The “miracle” in Vegas

It’s funny how conservatives didn’t mind when Trump wanted to politicize the London bridge attack by advocating a muslim ban, but sensible gun control proposals are politicizing the Las Vegas shooting tragedy.

What they really mean is “let the pressure from this blow over” and we’ll forget about it.

The NRA, meanwhile, is pulling TV advertising for a week. What does it say about your message if you don’t feel quite as proud about it after 600 people get shot? How does this group have so much power? Oh, I know, because heavily gerrymandered districts mean most republicans threat comes from the right, not the center.

The president tried to distract from any action by calling the police response to the shooting a “miracle.” Say WHAT?

According to the timeline, the shooting started at 10:08. The police were outside the shooter’s door at 10:24. They didn’t enter the room until 11:20 when the SWAT team arrived.

Nearly 600 people got shot. Almost 60 dead so far. How many of those got shot between when the police arrived and when they went in? Can you imagine being in the crowd and wondering how long it would take police to stop the shooting?

Now, I’m not going to sit in my armchair and say that whatever officer was by the door should have charged the room, safety be damned. But I’m also not going to give a knee jerk “police are heroes” response as if they were firefighters running into a burning building when it a shooter was free to reign bullets on the Vegas strip for over an hour with nobody trying to stop him.

But calling the police heroes and saying now is the time to support them and pray for the victims rather than “politicize” the tragedy is what allows them to deflect taking action. They say we need to understand why the shooter acted. Was it mental illness (as if they have done a thing about that to date) or radicalism or something else. All of that misses the point. Every shooting will have different reasons, but many have one thing in common.

The REAL issue here is assault weapons. Only an assault weapon could possibly cause this much carnage. Trump tweeted after the London attacks how we weren’t talking about gun control because it was carried out with a car an knives. But 8 people died in that attack carried out by 3 people. A tragedy, but on a different scale. And 5 of them by knife. So 3x the terrorists and a fraction of the casualties. An assault rifle equipped with a legal modification to make it fully automatic dealt death on a grand scale.

I get that gun control opponents worry about a slipper slope. But most don’t complain that we don’t allow other military weapons in civilian hands like rocket launchers and tanks and 50mm anti-aircraft gatling guns shooting depleted uranium. They don’t mind drawing the line somewhere, but it seems fairly arbitrary to allow such a powerful weapon designed to kill humans on a mass scale on the side of legality.

Republicans are starting to meet reality

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Back in 2008, I thought the modern republican party was dead. They had gone as far right as they could possibly go and remain a mainstream viable party. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Good times, good time. I was so naive then.

See, what I didn’t realize is that they could go further to the right with a brand new political technique called unabashed lying. Sure, lying in politics far predates our founding fathers, but nobody had actually made it an official platform before. And worse, the American people have lapped it up.

Of course, it’s easy to yell insults from the cheap seats, and I think the GOP was genuinely surprised when it won in 2016 and realized, “oh crap, we actually have to make these lies into policy.”

The koolaid drinkers in the Freedom Caucus of course see no hypocrisy. They can’t understand why not everyone wants to give billionaires a tax cut and sell it as job creation. But the cooler heads in the leadership and Senate actually have to deal with the reality of their policies.

And so it is not without a small amount of curiosity that I look toward what republicans will actually do with power. I often wondered if the best way to defeat the republican lies is just by letting them have the keys and letting the country watch them wreck the car. Short term pain, long term gain? Or would they actually govern responsibly. They’ve backed themselves into an awful corner with their rhetoric.

And with only a short time left to pass legislation on a simple majority vote, the pressure is on to deliver SOMETHING.

And now we’re starting to see how they might confront reality, and so far it is taking 3 forms.

  1. Fuck you
  2. LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU BLAM!!!!
  3. The Apple method

1) The Fuck You method, is basically what’s happening on regulation and the environment. They’re trying to get as much of this out of the way as early as possible to put distance between these indefensible votes and the midterm elections. Votes like allowing oil companies to drill under your land without permission. Ok, I might have made that up, but you probably wouldn’t know without checking first.

2) LALALALALA BLAM!!! This is the current approach to healthcare. The objective is to move as fast as possible to avoid anyone accidentally running into any reality based arguments and just passing something plausibly “republican”. They’ll deal with the cleanup later. The justification on this appears to be something along the lines of “we just gave the states back control of their healthcare systems. If they screw it up, it’s their fault. I mean states rights.”

The problem is that the states don’t really have the same power to fund fixing their healthcare. How many medical device manufacturers would leave the state if they were to impose the Obamacare device tax? It’s not like North Dakota can tax a Boston biotech. But republicans know they have to pass SOMETHING on Obamacare and this has enough plausible deniability for the sure to come fallout that they can duck and cover.

3) The Apple Method. This is how Steve Jobs would stand up and get his audience to ooh and aaah and applaud and whistle over adding a feature that competitors have had for years. As an aside, I think it weakens the hype when Apple truly does something revolutionary, as it occasionally does, but I digress.

This appears to be a potential option for republicans on tax reform. See, you can’t cut taxes when taxes are already pretty low and expect revenues to rise. The Laffer Curve is a tried and true republican prop, but it’s also as laughable as when Bush tried to use it in 2001. What’s worse is that most of the GOP proposals would primarily benefit the rich and corporations. And if you didn’t notice the last election, voters are gettin KINDA touchy about the system being rigged.

So maybe they’ll just pass an innocent old middle class tax cut instead. They’ll get a feather in their cap, and only increase the deficit by 70 billion a year or so. That’s only another 15% or so on the current deficit, so maybe they’ll just stomach it and try to claim it will grow the economy.

What I’m really curious about is which of these 3 approaches they’ll do for the debt ceiling. I suppose, shock of all shocks, that they could choose a fourth option of “doing the right thing” but I’m not hopeful. I think it’s quite hilarious to see them control all 3 branches of government and then complain that they have to hold our credit and credibility hostage so they can cut spending. If you don’t want to borrow the money, don’t spend the money! But aside from that it’s, you know, economic suicide. I’m betting they go with door #3.

 

Hope for our country

One of the hardest things about Donald Trump’s election and subsequent tenure is my lost faith on my fellow Americans. To me, he seems like the worst president in history, and not by a small amount. He makes me long to bring back George W Bush. And yet, he retains a 40% approval rating. He was elected after offending nearly every group you could find at a fundraising fair, and behavior that would bet most people disqualified from serving as a local school teacher, much less POTUS.

But I at least held some faint hope that maybe he was just a slightly bigoted, hopelessly disconnected old grandpa who actually meant well. And then came Charlottesville. It’s hard to come away with any interpretation of those events that doesn’t lead to “our president is a full-on racist.”

Here’s what really interested me though. I worried about the role of racism in his election. What a tragic outcome for America if this is what got him elected. But it’s hard to discern how much was racism and how much was other stuff. So I kept a steady eye on those polls which rarely dropped below 38% in the Gallup tracking poll for more than a day or so. Would his numbers rise if people approved of this? Since Charlottesville, he’s been at 34 to 35% consistently, a drop of about 4-5% from his previous polling.

I gotta say, this gives me quite a bit of hope. It think it’s worth noting here that most Americans are not racist or even bigoted, and even fewer want to be. In 2011, well after the backlash to Obama, 96% of Americans say they have a positive opinion of Martin Luther King, and 69% are “highly favorable” opinion of him.

Even if you believe the GOP to be racist, what this shows is that racism is, at minimum, complicated. This cannot be a winning strategy for the GOP beyond the next couple of years. It makes me wonder what will happen to the current GOP. Will they bleed supporters? Will another party emerge? Will the non-racists in the party just vote for Trumpist republicans because they want other policies enacted like anti-abortion, anti-gay social policies or pro-tax, pro-business policies?

One thing seems for sure, the political parties we see today are unlikely to be the ones we see in a decade.

Southern Heritage

I am not southern. Let’s just put that out there. But then again, why not? I have as much claim to Southern Heritage as just about anyone outside of Birmingham Alabama. I was raised in Southern Missouri, which is closer to Arkansas than Nebraska in culture. My father’s side of the family is from Virginia and Mississippi and played a prominent role in my upbringing.

PROTESTERS SHOW CONFEDERATE AND US FLAGS AT PRO RENO RALLY.

So, why am I not southern? Well, I guess…because I choose not to be. The funny thing about how parts of the country are very liberal or conservatives is that it’s self fulfilling. I like San Francisco. And though I FEEL like a republican here sometimes, it’s more my political home than Missouri (even if Missouri will always be my home home).

So when southerners stand up and say what they stand for, I sometimes don’t feel like I get a say in that. But when southerners stand up and say that they need Confederate flags and statues to honor their southern heritage, well that’s every bit as much mine as theirs. And I reject that outright.

Donald Trump’s central argument in his ridiculous defense of the alt-right in Charlottesville seems to be that not all of the protesters were white supremacists and neo-nazis. Some were just people who love their southern heritage and don’t want to see these historical statues torn down. As if that somehow makes this innocent or innocuous.

Well, that’s poppycock. Maybe some of them DID march for that reason, but that’s not southern heritage. Those statues were erected during Jim Crow and the Civil Rights era to intimidate blacks. They are racist plain and simple. And even if I ignore that, the message is that the entire heritage of the south boils down to losing a war in which they were on the wrong side of history anyway. Surely there’s more to Southern Heritage than that.

As a quick aside, I’ve always found it funny how some of the most outwardly patriotic people will fly a confederate flag right alongside the stars and stripes that they fought a war to secede from. Even removing the racism, at worst it’s flying a flag of treason to the USA and at best it’s flying the flag of an enemy country. So which is it? Are you patriotic to the USA or the other country?

Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to maybe give a quick primer on what is and isn’t southern heritage.

Yes: Biscuits and Gravy (remind me to make you Yankees some cause I guarantee you never had good ones in New York or California)

No: Celebrating traitors to our country

Yes: Southern Hospitality. At least when I lived there, most would take their worst enemy into their home and make them the finest meal of fried chicken and grits you ever had. And if you broke down on the side of the road? You’d have no problem finding help.

No: The Confederate Battle Flag.

Yes: Sweet Tea with Ice on a hot day. There’s nothing like sitting on the front porch on a warm summer evening with a glass of iced sweet tea. If you think a lot of this heritage has to do with food, that might be my Grandma’s fault. But they do make a contribution to the American food culture.

No: Carrying torches and white sheets. Ok, the truth is, racism is a part of the history (and the present) of the South. But that’s not something to be celebrated. Right thinking people want to move past that, even those that don’t aspire to the multi-racial utopia of the Bay Area.

This is not Southern culture, and it’s time for the South to let the rest of the nation know that they have a lot of things to be proud about that they can actually be proud of.

The beauty of Trump

As Trump prodded police to abuse suspects when taking them into custody, I shook my head…again…at the cartoonish levels of conservative dogma he repeatedly displays. He’s like the personification of a tractor pull at the turkey hunting club sponsored by Skoal where everyone is wearing American Flag cowboy boots (and if I could just digress for a second, the American Flag is not meant to be clothing. Wear the colors, but the flag deserves more respect).

Once again, I found myself wishing I could give the president some basic lessons in constitutional principles, yadda yadda yadda. But I also kinda smiled a little bit. Because in a lot of ways Trump is the most perfect tool for stripping away all of the GOP’s double talk and obfuscations and just getting right down to the root of why conservatives do things like talk “tough on crime.”

See, Trump doesn’t know the arguments for and against different policies. He just knows what “feels right in your gut.” Stephen Colbert famously penned this as “truthiness.” It doesn’t matter if it’s true, it matters if it FEELS true. And as much as that’s easy to make fun of, it’s actually quite insightful into the way a lot of American voters and their representatives think.

Do you really need a study to tell you that stuffing criminals into cruel, overcrowded, understaffed jails with no services, medical care, mental health support, education or sometimes even safety is going to lower the rates of re-offenders? Of course not. There are, of course, many of these studies. But what drives many right wing voters is that criminals deserve to be punished. They should do HARD TIME. Going soft on them means not be vigilant. Making hard time too easy means there’s no deterrent for criminals.

And Trump’s magic can be applied to other areas as well. Immigrants are committing crimes and taking your job. Forget about all the other arguments you’ve heard out of republican politicians for why we can’t have immigration reform. Turns out, this was just racism after all.

The reason this is beautiful is because you can now argue with the root of the problem, and the GOP has a much harder time making you believe their made up reasons.

Of course, the really scary part is that republican voters either won’t know or won’t care. Eventually it will hit them, right? I mean, in the dystopian futuristic novel, the populace ALWAYS rises up against their authoritarian government, right? It’s just expected. They never write in those novels how the people are too busy watching Duck Dynasty reruns to take up the rebel cause.

Becoming numb

The blog has slowed a bit as I’m sure you can tell. Part of that was the awesome trip to Spain! Yay! More on that to come. But part of it is I just came back exhausted with politics. I’m one of the more political people I know and even I’m just desperate to turn a blind eye to it and ignore it.

The truth is, the average person can only absorb so much bad in the world. After tragedies, after a certain mourning period I just have to move on because I can’t process it. I have to think about the happy things in this world. And I don’t know if I can keep up this level of outrage for 4 years.

But every time I think I can let it go, Trump just ups the ante. And every time he does this, it gets just a little bit less outrage than it would have before. It’s a bit like how he won the election. He started out saying such outrageous things that every subsequent thing paled by comparison. After calling Mexicans rapists, prisoners of war not real heroes and making fun the disabled, you got the sense that the normal rules didn’t apply to him. After surviving the “grab them by the pussy” tapes, he became all but invincible.

The same is now happening in his presidency. He fired his FBI Director and then on national television said it was because of the Russia investigation. His election has admitted it tried to collude with Russia after all the federal agencies have concluded Russia interfered on his behalf. And he has been a disaster governing as well. And yet still, his approval rate will not fall below the high 30s. I sometimes wonder if it’s a genius liberal plot to destroy the modern GOP. But that would require them coming to their senses at some point.

If anyone is still reading, here’s the point. Imagine any other president in the last century, pick any of them, threatening to fire their Attorney General if they don’t investigate their political opponent. AFTER being cleared by the FBI and investigated by about 8 congressional committees no less. I mean, this might be the scandal of the century. This might be the biggest scandal in American History. It’s got all the abuse of power of any of the other scandals, including Comey’s firing, but it adds into it the dictator-style tactics of taking down your political opposition. Just about the only thing worse he could do is try to depose the other branches of government.

But in Trump’s America, he could PUBLICLY say this and all the news could talk about for days were the implications for Sessions and who might replace him. It was only today that I saw a story acknowledging that “oh, yeah, this might be a pretty bad abuse of power.

I’m really scared for this country right now. I THINK that our institutions are strong enough to survive Trump. I even think that the GOP has some kind of breaking point. But this is how lesser countries like Venezuela end up with these very powerful authoritarians in charge. They chip away at norms. They assault the free press. And they have apologists enabling them in congress/parliament.

Setting precedents

The left is screaming “Treason” after it was revealed Don Jr. met with the Russians KNOWING they were trying to dish dirt on Hillary. The right is following their usual tactics of saying the press is hysterical and claiming it wasn’t illegal.

But lost in all of this is the history of this event and how that will impact future generations. See, the presidency is a really powerful office. And what’s illegal in normal circumstances often becomes about who is willing to hold the executive accountable.

For those on the left that are hoping the law or the courts will save them. It won’t.

For those on the right that think this will all blow over as the typical Washington hypocrisy. It won’t.

What it does mean is that if republicans say that this is ok, then it will be allowed. BUT, it sets precedent. Presidential precedent. How do you ever come back from this new standard you’ve set? This isn’t just about being hypocritical. Hypocrisy is served gratis with every meal in our nation’s capital. But when  you let the president do this, it becomes the new standard and these events might even be held up in court in future cases.

I get that republicans are in an impossible situation. You can’t pass your agenda without him. You can’t impeach him and risk the wrath of his still quite loyal base, which is only 40% of Americans but quite a bit more of GOP primary voters. So you have little choice but to defend or at least deflect for him.

BUT AT SOME POINT…history is watching. Not only their hypocrisy, but the precedents that are being set. This goes way beyond tax cuts or healthcare reform.

Trump has said publicly that nothing was done wrong. He clearly thinks that in business and politics, the only thing that matters is winning, no matter the means. He thinks it is perfectly acceptable to work with our enemies to win an election. We have to decide if we’re ok with that.

Now I’m Dunn

Great article on quite possibly our favorite winery. Incidentally, this is a nice little window into the tensions that arise from wine snobs embracing and rejecting the passions and opinions that arise from evaluating wines. What one drinker thinks is amazing, another thinks is defective. So drink what you like!

Stephen McConnell

When Mike & Randy Dunn asks you to come to St Helena for a vertical of Dunn Howell Mountain, you don’t check your schedule.  You don’t ask your mom.  You don’t ask your girlfriend if she wants to go, you ask her if she’s riding along with you.  I don’t think I travelled the farthest–and don’t care.  It was a brilliant excuse to go to Napa Valley.

1984 HOWELL MOUNTAIN  Flat and round, textured into almost nothingness, little fruit, a bit past its prime, showing acid and alcohol among mostly tertiary bouquet.

1985 HOWELL MOUNTAIN  Still fruity–though dense and headed pruney, balanced and intense, gobs of lovely earth and nuance.  Still tannic and drinking perfectly–though prime.

Remember, these two wines have PERFECT winery provenance.  You still see Dunns of this age here and about, but I would be highly sceptical of purchasing them ANYWHERE other than from source or–at WORST–second-owner.

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So much worse than I feared…

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I’m an avid college football watcher. One of the shared experiences of any fan is being hopeful that when a talented player goes out with injury (which is a lot in football) that the damage won’t be that bad. Inevitably, you think, “maybe we can overcome this.” But you almost never can. A stout defensive tackle is no longer there to stop the run. A receiver is not available to stretch the field and give the QB a second option to throw to. An entire season can go from contender to losing record based on a “role player” getting injured.

Our starting QB is injured and it’s SOOO much worse than I even feared. We’ve become desensitized to Trump. The level of ridiculousness has grown so much that his most egregious foul ups barely can hold a full day’s worth of headlines, because there’s something else he’s f*ing up. I mean, we’re almost half a year into his presidency and he still can’t go two days without multiple major foul ups.

And in some ways, that’s what makes him so hard to bring down. You don’t know where to start. I LOVE articles that explain Trump’s thinking. For instance, here’s a great article about why Trump is attacking London’s mayor after a terrorist attack, which on the face of it…what the FUCK?!!! Now, I have no idea how credible that article is, but I’m entranced by it, because at least it means the President is not a complete quack job. There’s SOME KIND of logic to what he does. Please let it be true.

But the scary truth is, even when there is logic, it’s almost worse than if there weren’t. Here’s my attempt (one of many I’m sure) to try to quantify the horror that is Trump’s presidency, and in order to do so, I’m going to have to stay away from specific examples, because otherwise this would take several volumes.

One

We’ve completely abandoned reason in the White House. Forget whether there’s actually logic or consistency. We have a president that believes:

  • Global trade and international cooperation is bad
  • Global warming is a hoax
  • Vaccines cause autism
  • Exercise is bad for you
  • Sleep is bad for you (serioiusly, look it up)
  • Asbestos ‘got a bad rap’

It’s as if we let someone’s Fox News Hannity watching grandpa run the country. No literally, it’s exactly like that. Except, maybe it’s worse. I mean, this is full on Alex Jones Infowars type of stuff. If you don’t know who that is, that’s because you’re not hiding in a fallout shelter in Montana with 6 years worth of canned goods and enough ammo to take on the state National Guard. It’s crazy frickin stuff.

Two

He has surrounded himself with idiots and “yes men.” His two most trusted advisors are 1) his son-in-law, whose chief accomplishment in life other than being born to the right parents was to lose billions of dollars on a skyscraper, and 2) a former fringe right wing publisher who wants to burn down the world order. That should be a little scary to people even if they don’t know what the world order means. His “reputable” staff apparently don’t like him and the feeling is mutual. Mind you, these are the people that were willing to work with him KNOWING what his background was. This is only going to get worse, as nobody wants to board a sinking ship, especially when the captain might shoot you out of spite.

Three

Even when he does have good staff, he doesn’t listen to them or heed their advice. Apparently the big speech that threw NATO and our closest allies under the bus was not only not vetted but the President himself yanked the line out of the finished, vetted speech without even telling his national security staff.

We have a president is is contradicted by his own staff on a DAILY BASIS. Not the unintentional kind either. We’re talking “the president doesn’t really mean that” in quotation marks type of contradictions. The smart people in the room, and let’s be clear, there aren’t many left in that room, think the president is bonkers. Trump is a child emperor demanding people’s heads be cut off, while his staff busily tries to distract him and shake their heads at the prisoner’s guards to indicate “he didn’t really mean that.”

Four

He’s monumentally insecure. Combine this with stupid and you have a dangerous cocktail for the person in charge of the nuclear codes. You think I’m being hyperbolic. But think to yourself, could you see Trump getting into a fracas with Iran or North Korea or China and all of the sudden there are nukes involved? I’ll grant you it’s not likely. But I would also bet it’s in single digits chance, which used to be measured in tens of decimal places. For instance, he wants to put nukes in South Korea. What could possibly go wrong? Also mind you, this is the president that aides have had to convince multiple times that we should not use nukes, and has said some pretty scary things about them, including questioning why we make nukes if we’re not willing to use them.

And of course, he’s got a lot power without going nuclear. As an insecure man, he feeds off praise and seeks it wherever he can find it, hence his move to the FAR right of politics where they eat up his policies. But here’s where it gets scary to me. The only time in his presidency that his approval ratings ticked up even close to 50% was when he bombed Syria. Nevermind that it didn’t work and only emboldened Assad. I fear what happens when Trump thinks missiles = happy voters.

If only

If I were to put together a list of qualifications you need in a good president, regardless of political beliefs or party, I would say:

  • Knows how to surround himself with good people
  • Knows how to incorporate advice to make better decisions
  • Is cautious and even tempered, but decisive when required
  • Knows how to build alliances and draw lines in the sand when necessary
  • Can inspire the people to action through rhetoric

I’m sure I could think of a few more. But even of these, the only one that Trump gets is acting decisively. But acting decisively in consistently the wrong direction is even worse.

There’s been some very real debate about impeachment lately, with lots of people urging that we put the brakes on, because this could be bad for everyone in the long and short run. But I also get how democrats are beside themselves trying to find ANY WAY that we don’t have to have 3.5 more years of this (I can’t even fathom 7.5 at this point).

The damage that’s being done is so pervasive, that America will likely never regain its leadership position and soft power around the world. It could be decades before the domestic damage is contained. They always say that the most popular guy on the football team is the backup quarterback. Pence would be a terrible president, but at least he’s a more normal kind of crazy. At what point do you put him in, even if you’re republicans, because they’ll be remembered as the party that enabled this, both domestically and around the world.

The regulation fallacy

Don’t look now, but while you and I were in shock, SHOCK I tell you, over the latest Trump/Russia allegations, Trump has been quietly doing actual things to our country. Depending on the side of the aisle you sit on, you may or may not like them. I’m speaking, of course, about deregulation, and the Trump administration is on a tear.

President Trump Signs Executive Order In Oval Office

Now, let me be the first to say that regulation is often bad, and should be used as a last resort when competition either fails or forbids ethical practices. And deregulation can be a boon. The airline industry is much better for consumers now than before deregulation.

But the problem is threefold. 1st, the regulations they’re going after are not “job killers” as they claim to be. In fact, it’s hard to get a republican on record with exactly what regulations they oppose because then their vague statements about killing jobs all the sudden have a very real face on them. 2nd, the regulations that actually need addressing are not the one he’s looking into, they’re just wish lists from big corporations. And 3rd, the broad-sword approach Trump is using isn’t the way to make that work anyway.

The Trump administration’s position is typical of right wing politi-babble: “I think it’s something that’s just been lost on people in terms of the regulatory sediment that has built up — decade after decade after decade in many of these areas,” administration member Bremberg said in a telephone interview. “You’re talking about legislation that was either passed at the beginning of the last century or somewhere in the middle of the last century, amended a couple times here and there, but whose statutory structure has largely stayed the same. Yet the regulatory structure has just layered — layer after layer after layer on a seemingly constant basis.”

Yes, when have regulations ever been removed or improved? Except for by nearly every president. Ok, sure, maybe we could do more to be efficient, but this is not what we’re talking about here. Politico has a great rundown on the regulations that Trump is trying to axe (or already has). Most of them are pesky little regulations. A little mercury in the drinking water here. A little farm worker safety there. But their stated goal is much bigger than that. They want to take down the entire regulatory infrastructure.

The right is, of course, indignant about the cost of regulations on our economy. From the right wing Heritage Foundation:

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Again, it’s easy to point fingers at amorphous “Departments” and high dollar regulations, but it fails to factor in benefits as well. Here’s a list of billion dollar regulations from the anti-regulation US Chamber of Commerce. A few things stand out:

First, 20 of the 34 billion dollar regulations are with the EPA and an additional 7 are with the Department of Transportation. You would think after watching millions of affluent Chinese people flee the pollution in their country that would not try to emulate the “free market” of polluting however much you want. The rest of the 34 are basically energy efficiency regs and financial industry regs.

Second, the EPA regulations have a 7 to 1 Benefit to Cost ratio. In fact, only three of these standards are either net positive benefit or basically tied. One is for fuel additives. The other two are the CAFE standards: the fuel efficiency requirements for new cars. These two “net negative” standards actually save the consumer money over the life of the car compared to the cost of implementing them, not to mention we have a little less need to go fight wars for oil in the middle east.

Similarly, the non-EPA regs have a 2 to 1 benefit to cost ratio. Sure, it “costs” credit card companies money if they can’t raise your rates for no reason, but then again, that money comes from somewhere. Calling it a “cost” depends on your perspective, and clearly outfits like the US Chamber and Heritage see it from the side of big businesses.

Ok, so I’ve laid out my liberal plan for regulating the hell out of us. Nobody will assume I’m anything other than a Michael Moore supporter. But believe it or not, I actually see myself as fairly anti-regulation. Hell, living in California will teach you to hate that quickly enough. Did you know I can’t buy a 30 foot telescoping pole for photography because it’s banned in California? A moot point with drones everywhere now, but CA won’t let you buy one. They’re afraid you’ll get it in electrical wires.  You need a license and a background check to wipe your kids nose around here.

These things add up on an economy.  And they’re all well-intentioned. But too many liberals see a societal ill and say “we need to ban that.” So here’s my 3 step guide for when to regulate something.

  1. When there is a lack of competition forcing companies to act in the interests of consumers or the country, then regulation is required. To me, the net neutrality issue jumps to the surface as a great example of this. If you had your choice of lots of different internet providers, you would not choose the one that slows your YouTube or Netflix speed. Competition would normally prevent this kind of behavior. But because ISP’s are often monopolies, and even when they’re not, are severely limited in choice, they can get away with it. The lack of competition prevents them from doing the right thing. And yes, I do mean “prevents them” because no CEO of a publicly traded company is going to last a week if he’s leaving obvious profits on the table. It’s not an option.
  2.  Related  the last point, sometimes that last bit about CEO’s having to pursue the highest profit strategy requires you act against the interests of consumer or the country, precisely because your competition is doing it. There are certain things that we would not think competition will not allow. Take raising credit card rates even if you haven’t paid late. Now, you would think in a highly competitive cards market, that people would not want those cards. But because a) those things are hidden in the fine print written above a grad school level and b) people don’t think it will happen to them, then it became so pervasive that you almost couldn’t find a credit card without this “feature.” At some point, trying to either get rid of that, or prevent adoption of such practices would get even a successful CEO fired. When doing the right thing is prevented by the competitive landscape, then regulation is required.
  3. When enough injustice and harm has been done. Let’s be straightforward. We don’t have to solve every social ill. Not every wrong has to be righted. At what level does something have to rise before its worth saddling a company or industry with red tape.

A few areas where I think we could use some regulatory reform? Well, for starters, let’s focus less on strict written detailed rules, and more on guiding direction that’s actually backed up with enforcement. Other countries do this and the compliance costs are easier. Sure, it leaves room for interpretation and litigation, but the important regulations are already settled in court. Second, we need to look at regulations that prevent labor force flexibility, and prevent innovation. Lots of financial regulations fit this bill, as would many medical ones.

But of course, this is an academic exercise anyway. Republicans don’t actually want less regulation, they just want to hide corporate favors behind the “free market” mantra. Perhaps I’ll address that fallacy next time.