Recently in Politics, Government & Public Policy Category


Scott Alexander has a long and thoughtful post explaining that, despite Trump's many flaws, our president-elect isn't racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., and that such fears distract from the real need to keep a close eye on his actions and policies.

I stick to my thesis from October 2015. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is more racist than any past Republican candidate (or any other 70 year old white guy, for that matter). All this stuff about how he's "the candidate of the KKK" and "the vanguard of a new white supremacist movement" is made up. It's a catastrophic distraction from the dozens of other undeniable problems with Trump that could have convinced voters to abandon him. That it came to dominate the election cycle should be considered a horrifying indictment of our political discourse, in the same way that it would be a horrifying indictment of our political discourse if the entire Republican campaign had been based around the theory that Hillary Clinton was a secret Satanist. Yes, calling Romney a racist was crying wolf. But you are still crying wolf.

It's 8,000 words, but worth your time if you're worried about Trump.

(HT: Scott Adams.)


Trump has nominated Senator Jeff Sessions to be our next Attorney General, and by all accounts he is competent and qualified. However, I'm not enthusiastic about some of his positions on personal freedom issues.

He has opposed efforts to overhaul prison sentencing, back off the war on drugs and legalize marijuana.

Those three issues need to be re-evaluated by conservatives. Marijuana is already de facto legal in most of the country (possession being rarely prosecuted), so let's drop the charade. Prison reform is a tough issue that requires more expertise than I have, but I feel confident that America can design a more fair and more effective prison system than we have now.


Maybe a good start would be avoiding the disparaging term "flyover states".

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who hasn't ruled out such a challenge, said Tuesday that Democratic leadership needs to be more regionally diverse if the party is going to win back the rural voters who have fled to the GOP's tent. States like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin "don't have a lot of representation" relative to the coastal states, he said.

"We lost those voters and we've gotta find a way to get them back in, and that starts with a message that resonates in the flyover states," Ryan said.

That was a frequent theme among the Democrats emerging from Tuesday's closed-door meeting in the Capitol.


There's a lot to agree with in Glenn Greenwald's analysis of the ongoing refusal to learn the lessons of Trump and Brexit. Greenwald is far to my left (and supported Bernie Sanders), but nonetheless correctly identifies many of the critical failures of the "elite" on both the left and right.

The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much -- when they caused a ruckus -- and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy.

That message was heard loud and clear. The institutions and elite factions that have spent years mocking, maligning, and pillaging large portions of the population -- all while compiling their own long record of failure and corruption and destruction -- are now shocked that their dictates and decrees go unheeded. But human beings are not going to follow and obey the exact people they most blame for their suffering. They're going to do exactly the opposite: purposely defy them and try to impose punishment in retaliation. Their instruments for retaliation are Brexit and Trump. Those are their agents, dispatched on a mission of destruction: aimed at a system and culture they regard -- not without reason -- as rife with corruption and, above all else, contempt for them and their welfare.

I'm personally optimistic that Trump will be a better president than many people fear, but his election should be a stark warning to the elites who have "gorged themselves" at the expense of the rest of us.


Harry Enten notices that of the states that elected Senators last week, 100% of them picked senators of the same party as the winner of their electoral votes -- that is, Trump states elected Republican senators, and Clinton states elected Democrat senators.

In the run-up to Election Day, we wondered whether more voters than normal would split their tickets because of Donald Trump's unique candidacy, perhaps voting for Republicans down-ballot but for Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest. Republican Senate candidates, unsure of how to deal with Trump, tried different approaches -- endorsing him, disavowing him, refusing to say whom they'd vote for. In the end, it didn't matter. Every state that elected a Republican candidate for Senate voted for Trump, and every state that elected a Democratic Senate candidate voted for Clinton.

The 2016 Senate elections were the most nationalized ever.

The amount of straight-ticket voting was unusual even for the highly polarized era we live in. Four years ago, for example, Democratic Senate candidates won in some states where President Obama lost by healthy margins, including Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Republicans, meanwhile, held their seat in Nevada even though Mitt Romney lost there by 7 percentage points.

The evidence provided doesn't support the claim. It's entirely possible that ticket-splitting increased, decreased, or stayed the same. If Adam votes for Trump and a Democrat senate candidate, and Betty votes for Clinton and a Republican senate candidate, then they both split their votes. The data provided tells you nothing about the prevalence of vote splitting.


I'll update this with more thoughts as I process today's news.


You should be glued to the NYT Election Night Dashboard. Excellent tool.


People can support whatever candidate they want, but it seems like an obvious problem when the civil service is so divergent from the rest of the population. If the civil service -- or a large corporation or university -- gave 95% of its support to a Republican you can bet there would be all sorts of discrimination lawsuits. Seems like we need some affirmative action in government hiring.

Of the roughly $2 million that federal workers from 14 agencies spent on presidential politics by the end of September, about $1.9 million, or 95 percent, went to the Democratic nominee's campaign, according to an analysis by The Hill.

Employees at all the agencies analyzed, without exception, are sending their campaign contributions overwhelmingly to Clinton over her Republican counterpart. Several agencies, such as the State Department, which Clinton once led, saw more than 99 percent of contributions going to Clinton.

Employees of the Department of Justice, which investigated Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of State, gave Clinton 97 percent of their donations. Trump received $8,756 from DOJ employees compared with $286,797 for Clinton. From IRS employees, Clinton received 94 percent of donations.

Furthermore, does it seem plausible that the DOJ performed a fair and just investigation of Hillary Clinton's handling of classified information? The conflict of interest here is hard to ignore.


We don't owe the system anything, it owes us. Read the rest for an up-to-date list of how the Democrats, the media, and the bureaucrats are pulling out all the stops to ensure Hillary's victory.

I'm not fond of Trump (ugh), but Hillary and her enablers are literal criminals who care about nothing except power and wealth for themselves.

We owe the system nothing. Nada. Zip. Instead, the system owes us fairness and honesty, and without them it has no right to our default acceptance of its results. That acceptance must be earned. This means that the system must aggressively police its own integrity, and this year it has utterly failed to do so.

The most important thing in a democratic republic, the keystone that holds it together and ensures the peaceful transition of power, is the ability for a loser to accept a loss. We used to be able to fight out our political differences and, if we came up short, shrug and say, "Well, next time we'll convince a majority." We could move on, confident that the playing field had been level, that we had been heard, and that we had lost fair and square.

Not anymore. Trump's wrong about a lot, but he's not wrong about this. He may very well lose, but it won't be fair and square. And Trump is not the problem for saying so.


Chris Wallace did a good job -- the best of any of the moderators this year. He asked both candidates tough questions.

Hillary evaded many tough questions, which is par for the course.

Trump should learn how to evade better... instead he tends to topics that are damaging to him. There's a reason politicians evade.

I don't have the energy to write much more than that. I doubt this debate did much to convince anyone of anything. If there's a real October surprise bombshell it will probably come soon, now that the candidates don't have another opportunity to respond to the public broadly.


Trump is right that our political system is rigged, and not just in one simple way -- as if someone were surreptitiously manipulating ballots after they've been cast. Trump's point is bigger, though he doesn't explain it very eloquently. This "rigging", the unified elite wielding power against the broader population, is why people are angry enough to consider voting for Trump.

GEORGE WILL: When Mr. Trump talks about it being rigged, he sweeps all his grievances into one big puddle. He talked about the media. He talked about the primaries. He talked about the polls. Talked about the Republican National Committee. I think when most persons hear that an election is rigged, they think of government action to rig the election. And there Mr. Trump has a point if he would just make it more clearly.

It is hard to think of an innocent reason why Democrats spend so much time, energy and money, scarce resources all, resisting attempts to purge the voter rolls, that is to remove people who are dead or otherwise have left the jurisdiction. It's hard to think of an innocent reason why they fight so tremendously against Voter I.D. laws. They say, well that burdens the exercise of a fundamental right. The Supreme Court has said that travel is a fundamental right and no one thinks that showing an I.D. at the airport burdens that fundamental right.

We know -- we don't surmise -- we know that the 2010, '12 and '14 elections were rigged by the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government, the IRS. You can read all about it in Kim Strassel's book Intimidation Game. She's familiar to all Wall Street Journal readers and FOX viewers. This is not a surmise. I have talked to lawyers in a position to know they say it's still going on. The IRS is still intolerantly delaying the granting of tax exempt to conservative advocacy groups to skew the persuasion of this campaign.


Andrew C. McCarthy writes that the worst thing about the 2016 election isn't the two awful candidates.

So we have one faction in the country that is willing to use the Constitution's powers; but that faction also happily undermines the Constitution whenever it proves an obstacle. That faction's vision is post-constitutional.

That is why the 2016 election is so harrowing. It is not just that the candidates are awful yet one of them will become president. It is that our political class has eviscerated the constitutional weapons that protect us from an awful president. Thus, what the Framers most feared is coming to pass.

As McCarthy says, the Constitution gives Congress plenty of power to rein in the President, but the Republicans were too cowardly to use it.


Loyalton, California, can't afford the $1.6 million cost of its four-person pension promise. Math always catches up to you eventually.

The problem for Loyalton, in other words, is just a more acute version of the problem besetting municipalities across the country: Namely, that state pension authorities have been assuming unrealistic discount rates and rates of return on their investments for decades. The purpose of this phony accounting is to conceal the massive shortfall in public pension funds that are often underfunded and consistently fail to meet overly optimistic investment targets. As long as the real numbers aren't released, politicians, investors and public union bosses can look the other way. But the real value of obligations racked up over the years is finally becoming clear, and it stands to ruin fading municipalities that were roped into the system on false pretenses.

Walsh notes that "some see a test case taking shape for Loyalton and other cities with dwindling means." There is simply no way for many small government entities in California to afford what the state pension fund says they owe. If Calpers follows through on its threat to cut off Loyalton's retirees, then the fiction of "bulletproof" public pensions will be permanently undermined.

Pensions are basically Ponzi schemes.

A simple numerical example may illustrate how important growth rates are to an aging economy. Let's say we have 99 workers and one retiree, and we want all of them to enjoy the same standard of living. Now say each worker can produce $100 worth of stuff. If each of our workers donates $1 apiece to the retiree, everyone gets $99 dollars.

But now let's say nine more people retire over the next nine years. Now we have 90 workers, generating total output of $9,000 a year. Split 100 ways, everyone gets $90 instead of $99. As more people retire, the math gets worse and worse. Eventually, the workers may well say "You non-workers are on your own."

Productivity growth could save us... if only we could regulate growth into existence.


BREAKING NEWS: Donald Trump is vulgar and offensive! Go listen to the secret recording of him joking about how women let him grope them because he's a celebrity. Gross! I completely disavow Trump and this behavior.

If Trump's crudity is actually news to you then you haven't been paying attention. Do you think that Hillary, the Democrats, the Republicans, the media, or basically anyone is actually "shocked"?

No. They're all pretending to be shocked and appalled because they want to stay in power. They're pretending to be offended because they think other people will play along at being offended. They think this latest revelation will finally knock out Trump.

Think back on your own life... are there any moments you're glad were not secretly taped? Of course. And you're a way better person than any of our elites, I'm sure of it.

Maybe Trump's a dead man walking. I don't know. I'm terrible at predicting elections... I never thought Obama would get re-elected in 2012. Maybe this disgusting soundbite will do what the last 100 examples of his offensiveness didn't.

But anyway, Trump sure destroyed Hillary in the debate last night. Will it make a difference? You got me. Polls show Hillary with a big lead now. If I had to make a prediction, I'd say that Trump will win -- but mostly because that's the prediction that will make me look the smartest if I'm right.


Many people care a lot about Donald Trump's taxes, but I don't... nor have I ever really cared about any other candidate's tax returns. It's hard to imagine Trump getting away with illegal tax avoidance for decades, so I just assume that there's nothing interesting to see in his returns. Similarly, I doubt that the Clintons are illegally avoiding taxes -- the Clinton Global Initiative is basically a huge scam, but it doesn't break any tax laws. The big to-do about Trump's use of net operating losses to offset future earnings is a complete non-story.

"If someone has a $20 million gain in one year and a $10 million loss in the second year, that person should be treated the same as someone who had $5 million in each of the two years," says Alan Viard, a tax specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, who like all the other experts, seemed somewhat surprised that this was not obvious.

"There are definitely tax provisions narrowly targeted to various industries that you could take issue with," says Ron Kovacev, a tax partner at Steptoe and Johnson. "The NOL is not one of them."

I mean, the Times story is true as far as it goes: Losing $900 million dollars may save you $315 million or so on future or past taxes. But astute readers will have noticed that it is not actually smart financial strategy to lose $900 million in order to get out of paying $315 million to the IRS. Most of us would rather have the other $585 million than a tax bill of $0. ...

If Trump managed to pay no taxes for years, the most likely way he did this was by losing sums much vaster than the unpaid taxes. This is fair, it is right, it is good tax policy.


The most frustrating thing about Trump for those of us who want to bid farewell to the Clintons forever is his seeming inability to resist obvious traps. Conrad Black finds the perfect metaphor:

Yet Mr. Trump seems to have no concept of how to press the strategic advantage and stay clear of back alleys and side issues in which he can only dissipate his advantages. Like a not overly smart fighting bull, he allows the Democrats to cause him to charge diagonally past his real targets and squander political capital in nonsense. The presentation of Mr. Khan at the Democratic convention, father of a winner of a decorated war hero killed in action, was squalid and outrageous, as was the subsequent fawning of the press and the bunk about Mr. Khan's just "happening to have a copy of the Constitution in [his] pocket."

But Trump charged and dove into a trap in which he could not win. He should have said something like "All Americans share in Mr. Khan and his family's sorrow and in their pride, and in the circumstances it is not appropriate for me to comment on his partisan reflections on me." He should have said, when Mrs. Clinton threw "Miss Piggy" at him, that "that was a regrettable choice of words about someone who had violated her undertakings on entering the Miss Universe contest." He could have neutralized, or even won on, both issues but failed to see them as the baited traps they obviously were.

Americans are eager for a leader who sees citizens as more than irritants to be bought off, and Trump appeals to the widespread frustration many feel at being ignored by the elites for decades. But, to switch metaphors, every bad cop needs a good cop -- the bad cop alone isn't enough. Trump has shown mastery of bad-cop, but I sure wish he would demonstrate some proficiency with good-cop.


Trump extends his lead to 5 points in this Rasmussen poll of likely voters. It's not hard to see why, when you consider the popularity of his positions. These positions are anathema to American elites of both parties, which is precisely why Trump has managed to insert himself so successfully into the national conversation.

Most voters oppose Obama's plan to bring more Middle Eastern and African refugees to this country next year and view that decision as an increased danger to U.S. national security. Clinton supports the president's policy.

Voters, on the other hand, strongly support Trump's plan for temporarily restricting immigration from countries with a history of terrorism and for testing to screen out newcomers who don't share America's values.


The NYT describes the woes of a small California pension due differences between actuaries and economists.

The two competing ways of valuing a pension fund are often called the actuarial approach (which is geared toward helping employers plan stable annual budgets, as opposed to measuring assets and liabilities), and the market approach, which reflects more hard-nosed math.

The market value of a pension reflects the full cost today of providing a steady, guaranteed income for life -- and it's large. Alarmingly large, in fact. This is one reason most states and cities don't let the market numbers see the light of day. ...

The market-based numbers are "close to the truth of the liability," Professor Sharpe said. But most elected officials want the smaller numbers, and actuaries provide what their clients want. "Somebody just should have stopped this whole charade," he said.

In short: the actuaries justify low numbers that please their clients (the governments who administer the pensions) while the economists warn that the pensions are vastly underfunded.

Mega McArdle gives a good description of discount rates.

A discount rate is a way of accounting for the fact that dollars in the future are not quite the same as dollars you have right now.

You know this, don't you? Imagine I offered to give you a dollar right now, or a dollar a year from now. You don't have to think hard about that decision, because you know instinctively that the dollar that's right there, able to be instantly transferred into your sweaty little hand, is much more valuable. It can, in fact, be easily transformed into a dollar a year from now, by the simple expedient of sticking it in a drawer and waiting. It can also, however, be spent before then. It has all the good stuff offered by a dollar later, plus some option value.

Even if you're sure you don't want to spend it in the next year, however, a dollar later is not as good as a dollar now, because it's riskier. That dollar I'm holding now can be taken now, and then you will definitely have it. If you're counting on getting a dollar from me a year from now, well, maybe I'll die, or forget, or go bankrupt.

The point is that if you're valuing assets, and some of your assets are dollars you actually have, and others are dollars that someone has promised to give to you at some point in the future, you should value the dollars you have in your possession more highly than dollars you're supposed to get later.


Remember this? I wonder what Mrs. Obama thinks now.

(HT: Ed Driscoll.)


In a display of raw physical prowess, Donald Trump repeatedly lifts a baby over his head. Ok, this is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but my first thought when I read this story was I bet Hillary couldn't lift a baby over her head like that.

trump baby 2.jpg

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump lifted 18-month-old Tristan Murphy after his speech outlining a new childcare policy on Tuesday night in Aston, Pennsylvania.

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