Monday, July 16, 2012

The "Here's Why I'm Saying Something Different Now" Speech

I don't see this as likely to become a trend, but I'd love to see a habit of politicians giving either speeches or substantial articles explaining why they have a different position.

The first part would explicitly acknowledging that they had a particular position in the past and now have a different position.  Ideally they would even break down the particular changes.

The second part would explain why they changed their minds.  They would not only justify their current positions, but also demonstrate that their current position is better than the previous one.

This would server several purposes.  Most obviously, it would reduce the claims that an individual is a spineless flip-flopper who is easily pushed around or who changes to suit the political climate.  I wouldn't eliminate the accusations or the incidents, but it would help.  It would also have the effect of forcing politicians to create explicit positions rather than merely talking in vague terms and hoping no one remembers what they said last week.  In terms of creating rational policies, it would have the effect of making them justify their current positions in a logical manner.  Ideally it might even make each policy position an improvement over the previous one.  With this format, they could cite new evidence as justification, without needing to compromise their values or change their perspective.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Job as noun

In the perpetual process of finding simple divisions for people, I propose this:

There are those who think of job and it is a noun.
There are those who think of work and it is a verb.

The first group is trying to get something.  They want a job.  It's a physical thing for them, as if you could have it, hold it, and also lose it.  A job is a possession and therefore it can be stolen.

The second group wants something to happen.  They want cleaning and making and designing.  They don't want a thing, but a process.  As such, there is no ownership, but rather just something to start and stop.

This is why "job creation" is such a strange term.  Those with capital, the second type, aren't going to "create jobs" because they don't see jobs as a thing to create or destroy.  For them, hiring and layoffs are turning on and off a faucet.  You'd not think of a faucet as a "water creator", just a tool to turn on and off the flow when you need water.

It's time we ditched the notion of the wealthy as "job creators".  They will not create jobs because to them, jobs are not something to create.  If we want to create jobs, then the means to do so must be held by those who perceive jobs as a thing.

And indeed, jobs are a thing: they are security, safety, and stability.  They are car payments, mortgages, groceries.  That's why having a job is so important for workers: it's the thing that contains everything else.  To lose a job is to lose everything until a new one can be found.  But the job creators do not exist.

Monday, July 2, 2012


There US Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate is constitutional.  And made absolutely no sense in the process.

Scalia, Alito, and Thomas dissented on the grounds that they despise humanity, but that's to be expected.  Kennedy said something (I'm still reading into his bits).

Then there was Roberts.

First, the mandate is unconstitutional because the commerce clause only regulates activity.  Fine.  That works if we narrow the focus to only the insurance market, in which case a non-buyer is inactive.  However, the whole point of the mandate is that people are not inactive in the healthcare market, of which insurance is only a facet, not truly a market unto itself.  After all, you can get healthcare without insurance, but you'd not get insurance if you somehow were immune to all disease because you'd not get healthcare either.

Then came the "necessary and proper" clause, which essentially says that Congress can do what needs to be done.  It's a bit of a terrifying blank check, but blame the Founding Fathers, not evil conspiracies by politicians.  This was rejected too, on the grounds that the mandate was not necessary, which also demonstrates a remarkable failure to get the point of the mandate.  Well okay, I suppose the mandate isn't truly necessary: Congress could have gone with the more socialist model of a single-payer plan, such as by extending Medicare to all ages and raising taxes to compensate.  But the Court isn't there to debate policy, only constitutionality.

Finally we get to the strange part.   By now it would seem that Roberts isn't a fan of the mandate.  It's regulating inactivity and not necessary or proper.  But... it's a tax.  Or tax-like.  It's taxing uh... something... inactivity, which apparently you can tax.  Even a property tax is a tax on having property.  I have yet to see an "existing" tax in which a person is taxed for existence.  If the tax went directly to the government health programs, then I could see it as being a healthcare tax, a tax on the presumption that you are using, going to use, or at least given the peace of mind from being able to use, healthcare.

I don't mind taxes.  They pay for stuff we need, and also that we don't, but that's not the fault of the taxes.  But this interpretation of the taxing power of Congress makes no sense.  It's not saying that Congress gets to tax and spend and the programs which are taxed and spent are constitutional as well and therefore it's all okay.  Instead Roberts just went with "Congress gets to pass taxes".  That's it.  Congress can pass taxes, without any justification beyond that.  I suppose this is true by a literal and stupid reading of the Constitution, akin to saying that Congress has the power to declare war, so it's okay that Congress declared war on Canada.  But hey, the Court only rules on constitutionality, not policy.

It's impressive, really.  In the years leading up to this (because we knew it was going to get challenged), supporters had to constantly fend off the absurd "broccoli mandate" argument.  Yet, with the way the Court ruled on this, it appears that a broccoli mandate is perfectly constitutional.  I tip my hat to you, Justice Roberts, for having upheld the law I support, but in the almost the worst way possible.  Bravo.