have to give him a certain amount of credit: the deal is not nearly as bad as it could have been, and he (unlike his Democrat counterparts in Congress) at least seems willing to make some concessions in the name of helping people.

Consider the proposed compromise plan. It:
- Does not increase the progressive tax gap (ie: it doesn't make income taxation more unfair)
- Gives money primarily to those who are working, creating/maintaining jobs, or trying to work (excepting the unemployment extensions)
- Doesn't give money to banks as a big "thank you" for helping wreck the economy (like TARP and QE1 did, and the Fed continues to)
- Doesn't just monetize government debt, creating latent inflation to subsidize more wasteful government spending (like QE2 does)
- Doesn't hand out money selectively to special interests, supporters, special friends, and government insiders, and represent the most brazen corrupt theft from taxpayers in the history of the country (like the first "stimulus" was)

Could the bill have been better? Sure, but this is probably as good as could be expected. Will it pass? That's more questionable; it has to get some Democrat votes, and the Democrats in Congress are nothing if not contemptible partisan scum, who would rather not steal money than sign off on something backed by Republicans (and trust me, they detest not stealing your money). Is it good for the country on the whole? That's also a tough call; while the tax rate extension will help a lot of people, it sets up another painful fight in two years, doesn't do much to encourage job growth, doesn't do anything to fix the systemic problems with private industry in the US, and prints a bunch more money. However, as noted, it's the least bad of the money-printing schemes so far, so that's saying something (in today's US politics, "least bad" and "not as horrible as it initially appeared" seem to be all we the people can hope for).

So, I give Obama some credit: unlike his Democrat counterparts in Congress, with this compromise he seems to be trying to do something less bad, and the resulting bill is less horrible than anything else that previously came from his administration. Perhaps now, when you're on the people's side (at least for a short time, and in a very limited context), you too can see how monumentally contemptible the Democrats in Congress are, and feel some of our pain.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WiliLeaks followup: Sarah Palin

So Sarah Palin chimed in on Facebook regarding the WikiLeaks controversy. In short, she asserts that Julian Assange (the director of the organization) should be hunted like an al Qaeda leader, and that the US should use all available resources (military, diplomatic, cyber-warfare, etc.) to silence the site. To say that I disagree with the stance would be an understatement; in fact, it's thinking like this which would lead be to believe that Palin would be no better than Obama as a leader, and quite possibly worse.

Consider, for a moment, the implications of such a stance at the national level. Essentially, the government would be saying that anyone who publishes any information which they find objectionable should be hunted as an enemy of the state, their information censored, their freedoms taken from them, and possibly also their lives. Clearly all news organizations would fall under this (with the exception of the state controlled news sources), as well as independent publications expressing dissenting views (eg: blogs which criticize the government). You could say goodbye to any remaining freedom of expression you were clinging to, and be forced to accept the totalitarian rule of a government which kept a watchful eye on anything people said or wrote, in case it was considered giving aid to our enemies. In essence, the US would become China with a hearty dose of the SS mixed in.

If this is the US that Palin is striving for, I think I'd prefer another four years of Obama. I'd rather be able to criticize the problems with government than simply live in fear and oppression. Why must politics always be a choice between the horribly bad and the incomprehensibly even worse?