Friday, June 3, 2016

Rigging the Democratic Party, Continued



Below is my campaign literature for the election to be a Sanders delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia at the end of July. I brought slightly over 200 copies of it to the Sanders caucus in my Congressional district. (There was another caucus for the 3 Clinton delegates from our district.) I handed almost all of them out to other attendees at the caucus. 


There were some 300 men and women at the caucus. About 30 people, including myself, had earlier, online, applied to be one of the 4 Sanders delegates.  Most of us were pretty na├»ve about parliamentary procedure, a fact that was used in a maneuver which eliminated all but 8 of our names from contention.  None the rest of us realized we would have to be ‘nominated’ at the caucus, and our nomination seconded. So none of us were. 


As for the 8 who were nominated, and seconded, these 8 were comprised of two groups of 4, each of which formed a ‘slate’ for the full quota of the delegates for Senator Sanders. They were allocated to the senator for winning the district.  While the 8 candidates were voted on individually, one slate, (the more willing to compromise with Hillary slate,) won. On average something like 170 votes to 130.


The Democrats do themselves no favors with this procedure, since it is incongruent with the electoral college, which is an all or nothing process at the state level.  The result of their procedure is not optimized to result in the nomination of the most electable candidate.  


It is, however, optimized to insure the establishment candidate is the nominee.  It minimizes (statistical) variation, (Sort of like what would happen if you scored most of the points in a basketball game say, by a score of 73 to 65. But instead of it being called a win for you, it was called a tie.) and, assuming that the “Superdelegates,” some 15% of the total, and who largely are the (Democratic) establishment, actually vote for the establishment candidate, all but guarantees the nomination of the establishment candidate, no matter what the outcome of the primaries. 


It is not enough for the outsider to just win the popular vote by over 18%. (719 is 17.7% of the 4051 pledged delegates, which are more or less determined by the primaries.) He must capture 59% of the pledged delegates, or 2390 delegates, to overcome the establishment’s Superdelegates.  


In order to overcome the 719 Superdelegates, the outsider candidate would have to win virtually every one of the 435 Congressional districts.  And some he would have to win by humongous margins, to gain enough plurality of delegates.  For a district with an even number of delegates, a close victory leads to an evenly split delegation.  To split a district with say 8 delegates, 5 to 3, the winning candidate would have to win with over 56% of the vote. (I think that’s the way it works.) To split a district with 7 delegates 5 to 2, (instead of just 4 delegates to 3) the candidate would have to win over 65% of the vote.  This he would have to do in may districts in order to obtain the necessary delegate plurality.  In the reality, this is assuming the other pledged delegates, the at large and the PLEO  (Party Leader and Elected Officials) delegates, are evenly split.


  The whole process is window dressing.   The procedure, and the Superdelegates, effectively disenfranchise the Democratic voters.  If Senator Sanders does win, it will only be because the Democratic establishment has decided that Hillary Clinton is unelectable.  Which, by the way, she likely is.  Whether the party elite realize this before the National Convention is the interesting question.  In these situations, where the individuals are committed to their positions in more than one dimension, the evidence usually does not suffice to change people’s minds.


But here’s my campaign literature.  All of it:  (2 copies a sheet, which I cut in half.)

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(SIDE 1:) Any delegate we elect will bring Bernie his vote.  Go Bernie. But Bernie needs more.  Bernie’s opponents have attacked the cost and practicality of all of his positions, and this has weakened his appeal and his campaign. Just a vote at the convention will not be enough.  Bernie needs more.  Bernie needs someone who can show him how to solidify his positions and broaden his appeal. And help him turn the votes of Superdelegates at the convention.


Bernie’s plan for single payer health care is attacked as too costly. Organizations like the AMA and monopolists like Big Pharma have restricted the supply of healthcare services, and now American healthcare is simply inadequate to provide services for everyone.  This is what is driving up the price, and Bernie needs to address this by attacking these organizations and providing mechanisms for increasing the supplies of doctors, nurses, and the other things American healthcare needs.


To assure justice for all, and in particular the poor and minorities, Bernie,  as President, can bring suit against local jurisdictions for their inadequate funding of their public defender’s offices. There should  be about as much money for the public defenders as for the prosecutor’s offices in each jurisdiction.  Right now the whole justice system is just a scheme to keep our prisons filled, and with a disproportionate number of minorities. If Bernie advocates for adequate funding for public defenders, it WILL be revolutionary.

I haven’t been able to reach Bernie.  If I am a delegate, it will increase my chances of being able to talk to Bernie, and, if I can, and Bernie wants it, I will be able to help him, his campaign, and the people.  No other delegate you could elect would be able to do this.  Elect me to be your delegate.   …Help Bernie!

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(SIDE 2:)  Capitalism rewards efficiency and punishes resiliency.  Capitalists seek to maximize their profits, and will do so even if it harms society.  Capitalists seek to maximize the consumption of resources, so they may maximize the profit they can take.  They do not, and in fact cannot, take the long view. Society, however, is interested in lasting as long as possible, and thus seeks to maintain the flow of resources at a sustainable rate.  When capitalists take control of government, society is no longer able to do reduce and maintain the flow of resources to a sustainable rate, and the future is consumed at an ever accelerating rate.   The interests of capitalists are not the same as society’s, and never were.  Bernie opposes the TPP, and has always opposed free trade.  Economists believe so much in free trade that they ridicule Bernie’s position, and right now Bernie does not have the arguments to fight back.  There are two arguments, however, which economists cannot answer.  The first is that under a trade deficit, the losses to producers are greater than the gains to consumers.  The second is that because all taxation is a tax on production, if a government does not tax all sources of production, production will migrate to those sources government does not tax.  This is because any producer the government does not tax will have an advantage over a producer the government does tax.  The government cannot tax foreign producers.  It can only put a tariff on imports. If it does not do this, all domestic producers will eventually go overseas, and the government will then not be able to tax any of them.   


Ask me about college tuition. Ask me about CEO pay.  Ask me about the police.  Ask me about climate change.  Ask me about the tax system.  Ask me about government and society. 
 

Donald Trump, who is a member of the establishment, has become the anti-establishment candidate. Hillary has become the establishment candidate.  Should the economy go South, as it is likely to do, Hillary will take the blame, and the Democrats will be crushed in the election.  The Republicans, and their wealthy sponsors, who are the actual establishment and ones actually responsible and who should take the blame, will be absolved.  The government will be largely dismantled, as will the rights guaranteed by that government.  These are the rights that protect us from the depredations of the wealthy, rights which the Republicans are already steadily taking apart.  The economic consequences of this will be terrible, even for the wealthy, because the people are the foundation of all wealth, and without the people there is none.  Even if Hillary is elected, the depredations by the establishment of the people will continue, and worsen, also to the point the of eventual economic and political destruction of the United States.  That is why I am for Bernie Sanders.  Only Bernie is truly opposed to the establishment policies, which are looting and destroying our country, and all our futures.  We must do what we can.  …. 

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The ellipses are where I put my name.  Only one person asked me about anything, and that was about energy.   Since I was put off by what happened, (although encouraged by the fact that so many were participating, even if the exercise was, ah, irrelevant to the real nomination process.  That was a fact they did not know.) I gave the  larger picture some thought, and, I think, gained insight.  Altogether, a worthwhile adventure. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Taxation, the States, and Trade




The State of Connecticut, and other states, are having increasing difficulty meeting the conflicting demands  of a declining tax base and increasing need for its services.  Next year the state must cut over $1 Billion of valuable and even critical services in order to balance its budget.

A recent article in Forbes ascribes the cause of the deteriorating tax base to the imposition of a personal income tax 25 years ago. (25 Years, $13 Billion Lost: Connecticut Income Tax Continues To Fail) *

But let’s look at something else which could be a cause:  According to “State Smart,” ** the state of Connecticut, in 2014, paid out  $53 Billion dollars to the United States government in taxes.  However, that year, it only received am estimated $45 billion in benefits from the federal government. Every year the people of the Connecticut give out to other states $8 billion.  The state and local share of that $8 Billion, (about 13%) works out to about $1 Billion in lost taxes.   And that is just one year.

It is up to the state’s Congressional delegation to address this problem, if they can.  In the meantime, the state is running the race with one foot in a bucket.  While bad, this can be mitigated.  The problem for the state, since it is easier for rich people, and more generally for businesses and corporations, to move than the working and the poor, is that the state is only allowed a regressive tax system. Since Connecticut is stuck in the shadow of pricey New York City, it must also pay more for what it buys.  These are not insurmountable problems.  They mean, however, that the state must attract enough wealth generating business activities that the tax load is not so burdensome upon the poor and the working class that it cannot be mitigated by proper state expenditures. And this means the state must have tax policies, and spending policies, and regulatory policies, which are attractive to those kinds of business activities which bring in money.

For instance, Corporations collect wealth from their many operations, and the place they accumulate the most of this wealth is at their headquarters. Other business activities which accumulate wealth are corporate offices in general, laboratories and factories.  All of these activities bring money into their communities, and into the state. 

These are activities the state wishes to attract and encourage.  While it cannot directly subsidize them, (Well, nominally, it could,)  it can capitalize the infrastructure these businesses rely upon.  Investing in roads and railroads, human capital, but perhaps even more importantly efficient institutions and the resolving of conflicts, including those inevitable conflicts businesses have with the state itself.   This will reduce the many costs of doing business in this or any state, and enhance the profit margins. 

For comparison, stores, in particular chain stores such as Walmart, Home Depot, CVS, McDonalds, (and Amazon) and so forth, take money out of communities, and out of the state.  Walmart itself takes several billions of dollars out of the state of Connecticut each year, and sends those dollars off to Arkansas. Much of the money which goes to the larger cable and telecommunications also leaves the state. This loss of money the state can, with proper taxes, and by taking the part of the communities and local store owners in their struggle with these large retail chains, diminish. 

There are other activities, which themselves do not generate wealth, but merely rearrange the ownership of wealth.  These may also be taxed.  Some of these businesses, like real estate, cannot leave.  The others, since they do not actually generate wealth, may be allowed to leave without penalty to the state’s economy.  These would include many personal services of all kinds.  Most of these personal services are elective, and raising their costs would not affect the well being of most people directly.  Most especially, these taxes would not have a critical affect on the well being of the poor.  For those services which were not elective, such as child care, the needs of the poor could be supported.  Indeed, for something like child care, the state would in general have and interest in subsidizing it for all possible clients, as this would form a more attractive workforce environment and this would be something to attract businesses.

The state is in the business of allocating resources.  Taxes take those resources from one use and expenditures put them to another.  In many cases, this fulfills social needs that the market cannot fill.  Quite simply, the market simply cannot supply any particular thing or service to everybody.  The laws of supply and demand guarantee that there will always be those who cannot afford fuel, who cannot afford shelter, who cannot afford adequate food, without intervention into the marketplace.  Private intervention, that is, charity, cannot suffice. For the charitable will find themselves at a competitive disadvantage to the mean and selfish.

As the production of resources within the state declines, the state must reach out to the production of other states, by attracting the functions of businesses which accumulate the production from other states.  And the state government must adopt policies which attract those functions.  It is only once this income is spent by the corporations and businesses that the state attracts, that the state can begin to collect taxes on it. And increasingly, the state becomes unable to directly tax its own production.  As due to increasing offshoring, domestic production declines, (And without tariffs, taxes cannot be collected on production in foreign countries,) competition for the remaining factories, other remaining production facilities and the headquarters of domestic enterprises, the offices and laboratories, will intensify. Only the intervention of the US government can stop this spiral to the bottom.  But in the absence of such intervention, a state government which understands this reality, and which is able to adapt to it will, for a time, prosper.

So only the actions of a government can assure that the needs of all of society are met. A government which fails in this, will eventually fail altogether, one piece at a time, as first the bottom, and then each higher level of society falls below its ability to sustain itself.  Only by capturing an adequate share of the incomes of the very wealthy can the government succeed at this. But first it must attract these incomes to itself. 


Since all taxation is against production, the government must capture all productive streams, in order to extract necessary income. Any streams it does not capture will be more competitive than those which must bear the additional cost of taxation.  When an economy runs a trade deficit, it must also tax foreign production, since otherwise domestic production will be uncompetitive with foreign production, and domestic production will be replaced, and government revenues decline.

Non-productive activities must also be taxed. Otherwise, economic activity will preferentially go to non-productive activities, since these will have the greater nominal profits.  In particular, the non-productive activities of the wealthy must be taxed, to prevent decapitalization of the economy.


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Monday, April 25, 2016

The Democratic Party is really not very Democratic



The Democratic Party is really not very Democratic

Hey!  All you Democrats out there! The Democratic Party is really not very Democratic. Consider first the “Superdelegates.”  Not only does the Democratic electorate have no say in who they are but it has no say even about how many “Superdelegates” are designated by the Democratic National Committee,. Not only is the voting process at the Democratic National Convention weighted by the so called "Superdelegates," but the Democratic National Committee is itself weighted by the inclusion of elected government officials and party functionaries.  The executive committee of the party is even more so. You have to check the bylaws for the prescribed composition.

Anyway, Article Two, Section 4 of the Charter describes the procedures by which ‘ordinary’ delegates are chosen, and subsection (e) seems to exclude the creation of a significant block of delegates who were selected without the “participation in good faith of all voters…”  BUT:  Article Two, Section 5 throws democratic processes out the window.  While the number of elected delegates is limited by the charter, the number of delegates which can be ‘designated’ by the Committee is not.  Basically, Section 5 allows the appointment of any number of delegates by the Democratic National Committee, and if there are a mere 700 or so of them, it is because the National Committee has exercised some restraint.  That is by my reading.  For your convenience, I provide Section 5, so you may interpret, and decide, for your self.
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THE CHARTER OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES

ARTICLE TWO, SECTION 5: The delegate vote allocable to each state shall be determined as provided in the Bylaws, consistent with the formula:

a. giving equal weight to population, which may be measured by electoral vote, and to the Democratic vote in elections for office of the President; and

b. giving such additional delegate votes as may be specifically designated by the Democratic National Committee in the Call to the Convention, subject to such conditions as may be set forth by the Democratic National Committee in said Call, for the purpose of providing incentives for scheduling the event constituting the first determining stage in the presidential nominating process in each state later in the year of the Convention than such event would otherwise be scheduled in the absence of such incentive; and

c. which shall also provide additional delegate positions to members of the Democratic National Committee; and

d. which may also provide additional delegate positions to Democratic elected public officials specifically designated by the Democratic National Committee in the Call to the Convention, subject to the provisions of Section 4.
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Subsection a: is the sop to democratic process. The rest of the Article is the work around. The Charter and Bylaws of the Democratic Party and The Rules of the Republican Party, can be Googled, and any participant in our political processes should.

In a way, it is not in the interests for those members who are elected or appointed government officials for the Democratic party to actually be successful.  The greater the success of the Democratic party, the greater the competition for positions on the National and Executive committees.  

For comparison, I have also checked out  The Rules of the Republican Party.  The Republican document seems to be more procedural, and the Democratic Charter more purpose driven.   The irony is that, (At least as far as I can tell.  The comparison is not easy.  Both documents seem to me to be unnecessarily obscure.) under their Rules Republicans are more democratically represented by their party officers than the Democrats under The Charter are by theirs.  The Democratic Party structure is rigged in a way which caters to the establishment and is contrary to democratic principles.  The Republican Party structure under its rules, anyway, is not.

The Democratic Charter seems to go back to 1972.  (This is from the revision of 2012.) So there has been plenty of time for the appropriate people to notice this and bring it to the attention of the party membership.  

A note of small humorousness:  The Republicans have no mention of God in their preamble, nor of the Constitution.  The Democrats mention both.

One other important question:  Why is the government at all involved in the primaries?  No one is elected to any government office, so why is it the government that is concerned with fairness or procedure.  It is the concern of each of the various parties, to assure fairness, in their election.   (Or not.  The officers of the party may believe that an unfair nominating process will not compromise, and may enhance, the electability of their party's candidates in the general election.)  The members of the various parties elect candidates they hope are both electable, and perhaps equally important, represent the interests and desires of a majority of that party's members.
 
As things stand, one party must overcome the opposition of the other party to follow the procedures it considers favorable to itself, and the other party must follow the procedures laid down by the opposition party, whether or not those are the procedures desired by its electorate.  

These interests of the party electorate are not necessarily the same as the interests of the government, in particular the interests of the establishment politicians of the various states.  Where they diverge, the government may be expected to interfere and impose conditions which harm the interests of the electorate.  Where the government imposes procedures, the government must be expected to impose procedures which distort the primary process to favor its interests, rather than the party's.  Granted, the party’s interests are not necessarily coherent.  The party elite’s interests are not necessarily the interests of the party voters or the rank and file, as they may expected to align more with the government’s interests.  Indeed, since one or another party is the government  only if the government is disinterestedly and competently serving what the voters desire.  Simply, it is the job of each party to run their own elections.  It is not the government's job.

In fact, it is in the interests of each party to establish those rules and procedures which that party considers the best able to attain the goal of nominating the candidates who best most likely to win in the general election, while taking those positions the majority of the voters of that party desire.  Failure to do so would disadvantage not only the particular party in the general election, but compromise the ability of the government to  properly respond to the needs and desires of their electorate.   It would thus  compromise their ability to govern.  Democracy is the best system while it is the most responsive to the electorate.  When it fails to do this, when it corrupts the process or violates the principles of impartial access to information by the electorate, it is no longer.  

Now, as it is, the government does subsidize the primaries by providing and servicing the polling places and vote counting and so forth.  But as we have seen in places like Arizona, the government need not always provide these services fairly and in the desired quantity.   So the government could provide the necessary services while allowing the various parties to form and follow their own policies and procedures.   Provisions could be made to accommodate the minor parties.