Why Don’t Other Nations Fear Us Anymore?

America is looking like a wimpy kid on a playground of bullies. Twice in the last two months, Iranian navy speed boats have made close runs on our formidable Navy ships on the open seas of the Persian Gulf. They came within 200 yards of the USS Nitze–close enough that they could have fired guns at sailors on the deck. Wait, hasn’t our president been saying that if we play nice with Iran, they’ll begin to love and respect us? Last April, Russian fighter jets buzzed dangerously close to the USS Donald Cook destroyer in the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea. Then there is the constant harassment of our forces by China.

Although our history is not without shameful moments, we have been the most benevolent and dependable nation on the globe until recently. Our defense of justice fueled by our abundant resources presents us with a moral obligation to respond aggressively against bad-actor countries. A nation dedicated to upholding moral principles and having the power to back it up should be feared by all rogue governments. Being feared is not bad if it is leveraged for good. We were feared…until the last few years. Now, nations large and small are testing the giant to see how fainthearted we are and how far they can push the limit.

It’s time for America to wake up and grab Teddy Roosevelt’s big stick! Our president needs to use this latest incident with the Iranian navy to throw down the gauntlet. He should call a national news conference immediately. He should put the world on notice that threats to our national sovereignty in any form will not be tolerated. He should make it clear that we will always protect our citizens, especially those manning our weapons systems on land, on sea, and in the air. Then, he should look straight into the camera and say to the world that the next provocation by any country will be met with dire consequences.

Of course, saying and doing have little in common for this president when it comes to international conflict. He would have to back those warnings with actions. Forces of any other nation that come near our war ships or military aircraft must be attacked with the full force of our capability. Boats demonstrating blatant provocation must be sunk; aircraft doing the same must be shot out of the sky.

The squeamish among us might declare that ordering such response could start a war. I would offer that failure to order such response will ultimately lead to war as our adversaries assess us as weak and without resolve. Peace through power is not a cliche; it’s a successful strategy that works every time it’s tried.

I just hope and pray that the president’s penchant for flaunting weakness doesn’t result in something catastrophic before he takes his final Air Force One ride to his retirement home. My disdain for either of his likely replacements notwithstanding, I believe either of them would reverse our great nation’s recent timidity.

 

The Economics of Minimum Wage

From an economics perspective, the establishment of any government mandated minimum wage in a free market economy is indefensible. The labor market will naturally drive wages to where the employer and the employee agree on what the work is worth and how much the worker is willing to work for. As price is determined by the point where the producer and consumer agree, so are wages determined by the point where the employer and employee agree. The following graphic demonstrates this principle.

This company needs 1200 workers for its operation. The most the company can pay for that many workers is $10.00 per hour. There are 1200 potential workers who are willing to work for $10.00 per hour. The two sides strike an agreement. If the company were only willing to pay $8.50 per hour, only about 700 workers would work for that amount (see where $8.50 intersects with the supply curve marked “s,” then look down at quantity of labor). At the point where $8.50 intersects with the supply curve, the quantity of labor would be approximately 700 in this particular labor market. So, 500 workers (1200 – 700) would not work for $8.50, but would work for $10.00. Therefore the “equilibrium” wage where the employer and the employees agree is at 1200 workers for $10.00 per hour. Notice that the employer, according to his demand for labor (the demand curve marked “d”), would  be willing to hire 1600 workers if he could get them for $8.50, but remember that only 700 workers were willing to work for that wage.  Therefore, there would be a 900 worker shortage (1600-700) if the employer needed 1600 workers, but would only pay $8.50. This is how the open market place for labor works to align workers with employer needs.

Now, let’s throw into the mix a government mandated minimum wage increase to $12.00. Notice in the graph, that the supply of labor would be 1600 workers if they got paid $12.00 per hour. Unfortunately, the employer can’t afford even the needed 1200 workers at that rate and would have to scale back his work force to 700 workers in order to pay them $12.00 per hour. Of course, that would lower his productivity and ultimately be bad for the economy. The plant would be operating below capacity, and unemployment would rise. Therefore, from an economics perspective, artificially increasing the minimum wage, reduces productivity, causes loss of jobs, and reduces the total amount of money available to all consumers (700 x $12.00 is less than 1200 x $10.00). This is a simplified illustration, but it is valid for understanding the overall economic impact of an increase in minimum wage.

In the long run–over five years–the impact of a reasonable minimum wage increase may balance out as employers figure out work-arounds to hire more employees at the increased wage, and employees acquire new skills for better jobs. But, those work-arounds will usually include higher costs prices for the product and applying more technology in order to hire fewer workers for the same production output. This increases unemployment.

Analyzing the market using valid economic concepts as we have just done is termed “positive economics.” In American culture, we acknowledge a competing viewpoint of the economy termed “normative economics.” This is a study of what needs to happen in the market based on social needs. Normative economics considers the moral and ethical aspects of market activity that many think should take precedence over positive economics in some cases. Normative economics is what drives our progressive tax system that results in low-income families paying little or no income tax while higher income families pay more of the tax burden. It also drives the increases in minimum wage with the rationale that lower income workers need more to live than the free market dictates.

There is no positive economics, market driven rationale for government mandated wage increases. Appropriate increases will come naturally with free market interaction. But, normative economics considerations have historically raised the minimum wage by small increments every few years, usually as a political move. However, recently labor unions and the Democratic Party have been calling for a radical minimum wage increase to as much as $12.00 or $15.00. Doubling the minimum wage from the current $7.25 would shock our labor market and, therefore, our whole economy by causing mass layoffs and deep reductions in productivity. In many industries, entry-level jobs would be replaced permanently by new technology. A long-term balancing of such an upset would take decades. It would without a doubt cause inflation.

I encourage you to take some time to mull this information with reference to the graph. Then discuss it with friends and family so that more people will understand what is really involved in minimum wage increases. Share this post with others. Finally, vote accordingly.

 

 

 

A Vote for Trump WAS a Vote for Clinton

The hue and cry of many Trump supporters is “a vote for anyone but Trump is a vote for Clinton.” Why didn’t we hear more often in the primary election that “a vote FOR Trump was a vote for Clinton?” While the two parties were voting among their candidates, the RealClear Politics average of several credible polls showed Clinton would defeat Trump 48 to 41. The same poll indicated Kasich would beat Clinton 48 to 41. Even Cruz’s predicted loss to Clinton at 48 to 42 was by a less margin than Trump’s. Many Trump-train Republicans, when asked by reporters why they were voting for the candidate predicted to lose the general election, responded that they didn’t care about the general election, but just wanted Trump. Enough Republicans to clinch the delegate majority were happy just to nominate a non-establishment candidate regardless of his chances in the general election.

If the general election is so important now that many Republican voters demonize their party members for not supporting Trump, why was it not important in the primary to elect someone who had better odds of winning the presidency? In my opinion, several of the other Republican primary candidates would be leading Clinton by 15 to 20 points today. What we are seeing develop instead is a very predictable outcome of the minority of Republican voters electing Trump with a 46% popular vote–the lowest percentage in recent history. Although that was enough to get the delegates needed, 54% of Republicans voted never-Trump in the primary election.

Donald Trump was sending messages loud and clear during the primary that he had serious character flaws; an unqualified background; very little understanding of the government and political issues; and an arrogant, offensive, egocentric personality. In other words, he seemed to flaunt his unfitness for the presidency. Gaffe after gaffe showcased what his term in office would be like.  The “pivot” to presidential behavior that his supporters assured would happen, hasn’t. He is who he is and would take who he is to the White House.

Voters are now being asked to overlook Trumps negatives for the sake of the country. Maybe we would have done better to overlook some negatives of the other candidates in the primary–candidates who would be doing much better against Clinton in the general election.

I am a deeply conservative citizen who proudly claims identity with the Republican platform and vision for America. I will vote for every other Republican candidate on the local, state, and national ballot in November. I am sickened by the prospect of Hillary Clinton becoming president of this great nation. Her administration would be devastating to our freedoms and values. However, I believe the candidate my party has presented to the voters would also be a great risk to the country and the world, a constant embarrassment, reckless, and incapable of self-constraint. His words and deeds cross my line in lack of trustworthiness and repulsiveness.

We are presently being treated to exciting Olympic competitions . In the relay races, if the first competitor places the team in the lead, but the second falters and puts the team far behind, the race will likely be lost. Likewise, if the Republican party doesn’t win the White House, the blame shouldn’t be on the general election voters. The race will have been lost in the primary.

I remain never-Trump, never-Clinton.

How Does the Electoral College Elect Our President?

 

A couple of my earlier posts described the many intricacies of the primary election process. The primary delegate system, which Trump and Sanders described legitimately as “rigged” is much more convoluted than the general election electoral system. However, even in the general election, the voters do not elect the president directly; they elect electors who represent them in choosing between the candidates.

The name, Electoral College, was adopted by our founding fathers and written into the Constitution. It gives each state a number of electors based on its Congressional delegation (U.S. senators and representatives). If you look at your state on the map above, you will see a number representing your two U.S. senators plus your total number of U.S. representatives. That is how many electors your state gets of the 538 total electors voting for the president. The candidate receiving the majority of electoral votes–at least 270–wins the election. Note that the Constitution also gives the District of Columbia three electors. This map can change in state numbers with each ten-year census, but the total remains the same.

Most states have a “winner-take-all” system that awards all electors to the state’s winning presidential candidate. However, Maine and Nebraska each have a variation of proportional representation. I will disregard these two exceptions in my following comments. Each state’s political parties select their own potential electors. These electors are usually state office holders and prominent party supporters, but cannot be U.S. senators or representatives. The candidate winning the majority of the state’s popular vote is awarded the winning party’s electors. For example, if Trump wins over 50% of a state’s votes, he receives the Republican electors, and the Democratic electors become non-players. So, when you cast your vote, you are actually voting for your party’s electors, not for your choice for president. These electors are pledged to vote for their party’s candidate, but, with a few exceptions, are not legally bound to vote that way. It is very rare, though, that an elector does not vote according to his or her pledge.

The often-discussed “swing” states are extremely important in every election, especially this year. Most states’ electoral outcome can already be predicted with considerable accuracy. The Republican red states and the Democratic blue states have been reasonably consistent in recent presidential elections. However, states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida have high elector numbers and probable close popular votes. For instance, Florida could divide its popular votes almost evenly, but a candidate that would squeak by with just over 50% would receive all 29 electoral votes. Remember Bush’s victory in 2000 when Gore won the nation’s popular vote by a half-million votes, but lost the determining electoral vote in Florida? Bush had a majority of only 537 popular votes in the state? By the way, if a third party is involved, and no candidates receives 270 or more electoral votes, the House votes for the president from among the three candidates.

Here is this year’s Electoral College schedule. The general election is always the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which is November 8th this year. Of course, the results will probably be revealed that night, but the official casting of votes by the electors will not happen until their meeting on December 19th. Before they meet, the governors of each state will certify their state electors’ qualifications and authority to the U.S. Archivist who is ultimately responsible for the Electoral College process. Currently, David Ferriero (whom you have probably never heard of) has this responsibility in addition to his management of the National Archives repository. On January 6th, 2017, the certified votes of the Electoral College are counted in a joint session of the House and Senate, and the winner of the presidency is officially announced. On January 20th, 2017, the new president takes the oath of office at noon and begins his term.

So there is your quick review of the mechanics of electing our 45th president in about three months. Finally, I urge you to study, think, and pray earnestly about your vote in this election. We could hardly have wider extremes of political philosophy than those of these two candidates. The process is important to understand, but the impact of our choices on the future of this nation is monumental.

Please like and share this post with friends and relatives.

 

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