Millenials Will Vote for Sanders: Not Understanding Economic Growth

A 25-year old voting this season was born in 1991. Most likely, he has no personal recollection of a prosperous America. The last time the US economy grew by more than 3% was 2005, when he was nine years old. He has no knowledge of an America where you could apply for three jobs and receive two job offers in a few days. He knows nothing of automatic wage raises. He remembers only dimly how his parents confidently signed up for buying a car in installments at 6% per year. He wouldn’t dare. Given his own personal experience, he would be right to not dare.

Everywhere, I am surrounded by millenials who are taking active steps to become comfortable in lives that offer no real prospects of upward mobility. It seems to me that the vogue of micro-breweries is related: Beer is an affordable luxury. Even in notably laid-back Santa Cruz, many of these people are well dressed. They are better dressed than I have ever seen young people in the USA since the sixties. This too makes sense: No big car or no car, probably a renter for life, I might just as well look good. I know young men who work for retail wages whose neatly trimmed beards put this retired professor to shame. Those people are at ease with two things that are mostly new in American society. First, as I said, they are settling for a life of limited economic possibilities. Second, aside from a stray Economics class that probably did not take, they have every reason to believe that they prosperity will improve when the government makes the rich disgorge their unfairly big share of the pie. This makes intuitive sense: If my employer were less greedy, he could pay me more.

I think the conservative alternative to this viewpoint does not exist in their minds, or only vaguely. I believe the alternative mostly has almost no traction among young voters. Between 1971 and 2014 (when my comparable data stop), the Gross Domestic Product grew by more than 3% 22 out of 46 years. That’s GDP in constant dollars; so, figures are comparable across years in terms of their real purchasing power.

All the years of growth above 3% occurred before 2008. So, between 1971 and the first Obama election, GDP growth stood above 3% per year for 22 out of 36 years. In 1973 and 1978, the annual rate was 5.6, in 1984, it was 7.3 %. Economic growth was the rule then, not the exception.

I suspect that young voters don’t know that the rate at which the economy grows has big consequences for their own lives.

During the seven years of the Obama presidency for which we have data, the annual average growth was 1.41 %. The difference between a 3% growth rate and a 1.41% growth rate is significant in terms of human happiness. Suppose you earn a fairly modest $40,000/ year. Suppose further (just to simplify) that your income follows exactly GDP growth. Incidentally, this is not an absurd assumption. (Ask me.)

Try to follow this made-up example.

In 2017 GDP growth is 3%; your income is = $41,200
Compare: In 2017, GDP growth is only 1.41%. Your income is then only $40,564. The difference between the two incomes is due entirely to different growth rates in the national economy. It has nothing to do with your own efforts. You did nothing personally to earn it. That difference in your income between the two growth rates is a modest $630 for the year. Yet, if you invested this one-time unearned surplus, of $630 at 3% interest (not difficult in most cases). After 16 years, it would have turned only into $1011. I agree that it’s nothing to write home about.

Now, look at other ways to consider differences in GDP growth. Suppose again that the growth of your income follows exactly the growth of GDP. You don’t get promoted; you don’t get a raise. You are stuck at $40,000 per year. At 3% GDP annual growth, after 20 years, you will have earned $196, 650 more than you would have at 1.42 GDP growth ($1 179 900 vs $9 821 650). The difference is sufficient to buy a retirement home in much of the US. Even in pricey Santa Cruz, California, where I live it’s plenty enough for a down payment on a house. Think it through: If you begun working at 25 and have had a lackluster career, by age 45, you have earned enough for a down payment through no merit of your own. Under current rules, you still have 25 years of working life to make payments on your mortgage. This all happened because the annual growth rate of the American economy was a fairly modest 3% instead of the current 1.41% .

Conclusion: a 3% GDP growth rate is worth fighting for. And 3% is not a tall order. Rates of 5 % (1976 and 1978: 5.6%) and even over 6% have been known in the past of this country (1984: 7.3.) Ireland had a rate of 5.1% as recently as 2014. (I refrain from citing growth rates of less developed countries which are often much higher.)

Young voters don’t grasp the long-term happy consequences of high growth rates. It seems to me they are also not aware of how much influence the Federal Government has on determining national economic growth rates. That’s because – on the main- high schools don’t teach American Government anymore. The young tend to be somewhat aware of the respective roles of the presidency and of Congress. They often know that they jointly decide on what taxes will be. But they tend to think that there is always enough money to take from “the rich.” (Sen. Bernie Sanders conveniently call them “the top 1%.” The absurdity of this view requires its own essay. Another time, perhaps or see another essay on this blog. (   )

You would surprise most of the young if you told them that federal agencies perform the bulk of the real policing of American companies. They perform this task pretty much unsupervised most of the time. Only rarely, does Congress grabs itself by the scruff of its own neck to threaten them with suspending their funding. One major, fundamental exception exists to the rule that federal agencies mostly are their own. In reality,they work for the president. The president, any president, can, with one phone call, interrupt the work in any area of any federal agency’s mandate. Thus, Pres Obama, or Pres. Rubio could order the Environmental Protection Agency to process 90% of all federal environmental permit in three days or less.

Young voters will vote for Bernie Sanders unless they really believe that taxes – all taxes – impede business formation and survival and thus, economic growth and thus, employment among other important processes. They will vote for whatever Sen. Sanders calls “socialism” unless they understand that government regulations -all regulations, including the most necessary ones – are always inimical to economic growth.

Conservatives have their work cut out for them. They don’t do enough in that area. They take too much knowledge for granted.

On the same topic:


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My Recent Books

Three recent books of mine are available on Amazon Kindle and on some other reading devices. None is a scholarly book. Two are in English and one in French. The first is entitled: I Used to Be French: an Immature Autobiography (2014). This one also exists in paperback. You can obtain the paperback from me through this clever email address: It’s listed under my name: Jacques Delacroix. My second book in English exists only in electronic form. It’s entitled: Indecent Stories for Decent Women. (2015) It’s under the pen name: “Jean René Adolph.” Reflecting on its title will suggest why I am not using my real name in this one.

I have a third book, written in French, that is completely different from the others: Les Pumas de grande banlieue: histoires d’émigration. (2014) .This one is also only in electronic form. It’s under my real name: Jacques Delacroix.

I pay attention to feedback. Thank you. I am open to sponsoring and commercial publication of any of the three.

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Here is an excerpt from my latest collection of stories, Indecent Stories for Decent Women.

Warning: This story is not completely proper.

There is this youngish woman with whom I have been exchanging pleasantries for years, mostly at the coffee shop. Some of the exchanges were slightly off-color. That’s a given. If you are an obviously straight man and fairly presentable and you know a woman for a while and you never make daring allusions to her, she starts disliking you. This woman is not exactly a friend. She is just a friendly person who tends to occupy the same spaces I do. This co-occupancy will often create a sort of link because public space often ends up being kind of tribal, but not always.

My lady acquaintance is quite middle-class looking, not vulgar at all but she has physical advantages she makes no effort to conceal, to say the least. So, I look at her, of course. And her eyes meet my eyes often. She has big laughing eyes. Sometimes, I act the bitch and I play little games with her. I will quickly look away after a brief hello. When I do this, her eyes often seek mine. She does not really want me to ignore her. But I am married and she is “in a relationship,” as they say. We both know there will not be much of anything between us. We are to each other like as an extension of morning coffee.

One day, I bump into her at the coffee shop and I sit with her. Then the Devil grabs a hold of me. I have to tell you, I say, the other day I was sitting right here in the sun, in a half-daze, gazing at you when you were in line in a tight blue dress at the deli across the street. My brain went on sort of automatic. It happens to me often when I am in the sun doing nothing. I began undressing you slowly in my mind.

It was very nice – I tell her – but don’t worry, I kept your black lace panties on so, nothing really happened. She leans over and slaps me in the face, but not too hard. You, idiot – she says – can’t you finish what you begin?

Indecent Stories for Decent Women. (2015) is on Amazon Kindle under the pen name: “Jean René Adolph.” Reflecting on its title will suggest why I am not using my real name in this one.   Some people are able to download the book on their reading device but I don’t know how they do it

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Les élections primaires aux Etat-Unis

Excusez le manque d’accents. Ils sont trop difficiles a former avec mon logiciel anglophone primitif. J’espere que mon texte est quand meme lisible.

Nous en sommes au stade des elections primaires, la maniere normale pour chaque parti de choisir un candidat unique a la presidence (plutot qu’un premier tour suivi d’un second tour comme c’est – ou c’etait le cas en France, par exemple). Au plan des presidentielles, seuls les deux grand partis comptent vraiment sauf qu’en cas de balancement, un petit parti a quelquefois les moyens d’adjuger a l’un des grands partis toutes les voix d’un etat. Cela n’arrive pas souvent mais c’est toujours possible. Chaque etat defini indivuellement les modalites pratiques de son scrutin et meme les dates de ce scrutin. Les premiers auront lieu prochainement dans l’Iowa et dans le New Hampshire.

Cette annee, le Parti Democrate met en ligne deux candidats qui ont vraiment une chance. La premiere, Hillary Clinton, Ministre des Affaires Etrangeres sortante est une escroque garantie qui risque meme d’etre inculpee d’un moment a l’autre. S’il ne l’est pas, a le devra en grande partie a la protection de Mr Obama. Il ne l’aime pas beaucoup mais il ne voudrait surement pas que ces deux termes soient suivis d’une presidence Republicaine. Ce serait une sorte de desaveu implicite pour lui et tres mauvais pour sa reputation historique.

Le principal argument de vente de Mme Clinton est qu’elle est une femme!Son rival est Bernie Sanders, Senateur federal d’un petit etat sans importance qui n’avait rien fait jusqu’a aujourd’hui. Sanders trouverait facilement sa place dans le Parti Socialiste de Francois Hollande: meme croyance en les vertus de l’action gouvernmentale, meme soif de reduire le inegalites de revenus a tout prix, meme incomprehension fondamentale des mecanismes marché. Sa probite ne fait pas de doute, cependant.

Du cote du Parti Republicain, c’est franchement la pagaille. Donald Trump domine – et de loin – les sondages. C’est un homme d’affaires super-riche d’une fabuleuse ignorance d’a peu pres tout sauf les affaires et un demagogue a grande gueule. Il en appelle a la grosse fraction des electeurs Republicains (et a pas mal de Democrates aussi) qui se sentent floués par leur propre parti. En effet on s’accorde a dire que les deux presidences de Mr Obama auront ete desastreuses a tous egards. Pourtant, apres deux elections partielles gagnées de haute main, l’opposition Republicaine aux politiques de Mr Obama se resume a peu de choses concretes.

Mr Trump exprime tres bien l’indignation des electeurs de base contre les notables de leur parti. Il a aussi fait des declaration de type Jean-Marie Le Pen sur l’immigration illegale qui ont encore ameliore sa popularite aupres d’une partie de la base. Personellement, je n’aime pas Mr Trump car, en sus de son ignorance, je suis sur qu’il n’est pas un vrai conservateur. Il est isolationiste sur le plan economique, par exemple, ce qui ne correspond pas aux positions de la droite conservatrice traditionelle, favorable aux mecanismes de marché et donc, au libre-echange.

Le deuxieme Republicain en lice est le Senateur Ted Cruz du Texas. C’est un conservateur pour de vrai qui veut reduire la surface du gouvernement federal et assainir ses finance. M. Cruz est le fils d’immigrants Cubains elevé en partie au Canada. Il possedait la double nationalite jusqu’a recemment ce qui peut poser probleme sur le plan de l’interpretation des lois electorales. Il a la reputation d’etre un homme dur, admiré mais peu aimé.

En troisieme position assez loin derriere on trouve le Senateur, de Floride, Marco Rubio, egalement fils d’immigrants cubains. Rubio est mon favori, pour son intelligence, pour la clarté de ses propos, et pour sa compréhension de la vie de l’Americain moyen. Je ne desespere pas encore. Rubio deviendra immediatement un candidat viable si Donald Trump s’evapore, ce qui n’est pas impossible.

Immediatement, derriere Rubio on trouve un medecin a la carriere remarquable et distinguee, le chirurgien pediatre, Ben Carson. C’est un chretien fondamentaliste. Dr Carson est Africain-Americain, ce qui fait bien c… les Democrates qui croient souvent que les noirs leur appartiennent en propre. Le Dr Carson ne me semble pas avoir l’energie necessaire pour s’imposer. Il ferait un superbe candidate a la vice-presidence. Jeb Bush, ex-gouverneur de la Floride et petit frère et fils de president est aussi en lice mais il est reste loin dans les sondages. Je crois qu’il a deja perdu. Il est trop gentil, trop civilise pour cette epreuve.

D’un cote donc, un vieux blanc et une vieille blanche aux idees confuse chez l’une, eculées, chez le premier. De l’autre cote, deux Latinos, un Africain-Americain, une femme, plusieurs blancs, tous dans la force de l’age. Malheureusement de ce second cote, du cote Republicain, le candidat de tete est a la fois incompetent et pas vraiment conservateur.

Si tout ceci ou meme une partie de ceci vous surprend c’est parce-que les medias francais racontent toujours beaucoup de conneries sur les affaires americaines. Les correspondants francaise sortent rarement de Manhattan, il me semble; ils ne lisent guere que le New York Times. Un partie etonnante d’entre eux ne parait pas bien posseder l’Anglais. Pour pallier, vous devriez lire mon livre: Les Pumas de grande banlieue: histoires d’émigration. (2014) . Version electronique sur Amazon.

Si cet essai vous a interessé, pensez-donc a la le partager sur Facebook.

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Ignorance Is a Political Strategy

Days, even weeks later, I am still recovering from Pres. Obama’s State of the Union address. Mostly, I am amazed that I still don’t dislike the guy. (Of course, I am at heart a racist like all Obama critics, goes without saying.) Even right after the speech, I could see how I would easily have a beer with him. Why, I don’t even dislike all of his proposals, in a way! A couple of examples. Yes, I would be glad if we could phase out the burning of coal. There is no doubt that it’s a gross pollutant. That’s true even if you are a climate change “denier” like me. And I really wouldn’t mind if the federal government gave a little push to hasten the improvement of alternative sources of energy. I especially like the elegance of solar energy with its promise to allow some people to get off the grid. That’s a decrease in government power any way you look at it. I am against the Federal Government subsidizing buddy-companies as the Obama administration has done notoriously, of course. But I wouldn’t mind if the Federal Government spread insignificant amounts of money around research institutes and qualified universities. (I have not forgotten that a no-strings-attached grant from the Department of Defense is at the origin of the Internet. That was tax money well spent, no kidding!)

I hold both Obama administrations to be almost unmitigated disasters. He has even failed to fulfill his promises to his most ardent supporters. Seven years later, Guantanamo Bay, that he was going to close within six months, is still operating. That’s remarkable because no one denies that the president is Commander- in-Chief of the armed forces. Guantanamo is a military facility. He could have closed it with one phone call and let Congress pick up the pieces.

He seems to have disturbed everyone with his signature achievement, “Obamacare” (actually a Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi product). You can’t open a newspaper or turn on a radio without reading or hearing some group or other complaining bitterly about it: surging health insurance premiums, shortage of doctors, small businesses limiting their workers’ hours, the mass failure of the intermediate organizational structures that were supposed to relay government intervention; you name it. The Obama administration claims many beneficiaries of the massive reform but they, the beneficiaries are strangely silent. In fact, I have never heard any of them or even heard of any of them. (This may be a function of what I read and listen to. If anyone gives me an example, I will put it up on this blog in a prominent manner.) In the seventh year of his administration, it’s difficult to find even a Democrat not directly involved in the administration to argue that the president’s policy of international disengagement has improved overall American safety in the world. Everyone understands that the executive nuclear agreement with Iran is a fool’s bargain. (How many weeks notice of a surprise inspection again?) Even the deadly clown in North Korea has adopted a more bellicose tone toward what used to be a superpower. In fact he is flipping us every third week or so.

To my knowledge, Mr Obama has taken only one initiative that should have easily obtained the backing of the Republican opposition. I mean the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The truth is that it’s a trade agreement similar to dozens of others signed by his predecessors. The request for “fast-track” authority associated with it is historically normal, not an aggressive power grab. If it’s signed, if it’s implemented, it will reduce trade barriers to the benefit of American consumers and of almost all American workers. People who have studied international trade a little pretty much agree that such trade agreements are overwhelmingly beneficial. It’s not even pushing the envelope to think of trade barriers as hidden taxes. In this instance, Mr Obama is thus trying to lower taxes. Conservatives should support all trade agreements until proven guilty. (Donald Trump is a stubborn ignoramus on international trade, as he is on several other topics.) The agreement should have sailed through a Republican majority Congress. It did not because Mr Obama has reached the point of bad relations with Congress where legislators would hesitate to approve a federal initiative to donate ten dollars annually to Mother Teresa’s order of nuns.

The problem is this: Mr Obama seldom tells the truth and when he does, it sounds almost inadvertent. Below is a handful of telling examples.

Three minutes into his speech, Mr Obama delivered himself of a gross untruth. He listed among his coming challenges the battle for “equal pay for equal work” (for women). You can check the speech; those are his exact words. The problem is that it’s not a forthcoming challenge because it’s already the law of the land. Has been for many years. Any employer who would pay women less than men doing the same job, without educational or seniority qualifications, would expose itself to massive, devastating class action suits. What the president should have said is, “Equal pay for equivalent work,” a very different proposition that promises us endless committees of experts to reduce the irreducible subjectivity of which jobs are equivalent (nurses vs truck driver?), and yet another federal bureaucracy to summon experts, hear appeals, guide their work, and enforce their findings. Is it likely that thousands of women listening to the president’s words came out re-inforced in their fallacious impression that women are routinely paid less than the men next to whom they labor? (Even though no woman can actually point to such a situation.) To ask the question is to answer it.

Note that I am explicitly not calling Mr Obama a liar in spite of his many statements at variance with verifiable facts. There is a reason why. Further on in his speech, Mr Obama delivered himself of a complicated sentence that included the assertion that Russia is using its dwindling resources to “shore up” the Ukraine. Even a legal alien like me knows that “to shore up” does not mean the same as “to destroy,” or “to harass,” or “to undermine.” I am pretty sure that Mr Obama probably did not expect anyone to believe that Russia is helping the same country of Ukraine it is stabbing in the back. He was not trying to mislead when he said those words. It’s greatly more likely that he does not know any better, that the false statement did not ring a warning bell in his head. He is just indifferent to facts.

Similarly, when the president, in the same State of the Union address, claims repeatedly that his nuclear agreement with Iran has avoided a war, he is not lying. He just does not have what it takes to consider other hypotheses. The fact that before the agreement, UN-nuclear Iran was moaning under the weight of economic sanctions makes no impression on him; the fact that no war was threatening on the eve of the signing, or in the near future, makes no impression on him either. The opinion of critics that the agreement guarantees that Iran will get a nuclear weapon does not exist in his mental world. If it did, someone in his entourage would quickly squelch it. I suspect Mr Obama does not know either set of facts, has never heard that logical opinion. He is a man of very limited exposure to other viewpoints, to other possibilities. One suspects he listens to only a handful of people who are not well informed themselves.

It seems to me -and I know I am speculating here but my speculation is nourished by thirty years in academia where the Obama types abound – that this all makes perverse sense. When I was a university professor, I was often struck by the common propensity of colleagues I knew to be intelligent to say really stupid things. A high degree of un- information sounds just like stupidity. I even wrote an essay  for this blog about it. Their overall ignorance did not interfere with their careers. It might even have helped by making it easier to focus without being distracted by generalized reality.  “Progressives” like Obama know what they know reasonably well or even very well; they don’t know what they don’t know because they are essentially closed to the world beyond what their doctrine, their dogma tells them to keep an eye on. (A dogma is a set of unexamined beliefs.)

I think that there are two sources to the fact of such a grossly uninformed man as Mr Obama in office. The first is obvious but the obvious often goes unperceived because of the widespread contamination of political correctness. Mr Obama is an affirmative action president. No white man with his qualifications and his lack of a track record would have been elected president (Yes, Bush Two had been governor of a large, prosperous state.) Much of America had the vapors at the thought of electing a black president, nearly all Democrats, most independents, and quite a few Republicans also, perhaps. They shut down their criticality lest it spoil the emotional feast. There are good reasons for this. American society never really paid for the multiple atrocities of slavery. Electing a useless black Senator looked for a while like a symbolic way out of collective historical sinfulness. It didn’t work out that way but there was hope for a while. Americans were not the only one affected by the blackness factor. The old men of the Norwegian Nobel Committee practically wet themselves with sentimentality when they were voting a Peace Prize to a svart mann (or neger – OK, that’s a low blow) who had done absolutely nothing but be elected. (Not my judgment, a simple fact.) I don’t know if we, the American electorate, are free now from this kind of gross mistake. As I write, Sec. Clinton still sounds as if she wanted to be elected because she is a member of the majority of Americans that is female.

The second reason why we have an uninformed man as president is that the Democratic Party, now dominated by liberals and extreme liberals (who prefer to be called “progressives” because it sounds cool), does not have an analysis of society. In the absence of an analysis, of a an analytical framework, simple doctrines take over to the detriment of factual observation, the simpler the better. It used to be “No wars, period.” It’s turned into “Economic equality,” or even “Fifteen dollars an hour for all.” The need to have a knowledgeable president in order to implement such simplicities is far from obvious. An ignorant person who speaks reasonably well, who looks healthy, who is friendly will do. (I was going to say, “who sticks to his guns,” really inappropriate!) In fact, it would not be too difficult to argue that a better informed president might complicate things. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans; I think most (not all) voters who call themselves independent do so precisely because they don’t have an analysis of society, a framework, either. “Independents” are currently more than 40% of American voters. The electoral weight of extreme simplification is simply overwhelming.

We are not, nevertheless, doomed to be governed by ignorant people because their reign soon turns sour and the masses inevitably clamor for change. They are without a proper diagnostic of what went wrong, yet they want change. So, they will turn to the ready-made alternative, the Republican Party. The Republican Party, the home of conservatism in America possesses an analysis of society, a framework. It’s simply a concept of the demanding and counter-intuitive idea of the market. Of course, it’s not the case that Republicans in general refer to this or to any reasonable analytical framework at all. Only a segment of them does. (Hence the lamentable spectacle of a campaigning Donald Trump who is easily as ignorant as the president but who expresses the visceral anger of many, not all of them conservatives.) The existence of this framework somewhere inside the party, and of the media attached to it, is enough to create a sort of intellectual discipline about facts. Someone and some ones there think that facts matter, at least, to some extent. That is completely lacking in the other main party where no one has any analysis but only a disorderly collection of incoherent and shapeless grievances.

The indifference to facts in the Democratic Party unfortunately does not prevent Democrats from being elected. It pretty well insures that they will govern badly, as they do, for example, in hundreds of large American cities.

I tried

My second book in English exists only in electronic form. It’s entitled: Indecent Stories for Decent Women. (2015) It’s under the pen name: “Jean René Adolph.” Reflecting on its title will suggest why I am not using my real name in this one.

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I newly have fans, or maybe just readers in the Philippines. I am charmed and I would really like to know why.

Use the comment stream or write me an email, please:

Thank you.

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Sweet Skateboard Tales

The words “skateboard” and “sweet” are seldom found together. Skateboarders tend to have a bad reputation because they are mostly male, because they act too male, and because of their lamentable fashion sense. Yet, many or most are both athletes and artists. They do things in the middle of my street of such perilous inventiveness that I am not brave enough even to think about them.

So, the other day, I  am watching the ocean on West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. Now, West Cliff is a sea-hugging street with a million dollar view of Monterey Bay. (I mean this literally: Move the same house that has the ocean view one block inland and its value drops by a cool million or more.) West Cliff is a good place for spotting whales but it’s mostly used by many Santa Cruz residents as a walking venue and a place to ride their bikes.

Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I spot a man on a skateboard. Skateboarders seldom use West Cliff. It’s often crowded, it’s too ordinary, and it offers few opportunities to do tricks. This skateboarder is a bit older than most, perhaps in his early thirties. He is moving quite fast, I think. A six year-old is clinging to his left leg, a four year-old to his right leg. It’ stunning and it’s adorable. The next day one who knows more than I tells me that it must have been an electrically propelled skateboard. I love living in California. The inventiveness here is bracing.

Not a day later, I am standing in from of the Post Office shooting the breeze with my pal, Dennis the Homeless. (Dennis is homeless, not brainless; he knows a lot and he makes bamboo flutes.) My mind can’t believe what my eyes see. If I had been asked, I would have said it couldn’t be done. A boy and a girl are skateboarding together, each with his own board but holding hands. The harmony, the intuitive synchronicity! Ah, young love! The sweet music they must make in bed. Again, I don’t know where else I would be treated to think kind of spontaneous, charming show.

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