21 October 2016

Counting Votes

By this time, many of us are extremely tired of politics. The level of election fatigue we are experiencing is unprecedented. I've seen people take Facebook breaks, or wish they could mute everything political. I understand this feeling, but I have a different take on it. These feelings present a real opportunity. If enough of us are tired of the way this election has been handled, we should engage MORE, not LESS. Otherwise we will be back in the same situation in four years.

I understand why some would choose to support Clinton or Trump. I believe that you can make a moral and ethical case for why each candidate is the right choice. It really comes down to how you weight different priorities. For many Republicans, Trump represents the best option for preventing a Democratic takeover of the Supreme Court. For many Democrats, Hillary Clinton has the experience, credentials, and temperament to serve as President, representing many of the beliefs that are central to the party.

I happen to have different criteria than either of these positions, and as a result cannot support Trump or Clinton. So what do I intend to do on election day?

I will vote.

Since I find both of these candidates unacceptable, I think it is important to register my distaste with an officially counted vote for President. This limits my choices to one of several small party candidates or a registered write-in candidate. Up-and-coming candidate Evan McMullin is not an option because he is not a registered write-in candidate in Florida.

I will probably vote for Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. I understand that this is a protest vote and that Johnson has no chance of winning. The Libertarian Party is a bit of a trainwreck, so this is not expressing my new party affiliation. However, my vote does need a home, and this is where it will probably go.

This brings us to an argument that we see often. Expressed by both Democrats and Republicans, it goes something like this:

"The winner will be either Clinton or Trump, so a vote for anyone other than Trump helps Clinton and a vote for anyone other than Clinton helps Trump."

I will vote for someone other than Trump or Clinton, understanding and accepting the statement above as fact. I don't think there is any reasonable scenario where Trump or Clinton is not president. Is it very likely that my vote, as someone who has voted Republican in every presidential election since I registered to vote, will help Hillary Clinton? It is.

But that does not mean that I should vote for Donald Trump.

The Republican Party has traditionally been a fair reflection of many of my political views. But the party is not my religion, it's politicians are not prophets, and its platform is not my doctrine. And during this electoral season, especially with Trump as nominee, the Party has moved away from me (and as a result, me from it).

I owe nothing to the Republican Party. I certainly owe nothing to Donald Trump. My vote is not something to be blindly bestowed on whichever candidate my party selects. The candidates job is to win that vote, through a combination of policy and demonstrated leadership. And neither major candidate as done so. I would be happy to discuss my specific concerns with anyone, but that's not the main purpose of this post.

As I said in an earlier post, I do not want Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States. But I am willing to accept that occurring if it means that a more effective and representative party emerges. For that to happen, Donald Trump has to lose, and badly. He will have himself to blame.

The Republican party needs to become something capable of winning presidential elections, or it needs to go away. I choose to use my vote to express that, and to me that counts for something.

07 October 2016

Reaping the Whirlwind

I wrote about why I didn't support Donald Trump back in March. That hasn't changed. I don't feel vindicated by the information that was published today about lewd comments Trump made years ago.  It is not surprising. Something like this was inevitable. So why should I feel good about being right? I find it depressing and completely predictable. And there is probably more to come.
It is too late at this point for the Republican Party to do anything about it. Elevating Pence to the top of the ticket? For what purpose? It's too late, and I'm no fan of Pence, whose acceptance of the role demonstrated poor judgement (or vain ambition). Why set him up to run in 2020? Just because he knows how to behave in public? No thanks.
2016 may well mark the end of the Republican Party as I've known it, or to the loyalty I've felt to it. This is saying something for someone who has often said he was "born Republican." Do GOP elites think that doing something drastic NOW will atone for this mess? To paraphrase a great spiritual leader, when it comes to repentance "the bandage must be as wide as the sore." The Republican Party must suffer through this to the bitter end.
I don't want Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, but at this point she should win. And we deserve the result. I believe in our system, I believe in the Constitution. I believe in our country. I'll keep working hard, taking care of my family, and enjoying the rich relationships that continue to make life here beautiful and worthwhile. I have a lot to be grateful for.

03 October 2016

What I Believe, Part 1

I believe in Free Trade. I believe that the net benefits of free trade outweigh the costs. I think this has been demonstrated academically, and it makes intuitive sense. Pablo Fajgelbaum of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Amit Khandelwal, of Columbia University (from The Economist, and cited in this post from Tyler Cowen): 

...in an average country, people on high incomes would lose 28% of their purchasing power if borders were closed to trade. But the poorest 10% of consumers would lose 63% of their spending power, because they buy relatively more imported goods. The authors find a bias of trade in favour of poorer people in all 40 countries in their study, which included 13 developing countries. 
There is a negative impact on low-tech firms, but the firms that survive become more dynamic: 
An in-depth study of European industry by Nicholas Bloom, of Stanford University, Mirko Draca of Warwick University and John Van Reenen of the LSE found that import competition from China led to a decline in jobs and made life harder for low-tech firms in affected industries. But it also forced surviving firms to become more innovative: R&D spending, patent creation and the use of information technology all increased, as did total factor productivity. 
Neither major-party candidate in the presidential election is very supportive of free trade, with Trump being in favor of eliminating some existing trade deals like NAFTA. Mary Anastasia O'Grady explains how much of what Trump has said about NAFTA is incorrect:
Mr. Trump gave a quick nod to one genuine U.S. disadvantage during the debate when he talked about cutting U.S. corporate tax rates to spur investment at home. But his main message was that under NAFTA Mexico is “stealing” U.S. jobs. In fact, an interconnected North American economy has made U.S. manufacturing globally competitive. U.S. companies source components from Mexico and Canada and add value in innovation, design and marketing. The final outputs are among the most high-quality, low-price products in the world. U.S. automotive competitiveness is highly dependent on global free trade. According to the Mexico City-based consulting firm De la Calle, Madrazo, Mancera, 37% of the U.S.’s imported auto components came from Mexico and Canada in 2015. This sourcing from abroad is important to good-paying U.S. auto-assembly jobs. But parts also flow the other way. U.S. parts manufacturers sent 61% of their exports to Mexico and Canada in 2015. 
As a parent, I want my children to succeed. But I want this to happen in a way that prepares them for the real world, a competitive and dynamic world that owes them nothing. We don't help our industries by sheltering them from competition, and we may harm our own citizens in the process. Trade restrictions are almost always worse for American industry than it is for the industries from the countries we seek to deal with. One way to level the playing field is to stop playing favorites.