flwyd: (currency symbols)
During Mitt Romney's concession speech, as he was thanking all his classes of supporters, he euphemistically said "job creators." Something about the way he said it gave me a flash of insight:

The political dialog about how to grow the economy and reduce unemployment has been largely focused around people who hire other people. But a political economic policy which focuses only on employers ignores the balance of economic activity. You can give all the corporate tax breaks and hiring incentives you want, but if there's no demand for the company's products, they're not going to create any jobs. In order to create American jobs, we need to foster an environment of a demand for products and services that Americans are best fit to provide.

Romney engaged in a lot of anti-China economic grandstanding during the election. Instead, China's vast stockpile of dollars could be a boon to American job creation if we can start selling more things that China wants to buy.

Both parties positioned themselves as in favor of private sector "job creators." Yet government has an immense role to play in job creation. Most directly, government hires a lot of people. The Department of Defense is the world's largest "job creator" with over 3 million employees and probably hundreds of thousands of indirect contractors. Government also creates jobs indirectly. Changes in regulation can increase or decrease demand for products and services. Strong public health leads to more productive people with more disposable income. Transportation projects help get products to places where people want to buy them. Taxes and government regulation can get in the way of economic growth and job creation. But so can reckless cuts to taxes (and therefore government activities) and regulation. When you consider the balance of supply and demand, even prisoners are job creators: by locking up millions of our citizens, we create jobs for tens of thousands of prison guards.

There's a final irony in the focus on job creation. The default political view is that the United States is no longer a manufacturing leader. In fact, the U.S. makes and exports more stuff than any other country in the world, including China. But in the last 40 years or so, American manufacturing has become very automated. A couple people and a few complicated machines today do the work of a thousand factory workers in the 1960s. Neither a hiring incentive nor a corporate tax break will lead to the factory rehiring all 1000 people: there wouldn't be enough for them to do. In many industries, "job destruction" has led to major gains in productivity and profit.

The contradiction of modern America is that we're an incredibly prosperous nation with an uncomfortably high unemployment rate. Our first challenge is to find a new way to productively engage millions of people. Our second challenge is to structure society such that you don't have to keep busy just to keep alive. In the 20th Century we learned that everyone can eat even if most people aren't farmers. In the 21st Century we need to learn how to help everyone thrive even if robots and programs do most of the work.
flwyd: (McCain Palin Abe Maude Simpsons)
I just finished figuring out how I'm going to vote on ballot measures this year. I'm not sure I've had this high a percentage of NO votes before. The abbreviated explanation: 60, 61, and 101 are for people who think it would be fun to have California's budget problems with the additional constraint that we can't borrow money to keep things running. Or, if you prefer, 60, 61, and 101 is like cutting off your arm to lose weight. In synchronicity news, there's a meme going around to find a post you wrote "on this day in your first year on LiveJournal." Here's a 9-year old insight on libertarianism. In the fall of 2001 I also apparently invented flash mobs, made personal insights that remain largely true, and revised Pascal's Wager.
Amendment P – reorganization of bingo oversight – YES
This sounds pretty reasonable. That gambling and bingo are handled by different parts of the state government is probably a historical accident. Merging these functions should lead to government that makes more sense. Yay!
Amendment Q – a process for setting up temporary government operation if Denver gets hit by a hurricane – YES
Sounds like more housekeeping. If someone's gone through the bother of figuring all this out, we should let it in.
Amendment R - eliminate taxes on small herds of cattle grazing on BLM lands - YES
The key to this one is the phrase in Arguments For reduces the administrative burden of collecting a tax that in many cases costs more money to collect than it brings in to local governments. When the government says "Collecting this tax is more bother than it's worth," that's a good sign it's time to phase out. Also, given the scale of tax cut proposals on the ballot this year, the $46,000 of accounting rearrangement is peanuts. Or pinecones, since it's government land.
Amendment 60 – override voter-approved tax increases, add tax elections to more levels of government, cut property taxes (for individuals and businesses), and create property taxes (for universities and airports) – NO
One nice thing about TABOR is it's shown that people will often vote for higher taxes if they think they're getting good value for their money. This measure would undo some of those changes, reducing voter power. It also reduces local property taxes. But anti-tax zealots have learned that their biggest enemy is parents worried that lower taxes will lead to worse schools for their kids. So the former tried to entice the latter by replacing lost school district revenue with money for the state without creating any additional revenue for the state. Good thing to, 'cause if the kids don't get a good education, the state won't have any budget to provide the low income, health care, or prison services folks with poor education often need.

This measure also requires state-owned enterprises (universities, airports, etc.) to pay taxes. But these taxes won't make up for the lost revenue caused by the rest of this amendment! The taxes will go to pay for a further property tax reduction for people in the county (who typically get a property value boost due to the enterprise). CU became an enterprise so they'd have more budgetary flexibility while keeping tuition manageable since it was a pain in the ass to get money out of a tight state budget. If they have to pay taxes, students all over Colorado will pay higher tuitions to fund lower property taxes on expensive houses in Boulder. If they're lucky, landlords might drop rent by a few bucks.

The one redeeming feature of this amendment is letting citizens create ballot initiatives for lower (or higher) taxes at all levels of government (except federal). However, that perk isn't worth creating budget crises over.

Amendment 61 – stop government borrowing – NO
What happened to the Republican phrase of ten years ago, "Run government like a business?" Short and long-term borrowing are important parts of most businesses' operation. This amendment would prevent the state government from borrowing money at all and require voter approval for any local government borrowing. This is an understandable knee-jerk reaction to perceptions of the recent financial crisis, but it's not very helpful. If the interest rate on long-term borrowing is less than inflation plus growth, it makes money for the state. Preventing short-term borrowing is asking for chaos at the legislature, forcing them to consider things like paying state employees IOUs until everyone's taxes come in. If your "make government more accountable" plan is anti-commercial paper, you really shouldn't be proposing tax law.
Amendment 62 – let fœtæ own property and access the courts – NO
For Halloween season, how about a zombie anti-abortion amendment that died 75% to 25% two years ago? Oh wait, they changed "moment of fertilization" the the far more vague "beginning of biological development of that human being." Well my biological development began 6000 a couple billion years ago. Oh, and everything I said about Amendment 48 is still a problem.
Amendment 63 – add health care choice as a constitutional right, but prevent the government from creating health insurance worth choosing – NO
This measure seems designed to counteract the sort of health care bill that Congress didn't have the balls to talk about in 2009. You could at least wait until there's some data on the success of a plan before deciding it sucks. A full essay on how I think health care should work will have to wait for another day.
Proposition 101 – slash vehicle taxes and fees and reduce income tax by over 1% – NO
This seems to be a reaction to Bill Ritter's move last year to increase vehicle fees in order to balance the budget. One of the downsides of TABOR is that only citizens can raise taxes, combined with a balanced budget requirement, means the government has to get creative in how they balance the books. One could argue that the budget process should have gone differently, but the solution is not to drop vehicle fees to approximately 0 and simultaneously reduce income tax (why are those part of the same measure? at least the anti-abortionists didn't propose "Change the definition of person and also cut taxes by half a percent."). Cars create significant social externalities and should be taxed accordingly. What is especially ironic is I suspect many of the supporters of this amendment opposed the cash-for-clunkers program.
Proposition 102 – require participants in pretrial services programs to also have bonded bail – NO
I might support this measure if it had an exception for all nonviolent misdemeanors rather than just the first. Since the judge already has the flexibility to require bonded bail, I don't see how this amendment is a win for anybody but bail bondsmen. Maybe this is the plan to fund the courts system if 60, 61, and 101 all pass.

So please go out and vote for reason and sanity in government. Or, since you're a fan of reason and sanity, stay in and vote by mail. Otherwise, there tea party will lead to a pretty terrible hangover.
flwyd: (transparent ribbon for government accoun)
I'm doing my part to help democracy tomorrow: I'll be at a polling place for over 12 hours. If I can do that, you can do your part: spend (hopefully) less than an hour to get to your precinct, stand in line for a bit, and make your choices known. If you haven't turned in your mail in ballot, get thee to thy County Clerk's office before 7 PM. If you're voting at a precinct, make sure you're in line by 7 PM. Everyone in line gets to vote, no matter how long it takes.

Do not wear a campaign shirt or button to vote (or bring an overshirt). Electioneering is outlawed within 100 feet of a polling place and you may be asked to cover your shirt.

If you have any legal problems voting (e.g., someone tries to prevent you, you're not on the list you're supposed to be on, etc.), see if there is a lawyer on site. Colorado's status as a swing state means many precincts will have a legally-trained poll watcher on hand. If no one present can help you, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE or 1-866-MY-VOTE-1.

Consider taking a cell phone or small digital camera to the polling place. If you have any issues with a touch screen system, video the vote.

If you haven't made up your mind about ballot initiatives, review my post from last week. In the end, I voted NO on 50 (gambling) and 51 (developmental disabilities) for several reasons including those discussed in the comments. I won't be upset if 51 passes, though.

Note: All specifics above apply to Colorado voters. Your state's rules may vary.
flwyd: (Trevor over shoulder double face)
It ain't over 'till it's over.
-- Yogi Berra
Don't get cocky, kid!
-- Han Solo
FINISH HIM!
-- Mortal Kombat and [livejournal.com profile] tongodeon

I believe that in a generation, we'll look back on next Tuesday as the day hope beat fear. But there's still a chance that fear wins yet again. Obama leads in the polls, but 2000 and 2004 showed the strength of Republican vote suppression techniques. Polls measure how people say they'll vote, but they may not account for the people who try to vote and are prevented. Vote suppression takes many forms: challenging voters (because their driver's license has a middle initial but their voter file does not), misinformation (many Democrats and independents in Virginia received a flier telling them to vote next Wednesday... when it will be too late), poor resource allocation (the big story from Ohio in 2004 was few machines and long lines in black areas but sufficient machines and short lines in white areas), and purges of voter rolls.

Even without intentional voter suppression, elections have a significant margin of error. Voters might have a family crisis crop up and not make it to the polls. Voters can get confused by voting machines or ballot layouts. Touch screen voting machines can be miscalibrated (the official story on why West Virginia voters find their selection of Obama switching to McCain or third party candidates). Mail-in ballots can get lost in the mail or never delivered to voters (Sequoia Voting Systems made an error and didn't print ballots for 11,000 of a batch of 21,000 Denver absentee voters). These are important issues, and may work to the advantage of one side. It's important not to assume malice when incompetence is more likely. It's even more important to make sure neither malice or incompetence has a chance to affect the outcome.

The 2000 election came down to Florida having a vote spread that was within the margin of error. (New Mexico was also that close, but didn't have enough electoral votes to change the outcome.) Even though Obama is leading in the polls, it's important to get as many supporters to vote as possible. The Obama campaign needs to run up the score in swing states to be sure they're above the margin of error so there's no opportunity for the election to be lost through malice (voter suppression, electronic vote hacking) or incompetence (machine or human error on the part of election organizers or voters). Don't let Colorado become The Florida of the West.

You can do your part to help hope win. Obama's website has lots of information about where and when you can volunteer. Their focus is making sure their supporters get to the polls. Volunteer tasks include walking door-to-door with a clipboard or sitting in an office and making phone calls. At this point, if you volunteer you will only talk to people you know support the same candidate. You won't get into an argument with someone who thinks your candidate is a terrorist. You won't have to convince someone who's undecided. All you have to do is ask people "Have you voted yet?" If they have, check them off and nobody will bother them further. If they haven't, make sure they know where their polling place is and that it closes at 7pm. I'm an introvert, but I spent part of my Sunday afternoon canvassing and had a great time. I'm uncomfortable talking to strangers and I can do this. So can you. The Colorado forecast for this is for warm weather and streets full of dry leaves. You'll want to take a walk anyway; contact your local Obama office to canvass. You'll spend three hours enjoying the weather, getting exercise, and helping make history. If you don't live in a swing state or don't like walking, sign up for phone banking. If McCain pulls off an upset, you won't be able to do anything about it next Wednesday. Let's not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

If you can spare a few hours on Tuesday (Election Day), even better. I just signed up to be a poll checker -- comparing the precinct list of people who voted with the campaign's list. If you want to volunteer for that sort of job, you need advanced training, so get in contact soon. They also need canvassers and phone bankers, so show up for a shift if you can. If you volunteer, you'll be able to tell your kids "I did my part to elect an amazing president." Not only that, you'll get one of the most charismatic and thoughtful presidents of the last sixty years. If you don't help get out the vote and a McCain victory in Colorado proves the pivot point for the whole electoral college, you'll spend the next four years with a nagging sense of responsibility every time you grumble about the state of the nation.

I don't agree with everything Obama wants to do and I look forward to opportunities to improve upon his plans. But I'm doing what I can to help him get elected because I think they're the best plans we've had in years. If Obama wins, I feel like the federal government will be on the road to getting better. If McCain wins, I fear the government will only get worse. I hope in a generation I'll have to make a tough choice between the Democrats, Republicans, and other parties. But the McCain campaign has continued the practices that are killing the Republican Party's credibility and value to society. They need to hit rock bottom so they can rebuild right. If McCain gets elected, it will only prolong the victim's suffering.

flwyd: (1895 Colorado map)
Here are my current positions on the initiatives and referenda on the Colorado ballot this year. Since I don't have a TV and haven't dug through the web on these issues, most of my information comes from the blue book. If you think there are considerations I've overlooked, please comment. If I learn something that changes my mind, I'll update this post. If you don't have time to read this post, please just vote NO on 48, the "personhood" amendment.

Note that amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 have been retracted in a deal to oppose amendments 47, 49, and 54. Amendments 53, 55, 56, and 57 will be on the ballot, but votes won't be counted. 47, 49, and 54 will be counted, but "business" has joined with "labor" in opposing them. If you don't vote in Colorado, use this opportunity to research your own ballot or convince a friend in California to vote NO on prop. 8. )

Quick Reference:

  • 46: No
  • 47: No
  • 48: No
  • 49: No
  • 50: Probably yes
  • 51: Unsure
  • 52: No
  • 54: No
  • 58: Yes
  • 59: Yes
  • L: Yes
  • M: Yes
  • N: Yes
  • O: Yes
Take that, longest ballot in the country!

flwyd: (McCain Palin Abe Maude Simpsons)
Shortly after Palin's nomination, somebody started the catch phrase "The hottest governor from the coldest state." But according to Google, I'm the first one to come up with the reciprocal phrase for McCain: "The coldest senator from the hottest state." (The supporter version, "The coolest senator from the hottest state" also gets no hits.)

McCain's debate points were largely about the past: what he'd done in the Senate, what Obama had (or hadn't) done in the Senate. Obama frequently referred to "The last eight years of policies promoted by George Bush and supported by John McCain," but focused more on what he plans to do as President than what he's already done in the U.S. and Illinois Senates, not making a huge deal about his days of youth. If the choice were just between the two men, their records, and proposals (ignoring their running mates, political parties, attack ads, and campaign structures), I think it would be a tough call. But I think Obama would get my vote in that context too. John McCain has demonstrated his ability to get at least 50 people to do important things, so why not leave him in the Senate where he can keep doing a good job? Barack Obama has demonstrated his ability to inspire lots of people all over the place (including Europe, where we need to thaw some diplomatic ice), so why not put him in the Presidency where he can make speeches and inspire Americans to do all sorts of great stuff?

That said, McCain's choice of running mate (a huge concession to the religious right) and the honor-free campaign he's run have eroded any support I had for the man. He's traded principle for a chance at power and may well be foisted upon his own campaign finance reform petard.

A surprising number of people believe that, with a name like Barack Hussein Obama, he must be a Muslim. Some assert that this is because his grandfather was a Muslim, as if Islam was like male-pattern baldness. But I haven't heard anyone propose the complementary position that McCain must be an Irish Catholic. (He's actually a Southern Baptist, formerly an Episcopalian. I guess now he's an Episcopalinan.) I also haven't heard anyone assert he's not American, even though he was born in Panama.

If Obama wins the election, I wonder how long it will take Bill Cunningham's listeners to realize their president is not a Muslim. Or what if they don't realize it and several years later say "Wow, having a Muslim president isn't so bad. I'd totally vote for a Muslim in Republican Primaries." Nah...

41 years after the Supreme Court declared that states can't forbid mixed race couples from getting married, the child of a mixed race couple is projected to win the Presidency. In another generation or two, will a canvasser be told "We're votin' for the f**got!"? You know McCain's in trouble when he's having trouble convincing those voters.

McCain's made a big deal about Obama knowing a former member of the Weather Underground, a group who expressed their opposition to the Vietnam War by destroying property in the U.S. Around the same time Bill Ayers was blowing up parts of targeted (largely unoccupied) buildings, John McCain was dropping bombs on a densely populated city. But I don't care about an old washed-up bomber pilot.

Incidentally, if you'd like to learn about the Weather Underground, I recommend this documentary. It presents history objectively and includes lots of interviews with former members. Some have lots of regrets about what they did, others are unrepentant.
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