Sunday, May 22, 2016

Retirement Saving Methods

Since Laurie like Kevin Drum and I am at the airport heading for China again. (my blogging "blackhole")


401K's are Good, but They could be Better
What's Great About 401K's


After decades of saving/investing hard, 401K's done wonders for my family's net worth.  Of course the challenge is getting people to stop buying the newest cell phone, and start using the payroll automatic withdrawal.  Thoughts?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Lively House Session

Here is an interesting story.  It sounds like the Democrats tried to piggy back and amendment on a spending bill and the GOP found enough votes to block it.
CNN GOP Blocks Gay Rights Amendment 

Democracy may not be pretty, but it is still the best system on earth.

I kind of like Ryan's view. "House Speaker Paul Ryan, at a news conference immediately after the vote, denied knowledge about the vote-switching. "This is federalism. The states should do this. The federal government shouldn't stick its nose in this business," said Ryan, R-Wis. GOP aides said adding the amendment would have jeopardized passage of the underlying spending bill for military construction and veterans, imperiling the House appropriations process just as it's beginning."

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

How Fascism Comes to America?

A gift from Laurie.
You haven't had a Trump post for a few days. This column is popular over at the Wapo:
This is how fascism comes to America
it got me thinking that if I believe Trump has a chance to win in the fall I might have to volunteer at a phone bank calling voters in Ohio or something.
I'll read it tomorrow.  Work has me buried and I leave for China again on Sunday...

G2A Trump and Armageddon  

Back to Abortion Logic

Enablers took a hard turn and we ended up here...
Should a Mother have the right to:
  1. smother the 26 week old preemie in it's incubator
  2. have a Doctor slice up the 26 week old fetus
Rationale?


If she does 1 or 2. What consequences should she face?
Rationale?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Race / Academic / Marriage Gaps

CNN Where the Biggest Gaps Are
CNN Why the Racial Gap will Not go away
Star Trib: work, family, race in Minnesota
Economic Status Minnesotans: Chartbook:17 Cultural Groups

When reading these links, please remember the simple fact in bold below.
"The chartbook reports that 20 percent of nonelderly African-American households had no earners when the data was collected. This compares with 15 percent in the Somali community, 7 percent in the Hmong community and 3 percent in the Mexican community.
In both the African-American and Somali populations, 30 percent of households contained two or more earners — compared with 57 percent of Mexican households and 69 percent of Hmong households. 
The effect of this type of disparity is notable. The chartbook reports that full-time Hmong workers, Mexican workers and African-American workers all earn substantially less in median pay than white workers do — a type of gap that gets much well-deserved attention. But it also turns out that median African-American workers earn substantially more than either their Hmong or Mexican counterparts. 
Yet total median household incomes are strikingly higher in the Hmong and Mexican communities. In some significant part, that greater overall well-being results from there being more workers per household — the elementary economic benefit of family and work."
Thoughts? 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Could Things Be Better?

So Jerry made a statement "Might it be to hide the disasters in the economy, in health care, in foreign policy? "  The it being the whole transgender national argument, which we have discussed to death.  So here Jerry furthered his argument here:


"Perhaps you're right that we don't have a disaster on our hands. The official unemployment rate is down, but of course the "real" unemployment rate remains over 10%, and we have the lowest labor force participation rate since the Carter years. Obama has essentially doubled the national debt and covered it up by having the Federal Reserve print trillions of dollars in new money out of thin air. GDP growth is way behind what it should be, and bears no resemblance to any real "recovery."

In healthcare, rather than saving $2500 per family, a recent study found that costs have gone UP by roughly $4800 per family. Whether that counts the huge increase in deductible expenses, essentially making the "insurance" part of Obamacare a moot point, or not I do not know. We do know that a federal judge has now ruled that most of the Obamacare subsidies currently being paid are unconstitutional, and we also know that insurance companies are planning increases anywhere from 10% to 40%, and that the penalties for not having insurance go up next year. All of these will combine to make the "affordable care act" a more obvious disaster than it already is – anything BUT affordable.

Foreign policy matters. ISIS strikes in Paris, Brussels, San Bernadino, and is committing genocide across Syria and Iraq. Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling to keep a viable government while Obama's great achievement in the Middle East is to guarantee that Iran gets a nuclear weapon, and gets an extra hundred billion dollars from us to help out.

Is there any doubt that race relations have deteriorated rather than gotten better?

Let us put this another way: where is there NOT a disaster? "
I'll start this with the usual admonishment...  Sources?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Enablers of Dependency- Reap What You Sow

From Here
"If only all citizens could be as intelligent, hardworking, and moral as you and your family members, but I don't see that happening so I am going to keep voting for liberals who will fund programs to alleviate poverty at least a little." Laurie
"Alleviating their immediate suffering is okay, unless it enables / encourages them to grow the impoverished population through poorly raising many many unlucky children. If your efforts to alleviate the short term discomfort leads to millions of additional dependent poor people. Did you do good or support hopelessness?

By the way, though I do disagree with "your keep buying them fish" policies. I truly do respect your chosen profession and your good intent." G2A
"I was going to post a link regarding how much safety net programs reduce poverty, but decided it was a waste of time. You guys keep repeating that these programs don't work because they haven't eliminated poverty. It would be interesting to me if you could talk to the many families at my school that receive subsidized food, housing, and healthcare. Maybe you could explain to the kids how these programs should be eliminated because they don't work. You could reassure them that there are homeless shelters and soup kitchens available to make sure they have a place to eat and sleep (and if these places are full there is usually space available in a church basement.)

From my perspective these welfare programs work quite well. I believe they even reduce the poverty rate (as well as the depth of poverty experienced by families.)" Laurie
Now I understand Laurie's desire to feed the needy.  I mean it makes us feel less guilty, sometimes happier, it helps the recipient in the short term, etc.  I mean I understand this as well as anyone...  I operate a blog named "Give2Attain" and give to a dozen or so charities in our community.

However we have thousands of case studies of what happens when charity is poorly implemented... Even if the intent is very good.  It can cause:

  • Over population
  • Dependency
  • Loss of life skills
  • Children to learn bad behaviors
  • Promote unhealthy diets and obesity
  • Recipients to fight for more

Feeding the Needy Causes Problems
Religious Right to Feed the Needy
Robs Parents of Opportunity to Teach Their Young
Children Understand   
The Needy Unite
It Makes Me Feel Good
Should We Feed Them



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Puerto Rico Harbinger of Things to Come?

These stories fascinate and horrify me.  They all involve politicians over promising in the short run and under-performing in the long run.  Remember what I was just saying about citizens being happy borrowing today and passing the bills on to future generations.  Thoughts?

MSN / NYT PR Harbinger
Wiki Detroit Bankruptcy
CNN Trump King of Debt

Being Conservative and Moral is Hard Work

Here are a couple of responses I posted on this Minnpost Article

The first is to Dennis W saying "The rural folk see the Constitution through a what's in it for me attitude, not what's in it for us."
"I think that is typical of most voters.
  • LGBT folk are looking for more rights.
  • Urban voters are looking for more transit.
  • People paying higher taxes want lower taxes.
  • People who qualify for welfare / services want more .
  • Religious people want a less sinful society.
And I think it is excellent that our system supports balancing all of these personal wants." G2A
The second to Paul's "Fact is if they were a majority, they would't have to slow the drift towards liberalism in the first place "
Of course our society is slowly shifting to the Left, as noted below people like to vote in their best interests. In this case it can mean:
  • voting for more government benefits / programs to help me if I failed to take advantage of the free education that was given to me.
  • voting to make someone else responsible for my retirement and healthcare savings.
  • voting for more government benefits / programs to help me if I have kids that I can not afford to raise because I have a hard getting / keeping a spouse.
  • voting for lower taxes and higher spending, because then my generation gets more and passes the burden on to someone else.
  • enjoying gambling, drinking, smoking, drugs, etc
I mean being a Conservative Moral person is hard. I mean one has to ensure:
  • one excels in school and at work
  • one gets married, has only the number of children they can afford, and stays married
  • one lives below their income, saves and invests
  • limiting the intakes of enjoying gambling, drinking, smoking, drugs, etc

Monday, May 9, 2016

NC Sues Federal Government

And folks wonder why Conservatives are getting more and more frustrated and angry... The Obama administration seems to be trying to create laws again...


CNN NC sues Federal Government


"Title VII, among other things, outlaws discrimination in federally assisted programs and authorizes Lynch to file lawsuits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities.  North Carolina attacks this foundation in its lawsuit, saying precedence is clear: "Transgender status is not a protected class under Title VII," and it cites a half-dozen cases that it says back its stance. Only Congress can change this, the lawsuit says."

"Former Attorney General Eric Holder disagrees, and said in a 2014 memorandum that transgender discrimination claims are covered under Title VII. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission also interprets Title VII as forbidding discrimination against transgender people."

Friday, May 6, 2016

Hatred and Bigotry: Tools of Right and Left

Here is the conversation that MP just would not let me join.  And I fund it so fascinating...
"First, it is worth noting that Sander’s and Trump’s appeal are about the same: promise the moon and people will believe it. 
Second, Sullivan correctly noticed that “political correctness” did indeed create Trump because it breeds more resentment, more racism, and more alienation in people who are injured by the economy and insulted all the time in addition to it. It is impossible to blame Republican establishment for creating Trump by being anti-Obama; it is easy to blame Obama because he is an embodiment of political correctness. 
And finally, the sky is not falling. Comparing modern day America to Weimar Republic is ridiculous. First, Germany was failing economically and America is not (yet, provided we don’t start building socialism per Bernie). Muslims and Mexicans are not new Jews because there is no historical basis for hatred towards them like there was towards Jews (2000 years of anti-Semitism). 
And Trump is not that much anti-immigrant (I personally do not remember his anti-immigrant statements, just anti-illegal immigrant ones, which is very different). And of course all examples of countries sliding into dictatorships are irrelevant since not a single one of them had had any significant experience with democracy prior to those events. In fact, a transition from republic to empire in Ancient Rome would be a much better example…" Ilya

"The notion that "political correctness" created this situation is a canard. What people who are complaining about "political correctness" are complaining about is that people are noticing, disliking, and taking action against their bigotry. 
You can debate illegal immigration without calling Mexicans murderers and rapists. You can debate LGBT rights without comparing it to bestiality or suggesting that LGBT folks are sexual predators. You can be opposed to President Obama without making a monkey doll out of him or suggesting he's a secret Kenyan Muslim. 
For all the nonsense about whether or not Obama (the "embodiment of political correctness") calls it "radical Islamic terrorism", he sure sure doesn't have a problem raining bombs down on them (in at least six countries so far) 
(And there's no historical basis for hatred against Muslims? Really? We're 1,000 years downstream from the start of the Crusades, you know.)" Sean

""Muslims and Mexicans are not new Jews because there is no historical basis for hatred towards them like there was towards Jews (2000 years of anti-Semitism)." 
Was there ever a historical "basis" for hatred towards the Jews?
Are you saying it's not really hatred unless it goes on for a certain number of years?" RB


"Mr. Olsen, your assumption about bigotry of entire chunk of population is unfair and an oversimplification. I can of course say that you can complain about all those people without calling them bigots and racists or I can say that their feelings are the result of things pushed down their throats. 
So yes, we can debate illegal immigration without calling Mexicans names but we can also debate it without offending those who are against it; we can debate LGBT without calling them names but let’s not call opponents of same sex marriage names either; and while there is no reason to call Obama names, there is equally no reason to call all Republicans names… And I will encourage you to look what is happening more often on college campuses… 
Sure, we are a 1000 years past Crusades and about the same time past Arab’s expansion and conquering huge territories including parts of Europe; I just don’t see any relevance of these facts to our discussion. Have you heard of Muslim pogroms? Blood libel against them? How many Muslims were forced to convert under the threat of being burned alive? How many were expelled from European countries? How many Muslims were killed in genocide? 
Mr. Holbrook, while there was no historical basis for hatred towards the Jews, there was history of hatred towards them. Yes, I am saying that hatred to the entire people cannot take roots in one generation – it takes centuries if not millennia. Sure there are always individual haters but it is different from what happened to Jews in Germany under Nazis. Actually, even now there are more anti-Semitic episodes than anti-Muslim ones in the world…" Ilya 
"Uncompelling: The notion being offered by conservatives is that "political correctness" prevents us from addressing critical issues. What I haven't seen is a compelling explanation of how that is the case. You yourself indicated that we can discuss controversial issues without name-calling. 
Can you give me more of an explanation of how this is so? (I'll stipulate that both sides engage in name-calling AND both sides at times engage in behaviors designed to stifle the speech of those opposed to them.) 
Have Republicans have some changes forced upon them that they didn't like? Sure. But, that's the nature of the way things go. You think Democrats haven't suffered the same thing at various points in American history? 
What it feels like to me is that this whining about "political correctness" goes back in some way to what I talked about in my original response -- the desire to express bigoted feelings without fear of criticism. Things like the "bathroom bills" are just primal lashing out, not reasoned policy responses to actual problems. 
I'm not debating who has it worse between Jews or Muslims. Merely pointing out that there's a long history of anti-Muslim behavior out there." Sean

"You Have to be Taught to Hate:Yes, I am saying that hatred to the entire people cannot take roots in one generation – it takes centuries if not millennia." 
I don't know about that. Hatred is hatred, and white Americans seemed to develop hatred towards the Indians pretty quickly. Slavery also seems like a pretty good example of hatred--that was popular with the white folks pretty quickly. 
There is an old joke about the recent immigrant from Ireland who was asked what he thought of America. "I've gotten such an education in one week. When I came here, I knew I hated the British. Now, I learned I hate the [Italians], [Jews], and [African Americans], too!" 
"[D]on’t you think that worse racial relations and a mess in the Middle East are Obama’s failure, just to name a couple?" I'm sure there's a good explanation for how he instigated the Shiite-Sunni conflict, but hat did the President do to worsen race relations, apart from being elected President while black?" RB

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Trump and Armegeddon

Eric has posted a live one here.  MP Emotional Hyper-Democracy


Here are first comments:
 "Armegeddon: I remember almost 8 years ago a bunch of Conservatives saying that Obama becoming President would lead to disaster... I remember quite a few years ago when many thought Jesse would ruin MN... Don't these doomsayers ever get tired of being wrong?
 
I also remember Obama saying that he had to learn a whole lot from the time he was Candidate Obama to the time he sat behind the big desk. I have no doubt that Trump will have to do this also. And as always, I am thankful for gridlock... Those founding Fathers were brilliant. What are the odds that the GOP, the Democrats and Trump can agree on much of anything?
 
So though Obama, Hilary, Romney, Bush, Trump, etc are different, they are still just one person in a huge system, I don't see Armageddon occurring anytime soon." G2A
 
"Root Causes: I think the article is pretty excellent regarding root causes.
 
I am sure these were important:
  • illegal immigrants taking jobs and driving down wages
  • SCOTUS bypassing State control and mandating LGBT marriage
  • the obsession of many people for high foreign content products
  • the desire to buy cheaper, cheaper, cheaper
  • the public school system failing to good deliver results
  • the folks complaining about Christian values
  • the ever growing national debt
  • the fear that SS and Medicare will fail
I personally am starting to like the idea of Trump winning. It seems we need a change agent badly. Maybe he could fill that role quite nicely. (well as long as he can avoid starting WW III) :-)" G2A
Then there are folks like Constance who still don't get it. And insist on pointing fingers elsewhere...
"Read the Sullivan article, folks. But read for ideology, for slant in thought. In just what Eric cites here, you can see a very worrisome and ideological slippage when Sullivan talks of Trump supporters as a white class, rather than a predominantly white MALE class (women who don't pay attention sometimes support Trump, for reasons that Sullivan's discussion of emotional unreality addresses). It's hard for women to be misogynist; less hard for them to be bigots, for instance. Generally, women see right through Donald Trump's ugly relegation of women to the sidelines.

Then, there's Sullivan's conflation of both major political parties into the government that doesn't function. That's a standard Republican and right-wing talk radio line, but we know that in actuality it's the GOP Congressional leadership that, for more than seven years, has refused to compromise on anything with Obama or the Democrats. Look at who stops the government in its tracks. It's not all of us, it's Republicans. Republicans who vote to spend money for programs they like, but then complain about having to raise money to pay for them. Please.

Sullivan's lament here is very upper-class, and quite disdainful of working-class Americans in its own right. there's some truth to his analysis, but he misses a lot that he'd just as soon avoid. He abhors mobs and basically democracy itself, like Jose Ortega y Gasset (in the Rebellion of the Masses). His article is an interesting GOP establishment attempt to understand how the mob got away from them.

But most of America sees Trump for what he is. Let's not do an Andrew Sullivan and pretend that the minority of America that identifies as Republican represents the country. The media obsession with Trump is sinfully misleading in that regard." Constance

US Jobs for Poorly Educated White Men

I think some folks see me as only picking on minorities for their life choices. Well let's pick on those lucky folks, the White working man. I mean they have no history of slavery, bias from the police, racism from others, etc... Yet it seems many of them are facing significant hardships. CNN Money The Men Left Behind

Please note some of that many of the terms from previous discussions show up in this article.
  • Low academic capability
  • Divorced
  • Many children
  • Drug addiction
And yet here is a piece that explains what American production plants need.
And of course Hilary and Trump have plans to try to keep jobs here...

Well we know if they have their way, our products and services will get more expensive for better or worse. And our exports will likely be reduced. I hope they pass some kind of law that US consumers can only buy high domestics content products and services. It would be interesting how the American voters would like that... :-)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Housing Debacle Revisited

Ok. Hiram and Sean want to beat this to death again instead of discussing how to better push people into the light...  So here is what they have to say on that topic.


"I assume one forced transaction is that government requires wealthier people to pay more taxes even though we all stand on the same American soil with the same rights and freedoms, and then government distributes this money to the less wealthy people.

Were the crooked transactions that led to the financial crisis any less crooked because rich people benefited from them?" Hiram


"Hiram,  No one forced individuals to borrow more money than they could afford to pay back. They entered into their mortgages of their own free will.

You are correct that this is a free country, and yet you want to burden the "800" group of citizens with the costs incurred by the poor choices made by the "200" group of people at the risk of the whole town. This does not sound very free.

Freedom comes with responsibilities in a society like ours. It is what enables our society to provide life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all. " G2A


"No one forced individuals to borrow more money than they could afford to pay back.

No one forced banks to create worthless financial instruments, or to put them in your mutual fund claiming they had value. But they did." Hiram


"Hiram,
As we have discussed before. It was the mortgage defaults that triggered the house of cards to fall down... Two key groups of people who freely contributed to the disaster, those greedy people who offered the loans to "underfunded greedy idiots" with little collateral required, and "underfunded greedy idiots" who bit off more than they could afford and bailed on their obligation when the going got tough.

Beyond these key players we had the government, investors and millions of other citizens who freely chased the expanding housing bubble and low interest rates. Somehow they thought that double digit home price increases would continue indefinitely... Even when the inflation rate was almost non-existent.  A Refresher for those confused by this. "G2A


"The problem really wasn't the mortgage defaults. People are always defaulting on mortgages and debt. The man Republicans are putting forward as their candidate for president has declared bankruptcy several times on a scale that is unimaginable for the ordinary home owner struggling to come up with a monthly house payment. And if you read what that candidate says on the subject, he explains to all of us, that there is nothing at all wrong with defaulting on debt, that it is a natural part of doing business.

No, the problem that that bankers created a system that disguised the nature of debt claiming that instruments were much more secure than they were." Hiram


"Has anyone around here mention "The Big Short". Among other things, it lays out in a pretty accurate manner a portion of what went wrong with our financial system." Hiram


"Hiram, The mortgage broker and investment firms contributed to the problem and have paid massive fines..." G2A


"The mortgage broker and investment firms contributed to the problem and have paid massive fines

Did they compensate people for the lost value of their houses? Or for the lost raises, and the lost jobs? Were the huge bonus packages paid to bankers in any charged to pay for the enormous damage they have done." Hiram


"Why are you afraid to discuss the reality of people like my friend's daughter and so interested in side tracking this comment string?

The questions are different and they are personal. But on a less personal level, you can see how these issues played out with our irresponsible bankers, and Donald Trump. If others weren't involved, weren't dependent on the situation, it would have been very easy to let the bankers, and Trump to go broke. But just like an irresponsible parent with a child, the bankers and Trump were to some extent in a position to use the innocent as hostages. So calculations were made, arrangements were imposed and everyone hopes for the best. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't" Hiram


"Have the people who defaulted on their loans and crashed the house cards made any reparations to anyone?

Well, yes. They went through bankruptcy. They have seen their houses foreclosed, their wages garnished, that sort of thing. They aren't like Donald Trump who has the political and economic power to prevent that from happening. Nobody seems to have given them huge bonus packages financed by taxpayer bailout dollars, although the economic arguments for doing that are similar.

And the fact is, the folks who went bankrupt aren't really the losers because they didn't have any money to start with. The people who were hurt by the financial crisis were the folks who didn't do anything wrong. The folks who made the payments on their underwater mortgages. Who lost their jobs or at least income through no fault of their own, because of the financial misfeasance of people they never had dealings with at all. " Hiram


"Hiram,  Going through bankruptcy is the opposite of paying reparations... It cost the tax payers and the bank... " G2A


"By the account of most economists, the economy lost about $6T in economic activity in the Great Recession. Bankers have paid about 1/12 that amount in fines as a result of the behavior that was responsible for it.

I guarantee you today that the big banks are doing far better than the family that was forced into bankruptcy.

And again, let's remind ourselves how the big banks feasted on racial minorities to fuel the subprime bubble.

"According to one study, about two-thirds of all subprime loans between 2000 and 2007 were made to people who already owned their homes. The targets were often elderly, in particular men and women of color. Visiting loan officers convinced these borrowers to use the homes they'd poured their savings into their whole lives as ATM machines.

The pitch was: refinance your home, and get a little extra spending money each month! Lots of people went for it. But there was mischief hidden in the fine print of many of these "refi" deals, which often quickly exploded. Before long, the now-departed agent's promises would evaporate into a toxic quicksand of debt, unforeseen penalties and foreclosure.
...
Thanks to a number of settlements, we now know that some companies got many of those new signatures via intentional strategies targeting black and Hispanic customers. The most infamous example was Wells Fargo, which paid a $175 million settlement for systematically overcharging black and Hispanic borrowers.

It came out that a Maryland office of the bank referred to subprime loans as "ghetto loans," and pushed its loan officers to unload as many as possible on the "mud people" of Baltimore and the surrounding suburbs. A crucial element involved pushing expensive and dangerous subprime loans on people who qualified for the safer, lower-interest prime loans.

The New York Times did a study of New York-area home lending and found that African-Americans who made more than $68,000 were five times as likely as white people in the same income category to be marketed risky subprime loans. The ratio was even worse at Wells Fargo, where it was more like eight to one."

Taibbi on the connection between Wall Street and race" Sean


"Going through bankruptcy is the opposite of paying reparations..

They take all the bankrupt's property to pay the debt. Nothing more can be done than that. Punishment or not, we can't take more than people have, and if we take away their reason for working, we can't really expect that they will work that hard.

In any event, it wasn't the broke who were hurt by the financial crisis since they were already broke. It's the people who were playing by the rules who lost income and wealth. And it's the people who broke them who became immensely rich. "Hiram