People who should lead the development of a new vaccine

The president could appoint a number of people to lead vaccine development:

  • The head of the CDC
  • Experienced professionals at HHS
  • Experts is immunology or epidemiology
  • His son-in-law

I don’t think I need to tell you which one he chose. I’m sure solving middle east peace won’t distract him from this though.

It’s a weird feeling to simultaneously mock the president’s ineptitude while realizing that it means thousands of people will die, some of which I might love, or might even include me and my family. At the same time, how does anybody look at this and say “yep, more of that please.”

The federal government needs to do 4 things in this pandemic:

  • Testing
  • Information and guidance
  • Protective and healthcare equipment
  • Drug and vaccine approval


Trump hasn’t even acknowledged that there’s a testing issue, and reports say he doesn’t want to take it on. Publicly he has said anyone that wants it can get it, that testing isn’t necessary, that there’s no way to get enough tests, and most recently, that “testing makes us look bad.” He’s more concerned with the optics than the reality. Most experts say a system of testing an tracking is what will allow us to reopen, and the president hasn’t even started 3 months into the outbreak. It’s not hard to imagine that this might not have even broken out in the US if we had such testing and tracking from the very start.

Information and guidance

Where do I start? I guess with injecting disinfectants into the body. As bad as that advice is, his excuse to keep from being embarrassed is worse. He was being “sarcastic” to set off the liberal media. He thinks it’s better to intentionally feed dangerous medical advice to the American people in order to “trigger libs” than to admit he said something stupid.

Protective and Healthcare Equipment

Thankfully the worst hit places have been able to give everyone a ventilator that needed one, even if they had to sometimes share, which is not optimal. But personal protective equipment (PPE) is still woefully lacking. I have a close friend that is a doctor in charge of seeing Covid-19 cases. She said “oh yes, we’re doing pretty well on PPE,” before admitting that she does wear one mask for the entire day, rather than one per patient as is considered the medical standard. When a nurse, who is generally supportive of Trump, said she had to wear the same mask for “a few weeks” and that access to PPE had been “sporadic”, Trump contradicted her and said “Sporadic for you but not sporadic for a lot of other people.”

Drug and Vaccine Approval

Trump certainly wants this to move quickly, but I genuinely worry if something safe will come out of this process. He already pressured HHS and FDA to test and approve chloroquine, which turned out to be unsafe. Reports are that there are so many competing drugs and vaccines that trials are having difficulty recruiting people. And this is the area where he’s performing the best! Where’s the coordination?


It gives me a sick feeling in my stomach to think of people dying as I say “Look! See how inept Trump is!” And yet, it may not even matter to Trump sympathizers. There is already a concerted effort to undercut the death count from coronavirus.

I really hope we defeat Trump in November. If we have an election.

Electability = Klobuchar


In a year where almost any democrat (and most independents) will tell you they just want someone, anyone, to get Trump out of office, Democrats are putting forth historically unelectable candidates. The Washington Post has a great article on that here:

Democrats are looking for electability in all wrong places

So I thought I would rank my the top 10 candidates who have qualified for all debates according to electability. Those candidates are generally in 3 tiers:

Top tier: Biden/Warren/Sanders
Big gap
Second tier: Buttigeg, Harris
Third tier: Yang, O’Rourke, Booker, Castro, Klobuchar

The real order, if we went off electability would be:

Top tier: Klobuchar
Second tier: Booker, Castro, O’Rourke, Biden, Harris
Third tier: Warren, Sanders, Yang, Buttigeg

Now, before all you Warren fans rip me, I love her. She’s my favorite candidate, but of the candidates with an actual shot at the nomination, she’s the least likely to win. Even Sanders, an avowed socialist, is better positioned. That doesn’t mean she CAN’T win, but is this really the election you want to find out? Here’s a great article from Politico on the challenges Warren faces. It basically comes down to the fact that she appeals to highly educated females. Not a great recipe for success.

Which brings me to Sanders. I mean, I don’t think anyone has brought up some of his sordid past because they didn’t need to tear him down to beat him and risk pissing off his loyal base. But seriously, the guy’s obsession with socialism is not just liking social security and thinking Norway is a model country.  I love that he’s defending the word and weakening it for republicans, who constantly overuse it, but I’m not sure how he’s going to defend his past praise for Russia and Fidel Castro among other dictators. I also, as an aside, don’t think he’d be an effective president, but I love his singular focus on inequality.

As long as I’m on the top 3 in the polls, I might as well hit Biden. I mean, he’s establishment, he can run a campaign, he has broad support across the democratic coalition. But he’s risky. This Hunter Biden thing weakens him, as much as I hate to say it. It may well be a trump fantasy, but it’s effective because it feels right. It sticks, and polls show that. Along with Bidens’ gaffes (and his age) I think he’s the most likely to be dragged down to Trump’s level on perception of being a sleazy politician.

So why Klobuchar?
She’s known for moderate politics to attract swing voters and never Trumpers. But beyond that she’s highly likable and attractive, characteristics that go surprisingly far in elections. And the demographics of her followers are highly favorable for the general election, performing well in the competitive demographics and swing states.

What about the rest of the second tier?
These guys would do ok probably. Booker and Castro are generic politicians that hypothetically would be a good matchup. I think the whole slavery reparations thing drags them down though. I mean, why are you advocating that in an election year, when polling for it is at about 8% (it’s actually 29%, but functionally that’s still tiny). And the fact that they lack such judgment to know that makes me question their ability to run a serious campaign.
Which of course leads to O’Rourke. I mean, anyone that thinks that running for president is as easy as driving around Iowa in a van is too much a rookie to trust with this race.

Yang is not a serious candidate. The whole universal basic income is just too ahead of its time even if you agree with it. The country isn’t ready for that.

I love Buttigeg. But again, are we really ready to trust this election to a mayor with no experience in national politics? And is this country ready to elect a gay man? Maybe, but again it’s a risk.

The only other candidate that I think could potentially be a serious contender is Harris, my home state Senator. But my goodness she is unlikable. I am not the best judge, I’ve never liked her. She’s just so ambitious that it comes across as not quite genuine, and that’s before you consider her affair with a 30-years-her-senior politician who has admitted he boosted her career.

So in the most important election of my lifetime, not just so far, but possible ever, we’re left with 10 candidates, almost all with baggage (including some for Klobuchar is who is notoriously hard on her staff). But of ALL the candidates, she is the only one who hasn’t endorsed far left positions in this campaign, isn’t a political newcomer, and doesn’t have potential corruption baggage.

I realize she doesn’t set your pants on fire as a liberal, but ask yourself, do you really want to beat Trump?







Mr President, the FBI is not your personal police force

It’s bad enough that the president thinks he can influence and investigation of himself. Now he thinks he gets to choose individual cases to prosecute! We are well down the slippery slope and it’s only a matter of time, especially if Trump wins a second term, that the FBI stops resisting his efforts to interfere and investigate his political opponents, business enemies and press adversaries.

Today’s best news articles

Rather than scour the internet for all the best news, I’m bringing it to you in condensed form, with a little added editorial. The last one is my favorite.

An editorial on USAToday thinks Bannon’s banishment is scary for the American people because he was disloyal rather than bad at his job (which he was). The thing is, that defines modern conservatism. They’ve literally trampled almost every principle they hold. Even the holy grail of abortion was not off limits in electing the historically pro-choice Trump. But the one thing they absolutely won’t abide is disloyalty. You can be a pervert, sex offender, waver on traditional positions, even be corrupt. They’ll come out swinging to defend you. But if you show disloyalty they’ll dump you like the Dixie Chicks.

Great article from Politico Magazine on how democrats need to be more inclusive when it comes to divisive issues like guns and abortion. The GOP is off on a radical agenda driven largely by people who are turned off by democratic positions on these issues (in addition to some cultural differences). As both parties get more extreme in reaction to the politicians we hate (Obama and Trump) it would be easy to abandon the middle ground. That’s fine if you want to make a statement. But it hasn’t been working so well to get a governing majority to actually make a difference. It’s easy to dismiss the Trump election as an aberration, but the GOP has controlled the House for almost 8 years and have a governing majority in the vast majority of states. Democrats need to ask themselves if they want to be idealogically pure or advance their agenda.

The GOP again shows its inability to govern and may skip passing a budget altogether. Just…incompetent. This not going to end until the GOP fears losing general elections more than getting primaried. That’s the real power of gerrymandering, far more than who controls congress.

Climate Change and Global Warming are being scrubbed from government websites and documents. Some is supposedly censorship or pressure from above, but my take is that most of it is just budget politicking. If you want your budget expanded (or not cut) you don’t say that you’re working on the thing the administration very publicly wants to cut.

FiveThirtyEight has a great article on the different political camps and what they want in the immigration debate. Traditionally, the republicans scared of being too friendly to immigration have held off a deal. Now liberals are starting to push on their leaders to stay away from deals too friendly to republicans.

Last but probably most interesting: Corporations are DESPERATE to keep their hard fought tax cuts and are doing anything they can convince people that it benefits them directly. Lots of companies, including my own, have made very visible pronouncements that the tax cuts will increase wages, bonuses or 401k contributions. Some of these are certainly genuine. Some are likely opportunistic ways to give public credit to the tax cuts for things that were going to happen anyway. But if you’re benefiting from billions a year in tax cuts then spreading around 10 million to make it popular is just good math. I don’t think Dems will easily be able to raise those taxes again and it’s likely this will improve the popularity of the bill. But math is math and at some point we have to balance the budget. We either gut medicare/medicaid or we raise taxes. That’s really the only options. I think what this does do is open the door for two new types of taxes: 1) a carbon tax and 2) a Value Added Tax (VAT). Considering that we based our 21% tax rate on Europe corporate taxes and Europe pays both of those taxes, that seems fair and competitive to me.


Democrats should not be afraid of this tax bill

Looking over the tax bill, I think democrats should continue to punish it in the press, but privately hope the GOP passes it. Yes, most of the benefits go to the rich, and it will blow up the deficit even more. But those are short term concerns.

The truth is that the GOP position on taxes vs. deficits has been dodging reality for some time. But reality can only be avoided for so long. While there’s a small risk that they’ll financially ruin us like Greece, the US has far more levers for balancing the budget, namely fairly low taxes. More likely is that the demands for balancing the budget will eventually require more taxes, and this tax bill sets that possibility up.

Most of the benefits in this tax bill go to the rich, and ironically that’s the tax group that’s easiest to raise taxes on politically. Much of that can be reclaimed. But more than allow its repeal, the GOP has opened paths for new taxation. Their argument that the corporate tax rate needs to be at 20% to compete with international standards is correct. But it misses a huge point. In most of those international competing countries, the 20% rate is augmented by a Value Added Tax (VAT). Raising the 21% rate will be politically difficult, but the VAT could be a whole new ball game for tax revenue. And it also makes long term flexibility on taxes easier because raising it from, say 5%, to 6%, is easier than raising taxes on the general population, and it’s harder to avoid than income taxes. This tax was already getting serious consideration. I think this breaks the dam. The biggest obstacle is overcoming the opposition from the rich who pay the donations for politicians. But that’s not enough in the long run.

There are also some other positive changes. It limits mortgage interest deductions and state/local tax deductions without completing eliminating them. This raises revenue without hurting your average customer. Yes, it hurts high housing cost areas, but it also depresses some of those crazy high housing prices, which is a good thing in my opinion. And there’s no reason the government should subsidize those things in the long run.

Meanwhile, most of the really bad ideas are gone, such as taxing grad student tuition. The only real turd in the bill is the tax rate for pass through businesses. It’s at serious risk of being gamed, and despite trying to avoid the same disaster than happened in Kansas, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to take out all or even most loopholes that rich people will use to take advantage of the tax.  Even there though, one has to wonder whether just conventional wisdom will eventually win out if/when this gets gamed.

In the meantime, the GOP will be exposed even more for being corporate lackeys and billionaire lap dogs. The dems have to be secretly jumping for joy.

What the heck are republicans thinking?

I just assumed that the ridiculousness of the GOP tax cut plan would eventually catch up with them and they would either abandon it, or more likely, make it less ridiculous. But that hasn’t happened.

They’re on the verge of:

  • kicking millions off their health insurance
  • destroying graduate degree programs in critical fields like science by making grad students pay taxes on their tuition
  • eliminating medical for the sick and classroom deductions for teachers
  • eliminating or reducing the state and local taxes deduction
  • potentially driving smaller mortgage lenders out of the market with an obscure change to how they’re taxed on revenue streams
  • hurting renewables investments by companies by making it less attractive to invest in them
  • raising taxes slowly over time for most americans as the tax brackets would become tied to the lower chained CPI rather than the CPI
  • Adds another $1.5T to our deficit, assuming it produces the economic growth they claim, PLUS the cost of interest
  • more, more more…

Some of these things will change. But the basics are this. They’re stripping these benefits because they want to pay for lower corporate taxes and elimination of the estate tax. The corporate tax cut will cost $1.1T and the estate tax will cost $300B. That’s $1.4T out of a $1.5T tax bill. The rest is just window dressing. This is what this tax bill is all about.

The argument on corporate taxes has always been that we could raise revenue by cutting them. And that’s true, by cutting them to…maybe…28%. So why have republicans raced past that number and refused to budge?

Think for a moment about who they’re serving. If you listen they’ll tell you.

“My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,'” the New York Republican told The Hill.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said the “financial contributions will stop” if they didn’t pass tax reform.

“The most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan,” the president’s chief economic advisor said on CNBC.

Keep in mind, in this day and age, a single happy or pissed off donor can single handedly keep a challenger in or out of a race. We have created a system where we have given so much power to the rich that republicans don’t feel like they can afford to say no to them.

Republicans are rushing at breakneck speed to get this passed before anybody can scrutinize it, and I think many have stayed on the sidelines waiting for this to fix itself. But republicans aren’t going to change it until they fear voters more than they fear donors.