It’s been announced that President Trump will seek to increase military spending by $54 billion, taking this money out of the budgets of other federal departments (the specific programs these departments would cut has not yet been decided). This is a significant amount of money–it’s enough to build the Trump wall twice over, and it’s nearly three times the size of the NASA budget. It’s nearly enough to pay for tuition-free college, which costs $70 billion. The cuts are still in the proposal stage–congress must pass a budget which incorporates these changes before they would become law. Nevertheless, it’s worth taking a moment to emphasize just how unnecessary and wasteful this is.
As President Obama’s term draws to a close, every political writer under the sun is offering a hot take on how he’ll be remembered. These can be fun to read, but they don’t tell you very much about what really happened while Barack Obama was president. So today I’d like to look at some of the evidence and data we have on this president. Let’s see how he stacks up next to past presidents and America’s friends and rivals.
About 23% of Americans don’t like both Trump and Clinton. Many of these people are considering third parties, or would like to be considering them but don’t feel they can safely do so because of the American voting system, which makes it very difficult for third parties to win and ensures that people who vote third party get no say in the choice between the two major party nominees. Some people have talked about wanting to switch to proportional representation (PR) to break the stranglehold of the two parties on politics. Under PR, if 8% of the population votes for a Green or a Libertarian, 8% of the legislature is comprised of Greens or Libertarians. If no party is able to put together a majority of votes, parties have to cooperate in coalitions to get things done. PR is in Jill Stein’s platform and some libertarians have expressed enthusiasm for it as well. PR cannot really be applied to the presidential race, because the president can only be one person–he or she cannot be 8% Green. But for presidential races we could employ a ranked ballot system allowing for an instant-runoff. On this system if you voted for Jill Stein your vote could be transferred to Clinton after Stein is eliminated. This may sound intriguing, but PR is not a magic bullet and it can produce some very bad situations that we should consider.
Lately the internet has become full of arguments about the merits and demerits of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been discussing and pondering all the various views about this, and I’m increasingly of the opinion that most of the people engaging in this debate don’t really understand what is at stake in the democratic primary. This is in part because many Americans don’t really understand the history of American left wing politics and don’t think about policy issues in a holistic, structural way. So in this post, I want to really dig into what the difference is between Bernie and Hillary and why that difference is extremely important.
I was reminded of an old thought I had about democracy the other day that I had not as of yet put into blog form. The contention is basically this–one cannot derive the social interest from an amalgamation of individual or subgroup interests. Let me explain.