Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Feel the Bern!





With the New Hampshire primaries underway today it is a good time to roll out my presidential endorsement.  My actual vote will be determined by the class vote in my US foreign policy course, so an endorsement is all I can offer.  Who should be president of the Untied States?


 


Bernie Sanders! First let me note that I am not a socialist and would not support a socialist.  Despite Bernie's own categorization of himself as a "socialist democrat" he is not a socialist.  Socialism calls for public ownership and the production and distribution of goods and services based by need.  Capitalism focuses on private ownership and the production of goods based on the market and the distribution of goods based on merit.  Bernie Sanders doesn't contend with any of these key points.  What Sanders wants to do is to smooth out the inequalities in society through higher tax rates and a larger amount of services the government provides.  Sanders is a Social democrat.  In other words he's European.  So now that is out of the way, here are some reasons why my support is going to Bernie.
    • Welfare state:This is a bad word in America but it shouldn't be.  There are many advantages for investing in one's population.  The most important capital  in an economy is human capital.  Currently the situation in the United States means that there is a large part of the population that doesn't have a chance to reach their full potential.  Inner city schools, crime, and a number of other factors doom too many to a life of trial and hardship.  How many brilliant minds have gone undeveloped? 
    • Minimum wage:  Why should the government give people hand outs when there are so many people willing to work for their living?  An increased minimum wage would lift those who need the biggest lift and it would let them lift themselves.  Since they consume much more than the wealthy, it would be a boost to economic growth.  Yes there could be a inflation in some sectors as employers pass on the costs to the consumers but let the go up, most people can afford paying an extra 50 cents for a hamburger.  Interesting article on merits of a higher minimum wage here.
    • Health care.  The US spends 18% of its GDP on health care and does not get better results from it (in terms of the overall health levels of the population compared with other countries).  Other developed countries spend less than 11%.   A single payer system is realistically the only way to get costs down.  Universal coverage is also something that shouldn't be overlooked.  The bottom line is that when people don't have health care there are serious consequences including death possibly on a large scale 
    • Benefits.  the United states is one of the only developed countries that doesn't offer normal benefits to workers.  Maternity leave, paid vacation, better sick benefits.  25% of US moms return to work within 2 weeks of having a baby.  Maris gets 18 months.  This is very generous and due to the fact that Estonia has a decreasing population, so they have to pay a lot to get people to have babies but mothers and fathers should have the option of parental leave.  In Estonia it increases the tax burden but I'm fine with that, right now we are getting much more in return and later we'll pay out more when we are done raising our kids.  
    • Weed. I hate marijuana, I've never smoked it, never will.  It has a terrible impact on the brain and is addictive, in short it should be avoided.  That said, I strongly feel it should be legal so it can be regulated and taxed.  Marijuana usage rates are high and just like prohibition it is better to bring the drug in the open and then spend on education campaigns coupled with tax plans to discourage its use.  It would mean an extra 14 billion a year for the US in the form of saved law enforcement costs and extra tax revenues.  There is also the benefit of having people in the work force and not in jail.  
    • Wall Street.  I don't have a problem of a healthy financial sector, but some of the speculative selling and trading could be taxed to discourage reckless behavior.  Splitting up the big banks would create more competition and a healthier financial sector.  
    • Minority rights.  Sanders has been standing up for LGBT rights for a long time, his attention on the need to reform the criminal justice system would also be a boon for minorities who are currently not getting a fair share in our system.  
    • Foreign policy of restraint.  The Untied States should be a strong leader of the liberal world order, but it should be more careful with bombs and invasions.  Unintended consequences of military intervention are often significant and in many cases doing nothing can be better than trying to fix a problem that cannot be fixed by the US military.  More could be spend on US AID in attempts to reduce the driving factors in many conflicts: bad governance and economies that do not provide residents with a livelihood. 
Of course there are issues that I do not agree with.  I think the free trade deals currently being discussed are overall good and would create more capital and wealth.  They also play a key role in having the US maintain its leadership position and maintain the liberal world order.  The US should be much more open to immigration than Sanders believes.  While Sanders does have a plan to treat undocumented immigrants in a humane manor, he should be more open to future immigrants.  Concerns that they depress wages when unemployment is 5% is unwarranted.   His tax plan focuses a bit too much on taxing income and not enough on taxing consumption.  The above mentioned policies will place a greater tax burden on the wealthy, Sanders needs to be careful that the burden doesn't become so great that it depresses growth.  The key here is to let businesses thrive.  This can happen even while the wealthy have high tax rates.  Sweden has been very good at this and their economy has done well.  That said Bernie Sanders has a vision that would make America a better place for everyone. 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

End of an era

For Christmas my Parents gave me and Maris their old i-phones (they upgraded to a newer version).  Believe it or not this is the first touch screen device I have ever owned.  I still use if mostly as a phone, so it will take a bit more getting used to and explore the world of apps, but it is very nice.  Sometimes I do miss my old Nokia though.