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Austin Votes for Worse Cab Service

Uber and Lyft have been challenging what amount to taxi service monopolies in most cities. Naturally, the monopolies are pushing back. And naturally, liberal Democrats, who always stand up for the little guy, are falling over themselves to service the cab companies.

Austin is now the latest city where the shoe has dropped:

After voters in Austin, Texas, rejected a proposal for loosened regulations on ride-hailing apps, both Uber and Lyft have announced they will be “pausing” operations in the city.

In late 2015, Austin’s City Council approved an ordinance requiring companies like Uber and Lyft to be regulated like taxis. That meant, among other things, drivers would have to be fingerprinted as part of a background check.

Uber and Lyft, in response, pushed a ballot proposal asking voters to choose between that city ordinance and a looser statewide law.

NPR’s John Burnett reports that the two companies dropped $8 million to promote their stance on Proposal 1 — a record for Austin ballot proposals. “Despite spending what amounted to $200 on each vote in their favor, Uber and Lyft lost by 44 to 56,” John says.

Before the vote on Saturday, Uber and Lyft had threatened to pull out of Austin, a market John describes as “lucrative.”

Since the decision, both companies have said they intend to follow through on their threats, Austin-based member station KUT reports.

The result of this is not hard to predict: worse cab service, more expensive cab service, more drunk drivers, more people being left in the cold because a cab decided to ignore them.

I suspect the ride-sharing companies will work out a deal like they did with San Antonio.

Supporters of the fingerprint requirement are saying it is a public safety issue, despite no evidence that Uber and Lyft are particularly dangerous or that fingerprinting makes traditional cabs safer. But don’t be fooled. This isn’t about public safety. This is yet another example of supposed liberals, who supposedly stand with the little guy, standing on top of the little guy to make it impossible for him to get up. Glenn Reynolds:

The single best anti-poverty program is a job. So why does government at all levels make it so hard to get one?

In my home state of Tennessee, for example, it takes 300 hours of training to be licensed to shampoo hair. That’s right: 300 hours. That training covers things like applying shampoo, rinsing and conditioning and answering the phone and taking appointments. Shampoo hair without a license, and you can get six months in jail.

I think I could teach everything you need to know about shampooing in under an hour: Don’t get it in people’s eyes, keep a sharp lookout for lice and rinse thoroughly when you’re done. Answering the phone is something you can learn on your own.

This is just a small example of the larger problem of restrictive occupational licensing, a problem so bad that even the usually regulation-friendly Obama White House has complained.

One quarter of the jobs in America require a license. And this isn’t like licensing things like medicine or law. This is licensing things like hair braiding and interior decorating. Radley Balko, during an investigation of police abuses in South Carolina, discovered that while the state considers 12 weeks of training sufficient for police, it will only grant a barber’s license after a year of training. The license requirements are specifically designed to create closed cartels that can keep outsiders out and maintain an inflated restricted market.

Taxis have long been a huge racket in major cities. Taxi licenses or medallions cost enormous amounts of money. Monopoly taxi companies can swing that but individuals or startups can’t. This was the entire reason Uber and Lyft got started: to break up the monopolies created by “regulations” passed for “our safety”.

I get what people in Austin are saying: it’s not fair that the cab companies have onerous regulations while Uber and Lyft don’t. Fine. Lift those regulations. There is no evidence that they actually make people safer. But there is plenty of evidence that they close out the market from competition.

One might almost say … that was the point.

Update: Iowahawk above pointed out: just before mandating criminal background checks for Uber and Lyft, Austin had outlawed them for everyone else, claiming that criminal background checks were discrimination.

The Price of Socialism

Holy cow:

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ tax and spending proposals would provide new levels of health and education benefits for American families, but they’d also blow an $18-trillion hole in federal deficits, piling on so much debt they would damage the economy.

That sobering assessment comes from a joint analysis released Monday by the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and the Urban Institute Health Policy Center, well-known Washington think tanks.

The bottom line: Democratic presidential candidate Sanders would raise taxes by more than $15 trillion over 10 years, with most of that paid by upper-income earners. But that wouldn’t be enough to cover the cost of his proposed government-run health care system, along with free undergraduate college, enhanced Social Security, family and medical leave, among other new programs.

As a result, Sanders would add $18 trillion to federal debt over a decade.

The Sanders campaign is trying to wriggle out of this, claiming that their healthcare plan will save lots of money because … because … well, because they want it to. But I am totally unsurprised by this. I have said it in this space a million times: you can’t pay for a social welfare state just by taxing “the rich”. There’s not enough money. Every European welfare state pays for itself with heavy taxes on the middle class — VATs, sales taxes, excise taxes, income taxes. Their tax systems are way less progressive than our because they have to be. In the end, you have to go where the money is.

This is the big problem with Sanders’ promises. You have to raise taxes on everyone to pay for them. And people don’t want higher taxes even if they supposedly come with Awesome Government Benefits. Sanders’ own state rejected socialized medicine because it was too expensive.

I’d say this would be the nail in the coffin of the Sanders campaign except that (1) many of his supporters don’t care about math; (2) I’m sure Clinton will find a way to bungle this incredibly easy and salient talking point.

The Criminalization of Foolishness

This story evolved a little too fast for my slow blogging pace over the last few weeks. But it’s a great illustration of how far down the rabbit hole our society has gone:

Mesa police announced late Wednesday afternoon that the case against a Red Mountain High School student accused of indecent exposure was closed because “all parties involved no longer desire prosecution.”

The announcement came hours after a Maricopa County Attorney’s Office representative announced the office had decided against prosecuting the student. He had been booked on a felony charge related to exposing himself in a team photo that appeared in the school’s yearbook and in programs sold at football games.

Osborn was arrested Saturday. Officers said he told authorities he was dared by a Red Mountain High School teammate to do the stunt when the photo was taken on the school bleachers in August. It shows a smiling Osborn, then 18, standing in the second row; his penis was exposed through the top of the waistband of his football uniform.

Police said Wednesday the school’s principal reported the incident in compliance with Arizona’s mandatory reporting laws.

Mesa police booked Osborn on one count of furnishing obscene material to minors, a felony, and 69 misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure. Ten faculty members and 59 students were present when Osborn exposed himself and are considered victims, according to police and court documents.

So, let’s sum up. Kid does stupid prank on a dare. No one notices for a long time. Then someone does notice and hides behind “mandatory reporting laws” for turning the case over to police. The police then do what police do: arrest him and charge the shit out of him. Only a social media campaign and the refusal of his teammates to press charges kept him out prison and off a sex offender registry.

Set aside the issue of whether the principal had a choice or not. Mandatory reporting laws are tricky and it’s possible that he had to turn this over, no matter what his personal views on the subject. The general point stands: our schools have adopted the mentality of routinely calling the police to handle issues that could be handled with internal discipline. And then they always act shocked when this results in massive criminal charges against a kid for exposing his pecker or a girl being bodyslammed or kids being expelled/charged for stuff that isn’t even a crime.

It’s All The Republicans Fault. Or Not.

One of the worst things that happens after an unexpected political event is that the media scrounges around for someone who predicted it. With thousands of pundits making millions of predictions, you’re bound to find someone who predicted anything. They then proclaim this person to be a genius and hang on his every word.

The rise of Donald Trump was unexpected. Many of the wise Washington insiders proclaimed that that it could never happen. So now they are scrounging around, trying to find out why it happened.

For me, there is no one reason. It’s a combination of many factors. Here are a just a few I think contributed:

  • A general dissatisfaction with political system and the economy. Specifically, a government that keeps expanding its role while unable to handle the duties it already has assumed. And an economy that seems to be making a lot of people at the top rich while the middle class stagnates.
  • A conservative field that was weaker and more divided than expected. Trump jumped on the one issue that made him stand out: immigration.
  • Trump’s celebrity status gave him an instant advantage over a bunch of guys most people had never heard of.
  • The GOP front-runners didn’t recognize the danger and spent more time fighting each other and supporting weak candidates than stopping Trump.
  • A conservative pundit class that has demonized Obama, blasted Republicans as enablers and portrayed compromise as surrender.
  • A GOP leadership that was happy to sow that whirlwind.
  • A liberal punditsphere that has portrayed almost every conservative as an uncaring, incompetent vileness. So when a truly bad GOP candidate came around, they were the boy who cried wolf.

Even then, I’m not sure I’m right. Sometimes … things just happen. There isn’t a really compelling reason. Only a small fraction of voters vote in primaries and they are somewhat subject to whims and bandwagons. I always leave open the possibility that this is just one of those things.

Still, it’s food for thought for the next few months. But Vox has decided to scrounge around and find one of the few pundits who did see it coming. And, for someone who correctly predicted the rise of Trump, I have to say … he’s really full of shit. He starts with having met New Gingrich.

And over the next 16 years, [Gingrich] put that plan into action. He delegitimized the Congress and the Democratic leadership, convincing people that they were arrogant and corrupt and that the process was so bad that anything would be better than this. He tribalized the political process. He went out and recruited the candidates, and gave them the language to use about how disgusting and despicable and horrible and immoral and unpatriotic the Democrats were. That swept in the Republican majority in 1994.

The problem is that all the people he recruited to come in really believed that shit. They all came in believing that Washington was a cesspool. So what followed has been a very deliberate attempt to blow up and delegitimize government, not just the president but the actions of government itself in Washington.

This is garbage. The reason Newt portrayed the Democratic Congress and leadership as corrupt and arrogant is because they were. They had exempted Congress from numerous laws that applied to the rest of the country. Their speaker, Jim Wright, was using his garbage “book” to rake in millions of dollars under the table from special interests. The powerful head of their ways and means committee, Dan Rostenkowski, wound up serving 17 months in prison for mail fraud.

When the Republicans swept into power in 1994, they didn’t try to tear down everything government did. They tried to tear down things they didn’t think government should be doing in the first place. They instituted spending restraint, they passed government reform laws and they worked with Clinton to balance the budget. This is a very weird alternate version of history.

Then, there’s a more radical conservative ideology that has been a dominant force out there in Washington and in a lot of states. That’s the Freedom Caucus and Cruz, and that’s what we wrote about in the book. This is a radical set of beliefs. They want to blow up all of government, and are willing to use more radical tactics. They don’t much care about shutting down the government or breaching the debt ceiling, or any of those things.

There’s some element of truth to this in that there is a faction of the GOP that sees Washington as irreparable and shutdowns/defaults/debt ceiling crashes as acceptable. I’ve railed against it myself. But to say that there is something new and awful in the way the Republicans oppose Obama is to elide huge chunks of recent history:

  • Government shutdowns are not new. The first government shutdown was in 1976, when Democrats opposed President Ford. When Reagan was President, the Democrats shut down the government seven times (albeit usuaully for short periods.)
  • The GOP has used the filibuster a lot and won’t consider Obama’s SCOTUS nominee. But this has been building for a while. The Democrats filibustered Bush all the time and specifically filibustered numerous Bush judicial nominees. Early on in Bush’s presidency, the Democrats warned that they would filibuster any Bush SCOTUS nominee for up to four years if necessary.
  • Under the Democrats, the budget process basically stopped, at one point going more than three years without passing an actual budget. One of the few things the GOP has done right in the last year is to return to a normal budget process.
  • Under both Democrats and Republicans, the federal bureaucracy has basically run unhindered, passings thousands of regulations without any oversight that cost the United States at least a couple of trillion in lost economic activity. In fact, Obama’s big achievements — financial reform and Obamacare — specifically left parts of the bill to be written by the bureaucracies.
  • The few Republicans trying to get control of the process and make government work — e.g. Paul Ryan, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell — have been relentlessly demonized by the liberal pundit class.
  • A huge amount of government dysfunction can be traced to how the Democrats treated President Bush, whom they proclaimed to be “selected not elected” and often simply refuse to work with.

In short, this isn’t just a Republican thing. The dysfunction of Washington has been building for a long time. It’s been a tit-for-tat political tribalism that places party loyalty and beating the other side over anything else.

Where the Republicans worse? Probably. They reflexive opposition and demonization of everything Obama does has been a big problem. And Republicans, because they value smaller government, have less of a problem with government not being able to do the things Democrats want it to do.

However, it is foolish to say Republicans want to “blow the whole thing up”. They simply want government to do fewer things. No Republican is talking about dismantling the military or abolishing police. No one is going to end highway spending or Social Security. It is the height of hyperbole (and part of the problem) when wanting to end the staggering expensive dysfunction that is Obamacare is portrayed as “blowing up the government”.

Moreover, the Democrats have more than played their role in creating this problem. They have expanded government power in every direction. They have completely sold out to unions, racking up huge retirement obligations that no one can pay and raising the minimum wage to economy-killing levels. They have ignored the critical need for regulatory and tax reform. They’ve dragged their heels on criminal justice reform. They’ve made a lot of noise about special interests but done nothing to actually stop them (big part of stopping them: reduce the need to peddle influence by shrinking government power). The Democrats had completed unfettered control of the federal government for two years and mainly used that window to shovel money at their interests and layer on thousands of new regulations in the service of the big banks and insurance companies.

I do think the system has gotten to a critical juncture. We’re facing trillions in future debt and a hamstrung economy. We need a functional Congress and a competent President to fix this. That’s absolutely not Trump, who recently talked about “negotiating our debt” and causing a global financial crisis. But I’m not sure there’s anyone on the national scene right now — except maybe Paul Ryan — who both grasps what needs to be done and has the political acumen to get it done.

Sully Panics

With the GOP race basically over (Trump won Indiana overwhelmingly last night), Andrew Sullivan has emerged from hiding to pen a piece for the New Yorker that sites Plato, Sinclair Lewis and Eric Hoffer to argue that Trump represents the end of our democracy.

Seriously.

For Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.

No, he’s not.

I’ve said this before and I expect to say it again a lot over the next six months, especially if Trump begins to close in the polls or, Heaven help us, wins. Trump is not Hitler. At worst, he is a low-rent George Wallace. We can survive him. And we will.

Nick Gillespie has a great response:

The most important thing to understand about Trump is that he is not the start of anything new but the culmination of a long degenerative process that has been at work for the entirety of the 21st century. He is a sterile mule in the end, not a jackass who might have hideous offspring. He is the effect, not the cause, of the ways in which the two major parties have destroyed themselves by refusing to take their own rhetoric or govern seriously. The Republican Party said it stood for small government when virtually every major action it has pursued at least since the 9/11 attacks has yielded the opposite result. The Democratic Party, still trying to maintain a disparate collection of special-interest groups that started morphing and changing and expiring by the mid-1960s, lays claim to the mantle of caring about regular Americans even as its last three major presidential candidates (John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton) long ago achieved escape velocity from caring about anything resembling everyday reality.

The century was ushered in under the single-most-contested election in U.S. history, with each party suddenly adopting the other’s philosophy in pursuit of victory. The Republicans called it a federal matter while the Dems wholeheartedly embraced state’s rights (this switcheroo would repeat itself in the Terri Schiavo affair). The deep-seated recognition by voters that each party is uncommitted to anything approaching its core values is what’s driving the 2016 election season. While enjoying complete control of the federal government for years under Bush, the Republican Party didn’t just go war-crazy but spending-crazy, regulation-crazy, and entitlement-crazy.

Gillespie argues, not unconvincingly, that Trump was the only GOP candidate who seemed to stand for anything. And I would add that Sanders’ popularity was because he was the only candidate who seemed to stand for anything. Ultimately, the Democratic establishment had more control over their process than the GOP did of theirs (and, as Conor notes, has not invested as much in toxic rhetoric). But you can almost imagine the American voter echoing the dying words of Shepherd Book: “I don’t care what you believe in, just believe in it.”

My take is slightly different. The country isn’t 100% conservative or 100% liberal. Or even 51%. Or even 30%. Issues have be resolved with compromise and deal-making and no one gets everything they want. Reagan, to cite the most obvious example, had strong conservative principles but compromised to get a conservative agenda passed.

But what’s been going on in Washington for the last 15 years has not been compromise between two principled if opposed ideologies; it’s been mindless gamesmanship and selling out. “Wall Street reform” that further empowered big bangs. “Health care reform” that made health insurance more expensive. Budgets that never go through a real budgeting process. Wars started stupidly and managed poorly. A “War on Terror” that mainly eats the privacy and freedom of law-abiding citizens.

Trump is indeed the end stage of that: an uninformed unthinking demagogue who makes ridiculous promises that can’t possibly be fulfilled. Maybe if such a candidate crashes and burns, we’ll see a better saner GOP emerge from the rubble.

Or not. I wouldn’t complete discount the “stockpile food and ammo” approach here. The last few months have been rough. I’ve been blogging less, in part, because I’m simply sick of it. We’ll get a brief respite now as both candidates try to consolidate their parties. And then I’m anticipating unrelenting ugliness from the conventions to the election.

Maybe I’ll just start blogging about cats or something.

Still, despite Sully’s hysterics, I expect the country to soldier on. We are more than our government. It holds us down, it ties our hands, it beats our asses. But we keep trudging along: going to work, raising our kids, doing our best. As long as that stays true, no politician, not even Donald Trump, can be an “extinction-level event”.

The Price of Regulation

The Mercatus Center has a new study out claiming that regulations are enacting an enormous toll on our economy.

Economic growth in the United States has, on average, been slowed by 0.8 percent per year since 1980 owing to the cumulative effects of regulation:

If regulation had been held constant at levels observed in 1980, the US economy would have been about 25 percent larger than it actually was as of 2012.

This means that in 2012, the economy was $4 trillion smaller than it would have been in the absence of regulatory growth since 1980.

This amounts to a loss of approximately $13,000 per capita, a significant amount of money for most American workers.

Caveats first: it is possible, even likely, that Mercatus is significantly overestimating the impact of regulations. The reason is that their analysis is cumulative. They find that regulations knock 0.8% off our economic growth every year. Well, if you multiply that exponentially over 32 years, you get a huge amount. Their study only goes back to 1980. So … if they extended it back to 1950, how much would they say regulations are costing us? I addressed this before when some numbnuts said our economy would be four times bigger without regulation. When you play with exponential numbers, you get big results.

Moreover, regulations have an economic benefit, as Ron Bailey notes:

According to agency calculations, American families would see up to $7 in health benefits for every dollar invested through the Clean Power Plan. By lowering particulate, ozone, and nitrogen oxide pollution, the EPA argues, Americans will gain the health equivalent of $55 to $93 billion annually; the yearly costs will be only $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion by 2030.

Garbow added that EPA regs don’t just stop harms but spur technological innovation. He specifically cited regulations that support the deployment of renewable energy supplies, and he pointed out that there are now more jobs in the solar power industry than there are in coal mining.

Those caveats having been made, however, I think Mercatus is probably in the ballpark or at least in the parking lot. Other estimates have generally been in the 10-20% range and I don’t think anyone would argue that regulations have no cost on our economy. Even if Mercatus has overestimated the impact of regulations by 100%, that would still be a 10% hit on the economy and $5,000 out of each our pockets.

Moreover, as Bailey notes, the supposed benefits of regulations are probably overestimates themselves. Many are based on past regulations when we did think like stopping companies from dumping toxic chemicals in water or belching smog into our neighborhoods. But there is a huge difference between reducing smog to very low levels and reducing it to zero. The former has huge health benefits and low cost. The latter has high cost and low benefits.

Most importantly, as Megan McArdle argues, regulations do not exist in a vacuum. They exist on top of and beside existing regulations.

“In one year,” wrote Warren Meyer in 2015, “I literally spent more personal time on compliance with a single regulatory issue — implementing increasingly detailed and draconian procedures so I could prove to the State of California that my employees were not working over their 30-minute lunch breaks — than I did thinking about expanding the business or getting new contracts.”

I know what you’re going to say: Employees should have lunch breaks! My answer is “Yes, but.…” Yes, but putting the government in charge of ensuring that they get them, and forcing companies to document their compliance, has real costs. They add up.

An economy with but one regulation — employees must be allowed a 30-minute lunch break, and each company has to document that it has been taken — would probably not find this much of a drag on growth. But multiply those regulations by thousands, by millions, and you start to have a problem.

(Meyer runs the oustanding Coyote Blog where he opines on economics, business and climate science. Those of who are in the climate skeptic camp could find a lot in his recent series on global warming, where he argues for the “lukewarmer” position. More germane to this, you should read his recent post about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the massive amount of paperwork it is imposing on businesses so that lawyers can file lawsuits we can achieve pay equality.)

One regulation on pollution is not a big deal. But the cumulative weight is crushing, especially on small businesses. Over the last decade, through Bush II and Obama, we have seen a steep decline in new business and IPOs. A huge number of businessmen and economists think is because of over-regulation (particularly the Sarbanes-Oxley law). Maybe the EPA is right about the economic benefits of those regulations. But even if they are, those regulations are on top of a million others, eradicating most of the supposed benefits. Taking away ten hours of a businessman’s time is nothing … unless you’ve already regulated him so badly he only had ten hours left to expand his business.

Look, no one opposes all regulation. We don’t want to go back the days when we had lead in our water, air and food. But we have long passed the point of diminishing returns. And it’s holding back our economy in a big way. McArdle again:

All of these costs have to be carefully weighed against the benefits of regulations — and not just on a regulation-by-regulation basis, as is currently done, if such cost-benefit analysis is done at all. Each hour of a firm’s time that is sucked up by compliance is an hour that is not spent growing the firm, improving the product, better serving the customer. And as the number of the hours so spent increases, and the number of precious hours spent on growth and operations shrinks, each added hour we take is more costly to both the business and to the rest of us. With labor markets lackluster and growth underwhelming, that’s a cost that none of us can well afford.

To be fair, a huge part of the problem is state and local regulation. That needs to be addressed on a state-by-state basis. But the Federal government could set the tone quite easily. The GOP Congress could pass a law that:

  • Puts a two-year moratorium on new federal regulations.
  • Mandates agency-level review of each and every regulation on the books (which might have the side benefit of actually documenting in one place how many regulations we have — no one actually knows).
  • After two years, only re-enables regulations that the agencies have documented are critical to a clean environment or worker safety or some other concrete goal.

They could set a broad goal of cutting the number of regulations in half. And then dare Obama (or Clinton) to veto it.

The biggest problem with our government right now is that our leaders are asleep at the wheel. They have let regulations, tax codes and spending grow without real supervision. That can work fine for a few years. But eventually, the clinking, clattering, cacophony of caliginous cogs and camshafts that is government starts grinding the country to a halt. Periodically, you have to take a hatchet to the regulations if the country is to function. It’s been 23 years since we did that. We are long overdue.

Cruz-Fiorina 2020

This smacks of desperation:

Ted Cruz formally named Carly Fiorina as his vice presidential running mate Wednesday — a last-ditch move to regain momentum after being mathematically eliminated from winning the GOP presidential nomination outright.

“After a great deal of consideration and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that if I am nominated to be president of the United States that I will run on a ticket with my vice presidential nominee Carly Fiorina,” Cruz said during a rally in Indianapolis.

Fiorina joined the Texas senator on stage, and Cruz’s staff changed the podium in between Cruz and Fiorina’s remarks to display a new logo featuring both their names.

Indiana and California are the last chance for Cruz to derail Trump. I’m guessing he thinks Fiorina will boost him in California. I’m also guessing he’s wrong. No one ever voted for a President based on his Vice President. In fact, given some of the hamsters we’ve had as Vice Presidential nominees — Palin, Gore, Quayle, Mondale, Agnew — I’d say the running mate is almost irrelevant to a candidate’s prospects.

End Game

Last night came very close to ending the Presidential primaries. Trump won all five primaries by decisive margins, outpacing Cruz and Kasich combined by over 300,000 votes and taking, according to one analysis, 110 of the 118 delegates. Barring a complete collapse in Indiana and California, he is likely not only to have a plurality of delegates but a majority. The hopes of a contested convention would appear dashed.

This was obvious to me a while ago when Paul Ryan took himself out of the running for a contested convention. It would have been political suicide for him to offer himself as a candidate if Trump won. I think that Ryan, being one of the smartest people in politics, saw the writing on the wall and wanted no part of that. I also think this is why Christie and others have been flocking to Trump since this election season has shown that a) endorsements don’t ultimately make a difference in the outcome; b) endorsements do make a difference in cozying up to the nominee. And, the more I think about it, the more I think Cruz and Kasich saw this as well. The last few weeks, it has seemed more like they are running for 2020 than 2016.

So this is it. Trump 2016. Despite a media insistence that it wouldn’t happen, despite an onslaught of opposition, despite constant “gaffes”. I think we can finally retire the notion that media elites know what they’re talking about.

I don’t expect this will go well. Trump might win. His opponent is Hillary, after all. But the possibility of an electoral massacre looms large. Trump is trying to pivot to the center but I don’t see that working for two reasons: Trump can’t keep his damned mouth shut; Trump is already well-known. This isn’t like Romney where he could rebuild his image to a public that hadn’t been paying attention.

There will be a lot of post mortems and I’m sure the media will find a way to blame it on Southerners or something. But make no mistake: Trump won almost everyone in the GOP tent. He won the supposedly more intelligent and urbane East Coast elites by massive margins. The only people who opposed him were midwesterners and Mormons, the latter of whom overwhelmingly rejected him. So I don’t want to hear any more crap about the supposed intellectual deficiencies of people in flyover country or the supposed craziness of Mormons. They were the only ones who kept their wits about them.

Clinton won four of five states, increasing her delegate lead to the point of being insurmountable. I’m sure there will be a lot of post mortems of the Sanders campaign, too. My take? Well, Sanders did way better than anyone expected, mostly because people don’t like Hillary Clinton. But, in the end, Clinton had too many advantages: heavy support among blacks, backing of the party elites, support from unions and special interests, name recognition. Moreover, as the campaign went on, Sanders was exposed as a guy who was long on rhetoric and short on policy detail. His foreign policy credentials didn’t exist. His plan to pay for all his new spending didn’t work. His answers to detailed questions got increasingly evasive. You can only go so far with huge glittering promises of free shit.

So here we are: the contest no one wanted. Clinton v. Trump in the contest to see who the voters dislike more. If the Libertarian Party can’t get a significant part of the vote this year …

Bernie to the Left of Sweden

Reason ran a great article this week, pointing out again that Bernie Sanders idea that we should be more like Sweden ignores the reality of Sweden is like these days:

Bernie Sanders thinks the U.S. should look to Sweden and other Scandinavian countries to “learn what they have accomplished for their working people.” The Vermont senator has said so repeatedly throughout his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, prompting GOP rival Marco Rubio to say, “I think Bernie Sanders is a good candidate for president—of Sweden.”

This reality will not endear my home country to American socialists, but it’s better to be hated for the right reasons than to be loved for the wrong ones, as the saying goes. Being more like modern Sweden actually means deregulation, free trade, a national school voucher system, partially privatized pensions, no property tax, no inheritance tax, and much lower corporate taxes. Sorry to burst your bubble, Bernie.

Sanders ideas of … really, everything … seem not to have moved much from the 1960’s ground in which they were sewed. Nowhere is this more pronounced than on economic policy. He still thinks of the Scandinavian countries as bastions of socialism when all of them have moved in a decidedly laissez faire direction over the last twenty years: smaller government, free trade and economic deregulation. They are still way more socialist than the United States. But all rank as “mostly free” in the Heritage Foundation’s economic freedom, with Denmark having occasionally ranked as more free than the United States. All of them rank ahead of us on Cato’s Human Freedom Index by dint of having more personal freedom and comparable economic freedom.

I think a large part of Bernie’s success so far has been that he’s not Clinton. The party elite and the Clintons themselves went to great efforts to preclude an alternative to Clinton this year (even, some conspiracy theorists think, to the point of encouraging Trump to run). Sanders, however, is not a Democrat and is not controlled by them. So he ran a real campaign and not a token one. The result has been a surge of support because his earnestness is so refreshing by comparison to Clinton’s deviousness.

I also think a large part, however, was the novelty. It’s been a while since an avowed socialist was on the political scene and I think that appealed to a lot of Democrats. However, Bernie’s ideas are as outdated now as they were when Bill Clinton reformed the Democratic Party back in ’92. And polls have shown that support for Bernie’s ideas evaporate when people become aware of how much they will cost (as the Sweden article notes, you can’t fund a welfare state entirely on the backs of the rich).

That’s why I think Clinton will still win this thing. As the hope of spring turns into the realities of summer/fall, people will remember why we don’t elect honest-to-God socialists in this country. And they will turn away from the junk food that is Sanders to the broccoli that is Clinton.