Friday, December 21, 2012

ObamaCare Job Loss

The guy who just fixed my computer can't keep his job because of the Affordable Care Act. He loves the work and has been paid by the piece by his company. He can make full-time wages working only 25 hours a week. He doesn't get health coverage right now, but he said he's okay with that and loving what he's doing.

He says that two days after the election, they sent out a notice to their 1200 technicians across the country telling them that they would be switching to hourly wages instead of piece-work and that they would be capped at 29 hours per week. Only 200 technicians would move to full-time work with benefits. At the new hourly rate he can't afford to keep working for them, so he's on the hunt for a new position. I wish him luck. 

Just another unintended consequence of trying to help people by limiting freedom.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Solving Voter Fraud

There are lots of ways to steal an election, of which voter fraud is only one. But it is an issue that we should tackle. Following this election when the result isn't in much doubt would be a good time to address it so that the issue doesn't have to be one of partisan advantage.

Slate has a great post up about using existing government databases to ID voters.
States maintain all kinds of data on citizens. Since Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 in response to the train wreck that was the 2000 election, they also maintain electronic voter registration databases....

Integrating those databases with existing databases, such as those maintained by state motor vehicle departments and public assistance programs, would make transcription errors in a voter's name or address obvious. Fewer voters would see their ballots challenged because of clerical mistakes.
They argue that you can snap of a photo of a person at the polling place if they don't have a photo on record already and it can become part of that voter's record for the future. Seems like a great way to find a middle ground between ignoring the problem of voter impersonation on the one hand and preventing legitimate votes from being cast on the other. 

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Is Local Better?

Ordinarily, I think that government or management is best at the lowest level possible. A story from Steven Malanga shakes my faith in that principle a little bit. The article is a summary of the large-scale corruption in New York, with "2,522 of its officials having been convicted of misdeeds since 1976."
The architects of those efforts sent billions of federal dollars into neighborhood programs to alleviate poverty, funneling the money to local groups that Washington bureaucrats assumed had the local knowledge necessary to uplift communities.
I have hope in the same premise: local groups have local knowledge to solve problems better than one-size-fits-all solutions. I wonder what could have been done to prevent this sort of corruption at a local level. Is it possible without people everywhere expecting integrity from everyone they deal with?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

NPR's Ryan Rebuttal

I heard a news story done differently than I'm used to. Mara Liasson was reporting on Paul Ryan's speech at the GOP convention. As she played the highlights of his speech, she then offered a rebuttal of each point or reminded the audience of another view of the subject. I didn't think that her responses were unfair or inaccurate, it was just something I don't remember a reporter doing in that way before. I was partly appreciative and partly irritated. I didn't like it that she felt a need to rebut each point, even was she wasn't disagreeing with a fact but only adding to the framing.

I suppose time will tell if she covers the speech from Romney, Biden, and Obama in the same way or if this was treatment reserved only for a few.

Update: Apparently I wasn't the only one that noticed, and apparently NPR wasn't the only one to do it.

Update: When I read this Fox News opinion writer's summary of the four main errors in the Ryan speech, I thought that 3 of the 4 were really differences in opinion or spin rather than factual errors. The fourth one seemed to be a more tricky one. Ryan claimed that an auto plant closed and you were sort of left with the impression that it had happened under Obama's watch, even if his language technically left it open either way. But now it appears that the fact checkers were factually inaccurate and that Ryan was more informed about the events in his home town than they were. Ryan is vindicated.

Update: I just listened yo Liasson's report on Romney's speech and she played it pretty straight.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fair Share

Will someone please tell me what it means for the rich to pay their fair share of taxes? The federal government is spending $3.7 trillion each year. Spread over the population of 309 million, that is $11,974 for every man, woman, and child in the country. I'm sure as heck not paying that much in. Are you? Are you paying your "fair share"? I'm not, and I'm grateful the more wealthy are shouldering a greater part of the burden.

In a related vein, there are people insisting that we should be have a balanced approach of cutting spending alongside increases in taxation to balance the budget. The problem is with that number above. Who can argue with a straight face that we need a federal government that spends $11,974 for ever man, woman, and child and that we can't afford to cut that back substantially apart from any increases in revenue? If we cut a trillion off our spending to match our current revenue, that would still be $8,737 for every man, woman, and child. That is some expensive government. Shouldn't we be able to make do with that?

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Moral Differences in Politics

We all like to believe we are acting rationally and that our opinions are based on sound reasoning and a thorough understanding of the historical record. But that doesn't turn out to be true. Instead, we make snap judgments about issues based on our values and then construct a set of evidence that supports our pre-drawn conclusion. I learned this from a liberal psychology professor, Jonathan Haidt, in this interview on Think.

[Originally posted as a comment on a Facebook post as preserved here to help me find the link again when I want it.]

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why I Won't Be Voting For Hatch

I wish I had made the time to create a more well-researched, well-referenced post on this subject. Since the primary is tomorrow, I'm going to just share a few gut level reasons why I'm resistant to Hatch.

  • He ran against Frank Moss in 1976 saying that 18 years was enough. He was right back then. After 36 years, it is well past time for Hatch to move on to other pursuits. 
  • He challenged Frank Moss to 8 debates back in 1976. He was right back then. Now, we only get Hatch to consent to a single radio debate for the primary voting public. It is shameful for a politician to hide from opportunities to answer questions. 
  • Last time he ran, he made light of the suggestion that he would run for a 7th term (as he is now doing) by saying it would be more important to spend his final years with his grandchildren. He was right back then. 
  • He was a co-sponsor of the SOPA legislation that so offended the technology community that even Wikipedia blacked out for a day in protest.
  • Hatch, citing his own role as a creator of music, is in favor of longer copyright terms. I favor radically shortened terms. 
  • Hatch famously made a passing comment about how he wished he could send a signal through the internet to blow up the computers of copyright offenders. Shortly thereafter it was discovered that his website was using an unlicensed JavaScript library. 
  • When the Tea Party was first rising as a serious force, David Kirkham emerged as a leader of the movement in Utah County. Hatch latched on to him and would phone him to get his pulse on the movement. It was even reported in the Deseret News that Hatch called Kirkham from the floor of the Senate as a controversial spending bill was up to hear what the Tea Party opinion was and ask how he should vote. Instead of seeing this as a laudable effort to stay connected with his constituents, I saw it as a cynical/pandering attempt to keep a clean record and avoid ticking off potential opponents. I understand others may view it differently. 
  • It feels like Hatch has become a creature of Washington rather than a creature of Utah.
  • Hatch touts his ability to bring home the bacon to Utah as a selling point. I view that as evidence that he's part of the problem. 
  • Hatch insists that without him, Hill Air Force Base would be closed. If it is the political power of one individual rather than the general merits of the base that keep it open, then perhaps it would be better for the country (as opposed to Davis County) if we let it close. I don't know if that is the right decision, but I can't believe that one senator is single-handedly holding back the tide of logic that would otherwise close the base.
  • In his radio debate with Dan L., Hatch all but admitted that he would have supported a government loan to a company like Solyndra as long as they were in Utah.
  • Hatch comes across as a cranky old man. I think the face of Utah in Washington should be more reflective of our cheer and optimism. Yeah, you'll think this is corny, but it is a gut level thing that is hard to distill in words. 
  • It is easy to discount the endorsements that sitting politicians receive. If Mitt Romney expects Hatch to be victorious (as seems most likely), then he is wise to forge the alliance that will help him get his agenda through congress after the election. That might be a good policy for Mitt Romney, but it isn't a good reason for me to vote for Hatch. 
If Hatch ever loses, I hope the person who replaces him will be able to learn from his great skill in constituent services. I've heard his office has been particularly helpful with Utahans in international travel situations. 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Big Game, Big Gap

Most of you will be surprised at the stance this animal rights activist takes. She's mad about ranches in Texas that raise big game animals that are endangered or extinct in the wild. The ranches allow 10% of their animals to be hunted for sport. The money from the hunt supports the large ranches and growing populations. Even so, she think this is wrong. Here is some of the transcript from 60 Minutes starting at about the 6:40 mark.
Priscilla Feral is president of Friends of Animals, an international animal rights organization. For the past seven years, she's been fighting in court to stop these rare African antelope from being hunted in Texas. 
Feral: They're breeding these antelopes, they're selling the antelopes, and they're killing the antelopes. And they're calling it conserving them. They are saying it's an act of conservation and that's lunacy. 
Logan: You would rather they did not exist in Texas at all? 
Feral: I don't want to see them on hunting ranches. I don't want to see them dismembered. I don't want to see their value in body parts. I think it's obscene. I don't think you create a life to shoot it. 
Logan: So, if the animals exist only to be hunted... 
Feral: Right... 
Logan: would rather they not exist at all? 
Feral: Not in Texas, no.
Wow. Later in the piece we hear a little more from her.
But for Priscilla Feral, the bottom line is that these animals should not be hunted. She's helped create a reserve in Senegal for 175 orxy and in court, she's winning the legal battle she's been fighting for years to stop them from being hunted in the U.S. 
Feral: The future for oryxes is Africa. It's not Texas. 
Logan: Can the future not be both? Don't they have a greater chance of survival the more of them there are?
Feral: In their native lands. 
Logan: Regardless of where they are? 
Feral: I don't think you can say regardless of where they are. A Texas hunting ranch is not the same as being in a reserve in Senegal. 
Here we have her saying to the incredulous reporter, that if these animals can't exist in Senegal, then they shouldn't exist at all.

Switching gears, this argument reminds me a lot about the line of reasoning used when we talk about income inequality. Some people would rather that we all be equally poor rather than have some people who are rich, even if having rich people means that the poor will be better off than they would be otherwise. Since some people find the disparity in wealth inherently evil--just like Feral think that hunting these animals is inherently evil--they can't make a compromise with people who believe the gap is an acceptable cost for the increased benefits to all.

Do you think income gaps are sufficiently evil that we should abolish them, even if that means less prosperity for everyone?