The Age Old Problem

It’s getting more difficult to discuss sexual misconduct allegations, perhaps because we’ve not addressed the important question Ruth Marcus ask in her column today:

The national debate over sexual harassment and sexual assault has reached an important and precarious moment as it shifts from what behavior is acceptable to what punishment is warranted. Having under-reacted for too long, are we now at risk of overreacting?

She has made a salient point.  Is James A. disqualified from advancement because he patted a female fanny in times gone by? Is David B. disqualified from elected office because he has a documented history of advances on underage girls?  Must Kevin C. resign because three women accuse him of improper behavior in the office? Must William D. resign because he settled one or more allegations of improper behavior out of court with non-disclosure agreements attached?

In short, the more women share their stories, the more complex the situation becomes because every situation is as different as the individuals and situation involved.  Each of us is going to have to establish a framework for judgments, and there are some areas in which we should be in general agreement.

No one wants to be humiliated, objectified, and victimized.  If someone’s behavior has that effect on someone else, then it’s bad. Period.  Now, comes the hard part — how bad?

There’s Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, and Donald Trump level bad.  Multiple women have leveled multiple credible allegations of sexual misconduct, some of which fall into the illegal activity category, against these men.  And, now, as Washington Post columnist Marcus suggests, how do we evaluate other, less serious charges?

Do we toss all the pigs to the wolves?  Must every Congressman, Senator, or Staffer resign at the first instance in which an allegation is offered?  Does every producer, reporter, business executive have to pack up the office after being charged in the court of public opinion? The One Size Fits All response certainly appears to simplify the problem but in fact may serve to make the overall situation more complicated.

No one should argue that a woman must feel any form of discomfort about coming forward to complain about crude behavior.  Period.  However, What does she do in a Zero Tolerance workplace about the co-worker at the office party who’s had at least one too many from the open bar and did something for which he apologized profusely the next morning?  Does it depend on “what he did?” On what he said afterwards? On how credible she finds his apology?

Perhaps one way to consider the problem is to operate from the premise: Believe the Women.  If she’s not satisfied, I’m probably not either.  If she is satisfied with the resulting actions, I’m probably OK with the solution.  I do reserve a modicum of skepticism for those whose allegations appear specious or whose persistence is all out of proportion to the available facts.  (I’m thinking here of a woman whose allegations were once dismissed by Ken Starr.)

I do advocate for a woman’s right to choose when to report instances of sexual harassment or misconduct.  It should be HER call.  Questions of assault, rape, and abuse are in another category in my estimation — these are legal issues in which the standards of the legal system should apply.  Meanwhile….

What do we do with garden variety creeps?  The fellows who don’t make physical contact but who can clear the room simply by being in it.  What do we do with the man who only refers applications from men to HR for follow up interviews?  What do we think of men who are perfectly comfortable with the belief that men should earn more than women for the same job because he’s supposed to be “bringing home the bacon?”

There’s one solution I think will work to mitigate the problems — hire more women, select more women, elect more women.  Then I await the day when some fellow in the interview waiting room worries that his suit may make him look fatter….

Advertisements

Comments Off on The Age Old Problem

Filed under Politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

To Do List In Preparation For A Post GOP Tax Plan Life

I’d write a longer post today, but I feel the need to get started on my Post GOP Tax Plan financial life.  First, I need to get cracking on the purchase of my private jet.  I’ve been thinking of a Gulfstream G650,  but I may have to settle for a Dassault Falcon 900.  Either way I am assured that I can deduct the expenses involved in this purchase.  So, some public school teachers have to dig into their pockets for paper, and other school supplies, for someone else’s children? So. What.  If those needy-greedies will just have some patience I might get around to hiring someone who lives in their district who might pay property taxes.  But, maybe not.

Speaking of education,  I should get on the horn and let younger relatives who are in graduate school know that the tax plan benefiting the Rich will mean that they will be liable for taxes on their tuition waivers — that they’re actually earning some sub-minimal pittance for slaving away on research which will never bear their names is of no consequence.  Well, at least they can file their returns on one sheet of paper.

Meanwhile, I ought to look into getting my offspring into some pricier private schools. Why? Because I can deduct the costs of their pricey-private-tuition while those silly grad students, especially the ones in STEM subjects, will be paying on their tuition waivers and  won’t be able to deduct the interest on their student loans. They could be looking at 400% increases in their taxes. Bad for them. So nice for me!

This means I will be able to focus on the important things in my life, like managing my tax deductible golf courses.  After all, golf is relaxing, relaxed people are more productive, and more productive people earn more. Therefore, they are of greater good to society.  Greater, that is, in comparison to those little drones who manicure the greens and keep the landscaping trimmed.

And, what a lovely gift to the Middle Class that they will not have to deduct the interest on their home mortgages on properties costing more than $500K.  They shouldn’t be shopping in those districts anyway.  So, housing prices are a little creepy in some areas? Pretty high in some parts of the country?  Just stay away from high market homes in areas with high paying jobs! Problem solved.

Okay, there might be some security issues — like disallowing deductions for state and local property taxes means that police, fire, and emergency services will get pinched. But, this is a small price to pay for Freedom from Big Government. Or little government. Or, any government.   There could be some quality of life issues too.  Eliminating deductions for SALT could mean further pressure on budgets for public hospitals, schools, parks, and libraries.  Oh well, nothing the Gotrocks Family has to deal with.

The bills could, however hurt my accountant — if the inheritance tax is eliminated and the AMT is gone, then I don’t have to worry about creating elaborate tax dodging schemes to prevent paying “more than I should,” meaning — more than I want to.  However, this doesn’t necessarily mean my accountant should be all that worried. After all, I can still ask him to find ways to further protect my gains — like turning the Gotrocks Family into the Gotrocks Family LLC so we get the benefits of the Pass Through Loophole.

The House version of the Great Tax Shift (Did I mean to type “Shaft?”) eliminates deductions for major medical expenses.  Perhaps my accountant’s employees should hope for the Senate version, in case I give them heart attacks with my continual demands that they find more ways to hide more of my money.  Only old people have big medical expenses anyway.  Ah, the good old days when Grandpa died in his bed at home, surrounded by family.  Why should he go to a hospital for palliative care when it would be cheaper to pass away on the sofa?  The House version also eliminates the deduction for alimony payments — now, this could be an issue!

Too much alimony and I might have to head to a foreign country?  No problem.  The tax plan could help.  Remember that major short term tax breaks go to corporations.  Foreign investors own about 35% of all shares, thus when the short term benefits of the tax plan go to shareholders — Shazaam! — of the $200 billion in savings expected by the corporations 35% will go to foreign investors.  That could be something like $70 billion?

So, as I gaze upon the picture of the Secretary of the Treasury and his bride proudly displaying a whole sheet of wonderful Money, I remember that the Tax Plan is meant for the Gotrocks (LLC) — who benefit from university research but don’t want to pay for it, who benefit from local police, fire, and emergency services, but don’t want to pay for it, who benefit from schools, parks, and libraries, but don’t want to pay for them.

Happy the Gotrocks will be when there is no AMT to insure we pay at least Something. When there is no inheritance tax!  When those Little People Out There In The Dark will be paying to support the services I enjoy!  On behalf of the Gotrocks Family LLC: God Bless America!

Comments Off on To Do List In Preparation For A Post GOP Tax Plan Life

Filed under Economy, Politics, Taxation

Amodei’s Wonderland: Wherein Economic Vision Becomes Hallucination

One of the more confusing statements from Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) concerns how the Republican Tax Scam will affect the economy:

(Part A) “With respect to the effect on businesses, Main Street job creators will see their tax rates reduced through the lowering of the maximum tax rate on business income to no more than 25%. (Part B) Additionally, federal tax rates on corporate taxable income will see a decrease from the highest rate of 35% to a flat corporate tax rate of 20%. (Part C) Each of these changes will help businesses and corporations expand, hire new employees, increase wages, and also give them the resources they need to stay competitive in the global marketplace.”  [Amodei] (“parts” added for discussion)

Let’s begin with Part A, those “main street job creators” are the high income earners discussed yesterday as be beneficiaries of the Pass Through Loophole.   It really doesn’t matter if the firm’s address is Main Street, 5th Avenue, or Wall Street, the result is essentially the same.  After telling Nevadans not to worry about losing their most popular deductions because not all that many people use them and the new standard deductions will take care of them,  Amodei doesn’t apply the same test to the business and corporate deductions.  That Pass Through Loophole, by any and all other names, has resulted in massive revenue losses in Kansas, the state which imprudently serves as a laboratory for the GOP’s ideological economics.  Let’s not confuse Mom and Pop’s Midtown Market with the capital management firm of Grabbem, Gouggem, & Howe.   Both may “create jobs” but there’s no comparison in terms of how much of a tax break each will receive for having essentially the same number of employees.

Moving along to Part B:  Yes.  At present there’s a plethora of corporate accountants employed to create a situation in which a top rate of 39.1% becomes an effective rate far below that maximum rate.  One study of Fortune 500 companies reached the following conclusions:

  • As a group, the 258 corporations paid an effective federal income tax rate of 21.2 percent over the eight-year period, slightly over half the statutory 35 percent tax rate.

  • Eighteen of the corporations, including General Electric, International Paper, Priceline.com and PG&E, paid no federal income tax at all over the eight-year period. A fifth of the corporations (48) paid an effective tax rate of less than 10 percent over that period.
  • Of those corporations in our sample with significant offshore profits, more than half paid higher corporate tax rates to foreign governments where they operate than they paid in the United States on their U.S. profits.

Now, if they’re starting at 39.1% and getting their taxes down by half or even more at present — imagine what they can do when they start from 20-25% and work their way down?  For example, the “intangible drilling costs” loophole seems not to have closed up at all in the House version, and this while it’s acknowledged that seismic testing has significantly reduced the prospect of drilling dry holes.  The old Depletion Allowance survives as it always does, even if other deductions for mere mortals do not.

Or, consider the creative ways corporations use depreciation.  The House Ways and Means Committee version allows corporations to write off the depreciation for new equipment immediately.  Nice, if one is looking for a way to get from 20% down to a 10% tax rate or less.  [WaPo]  Not to put too fine a point to it, but while mere mortals are expected to absorb the elimination of student loan interest deductions, home mortgage interest deductions, and major medical expense deductions — the corporations go almost untouched.

Part C is unalloyed wishful thinking.  Walter Isaacson observes in his new book about Da Vinci that “vision without implementation is hallucination,” and this GOP canard is an almost perfect example.   Where the Tax Cut Fairy Waves Her Magic Wand wonders ensue — commerce increases, new employees will be hired, employees will have higher wages, and we will be “more competitive.”

Let’s step back from the hallucinations and observe what happens in the real world of employment:

“Service businesses, in which payroll is the major cost of providing the service, can take on higher payroll percentages since the payroll is, in fact, producing the revenue. There is likely to be no other significant cost of services to be provided. In such situations, payroll can reach the 50% mark without destroying profitability. Manufacturers, however, must maintain a payroll figure closer to 30% or less as the business must endure the cost of manufacturing the widget plus the payroll. Same with restaurants, given the high cost of food the payroll must stay under thirty percent.”

In order to lend any credence to the overblown rhetoric of GOP apologists for reducing corporate taxes and enacting pass-through loopholes, we have to merge all hiring from all sectors into one grand lump.  No matter the tax rate, what really matters is that the widget factory can keep its payroll allocations to 30% or less of its costs.  Nor can we argue that the sector with the highest payroll allocation, “service,” is all created equal.  This tertiary sector includes everything from health care to banking to education, to media and communications.   At the risk of continuous redundancy, the tax rate doesn’t determine payroll allocation — no one will be hired to do anything unless there is a demand for the goods or services beyond the capability of current staffing levels to deliver an acceptable level of consumer or client satisfaction.

Employees will have higher wages if the corporation gets a tax cut?  Probably not.  We can wade into the deeply arcane economic theoretical weeds and talk about the relationship between labor costs and tax liabilities, but let’s keep our feet on the ground instead.

Nevada has a fairly unique economy given one of our major sectors is “hospitality,” (or how to house, feed, and amuse people whom we want to leave behind large sums of money) establishments.  Therefore, there’s nothing surprising about finding out that we’ll need about 191,141 people working in food service in 2018; a growth rate of 2.8% with about 5,048 new positions expected. [DETR download]  The mean wage for food service workers is $12.74 per hour.  Most dealers are earning about $8.57 plus tips.  What will drive up food service and dealers’ wages?  Which is more likely to drive increases in food services wages: (a) more customers or (b) a bigger tax cut for corporate headquarters?

If you answered “b” then you are willing to wait for the calculations to be completed concerning how much the corporation should allocate for payroll expenditures, and then try to bank the results from this theory:

“Why would anyone think slashing corporate tax rates would increase workers’ wages in the first place? The theory endorsed by the CEA relies on three steps to get from corporate tax cuts to higher wages. First, the corporate tax cut increases companies’ after-tax returns on investment. As a result, firms will make more investments in plant and equipment than they would in a higher-tax-rate environment. Second, greater investment by firms leads to higher productivity by the workers who put those investments to work. Third and finally, workers will receive increased wages in line with those productivity gains.” [vox]

And, if you believe this I have a lovely bridge over the Humboldt River to sell you.  Why? Because corporations can do lots of other things with those savings — higher executive compensation, mergers and acquisitions, stock buy backs, and dividend payments.

Short Form:  Representative Amodei’s analysis requires redefining “job creators,” as those titans of the financial system who don’t necessarily become those doing the hiring; and requires disconnecting wages and salaries from the accepted wisdom about payroll allocation; and, means a person has to roll the dice and hope that the corporation trickles the money down to the counter-man.  In Isaacson’s parlance:  It’s vision without implementation.

Comments Off on Amodei’s Wonderland: Wherein Economic Vision Becomes Hallucination

Filed under Economy, Nevada, Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Politics

Passing the Tax Burden to Working Americans Via The Pass Through Loophole

Please excuse me while I jump up and down on this keyboard trying to flag attention to one of the most egregious GOP give-aways to the top 1% of American income earners.  It isn’t as though the Pass Through Loophole hasn’t garnered attention, it just doesn’t seem to have broken through the dismal cloud of information and misinformation about the GOP tax plan and into enough sunlight.

“The big one in the tax plan issued last week by the GOP and President Trump involves what’s known opaquely as “pass-through” business income. Even that term might have been too revealing, so the document the Republicans issued described it even more obscurely as a “tax rate structure for small businesses.” That’s also dishonest, however, because the businesses it affects are often nothing like “small.” [LAT]

There’s nothing new about legislative obfuscation of legislative intent — but this one is a major way to ease the burden on the 1% and put more pressure on the working and middle class Americans to make up the difference.   Here’s how it works:

“Pass-through” income is business income that’s reported to the IRS only by individual owners of, or partners in, the business. These businesses can be organized as partnerships, S-corporations, or sole proprietorships. They’re distinguished from C-corporations, which are almost always big businesses with public stockholders; C-corporations pay the corporate income tax, and the shareholders pay personal income tax on their dividends and capital gains.

In other words, if a business is a partnership, S-corporation, or a sole proprietorship it doesn’t pay corporate tax rates.  The income earned is reported by individuals.  Now, here’s how the Republican plan would specifically benefit the top 1%:

Currently, the top marginal individual rate is 39.6%; the new tax proposal would reduce the top rate on pass-through income to 25%. Pass-through income from an S-corporation, by the way, already is exempted from the Affordable Care Act surcharges that raised the top income tax rate on some high-income earners by as much as 4.7 percentage points.

So, if the business is an S-corporation, sole proprietorship, or partnership the tax rate is 25%.   Thus, if Desert Beacon were to become Desert Beacon LLC the income tax reduction would be from a maximum of 39.6% to 25%.   Now, who are those who tend to form the businesses which qualify for the LLC Loophole?

“Pass-through business income is substantially more concentrated among high-earners” than traditional business income, Treasury Department economist Michael Cooper and several colleagues observed in a 2015 paper. They also found that about one-fifth of it went to partners that were hard to identify, and 15% got sucked up into circles of partnership-owning partnerships, complicating IRS analyses.”

I sincerely hope the reader isn’t too surprised that these tax avoidance strategies are practiced mostly by high-earners.   Let’s take a closer look at the summary of that 2015 NBER paper:

Pass-through” businesses like partnerships and S-corporations now generate over half of U.S. business income and account for much of the post-1980 rise in the top- 1% income share. We use administrative tax data from 2011 to identify pass-through business owners and estimate how much tax they pay. We present three findings. (1) Relative to traditional business income, pass-through business income is substantially more concentrated among high-earners. (2) Partnership ownership is opaque: 20% of the income goes to unclassifiable partners, and 15% of the income is earned in circularly owned partnerships. (3) The average federal income tax rate on U.S. pass- through business income is 19%|much lower than the average rate on traditional corporations. If pass-through activity had remained at 1980’s low level, strong but straightforward assumptions imply that the 2011 average U.S. tax rate on total U.S. business income would have been 28% rather than 24%, and tax revenue would have been approximately $100 billion higher. (emphasis added)

Therefore, if someone is trying to pass this off as a “middle class” tax cut, or a “small business” tax cut, the appropriate (and perhaps most polite) response is BALDERDASH.

It should come as no surprise that Kansas, under the spell of Brownback-ism, tried opening the LLC loophole as a way to “create jobs.”  It failed, and failed miserably.  Not only did the state find itself in a terrible revenue position, losing money for schools, transportation, and other government services, but it allowed high-income earners to stash more cash.  Case in point: KU basketball coach Bill Self was avoiding most Kansas income taxes on his $3 million salary by parking most of his earnings in an LLC.  Even some of the tax freeloaders were beginning to feel like tax freeloaders by late Summer 2016.  [see also NYT]

And, no one should suggest the amount of money lost because of the ‘reformed’ Kansas tax structure was negligible:

For fiscal year 2014, which ended on June 30, the state collected $330 million less in taxes than it had forecast, and $700 million less than it had collected in the prior year.  Those are big numbers in a state that spends about $6 billion annually from its general fund, and the revenue weakness led both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s to cut Kansas’ credit rating this year. [NYT]

The situation hasn’t gotten any better.   There were promises made:

In 2012, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill that, among other things, substantially cut the state’s top tax rate and exempted “pass-through” business income from taxation (President Trump’s tax plan includes a similar loophole). The architects of Brownback’s plan predicted that it would provide an “immediate and lasting boost” to the state’s economy.

And promises not kept. The 2017 numbers are truly remarkable, and not in a good way:

Real GDP growth in Kansas since the fourth quarter of 2012 (Brownback’s cuts took effect in January 2013) has been relatively slow, at 6.1 percent through the third quarter of 2016. That’s about three-fourths of U.S. GDP growth over that same period (8.3 percent). A similar story holds for private employment growth: 5.0 percent in Kansas between December 2012 and March 2017, 9.1 percent in the U.S. overall. [WaPo]

The Kansas Legislature was so disappointed in the Great Brownback Experiment it voted to change the tax law — and the governor vetoed their bill.

“Unfortunately, that part of the plan — what Brownback called an economic “shot of adrenaline ” — hasn’t materialized. The state’s budget deficit ballooned to $350 million. And the small-business provision also created new ways for residents to avoid taxes, meaning more lost tax revenue and compliance headaches for the state.” [Time]

Just what we don’t need — lost tax revenue and compliance headaches.  The bottom line of this easy route to the bottom is that:

(1) Claims that pass through exemptions and tax cuts will create new revenue have already prove erroneous.  Witness what happened to Kansas.

(2) The loss of revenue from the pass through exemptions was serious and exacerbated an already tight budget situation.

(3) Claims that the tax ‘reform’ would help small middle class business owners proved elusive — the overwhelming numbers of those who benefited, and will benefit, were high income earners.

This would be a good time to contact Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) to let him know that no one is fooled by changing the name from “pass through” to “tax rate structure for small business;” it’s still a way to shift the burden of maintaining government services from high income earners to middle and working class Americans.   The Senator can be reached at 202-224-6244; 775-686-5770; or 702-388-6605.

Comments Off on Passing the Tax Burden to Working Americans Via The Pass Through Loophole

Filed under Economy, income tax, Politics, tax revenue, Taxation

Watching the Bear Raid the Pantry: Trump Administration Invitation by Inaction

One of the most profoundly disturbing moments during testimony given by Attorney General Jeff Sessions to the House Judiciary Committee was his response to Rep. Brad Schneider:

“When the attorney general appeared before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) asked him about the department’s efforts to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference in the future. Sessions told the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that election security policies needed to be reviewed, but didn’t have any updates to offer on Tuesday.

“I have not followed through to see where we are on that and I will personally take action to do so,” Sessions said. “There are a lot of things that have been happening, and we’ve been working on a lot of great agenda items, but this one is important, and I acknowledge that, and I should be able to give you better information today than I am.”  [HuffPo]

Let’s review.  The Russians sought to break into at least 21 state election systems, and may have attempted to hack into as many as 39.  The Russians launched a social media influence campaign replete with bots, and posts, and promotions.   The Russians attacked the computer systems of the Democratic Party.  The Republican response to these three elements has been, and continues to be, completely unsatisfactory.

The White House reply has ranged from “it didn’t happen because Putin said it didn’t,” to a bizarre conspiracy theory in which it’s the Democrats who conspired with the Russians (to lose the election?), to “it may have happened but who can tell who did it.”   At the risk of redundancy, it’s not like there haven’t been security assessments published since last January refuting this nonsense.  However, too often we lose track of an essential piece of this state of denial:  The administration appears to believe that this  activity wasn’t serious because no one can prove that election results were changed in any way.  The is a goal post with serious policy ramifications.

This is almost tantamount to arguing that since the bear didn’t eat so much food during his raid on the pantry as to cause family members to starve,  then the raid wasn’t actually serious.

It offers an excuse for Attorney General Sessions’ inactivity.  After all if nothing serious happened, then why should the Department of Justice assign assets toward investigating the problem?   The second paragraph quoted above is perhaps the most disturbing.  If we take the Attorney General at his word that the Russian interference is “serious” then why has he nothing to report to the House Judiciary Committee?

Because other items were more important? “We’ve been working on a lot of great agenda items.”   And what might these be?  A Muslim immigration ban?  A ban on recruiting transgender individuals in the US military?  I wish the Representative, or other Representatives, had ask what “other great agenda items?” And, why are these are more important than attempts to interfere in US elections?

Back to the bear in the pantry — The bear’s pantry raid wasn’t all that important because we’ve been busy replacing the carpeting in the living room.   There was an addendum to Attorney General Sessions’ comments:

“He added that states needed to review their election vulnerabilities, and that the FBI and intelligence community could play a key role in stopping hacking. He said he did not dispute the conclusion of the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. There’s no evidence that any votes were changed by hackers.

Federal and state officials have faced significant obstacles in trying to coordinate their response to election hacking. The Department of Homeland Security waited until this September to notify 21 states that Russian hackers had targeted them last year. Election officials in two of those states ― California and Wisconsin ― then turned around and accused the department of giving them bad information.”

There he goes again — the actual election returns weren’t rendered bogus, then there’s nothing to see here.  Or, no one starved so the pantry raid wasn’t important — but wait, the FBI and intelligence community COULD  “play a key role in stopping hacking.”   Could?

The FBI and intelligence community COULD assist states — but they didn’t notify 21 states until THIS September, and then two of the states got inaccurate information.  Nothing says “this isn’t a priority” quite like delaying important warnings for months and then not checking to see if the warning contents were accurate.

After the bear ate his fill from the family pantry …”we’d like to inform you that you had a bear in your pantry last Summer, but it could have been raccoons, and although the door frame was damaged, they could have gotten in through that back door, or maybe it was the window.”

As of this November:

“Most states’ elections officials still don’t have the security clearances necessary to have a thorough discussion with federal officials about what’s known about Russian, or others’, efforts to hack into their systems.

Seven states still use all-electronic voting systems whose results cannot be verified because there is no paper trail.

And hundreds of US counties rely on outside contractors to maintain their registration records and update the software on voting machines. Some of those contractors are small operations with few employees and minimal computer security skills.”

In other words — the back door frame still hasn’t been repaired, there’s still a batch of open cartons of food in the pantry, and back fence can be easily scaled by all but the most geriatric ursine intruder.

The bear will be back.  And if he had fun in the pantry, imagine how much fulfilling fun he’ll have in the kitchen?

Comments Off on Watching the Bear Raid the Pantry: Trump Administration Invitation by Inaction

Filed under Politics

The Power and the Vainglory: Roy Moore’s Sad Mad Power Grab

American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson described Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, without ever meeting him: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”   The expression actually goes back a bit further in English literature, appearing as “counting spoons” in James Boswell’s The Life of Samuel Johnson.

“Why Sir, if the fellow does not think as he speaks he is lying; and I see not what honour  he can propose to himself from having the character of a liar.  But if he does really think there is no distinction between virtue and vice, why, Sir when he leaves our houses let us count our spoons.”

The metaphor has lost some of its relevancy in an age wherein table spoons come not just in pewter or silver, but in aluminum, stainless steel, and various kinds of plastic.  However, it holds its force as a description of the prudent response to voluble protestations of (self) righteousness.

Did we not wonder why the man was so vehemently anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-modernity?  Why he insisted beyond all reason that a massive monument to the Ten Commandments be installed in his courthouse?   Most counties are satisfied with a smaller, more tasteful, monument located on a nice piece of manicured lawn.  Not so Mr. Moore.  Most public officers were, at least grudgingly, willing to abide by the law of the land on gay marriage.  Not so Mr. Moore.

Most people in this country are willing to tolerate a range of beliefs, even if such beliefs are personally objectionable.  Not so Mr. Moore, who is essentially an eliminationist.  Those with whom he disagrees should be silenced.  Those of whom he does not approve must be incarcerated.   Some scholars have associated the Nazi eliminationism with native antisemitism.  The combination was violently toxic and heinously lethal.  Moore espouses a particularly vehement hatred of Muslims — they are to be excluded from public office and civil society.  Moore has decried that the “government started creating new rights in 1965.”  The date is instructive.  The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and the decision in Griswold v. Connecticut was rendered in 1965.  Mr. Moore is nothing new on the face of the earth. He’s as old as patriarchal tribal conflict.

He’s as old as the theories of female responsibility for leading First Man astray, as old as the opponents of the cults of Isis, Aphrodite, and  Mother Earth.  There’s no single point of origin for misogyny, but Mr. Moore can find plenty of carefully selected Biblical passages to buttress his prejudices.  We could also assemble a number of equally carefully selected passages to oppose his views.  The common denominator for these views precipitate down to Power.  Not necessarily sex, but power of one gender over another.

This isn’t about a cultural issue, although support for Mr. Moore can be utilized as a “political wedge issue,” under the category of Culture Wars.  However, no matter how it’s implemented, it’s still not a cultural issue. It’s still about good old fashioned garden variety power.

Why else would a 30+ year old man seek the attentions of teenage girls?  Why else would a man grope? Not because it’s a form of play — but because it’s a display of power.  And that’s the last thing Mr. Moore needs to possess — more power over anyone, anywhere, anytime.  The good people of Alabama deserve better representation than that which is so sadly demonstrated by Mr. Moore.

Comments Off on The Power and the Vainglory: Roy Moore’s Sad Mad Power Grab

Filed under Nativism, Politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Get Along Little Dogie, but not to Asian Markets

The President was pleased to tell anyone watching his Twitter feed that his trip to Asia was a Wonderful, Biggest Ever In History, Success.  Not. So. Fast.  Especially “not so fast” if a person is in the cattle business, and most of the cattle business in Nevada is in the northern part of the State:

“Range livestock production is predominate in Nevada with well over half of the farms raising cattle or sheep. The highest concentrations of cattle are in the northern part of the State. Cow-calf operations are most common type of operation and Elko county ranks among the leading counties in the Nation in number of beef cows. “

So, when the administration announced it was pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership the rug got pulled from under any notions that Asian nations would increase their importation of beef from the US.  The Japanese and Chinese governments announced their own policies, and neither was amenable to imports from America:

“Japan announced it was increasing its tariff on imports of frozen beef from 38% to 50% until next April. The decision affects all countries with which it does not have a free trade agreement. That would include the United States.

Second, according to reporting that appears to be exclusive to Politico, the agreement the Trump administration made with China required that the beef be free of artificial growth hormones or additives that make the meat leaner. Unfortunately, most of the U.S. cattle industry relies on the hormones or the additives or both, according to the reporting.”

When Trump touted “America First” that translated to “America out of the market” as the administration bumbled through bilateral agreements.  The result was predictable, US beef imports to Japan dropped 26% from last year. [FBN]  Those who advocated bi-lateral, as opposed to multi-national agreements, argued that the former would allow negotiators to directly address issues.  Obviously, that didn’t happen.  Meanwhile, back in Beijing:

“The role of China in global beef markets has evolved rapidly in recent years.  Despite being a large beef producing and consuming nation for many years, China has never been a player in global beef markets until recently.  For many years China neither imported nor exported much beef. However, since 2012, growing beef consumption has resulted in a rapid increase in beef imports as consumption outpaced beef production in China.  China emerged as the second largest beef importing country in 2016.  Major beef suppliers to China in 2016 were Brazil (29 percent of total Chinese imports); Uruguay (27 percent); Australia (19 percent); New Zealand (12 percent) and Argentina (9 percent).   In 2017, Chinese beef imports are projected at 950 thousand metric tons, up 17 percent from 2016.”

So, can we expect progress on opening Chinese markets to American grown beef as a result of this recent trip to Asia?  Probably not.

“Business deals announced by the president are tentative agreements that may not be fulfilled. And while the president railed against what he viewed as systemic flaws in the U.S. trading relationship with its Asian partners, he neither publicly requested nor received specific assurances to address issues like market access and intellectual property theft.”

The beneficiaries of this administration policy appears to be the Australians.  An agreement reached last March allowed greater access to Australian imports of frozen beef: “The joint statement between China and Australia means the number of meat processors permitted to export chilled beef to China will increase from 10 to 36, with another 15 expected to have pending approvals fast-tracked.” [AuBC]  The applied tariff on Australian beef is 8.4% with an elimination of the 12% to 25% tariffs eliminated by 2024. [MLA.au]

The bottom line seems to be for all the boasting and bombast from the White House twitter line, the Asian trip produced ZIP/Zero for western US cattle producers, including those in Nevada.

Comments Off on Get Along Little Dogie, but not to Asian Markets

Filed under Economy, Nevada economy, Politics