Monthly Archive for October, 2008

New Poster- Stephen Nuno

HispanicPundit has been nice enough to let me post on his blog while he is away. I used to have a blog in which I posted my political rants, but had to take it down. Showing your political hand as a grad student proved too risky. However, I am a tenure-track professor now and feel I have more freedom to record my political tendencies. While it may still be unwise, I must say I have been pleasantly surprised by the support my colleagues have given me in being a contrarian in the field. I posted in the comments in the post below a link to my personal blog explaining why I am voting for John McCain. The intended audience for that post is largely Mexican-Americans or Latinos. There are other reasons to vote for McCain that are non-specific to Latinos, but I’ll leave that for others to do. I also see that HispanicPundit is voting for Barr. I don’t necessarily disagree with that choice, coming from California, but I’d still cast my vote for McCain if I were still in Cali. As for Prop. 8, I agree with HP’s reasoning for voting for Prop. 8. Its unfortunate that the courts won’t leave this issue to the people, as many of these cultural issues should be. I don’t know if I’d necessarily vote for Prop. 8, but I think reasonable people can be for or against gay marriage without being a bigot. Personally, I don’t see any downside to expanding the institution of marriage to gay folks. Indeed, it may even strengthen the institution. Again, as with almost anything I say, I am willing to be wrong.

Thanks for reading and I hope to post musings that will catch your attention as a Latino (or Hispanic or Chicano or hyphenated American) who is interested in the politics of the dark side.

Stephen Nuno

Leaving To Guerrero, Mexico

Though most of my family was born and raised in a small town in Guerrero, Mexico, I personally have never been. As a child my dad would make fun of me saying that I would never survive more than a couple days. Where he grew up they still didn’t have electricity, hot water, or most of modern technology we live with today. Then there is the mosquitoes, the heat, and the food. My dad said that I’m too accustomed to the comforts of the United States to really appreciate it there.

Well, come later tonight I am about to find out. Because of the passing of my grandfather who still lived in the area, the rising violence, and the overall tole the twice yearly trips are taking on my aging father, my dad decided to sell his long held ranch and say a final goodbye to the small town he called home for the first twenty years of his life. And since I can’t take any classes this quarter because of my unborn childs due date, I have a chance to go and finally see the area that has shaped my families early years before my dad finalizes the paperwork on his ranch.

So tonight me and my close friend Albert leave from LAX bound to Mexico where we will take a bus and meet up with my father, who has already been there since last Friday. Plans are to tour the neighborhood, meet uncles, aunts, and family that I have never met before, see his ranch, his house where he grew up, and hopefully get a chance to go into Acapulco and party like its 1999. 😉

I’ll be back on November 9th. Oh, and, about the election, I mailed in my ballot weeks ago. Go Bob Barr!

California Propositions

Election day does not just involve elections at the federal level, state elections are also important. So I bring to you California propositions that are important to me and my thoughts and recommendations. Proposition information is from the LA Times here.

Proposition 4

Amends the state Constitution to require a physician to notify a minor patient’s parent or other adult family member 48 hours before performing an abortion.

My Vote: Yes …for many reasons, first of which it will reduce abortions, it increases parental responsibility, and it’s overall pro-family. In case you are worried about abusive parents and/or teens doing dangerous things to avoid telling their parents, this proposition contains, the LA Times writes, “the “other adult family member” alternative to answer critics of earlier propositions. It also would require a girl who chooses that alternative to allege parental abuse. The Legislature passed a parental consent law in 1987, but it never took effect. The state Supreme Court upheld it in 1996, but on rehearing — after court membership changed — struck it down. Which is why Proposition 4 is a constitutional amendment”.

Proposition 8

Outlaws same-sex marriage by adding the following words to the state Constitution: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

My Vote: Yes … Normally I would be against this bill as I was against Bush’s 2004 claim to support a federal constitutional ban on gay marriage. I believe that gay marriage, while I ultimately am against it, is a debatable topic that should be left up to the people to decide. Making it a constitutional issue removes it from future public discourse and in the process, removes some of the constitutions time independent nature.

However, in this case the people have decided and voted into law a ban on gay marriage but the Supreme Court – by a split 4-3 decision – decided that they were far wiser and knew more about moral issues than the California citizens, and struck down the law. Leaving California citizens with no other choice but to make a constitutional amendment.

So I am voting Yes On Proposition 8 not so much in support of the constitutional ban itself, but more as a vote against judicial activism, especially the kind that usurps moral issues from the citizens and gives them to 7 unelected justices.

Proposition 9

Amends the state Constitution to give enforceable rights to the families of crime victims.

To be honest, I haven’t researched alot on this but on its face, it sounds reasonable enough. My vote: Yes.

Proposition 10

Authorizes the sale of $5 billion in bonds ($9.8 billion when interest is included) to provide rebates to buyers of natural gas and other alternative fuel vehicles.

This bill is primarily a boom for natural gas providers (in fact, that’s the bills primary supporters) while costing the California tax payers $9.8 billion in a time of deficits and record spending. For more on better ways to accomplish the same environmental goals, see Greg Krehbiel’s post here.

My vote: No.

Proposition 11

Strips the Legislature of its power to draw the lines of Assembly and Senate districts (every 10 years, after new census figures come out) and turns the job over to a 14-member citizens’ commission.

When the founders created the constitution they gave the House of Representatives more power than the Senate because they had assumed that it would be more responsive to the voters. After all, it is scaled to the population of the states and a politicians area usually covers a much smaller area, making him/her more accessible.

What the founders failed to take into account was the way that the very same politicians would gerrymander their way into political office. Protecting themselves from political competition resulting in re-election after re-election, despite record low approval ratings.

I can’t promise that proposition 11 will fix finally this but it’s certainly worth a try. After all, the current system we have now is certainly not working.

My vote: Yes.

Obama Vs His Economic Advisors On Health Care

About a month ago I wrote a post titled, “Obama Vs His Economic Advisors On Health Policy” where I argued that Obama’s criticism of McCain’s health care policy was disingenuous at best because Obama’s very own health care advisors have advocated the same policy.

The WSJ has just picked up on the same thing:

Mr. Obama’s tactics are especially cynical because his own health-care advisers support plans much like Mr. McCain’s. Or at least they did before joining up with Mr. Obama.

Put simply, the McCain plan seeks to remedy a distortion in the health-care market that economists have spent decades begging politicians to fix: The tax code subsidizes insurance only if it is provided through employers. Individuals can’t take the same tax deduction for buying insurance that businesses can. So Mr. McCain wants to “spread the wealth” of these tax breaks to individuals of any income through a refundable tax credit, no matter where they get coverage.

“The fact that the tax subsidy, which supports the employer-sponsored system, is better than nothing is a feeble excuse for resisting any changes to the status quo.” That’s not John McCain’s judgment. It’s a quote from Jason Furman, who happens to be Mr. Obama’s economic policy director. In a cri de coeur published in the journal Democracy in 2006, Mr. Furman implored fellow Democrats and other progressives to confront “a critical missing link” in their health ideology — the same link his boss now spends most of his time demagoguing.

Mr. Furman used to portray the current system as regressive, inequitable and a subsidy for health plans that insulate consumers from the cost of their care, thus inflating health spending. When he was director of the Brooking Institution’s Hamilton Project, Mr. Furman outlined a health reform — again using tax credits — that took the “sensible approach” of “exposing individuals to the price of health care through greater cost sharing.”

When President Bush unveiled a health reform similar to Mr. McCain’s in 2007, Mr. Furman co-authored a Tax Policy Center paper that called it “innovative and a step in the right direction.” As recently as May, he published a long article in Health Affairs on the possibilities of health-care tax reform.

What a difference an election makes. “The choice you’ll have,” Mr. Obama warned of the McCain plan during one of the debates, “is having your employer no longer provide you health care.” Sounds terrible. But wait, let’s consult another one of Mr. Obama’s advisers. David Cutler, the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics at Harvard, put it this way: “Health insurance is not something that is made better by tying it to employment. As a result, essentially all economists believe that universal coverage should be done outside of employment.”

That passage comes from Mr. Cutler’s 2004 book, “Your Money or Your Life,” which outlined a strategy for universal health care. Not surprisingly, Professor Cutler’s plan, like Mr. McCain’s, also applied subsidies such as “tax credits — people get a lower tax bill, or a refund from the government, to be used to purchase insurance.” In this he was echoing many other liberal health experts such as MIT’s Jonathan Gruber, another Democratic policy star.

These advisers know that Mr. Obama’s claim that Mr. McCain will tax health benefits “for the first time in history” is particularly disingenuous. For people who stick with employer coverage under the McCain plan, the money employers take out of wages to pay for insurance would be taxed, but the new credit more than covers the bill. The people who decide to buy coverage on their own would see their wages rise. And everyone who joins the individual market — many of them uninsured now — would be equipped with new health dollars, instead of paying with after-tax income.

Obviously neither Mr. Furman nor Mr. Cutler would endorse the McCain plan outright. They are, after all, Democrats. Liberals who support rearranging the tax code for health care think it must be accompanied by other insurance reforms to protect families in the individual market that Mr. McCain doesn’t include. Even so, speaking on a Tax Policy Center panel on taxes and health insurance in February of this year, Mr. Furman said that “I think we should be cheerleading” the emphasis on tax reform, “not writing it off.”

He even prefaced his remarks by joking, “this talk might actually sound like a John McCain rally.” Maybe Mr. Obama should be running attack ads against his own economic guru.

My old article could be found here. The WSJ article could be found here. Clive Crook, writing in the Financial Times has more.

Will Obama Keep His Word On Middle Class Tax Cuts?

Whatever your answer is, you need to take this into consideration.

Quote Of The Day

“What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama’s America is one in which being human just isn’t enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama’s America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: ”that question is above my pay grade.” It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator’s pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy – and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.” — Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University

Quote Of The Day

“Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.” — Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University

Quote Of The Day

“For the Obama Democrats, a tax cut is no longer letting you keep more of what you earn. In their lexicon, a tax cut includes tens of billions of dollars in government handouts that are disguised by the phrase “tax credit.” Mr. Obama is proposing to create or expand no fewer than seven such credits for individuals…Here’s the political catch. All but the clean car credit would be “refundable,” which is Washington-speak for the fact that you can receive these checks even if you have no income-tax liability. In other words, they are an income transfer — a federal check — from taxpayers to nontaxpayers. Once upon a time we called this “welfare,” or in George McGovern’s 1972 campaign a “Demogrant.” Mr. Obama’s genius is to call it a tax cut.” — WSJ, editorial … the Tax Foundation has more.

Quote Of The Day

Saying that “greed” caused today’s problems is like saying that gravity caused the death of someone pushed from the top floor of the Empire State building. Some things are sufficiently constant in human affairs – and self-interest, even greed, is among them – that they explain nothing. “Greed” certainly can be unleashed to do harm, but it can also be harnessed to do good. Any compelling explanation of any observed economic reality must take “greed” as a given while identifying the specific incentives provided by prevailing social institutions. If these institutions make serving the needs of others the best path to personal gain, then “greed” is harnessed for human betterment. But if these institutions make predating on others – either through force or fraud, or either intentionally or unintentionally – the best path to personal gain, then “greed” will indeed lead people to act destructively. In either case, though, it is the institutions and their accompanying incentives, rather than “greed,” that explain economic reality. ” —Donald J. Boudreaux, professor of economics at George Mason University

The Super Rich Support Obama

The WSJ blog writes:

According to a new survey by Prince & Associates, voters worth $1 million to $10 million are favoring Sen. John McCain, while voters worth $30 million or more are favoring Sen. Barack Obama. The survey of 493 families showed:

More than three quarters of those worth $1 million to $10 million plan to vote for Sen. McCain. Only 15% plan to vote for Sen. Obama (the rest are undecided). Of those worth more than $30 million, two-thirds support Sen. Obama, while one third support Sen. McCain.

The full post can be found here.

Fighting Corrupt Teachers Unions In Mexico

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is doing his part in fighting teachers unions corruption:

Tens of thousands of teachers are blocking highways and seizing government buildings across Mexico to protest a federal education reform ending their longtime practice of selling their jobs or giving them to their children.

In central Morelos state, where opposition is centered, about 20,000 teachers have been on strike for more than 50 days. Though a few thousand children study in cantinas and makeshift classrooms, nearly 500,000 others have yet to start the school year.

Since the strike erupted in Morelos in late August, protests have spread to at least a dozen other states and are threatening to go nationwide. In Baja California, about 700 teachers in Tijuana lay down on the world’s busiest border crossing and blocked San Diego-bound traffic for hours. In Mexico City, protesters set up a sprawling tent city near the federal Education Secretariat, which oversees the country’s public education system.

At the heart of the conflict is the “Alliance for Quality Education,” a national plan to professionalize teachers and hold them accountable for their students’ performances. The plan was ratified in May by Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Elba Esther Gordillo, the leader of the country’s 1.6 million-member National Education Workers Union, and sent to Mexico’s 31 state governments and Federal District for approval.

Mexico teachers unions are another example of how teachers unions look out for their own self interest first, regardless of its affects on the students and teaching quality. The full article can be found here.

We Need More Of This

We need more Republicans to stand up against intolerant “McCain supporters”.

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McCain has done it, more supporters need to do it!

Break The Link Between Employer And Healthcare

Jeff Jacoby, writing in the Boston Globe, writes:

 An end to employer-based health insurance is exactly what the American healthcare market needs. Far from being a calamity, it would represent a giant step toward ending the current system’s worst distortions: skyrocketing premiums, lack of insurance portability, widespread ignorance of medical prices, and overconsumption of health services.

With more than 90 percent of private healthcare plans in the United States obtained through employers, it might seem unnatural to get health insurance any other way. But what’s unnatural is the link between healthcare and employment. After all, we don’t rely on employers for auto, homeowners, or life insurance. Those policies we buy in an open market, where numerous insurers and agents compete for our business. Health insurance is different only because of an idiosyncrasy in the tax code dating back 60 years – a good example, to quote Milton Friedman, of how one bad government policy leads to another.

During World War II, federal wage controls barred employers from raising their workers’ salaries, but said nothing about fringe benefits. So firms competing for employees at government-restricted wages began offering medical insurance to sweeten employment offers. Even sweeter was that employers could deduct those benefits as business expenses, yet employees didn’t have to report them as taxable income. For a while the IRS resisted that interpretation, but Congress eventually enshrined the tax-exempt status of employer-based medical insurance in law.

Result: a radical shift in the way Americans paid for medical care. With health benefits tax-free if they were employer-supplied, tens of millions of Americans were soon signing up for medical insurance through work. As tax rates rose, so did the incentive to keep expanding health benefits. No longer was medical insurance reserved for major expenditures like surgery or hospitalization. Americans who would never think of using auto insurance to cover tune-ups and oil changes grew accustomed to having their medical insurer pay for yearly physicals, prescriptions, and other routine expenses.

We thus ended up with a healthcare system in which the vast majority of bills are covered by a third party. With someone else picking up the tab, Americans got used to consuming medical care without regard to price or value. After all, if it was covered by insurance, why not go to the emergency room for a simple sore throat? Why not get the name-brand drug instead of a generic?

Unconstrained by consumer cost-consciousness, healthcare spending has soared, even as overall inflation has remained fairly low. Nevertheless, Americans know almost nothing about the costs of their medical care. (Quick quiz: What does your local hospital charge for an MRI scan? To deliver a baby? To set a broken arm?) When patients think someone else is paying most of their healthcare costs, they feel little pressure to learn what those costs actually are – and providers feel little pressure to compete on price. So prices keep rising, which makes insurance more expensive, which makes Americans ever-more worried about losing their insurance – and ever-more dependent on the benefits provided by their employer.

De-linking medical insurance from employment is the key to reforming healthcare in the United States. McCain proposes to accomplish that by taking the tax deduction away from employers and giving it to employees. With a $5,000 refundable healthcare tax credit, Americans would have a strong inducement to buy their own, more affordable, insurance, rather than relying on their employer’s plan. As millions of empowered consumers began focusing on price, price competition would flourish. And as employers’ healthcare costs declined, most of the savings would return to employees as higher wages.

For 60-plus years, a misguided tax preference for employer-sponsored health insurance has distorted America’s healthcare market. The price of that distortion has been paid in higher costs, fewer choices, and mounting anxiety. The solution is to restore market forces by fixing the tax code, and liberating Americans from an employer-based system that has made everything worse.

The full article can be found here.

20/20 Politically Incorrect Guide To Politics

Appeared on Fridays 20/20, a must watch series, reproduced below:

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Phs6CwnutoY] [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e11-_cE63Us] [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuL8teeuJD8] [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Pu6cT6ICQQ] [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTI9r4pUYh4] [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWVLr8Y18e0]

Quote Of The Day

“What we didn’t hear to questions like “How much should the federal government be spending on education?” was a (constitutionally) honest reply like “not a dime. Unless the American people want to amend the constitution to give the federal government the power to meddle in education, it has no authority to do a single thing about it.” Or, to questions about health care, a reply like this: “Does the government buy your car insurance? Does the government buy your life insurance? Why should the government meddle in your health insurance? If you want health insurance, go buy it!” There’s some famous quote about how democracy will work until the people discover that they can vote largesse for themselves at the public trough. We seem to be past that point”. —Greg Krehbiel, in a post titled, The debate: Two big-government liberals arguing over the details

Quote Of The Day

“As for healthcare, Sen. Obama ceaselessly attacks Sen. McCain for advocating the elimination of tax breaks for employer-provided health insurance. It is difficult to square this position with that of Obama’s chief economic advisor, Jason Furman, who recently published a paper that argues that this tax break is a scam that benefits the rich while actually making it more difficult for lower income people to obtain insurance. Once again, it is difficult to understand why Obama is ignoring the views of his own advisors. The overall impression one gets is that the Senator doesn’t really care about the positions he takes, as long as he gets to be President.” — Jonathan Lipow, professor of economics at Oberlin College on why he is voting for McCain