The real deal

It’s ironic that one of the most formative speeches in American history, that of Theodore Roosevelt on August 31, 1910, was not well received by many of the his former supporters while he’d been President. It was labeled “communistic”, “socialistic”, and “anarchistic”. It was also hailed as one of the greatest orations ever given on American soil.

Roosevelt argued:

“In every wise struggle for human betterment one of the main objects, and often the only object, has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity. In the struggle for this great end, nations rise from barbarism to civilization, and through it people press forward from one stage of enlightenment to the next. One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege.”

Now with the benefit of hindsight and the availability of data, Roosevelt’s belief has been vindicated.

The speech influenced policies directed at providing equality of opportunity, primarily through education. That same thinking influenced the introduction of the G.I. Bill, which as an expression of gratitude to the soldiers that had survived the second world war, also gave back to the nation through the tremendous years of economic growth that followed.

Given the abundance of academic support, the dearth of any informed argument to the contrary, it is surprising that neither of the candidates for the upcoming presidential election has seized this obvious opportunity to reestablish America’s economic progress.

Perhaps it’s because the descendents of those earlier critics still have too much influence.

More at:
The New Nationalism
Inequality from generation to generation: the United States in Comparison Miles Corak
Community-Driven Development, Participation, and Inequality: What Does the Evidence Say?
Inequality and Growth: What Can the Data Say?∗ Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
Having your cake
A True Progressivism

Whose fault is that?

The recovery from the great recession of 2008 has been extraordinarily slow.

Now, as more data is available, the reasons for this sluggish convalescence are becoming evident. Businesses, uncertain of what the future holds, are not investing. The piles of cash that large American and Western European businesses are now hoarding provides proof.

Interviewed executives of Western European companies have explained that uncertainty about the euro is the reason. In America it’s the “fiscal cliff”.

Recently announced statistics reveal that unemployment is now below the magical 8% figure. Two researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco have established that unemployment would be 1% lower, were it not for the uncertainty.

The politicians will be pointing at each other, and for once they’ll be right.

More at:
Uncertainty Shocks are Aggregate Demand Shocks
Employment will decide the election. Really?
Give us a brake
Iron enters the soul

Crazy weapons

If you live in America, you are four times more likely to be murdered than if you live in Britain, almost six times more likely than in Germany, and 13 times more likely than in Japan. Two-thirds of all murders in America involve guns, whereas in Britain the figure is under 10%.

Colorado’s latest slaughter of innocents confirms the insanity of allowing weapons to everyone, and yet neither the President, nor his challenger are saying anything.

The second amendment which reads:

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

is the foundation on which the weapons lobby depends. They believe that the Amendment’s phrase “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms” creates an individual constitutional right for citizens of the United States.

Some scholars point to the prefatory language “a well regulated Militia” to argue that the Framers intended only to restrict Congress from legislating away a state’s right to self-defense.

The controversy was addressed by the courts in 1939 in United States v. Miller. The court determined that the scholars were right. That opinion stood for almost 70 years, until 2008 when in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller when the court reinstated the individual right for U.S. citizens to possess firearms. The decision was reaffirmed in the 2010 decision of McDonald v. City of Chicago.

People are right to rebel against their soldiers being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why aren’t they equally vocal about the mass murders happening at home?

That’s crazy.

More at:
Colorado’s dark night
SECOND AMENDMENT
United States v. Miller (No. 696) 26 F.Supp. 1002, reversed.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. HELLER (No. 07-290) 478 F. 3d 370, affirmed.
M c DONALD et al. v . CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, et al.

Let the games begin

With the appointment of Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney has confirmed his intention to focus on the state of America’s economy as a primary issue in the run up to the election. That’s a good thing.

In probability the Republican’s candidate will continue to blame the incumbent for the current state of affairs and promise that he will do much better. He’s already said as much.

What positive effect can a politician’s policies have on an economy?

Efficient government is key. And that’s where the disagreement will start – at least after the blame game’s ended.

Functional overlap
One issue that rarely gets raised is the level of duplication that exists across agencies – sometimes within agencies. For example there are 16 fiefs covering the intelligence responsibility. These agencies duplicate efforts, each trying to outdo the other, instead of sharing critical information. The details of the issues were set out in a Washington Post exposure following a two year investigation.

The challenge of fixing this is the responsibility of the Director of National Intelligence. This position has had a regular change of incumbents who, undermined by a lack of authority, struggle to fulfill the mandate.

Costly tax code
An unnecessarily complex tax code, with thousands of tax breaks that favor interest groups, exacerbates wealth inequality, and costs the country hundreds of billions in breaks and incentives, administrative overhead, and expert advice for tax payers.

Congress
The belief that congressional oversight provides democratic control over the President’s powers is a myth. When dominant party in the house is not the same as the President’s the country sinks into a morass of partisan bickering.

It would preferable for America to adopt a system of referenda, with proper controls and balances to avoid California’s mistakes, to enact significant legislative changes.

Direct involvement demands that electors understand the implications of important decisions. Rather than having partisan commentary, public debates between experts educates voters, and permits them to make decisions that are informed.

Dream on.

More at:
Seeking a new spy-in-chief
A bad job
Shirtsleeve time
What’s your security clearance?
A hidden world, growing beyond control
Another fine mess

Entering the debate

It’s a pity to see the contenders for the American presidency getting into an advertising slinging match, rather than addressing the country’s very real issues:

  • The growing cost of healthcare;
  • Unemployment;
  • “The fiscal cliff”;
  • The insolvent cities;
  • The growing energy crises;
  • Global warming;
  • The education system;
  • The government deficit;
  • The country’s complex tax structure;
  • The growing gap between rich and poor;
  • retaining America’s position as the World’s superpower and leading economy.

While waiting for a flight, a fellow passenger suggested a solution: “The government builds very large hamster exercise wheels connected to generators. The unemployed are hired to run on the wheels generating electricity. Energy crises, global warming, unemployment, healthcare all fixed.

Wheels are also made available to parents of children who are struggling at school. They are only allowed to watch television from the electricity that they generate themselves.

Similarly sports addicts are obliged to generate the electricity for the coverage that they watch. Healthcare and education improved.

The electricity generated by each person is measured and recorded. Leading contributors are selected to represent the country in the GE World Series. Television rights are sold, and the contenders receive the royalties. Gap between the rich and poor fixed.”

With a little more time, solutions to the other pressing issues would also have been found. We’ll just have to leave those for the presidential hopefuls.