24 October 2019

Trump as Your Rogue Mailman

Trump creates so much daily chaos that it is easy to lose track of why Congress has moved ahead with impeachment hearings. A simple analogy to explain his conversation with the Ukrainian president might help.

Congress authorizes social security payments. Of course, they are just legislators so they don’t actually deliver the check to recipients. Your mailman – a part of the executive branch – does that.

Imagine that the mailman tells the social security recipients on his route that he’s running for city council and he will give them their check but first they have to make a public statement claiming that his political opponent is involved in a corruption scandal.

Once this is revealed, you would expect an investigation into the mailman’s behavior. You would not be surprised if he were fired.

So, what does that have to do with Trump’s situation?

Congress – the House and Senate – authorized money for the Ukraine. Why? Largely to defend itself from Russia. Russia has already invaded – and now occupies – the Crimea. (Another quick analogy? Imagine that Mexico had taken Texas from the US because a chunk of its residents spoke Spanish. That’s essentially what Russia did by invading and taking Crimea from the Ukraine.) Russia may have plans to take more – perhaps even all – of the Ukraine. The US would rather deter Russia with a show of support than to wait for Russia to again attack and force the US and NATO to either just watch Russia conquer the Ukraine or force a war between NATO (the Ukraine is not a member of NATO but has applied to join) and Russia. Congress wants to check Putin’s aspiration for conquering former Soviet territory.

Trump, apparently, does not.

Just like social security checks, Congress has authorized money for the Ukraine. Just like social security checks, Congress does not actually deliver the check. Trump’s White House – which is, like the post office, a part of the executive branch – delivers that money. And just like our rogue mailman, Trump was using his position of power to withhold money as a way to get something of personal value. He was asking the Ukrainian president to declare that they were investigating Joe Biden for corruption before Trump would deliver the Ukraine money Congress had already authorized.

Trump is not a monarch. He is subject to laws just as every other citizen. And when he uses the executive office to extort foreign heads of state to do him a personal favor, he is as much in violation of law as the mailman who extorts the social security check recipients on his route. 

16 October 2019

Some Policies my Ideal 2020 Candidate Would Pursue

My ideal candidate would take the following positions on these issues.


  • Make it easy for entrepreneurs to succeed.
    • incubators in communities the way earlier generations planted libraries and universities as just one of the many support structures to put in place to make more citizens more entrepreneurial. Do all we can to make citizens wildly successful and then tax the ones who achieve success at high rates (say, marginal tax rates double that of middle class) to pay for investing in the next round of new entrepreneurs.
  • Make a huge investment in research
    • We will spend about $3.5 billion on DARPA - Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - this year. DARPA has helped to fund amazing technologies that helped birth modern computers, smart phones and satellites. We are still counting the trillions in returns on early investments of millions and billions in DARPA. I would match the DoD's R-and-D spending with similar levels of spending on Department of Education, Department of Energy, etc. to something like the table above. This would not only employ a growing number of doctoral graduates (we could conservatively assume about 140,000 new jobs for staff and leading researchers with the numbers above) but would lead to returns of trillions in the future as we solve problems of energy, commute times, poverty, environment, etc. Entrepreneurs can translate this research into development, creating new wealth and jobs in the process of deploying new processes, services and products that build on this research.
  • Make it easy for employees to use corporations as tools for creating wealth
    • Laws requiring mechanisms inside of corporations that allow employees to create wealth through innovation and entrepreneurship and dictating that between 0.5% to 2% of that corporation's employees are paid more than the CEO as a result.
  • Tax inheritance more than capital gains more than income
  • Massive spending on research on alternative energy, upgrading infrastructure to reduce carbon emissions and the introduction of carbon tax. Innovate our way out of a fossil fuel economy.
Social policy
  • Make it easy for single moms to succeed
    • Make high-quality childcare free
    • Sex is one of the most wonderful acts and rape is one of the worst. The main difference is consent. Pregnancy and childbirth is one of the most wonderful acts ... unless it is forced on you by others, in which case it is one of the worst. It should be the choice of individual women about whether and when to have sex or babies, not the choice of the men in their community. 
  • Annually - and aggressively - reduce childhood poverty
  • Provide universal healthcare
    • This would include death panels and other criteria about what level of care we have a right to and what level of care the community should not be billed for.
  • Transform K-16 into an education system that creates a common sense of community but a wildly diverse workforce that includes the knowledge workers that are the primary focus of schools today AND trades, entrepreneurs, makers, government and service workers and other emerging career paths
  • Treat investigative reporting like research. That is, it should be funded by the government with oversight of the agenda by citizen boards. (We should more aggressively follow the example of the BBC.)
  • People whose data is key to the success of a social platform (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) should receive a portion of that platform's revenue (idea taken from Andrew Yang).