Dem Donkey

Democratic Convention 2016

Day 4

Black Cop Lives Matter

The first thing that caught my eye on Day 4 was a sheriff who called for a moment of silence to honor fallen officers. The moment was interrupted by an asshole screaming “black lives matter”. What happened next was a beautiful thing. Two black women in a row spoke to pay tribute to their husbands, policemen killed in the line of duty – and BLACK. A nice retort to the disruptive and misguided BLM contingent. Black lives mattering and police lives mattering is clearly not mutually exclusive.

The Clinton Kid

Just as all of Donald Trump’s adult kids spoke at last week’s GOP convention, on Day 4 of the Dem convention we were treated to the Clinton kid, Chelsea. I come to this with a bit of bias because in my former life in corporate America I became aware of Chelsea’s tenure at McKinsey (a consulting firm) and the scuttlebutt was that she was quite difficult to work with. That said, let’s get back to her address. I had never seen her speak at length before so I was pleased when she started. She had humor. Her delivery was calm and paced. But then I noticed it seemed almost too calm. She almost seemed to be under a spell. She reminded me of animatronic department store dummies, as her head slowly moved back and forth between teleprompters. Then I put my finger on why she seemed so odd. She reminded me of the brainwashed veterans in “The Manchurian Candidate” who were programmed to praise one of their fellow soldiers, a man who was actually a total prick. I couldn’t resist a tweet:

She’s an odd bird. According to Dick Morris, former advisor to Bill, it was Bill who was most involved with her childhood, not Hillary.

Another President Clinton

Hillary’s acceptance speech was met with low expectations because historically the acceptance speech pales in comparison to the ra-ra-sisboomba speeches that come before it in the first three days. That said, OMFG!!! The thing seemed to go on forever! Hillary does not have Obama’s gift of delivery. As the pundits put it, she speaks in prose, not poetry. I hate to admit I literally dosed in the middle of it and woke up in time for the ending. The speech was completely forgettable. I have trouble coming up with a single quote that will stand on its own historically. She tied Trump’s fear mongering to FDR’s “the only thing we have to fear …” quote. That was a nice touch. She reached out to Bernie voters. Not bad. But otherwise, the speech seemed poorly structured. I felt no narrative arc. She repeatedly cleared her throat, just adding to rumors she’s not in the best of shape. In fact, she looked quite tired half way through the address. Protesters, God bless them, tried to disrupt the speech but were drowned out by shouts of “Hill-a-ry” and “USA”.

This was an uninspired speech by an uninspiring candidate. This speech and the entire convention were marred by the cynical view that making history with a woman President is more important than taking into account her checkered past. November will be a coin flip. Donald got lucky to be running against the only American almost as unpopular as he is. There will be no good outcome in November. The President will either be someone who has no business anywhere near the Oval office or someone who brings so much baggage and such questionable judgment that four years of scandal are almost guaranteed.

Day 3

Courage and Kleenex

Every time I see Gabby Giffords I am amazed at her tenacity and courage. Giffords who was shot in the head by a crazed gunman has regained most of her ability to walk and speak. I focus on her grit and ignore her inexplicable support of Hillary Clinton. She was introduced by her husband, a former service member and astronaut. It doesn’t get much more patriotic than that.

It’s been almost 4 years since 20 precious children lost their lives to a lunatic scumbag with a gun-happy mother, who, for God knows what reason, thought it a good idea to take her little monster to the shooting range. Four years later I still cannot see photos of those kids without totally losing it. When Erica Smegielski, the daughter of the murdered Sandy Hook Elementary principal spoke, I fast forwarded through it. I just can’t take it. What Democrats refuse to say and Republicans already know is that the only solution to our gun problem is confiscation. That is never going to happen.

Uncle Joe

Whenever you mention Joe Biden to a conservative you are reminded of his plagiarism scandal that short-circuited his presidential campaign almost 30 years ago. That’s about the best they can do in condemning Uncle Joe. Believe it or don’t believe it, Biden comes across as the guy who lives next door to you. He is warm. He is corny as hell. He is inappropriate (remember Barack being “well spoken”). On Day 3, Joe told the audience to shut up and listen. Then he gave the most simple condemnation of Donald Trump imaginable. Do we really want a leader whose signature catch-phrase is “you’re fired”? Biden ended his speech with what should be the Democratic campaign slogan from now until November: “Come on! We’re America!”

Persuasion from an Independent

Former New York Mayor, former Republican and always billionaire, Mike Bloomberg made a plea to independents and Republicans to reject Trump. What made his speech persuasive was his status as a businessman in Trump’s league (if not richer) who could bust the myth that Donald was somehow self-made and successful by normal business ethical standards. Not the most dynamic speaker, Mike still may have given the fence-sitters some second thoughts about the Donald.


It seems nearly impossible to dislike Tim Kaine as a person. He seems friendly, kind and service-oriented. He does nothing to make Hillary look more progressive. He’s vanilla ice cream which is exactly what Hillary wants since she’s doing enough damage control already. His speech was 50% ripped off from his Miami speech last Saturday when he was first introduced. The last half was devoted to dissing Trump but clearly dissing is not Tim’s strength. He’s just a nice guy. Oh, and he speaks fluent Spanish.


Barack Obama is a living breathing Rorschach test. Some see him as an arrogant, narcissistic, not terribly bright, petty bastard propped up by racially obsessed liberals. Others see him as an intelligent, articulate, kind, deliberative leader who has seen the country through tough times. There is no convincing either side of the others perception. I fall somewhere in the middle. Bottom line, if you reside in the first group, there was NOTHING Obama could say last night that would impress. Those that hate the man can barely watch him. If you fall in the latter group, Obama hit the ball out of the park with his Day 3 speech. Without mentioning his name, Obama called out Trump as a “demagogue” to be rejected in the same breath with Communists and Jihadists. He explicitly named Trump as a man devoid of plans or facts. He suggested that Americans will reject Trump because they don’t want a dictator. This made me chuckle since I know most of my readers consider Obama a dictator. Obama further asserted that Trump had hijacked the Republican party – that the GOP convention last week was neither Republican nor conservative.

His attack on Trump was far more effective than his over-the-top endorsement of Hillary. For the most part, while speaking in grand terms, Obama gave a boiler-plate recommendation that we’ve heard time and time again. She has always advocated for children. She worked hard for First Responders in the wake of 9/11 as New York Senator. She helped make the call to take out Bin Laden when she was Secretary of State. We’ve heard it all before. When he referred to her good judgment, I threw up in my mouth a little. Then came the whopper – Hillary Clinton is more qualified to be President than any other candidate in history including Barack and Bill. Well she may be more qualified than Barack and Bill – but Thomas Jefferson? My only response to Barack would be a variation of Biden’s rallying cry, “Come on! We’re America! We are not stupid!”

Day 2

A Moving Moment During Roll Call

Convention roll calls are priceless for their corniness. Each state bragging about itself before announcing the votes they cast for the various candidates. One unlikely delegation brought tears to my eyes. Democrats Abroad had its votes announced by Larry Sanders, Bernie’s brother who resides in the UK. Larry paid tribute to Bernie by reminding him how proud their parents, who died young, would be of him. It was hard to watch the two brothers well up and not get a bit weepy yourself.

The Mixed Message Mothers

Several mothers of black “victims” of shootings appeared on stage together. Apparently Hillary has met with these women and won their support. The problem is that one shooting is not the same as another and this set of mothers presents a very mixed message. Sandra Black mysteriously died in a jail cell, a supposed suicide, but the facts didn’t add up and the incarceration was triggered by a stupid traffic stop gone wrong. Her mother was the first to speak. Then a mother of a boy shot for playing his music too loud was the next to speak. From memory, I don’t recall this being a police-related incident. Then, heaven help us, the mother of Trayvon Martin spoke last. Trayvon is the gangsta-wannabe that pushed the black lives matter movement into high gear. Again, this was not a police related shooting. Worse, the photo of Trayvon shown on stage was the same misleading photo of a 13ish year old boy that we saw when the story broke — not the 17 year old thug who mishandled an encounter with crazy George Zimmerman. The mother of Michael Brown, the classic misrepresentation of a victim of police violence, was also on the stage but did not speak. Perhaps they knew she had best keep her mouth shut since her son never met the standard of “hands up, don’t shoot”. You could see the white-guilt oozing from the liberal audience. A sad affair overall.

The Big Dog, Bubba, Slick Willie

Bill Clinton, 42nd President of the United States, was the main speaker of the night. He spent the first half of his speech trying to humanize his wife Hillary. His choice – to describe how he courted her. Problem is that his courtship sounded more like creepy staring and stalking. He even made a reference to not knowing where starting with Hillary would lead. Impulse control issues? You might as well have had a flashing MONICA LEWINSKY sign behind him during the first half of his address. The second half of the address portrayed Hillary as a tireless defender of the downtrodden. This was very effective if you can overlook the fact she is also a pathological liar.

Clinton, the wannabe First Gentleman, was caught in a bit of a catch-22. Humanizing Hillary can’t be done because it is the very human side of her and her relationship with Bill that stinks to the core. However, the professional side of Hillary doesn’t smell much better. The only marginally redeeming conclusion from Bill’s pitch is that maybe life is complicated for everybody and the Clintons are truly clueless to how bad their complications look in public. I might also add that Bill’s delivery was lackluster. I personally don’t believe he wants his wife to be President and I’m damn sure he doesn’t want her presidency to outshine his own.

Closing the Deal with Shattering Glass

Bill was followed by Alicia Keys, singing and Meryl Streep, of all people, emoting. Then on the video display in quick succession we saw pictures of the 43 MEN who have served as President and then a shattering of glass to reveal Hillary Clinton, live from New York state surrounded by girls of all ages. Say what you like about the racial component of Barack’s election eight years ago but it was never as flagrant in that year’s convention as the gender component this year. On the one hand, I get the historic moment. On the other hand, we are one of the last civilized countries to do this so maybe we oughta be a bit more quiet about our neanderthal past? Great Britain is on its second woman PM while we get all misty eyed over our first in 230 years.

Day 1

The 2020 Audition

Just as in 2004 Barack Obama delivered the speech that would catapult him to the 2008 nomination, so did Cory Booker last night. The soaring rhetoric was, in my opinion, unmatched by anyone else that night despite what the pundits will tell you. I predict he will be the Democratic nominee in 2020 against President Donald Trump.

Two Overrated Performances and an Off-key Legend

Maybe my disgust at the entire affair tainted my judgment. Perhaps I am so drained of energy that I can’t recognize it in anyone else anymore. That said, I simply wasn’t blown away by either the First Lady, Michelle Obama nor the Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren. Both seemed low energy to me. Yes, Michelle painted a poignant picture of what it is like to raise two young girls in the White House. Yes, she did tie that to whom she would trust her girl’s safety to – Hillary. But the notion Clinton can be trusted with anything is so absurd as to make the punchline of any pro-Hillary speech utterly ridiculous. I’ve seen Warren do her anti-Trump speech and she has had ten times more energy in previous performances. I don’t think her heart was in it. As for Paul Simon – good God that was almost as bad as 2012 Clint Eastwood. He could barely stay in tune for his iconic song “Bridge Over Troubled Waters”. It is also odd he did not sing “America”, the song beautifully used in the best campaign ad of the season by Bernie Sanders.

The Man Who Should be King

The speech of the night was of course given by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who gave Hillary a run for her money. This capped off the only truly progressive campaign of the season. His ultimate defeat proved that Democrats are more interested in identity politics and establishment politics rather than actually changing the status quo. Bernie did what he had to do. Unlike Ted Cruz, he swallowed his pride, accepted Hillary’s boot up his ass, and wholeheartedly endorsed her. At least he did not do so without bragging about his phenomenal campaign. It was a sad day for any Democrat who really wanted change in America.

And the Total Asshole Award Goes to …

Sarah Silverman, a comedienne who prides herself on “look at me, I’m so vulgar” comedy, a former Bernie supporter, decides to lecture Bernie’s devoted followers telling them they are “being ridiculous”. Sarah needs to stick to comedy. She doesn’t understand the whole point of a political movement. She does not understand you can’t just swap one D in for another and get the same result. She doesn’t seem to care, as a Jew, that her fellow Jew was being attacked for his religious views by the political machine she now supports. Sarah is the ridiculous one. She can seriously go screw herself.

More Email Problems

Before the convention even began, emails emerged to bite Hillary Clinton in the ass again. This time the email dump came from Wikileaks and the source was Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails. Understand, the DNC is supposed to be a neutral facilitator of the Democratic primary process. The emails confirmed what so many Bernie Sanders supporters already suspected. The DNC, with the knowledge of its leader Debbie Wasserman Schultz tried to tip the scales toward Hillary Clinton. In one of the more despicable examples, there was a notion to discredit Jew Sanders as an atheist. So the party so vocally rejecting anti-Muslim rhetoric was, behind the scenes, using religion to sway the electorate. By the time the opening gavel came pounding down, Debbie Wasserman Schultz had tendered her resignation (effective Friday) and bowed out of any formal role in the convention. As far as I’m concerned this was the last straw. This scandal rendered whatever happens next this week utterly hypocritical. The party that I thought always had the moral high ground has forfeited that status. I am no longer a Democrat.

The bar is open. What do you think?


GOP Convention 2016

This will be just a quick round-up on my thoughts on this year’s Republican convention. I’ll be updating this post as each day of the four day affair ends.

Day 4

It’s OK to be Gay

Entrepreneur Peter Thiel is one odd dude. He wants to set up islands that are independent countries (seasteading). He has spoken out against democracy as a working system. He wants to be frozen after death so he can be revived when medical technology allows him to keep living. On the more conventional side, he founded PayPal and recently drove the web site Gawker into bankruptcy. All this aside, the most striking thing about Thiel is that he is gay, told the RNC crowd that he is gay and proud of it, and got … applause! Is the Republican party inching toward Libertarianism? You be the judge.

The Trump Kids – The Grand Finale

Ivanka Trump – wow, just wow! As an old fan of The Apprentice, I watched Ivanka in the board room and had mixed feelings about her. She seemed a bit cold and detached. She also seemed smart as a tack and that was on full display at the convention on Day 4. Ivanka used construction as a metaphor for why Donald would be perfect for the Presidency. From the ability to get a project done, to the need to work with an economically and ethnically diverse group of people, the construction industry was used by Ivanka as a case study for why Donald Trump has the skills to run this country. Then, in a departure from conservative dogma, Ivanka acknowledged the pay gap between men and women. She said the gap exists particularly for older women returning to the workforce after child-bearing. She called for a robust child care system to put women on an equal footing in this regard. AND — get this — said she would personally see that it gets done if Daddy was elected. Does this suggest Donald will have major government roles for his children? Her delivery was near perfect. I pity the fool that has to follow her on stage. Which brings us to …

The Main Event

Donald spoke for a long long long long time. I think it clocked in at about an hour and 15 minutes. It reminded me of the Will Smith film “Ali”, a three hour biopic of Muhammad Ali that should have been two hours. With editing, Trump’s speech would have been one of the better acceptance speeches in RNC history. He painted a grim picture of a country gripped in crime, terrorism and corruption. He swore at the outset that he wasn’t going to lie to the audience and indeed his perception of our current state is shared by many Americans. He specified few solutions but these acceptance speeches typically don’t rise to that standard. What specifics did Mitt or McCain offer in 2012 and 2008?

There were two standout moments of the speech, both of which I believe were ad-libbed. The first was when Trump greeted the audience chants of “lock her up” with “let’s defeat her in November’. This was reminiscent of Obama answering boos at rallies with “don’t boo, vote”. The other moment which was near jaw dropping occurred when Trump pledged to protect the LGBTQ community from foreign ideologies out to kill them. After the crowd cheered, Trump said he was happy the crowd reacted that way. Holy crap! A conservative crowd shows tolerance, hell, even heartfelt concern for gays and the nominee encourages it!

Perhaps the real achievement of Trump’s speech was his ability to suggest his hard-ass approaches, “the law and order candidate”, etc., would benefit ALL citizens. Blacks would be lifted by an attack on ghetto crime. Hispanics would be lifted by an attack on illegal immigration. This was a speech that made Trump tolerable to THINKING liberals who aren’t just knee-jerk partisan.


Much has been said in the past few days about how negative this convention has been. Folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet. I predict the Democratic Convention next week will be at least as negative in its attack against the Donald. Tune in here next week for my day by day blow by blow.

Day 3

The GOP is Racist Meme

While it is true that the delegate audience is overwhelmingly white, the minority guest speakers had the full attention of the audience. One example, on Day 3 was pastor Darrell Scott. I’ve seen the pastor on news shows speaking up for the Donald, so I kinda knew his spiel already. I focused more on the audience and they were with him 100%. It might be time to start considering that the GOP’s race problem is more one of poor outreach vs actual disdain or racism. Conservative blacks (few and far between) certainly seemed welcome and at home at this event.

Why Didn’t This Man Get the Nomination? Booooooring!!!

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Enough said. (At least he kept the “pledge”).

Marco Phones it In

Florida Senator Marco Rubio sent a video to the convention. He gave a lukewarm endorsement of Trump. He didn’t seem particularly inspired.

I Do Not Like Trump, Sam I Am

Texas Senator and Dr. Seuss filibusterer, Ted Cruz created chaos when he refused to endorse the GOP nominee. His “vote your conscience” plea was about as explicit a way as possible to say “Donald is an asshole.” The New York delegation had a collective aneurysm. Ted made matters worse by thanking the delegation for their enthusiasm, in his typical passive aggressive way that makes you want to punch him in the face. But it must be said that this was an odd mixture of honor and dishonor. It is dishonorable to take a pledge and then discard it. On the other hand, Ted’s wife and father were personally besmirched by Donald and his campaign team. What self respecting man could endorse Donald after that? You have to give the trouble maker credit for putting his foot down and refusing to exhibit the hypocrisy demonstrated by his fellow primary contenders.

The Trump Kids Part 2

Eric Trump was ok. He couldn’t match the skill of his older brother Don Jr. but he did a good job. It is clear that the boys dearly love their father and while that does not qualify Donald to handle the nuclear codes, it does humanize him.

Newt, Cleanup in Aisle 5

It fell to SOMEBODY to clean up Ted Cruz’s mess and Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and Washington fixture was the man to do it. Newt basically said the only way to “vote your conscience” was to vote for Donald Trump; otherwise Hillary wins. He then spent the balance of his address on the ISIL threat. I must admit, when he was done I felt a lot less cozy in my Naperville living room than before he began. Donald was ultimately right. Newt is a great surrogate and probably a poor Veep choice.

The Veep, a 21st Century Ronald Reagan

While the Donald would like us to believe he is some sort of reincarnation of Ronald Reagan, the true Reagan doppelganger is the Veep choice, Mike Pence. In accepting the nomination for VP, Pence reminded me of Reagan in his self deprecating humor, the cadence of his speech, his corniness, his down-home regular guy approach. Pence was a right wing radio host so he is comfortable in front of the mic. My only problem with him was that his speaking style doesn’t lend itself to a long speech and I found the speech overly long. MSNBC dinged Trump for not staying on the stage longer with Pence. I found nothing wrong with it – for once Trump was letting someone else get the limelight. The good news is Pence left the crowd energized and he was the last speaker of the night so we didn’t get anyone talking to a half empty room like the previous two nights.

Melania-gate Update

After Paul Manafort (who should be canned pronto) said nothing to see here about the plagiarism mini-scandal, a Trump ghostwriter came forward to admit she helped Melania with the speech and inadvertently put Michele’s words in there. She offered her resignation, which was refused by Trump. Bottom line: Melania vindicated and Trump looking like a loyal, noble stand-up employer. Not bad for a 3 day scandal.

Another ghostwriter, the dude who actually wrote “The Art of the Deal”, Trump’s mega bestseller, was interviewed in the New Yorker magazine and said Trump could not be trusted with the nuclear codes. Unfortunately, I smell a washed up ghostwriter trying to revive his career. Can you spell opportunist?

 Day 2

Trump Has Made Pols Booooooring!

Whether it was Cotton and Sessions on day 1 or Ryan and McConnell on day 2, the verdict is the same – virtual snooze fest. Donald’s unorthodox diarrhea of the mouth speaking style has rendered the speeches of “professional” politicians wooden, predictable and full of platitudes. Next.

Business Endorsements

From my thinking, business endorsements should be Donald Trump’s bread and butter. Much more than Mitt Romney, having never been a politician, Donald is selling himself as a business success story. Hence, speakers like Dana White, President of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, are a more logical choice here than at previous conventions. I’m actually aware of the UFC due to my studies related to my day job. As an organization, they are consummate sales people. White’s endorsement of the Donald shed light on the  businessman and the personal side as well. Good pitch, short and sweet.

The Just-the-Facts-Ma’am Barn Burner

Without the histrionics of Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offered a searing indictment of Hillary Clinton. He listed her various “crimes” and in a call and response pattern got the crowd to pronounce her “guilty” on all counts. It was both entertaining and effective. Not too many good words about Trump but that has been typical of the convention so far.

The Trump Kids Part 1

Tiffany and Donald Jr. took turns at the mic. Tiffany came off like a stuck-up snotty brat who frankly described an absentee Dad, albeit a kind one. She is the product of Donald and Marla Maples and from what I could gather was not raised near Donald after the divorce. I found her presentation cringe-worthy but I have to give her props for speaking to a crowd like that at the tender age of 22. She just “graduated college” (arrrrrrgh!!!!!) in June – she went to U. Penn. I’m still in shock that U. Penn. didn’t teach her that people graduate FROM college.

Don Jr., familiar to most viewers as Dad’s side kick in the board room on The Apprentice, pretty much hit it out of the park. No warm and fuzzy family stories but instead a crystal clear portrait of a successful businessman with a feel for “the common man”. His only slip was his description of Donald teaching his grand-kids how to swing a golf club. Sorry, golf ain’t the game for the common man. But that’s a minor quibble. Junior successfully pivoted from the professional to the political, painting his father as the solution to America’s problems. A stellar performance.

Honorable mention goes to Dr. Ben Carson who kept us entertained throughout the primary season. He said Hillary was a follower of a follower of Lucifer (a reference to Saul Alinsky) and concluded by warning us that if we don’t recognize God’s grace, He will go elsewhere and leave us to our own devices. Hard to understand why he isn’t the nominee!

Day 1

Rick Perry Hypocrisy Avoidance

Rick, who declared Donald Trump a “cancer” on conservatism managed to avoid utter hypocrisy by not really singing Donald’s praises. He mainly just introduced war hero Marcus Luttrell.

Chachi Was There

Yes, Scott Baio of “Joannie Loves Chachi” fame was a speaker. He did better than Clint Eastwood.

Was Grief Exploited?

I don’t know what to think about the heart wrenching speech given by Pat Smith, whose son was one of the four Americans killed in the Benghazi terrorist attack. She was there of her own free will yet I can’t get the nasty taste out of my mouth that she has become a political pawn. I will say this – she makes everyone from Hillary Clinton to the liberal media who say “but she’s mistaken”, look heartless and cruel. If you’re not moved by this woman’s pain, you have no heart.

Blacks Back the Donald

Jamiel Shaw and Sheriff David Clarke added some color to the predominantly white affair. Shaw lost his son to an illegal immigrant and Clarke is an outspoken critic of Black Lives Matter. I was impressed by how restrained Clarke was. I have seen him on YouTube and Fox and I expected a barn burner.


Senators Tom Cotton and Jeff Sessions. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Rudy and Joni

Rudy Giuliani was a throwback to Jennifer Granholm at an old Dem Convention, in other words OVER THE TOP. I thought old Rudy might stroke out right there on the stage. Still I found the speech effective. Senator Joni Ernst earned her place in history by declaring ISIL present in all 50 states of the union. This of course was in line with the theme of the first night: be afraid, be very afraid!

Michelle Obama – ahem – Melania Trump

In what was otherwise a perfectly fine speech by the First Lady Wannabe, Melania inexplicably lifted passages from Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech. This escapade deserves a post of its own. As of this writing, the Trump team says “you didn’t cut my arm off, it’s just a flesh wound“. Conservative radio personality Larry Elder tweeted:

So the “you did it too”defense is in full swing. Either Melania is a cheater (and her judgment in marrying Trump makes one wonder) or she has been badly screwed by a Trump staffer who helped her write the speech. Hard to tell if it will just blow over. MSNBC (expectedly) obsessed over it; CNN covered it; and Fox totally ignored it.

The only piece of day 1 that I missed that I still want to see was Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who led the chant “Lock her up” referring to Hillary belonging in the slammer.

The bar is open, what do you think?


Maher Overstates Economic State of a State

I almost feel bad in including in my own blog post the same line with which the blog owner began his previous post.  I almost feel worse over the fact that it’s the same line echoed in the video I am reviewing.  But just because I feel bad about it, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to do it.  And that is because it is appropriate when reviewing the latest screed by the unapologetic liberal, Bill Maher, during his latest edition of Real Time with Bill Maher.  In it, Maher uses the California economy to suggest that conservatives use the Golden State as a “Laboratory of Democracy”, and that to repeat their same failed trickle-down economic policies with the expectation of different results is the “definition of insanity.”  It’s obvious that Maher well knows that if you want the same results you have to do the same things, and that is why he uses the same tired tactics he always uses to achieve the predictable and desired results–laughter from an ignorant audience and giggles from a brainless panel.

Maher uses the analogy of a laboratory throughout the piece, inserting words and concepts like “variables”, “results”, and “[lab] rats”.  The problem is that Maher is misusing them all, and ignoring what they really mean in a laboratory setting to reach his ultimate conclusion.

As we all know, the term “variable” means things without a fixed pattern and that are subject to change.  He applies the term to California Republicans, stating the state “removed the variables” that the party brought.  So if a variable is something without a fixed pattern, then wouldn’t a group that brings the predictability of doing “the same thing” actually be the opposite of a variable?  If the GOP and the outcome of its policies were indeed so predictable, they they would not be a variable.

Another variable Maher ignores is intrastate geography and the population that lives within it.  A by-county look at California’s unemployment figures–which Maher claims are fantastic–shows a significant increase in unemployment as one moves inland.  In some cases, the rate is nearly 20%.  The coast and specific industry sectors are skewing the numbers of a very large state.  So the idea that California is doing great is certainly not one that is shared by all.

Another variable Maher ignores is the influence of Silicon Valley on the California economy.  Maher conveniently ignores that variable, because it would force him to acknowledge things like the 2000 burst of the dot-com bubble and the “significant contraction” of the Silicon Valley economy that immediately followed.  This is no small variable, as some are already noticing signs of a repeat.

Maher also alleges that cap and trade has not ruined the California economy, as opponents of the policy had predicted.  What he fails to point out is that cap and trade auctions in California have fallen significantly below expectations and the reduction in the revenue they would have generated is hurting long-term projects that rely on that revenue, such as the controversial high-speed rail project.  Gee, could it be that cap and trade (a clearly unpredictable variable) isn’t hurting the California economy because there isn’t much of it going on?

Along these same lines, Maher claims the price of electricity in the state is low in comparison to other places.  This is utter nonsense.  In fact, data shows that in 2015, electricity rates in California were approximately 50% higher than the national average.  And the only changes expected are rate increases–not decreases.  Electricity rates that are subject to change and that effect a state’s economy sure sound like a variable to me.

Another huge variable that Maher ignores is the one that completely destroys his thesis–that taxing the rich has not driven them away from California and the policy has led to the state’s continuing economic growth.  Maher rightly points out that the rich have and will remain in California because the state offers a climate that other states cannot compete with, and their retention has had a positive effect on the state’s economy.  However, this makes the California climate a variable.  And, as Maher himself acknowledges, it’s one that other states do not enjoy.  So if the value of a variable is different in one lab experiment than it is in another lab experiment, then those experiments are not the same and should not be viewed as such.

The biggest variable that Maher ignores is the very tax system he is defending as a success.  The California tax system is somewhat complicated and unlike those in most other states (can you say “variable”?).  Even Governor Brown acknowledges that the system is showing signs of strain and an economic downturn may well be on the horizon as a result.  He is encouraging the legislature to refrain from new spending projects that will further strain a system that analysts claim produces an economy that is in a constant state of “boom or bust“.

Ultimately, Maher’s laboratory analogy fails because he ignores the terms inherent in such an analogy.  His thesis and conclusions rely on a correlation vs causation fallacy, against which any real lab scientist would guard.  Furthermore, the existence of key variables–many of which he either ignores or mislabels–only proves that the idea that states should be used as “laboratories of democracy” is one that should not be used when discussing the policies of the United States as a whole.  Economics is not a hard science that can be viewed in the confines of a single-state lab experiment and then applied to a nation as variably diverse as ours.  That Maher, and his band of useful idiots, thinks it can is, to coin a phrase, “the definition of insanity”.