Why I’m voting for Gary Johnson

Standard

This is part three of my series of posts on Why I am voting third party. This is a long post that you may not agree with, so here is your trigger warning. Read at your own risk.

So, now we’re down to it. I’ve written at length about my opposition to Donald Trump and my unwillingness to to vote for Hillary Clinton. I’ve called one an ass and the other incoherent, though many would likely say the titles could just as easily be swapped. Now comes the crux of the matter, why I’m choosing to vote for third party candidate Gary Johnson. Despite what many may believe, this is not a protest vote. I’m also going to argue at length that it’s not a wasted vote. My vote for Johnson is actually a vote for the individual whom I consider the best current candidate.

Economic issues

As a libertarian, Gary Johnson supports policies that generally seek to avoid meddling in free market economics. While he doesn’t go into great detail on many of his policies, the ones that he does align with my thinking on them.

Tax reform

Trump wants to cut taxes. Clinton wants to raise taxes. Gary Johnson is the only candidate that has consistently supported an actual full reform of the U.S. tax system. I’ve been talking about the need for system-level tax reform for years. If you’re wondering, I support a European-style value added tax (VAT) for a host of reasons, many of which have to do with ease of collection and economic efficiency.

Gary Johnson, in contrast, is a proponent of the FairTax. This is a complete re-work of how taxes are assessed and collected. His plan would get rid of income taxes, estate taxes, and pretty much every other federal tax entirely. It would replace them with an across-the-board consumption tax on all goods  and services. The core idea and justification for a consumption tax is that the amount one pays in taxes will scale with one’s spending. If you spend more, you pay more in taxes. In the minds of its advocates, this is quite fair. However, one of the biggest arguments against consumption taxes are that they are regressive. This isn’t the simplest economic concept to explain, so I’ll let Investopedia do it for me.

Imagine two individuals each purchase $100 of groceries per week, and they each pay $7 in tax on their groceries. The first individual earns $2,000 per week, making the sales tax rate on her groceries 0.35% of income. In contrast, the other individual earns $320 per week, making her grocery sales tax 2.2% of income. In this case, although the tax is the same rate in both cases, the person with the lower income pays a higher percentage of income, making the tax regressive.

Clinton has consistently called for the wealthy to “pay their fair share.” What this means, exactly, is open to interpretation. However, I think most could agree that taxing a low-income individual 2.2% of their income just to purchase groceries while taxing a high-income individual only 0.35% for the same seems wrong. In this way, the FairTax would not be very fair.

In order to offset this, the architects of the FairTax proposed issuing a “prebate,” in which the federal government would send out a check each month to every household that would provide funds to offset the taxes that would be paid that month. The amount of the prebate would be based on the poverty rate and the consumption tax rate. Here’s the table provided by FairTax.org assuming a tax rate of

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-3-14-55-pm

When I first heard about this plan back in my undergrad, I thought it was brilliant. After doing lots of research, I still think it has some merit, but is not the best option. I find it interesting that it was actually considered under the Bush administration and was found wanting. Bush’s Federal Advisory Panel on Tax Reform evaluated a number of different tax plans, of which the FairTax was one. Here are some excerpts from their full assessment:

The Treasury Department’s proposed targeted cash grant program would cost $780
billion in 2006. It would represent 30 percent of total federal government spending,
and would dwarf all other federal entitlement programs and exceed the combined
size of Social Security and Medicaid. To implement the program, the government
would need to collect 34 percent more revenue and redistribute an additional 6
percent of GDP. The Panel concluded that this substantial increase in the amount of
revenue collected from taxpayers and redistributed by the federal government was
undesirable. Some Panelists were also concerned that the precedent set by the large
cash grant program could set the stage for further growth in the size and scope of the
federal government. To pay for the targeted cash grant program and remain otherwise
revenue-neutral, the tax rate would need to increase to at least 37 percent, assuming
low evasion and using the Extended Base.

This brings up an interesting conundrum for the libertarian. While it would massively simplify the tax system and therefore avoid complexities and loopholes, it would create a massive federal entitlement program, perhaps the largest ever. Granted, the entitlement is simply the inverse of the current “tax rebate” system we’re used to. However, it does make me wonder if he’s thought through this.

For my part, I’m in support of tax reform, and it’s a simple jump to move from the FairTax to a VAT. The nice thing about either is that they are easily adjusted, though not without economic costs. There would have to be significant studies that would take place to determine the correct tax rate, and numbers like 37% scare some people. However, it’s important to remember that this tax replaces basically every other tax. There would be no income taxes. Businesses would no longer be covering their half of payroll taxes, and workers would not be covering their half either. In addition, everyone would be getting a check at the beginning of the month which they would likely spend, increasing sales for businesses.

If you want to read why I support a VAT over the FairTax, here’s a short post with an example. I’m in support of systematic tax reform, and Gary Johnson is the only candidate even considering it. If you support the idea of universal basic income (UBI), this is also very likely the quickest path to it, as the prebate concept is essentially the same thing.

Decreased regulation

Regulation does a lot of great things. Antitrust regulation keeps industries from becoming too concentrated where competition fails and monopoly power kicks in. Food safety regulation keeps us safe from food borne illness. Wallstreet regulation keeps banks from making bad loan decisions and then offloading risk in ever complicated circles that are ready to collapse. However, excessive regulation can hurt competitive forces and damage markets. I’m generally against regulation unless a very strong case can be made for it. Gary Johnson agrees with this stance.

Illegal immigration

I’ve already spoken my peace on this at length on this topic. I think Gary Johnson has the most coherent approach to the issue, which is “creating a more efficient system of providing work visas, conducting background checks, and incentivizing non-citizens to pay their taxes, obtain proof of employment, and otherwise assimilate with our diverse society.” I fully agree with this approach.

Social issues

Marijuana

Gary Johnson is the only candidate proposing significant effort at the national level to promote marijuana legalization. I agree with this viewpoint for a variety of reasons. Meanwhile, prisons continue to fill up with thousands of individuals caught with an ounce of a plant that I would argue is at worst as dangerous and likely less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. I say legalize it and allow states to tax the heck out of it and reclaim some of the massive spending.

Abortion

I’ve written at length on my views on abortion and where I think the dialogue needs to go. Gary Johnson’s views are very close to mine. He is personally opposed to abortion generally, but does not think the courts are the best place to fight that battle. He opposes late-term abortion and wants to defund Planned Parenthood. I can respect a person who, unlike Hillary Clinton, is forthcoming about his private views differing from his public stance. I also appreciate that, unlike Trump, Johnson hasn’t pre-selected supreme court justices and would therefore give himself the flexibility to select an individual whom he truly felt would fill the role well.

Privacy

Johnson is the only candidate with an actual position on privacy, in which he advocates for it. Clinton and Trump have said little about it, which I take as a tacit endorsement of the Patriot Act and the massive surveillance apparatus that has been set up over the past two presidencies. I don’t know that I believe in a universal right to privacy, but I know that I would like the government to move towards more privacy rather than away from it.

Internet freedom

As a web developer and avid user of the internet, I am a massive advocate of net neutrality and internet freedom. I’m also a fan of encryption and avoiding backdoors that the government or others can use to get into my devices. Clinton has come out in support of net neutrality in the past, but Trump has no idea what those words mean, and many other people don’t either.

Net neutrality prevents ISPs like Comcast or AT&T from charging you more for certain types of content or access to certain websites. This image provides the best explanation I’ve yet seen for it.

1398358505549

Imagine having to choose an “internet plan” based not on speed or data caps, but based upon what types of files you want to download or what websites you want to be able to visit. Like current cable and satellite television packages, you would likely get a certain base set of websites you could visit or file types you could download. To expand this, you would have to pay. $5/mo extra for google, $10/mo extra for Facebook, $20/mo extra for Netflix. Want videos…$10. Want images…$5. This is the reality of a system without net neutrality.

Now, imagine a world where a police officer can take your iPhone, plug in a small piece of plastic, and download all of your texts and photos for use as evidence against you. If encryption is not allowed, this is a reality that could come true. Trump raged against Apple’s support of encryption. Clinton’s support of encryption is murky. I’m all for net neutrality and encryption, and Gary Johnson is the only one saying anything about them right now.

Foreign policy

I have a life goal of never being an apologist for any candidate’s blatant shortcomings, and I’m not going to try to defend Gary Johnson’s gaffes on foreign policy. Whether it’s asking what is Aleppo or not being able to name a foreign leader he admires, he came across as an idiot. Granted, I wouldn’t have known what Aleppo was offhand either, but I’m not running for president. I get that he’s a libertarian and is focused on domestic issues, but at some point you’ve gotta step up your game. This is by far his weakest area, and that is more than a bit concerning.

Having said that, I do like his commitment to deliberation on the use of military for and his deference to congress. The issue page on his website says:

As President, Gary Johnson will move quickly and decisively to cut off the funding on which violent extremist armies depend. He will repair relationships with our allies. And he will only send our brave soldiers to war when clearly authorized by Congress after meaningful, transparent deliberation and debate.

I’ve been a critic of the expansion of executive powers for quite some time, and it seems like in this Johnson and I agree. I really wish someone would have asked Trump for his thoughts on Aleppo, because I imagine he would have given a similar response. Trump hasn’t shown me any more qualifications for his foreign policy experience than Johnson has, so in this I consider them equal. Given a choice between the two of them, I’d go with Johnson’s restraint over Trump’s aggression every time.

Where this leaves me

Having gone through Gary Johnson’s stance on a variety of economic, social, and foreign policy issues, I find I agree with his stances on nearly everything. I do have concerns about the effects his cutting spending would have on the economy, and I really wish there was more solid math behind his tax plan. I have some concern about his foreign policy experience, but appreciate his commitment to restraint and deference to congress. In the end, he’s the candidate whose views most match my own, and he’s someone I can trust. I will be voting for him.

Why I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton

Standard

This is part two of my series of posts on Why I am voting third party. This is a long post that you may not agree with, so here is your trigger warning. Read at your own risk.

As I explained in my previous post, Donald Trump is a terrible person running as a terrible candidate with terrible policy ideas, nearly all of which I disagree with. I’m confident that his campaign has already been disastrous for the credibility of the Republican party and Christian churches in America, and a Trump presidency would provide disastrous for the country. On the other side you have one of the most seemingly qualified candidates ever to run. A two-term senator from New York, former first lady of Arkansas and the U.S., former secretary of state, and former runner up for the democratic nomination. She should honestly be winning by a landslide right now.

I’ve been a moderate-leaning-conservative for a long time, but given how strongly I oppose Trump, I could have easily seen myself crossing the aisle this election. If the final candidate had been Bernie Sanders, I would have had to have a serious talk with myself over it. Sure, many of his policy ideas were also pretty terrible, but I felt he was at least a candidate who appeared consistent and believed in the things he advocated. Instead we have Clinton, and so the post begins.

I’m going to do my best to give an honest evaluation of the current policies Hillary Clinton is advocating and my feelings on them. I’m going for a bird’s eye view here, because her platform is absolutely massive. Unlike Trump, Hillary also has a political history, a voting record, and a lot of emails that can be reviewed. I’m going to do my best to pull in some of that information as I go.

Economic issues

Tax plan/revenue

Hillary’s campaign has focused on a number of economic issues, but almost all of them are wrapped up in the idea of changing the tax code so that “the wealthiest and the largest corporations” end up paying “their fair share” in taxes. She’s serious about this. Really serious. Really super serious. Nearly every issue on her website she promises monetary outlays, and every one of those is to be paid for by taxing wealthy individuals and large corporations at higher levels.

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation did an assessment of Clinton’s tax plan last month. They found that the plan would lower GDP by 2.6%, lower wages by 2.1%, and cause the loss of 697,000 jobs. In return for this damage to the U.S. economy, they found that it would increase government revenue by $663 billion over the next decade. That equals out to roughly $66 billion annually, or about 2/3 of a Bill Gates. This number doesn’t mean a lot to me by itself, so I decided to give it some context by looking at the current federal budget of the United States and the current U.S. deficit. For fiscal year 2016, the U.S. planned to spend about $4 trillion. This includes $940 billion on social security, $585 billion on medicare, $350 billion on medicaid, and $650 million on “other mandatory programs,” which covers things like retirement income for federal employees and military personnel. We also planned to spend $1.2 trillion on discretionary programs, which includes $631 billion on defense and $563 billion on everything else you typically think of the government doing (food stamps, unemployment, housing assistant, NASA, the park service, education, humanitarian aid, infrastructure, and so on and so forth). Oh, we also planned to pay $283 billion in interest on the national debt. Much of this spending is already covered through existing taxes. Anything not covered is borrowed, and the total amount borrowed each year is referred to as the deficit. For fiscal year 2016, the congressional budget office estimated the deficit to be $590 billion. $66 billion a year is an incredible amount of money. If spending was kept at the same levels, this would reduce the annual deficit by 11%. So, given those numbers, I had to ask myself if it is worth the 697,000 jobs and an across-the-board decrease in wages of 2% to get that extra $66 billion. For you, that might be the case. For me, it isn’t. There are a number of reasons for this.

The first reason I don’t think Clinton’s plan is worth it is one of practicality. These extra taxes would actually have to be collected, and the wealthy are really good at avoiding paying taxes. Closing every loophole is impossible, and even if actually happened, the wealthy have the means available to them to move themselves and their investments elsewhere in the world. There’s a reason so many U.S. businesses are based in other countries. While thousands of people threaten to move themselves and their money to Canada every election year and never do so, the wealthy are actively moving money outside of the U.S. all the time.

The second reason this isn’t worth it to me is that the wealthy make a significant percentage of their money through capital gains, which is when they sell stocks and other investments for higher prices than what than they bought them for. Clinton’s plan ramps up taxes on capital gains across the board, but especially for investments held for short periods of time. Taxes on investments held for less than two years more than double from 15% to nearly 40%. While this does affect the wealthy, it also affects many in the middle class who dabble in the stock market, and it discourages investment because of it. It is perhaps for these reasons that the Tax Foundation estimated this particular part of Clinton’s tax plan would actually decrease revenues by $50 billion over 10 years.

Spending

A third reason this isn’t worth it to me is that Clinton already has plans in place to spend all of that extra revenue, and way more beyond it. Take her $275 billion infrastructure plan, her $60 billion clean energy plan, her $10 billion manufacturing plan, and her $50 billion youth employment plan. These are just the programs with definite numbers attached. Let’s take a look at one of her other platform planks: the issue of housing. This hasn’t gotten any media play during the election that I’ve heard. Yet here it is, on her website. One of the key policies she proposes is to offer to match up to $10,000 of a down payment for first time homebuyers. This is incredibly relevant to me as I’m about to purchase my first home…and I also work for a nonprofit that helps people purchase their own homes. I love the idea. The National Association of Realtors reported total home sales of 5,760,000 in 2015. They also reported that 32% of these were first-time home buyers. Do some math and you find that Clinton’s plan could have cost $18 billion last year. I realize that some people put nothing down and that this number is likely very high, but I also expect this would incentivize a lot more people to buy a home. Just this one tiny policy in her huge platform full of them has the potential to eat more than a quarter of the new revenue. I would love this policy, I would have taken full advantage of it, and other people would be paying for it. This is just one of the 7 or 8 policies she proposes on housing alone, and taking all of the together, I’m sure just this one issue could approach $20 billion. How the heck does she plan to offer a free community college education to everyone?

Clinton is promising to pay for all of these things with the money gained from increasing the taxes on the rich, but the money just isn’t there. I actually like some of these ideas. I’ve been worried for our infrastructure for years, and it only takes a few minutes of conversation with a sewer worker to discover how terrifyingly bad off we are. I really like the idea of promoting renewable energy. I think youth employment is a great thing to pursue. I like the idea of encouraging kids to pursue technical diplomas through community colleges. I think all of these could promote future growth, but I just have no idea where she plans to get the money to pay for them, and that feels incredibly irresponsible and deceptive to me. Oh geez, I’ve already said it. I was hoping I could at least make it through this first section without having to state my mistrust of Hillary Clinton, but now it’s on the table. You’re going to hear a lot more about that, so brace yourself.

Minimum wage

This is a big one, so it gets its own post. I actually didn’t know what I really believed on minimum wage before writing this post. I had always wanted to take some time and really research it, so it’s been a fun one to write. It’s also the main reason this post took so long to put together…it was a lot of research.

Outsourcing jobs/production

Clinton states on her issue page concerning manufacturing that she wants to “Crack down on companies that ship jobs and earnings overseas and create incentives for companies to bring back jobs to the U.S.” That second part sounds great. Provide all the incentives you want. That first part sounds awful. I don’t support efforts that try to prevent companies from hiring foreign labor for identical reasons that I don’t support tariffs and I don’t support deporting undocumented immigrants. Namely, because higher wages nearly always lead to higher prices, which decreases the real effective income of everyone else in the economy. They also almost always lead to fewer buyer options and lower quality products in the long-run.

I know this sounds incredibly un-American. Arguing against “made in America” is tantamount to burning the flag or shooting an eagle or saying positive things about France. I agree that things made overseas are often of lower quality, especially in industries like electronics and accessories. I agree that losing American jobs is bad. However, maintaining artificially high prices for the sake of keeping U.S. jobs hurts the economy in its own ways. Anytime you remove competition, you remove incentives for businesses to actually meet the needs and wants of their customers. Look at Comcast, who suddenly decided it was time to invest in fiber in Atlanta shortly after Google Fiber came in. Look at Mylan, who raised the price of life-saving Epi-pens by 400% this past year and saw few consequences due to a lack of viable competition. Look at Verizon, who just this year significantly slashed the price of their mobile plans as other carriers began to gain more market share. Look at the Subway at the Peachtree Center Mall who finally decided to start making sweet tea, probably in large part because I asked about it every time I came and the Firehouse subs right next door offered it. Sure, some of this could be avoided by more regulation, but regulation often serves to reduce competition itself.

This all comes back to what I used to call the Walmart conundrum. They’ve done a lot to improve their image recently, including raising their minimum pay rate to $10. However, lots of people think Walmart is terrible. I think it can be objectively stated that it has treated its employees badly for most of its existence. It often leads to the closing of family-owned businesses. However, lots of people are obviously shopping there, or else it wouldn’t have had nearly half a trillion dollars in revenue last year. I’ve seen so many movements over the years urging people to shop elsewhere, but the fact of the matter is Walmart is extremely convenient in the variety of things it carries and it does often have the loweest prices on many items. Sure, many of these items are incredibly low quality, especially those generic kitchen accessories, furniture, and sporting goods. However, people still buy them. If you want a good knife, you go to William Sonoma. If you want a cheap knife, you go to Walmart. Some people can’t afford William Sonoma, and Walmart actually provides them with additional choices that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

Labor unions

I don’t like unions. I think they’re a blunt bludgenoning instrument that did great things for worker health and safety in the early 20th century but now primarily serve to increase labor costs, prevent competition, and otherwise add unnatural rigidity to labor markets. Having said that, my dislike of them is more philosophical than economic. I think they often have the effect of making members of a profession even more beholden to people in power (the union leaders) rather than empowering the individual worker. I think they’re prone to corruption and can cause massive inefficiency. Way before super-PACs were legal, unions were throwing around huge amounts of money and leveraging their influence to push through policies that may have been more for the union’s good than the good of the members they were meant to represent. Hillary strongly supports unions, so in this she and I disagree.

I will also fully admit this is one of my more blind viewpoints. I make every effort I can to have frank discussions with people on the other side of most issues, but I’ve thus far not found a lot of union members to talk to about their views. I never took a course in my economics program that focused on the economics of unions. I also fully admit that I have had relatively relaxed jobs throughout my professional career and have not had to stress about supporting a family or dealing with regulations or bad policies that directly affect my profession. I’d be willing to change this stance, but I honestly don’t even know where to start here.

Immigration

I could actually get behind much of Clinton’s immigration plan. A lot of it aligns with my own feelings on the matter. The only thing I mainly disagree on is a bit convoluted. In a paid Wall Street speech, Clinton stated that her dream “is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, some time in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.” She clarified in a later debate that she was referring only to energy policy. However, I think this is a good point of clarification for me as well. I’ve argued at length that I am in support of immigration. However, due to the significant costs associated with our welfare programs, I am not in support of completely open borders. I am in support of huge numbers of worker visas as long as welfare restrictions are placed upon those. That said, I am in support of open trade. Tariffs are dumb.

Foreign policy

As I stated in my post on Trump, I feel foreign policy is my weakest area of knowledge on how to evaluate a candidate. However, given Clinton’s history as Secretary of State, we have a unique opportunity to see ahead of time how a presidential candidate will conduct foreign policy. From this, Clinton looks incredibly pro-conflict to me, especially for a democrat. The New York Times featured a whole article about the topic.

I don’t know whose fault it is that Libya collapsed, but every source I read seems to tell the story as one of President Obama pushing for restraint and Secretary Clinton pushing for aggression. The New York Times gives a very piquant perspective on that decision in their exposé on the fall of Libya, saying:

This is the story of how a woman whose Senate vote for the Iraq war may have doomed her first presidential campaign nonetheless doubled down and pushed for military action in another Muslim country.

If the Times is to be believed, intervening in Libya turned out to be a catastrophe, with the failed state becoming a haven for terrorists a the death of president Gaddafi. Ripples of that failure spread out, leading to escalation of the Syrian civil war, increased terrorist activity in countries near and far, contributed to the growth of ISIS, and added to the foundation of the current refugee crisis. This of course, leads into the Benghazi situation, which I don’t want to go into detail on. I don’t know if it was directly Clinton’s fault or not, but it feels like she has to bear at least some responsibility for it. If nothing else, two former Secretaries of State seem to agree privately agree on that, and I think they probably have a decent perspective on the thing.

I can appreciate a bit of firmness in foreign affairs, especially with the recent aggression from Russia and North Korea. However, the extent to which I see that in Clinton is more than a bit concerning. Part of me wants to see something significant done in these situations, an intervention to assure U.S. security and influence. However, given the catastrophic results of the Iraq war and Libya intervention, I’m definitely far less interventionist than I used to be. I could be completely off base on Clinton’s hawkishness, but I haven’t seen her campaign do much to combat that perspective. In the end, I’m less concerned with Clinton’s foreign affairs perspective than I am with Trump’s, but I still feel very uncomfortable imagining her in charge of our military given her record.

Healthcare

I wish I had more time to cover this in depth, and perhaps I’ll return to it for further discussion on a later date. Suffice to say the economics of it are quite complicated, and my feelings on it are even more complicated. I liked the idea of the ACA initially. The goal was to expand insurance coverage, which is something I could get behind. Everyone knew it would increase premiums, and I was extremely wary of the extent to which that would happen. My premiums are increasing 5% this year. From talking with friends, it seems all of them are experiencing at least that, while many of them are facing double digit increases. While this is only anecdotal evidence, I would still call that excessive. I don’t know if there’s a good answer here, so I’m going to just say this doesn’t significantly affect my vote.

Social issues

Hillary Clinton has official stances on a huge number of social issues. It’s actually pretty impressive how many she covers. These range from general policies such as affordable childcare and criminal justice reform to extremely specific provisions such as providing first responders with pharmaceuticals to reverse opioid overdose. I don’t have time to cover anywhere near all of them, but I’ll hit the high points that matter to me and seem to matter to other people.

Gun control

As I said in my writeup on Trump, I don’t think gun ownership will ever be outlawed in America. I think a lot of the things democrats tend to fixate on, such as banning AR15 rifles, are simply to placate their base and will have few actual effects on gun violence. I don’t see anything excessive in Clinton’s official plans for this. She seems to be keeping it pretty minimalist. so I’d say this one is a wash for me.

Marijuana

In what is perhaps a first, from what I’ve read, Clinton seems to be in agreement with Trump about letting states decide on marijuana legalization. I’d prefer it to be legalized at the federal level, so I guess I disagree with her here.

Abortion

Abortion is one of the most important moral issues to me. It’s a very complicated issue that I’ve written extensively on. Nearly 25 years ago, Bill Clinton ran on the belief that abortion should be “safe, legal and rare.” Clinton agreed with this view in 2008. I’ve actually looked back for years about that statement, because I think it’s probably the most productive approach that someone who supports abortion can take on the issue. Despite my complete opposition to abortion, that would have been a statement that I could consider productive. That said, the Hillary Clinton from 2016 doesn’t seem to fully agree with the Hillary Clinton of 2008. I’ve heard safe and I’ve heard legal, but rare seems to have vanished. It’s very obviously excluded from the issue page on her website.

I don’t know what that means. Perhaps Clinton has embraced the view of abortion as a means of population control. Perhaps she’s finally fully bought into the idea that a fetus is just a bundle of cells and therefore it’s entirely a women’s rights issue. However, one of her discussions about this issue in particular has continued to bother me. Back in April on an episode of Meet the Press, Clinton was asked about abortion. Reading through the transcript, Clinton said this:

My position is in line with Roe v. Wade, that women have a constitutional right to make these most intimate and personal and difficult decisions based on their conscience, their faith, their family, their doctor and that it is something that really goes to the core of privacy.

And I want to maintain that constitutional protection under Roe v. Wade. As you know, there is room for reasonable kinds of restrictions. After a certain point in time, I think the life, the health of the mother are clear. And those should be included even as one moves on in that pregnancy.

The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights. Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t do everything we possibly can, in the vast majority of instances to, you know, help a mother who is carrying a child and wants to make sure that child will be healthy, to have appropriate medical support.

It doesn’t mean that you don’t do everything possible to try to fulfill your obligations. But it does not include sacrificing the woman’s right to make decisions. And I think that’s an important distinction, that under Roe v. Wade we’ve had enshrined under our Constitution

Well, under Roe v. Wade that is the law. And as I said, I support the reasoning and the outcome in Roe v. Wade. So in the third trimester of pregnancy, there is room for looking at the life and the health of the mother. Now, most people, not all Republicans, not all conservatives even agree with the life of the mother. But most do.

Where the distinction comes in is the health of the mother. And when you have candidates running for president who say that there should be no exceptions, not for rape, not for incest, not for health, then I think you’ve gotten pretty extreme. And my view has always been this is a choice. It is not a mandate.

I get that this was a live interview and things sometimes don’t come out clearly, but this is one of the worst conglomeration of viewpoints that I could imagine. As I covered in my post about abortion, the entire pro-choice argument depends upon the assumption that a fetus is just a fetus. It’s a clump of cells. It’s no more a full person than a cyst or a tumor is a full person. The fact that Clinton referred to a fetus as an “unborn person” and then goes on to say that it has “no rights” is just baffling. She also went on to discuss her vote against a bill that would ban late-term third trimester abortions, which take place after the baby has become viable. This discussion was echoed in the third presidential debate, in which she said she voted against the bill because it did not leave exemptions for the life of the mother, rape, or incest. The fact that she is willing to even consider a late-term abortion ban is encouraging to this pro-life supporter, but also confusing. If an unborn human doesn’t have rights, then why would she even consider banning late-term abortions at all? She received very vocal criticism from both sides on this statement, and for good reason.

To me, Clinton’s stance is completely incoherent and has no logical consistency. If she’s willing to ban late-term abortions as a concession to her opponents, then she should just say so. If she’s willing to ban it because she believes a viable “unborn human” should be given a chance at life, then she should just say so, and she should reconsider her views abortion generally. This is one of the few cases where I’m actually fine with people believing either extreme because it is somewhat required for consistency’s sake. She seems to believe a fetus is actually an unborn human, but one that has no rights…that it should be given a chance at life, but not in some cases…that it’s “one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make“…but is also just a routine medical procedure for women. All of this makes me feel like she’s trying to appeal to every viewpoint at once despite where her morality would carry her, and that is somewhat terrifying.

Character flaws

So, now we’re to the final topic. Having written everything I have, this one actually doesn’t need nearly the mass of text I was imagining. When it comes down to it, I think Hillary Clinton states the situation quite well in her Wall Street speeches, the contents of which were leaked through various channels:

politics is like sausage being made. It is unsavory, and it always has been that way, but we usually end up where we need to be. But if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position

I think this is the core issue, and is the reason why Hillary Clinton continues to be seen as untrustworthy. Despite her claims that she is running the most transparent campaign in history, there is still so much that goes unexplained. Despite the fact that she goes into great detail on 20+ issues in depth on her campaign site, the things she says in public (and private) seem to indicate that she may not actually believe these things. Even on issues that she seems to have a clear view, like abortion, the view itself is not always internally consistent and seems to be up for modification as needed. Part of me appreciates this…politics sometimes requires compromise. However, over and over I get the feeling that her actual objectives do not actually align with what she says. Granted, Trump’s don’t either, but I’m pretty sure I can just chalk anything he says up to self-aggrandization and personal advancement. With Clinton, I assume the end game is something similar, but the fact that I can’t be sure of that is disconcerting.

Along with her trustworthiness, I have serious concerns about her ability to run a modern nation. This doesn’t have anything to do with the foreign policy or economic or even social issues I mentioned earlier. This has solely to do with the fact that she’s of a previous generation and, in my opinion, has never been forced to modernize to such an extent as to be able to do what needs to be done. People have argued that it’s a stupid excuse, but the fact that FBI director Comey stated that Clinton wasn’t “sophisticated enough” to know she was risking national security is perhaps even more concerning to me than if it was intentional. As Politico put it, Clinton appears to be

a busy and uninterested executive who shows little comfort with even the basics of technology, working with a small, harried inner circle of aides inside a bureaucracy where the IT and classification systems haven’t caught up with how business is conducted in the digital age. Reading the FBI’s interviews, Clinton’s team hardly seems organized enough to mount any sort of sinister cover-up. There’s scant oversight of the way Clinton communicated, and little thought given to how her files might be preserved for posterity—MacBook laptops with outdated archives are FedExed across the country, cutting-edge iPads are discarded quickly and BlackBerry devices are rejected for being “too heavy”

The article is almost offensive in its tone, essentially describing Clinton as the proverbial out-of-touch grandmother in the ways of technology. It says that “according to multiple aides, [Clinton has] never even learned how to use a desktop computer.” Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a computer programmer, but having someone who doesn’t know what a mouse is in charge of nuclear launch codes, stealth bombers, and other such advanced technology feels a little concerning. It almost seems inevitable that her emails would be hacked, given the lax security protocol and adherence to highly outdated technology the article shows. From all this, Clinton’s assertion that she is “kind of far removed” sounds quite believable.

Combining all this with the evidence found on Reddit (the fact that the often liberal-leaning Snopes hasn’t denied it yet is telling, at least to me) and the recent discovery of additional emails, I’m torn. I’m quite convinced that someone high up in Clinton’s campaign asked for emails to be deleted or modified, but I’m not sure if it was her. If it was, I tend to agree with Comey, that she probably had no idea what that actually meant. In this case, I wonder about the trustworthiness and competency of her top advisors and employees. That said, ignorance does not a defense make, and if solid proof was found of illegal behavior, I think it needs to be searched out and an indictment issued.

Beyond this, there are plenty of incidents that just scream “corrupt” to me. You’ve got the multiple incidences of countries or their leaders donating money to the Clinton foundation and shortly after receiving contracts or preferential treatment. You’ve got large donors to the foundation receiving ambassadorships. I’ve tried to avoid bringing her husband into this, but you’ve got Former President Clinton meeting with Loretta Lynch on the eve of the investigation into Hillary’s emails. If Clinton really is trustworthy and aboveboard, she certainly seems to make a lot of stupid decisions that bring that into question. This is, of course, leaving out all of the issues surrounding the DNC coordinating with her in her defeat of Bernie Sanders, but I’ll cover that on my post for why I’m voting for the third party candidate himself. Suffice to say, maybe it was all the DNC’s fault, but I don’t see her pushing back on the “help” she was getting at any point.

Finally, I try not to buy into conspiracy theories, despite the host of them surrounding Clinton and her staff involving various deaths, connections to ISIS, and worse. The seemingly universal antipathy from many conservatives is astonishing, honestly. I don’t remember this much hate for John Kerry. It was all swift boats and “he’s a coward” and that was it. Sure, plenty of people saw muslim connections in Obama and there was the big birther movement that Trump himself was connected to, but this feels like something even more. The mistrust and loathing of both candidates this cycle seems to have reached a level unprecedented in recent history.

Where this leaves me

I was surprised at how many positives I found for Clinton while going through this. As I said earlier, this is the closest I’ve ever come to crossing the aisle. However, I still can’t bring myself to vote for her for a variety of reasons. While I like some of her economic ideas, I think she’s being misleading in her assertions that increasing taxes on the wealthy can generate enough revenue to cover the cost of them. I can’t agree with her stance on raising minimum wage without additional evidence that will not be available for another couple of years and I’m opposed to unions. I’m extremely nervous that her aggressive foreign policy would bring pain and suffering to people in places that don’t need any more of that, as well as tying our interests up in such places. I’m against her views on a few social issues, and am strongly against her incoherent views on abortion. I see significant character flaws that cause me not trust her and seriously doubt her ability to successfully navigate modern issues in a modern world. I also feel that she is corrupt to some extent. She came out better than I expected and it was a close thing, but in the end, I can’t vote for her.

My views on abortion

Standard

This post was written in connection with a larger post, Why I am voting third party, so I’m going to take a decidedly election-centric approach here. Sorry if you stumbled upon this looking for a more generic discussion. This is a long post that you may not agree with, so here is your trigger warning. Read at your own risk.

Everyone oversimplifies the issue of abortion. One side says it’s simply an issue of women’s rights while the other says it’s straight up murder. From my point of view, it’s actually an incredibly complicated issue, and one that has very little real middle ground. This is the result of years of attempting to come to terms with it and to try to find some middle ground. First off, let’s start with some of my basic assumptions. People support or oppose abortion for a variety of reasons. For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to assume that individuals on both sides are actually being forthcoming with the reasons they state. I’m going to assume for the sake of this discussion that a woman’s right to control her body and make her own choices is the foundation of the pro-choice argument and that a desire to avoid the killing of a child is the pro-life argument.

Despite what people say, this is not always the case. I’ve had conversations with lots of people on both sides. I’ve read hundreds of posts on the internet. There are pro-choice individuals who argue for abortion because it’s a women’s rights issue, when they really support it as a form of population control. Some say they support access to abortions for poor individuals because it’s a women’s rights issue, but they really support it because they believe it will prevent crime and poverty. On the other side, there are plenty of “pro-life” people whose primary objective is to press women towards chastity or punish women for making their own independent decisions. It’s obnoxious and disgusting. All of these are noble goals in the minds of those who support them, but they are also paths that lead to complex conversations independent of the issue of abortion. I’m going to touch on them at times, but they’re not going to be the primary focus here.

So, having gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the foundations of both sides’ arguments. The pro-choice arguments rely upon the assumption that until birth, a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus is not a human child and does not therefore have any rights. This viewpoint is clearly spelled out in-depth on the ACLU website. If this is true, it proceeds that the fetus is simply a part of the woman’s body, and as such, she should have full rights to do with her body as she pleases. The pro-life arguments, on the other hand, rely upon the assumption that a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus is actually a human child even before birth and should have its own rights.

Any situation where the rights of separate individuals come into conflict is very complicated. It is for this reason that we have a government…to determine who should have rights and whose rights should get precedence. Sitting atop the legal system are the courts. Even if a law is proposed by the legislative branch and signed into law by the executive branch, the courts still have the ability to declare it unconstitutional. It makes sense, then, that the battle over rights has been fought primarily in the courts. It also makes sense that the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court, is seen as the key to any significant legal challenge to abortion. Giving the multiple potential vacancies that could occur during the next presidency, the issue of abortion has taken center stage this election cycle. So, having laid out the foundation, now it’s time to do some digging into where I land on it.

My beliefs

I’m about to say a lot of things that a lot of people disagree with. I realize this, and I just ask that if you read the following, you continue past it and read the rest. I promise it gets better. 🙂

I believe that from the moment of conception, a new human life is formed. Given the right conditions, this human zygote will develop into a human embryo, a human fetus, and then be born as a baby. I believe that at every stage, this human should have inalienable rights. I believe that this means everything possible should be done to nurture, preserve, and develop this life.

I have a variety of reasons that I hold these beliefs. One main reason I initially developed this belief was that I saw so much conflicting information and conflicting opinions on the issue. I’ve met multiple women who aborted an unwanted fetus early in life and then mourned over losing a baby to a miscarriage later. Despite mostly rulings in favor of abortion, even the courts are still confused on it. I’ve seen cases of criminals who attack pregnant women and cause them to lose their pregnancy charged with murder. At some point I had to wonder why something is a human with rights worth defending and mourning if it is wanted and simply a part of a woman’s body if not. This confusion is what the ACLU is attempting to combat via its opposition to fetal rights.

Everyone seems to agree that a newborn baby has rights. Walking back through the process of pregnancy from there, I cannot see another point other than conception at which one can argue with logical consistency that this organism becomes a human with rights. If it’s a human with rights when it exits a woman’s body, why isn’t it a human with rights 15 seconds before it exits. If it’s a human with rights before it exits, why isn’t it a human with rights at any point after it could survive viably outside the womb? If it’s a human with rights when it can viably survive outside of a womb, why isn’t it one when 10 more minutes of development would make it able to do so? Can one be a human without a heart? How about without a brain? Well, what if with another 10 days it could get a brain or heart? Back and back I go, until I arrive at fertilization, in which a zygote is formed with a unique genetic code. In-vitro fertilization, in which a zygote is created by humans, kept in a growth medium for a few days, implanted into a woman’s uterus, and then carried to birth can lead to a human being born. So, why stop anywhere before then? I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my Christian faith plays into this to an extent. However, it mostly plays in through the fact that I believe that every human has intrinsic value given by a loving God. I believe denying the value of any life not only has consequences for the life in question, but for the lives of many others. I don’t believe in exemptions for rape or incest, because I don’t believe a child born out of rape or incest has any fewer rights than any other. I am hesitant to support exemptions for health of the mother, because pregnancy can be a dangerous thing and from what I have read, determining when the mother’s life is at risk is complicated.

Yes, I know all this this sounds like lunacy to many people. It sounds like lunacy to me sometimes. You see, I’m also a strong pragmatist, and I realize that this is a nearly impossible standard to hold to. Aside from its legal effects on abortion itself, it would have far-reaching consequences. It would make IVF incredibly complicated legally. It would eliminate the possibility of supporting any birth control methods that prevent implantation by thickening the uterine lining or damaging the zygote. It would bring into question a woman’s legal responsibility for smoking or drinking during a pregnancy. I keep returning to the fact that a lot of policies and laws put in place are impossible to uphold. Take speed limits, for example. These laws are put in place to protect people, but everyone goes 5 over. As I’ve sat and thought about this issue, I’ve asked myself which pieces of this belief are bend-able. Which are practical? Which are enforceable? How do we get as close to this goal as possible, if this is my gold standard (this is a figure of speech…I don’t support the gold standard…that is dumb)?

The current reality

I’ve studied economics, and I have a very healthy appreciation of consequences. I have studied public policy, and I have a healthy appreciation for the challenges of implementing laws and policies. In 2012 in the U.S., there were an estimated 700,000 abortions performed. I’m not a woman, so I can never fully understand the pressures that come with pregnancy. Having said that, being raised by a single mother, I got a firsthand view of how incredibly hard that was. Having watched many of my friends go through pregnancies recently, it’s an incredibly difficult experience, physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and professionally. Each of those 700,000 abortions represents a woman facing an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, trying to determine how to continue living her life in light of it. She could have the child, taking on a decades-long financial and emotional commitment. She could put the child up for adoption, but that means going through a long, challenging pregnancy, often without the support of the “father” who ditched her. She could have an abortion and deal with any emotional consequences down the road.

I wonder sometimes how many pro-lifers really understand the full impact of their beliefs and what their coming to fruition would do. How many really sit down and spend time thinking about those 700,000 women, or to make it more realistic, one of them. I wonder some times how many actually care about that woman or that child, and what they would be willing to give up to stand behind their caring. The pro-life movement has so often thrown its energy and resources to the courts, and I honestly think it’s hard to see them as unjustified in doing so. Most oppressed groups can at least speak out on behalf of themselves, but pro-lifers like myself believe each of those 700,000 fetuses were actually humans that can’t speak or advocate for themselves. If we truly believe it is the taking of a human life, then shame on us if we don’t speak out. However, I can’t just turn my back on the consequences of what a legal victory would bring. Sure, I think some of those unwanted fetuses would become incredibly loved children after their mother met them. Sure, I think there are some women who probably make the decision without seriously considering the implications. However, that does not in any way take away from the fact that many, and more likely most of those women sat down, measured the costs, and found that abortion was their best option.

The sad part is there’s really not a whole lot of middle ground here. Take Hillary Clinton’s statement that an “unborn person” has no constitutional rights. She pissed everyone off. It’s either a person or a fetus. If it’s just a fetus, then any restrictions on abortion are oppressive, unnecessary, and even tragic for women. If it’s actually a person/human with rights, then any allowance for abortion is oppressive and tragic.

So, where does this leave me?

I wish every day that there was a freely available and highly effective method to transfer a recently-conceived human zygote, human embryo, or human fetus from one woman to another. I would pay hundreds of dollars in taxes or donations to that. There are so many women and couples facing infertility, aching for the chance to have an infant, and I have seen significant numbers of additional families who would be willing to adopt infants. However, I haven’t seen anything yet that shows that as a possibility any time soon.

It seems to me that we’ve had serious problems in the past in our country with people trying to decide what was a full human based on their own interests and needs. At one point, we essentially decided some people were only worth 3/5ths of other people based on how they looked, and that “compromise” didn’t really work out so well given that we now see it as a tragic time in our country’s history. I think we can all agree that humans in general are really bad at seeing past our own interests, so I think the only way forward is for us to have some honest conversations and be willing to put some things on the table.

I think the court battles need to continue to happen, because I think they’re necessary. However, I don’t think that’s the only hope for decreasing the number of abortions that take place. In fact, I wonder sometimes if it’s even a good hope. Look at Brexit. Everyone thought it was a good idea until it happened, and now everyone is sitting around wondering if they really wanted the change they voted for. In the meantime, I wish people from both sides get together to try to come up with a plan to simply minimize the number of abortions that happen, because I think that’s the only middle ground available at the moment. 

I depart from many conservative Christians in that I think a good starting point is funding sex education and ensuring availability of contraception for all people. However, I realize beliefs have some effect on that, as even I take issue with most non-barrier methods due to them preventing implantation. As much as it bothers me to do so, I think I just have to give in on this one. I think conservative families have to step up to the plate on adoption, especially from foster care, to prove to the world that we’re serious about this. Until these things happen, I don’t think the pro-life movement can be taken seriously. Perhaps these things make me a hypocrite. Perhaps I’m not standing strongly enough for what I believe in. However, I’m looking for a path forward…motion…progress…something.

I think liberals need to ask themselves how much they’re willing to risk here. If there was a true, strong moderate/conservative running for president this cycle, there is a decent chance, through supreme court appointments, that the legality of abortion could be challenged and even overturned within the next 4 years. Just sit back and think about that. Seriously, do it. Are you ready for that eventuality? That’s really the only option on the table at the moment, and for the first time in decades, it has potential. Now, realize this. This one, single issue, might turn out enough voters to get you President Trump. Assuming ya’ll are really for women’s rights, let’s sit down and talk about how serious you are about it. What are you willing to give up to make sure those are maintained? Would you be willing to negotiate a sex-ed curriculum with people who have a fundamentally different approach to sex as you? Would you be willing to give up federal funding of Planned Parenthood and make up that funding yourself? Yes, I know abortions are only 1% of what they do, but you’re sitting across the table from people who believe that 1% of some of their taxes are going to murder. Yes, I understand you feel the same way about some of your taxes going to a military that sometimes accidentally bombs civilians. Hey conservatives, come sit down. Let’s talk about military funding.

Yeah, that’s kinda funny, but it’s the truth of the situation. This isn’t easy, and I don’t think it should be, but I think we’ve come to a time where we have to get serious about this issue and try to find a way past the impasse that’s held it steady for years, because we’ve gotten incredibly close to it shifting via the courts.

How does this affect my vote?

I don’t feel that I can ever support a candidate who outright endorses abortion. I ache over the issue of abortion. I pray and am brought to tears by it. I honestly wish for it to be made illegal. However, I also don’t feel that I can support a candidate who is willfully blind to the consequences that making abortion illegal would create.

How does this affect my faith?

For the Christians out there. I trust God. It’s hard to write that, because a lot of times it’s not true. However, believing in God demands trusting God, and as much as I try, I cannot escape believing in Him. Here’s something I’ve learned over the years. I prayed for years for revival, for thousands to believe the gospel. I prayed for it, I fasted for it, I ached for it. I wanted others to know the hope that I had found. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized the church isn’t ready for revival. So, I turned my efforts to asking what it would take to prepare for revival. We’re told over and over again to prepare the way of the Lord…to prepare for His coming. Well, I think the same thing is in play here. I don’t think we’re ready for abortion to be illegal. As much as I ache for it, I have turned my efforts towards preparing for it. I’ve tried my best to understand the plight of the poor, those who are struggling with the question of how they can support a child. I’ve donated to friends adopting children. I’ve set it in my heart to consider foster care and invest in communities in need as I can. Yes, I know many of us do that already, but do it with renewed vigor, knowing that it could prepare the way for that which many of you have ached for.

I don’t believe that me choosing not to vote for Donald Trump dooms millions of children to death. I don’t believe it makes me a bad Christian or conservative. I don’t believe it makes me a supporter of abortion or means we’ll be losing the country. I believe the situation is far more complicated than that, much more is at stake, and I earnestly hope and pray that the single choice I make in a booth will be eclipsed by hundreds of decisions I make on a daily basis for the cause of Christ. I trust God.

 

 

Why I am voting third party

Standard

It’s time to vote, and for the first time in my life, I’m voting third party. I’m a moderate-leaning-conservative on many issues. In every other election, I’ve begrudgingly voted for the republican candidate despite a host of flaws because I aligned more with them. In this election, however, I can’t bring myself to do that for a variety of reasons that I will expound upon in a series of posts. In fact, if there was any democrat running other than the current one, this could have been the first election I crossed the aisle. However, it isn’t so, and therefore I’ll be voting third party.

My unwillingness to vote for Trump and my turning to a third party has been a point of contention and distress amongst many of my friends and family members. That said, I’ve had it relatively easily. I see social media posts on a daily basis full of arguments and anger. It seems that the vigor with which Clinton and Trump have repeatedly attacked one another has spread to the masses. I’m a white Christian, as are the majority of my friends, and so many arguments center around a few key issues. Along with the aggressive arguments, I also see passive-aggressive posts lamenting the state of this election from both sides. If only Christians would vote for Trump, he’d win easily. The Supreme Court appointments are all that matter, so vote based on that. If you don’t vote for Clinton, you’re voting for Trump and aligning yourself with him. So, here’s my unapologetic take on the election and why I’m voting how I am, for anyone who cares.

Why I have opposed a Trump presidency from the beginning

Standard

I’m a #neverTrump hipster. I was calling out his awfulness before it was cool. Actually, that’s not completely true. I’m not #neverTrump, because the best way to beat Trump would be to vote for Clinton, and I can’t do that for reasons I’ll post later. However, I have opposed his candidacy from the beginning. Back before he grabbed her by the *****, before #speechplagiarismgate, before he started winning primaries by the dozen, I actually sat down and read Trump’s platform and did some digging. What I found was a man who either had no basic understanding of how international economics and diplomacy work (doubtful) or was choosing to ignore said knowledge for political gain (probable).

Economic issues

Everyone knows Trump was (is?) going to make Mexico build a wall. However, the manner in which he planned to do this was ridiculous, comprising impounding remittance payments from undocumented immigrants (unenforceable, unestimable, and likely illegal), massively increasing visa fees for legitimate entry into the country (hurts trade, tourism, and diplomatic relations with our 3rd biggest trading partner), and worse of all…creating trade tariffs. If you want to know why tariffs are bad, I wrote a post just for you. The short version is they nearly always lead to fewer consumer choices, lower quality goods, and higher prices, which is another way of saying inflation. If you don’t have time to read the post and want a good one-liner on why this happens, consider this quote from Donald Trump during the second debate concerning insurance companies freely competing across political lines:

Artificial lines, where we stop…companies from…competing…gives the…companies essentially monopolies. We want competition.

As bad as the wall debacle is, his tax plan was arguably worse. I’m all for lowering taxes whenever possible. From an economic perspective, they distort the actual costs of decisions, create artificial incentive structures (like sending all your money to the Cayman Islands or founding your business in Ireland), and lead to higher prices (like tariffs). Fiscal conservatives generally love the idea of lower taxes. That said, they also generally hate the idea of the national debt increasing. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation found in January that his original plan would increase debt above-and-beyond its already increasing levels by $10 trillion over a decade, effectively adding 50% to its currently constant-increasing level. The nonpartiscan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget cited his plan increasing the debt by far larger amounts than Clinton’s plan.

Over the past year, Trump updated his plan with significant changes, leading the Tax Foundation to change their estimates of the decrease in revenues in September. Their current estimates describe the effects over the next 10 years as increasing GDP by around 7-8%, increasing the levels of capital investment (the strongest driver of long-term growth) by 20-24%, increasing wages by 5.5 to 6.5%, and creating around 2 million jobs. This is a much better plan than his initial one. Like, it’s hard to explain how much better of a plan this is. However, these economic gains come at a price, and that price is decreased government revenues by $2.5 to $4 trillion over the next decade that come from his significant tax cuts. This number actually started out much higher, at $4.5 to $5.9 trillion, but the positive economic outcomes from his tax cuts would grow the tax base and offset some of the lost revenue. Remember this, as it’s going to come into play soon.

Every fiscally conservative republican candidate up until now has paired decreased taxes with massive decreased spending. The numbers never actually line up, but they at least make an effort. Trump’s views on decreased spending are murky. He’s suggested getting rid of the department of education and used to support decreasing military funding. However, now he supports increasing military funding, has proposed a half trillion dollar infrastructure fund, and wants to build the aforementioned multi-billion dollar wall. I actually don’t care all that much about the national debt for reasons I’ll explain in a later post, but for strong fiscal conservatives and debt hawks, this should be a non-starter. The national debt is currently approaching $20 trillion, and the annual deficit is around $590 billion. Trump’s plan would increase the national debt by 10-20% without any changes in spending, but it would likely be even more with the additional spending he has proposed.

There are plenty of other economic missteps from Trump that could be covered here, including his disastrous statements that we should consider refinancing the national debt. I was opposed to Trump from the beginning looking solely to his economic policies and their seeming incoherence. Granted, his tax plan has gotten better over time. However, his plans for immigration and trade would damage the economy, serving to  counteract significant portions of the economic gains from his decreased taxes. This would drive the national debt far higher, likely increasing it by 30% or more. Given this, I’m still strongly opposed to Trump’s economic plans. Now, let’s turn to some other issues.

Illegal immigration

This topic gets its own heading, and also its own full post. This is because I believe this issue is the one that really launched Trump’s campaign. Building a wall made his name big, and you build a wall because you oppose illegal immigration. If you want the full version, read the post. However, here’s a key excerpt.

From all this research, I’m convinced that from an economic point of view, illegal immigration is a net positive for the state and national economies. The expense required to lock down the borders and increase deportations is massive, on the scale of hundreds of billions of dollars. However, the harm it would cause to the state and national economies to suddenly have labor prices jump up in a number of key industries would be worse than that. Due to this, I will never support an across the board deportation for these purely economic reasons. I think it is incredibly foolish and harmful to the economy.

I would support efforts to massively increase the number of work visas available to provide legitimate means of work and as a means of collecting more taxes. I would consider supporting paths to citizenship for individuals who have worked here for a period of time, though that would have to be balanced against the cost of the benefits (social security, etc.) that would be provided. It gets much more complicated when looking at local level effects, as most of the costs of undocumented immigrants are incurred in education and healthcare funded by local governments. I would support efforts to have the federal government provide more funding to schools and healthcare for communities supporting undocumented immigrants or those with temporary work visas. I would support efforts to provide more scholarships and funding for technical schools so unskilled U.S. citizens can learn skills and move away from competing against immigrants who are lowering their wages.

I would support all these things not based on morality, but based solely on economics. Some might say this is not a conservative viewpoint…that I’m moving to the left. Well, border patrols, massive walls, and deportation are incredibly inefficient ways of dealing with the realities of a labor market that wants cheap labor and individuals who are willing to take great risks to provide it. Since when did conservatives abandon giving the free market what it wants? When did they abandon the goal of coming up with inexpensive, small government-focused, efficient solutions to challenges? I agree with Cato institute’s Alex Nowrasteh, who said, “even if the fiscal costs of immigration were consistently larger than the fiscal benefits, there are far easier and cheaper methods to lower the cost than scaling back or outlawing immigration. Reforming welfare, charging immigration tariffs, or allowing more immigrant workers could all redress a possible net fiscal cost.”

That’s my stance. Trump is the opposite of this. #nodice

Foreign policy

From what I can find, Trump hasn’t spoken much to foreign policy. Most of the things he talks about as foreign policy are really domestic immigration policy and domestic tax policy, which I’ve already covered my feelings on. I think this is probably an area many Americans feel strongly about but have little real knowledge of. I definitely feel I have little ability to analyze foreign policy. I can’t see classified intelligence. I don’t know what our long-term objectives are.

Trump does emphasize focusing on fighting ISIS instead of Syria, and I think I can probably agree with that, though I honestly can’t parse through much of that current situation. He puts emphasis on not being the world’s police, but he also said in a debate that he can’t take anything off the table (including nuclear intervention) and complained that we’re doing nothing about North Korea. I get a sense of isolationism mixed with a desire to ambitiously protect the U.S. and its interests. I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with his tendency to strike out at people mixed with a nuclear option.

Character flaws

Donald Trump is an ass. He may have a personality disorder. He may be completely disconnected from regular people. He may be racist or sexist or misogynist. He may be “a good businessman that knows how to push people around and get what he wants done.” It all equals ass for me. Lots of people are deciding to vote against Trump because of these things. I decided not to vote for Trump months ago based on previously mentioned issues, so any character flaws are just the icing on the cake for me.

Trump has a weird superpower of being able to inspire assery in people who support him. Watching good people try to get around his character failures is just sad to me. Maybe this is a superpower granted to all political candidates, seeing as I experience the same sadness when I watch Clinton supporters try to dismiss her corruption and her husband’s obvious licentiousness or when I watch supporters of my congressional representative, Hank Johnson, try to explain how he wasn’t actually asking if Guam would tip over if we put another military base on it. Sigh. However, I’m here to talk Trump. Clinton will get her own soon.

I’ve watched Trump supporters…women even…argue that his “locker room talk” about sexual assault is just what men do. I was raised by a single mother and a grandmother to respect and honor all people, which actually does include women. My faith calls me to do the same. I’ll admit I’ve had a regrettable number of sarcastic and negative conversations about women over the years. I’ve also had a large number of conversations about how men are all stupid. Cynicism comes with the millennial turf. However, Trump actually had the means and opportunity to do the things he said, and I am willing to believe he actually did them. There’s a term for that, and despite the vocal opposition to it from many Trump supporters, I think sexual assault is actually quite accurate.

Conservatives attacked Bill Clinton’s moral failures. They now attack Hillary for defending his moral failures. Maybe you can understand my cognitive dissonance when I see them supporting Trump despite his. As I stated before, I decided not to vote for Trump based solely on economic issues, so much of these points are moot for my voting decision. However, I think the real losers here are Trump supporters, many of whom are Christians. I’m sad for Christianity as a whole because of this election season and I wonder how much the church has been harmed by Christians choosing politics over morality. The gospel itself endures, the pure message of salvation through faith in Christ cannot be tarnished. However, I see rough times ahead for the church.

Moral policy issues

So, now that I’ve taken all of Trump’s biggest economic and international issues off the table as well as his character flaws, we’re left with domestic issues, most of which are moral. It’s time to talk about gun rights, marijuana, and abortion. I think a lot of conservatives have finally begun to realize what I did…that Trump’s an ass and his economic policies are terrible. However, I’ve seen many still clinging to these three issues.

Gun rights

I honestly don’t care that much about this issue. I don’t think gun ownership will ever be outlawed in this country. I think restrictions will eventually be put on it…most of which will be ineffectual at actually curtailing gun violence. The overemphasis on so-called “assault rifles” from the left is baffling. The misunderstanding of automatic versus semiautomatic firearms is baffling. I’d put more time into this, but it’s just not that important to me. If this issue matters so much to some people that they are able to overcome every other negative about Trump through it, then that’s their prerogative. To me, gun rights are important, but not to such an extent that I would trade it for the negatives of all of Trump’s other terrible policies.

Marijuana

I’ve never tried it. If I ever go to Colorado, I probably will. In the meantime, I think it should be legal. In this way, I definitely depart from the Republican party, and from most moral conservatives. However, I think this is an incredibly fiscal conservative stance. I’m not going to go into a full discussion of the economics of this because I don’t have time. However, suffice to say that we spend billions of dollars annually to try to prevent marijuana use through policing and incarceration, and millions of people still use it. I say legalize it and tax the heck out of it. Is it dangerous? Potentially. Is it more dangerous than smoking and alcohol? I don’t think so. Also, the fact that people are against prescribed medical marijuana is absolutely ridiculous to me. My grandfather died of multiple sclerosis, a condition that has viable treatments with marijuana. If there was potential for it to improve his life at all, I think it’s abhorrent that it was denied. I support it for the thousands suffering from MS or similar conditions. Trump supports it for medical use and opposes its overall legalization. I support it for both. That’s all I have to say about that.

Abortion

So, now we come to abortion. I’m putting it last because it was the hardest one for me to write. Abortion is one of the issues I’m most opinionated and passionate about. I really had to sit down and take a serious look in the mirror for this issue. I wrote a post on where I ended up. It’s raw, it’s earnest, and it’s heartfelt. I’m not even going to write a summary here. If you really want to know my thoughts on it, read the post.

Where this leaves me

Having covered all of this, I cannot and will not vote for Donald Trump.

Why tariffs are bad

Standard

This post was written in connection with a larger post, Why I am voting third party, so I’m going to take a decidedly Trump-centric approach here. Sorry if you stumbled upon this looking for a more generic discussion.

The idea of protecting U.S. businesses through tariffs is one of the reasons that a lot of people support Trump. I can’t count the number of times I heard him say “We’re getting beat on trade all over the world.” He argues often that other countries charge tariffs and therefore we need tariffs to make things fair. Well, here’s a fun life rule. Tariffs nearly always increase prices, decrease consumer choices, and lead to lower product quality. We’re going to discuss all of these in depth, and I’ll be using the U.S. and Mexico as the example since that’s where Trump’s strongest tariff arguments are pointed.

A little about the U.S. and Mexico

These data are taken from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s website.

  • Mexico was the United States’ 3rd largest supplier of goods imports in 2015.
  • The top import categories in 2015 were: vehicles ($74 billion), electrical machinery ($63 billion), machinery ($49 billion), mineral fuels ($14 billion), and optical and medical instruments ($12 billion).
  • U.S. imports of agricultural products from Mexico totaled $21 billion in 2015, our 2nd largest supplier of agricultural imports. Leading categories include: fresh vegetables ($4.8 billion), other fresh fruit ($4.3 billion), wine and beer ($2.7 billion), snack foods ($1.7 billion), and processed fruit & vegetables ($1.4 billion).

Tariffs increase prices.

This is literally the definition of what a tariff is…you charge a tax for things brought into your country, which then is passed on to the consumer in the form of increased prices. The oft-used rationale for why this is a good thing is that imports being more expensive means domestic producers are favored. They can ramp up production, hire more people, and the economy prospers.

However, let me give you a hypothetical here. You’re a business that was charging competitive prices and producing as much as you could sell at those prices. Suddenly, the prices all your competitors charge goes up 35% (Trump’s suggested tariff amount for Mexico). Suddenly everyone is buying from you. You can’t keep product on the shelves. So, you hire more people. Well, you had already hired the best people you could find, so these people aren’t quite as good at the task. You could try to hire people away from other companies, but you have to offer them more than they’re making now. In addition, assuming you’re producing any of the major items that we import from Mexico (cars, machinery, fruits, wine), you’re going to have to invest in significantly more capital. You need equipment to make cars. You need land to make fruit. Well, even if you don’t have any direct competitors in your industry, all the other companies in industries that competed with Mexico are about to be looking to buy land, facilities, and equipment as well. There’s only so much of these things to go around, and so prices for those production inputs start rising with demand. So, you’re paying more for capital and staffing it with less qualified people or people you’re paying more. Your production costs have increased. My guess is that you’re going to increase your prices. You probably won’t increase them by the full 35% that Mexico just had to endure, but you could easily bump them up 25% and still have the full market share.

For this reason, nearly every time a tariff is put in place, prices go up. There’s a word for prices going up, and that word is inflation. Most people learn that inflation means that their money is worth less, and they’re right, but the implicit cause of this is that money is worth less when things cost more. In our hypothetical Trump-induced tariff situation, prices for things like cars, machinery, fruit, and beer would go up. Sure, some people might have jobs that wouldn’t have had them otherwise, and that’s a definite positive, but that has to be weighed against significant price increases in key industries for the entire country. We’re talking things like avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and Honda accords.

Also, there’s no assurance that the jobs will even be created in the U.S. Companies could move to a country that we don’t have a tariff on, or natives in those countries could start businesses to supply those goods to us. In either case, prices would still go up because there’s a reason we were buying from Mexico in the first place. So, if you don’t want higher prices and you don’t like inflation, you should never support tariffs.

Tariffs decrease consumer choices

This one is a little more obscure than the price increases, but it makes sense when you think about it. If the price for a good that comes from Mexico (fruit, etc.) suddenly goes up by 20%, stores may stop carrying it due to not being able to sell as much stock as they need to make it worth using the space.

Tariffs decrease product quality

This is the most difficult result of tariffs to quantify, but it makes sense intuitively when you think about it. Competition forces companies to be held responsible for their products. A company with few or no competitors (think Comcast) has little incentive outside of government regulations to create quality products or consumer experiences. Decreased competition due to higher priced imports from tariffs means companies would have the ability to produce lower quality products with no consequences. While this is not an assured outcome, it is a very likely one.

Where does that leave us?

Having said all this, Trump would have you believe that to be “competitive,” the U.S. needs tariffs on imports. However, I would argue the opposite is true. Tariffs actually destroy competitive markets. Said another way, if you’re someone who believes in competitive markets, then you don’t want tariffs.

Consider this quote from someone who is strongly in favor of allowing insurance companies to compete across political boundaries:

Artificial lines, where we stop…companies from…competing…gives the…companies essentially monopolies. We want competition.

-Donald Trump, 2nd presidential debate

Election reflections

Standard

It’s been fascinating to me to watch this election cycle. I’ve had at least half a dozen deep discussions and and full on debates with friends about so many different sides of this. I decided I’d put down a few thoughts just because everyone else is and I need to clear my head.

The grass isn’t nearly as green as you thought

I feel like this election is giving the parties the opportunity to see what it looks like from the other side. Democrats have two rich, white candidates. Granted, one of them is female, which is a huge deal. Very few women (among them Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin) have even gotten close to just becoming Vice President, much less President. However, on the other side, Republicans have had two individuals of Hispanic descent this cycle and have had a black man as a serious contender in both of the last two cycles. The party often identified with racism and bigotry has shown quite the tendency towards diversity, and I think that’s progress.

Speaking of minorities, Republicans have claimed for years that minorities are winning elections for Democrats, but that the policies Democrats put in place are hurting these individuals more than helping. They usually argue this on the grounds that Republican fiscal policies would better promote job growth for these often working class individuals. I’ve often heard this paired with frustration that stems from a belief that many minority individuals are uneducated and are just voting for the party they’re told to or voting based entirely on personality and not on substance. I think back to President Obama’s first run, when he was seen by many Republicans as simply having won a popularity contest with no actual ideas. I seem to remember the phrase “voting for someone who looks like them.”

Enter the current Republic front runner, who has offered essentially no tangible policy ideas and has run entirely on personality and questionable business success. He’s a man who says what he thinks and feels in the moment without regard to how it sounds and whose most noticeable fashion accessory is a trucker hat. Donald Trump, to me, is everyone’s redneck uncle and/or 3rd cousin who made (and also lost) a whole lot of money through various odd business ventures. He’s the guy whose dad was a home builder in a rural area turning suburban who started helping out with the family business in high school and was able to make it work from there…except he was in New York working with much higher numbers. Everyone said George Bush was someone you could have a beer with. The Donald is that guy you can share a case of beer with while watching a football game and complaining about how your neighborhood is becoming more dangerous because of all the blacks and hispanics moving in…at least until he got annoyed with your whining.Take a look at a voting heatmap and you’ll see that most Trump supporters tend to live outside of major cities, have lower relative income levels, and lower education levels. The rapper Eminem has a lot in common with the Donald, in his statement that he’s “Like a head trip to listen to, cause I’m only giving you things you joke about with your friends inside your living room. The only difference is I got the balls to say it in front of y’all and I don’t gotta be false or sugarcoated at all.” Well, there is one other difference. The Donald actually has a means of doing something tangible with those feelings. I think there may be a correlation here…something about voting for someone who looks like you.

As President Obama surprised everyone with his breakaway campaign in 2008 by preaching hope and change, Mr. Donald is surprising everyone with his breakaway campaign by preaching…himself. The thing is, we’re ok with that, and this isn’t an isolated case. Trump, to me, is all these things mixed with the Georgia Board of Regents member who was voted into another term even though he was having a well publicized extramarital affair with the gymnastics coach and earned the team sanctions by flying gymnasts on his private jet to party in New York (http://www.redandblack.com/opinion/leebern-jr-should-not-still-be-a-university-system-regent/article_e9ccca27-1122-5181-b8dd-c1668d4198b3.html). The thing is, no one really cares about that guy. He’s one of the biggest donors to the University system. How much harm can he do? It’s probably a net positive to keep him there.

Why is Trump succeeding?

As I wrote to a friend yesterday, economics teaches that gathering and processing information has a significant cost in terms of time and mental energy. Information that challenges your beliefs is even more expensive. College removes significant amounts of that expense, as you’re forced to sit in rooms and confront ideas that differ from yours and people who are different than you in order to move forward. Living or working in a major city does the same. Those who don’t get the opportunity to go to college or who live/work in rural areas have much higher cost and time barriers to delve into the depths of topics like economics or immigration reform. That said, we all actually face those same constraints. When’s the last time a college educated city dweller delved deep into determining the relative pros and cons of the two candidates for state commissioner of agriculture? I know there are quite a few rural-dwelling blue collar individuals who could give you an earful about them, whereas I just abstain or pick whatever name I’ve seen the most signs for. I think people are choosing Trump for the same reason.

In a time when it’s tough to get even 7 out of 10 top economists to agree on the best minimum wage level, when there are massively diverse opinions from experts on how to reform the prison system, when we can’t decide if having guns increases or decreases violent crime rates, and when a single payer system may either give everyone healthcare or lead to death panels, it may be a bit optimistic to expect people to vote on anything more than a name or personality. When life consists of working 40-50 hours of hard work a week and coming home to take care of a family of 4, a tweet of a quote from a dictator whose name you haven’t heard in 30 years probably doesn’t seem that important. In reality, how much is it going to matter which person gets in office anyway to that individual? They’re probably not making minimum wage, so that’s not a concern. To them, getting less money from their paycheck due to higher taxes, making sure an immigrant doesn’t take their job, making sure the economy doesn’t go bad so they still have a job, making sure they can keep buying ammunition for their ranch rifle, and making sure terrorists don’t blow them up are probably actually the most important and relevant issues.

Speaking of which, Trump has said things about all of these. Sure, he’s been on both sides of all of these issues at most points, but hasn’t every politician? John Kerry and Hillary Clinton both famously changed their stances on many major issues, which may have led to their eventual defeats as the Democratic electorate tried to decide whether they were trustworthy (or it may have had something to do with recounts…who knows). Now the Republicans get the chance to deal with the same. Does he want to accept refugees or deport them? Yes to both. Is he actually pro-life? I have no idea. He likes being flexible…whatever that means. At this point, we enter what I’ll call Maslow’s hierarchy of giving a damn. I’m sure there’s a proper sociological term…perhaps a stress-induced halo effect? Anyway, it comes down to…when you can’t be sure you’ll have a job tomorrow because you’re afraid immigrants will take it, it’s probably somewhat harder to care about the fate of terrorists’ families. This is why economics is called the drab science…because we say things like that. Remember that time you had a bad morning, were running late to work, got cut off, and you turned from NPR to the rock station in anger because you really didn’t have the emotional capacity to care about the person talking about the fate of kids living on the streets in Cleveland anymore? Same idea, in a more chronic sense.

People behave differently under stress, and both sides of the aisle have done a great job stressing us out by convincing us the US is struggling and in need of hope, change, and being made great again. It’s a great strategy, and likely a necessary strategy to build momentum and interest in a process that generally frustrates and exhausts us. People have mental and emotional limits on how much empathy they can give and how many decisions they can make, so let’s make empathy and decisions easy by using slogans instead of policies and emphasize the vague over the specific. Specifics are hard, but fear alleviation is easy. Sure, when you dig in to it, you find that research generally points towards the immigrants not replacing you but instead eventually leading to more management positions opening up, but when’s the last time you sat down and cracked open the American Economic Review? The individual may have heard something about it on CNN, but that’s a liberal news outlet, right? Can it be trusted? Information costs time and effort, and trustworthy information takes more. A lack of trustworthy information leads to more uncertainty, and more uncertainty leads to simplifying our decision making process. I can’t trust the information I’m getting externally, so let’s turn internal. Hence…is this person likable…can I relate to them…would they make the same decisions I would? I like that goofy hat…he’s been successful so far in business…I can tell because he’s rich…I don’t like politicians…at least he has some strong opinions…he’s a Republican…I’m a Republican…he can get things done…it’s a go.

The Berninator

Having said all that, there is one candidate who seems to be quite consistent in his opinions. The Berninator has been the new hotness (while on the surface appearing old and busted) this cycle. I’ve found it interesting watching his campaign, especially in that it’s so similar to Trump’s. Sure, he has some actual policy ideas, but their political and economic feasibility seems right up there with Trump’s insistence on making Mexico pay for a wall. Do we really think a congress filled with individuals making over $200k annually is going to approve a plan whose top bracket effective tax rate has been estimated at anywhere from 52-75%? I’m pretty sure he couldn’t get that through a Democratic supermajority in both houses. They’d go all Will Smith on it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hs3NzBx5ei0). Also, most estimates I’ve seen show increases in the tax burden across the board. Taxes can be both helpful and dangerous things, causing much damage when used poorly. I admire Bernie’s dedication to healthcare for all, and honestly even as a conservative I would love to see it in my lifetime. However, I just don’t think it is realistic in a country and a government filled with as much division and bloat as we currently see.

At least Bernie isn’t racist or bigoted…or otherwise dismissive of individuals due to certain characteristics or beliefs they have, right? No, he’s really not, from everything I’ve seen. He’s run a very good, somewhat unrealistic campaign. However, there was that one time he went to one of the most conservative colleges in the country and spoke to an audience likely filled with individuals who feel that the killing of half a million+ babies annually might be a serious issue. Now, before I make a point, we need to pause here for an honest chat. You see, to many people (including one whose name rhymes with Panders), these are just fetuses with no rights. They often refer to them as parasites or simply tissue. To these people, it’s absolutely beyond reason that anyone would care about a clump of cells. They are unwanted growths that have encumbered a woman’s life and don’t deserve any consideration. However, some people (especially those whose names rhyme with Drumpf) view undocumented immigrants and their children as individuals with no rights. They often refer to them as “Mexicans.” They are unwanted parasites that have broken the law and don’t deserve any consideration. To these people, it’s absolutely beyond reason that anyone would care about an undocumented immigrant. “It’s a human with dignity and inherent rights,” screams the opposition from both sides. “It’s not the child’s fault that he was put in the situation he’s in. She doesn’t deserve to be taken away from the only place she has ever been, the source of provision and life, and put into a situation where she will surely die.” You see, we have more in common than we thought. Is this a perfect argument? No. Is it overly simplified and does it gloss over critical parts of both sides? Yes. Is it offensive? Probably. Does it make a point well? Hopefully. No, we’re not all the same, but we do all view certain beliefs that other people have as completely irrational, untenable, and worth of being called a name. That said, many people actually have have strong, logical reasons for the ridiculous beliefs they seem to espouse. Even if they don’t, perhaps they themselves deserve some dignity as we approach these beliefs. I prefer to skip the names and try to talk about these things…though that’s hard to do.

So, back to Bernie, who was at a talk filled with individuals who believe that half a million children are being legally killed annually. He made this statement early on in his speech: “I understand that the issues of abortion and gay marriage are issues that you feel very strongly about. We disagree on those issues. I get that, but let me respectfully suggest that there are other issues out there that are of enormous consequence to our country and in fact to the entire world, that maybe, just maybe, we do not disagree on and maybe, just maybe, we can try to work together to resolve them.” It’s a great line, and well delivered. However, I can’t help thinking that it feels more than a bit dismissive of an issue that a significant portion of his audience considers the biggest humanitarian and ethical crisis in our nation. I get it…most Democrats do the same…but the audacity that it took to plan a speech at such a venue and then drop that line is incredible. Sure, it’s not racist or bigoted (perhaps birthist if you need a term for it…discriminating on the basis of whether one is born or not), but I’ve yet to see Trump go to Agnes Scott and dismiss women’s rights or LGBT issues to talk about growing the economy. To me Bern Gully is pretty much just as unrealistic and probably as brazen as the Donald.

Where do we go from here?

People talk about how the Republican party is fracturing, and a lot of people are scared for its outcome. However, I think a lot of Democrats have to be nearly as nervous for their own party. It’s much less likely to split, but it seems we live in a time where personality, unwarranted devotion, and extremism is king on both sides. John McCain was always called a maverick, but these guys are showing him up quite well. This is perhaps a dangerous game to play, but one that doesn’t have a readily available solution. Checks and balances are there for a reason, but even those have weakened more and more in recent years. I hope that whomever ends up in office will live up to the dignity of the position. I hope whatever ends up happening with congress, that they will realize that the President is actually their enemy as much as he’s their ally. I hope that the justices appointed will adhere to the constitution as well as to justice itself. I will pray for all of them.

For me, I believe I will always lean conservative. I’m ok with change, but only when it’s actually based on serious discussion, debate, research, and has a healthy dose of empathy to the other side’s concerns. Empathy seems fairly lacking in today’s environment. Liberalism just jumps too quickly for me. That said, conservatism gets frustrating sometimes. The Republican party missed its chance on so many issues. The libertarian side could have offered a non-governmental solution to same-sex marriage years ago, but the religious side prevented it. The Bush administration issued a tax reform study that came back with great analysis, but nothing was ever put in place from it. The compromise 2007 immigration reform bill had promise, but was not passed. I wish that conservatism would be just that…conservative. Hesitant, thoughtful, yet willing to move when needed. I just hope I don’t have to choose between Trump and Hillary, because I honestly don’t know which button I would push…