Monday, October 21, 2013

On How Far Right We Have Come...

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things … Their number is negligible, and they are stupid."

Thus spake the last Republican president to reduce the deficit.

Hint: Think "WWII general"

On Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)...

To my liberal friends:

There are plenty of reasons furiously oppose the pesticide spewing, herbicide belching, and fungicide farting, water table draining, soil depleting, animal torturing, antibiotic resistance fomenting, monocropping, colony collapsing, stench emitting, habitat destroying, planet roasting, poorly paying, immigration law mocking, dead zone creating, fossil fuel dependent, junk food hawking, mouth firmly attached to the government teat monstrosity that is Big Ag.

GMO is not one of them. If you are anti-GMO, you are wrong. Get over it, and move on. You are making the rest of us liberals look stupid.


That is all.


Monday, October 14, 2013

On Bananas...

There are a lot of things I love about living in Japan. Bananas are not one of them.

Generally, food quality is awesome in Japan, blowing the US out of the water. This is particularly the case with respect to fruit, where domestically-produced fruit is pampered and hand-tended into absolutely perfect forms. While $10-150 apples would be extreme even here, $2 apples are the norm, and worth every penny.

Bananas, however, are the exception. They are generally not produced domestically, but imported from southeast Asia or South America, meaning they are the same mediocre bananas you would be eating in the US at roughly the same price. What is worse, however, is that the Japanese package them incorrectly, and it drives me nuts.

As can be seen below, the Japanese only sell wrapped packages of 4-6 bananas that are already fully ripe. Yet being fully ripe, they only have about three days before they get all nasty and mushy! If you are like me and eat a banana a day, this means about half your bananas must be consumed past their prime, or tossed if they get too icky.

It's time that Japan got with the times, sold bananas by weight, and allowed shoppers to mix-and-match bananas along the still-green to fully-ripe spectrum. How about it, my Japanese readers? Can we throw a banana revolution? Up with firm, down with mush!
Rant over.



On Negotiation...

A term being thrown around the political arena a lot lately is the term "negotiate". The problem is that there isn't much actual negotiating going on. Rather, what we have been seeing is a whole lot of extortion and grandstanding. Republicans have shut down the government rather than negotiate. Obama (mistakenly, in my opinion) has said he is refusing to negotiate. And now our nation is stuck in the mud.

"Negotiating" with someone implies trying to reach agreement by mutual give-and-take. If you aren't offering anything of value to the other party, or if what you are "offering" is the lack of destruction of their or jointly-owned property, you are not negotiating. Indeed, the latter case is clearly extortion. Unfortunately, this is precisely what Republicans are doing today. Their "negotiations" have been nothing but constantly shifting their demands, while steadfastly refusing to offer anything in return. Repeal ACA? No? Ok, how about a delay. Or a repeal of some of the taxes? Or automatic spending cuts every time we refuse to sign a budget? And what are we offering in return that Democrats would want? Nothing, other than abiding by previously agreed-upon budgets and not defaulting on the debt!

Obama is infinitely better, but I think he has muffed the messaging. He should be very clear that he is (and has been) willing to negotiate and make major deals, under two conditions

1: That the government is running under the agreed-upon budgets with no immediate threat of shutdown, and that the debt ceiling is removed as an issue

2: That Republicans meet half way, and make concessions on taxes, military spending, and other Republican priorities

For the last five years, it has been Republicans who have refused to negotiate, balking at anything that even smells of a tax increase. Given our ultra-low tax rates (third lowest of the 34 OECD nations), there is no solution to our long-term problems that does not involve more revenue. Until Republicans realize this, and move beyond the childish extortion tactics they are currently engaged in, there will be no major progress politically. Republicans need to look back at the Ronald Reagan who actually existed and emulate him - a man who met Democrats in the middle, accepted a dozen tax increases, and made the nation a better place.

Red Up, Blue All The Way Down

This is an updated version of a post I originally wrote in March.

I've produced four different graphs below, all showing the same data but with slightly different adjustments. All data is calendar years, not fiscal years. Amazingly, the increase in our debt in Q3 of 2013 was less than $9 billion, in part due to the Treasury's efforts to avoid hitting the debt ceiling. The four graphs are:

1: Quarterly deficits vs GDP
2: Quarterly deficits, nominal
3: Quarterly deficits, inflation adjusted
4: Quarterly deficits, inflation adjusted per citizen

It's a lot of data, but the trend is rather obvious - vote Republican if you love exploding deficits, and Democratic if you love balanced budgets. This general trend holds true not only for the years on the graph, but all the way back to the post-war era. The last Republican president to oversee a reduction in the deficit was Eisenhower. The last Democratic president to oversee an indisputable rise in the deficit was FDR, and I think he deserves a pass due to WWII. Carter is the odd man out here. The deficit was largely unchanged during his term in office and whether it was a slight increase or a slight decrease depends on your measure. Also note that our projected deficit going forward is consistent with it approximately halving from its current level by the time Obama leaves office.

So when members of one particular party gripe about "fiscal responsibility", just show them these graphs, and remind them of how they have less than zero credibility on the matter.

Similar data can be found at AngryBearBlog here.