Monday, August 15, 2016

Two ways that I - *choke* - must defend Donald Trump

Instead of mid-week postings Tuesday/Thursday, I'll do Monday/Wednesday, on account of the World Science Fiction Convention. Also I'm giving a speech in DC and attending - in Raleigh - the symposium of NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program.

== There are some ways that I'll speak up for him ==

Politico does something very detailed and revealing. It recaps all of the 100 days of Donald Trump since he became the presumptive GOP nominee. It's a stroll down memory lane, how the most salient trait of this man is his masterful preventing us from looking away. Even to note mistakes by his enemies! Or the Olympics. Or all those UFOs over Kansas City...

Skimming through the Politico list, one sees that not one day passed without him 'doing something.' And one realizes... there's almost another 100 days till the election... 

No... oh no.... must... look... away... soon.... Really. Soon.

Meanwhile, his ‘team’ solidifies… or congeals. Trump has painted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as the candidate of Wall Street, but his announced ‘economic team’ is filled with hedge fund managers, bankers and real estate speculators. Hedger John Paulson made a fortune betting against America before the financial crisis.... 

Howard Lorber's companies include the fourth-largest U.S. tobacco company. (And never forget: the GOP’s line that ‘tobacco is harmless” lasted even longer than “there’s no climate change!”)  Okay, so Trump’s 'economic team' is almost all billionaire crony males. But I interpret this my own way.

It clearly means that DT will not  - despite my hopes – do a ‘center veer’ by announcing a conversion away from Supply Side ('voodoo') "economics" at a debate. He could have served his country in that one way, by dropping a cult that has never made one successful prediction. Ever. Not even one time. Ever-once. While damaging us almost-lethally.

But with these 'advisers'? No way. It’s oligarchs all the way down.

== Where I defend Trump ==

Only, there are some areas where I think he was right and his detractors wrong.  Not many, but here goes:

1) There was one supremely clever move DT ever made, that demonstrably made him a lot of money while doing at least a little good. 

(Nearly all of the rest of his business career, despite parasitical and shady dealings, he appears to have improved his wealth no faster than if he had deposited it all in index funds.)  

That one assertive, brilliant and arguably useful move was investing in New York City,when it was down.

There was a time, in the late 1970s and 1980s, when it looked as if the town would dissolve into some ghostbusters or Kurt Russell-style maelstrom of crime and filth and decay. Businesses were fleeing and city leaders sought any symbol of renewal. 

Donald Trump – in a moment of sagacity – reasoned this is freaking New York! It will be back, huge! So he offered the desperate governments of city and state a deal. “I’ll invest and build… if you free me from almost all taxes, almost forever.”

In retrospect, it was a terrible deal for New York.  The politicians should have set thresholds and/or time limits. But they were desperate. Trump was a shark, feeding off their desperation… but let’s be fair. When he expressed confidence in NYC, it did change the mood, a bit. Others began pondering the likelihood of a comeback. His parasitical instincts did some capitalist good, that time. (But to my knowledge, no other time.)

2)  This starts out not sounding like a recommendation. A group of 50 former national security officials, all of whom have served Republican presidents from Richard M. Nixon to George W. Bush, have signed an open letter calling Donald Trump unqualified to be president and warning that, if elected, “he would be the most reckless President in American history.” They join many others fleeing the Trump train wreck as many of the quasi-sane who remained on the American right have been forced to finally choose their country. 

On the other hand Donald Trump is completely right about most of these people, when he says: “They are nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power, and it’s time they are held accountable for their actions.” 

To be clear… there were no islands of sanity or clarity or patriotic competence, during either Bush administration… nor during the years in between, when Dennis “friend to boys” Hastert and his co-convicted felon Tom DeLay were the highest GOP officials in the land. 

Did none of you notice? Neither Bush Senior nor Junior, nor Dick Cheney, nor Hastert, nor Tom DeLay nor Condoleeza Rice, nor John Boehner nor any post-Reagan major wielder of Republican power was even mentioned during the Republican convention. Not one of them. Even mentioned.*

Think about that. What kind of party is so ashamed of its leadership, across 28 years, that it never mentions any of them? Or a single large, verifiable accomplishment? And you'd trust such a party with a burnt and doused match?

Why do you think Confederate America… the populist mob that has been cynically whipped up by the Fox-Breitbart-Limbaugh-Beck-Drudge-Goebbels Svengalis… want nothing to do with any former Bushite, of any kind, at any level? They may be steeped in a psychotic, hydrophobic-confederate fury, but they do know one thing! The entire Republican establishment and all of their factotums deserve nothing other than (political) hell.

Which is why so many of your conservative friends have fallen back upon the ultimate refuge of desperate cynics: "I know my side is awful, corrupt and insane and led by self-serving oligarchs... but... but... they're all the same! Democrats too! Yeah, that's the ticket. Democrats are just as bad! Worse!"

Oh but facts. They are inconvenient. See a comparison of outcomes, across the span of both Bush Administrations, versus the Clinton and Obama administrations. 

Anyone who would trust any GOP establishment figure at any level has to be crazy. Including those "respected" Republicans who have been signing statements calling Trump unqualified. Sure he's unqualified! But they are in no position to cast stones.

And on that count, I am in agreement with Donald J. Trump.

== Why do fundies follow a philandering gambling-lord? ==

Trump is everything that non-hypocrite Christians should find bothersome: a philandering, cheating, stealing, egotistical, pathologically-lying gambling lord on his 3rd marriage with many admitted (bragged!) affairs. Who formerly supported gay and abortion rights.

Oh, but then... Christians have the perfect Get Out of Jail card to flash. It's called Confession and Forgiveness.  Hence, when Dr. Ben Carson bragged about having tried (in his youth) to murder a boy with a knife, it just made his ("believe me and take my sobbing word for it!") conversion all the more wondrous and somehow more credible!

DT's 'confessions' and claims of conversion are as thin and transparent and non-credible as they could possibly be.  So why proclaim him washed shiny enough for all the fundies to follow? Yet Bill Clinton -- who has been clean and contrite and and watched like a hawk for 16 years - and busy mostly with charity work - and who attends church far more often than DT -- is not?

Simple.  If you Share My Enemies, then I will make excuses for you.


== Supposing DT veers ==

Let's make a list of center veers DT might perform, saving them for a debate where it will have biggest shock value. He's already done one. If he did several, then he might do net-service to the country.  One member of my blogmunity suggested:

1. Announce an intention to break up the banks upon election

2. Announce an intention to ban corporate donations and support funding transparency.

My big ones are
3. Conceding Climate change... ("Hey, I studied up on it this week.")

4. Supply Side has been disproved; get over it.

One veer has already happened!  DT proposes spending twice as much on infrastructure repair as Clinton has urged. 

Some veer! Making it all the more ironic and treasonous that Ryan, McConnell etc have spent 6 years blocking a much much smaller bill.

== Monafort is Duke! Enjoy the nightmare ==

I wrote this a week ago, before the latest firestorm: Read up on Paul Monafort. Trump’s campaign manager is the ‘Duke’ of Washington lobbyists, specializing for decades in representing murderous dictators - a model for  Doonesbury’s character. “Manafort accepted $900,000 yearly to lobby for Ferdinand Marcos. He was also involved with the infamous Mobutu Sese Seko of Za├»re and attempted to recruit Siad Barre of Somalia. He talked the US right (AEI & Heritage) into idolizing and channeling $USmillions to Angola’s ruthless Jonas Savimbi. Clients include Lebanese arms-dealer Abdul Rahman al-Assir and the Pakistani Intelligence Agency. He worked as an adviser on the Ukrainian presidential campaign of Viktor Yanukovych, Putin’s pal against whom the Ukrainian people eventually rose up in revolution,  turning Ukraine westward. (Putin and the Russian press credit that ‘machiavellian chessmaster meddler Barack Obama’ with “stealing the Ukraine” from the Russian sphere of influence.)

And now... From Ukraine -- Ledgers show $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments designated for Paul Manafort, the campaign manager for Donald J. Trump, from a pro-Russian political party from 2007 to 2012.  Investigators assert that the disbursements were part of a corrupt network they say was used to loot Ukrainian assets and influence elections. And some of you dare yammer at us about "Corrupt Hillary?" 

There’s more about this fellow who would likely become DT’s chief of staff in the White House.  The amazing thing is that no one who knows Trump would be surprised by any of this! 

It would be a huge scandal if anyone else hired a guy like this monster who… if Trump wins… will be almost as powerful as Donald Trump Jr. By comparison, Haldeman and Erlichman were saints!

== And some gossipy stuff ==

Donald Trump Junior… shown in photos posing with the dead elephant, leopard and other African creatures he shot down on safari. His brag-proclamation? That after he took trophies for his wall, local villagers got the meat “which they seldom get.” 

Riiiight, dem villagers never seen a rifle before, oh gen'rous Massa Donnie. In fact, they are as capable of hunting game as any spoiled white dude. Better. But locals would go to prison for shooting rare species that governments sell killing rights for, to rich western bushwhackers.

Why raise this? Because the GOP convention made clear that Donald Trump trusts his kids… and only his kids. If he turns the White House into the Trump House, it will be an entire, spoiled Royal Family we’re getting. 

Well, at least these princes are less inbred and better looking than the Windsors… coming from three different fashion model mothers.  Still, didn’t we have a revolution, once?


* Addendum: Former Speaker Newt Gingrich did get a speech at the recent RNC. Though he too went unmentioned by anyone else.  Newt is a complex case, author of the most brilliant bit of political polemic I've seen, the 1994 Republican Contract With America, that helped the GOP seize control of Congress for 20 of the following 22 years. And at the very beginning, under Gingrich, they did something no GOP-led Congress ever did, before or since.  Newt actually negotiated  with a democratic president, getting some serious legislation passed.

Which was deemed a crime and betrayal by the Fox-Saudi-Koch-financed stars of the New Right, who thereupon rose up against Newt and punished him for that crime, declaring the "Hastert Rule" that any GOP lawmaker who ever again negotiated with a democrat, even for the good of the nation, would be shredded for it. Result? The most rigidly disciplined partisan machine in US political history. Any talking point issued by Roger Ailes in the morning was parroted by almost every Republican office-holder by mid-afternoon, or there'd be hell to pay. 

So yes, Newt got a speech at the RNC and was considered for VP by Trump. But he's not a true "establishment republican." Heck, he even writes sci fi! Sure, he's 40% batshit crazy. But the rest is very clever (the dems should crib his "Contract!") and even, occasionally, a patriot.

Oh, notice those names!  Trump. Gingrich. Christie. Versus Hastert and Ailes.  Yep. If we exclude guys like Pence and squint a bit... yes... it's philanderers versus perverts.  Well, well, the dems had some of the former, too.


Jumper said...

True enough that Trump has had moments of lucidity in the past, and maybe two or three recently. I do wonder what possible value it could provide to speculate on the likelihood of more such moments in the future.

Alfred Differ said...

Hmm... I think I'd rather vote for Hugh Hefner over Donald Trump. 8)

Viking said...

@ Alfred Differ

Me too. There is something suspicious about teetotalers surrounded by beautiful women.

@ Duncan (from previous thread)

In USA, there is a gift tax:

(And the cumulative untaxed gifts are removed from the estate tax deductions.)

Sitting alone, since Tacitus must have left, and yelling across the bar:

At what level of (income) taxation would it become slavery?
At what level of capital gains tax would it be considered confiscation of savings?
Why is our host opposed to private means of saving for retirement? That is the effect of capital gains taxes, to make it harder to set aside money for a rainy day, without it getting lost to inflation.

If I had invested in S&P500 at the peak in spring of 2000, that investment would have been a break even in inflation adjusted terms:

In dollar terms, I would have gained around 40%. If I sold this hypothetical investment today, 15% (Long term capital gain rate) of the 40% would be the tax bill, or about 4.3% of the total. This is with the mild inflation of the last 16 years. With a higher inflation, the capital gains tax bite out of the (inflation adjusted) principal would be more severe. Listening to you guys moan about capital gains being taxed lower than labor income makes me wonder what makes you so envious? Buying stocks is one of the only ways of protecting savings from inflation, putting money in the bank doesn't cut it. Is it more fair that the capital gains be taxed at 50%, because it is "found money"?

This is a fairy tale I grew up with, in Socialist Norway:

Viking said...

Quick followup:

India actually allows an inflation adjustment to the cost basis of securities when calculating capital gains.

In my hypothetical example above, 4.3% of my principal would have been confiscated, since I did not actually earn anything after accounting for inflation. That would not be the case in India:

Jumper said...

That little hen is a racist.

David Brin said...

Viking said: “Why is our host opposed to private means of saving for retirement?” What tendentious bullshit.

I am happy to debate and innovate and negotiate all sorts of alternative ways to finance the mixed and generally hugely successful experiment in civilization we now benefit from. Democrats were willing - in the 1980s and again the 2000s - to give the benefit of the doubt to apparently sincere rightist economists who demanded slashing Rooseveltean tax rates on the rich…

…under which the greatest economy in the history of the world had blossomed. But sure. The dems went along with a promised experiment in “Supply Side”. Adam Smith could and would have told you what would happen. The surge of money in the pockets of aristocrats was NOT (mostly) spent on innovations, research plants and production. It was poured into low-velocity rent-seeking.

Not one single Supply Side prediction ever came true, ever.

And now they are back at it with “flat tax” cults and ending the inheritance tax. A feudalist-oligarchic putsch.

Net loss because of inflation re cap gains? Bull. If your investments are of any quality, you’ll have had dividends, along the way.

But okay, let’s talk alternatives. How about a wealth tax? All wealth is open, transparent, and taxed so that the rich can continue to benefit from our society more than other people do, but they must face lots of rising stars from below.

Zepp Jamieson said...

“Why is our host opposed to private means of saving for retirement?”

The question implies that people cannot save for retirement on their own. Of course, they can.

But private pension funds are horrible investments. They labour under administrative overhead costs ranging from 20-35%, and even with that fat profit margin, a third of them fail. Social Security is extremely sound, and the administrative overhead totals less than ONE percent. There simply isn't a safer or more secure way of saving for retirement.
401Ks? Nearly a third of them were wiped out, along with the people holding them, in the 2008 meltdown. And another meltdown is on its way, rest assured.

Unknown said...


Remember that Republican who resigned over Trump (or at least Trump was the last straw), Chris Ladd? He's actually written out why Trump is winning on the religious right, and the reason may not be what you think! Here's on Trump:

Also he wrote a great post on the origins of the Religious Right. Think it was Roe V Wade? Nope, think again! :

According to Ladd the religious right has more often than not just been a cover for white supremacy. All other social issues where pretty much considered secondary in comparison:

That's why they love Trump.

All great, illuminating reads if you have the time.

Viking said...

David Brin said:

"What tendentious bullshit." This sounds like 2 insults in a 3 word sentence, excellent! I also like the one about 2 types of Republicans, philanderers and perverts!!

Americans are the greatest beneficiaries of supply side economics ever. The cost of clothing, food and energy is incredibly low, due to industrialized production, lots of it from the global uplifting Dr. Brin is praising us (USA) for, food at home, clothing mainly abroad. If you go to Wal-Mart, the $15 per hour of entry level labor probably gets as much buying power as $40 per hour in Europe. There are 2 essentials to quality of life, where supply side economics is not involved, health care, and housing. Americans are getting shafted there. Also, the energy delivered by the free market, gasoline and diesel sells at a minor premium (20-30%) relative to the commodity price(after subtracting taxes), whereas the energy I buy from suppliers that are regulated through a public utility commission has a markup of 100-200% the wholesale price for electricity, and 300-400% of the wholesale price for natural gas.

Home electronics are incredible bargains relative to 30 years ago, and so is flying, except for the harassment. The cost of good school district living and higher education is also an area that didn't benefit from supply side economics. Except for the employees at the universities, who gained a lot relative to unskilled labor. I guess supply side economics does work? Bigger supply of grant money and student loans benefits professors (some) and university administrators (more).

Dr. Brin had a good point regarding dividends, for the last 10 years, S&P500 averaged 1.5 to 2% dividends, so if buying SPY (ETF for S&P500) at the peak of the dotcom bubble 16.5 years ago, there might have been cumulative dividends of 20-30% of the principal, which would have been taxed gradually as it was received. That still does not change the problematic lack of inflation adjustment of the cost basis of investments. My argument would still hold for an investment that gained 40% in dollar terms in 16 years, the quality of the investment and the fairness of the taxation are separate issues.

@ Zepp Jamieson:

Good index funds from Fidelity and Vanguard regularly have expense ratios of 0.05% to 0.25% per year, and the great philanthropist and investor Warren Buffet has recommended those as a superior investment to managed funds. Some managed funds might have expense ratios up to 2-3%, and the hedge funds we all love, take 2% of principal + 20% of profits per year.

None of you have addressed the question about what tax rate would make the taxpayers slaves. Would you feel like a slave if you paid 60% tax? 80%?

Serfs typically got a certain fraction of their time to work on growing their own food, and were obliged to perform various duties for the landlord.

Lastly, Dr. Brin said he is open for discussions about howto finance this great civilization we are lucky to be members of. How about honestly? I don't think a wealth tax is out of order, as the rich benefit more from national defense and police than the poor. But I suspect none of you would agree to do away with the progressive tax rates if a wealth tax was instituted.

Honesty would mean putting all redistribution (inter generational and lateral) out in the open, not hide it in arcane formulas in social security, ACA, medicaid, medicare, and hide it such that it can get passed by congress. An honest debate about the extra benefits to the rich from policing and defense, and what are the acceptable support to the less fortunate members of society. Should welfare be based on current earnings and assets, or lifetime prior earnings? If Charlie Sheen ran out of money, and become a homeless, does society have the same obligation to him, as to the homeless who who does not appear to have squandered his earnings?

David Brin said...

Viking methinks you haven't even the remotest clue what "Supply Side Economics" means.

You credit this voodoo "trickle-down" madness, which has slowed the velocity of money to a trickle and vastly inflated wealth disparities to levels seen in 1789 France... with the vast explosion of wealth that was set in motion earlier by Keynsian and Rooseveltean reforms under a world protected by Pax Americana and stimulated by American inventiveness which Supply Side aggressively SABOTAGED.

Zepp Jamieson said...

You do understand an index fund is NOT a pension, and it's only as good a value as prevailing market conditions? And most economists (not investors, economists) think the market is very over valued right now?
As for your silly 60% tax=slavery question, if I was making $20K a year and paying 60% tax, I would feel horribly oppressed and ready for revolution. If I was making $100 million a year and paying 60% tax, I would be extremely grateful to a country in which I could make $40 million a year and consider the rest a smart investment.

Viking said...

Dr. Brin;

you are using Bush The Elder's word, "Woodoo Economics", which he used to denigrade "Trickle Down", which Reagan popularized. I looked at the wikipedia article for "Supply side economics" before replying, which begins like this:

"Supply-side economics is a macroeconomic theory[1][2] that argues economic growth can be most effectively created by investing in capital and by lowering barriers on the production of goods and services. According to supply-side economics, consumers will then benefit from a greater supply of goods and services at lower prices; furthermore, the investment and expansion of businesses will increase the demand for employees and therefore create jobs. Typical policy recommendations of supply-side economists are lower marginal tax rates and less government regulation.[3]"

While you correctly claim that the majority of the capital gains went to the rich, whereas the increased demand for labor went abroad, the poor in the US did get the benefit of goods for lower prices. My impression is that as a whole, the world Gini index has decreased due to lowering of barrier to investing, and encouragement to invest by lowering capital gains tax rates.

Unknown said...

Viking, to answer your question. What tax amount of taxes would I consider slavery. 100%. As I understand it slavery means being owned you make no money of your own and live only to serve your master. You would not be allowed to quit, move, or do anything at all without their say so. Taxation can be onerous, unfair and cumbersome in many ways. But to compare it to slavery is at best hyperbola. Slavery even in this day in age exists, and regardless of how I felt about the tax percentage I am obligated to pay i would not compare my situation to theirs.

Paul451 said...

From the last thread:

Fermi Paradox solutions for them what dint like t' read:

And why its worse than you think:

Also from the last thread (and the one before):

Paul SB,
Re: Uses of AR.
"On another level, imagine you are in an airplane and the pilot has had a heart attack [...]"

Why not just imagine the pilot using it?

Everyone involved with an aircraft uses rigorous checklists, procedures written down and standardised, precisely because it's so easy to forget a step for a particularly emergency procedure, no matter how much training you have. Pilots, mechanics, refuellers, other operators (like towing/pushback).

Having that sequence in your AR headset, as well as the paper manuals as backup, should make things quicker and easier, reducing cognitive load, freeing up brain-power to look for anomalies.

Likewise the paramedic, not the untrained responder.


Re: Active shooter & AR

If a large number of people are using AR, then it allows gestalt analysis, which is useful for trained professionals. The chaos in an active-shooter situation (or any similar random public violence) results in police/etc being flooded by false reports. (Especially because people don't realise how much they suck at being witnesses. "I know what I saw!" Or heard. It's hard to tell where gunshots are coming from, even for experienced soldiers under fire from a single enemy position.)

AR plus soft-AI analysis, plus off-site expert analysts (as in the airship bombing in Existence), could make it much easier for police to respond. (Likewise, to avoid friendly-fire situations.)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

1. Announce an intention to break up the banks upon election

2. Announce an intention to ban corporate donations and support funding transparency.

My big ones are
3. Conceding Climate change... ("Hey, I studied up on it this week.")

4. Supply Side has been disproved; get over it.

1) and 2) would lead to a massive infusion of corporate donations to the Hillary campaign, and put the media firmly on Hillary's side as well.

3) and 4) would probably fail to gain him as many new voters as it would lose him voters from his base.

I don't see how any of these help him win the election, unless you grant my prediction that he doesn't want the job in the first place.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Meanwhile, his ‘team’ solidifies… or congeals. Trump has painted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as the candidate of Wall Street, but his announced ‘economic team’ is filled with hedge fund managers, bankers and real estate speculators. Hedger John Paulson made a fortune betting against America before the financial crisis....

Were Trump running an independent campaign, he might have a point running against Hillary as a populist against Wall St (and TPP). As long as his candidacy is tied to his appointing Republican-approved judges and signing Republican legislation, he's got a lot of chutzpah running against Wall St and the TPP when almost every Republican in congress is in favor of those things, and in fact Democrats are the ones reluctant to trust Hillary on those issues. Trump painting Hillary as a friend of Wall St (and TPP) may ironically give some anti-Trump Republicans permission to think Hillary is not so bad after all.

Acacia H. said...

You have to wonder how much the rent-seekers are laughing by opening up stock markets to lower-income people. Think of it: the rich needed a new way of bilking money out of the middle class and poor. So they create stock market funds that charge fees and the like, and at the same time take that money out of circulation. A middle-class person invests $10,000 in the stock market rather than buying a new car or repairing their house so they can retire comfortably... and then encourages that person to pull the money when the stock market crashes so that they lost most of their savings... which ends up in the pockets of the rent-seekers.

And what else can people do with spare money, put it in a savings account that earns less interest than inflation? Society has evolved to either discourage savings, or encourage people to put money in schemes that ultimately cheats the person of their savings through fees and "quirks" of the market.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

A revisit to the fabled Laffer curve is in order and is giving me much to ponder, such as all sorts of theoretical nonlinear progressivity curves in rates and other complications. And the bit on the window tax is funny.

Anonymous said...

And, if one needs more evidence of the great gulf that divides the Dominant Minority[1] from the Internal Proletariat[2], contrast those who actually think Herr Hilary of the hard choices in Hondouras is a not bad choice versus those who might instead hope for some change for a change...

[1] Gosh! Wow! Things be going well! (If you're on the sweet side of Proposition 13, and let NIMBY action slide to keep them home prices high...)


Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Brin;

I got acquainted with your writing when I ran out of Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein, and found the "Prelude to Foundation" trilogy to be excellent books.

Since my post from before first appeared, then disappeared (twice), it is pretty clear you are yanking my dissenting posts. I think I have written in a respectful tone, I have focused on the issue rather than the person at least since I made fun of one of your faithful acolytes for not knowing the difference between 10^9 and 10^12 long time ago.

My critique that a higher capital gains rate hurts the common man's ability to hedge against inflation is a point I backed with data. As someone who is looking up to you, it is sad to see that you resort to censorship because you don't like my arguments.

David Brin said...

Ah, the anonymous with the weird, impossible to follow grammar is back!

Viking I do not want to be insulting. You clearly are polite and earnest. But in your defense of Supply Side you left out bunches of things. Like the massive infusion of wealth into the gaping maws of aristocrats, not just from lower Cap Gains but also steeply lowered income tax rates and several gigantic new loopholes. Have you tacked that money? Did it get invested in “supply” productivity?

In a few cases, yes… and those happen to be the billionaires in Silicon Valley and Seattle who despise Supply Side and want their taxes raised, because SS has had the chief effect of killing the middle class who buy their goods.

For the most part, SS wealth transfers from the middle to upper classes steeply dropped the VELOCITY of money, since the vast majority of oligarchs did NOT spend their lush-rush of new wealth on industrial capacity or supply. They did what Adam Smith says aristocrats always do. They used it to pump up asset bubbles by buying passive income generating (rent) properties and buying out competitiors so they could capture monopolistic markets.

“the poor in the US did get the benefit of goods for lower prices.”

Incantations! What utter drivel! Yes that happened in electronics. It was happening anyway but as I said, those billionaires - the smart innovators - despiseSS! Sorry, you are a deeply ignorant person. You seem intelligent. But stunningly ignorant.

We’d have been out of the woods and doing great now, if Congress had passed an infrastructure bill that would have injected FAST money into the economy while fixing bridges we’ll have to fix anyway, after they fall.

Our parents saw VASTLY greater job and wealth growth and productivity under rooseveltean tax rates. Moreover you know this.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "1) and 2) would lead to a massive infusion of corporate donations to the Hillary campaign, and put the media firmly on Hillary's side as well."

Also would be dismissed as just another lie/empty promise by virtually everyone not already on his side.


* "They used it to pump up asset bubbles by buying passive income generating (rent) properties"

They didn't simply bought properties to be rented: they mismanaged these.
I'm mostly talking from personal experience with residential properties, but being a competent landlord isn't very difficult, but one has to accept that maintaining their assets will consume a sizable chunk of the rent: toilets don't fix themselves, pot boilers have to be changed, walls often have to be repainted between renters, roofs age...
Yet I know by experience that even today a disturbingly high ratio of landlords believe that every penny they gain for their rents is here to fund their own material comforts and either refuse to fund all but the most basic maintenance and/or try to raise the rents as much as possible to offset said maintenance costs.

Michael said...

Here is an example of how "trickle down" really works.

"In 2004, when a temporary “tax holiday” on offshore profits was put in place, 58 firms brought $218 billion in profits back to the U.S. under the program, for a savings of $64 billion on their taxes. In the following two years, those 58 firms eliminated 600,000 jobs." - Center for Effective Government (2013)

Michael said...

And in case you don't believe the Center for Effective Government, here's what the Congressional Research Service had to say about the same tax repatriation holiday:

"A number of researchers have studied the impact of the reduction in the tax on repatriated earnings that came out of the American Jobs Creation Act. The studies have generally focused on two particular responses: the level of repatriations and the impact on economic growth. In short, the studies generally conclude that the reduction in the tax rate on repatriated earnings led to a sharp increase in the level of repatriated earnings, but that the repatriations did not increase domestic investment or employment. They further conclude that much of the repatriations were returned to shareholders through stock repurchases." -Congressional Research Service, (2011)

donzelion said...

@Laurent - Simple, direct rent collection is old-fashioned. An ambitious millionaire will, when given the opportunity, invest into asset bubbles AND intentionally sabotage some of his own investments (for a time) mostly to play a game that increases his total control over a property at a discount. Many of the ploys work through a "Good Cop/Bad Cop" dynamic - where a single rich owner creates one entity to "destroy" a property, and another to "rescue" that property, and collects dividends from both of those entities. So long as he can control the deals along both stages, such an owner can double or triple his total assets through manipulating the same property, without investing a penny.

When the bubble bursts, a well-positioned multi-millionaire can become a billionaire by "buying" up "his own" partially-owned assets on the cheap, and simply stopping the act of sabotage to create a track record suggesting extreme competence.

Dr. Brin thinks Trump invested in NYC during a dismal era. That might be worthwhile, but-for the track record of slum lord dealings, esp. wrecking crews that Trump's own managers hired to sabotage his "own" assets (at least until he could claim total ownership, at which point, he put his name on those assets and stopped the sabotage - creating an appearance of 'rescuing' distressed assets, even though he had himself contributed to the distress).

Annabelle said...

>Did it get invested in “supply” productivity?


Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: I’ve had the unpleasant experience where I got learned how bad a witness I am under stress. Car accidents are much easier to report when one is not among the people who almost died. 8)

In an active shooter situation, therefore, I’d be inclined to filter out details from people in the thick of things and look at the holes instead. Where people report calm, there is a decent chance they are good witnesses. Where they don’t, I won’t want to go there no matter what they say.

AR plus soft-AI (expert systems?) will change everything, but not in the simplistic ways some think. I liked David’s portrayal of off-site support in EXISTENCE and could imagine it being extended by task-specific systems running microphone and camera nets. I hope to live long enough to see some of these. Hopefully they are easier than transcendence. 8)

Dennis M Davidson said...

@David Brin, @Tim W
My notes from a Trump rally. Apologies for the long post.

I attended the Trump campaign rally in Fairfield, CT on Saturday, August 13, 2016. I learned three things from this experience.

1) An innocuous gathering of friendly suburbanites can quickly turn into a seething, jeering mob; then just as quickly revert back to a family-friendly gathering.

2) The intensity and negative tone of the mob behavior, as I observed it here in Connecticut, was not reported by local or national press.

3) Trump is far more despicable and dangerous than I previously imagined.

Trump’s Crowd:
About 5000 people stood shoulder to shoulder in the gymnasium of Sacred Heart University. It was brutally hot and humid. There was no seating and no clear walkway through the crowd. I arrived by myself about an hour before Trump spoke. My viewpoint was from the sideline, opposite center court. I was never more than 2-3 meters from the exit doors.

For the most part people were polite, even cheerful. However, once the jeering started the crowd morphed into an angry, hateful mob. The mob would last a minute or so then subside back into being polite Connecticut folk.

The most intense jeering was directed at the press in the room. It was a powerful, ugly, and sustained roar. Five times this happened. Five thousand people turned their gaze from Trump to the press pen at center court. Arms raised, fists clenched---the room raged at the press while Trump trashed the media as “dishonest", “the lowest form of life” and more.

It’s important to note here that the press pen was surrounded on all sides by the crowd. I saw security everywhere except near the press pen.

Trump’s Behavior:
Curiously Trump’s remarks sounded desultory. The room had more energy than Trump. Quite often when the crowd was worked up, Trump would stand there silent. But as the mob’s shouts subsided, Trump would start in again, speaking in phrases, muddled thoughts, sometimes in whole sentences.

Trump began his talk with a preposterous lie. He told the crowd that “thousands and thousands of people” were waiting outside to hear Trump. Because I was standing near the gym’s entrance I could immediately obtain ‘ground truth’ on Trump’s claim. He was lying. There were maybe 50 people outside the gym.

I mention this because Trump tells a similar lie at every rally. He falsely claims that thousands and thousands of people are turned away from his rallies. The media doesn't report Trump's false attendance claims so he accuses them of lying. Through simple repetition these small lies become accepted as truth. Thus Trump’s false narrative gains credence: Trump = Truth; Media = Liars.

For me, the low point of the night came when Trump began to toy with the press. Trump’s voice slipped into an odd sing-song tenor. His body language became sarcastic, if that’s possible. Would he punish the press this time? He told them maybe he’d revoke their credentials, maybe not. The crowd loved it and had morphed once again into a booing mob.

Everything about that moment felt wrong. I saw 5000 people jeering 30 journalists. I saw a presidential candidate casually and carelessly encourage this behavior among his followers. 5000 people vs 30 people. WTF?? This is the behavior of a thug. It is despicable and it is wrong.

I left after 30 minutes of Trump’s hour-long talk. I had enough of Trump’s nonsense for one night.

Alfred Differ said...

@Viking: The benefit you posit for the poorest in the US did occur, but there is no reason to tie it causally to economic policy from a macroeconomic theory like ‘supply-side’. The theory is materialist in the sense that it explains growth in terms of investments in capital and such an approach doesn’t agree with the numbers. If one invests in capital, one CAN make efficiency improvements, but they tend to be small relative to the growth we observe. The investments result in better use of what capital can be assigned now. What actually happened to prices for the poorest isn’t in the range of possible for efficiency improvements. What happened required something far bigger that is better described as creative destruction. With capital gains going to the richest and labor gains going overseas, the creative destructions can’t reasonably be connected causally to policy. Therefore, something else happened to move prices for the poor.

David's claim that your explanation is an incantation should be taken seriously. Many people blindly connect events, but correlation isn't causation, right? Always consider the possibility that causation might fail and then explore what evidence might exist to support that view too.

David Brin said...

dennisd thanks for this in person coverage-by-infiltration. Very interesting observations. And yes, what we are seeing is a civil War by personality-type. And it looks - so far - that the grownups may be winning,

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

Yet I know by experience that even today a disturbingly high ratio of landlords believe that every penny they gain for their rents is here to fund their own material comforts and either refuse to fund all but the most basic maintenance and/or try to raise the rents as much as possible to offset said maintenance costs

That's the problem with the current trend toward "monitizing" everything. Because it's not just that a corporation converts as much of its value to cash and uses that cash to invest in its productive capacity. The point of converting to cash is to suck the cash out of the system like a parasite or a vampire.

LarryHart said...


First of all, what an awesome (in a scary sort of way) bit of reportage. Godwin's law be damned, you're describing a Hitler rally, and the Republican establishment reminds me way too much of that scene in Cabaret where the rural crowd sings "Tomorrow Belongs To Me", and as some of the characters drive past, one asks the other "Do you still think you can control them?"

Your essay speaks for itself, and the only piece I had to comment on was a complete tangent because it reminds me of Trump's claiming to be "sarcastic".

For me, the low point of the night came when Trump began to toy with the press. Trump’s voice slipped into an odd sing-song tenor. His body language became sarcastic, if that’s possible.

Trump asserted over and over again that "He [Obama] is the founder of ISIS," and then claimed he was "being sarcastic". What the eff does that even mean?? I suppose he meant he was engaging in hyperbole--that he didn't think Barack Obama literally organized the terrorist group--but "sarcastic" has nothing to do with it. I almost expected him to continue the Monty Python routine with "No, not a pun. Wha's that thing that's spelled the same backwards as forwards?" "Sarcasm" would mean that he was making the ironic point that Obama didn't found ISIS. That wasn't what he was doing at all. It makes no sense.

Of course, it did lead to this actual, wonderfully sarcastic comment from :

On Friday morning, after two days of withering criticism, Trump finally tried to give himself cover, claiming that he was just being "sarcastic." This explanation did not sit well with reporters, who wondered why Trump wouldn't have explained that to Hewitt, et. al., when he was being pressed on exactly what he meant. And apparently Trump himself didn't really believe his explanation either, because on Friday afternoon he told a crowd that the remark was "not that sarcastic, to be honest with you." One might think that such undisciplined messaging would have RNC Chair Reince Priebus tearing his hair out, but at the same rally Priebus made clear that he's still on board with the campaign: "Let me tell you something: Donald Trump, the Republican Party, all of you, we're gonna put him in the White House and save this country together." Of course, maybe the Chairman was just being sarcastic.

(emphasis mine)

donzelion said...

@Robert - "You have to wonder how much the rent-seekers are laughing by opening up stock markets to lower-income people."

Hmmm...most of your points today are spot on, but this one merits a quibble.

The stock market is not primarily a rent-allocation vehicle, though there are some rent-seekers at its fringes. The market itself is a good thing, empowering people to become "wealthy(er)" through limited participation in projects otherwise beyond their means of pursuing. Merely entering the market does not expose you to rent-seekers, nor does it hand your wealth over to them necessarily.

The folks you're describing are more akin to the "helpers" that John Bogle and Warren Buffett disdain - folks who have interests in conflict with your own, who encourage you to buy high and sell low, simply because that rewards them. But mere adverse interests does not make someone a rentier.

Rentiers depend on some legal mechanism to allow them to impose a penalty for refusing what they seek (e.g., call the sheriff to evict a non-paying tenant) or to deny a benefit to which you were otherwise entitled. For example, many 401(k) plans are structured so that the financial intermediaries extract 3-6% from your retirement annually - leaving you a much smaller return (if any). You often don't get to choose which advisers will manage your accounts - except among a handful selected by your employer (whose personnel may, in turn, receive some benefit from those firms). Refusing to cooperate with this scheme and you lose a retirement match funds (if awarded by your employer). Their incentives are driven entirely by the effort to "trap" you into paying them annual fees. That makes them rentiers, rather than "helpers."

donzelion said...

@Alfred - "The benefit you posit for the poorest in the US did occur, but there is no reason to tie it causally to economic policy from a macroeconomic theory like ‘supply-side’."

You, sir, took the words from my mouth.

But I'll go one step further and argue what actually does have a causal link, and tax does play a role, but not one that either Supply Siders or Keynesians in America tend to think about.

The U.S. taxes global income for all U.S. persons wherever earned. Nobody else does that. However, our policy cannot touch foreign persons who are owned by U.S. persons (foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies) - at least, not until those foreign persons remit their earnings home.

(1) If Apple-America makes 2 million iPhones, then anywhere in the world they sell those iPhones, they'll pay U.S. income taxes on the income from that sale.

(2) If Apple-China also makes 2 million iPhones, then they only pay income tax on sales of iPhones in China and America. All sales to Indonesia, Australia, Japan, Mexico, etc. are not taxed by China. The only way the proceeds from those sales reach America is if Apple-China remits earnings to America (in the form of dividends). Whether those dividends are taxed at 5% or 35%, why would you ever do that? (Well, there are reasons sometimes...)

Our tax code rewards large multinationals who manufacture goods primarily through foreign subsidiaries whenever those subsidiaries are capable of trading with other countries.

The easy solution is to shift to territorial taxation (which puts U.S. subsidiaries exporting abroad on the same playing field as foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms) - something conspicuously missing from Supply Side theory. Their solution of reducing effective taxes (income, but also dividends and capital gains) effectively rewards those at the top - the managers who remit dividends to perform stock buybacks or pay off other incentives to themselves.

Less creative destruction, than simple arbitrage.

donzelion said...

@DennisD - Well done. Curious: did you go to the rally alone?

"For me, the low point of the night came when Trump began to toy with the press."

Standard cult rhetoric. In my Christian days, so long ago, my evangelical church also took a harsh line towards the media (the "World and its false prophets," was a common line). Cannot trust any detractors...they all come from the "enemy"... it's a powerful means of ensuring that members of the cult throw off any voices save those anointed by the insiders.

"I saw 5000 people jeering 30 journalists."
I haven't heard of physical attacks against journalists (unlike Muslims, Latinos, and others previously targeted). How I wish that everyone would just tire of this charlatan thug, and turn their attention to more important matters.

donzelion said...

@Annabelle - "Did [savings from reduced taxes] get invested in “supply” productivity?" Yes. [citing Bureau of Labor statistics chart - - which shows substantial productivity gains from 2000-2007]

Refer to the Bureau's lengthier explanation of that productivity growth.

Essentially, in several of the industries that reported the highest productivity growth, the number of hours worked by U.S. workers FELL - but the output remained the same = higher productivity. For example, HP's "output" of computer systems increased during that period, while it laid off some 30,000 workers - which statistically, represents an increase in productivity.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - "On the other hand Donald Trump is completely right about most of these people, when he says: “They are nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power, and it’s time they are held accountable for their actions.”

Humph. Of the names listed, I know or have indirect ties with only a handful of the figures, but the ones I do know about are not incompetent Republican stooges, but rather, were remarkable public servants (and yes, many of them are Republicans).

Zoellick worked tirelessly in the American interest on trade, setting the stage for the TPP and many trade deals that MAY benefit Americans (certainly better than the non-trade arrangements we have currently). Besides, he was part of the Vulcans! Can't find fault there (well...maybe...).

Disrespecting "political bureaucrats" - or shrugging them off as a bunch of washed up stooges as Trump has done - plays into a narrative that "government is evil, failing, until a superhero comes to fix it." That's cancerous for actual governance, as a good, effective bureaucrat working even for the most screwed up presidency has a job to do, as best they can, and duties to fulfill.

Paul SB said...

Paul 451,

These are all great examples of where AR will do a lot of good. In fact, in some of these examples they would be life-saving technologies, which ultimately raises the carrying capacity for humans (lowering the death rate). Plane crashes are relatively rare, but paramedics with an AR that can instantly give things like blood type, drug allergies and medical histories when they arrive on the scene could be big.

On the other hand, I share Tacitus' concerns about how the focus on technology can affect people's perceptions and motivations. As a teacher I deal with the effects of Technology-Induced Motivational Syndrome in both students and often enough their parents all the time. Technology has always been a double-edged sword. Maybe Dr. Brin will come up with some great solution for TIA Syndrome in his next middle-future novel (though I'm holding out for another Uplift saga with space dolphins, and maybe a rebellious chimp or two who fights against being given silly, racially-motivated names like "Harry Harms".) I'm not going in the direction of legislative ban - I think the technology should be developed. But at the same time we need to work on dealing with the pitfalls, too.

Jumper said...

David, I suspect you and others will enjoy this. "What I learned as a hired consultant to autodidact physicists"

Zepp Jamieson said...

IngorantbutIntelligent wrote: "If you claim that oligarchs are taking all the money, you should explain how. The upper classes do not have a valve tapping into my bank account, are they receiving my money through government contracts?"

Your mention of bank accounts highlights part of the problem. One in three working people don't have bank accounts (it used to be one in eight back in the 70s) because the real value of wages have dropped so much in the past 40 years. To measure social financial inequality, the Gini index is the metric most often used, and it shows the US sliding from most egalitarian to least among developed nations over the past 40 years. It now exceeds the estimated value it held in 1928.

donzelion said...

@Zepp - one in three? Really?

IgnorantbutIntelligent - There's three primary ways that oligarchs enrich themselves at other people's expense.

(1) "Trickle down" is a helpful metaphor for the first way. Rather than extract the money from your bank account, the typical oligarch approach is to restrict what can go into your bank account - to prevent you from getting raises, block you from opportunities you might otherwise have obtained. "The tall tree gets the light; the trees in the shade get stunted." While this is legitimate, it's no more heroic than what trees have been doing for a long time. Certainly not something that merits any special reward.

(2) The second way is "predation," typically by means of selective, strategic default. When "normal people" fail to pay their bills, they lose benefits they expected from whatever they paid for. When oligarchs do not pay, they force others to bear expenses to enforce their agreements - and the cost of enforcement is often too high, while the benefit of enforcement too low, for anyone to compel them to honor their agreements. As one prominent NY real estate magnate put it, "Only the little people pay taxes." Most often, oligarchs target "small" fry - individuals and small businesses that can be squeezed into concessions. The more vulnerable the small fry, the easier it is to pull off. While predators are helpful in the animal world, we humans are all the same species, and predation of that sort among our own kind is never acceptable. (Donald Trump typifies this sort of predator - this case against him by Polish workers is quite typical).

(3) The third way also involves cost-shifting strategically, but on a broader scale: instead of merely defaulting strategically, forcing other people to pay your bills for you (usually without them even knowing that's what you're doing). The largest of oligarchs do this routinely, and each develops a scheme to permit doing it without most people recognizing that it is what has occurred. A very public example: buy a sports team, put in $500 million of your own money to buy a billion dollar franchise, get the city/county to put in another $500 million in land grants, rights-of-way, freeway support & infrastructure and other concessions, get fans and investors to put in another $500 million in long-term loans through multi-season tickets - and then, after $1 billion is added to your asset - threaten to move unless these groups contribute another $500 million... But the vast majority of these cases are more subtle than that.

Alfred Differ said...

>donzelion: Arbitrage opportunities created by regulation strike me as cheats, but I’m sure you’ll understand if I take the position that they should be removed in the direction that results in the least income for government. I’m not interesting in starving governments, but I do appreciate how they draw fewer people inclined to create other cheats if they have little cash to dole out. This makes me sound a bit like a supply-side supporter, but I’m not. I prefer the removal of systemic, external bias in markets as the thumbs-on-the-scales meme is what drives people to think market participants are incapable of ethical behavior beyond self-serving prudence.

Fortunately, these cheats you describe are like leeches most of the time. The parasite prospers, but the host manages to survive. I’d rather do better, though, so I like that you describe what is actually happening. 8)

David Brin said...



Dennis M Davidson said...

@David Brin
Your welcome. I have since heard that other ‘observers’ attended. A few families brought their children for a civics lesson so they could see what a demagogue looks like.

@donzelion --
Thanks. Yes, I did go alone. Although I’m not sure if I would go to another Trump rally. Too volatile.

Interesting comments about cult rhetoric. Trump’s grudge against the media seems personal. He names reporters at rallies for vilification. You might have heard that NBC reporter Katy Tur, was escorted by the Secret Service out of a Trump rally in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Trump had singled her out for vilification. The crowd turned on her with a verbal attack. While she was not physically attacked, since then she has gotten death threats via social media.

Speaking of sarcasm and jokes, Trump told the rally that “he’d never, ever forgive” the voters of Connecticut if he loses the election. Was he joking? Sarcastic? WTF?