No hope left for America's recovery

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Re: No hope left for America's recovery

Unread postby James » Mon Nov 24, 2014 6:45 pm

DreamGoddessLindsey wrote:I'm much in agreement with James, to be honest. At least with the specific things he just posted.

Personally, I think the problem is easy to fix. Here's what I'd do if I had the power to make the changes:

1. Pull all military back home, massively cut defense spending (~75%), then put soldiers to work as construction workers. I'd have spend most of the defense budget on infrastructure for the country (improving the Interstate system, tech jobs, etc.) because part of the problem is that politicians always talk about creating private sector jobs. The only way capitalism can work is the Keynesian method (used in this country until about the mid-70s, and demolished by Reagan through the 80s), so spending on infrastructure makes sense and will bring a long term profit. I would create a universal healthcare system capable of subsuming Medicare and Medicaid both. For welfare benefits, I would introduce true means testing that took net income, typical expenses, and debt into consideration. I'd create public sector jobs in tech and medical research in order to compete with the private sector and make them have to finally change. I'd raise taxes in order to provide college to anyone who wants it.

Oh, and I'd enact any and every financial policy Elizabeth Warren suggests, no questions asked.

Whatever changes are made to the military we would want them to be scaled down responsibly and gradually, and I don't think it should be cut so extremely. What we definitely need is to extract ourselves from obsession in being the world's police (we're not good at it, we can't afford it, among other reasons) and consider military intervention only when it truly is appropriate. IS, for example, deserves a response (coordinated with regional countries and allies—nothing cavalier). I don't think that necessary translates to ground troops, but it can't be ignored.* And even if we're not going to war everywhere there are certainly advantages to having a powerful military. We just don't use it responsibly. That said, we create massively expensive equipment which cannot be maintained at reasonable cost and the amount we spend on war—trillions—is ludicrous. I think people genuinely struggle to understand what $1 trillion is.

* Of course, IS is such a big problem because we enabled it to become one.

I agree with a lot of what you wrote on other subjects. Just not that it is 'easy'. It will be extremely hard to correct problems in these systems if not borderline impossible or radical improvements to be made while Congress is so polarized and money plays such a disproportionate role in politics. That, and there's another problem with things like effective means testing for welfare recipients—due to the nature of the US government programs like this frequently wind up making those programs even more expensive than they were previously.


WeiWenDi wrote:I agree with most of the above also. I have two minor objections and one major one, though:

a.) I'm willing to put up with some fraud, some waste, some inefficiency in the name of having a system that works the way it's supposed to, most of the time, for the people who are most vulnerable. That's not a very fashionable thing to say, of course, but there is really a danger of making 'efficiency' into a kind of fetish.

For one thing, technically it is impossible to create a system that is 100% efficient. For another thing, there are other goods besides 'efficiency' to be considered. Families are not efficient. Civil society is not efficient. But they are valuable because they provide other intangible goods to the society that are not subject to what passes for cost-benefit analysis. For still another thing, the cost-benefit analysis of 'streamlining' itself is often not approached honestly. The irony is that, in the name of 'efficiency', welfare 'reformers' (like Wisconsin ex-governor Tommy Thompson) often end up spending more money hunting down fraudulent claims than the fraudulent claims actually cost.

Which itself is somewhat inefficient, no?

I agree completely. My concern is one of a measure in efficiency rather than one of a believe that efficiently can be largely eliminated. Some aspects of these programs are terribly wasteful and improvements could be used to make them more effective for recipients and to reduce costs. To be honest, I'd just be happy enough if extra money from improvements simply went back in to making those programs more effective for existing recipients with the goal of bringing more people out of those systems, reducing costs in the long run as a result.

WeiWenDi wrote:b.) I don't agree with the sort of 'compromise' that consists in 'I'll cut my welfare if you cut your defence spending'. That presumes that there is some sort of equivalency in value between the two. Beyond a certain basic degree of actual defence, 'defence' spending is all literally worthless. True, it makes defence contractors very rich, but from a baseline utilitarian view certain kinds of weapons can only serve to destroy wealth rather than create it.

The compromise I had in mind is more along the lines of the parties working together to get things done rather than necessarily negotiating between defense and social benefits. That still allows for Democrats to press for cuts without considering how they will be carried out or for Republicans to press for cuts simply because they want to reduce taxes and business expenses for their largest donors.

Also not completely agreed that all defense spending outside actual defense is useless. It is tempting given the extent to which the US has misused its military, but if we're going to imagine these alternative scenarios I would prefer one where the US actually could respond to legitimate world threats, had sufficient enough an army that it couldn't be bullied by other countries which would desire to do so, and there are other military expenses that must remain (R&D—just not as extensively high) or even expanded (we need to do much more to look after our veterans.

WeiWenDi wrote:c.) My disagreement about welfare is simply this: the fundamental problems with it are not going to be solved by mere tinkering or streamlining. There has to be a fundamental shift in the way the poor are treated in our society, as opposed to the rich, and the first welfare 'reforms' need to be aimed straight at the top. Corporate welfare - subsidies both direct and indirect that go to corporations which refuse to pay living wages - needs to end. Freight on public roads should be taxed; domestic businesses that outsource living-wage jobs should be fined and subject to the same tariffs that are applied to foreign businesses; greater tax benefits should go to small businesses (especially worker-owned ones) than to large ones, and to large businesses that give better pay and benefits to their workers than to the ones that don't. Courts should always, always give the benefit of the doubt to labour unions and their representatives, and 'right to work' laws should be struck down wherever they rear their ugly heads.

A lot of agreement here as well. I'd only be able to nitpick on certain points. I'd be careful about going all-in on fines for outsourcing jobs. Some industries cannot be adequately supported within the United States (like those shiny electronic devices so many wish were made in America). That doesn't necessarily make it great. To an extent that varies from one industry to the next those things are possible largely by what could be considered exploitation in other countries. But that's one piece of a much larger problem where I agree more with you. I also have mixed feelings where unions are concerned. Unions vary a great deal from one state to the next and their impact on a company (or the government) ranges from being largely ineffective to basically driving the show, retaining employees who absolutely should be fired and even creating scenarios where businesses become involvement due to lopsided retirement packages and wages. The system should be far more fair than it is now, but I'd prefer it wasn't biased in any given direction.

WeiWenDi wrote:Right there, I think you'd solve a huge chunk of the welfare problem. Because, simply put, people who don't need to work three jobs in order to scrape out a decent living don't need to be on welfare. And most people who are on welfare don't want to be there - and again, following point a.), for the few that do want to be there, we simply shouldn't worry about them if it would cost more to punish them than it would to keep them on the rolls.

Let's be more worried about the moral hazards our government sets up for the people at the top, than for the people at the bottom of the income distribution. Those are way more systematically costly in any case.

Agreed.


Shikanosuke wrote:
Dong Zhou wrote:Yeah, I have heard your it systems are a bit of a mess. Which surprises me given the need for internet in the modern business and America seeing that as important. Our main parties are trying to get high-speed broadband to most of the country by end of decade to catch up

I'm not sure its that much of a mess. And public provided internet access is widely available.

I suppose it depends on what sort of mess people are describing. On one hand, most of the nation does have internet access. It is a little disingenuous to say it has broadband access because the laws largely depend on old definitions of the word which today represent extremely slow speeds, and when lawmakers have tried to update the definition the internet providers lobby against it (because it would mean they need to meet the updated standards). But yeah, we're much better off in that regard than many other countries are.

That said, the system really is a massive mess. Aside from effectively being an oligopoly, prices are far higher than they should be. Prices have been increasing at a rate that outpaces inflation and at the same time costs have been going down (the costs of delivering that bandwidth are dropping far faster than inflation increases) and profits are increasing. That's really the key, though—as publicly traded companies that's their sole goal. And the situation is only getting worse as the businesses consolidate (e.g. Time Warner and Comcast, which, cheerfully, Comcast has donated nicely to basically every single politician who will be in charge of that ruling). There have been other delights, such as internet-only packages increasing heavily in price as customers are canceling their cable packages (for a while total subscribers were dropping quite surprisingly). And that's to say nothing for Net Neutrality. The system is a massive mess in many ways.

Shikanosuke wrote:
Dong Zhou wrote:right to work? I don't know what you mean with that one?

In many states we have 'Right to work' statues which, if i remember correctly, makes it so you can't have union security agreement i.e an agreement b/w employers and unions on how the union can compel employees to join said union or pay fees.

That sounds spot on, but I wonder how often 'right to work' takes on such a literal meaning. For example, in 'right to work' states it is very common for employers to be able to fire whoever they wish without giving reason and when people describe 'right to work' that's commonly part of the formula, even if not legally accurate.

Edit: Merged! After reading about double posts in another topic, don't want to get in trouble. :shock:


Dong Zhou wrote:Stopping people being forced into unions seems a good thing to me. As long as the employer isn't stopping or punishing people for joining a union

I agree. Although it is par for the course in some areas. It helps the union to become far more powerful than it would have been with voluntary membership.
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Re: No hope left for America's recovery

Unread postby DreamGoddessLindsey » Tue Nov 25, 2014 3:46 am

Dong Zhou wrote:Stopping people being forced into unions seems a good thing to me. As long as the employer isn't stopping or punishing people for joining a union


There's the catch. Shik didn't tell you everything. "Right to Work" is named extremely dishonestly. What it has actually been used for is outright union busting (Wisconsin is the biggest offender of them at the moment) as well as allowing companies to also fire at will even without cause. Essentially, "Right to Work" demolishes worker rights. Yes, it stops the "forced union" practice (though after reading the subject over, I understand the practice fully and am actually in support of it), but it does far more as well by giving companies nearly unilateral power over workers. Like I said, it's a completely dishonest name, much like the "Defense of Marriage Act". They do this on purpose just because if it sounds nice it must be good. Everyone should have a right to work. Marriage must be defended. Who wouldn't? Unfortunately, they hide their agendas in this false wording in order to fool everyone, and the little person always pays the price.

In addition, yes, employers in right to work states can punish workers for trying to unionize. I dunno if it's legal, but they do it and they get away with it.

It's wrong, plain and simple.

As for the internet, I think the government should take over and make it a public utility. Sounds like the best solution to me. Our internet, bandwidth for dollar <i>is the most expensive internet of the civilized world</i> by a massive amount. The link in my previous post shows all about it. I also think net neutrality should be a universal rule that no government gets to tamper with under any circumstance, period.
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Re: No hope left for America's recovery

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Tue Dec 02, 2014 1:07 pm

James wrote:I agree completely. My concern is one of a measure in efficiency rather than one of a believe that efficiently can be largely eliminated. Some aspects of these programs are terribly wasteful and improvements could be used to make them more effective for recipients and to reduce costs. To be honest, I'd just be happy enough if extra money from improvements simply went back in to making those programs more effective for existing recipients with the goal of bringing more people out of those systems, reducing costs in the long run as a result.


That makes sense.

I think the big problem for me is the use of CBA as a tool in the toolbox for programme performance versus the way it is often approached as a one-size-fits-all panacea. I was a bit sensitive to this coming out of public policy school, and to a certain degree it looks like I still am. There are sane policy-makers, public intellectuals, statisticians and technicians out there who do very good work whilst still realising the limitations of their competence. It's more the bland, almost smarmy self-confidence of those who make an ideology out of efficiency which scares me, I guess.

Oh, dear. I'd hate to think I was becoming more libertarian... I'd still say my concerns are more traditionalist and populist than anything else at this point, though. :P

James wrote:Also not completely agreed that all defense spending outside actual defense is useless. It is tempting given the extent to which the US has misused its military, but if we're going to imagine these alternative scenarios I would prefer one where the US actually could respond to legitimate world threats, had sufficient enough an army that it couldn't be bullied by other countries which would desire to do so, and there are other military expenses that must remain (R&D—just not as extensively high) or even expanded (we need to do much more to look after our veterans.


The only possible 'legitimate world threats' I can think of off the top of my head are non-military, to be perfectly blunt. Climate change, for example. And as for other countries bullying us... I mean, even if we cut our military budget by half and withdrew from half of our worldwide military bases, would any country in the world even still be able to bully us on our home turf? I do doubt that.

I agree with you completely about the way we treat veterans. Having family who are veterans, naturally, does give one a different perspective. But I'm not entirely convinced that one should or even can divorce those considerations from broader welfare considerations enough to oppose the two or put them in separate boxes.

James wrote:A lot of agreement here as well. I'd only be able to nitpick on certain points. I'd be careful about going all-in on fines for outsourcing jobs. Some industries cannot be adequately supported within the United States (like those shiny electronic devices so many wish were made in America). That doesn't necessarily make it great. To an extent that varies from one industry to the next those things are possible largely by what could be considered exploitation in other countries. But that's one piece of a much larger problem where I agree more with you. I also have mixed feelings where unions are concerned. Unions vary a great deal from one state to the next and their impact on a company (or the government) ranges from being largely ineffective to basically driving the show, retaining employees who absolutely should be fired and even creating scenarios where businesses become involvement due to lopsided retirement packages and wages. The system should be far more fair than it is now, but I'd prefer it wasn't biased in any given direction.


I'll be honest, being familiar with the history of trade unions in the United States (actually a remarkably bloody and unpleasant one), and with the present state of teachers' unions in the districts where I volunteered, I do tend to be far more sympathetic to unions than the average American.

I'd still prefer to see a system which privileged and allowed for the development of labour-managed firms to take the place of both unions and traditionally-capitalist firms; but in the interim strong unions are generally still a vital benchmark of the health of the civil society.

James wrote:I suppose it depends on what sort of mess people are describing. On one hand, most of the nation does have internet access. It is a little disingenuous to say it has broadband access because the laws largely depend on old definitions of the word which today represent extremely slow speeds, and when lawmakers have tried to update the definition the internet providers lobby against it (because it would mean they need to meet the updated standards). But yeah, we're much better off in that regard than many other countries are.

That said, the system really is a massive mess. Aside from effectively being an oligopoly, prices are far higher than they should be. Prices have been increasing at a rate that outpaces inflation and at the same time costs have been going down (the costs of delivering that bandwidth are dropping far faster than inflation increases) and profits are increasing. That's really the key, though—as publicly traded companies that's their sole goal. And the situation is only getting worse as the businesses consolidate (e.g. Time Warner and Comcast, which, cheerfully, Comcast has donated nicely to basically every single politician who will be in charge of that ruling). There have been other delights, such as internet-only packages increasing heavily in price as customers are canceling their cable packages (for a while total subscribers were dropping quite surprisingly). And that's to say nothing for Net Neutrality. The system is a massive mess in many ways.


Amen to this.

And it's quite often worse than that. It's gotten to the point where there are functional monopolies in regional markets. During grad school I lived in an area where the only show in town was Comcast, and their rates were essentially highway robbery. Things are a bit better in Rhode Island from what I gather, but it's still Cox Cable country and there are very few alternatives (if any) available.

And yes - big fan of Net Neutrality here. Speaking as a Netflix addict.
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