Thursday, September 24, 2020

Thoughts on the Worst Case Scenario on November 3, 2020


I didn’t think it possible that US politics could get any worse, but it has. Those employed to investigate such matters have amassed substantial evidence that Trump plans to remain president at all costs. He will likely contest the election to the extent that it would be up to the Supreme Court, stacked 6–3 with conservative judges. He expects the Supreme Court to decide the election in his favor, just as it did for George W. Bush in 2000.

As I see it, the democrats can overcome this scenario by landslides in the Senate and House of Representatives, in which case the legislature could impeach Trump, either before or after he takes office, as the case may be. The new Congress meets the first business day after January 1, 2021, and has until January 20 before the inauguration.

Without a landslide, the Senate, composed of shameless lemmings, will do Trump’s bidding. Even if there is a landslide in both houses, nothing will happen unless the new Democratic Congress is willing to expand the Supreme Court to allow a Democratic president to appoint additional justices. Beyond that, it can do little other than impeach, which is probably not in the cards.

A more drawn-out, iffy course of action would be an amendment granting Congress the power to nullify Supreme Court decisions by a 3/5 or 2/3 majority of both houses. A slightly more limited congressional power would allow nullification only if 2, 3, or 4 justices dissent from the decision. The amendment could limit Congressional power to nullify judgments only when one or more of the dissenters vote to submit the disputed issue to Congress.[1]

At first blush, such an arrangement might not even require a constitutional amendment. The Constitution empowers Congress to establish rules for federal courts, create inferior courts, etc.

There is a problem, however, regarding the Article III phrase “judicial power.” The annotations to Article III at the Cornell University website cite US Supreme Court decisions holding that final judgments of the Court are not reviewable by the other two branches. Chicage & Southern Air Lines, Inc., v. Waterman S.S. Corporation. Civil Aeronautics Board v. Same, 333 US 103 (1948). If my hypothetical statue allows Congress or the Executive to review a judgment of the Court, it has no jurisdiction over the case.

To change this would require a Constitutional amendment.

  1. Congress would determine the number of justices.  ↩

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Healthcare: Will We Learn?

I just returned from a follow-up visit at one of the finest cancer hospitals in the world. The doctors were first-rate, the technicians and nurses seemed to know almost as much as the doctors, the equipment was the newest and best, and the atmosphere in this institution where so many children and adults suffer and die from incurable cancers was unexpectedly warm and caring. Almost everyone, even children with head bandages walking down the hall, was smiling.

Between Medicare and a costly private medical insurance policy, my bill totaled zero. My only expenses were transportation to and from the hospital, lodging, and meals. I am lucky; I would have almost certainly died seven years ago without Medicare and private insurance.

U. S. citizens under 65 are not eligible for Medicare, and as a federal retiree, my private policy is subsidized by the U. S. government. Otherwise, it would be beyond my means.

Only a small minority enjoys these kinds of benefits. Many who barely scrape by earn too much to be eligible for Medicaid but not enough to buy a decent medical insurance policy. 11.4% of the population is uninsured, amounting to approximately 34 million people. These are the people who have slipped through the cracks in the system. When they become sick, they must resort to hospital emergency rooms and incur medical and hospital bills they have no hope of paying.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Thoughts About Anti-Semitism

The New York Times ran an absorbing story about the movement of ultra-orthodox Jews out of New York City into deteriorating neighborhoods of northern New Jersey and New York. Typically, they buy up blocks of boarded-up houses and construct what amounts to Jewish enclaves, with synagogues, community centers, and shops selling kosher food and other goods specific to Jewish practice. The influx of newcomers has been the source of worry among long-time residents who are concerned that the new arrivals will alter the existing culture in undesirable ways.

Orthodox Jews are industrious, frugal, and law-abiding, but they keep to themselves and seldom socialize with the goyim[1]. Reading the article prompted some thoughts.

The Shadow

According to Carl Jung, we are usually aware of a small fraction of our thoughts, experiences, and memories. The remaining matter resides in the subconscious. Jung named this mental structure the shadow. Consciousness, it has been said, is a peanut floating in the vast sea of the subconscious.[2] It is invisible because the mind cannot deal consciously with the firehose of sensations and the tsunami of thoughts with which we are daily bombarded.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

He should have worn a mask

Between 30% and 40% of American voters still love and adore President Trump. Their faith in him is impervious to facts. They will excuse his actions, no matter how damaging to themselves or their country. Even when untrained people without badges used CS teargas on peaceful protestors to clear Trump’s path, few evangelicals condemned his use of a church and Bible for background.

With loyal followers such as these, the wisest action Trump could and should have taken in late January was to wear a mask himself. In public. Proudly.

His following would have all worn masks, in public and proudly. That’s because they are all, in Eric Hoffer’s words, true believers.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

It all depends on us

So much going on: Demonstrations all around the world over the murder by a Minneapolis policeman of an African-American, George Floyd. The coronavirus (COVID–19) is still spreading, especially where lockdowns were prematurely relaxed. President Trump poses for a photo in front of an Episcopal church holding the Bible upside down after having dispersed a crowd of unarmed, peaceful demonstrators that stood in his way.

The protests have spread throughout the nation, and are populated by whites as well as people of color. A majority of Americans support the demonstrations. The police have responded with a brutality against unarmed demonstrators hard to imagine in a civilized society.

We have experienced demonstrations and even riots many times over our history, but this seems different. The videos posted on social media showing the brutality of the police against unarmed demonstrators has finally opened the eyes of the nation’s citizens, especially white citizens. It is hard for anyone to view the video of the casual murder of a black man by a policeman and deny that we have a serious problem with the police.

In the past, northern whites have sprung to action when they were confronted by atrocities committed in the deep south against African-Americans. That was the impetus for the Civil Rights movement in the ’60s, which led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. After the passage of these two acts, everyone, especially northern whites, sat back and relaxed, patting themselves on the back for what they had accomplished.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Oligarchy Must Take a Hit

Economic and political conditions in the US will not improve until the oligarchy takes a hit — Financially and politically. As long as the oligarchy remains in power, it can block any change beyond cosmetic.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Democrats' Support of PAYGO is Unwise—in Fact, Dumb

PAYGO (PAY As You Go), enshrined into Federal law[1] is an erroneous and dangerous economic doctrine that has created much mischief over the past twenty-or-so years. It has made fools of the Democrats in Congress, who have treated it as a fiscal straitjacket, while the Republicans have ignored it when in power. The huge tax cut benefitting the top 1%, especially the top 0.1%, was a typical slap in the face to the Democrats, as well as the bottom 90%.

Tax cuts for the wealthy seldom turn the wheels of industry, which should create demand for skilled (or even unskilled) labor, because it is usually invested in stocks, bonds, and land. Some if it may trickle down to the lower 90%, but most of it ends up again in the hands of the upper 1%. Billionaires have little incentive to either consume more that they are already consuming or to invest in capital goods[2], like factories.

There’s a good economic argument that buying stock has nothing to do with investment, but is more like saving.

The lower 90%, and especially the lower 50% usually spend all their earnings on consumption, and spend tax cuts the same way, contributing to demand. There are several recent articles that elaborate on this theme. I strongly recommend them:

  1. Josh Bivins: The bad economics of PAYGO swamp any strategic gain from adopting it. 12/18/2018  ↩

  2. In economic parlance, the phrase “capital goods” means goods that are used to produce goods, including consumer goods and other capital goods. Examples of capital goods are, blast furnaces, metal stamping equipment, looms, woodworking tools, and microprocessor factories. Examples of consumer goods are: ice cream, autos, clothes, home computers, shingles, groceries, and goldfish.  ↩