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Welcome to the third issue of The Outsider Perspective, brought to you by The Beltway Outsiders.
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This week I wrote a column about finding hope in the 2016 election cycle. It’s a question I’ve received a number of times and covers my thought process this year. You can find hope during this election season, it’s just a matter of finding perspective. Also up is a book review on Stephen King’s “On Writing.” If you’re looking to learn more about writing or Stephen King, this book is must read. It’s enthralling from beginning to end.
This week I’m covering updates to Trump’s remarks on Judge Curiel and the media (plus some notes on how this hurting GOP in donations), a new debate on a universal basic income proposal, and the abysmal jobs report released on the month of May. As always, your curated look at the must reads and quick slants follow the analysis.
1. The Media loves Trump’s racism; there are no defenses for Trump’s racist remarks; and Trump is scaring away donors
Donald Trump continued his verbal assault against Judge Curiel, the judge in the Trump U lawsuit. I mentioned in the first issue of the Outsider Perspective that Trump’s attacks were racist. The campaign attacks are nothing new either, they began back in February of this year. The funny thing about that: no one in the media, except for a few sites like The Blaze, picked up on Trump’s racist rant back in February (CNN was airing full rallies). Reporters and journalists didn’t bother to report the racist attacks in the middle of the GOP Primary in February.
Think about that for moment: In the middle of the GOP primaries for President, the leading candidate made racist comments about a judge and the media said nothing. The $2+ billion in free media attention Trump has received since last summer is an indictment against the press. Far from speaking truth to power, the press has chosen to cash in on the Trump phenomenon and rake in the ratings. Liberals in the press like to talk about there being structural racism in society, where institutions are inherently racist. Yet, when faced with the decision of profiting off racism or standing against it, the media chose profit. Also note the following: the media is 90% liberal, meaning a super majority of them will vote for Clinton in November. Liberal journalists chose profiting off racism. The media is calling it “damn good” business. So keep that in mind while the liberal media “shifts into attacking Trump” and lectures everyone on standing against racism. They only stand against it because Clinton is their candidate, not Trump.
Second point, Trump has no defense, nor does his staff, on these remarks. Trump has flipped between telling his staff to double down on the racist attacks and saying he’ll never talk about it again. 7 hours after saying he would never talk about it again, he told GOP leaders and voters to: “Get over it.” Trump trotted out former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to defend the remarks. I tweeted out a long critique of the Gonzalez piece. Both law professors Ilya Somin and Eugene Volokh had similar critiques in the Washington Post. The short version of this situation: Trump’s remarks are not a valid reason for recusal. There is no valid legal reason to have Curiel recused. There is no evidence of bias in this case. And to refute what I’ve heard from Trump-surrogates on cable news: No, the current political storm Trump created is not a basis for recusal. No one can name one sentence of law that supports such nonsense (looking at you O’Reilly, Hannity, Bolling, Guilfoyle, and Jeff Lord). If there was, Trump’s lawyer would have FILED a motion for recusal. Instead, his lawyers have done the exact opposite and said they have NO INTENTION of filing a motion. Which means Trump’s claims are empty, his lawyers know the claims are empty, and his surrogates are lying to protect him.
Last point: Trump is scaring away donors and running short on campaign cash. In the first issue of the Outsiders Perspective, I mentioned how Trump was low on cash and desperately needed RNC support. We now have some numbers on how cash poor Trump is: Noah Rothman (If you’re on Twitter, he’s a must follow) of Commentary Magazine had the following notes:
“According to Open secrets, the Trump campaign has so far raised $57.7 million as of mid-May. But it burned $55.3 million. Great America PAC and Make America Great Again PAC have the same burn rate, but both have raised almost nothing compared to the Trump camp. As of mid-May, the Trump campaign and outside groups had $2.7 million cash on hand. HRC and groups have $76.6 million cash on hand right now. Dear GOP. You have your excuse to abandon this ship. Head to the life rafts while you can.”
I mentioned last week how Trump’s cash poor campaign would hurt the GOP down-ticket. GOP Strategist Rick Wilson predicted that GOP Senators and House Representatives would start jumping ship to save themselves. Both points are true: Senator Mark Kirk and Lindsey Graham both jumped ship. Graham is calling for people to un-endorse Trump and for delegates to unbind themselves and revolt at the convention. There are growing rumblings from the delegates themselves to unbind, revolt, and reject Trump. Party leaders, past and present are upset with the Trump nomination. The Reagan family says they are insulted by being compared to Trump. Trump’s response is to say he doesn’t need the money and he’ll just win on star power alone (which is likely cover for the fact that he’s incapable of raising enough money). GOP donors are staying away from the Trump campaign because they don’t want their name on FEC filings. The first incumbent GOP Representative to openly depend on Trump’s endorsement lost (she actually lost because her district was redrawn and made impossible to win, but that fact won’t drive the news narratives or donations). The next few weeks are critical to Trump’s campaign. If he messes up, the GOP will look to dump him. If only because Trump is a dead financial weight that is sinking the rest of the GOP. The message is pretty clear right now: If you’re a vulnerable GOP member: head for the life rafts now, not post-convention.
2. The Universal Basic Income: Fantasy or sound policy proposal?
This past week, voters in Switzerland voted down a proposal to create an “universal basic income” (UBI). The proposal would have given every Swiss person $2,555 a month (a little over $30,000 a year). Children would receive a smaller amount. The Swiss brought it up for a vote because any referendum proposal receiving 100,000 signatures is automatically voted on. No Swiss politicians supported the measure and 77% of Swiss citizens voted to oppose the proposal. The BBC’s World News Podcast interviewed several people for and against the measure in Switzerland which gives you the local flavor on the pros and cons. Finland is testing a similar pilot program for 8,000 low income people. (The Federalist ran a critique of the Swiss proposal that’s worth a read).
This proposal is not new, even in American politics. In fact, President Nixon proposed a UBI during his Presidency before reversing his stance. Conservatism has long viewed an UBI as a way to dismantle bureaucratic federal agencies while tackling poverty. Both Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek supported the idea. The proposal is returning to the forefront again in America via political scientist Charles Murray’s weekend essay in the WSJ: “A Guaranteed Income for Every American.” It’s well worth your time to read. Murray wrote a book on the subject in 2006. I’ll summarize his essay’s points below:
1. The UBI replaces all other forms of welfare. This means all the War on Poverty programs are immediately ended. The savings from no longer having those programs would pay for the UBI (to quote Murray: “The UBI is to be financed by getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, housing subsidies, welfare for single women and every other kind of welfare and social-services program, as well as agricultural subsidies and corporate welfare.”). That swap would save $200 billion this year alone and would expand out to over $1 trillion by 2020 according to Murray’s estimates.
2. Every American over the age of 21 would receive an annual sum, paid out over each month, for $13,000. $3,000 of that would go to pay for health insurance. The amount would drop if you made over $30,000 a year or more, but the amount would never drop below $6,500. The reason the amount would never drop is that the UBI replaces social security.
3. The main critique is that this would discourage people from entering the workforce. Murray’s answer to that is that this already occurs, see the labor force participation rate over the last decade. What the UBI would do is rewrite the entire federal welfare state to become more streamlined and reduce the size and scope of Government. It’s more targeted than any other welfare program where people eventually fall through the cracks and saves money over the long run. In other words, the same inefficiencies exist in either system, the UBI is simply more cost effective.
As a conservative, this proposal is highly tempting insofar that it would remove the ever-growing welfare state from the federal government. If this proposal was used exactly as described, then we would shrink the size and scope of government immensely while empowering individuals to run their own lives. The problem, obviously, is that this inevitably creates freeloaders who would take and never work. This was the number one concern of the Swiss voters. It’s not without merit, though I would tend to agree with Murray’s answer that freeloaders are always present. The UBI just handles them in a more cost effective method.
My primary concern, however, is that this would not be a replacement for the Welfare State. Liberals advocate for the UBI but they want it as an addition to the current welfare state (see Vox). If the US added UBI to the current system, the costs of it and the welfare state would crush the US like Greece and its debts. Any UBI proposal that doesn’t revamp the welfare state would simply vastly increase it. Murray agrees with this assessment in his piece.
Where do we go from here? The US will eventually have a UBI debate. The Left will give it a full throat endorsement while refusing to look at the costs of current welfare programs (“cut defense!” is always the rejoinder). Realistically, this proposal is a non-starter unless it is accomplished as described by Murray or Friedman: use it to replace the entire welfare system. It might be worth the time for some states to investigate trying this out. If states can figure out how to use the UBI as a carrot to move us towards shrinking government, it’s worth a look. If that is impossible, it would be better to know that now rather than guessing at it on the federal level.
3. A word on the monthly jobs report
The June jobs report was abysmally bad: 38k jobs added on the month with downward revisions in the previous two months (each report gets revised for the next two months). Fed Chief Janet Yellen believes the economy needs to add 100k new jobs each month to keep up with population growth. Private estimates place that much higher, around 200k. The unemployment rate dropped to 4.7%, which normally would be a good thing. However, the reason it dropped this month was because 458k people dropped out of the workforce. The U3 unemployment rate does not count people who dropped out in its rate calculations.
The hope is that this is just a one month blip and things will return to normal. That may very well be the case. But the numbers bear watching. I tweeted out a picture from the report of a trend in jobs numbers. If you look at the chart, you’ll see that there is a downward momentum trend moving into this year. In other words: Since September of 2015, job growth appears to be slowing down. This also follows trend lines for US GDP growth over the same period of time, with the last great period of economic growth happening the 2nd quarter of 2015. Both the FED and private sector are expecting GDP growth and job growth to bounce back in Q2 and Q3 for this year. That has happened the previous two years. But right now, economists are lowering projections for growth.
The problem is that the best we can do for the year is to average 2.5% growth on the year. That is far too low for developed and diversified economy like the US. The best economic growth we’ve had occurred when the economy grew at least 4% (we’ve hit that a few quarters). Which is why the best economic policies are those targeting 4% as a benchmark. In defending this anemic growth, Democrats have called this era the new normal. It’s nothing more than stagnant growth. It keeps the economy above water, but not much else. It’s hardly normal when compared to American history.
“The New Normal” should not be accepted. Any time the global economy has a sneeze it adversely affects US policy making decisions. For example: based on this one bad month of job growth, the FED is unlikely to raise interest rates because they’re scared the economy is too weak to handle a raise. Anemic growth handcuffs an economy from growing and making effective policy decisions. Instead of accepting the new normal, we should be pushing for policies that allow far more.
Quick slants and must reads:
What’s wrong with people?
Study saying conservatives show signs of ‘psychoticism’ retracted after peer review found the conclusion was opposite: liberals showed signs of ‘psychoticism.'” – The Washington Examiner / Retraction Watch
Foreign policy and news
Long form articles to consider
What I’m reading
“Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise” by Anders Ericsson & Robert Pool
You may notice I mentioned this book last issue. I decided to reread some passages again because the book is that good. I highly recommend it. This week, I’d like to highlight the concept of innate talent.
According to Ericsson’s research: there are no such thing as innate talent. All skills and success were achieved through deliberate practice and learning new mental representations. Skill sets are trained, not inherited. We often hold people back from their true potential when we tell them they are incapable of mastering a skill. For instance, everyone has the ability to sing. The only thing people need is practice at honing their singing voice to an expert level. With enough deliberate practice and changing of mental representations, we are capable of anything.
What I’m listening to
“Can we take a joke?” Podcast, by Ricochet.
The Conservatarians Podcast on Ricochet talks with the director of the new documentary “Can we take a joke?” They explore how comedians are dealing with the rise of the anti-speech Left on college campuses.
What I’m watching
How we’re now 3D printing entire buildings: A brief look at Dubai’s goal to 3D print 25% of their city buildings.
Thanks for reading!