The Socialist Boogie Man 21 September 2019.

When it comes to the trajectory of Socialism, critics of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are either ignorant or liars.  Historically, Socialism is an economic system in which 1.) society, not the private individual, owns the “means of production”; 2.) planning, rather than the market, determines the production of goods; and 3.) co-operation, rather than competition, is the guiding principle.

Socialism arose as a response to what people saw as the “injustices” of Capitalism; poverty, frequent unemployment; the destruction of the old handicraft industries, awful living conditions in factory cities, and a political system that tilted hard in favor of the capitalists.  Unions and strikes were illegal; there were high property requirements to be able to vote or run for office in most places; and real power belonged to the bourgeoisie.

Early Socialism (1820s-1848) argued that a humane economy and society could be created by building co-operative factories and towns managed by the people who worked and lived in them.  Many amusing stories come from this time.  (See: phalanstery; see: Brook Farm.)

In 1848 the German intellectuals Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto, creating the form of Socialism later called Marxism.  Marxism argued that a) capitalist greed would lead to a few owners gobbling up all their competitors so that ownership would end in a few hands; b) capitalist greed would lead to wages being forced down to the bare survival level; c) poor people can’t buy the things they produced, so capitalist governments would fight wars to conquer new markets and destroy surplus production that they could not sell; and d) all the miserable poor people would recognize that they belonged to one class (“those who work”) and the few owners belonged to another class (“those that don’t”); and e) revolution would replace Capitalism with Socialism.  Everyone would live happily ever after.

Marxian Socialism became the dominant movement in Socialism after 1848.  However, capitalism began evolving: unions were legalized, wages and living standards rose, governments created social insurance systems, and the bourgeoisie accepted political democracy.  In the early 20th Century, Marxism split into two opposing groups.  Reformist or Democratic Socialists said that Marx’s predictions hadn’t worked out, that revolution had to give way to participating in democratic politics, and that politics required a willingness to bargain with the other classes.  In contrast, Communists said that to achieve Socialism it would take a small group of professional revolutionaries to organize “the masses” and then to lead a continuing revolution.

In practice, Communism turned out to represent “prison camps, overalls, and a damned long march to nowhere.”  Communism is what contemporary American conservatives describe as “Socialism.”

In fact, the British Labour Party, the French Socialist Party, and the German Social Democratic Party have never been anything but guardians of political democracy.  They have never tried to create a monopoly on political power and they have never failed to yield power when they lost a democratic election.  Sanders and Warren clearly fall within this tradition.

Fight them on the real and many failings of Socialism, but don’t scare-monger and lie.

Advertisements

An ugly election is shaping up.

First, Wall Street is all that stands between America and a Trump presidency!  As Donald Trump slew a succession of mainstream or even not-so-mainstream Republican dragons, the financial industry turned with a will to supporting Hillary Clinton.  Wall Street’s role rose from 32 percent of her campaign contributions in 2015 to 53 percent in March 2016.[1]  Clinton has shrugged off the criticism in this regard directed at her by Democratic rival Bernie Sanders.[2]

At the same time, just over half (51 percent) of 18-29 year-olds do not support capitalism.  A third (33 percent) do support socialism.[3]  That said, it isn’t clear what those polled mean by “capitalism” or “socialism.”  Still, Bernie Sanders is running at a time when many young people are more estranged from the accepted economic system than are their elders.  In the nature of things, the elders are going to die before the younger.  Sanders and his message may help shape the long-term attitudes of an entire generation.  Clinton’s support from Wall Street might confirm their beliefs.  Moreover, that support might make it difficult for Clinton to rally the support of many Sandersites, regardless of what course he follows.

Second, almost two-thirds of Americans in general (62 percent) think that their “beliefs and values are under attack.”[4]  Virtually all (85 percent) Republicans believe that their “beliefs and values are under attack.”  This includes 91 percent of the supporters of Donald Trump.  Thus, Trump isn’t far off what a lot of Republicans say, even if they don’t like the way Trump says it.  So, are Trump’s voters really angry over economic issues or are cultural issues at the heart of this movement?  Poll trolls report that 80 percent of Trumpsters believe that “the government has gone too far in assisting minority groups,” and that 85 percent believe that the US has “lost its identity.”  In the wake of Ferguson and BLM, and President Obama’s executive orders on illegal immigrants, this election could be about race.

Third, it’s going to be a case of voters holding their noses and picking the least bad option.  As of mid-May 2016, only 33 percent of people had a favorable view of the Republican Party, while 62 percent had an unfavorable view.  That’s a minus 29.  That hasn’t sent people streaming to the Democrats.  Only 45 percent had a favorable view of the Democratic Party and 50 percent had an unfavorable view.  That’s a minus 5.  However, 25 percent take an unfavorable view of both parties.[5]

The unfavorable gap is wide for both likely presidential nominees.  Hilary Clinton is at minus 24 (56 percent unfavorable versus 32 percent favorable); Donald Trump is at minus 41 (65 percent unfavorable versus 24 percent favorable).[6]  The majority of people polled have an unfavorable view of both candidates.  Almost half (46 percent) of Clinton’s supporters attribute their main motive to voting for her to the need to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.  Slightly more (47 percent) of Trump voters say that their main motive is to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House.[7]

Regardless of who wins, this election is liable to leave a bad taste in the mouths of most Americans.  Worse, neither candidate looks like a healer.

[1] “Noted,” The Week, 20 May 2016, p. 18.

[2] Given Wall Street’s history, the question is whether a Clinton “bubble” is growing.  If such a “bubble” bursts, will it happen before the election or afterward?

[3] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 6 May 2016, p. 17.

[4] Lost the reference to this article.

[5] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 13 May 2016, p. 17.

[6] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 29 April 2016, p. 17.

[7] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 20 May 2016, p. 19.

Young People These Days.

Barack Obama cleaned up among voters aged 18 to 29.  In 2008, he won 66 percent of them; in 2012 he won 60 percent of them.[1]  Now, a series of polls suggest that many young people don’t like Donald Trump.[2]  In one poll, people under 35 preferred Hillary Clinton (52 percent) to Trump (19 percent).  Another poll reported that people under 40 preferred Clinton over Trump by two-to-one (roughly 60 percent to 30 percent).

However, the situation is more complicated than that.  A generational divide appears in the polls.  For one thing, the Democratic advantage among young people is dropping.  It has fallen from 66 percent in 2008 to 60 percent in 2012 to at best 52 percent in 2016.  Indeed, one poll reported that among people aged 19 to 26, while a mere 9 percent preferred Trump, only 11 percent preferred Clinton.[3]  Young people want “that hopey-changey thing.”   Either failing to deliver on it or looking like you don’t believe in it in the first place can hurt a candidate.

The same poll reported that 31 percent preferred Bernie Sanders.  Young people lean left.  Their big concerns appear to be related to the distribution of benefits from the economy: the cost of college; student debt that results from that cost, and the “economic inequality” that makes it difficult to pay off that debt.  The poll that reported Bernie Sanders drawing 31 percent of those aged 19 to 26 years, also reported that 58 percent saw socialism as a more humane system than capitalism, while 33 percent saw capitalism as a more humane system than socialism.  That’s bad for Republicans without being good for mainstream Democrats.  Yet another poll reported that Trump was favored over other Republican candidates by 26 percent of the 18 to 34.  (OK, the poll didn’t report how many Republicans are 18 to 34.)

This preference could have long term consequences when looking forward.  At least one study suggests that the most important period for setting political preferences comes between the ages of 14 and 24 years of age.  “Events”—impressions, really—that happen at age 18 are three times as influential as things that happen at age 40.  So, would a Donald Trump candidacy sink the Republican Party for a whole generation by alienating young people?

However, the same theory can be applied looking backward.  One poll showed that Clinton and Trump running a dead-heat among voters over 40 years of age.  If their formative political experiences came between ages 14 and 24, then, for those aged:

40-50: born 1965-1975; formative experiences from 1979-1999.

50-60: born 1955-1965; formative experiences from 1969-1989.

60-70: born 1945-1955; formative experiences from 1959-1979.

If any of this is true, then—at least in psychological terms–there is a good chance that the election of 2016 will be about our troubled past.  To seek the dark cloud around any silver lining, this might mean that the election will be about flunked wars; unsettling technological change  that never seems to work to the advantage of the country that creates so much of it; economic upheaval that profits the few; scandal-plagued presidencies; now-ancient grievances; and big talk from politicians that rarely turns into effective action

            Despite the rhetoric about a “great America,” it will not be about the possible futures of our children.  They will not thank us.  Nor should they.

[1] Why the drop in support of almost 10 percent among this age group?  Did a bunch of them age-out and become more conservative?

[2] Toni Monkovic, “Lasting Damage for G.O.P.?  The Young Reject Trump,” NYT, 24 March 2016.  Well, Trump’s got a thick hide.  He’ll survive.

[3] So, pretty much a dead heat.  Just in a race for the bottom.

Snow on the roof.

In the Nevada caucuses, with 95.3 percent of the counties reporting, Hillary Clinton picked up 52.7 percent and Bernie Sanders picked up 47.2 percent of the vote.[1] This is an important victory for Hillary Clinton after Sanders tied her in Iowa and thrashed her in New Hampshire.

That isn’t the same as saying that it was a total loss for Sanders. A year ago, in February 2015, 58 percent of self-identified Democratic voters in Nevada favored Hillary Clinton, while 4 percent favored Bernie Sanders. In March 2015, 61 percent favored Clinton, while 7 percent favored Sanders. In July 2015, 55 percent favored Clinton, while 18 percent favored Sanders. In October 2015, 50 percent favored Clinton, while 34 percent favored Sanders. In December 2015, 51 percent favored Clinton, while 39 percent favored Sanders. In January 2016, 47 percent favored Clinton, while 43 favored Sanders. In early February 2016, they were tied at 45 percent each. In mid-February 2016 they were pretty much where they ended up, with 53 percent favoring Clinton and 47 percent favoring Sanders.[2]

Clinton’s numbers were pretty steady for a year, although there was a certain amount of erosion. Sanders’ numbers, however, shot up. Where did he get these voters? Mostly, they came from people who had previously favored Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden or Tommy Carchetti, or who had been undecided. Thus, Clinton has a hard core of steady support. There also appears to be a substantial Anyone-But-Clinton (ABC) group among Democratic voters.

Nevada actually is a big blank space on the map. Three-quarters of the state’s population lives in or around Las Vegas, the county seat of Clark County. In Clark County, Clinton won 54.9 percent and Sanders won 45.1 percent. According to the 2010 census, Clark County’s racial makeup was roughly 61 percent white, 29 percent Hispanic, 10.5 percent African American.[3]

Although African Americans made up 10.5 percent of the Clark County population in 2010, they turned out at a higher rate than did other groups, totaling 13 percent of the people at the caucuses. Then they voted overwhelmingly for Clinton (76 percent) over Sanders (22 percent). Clinton also did better among older voters than did Sanders.

The ABC movement is centered among younger people and Hispanics. Sanders crushed Clinton among under-30 voters (82 percent-14 percent); and among under-45 voters (62 percent-35 percent).[4] Among Hispanics, Sanders beat Clinton by 8 percent. While, 29 percent of the population is Hispanic, they turned out in much lower numbers, representing only 19 percent of the people at caucuses. Perhaps this represents the Clinton heavy use of Hispanic surrogates in the last stage. This may have suppressed part of the Democratic vote. Had Sanders found a way to fully mobilize the Hispanic vote, he might have won. Whites turned out at a rate of 59 percent, a hair below their share of the population. Clinton and Sanders essentially split this group.

Probably, this will not block her from winning the nomination. Will it affect Democratic turn-out in November? Does Clinton speak only for older people and African Americans?

[1] See: http://graphics.latimes.com/election-2016-nevada-results/

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statewide_opinion_polling_for_the_Democratic_Party_presidential_primaries,_2016#Nevada

[3] Yes, I know it doesn’t quite add up and leaves out Asians, etc. It’s the effect of the White, non-Hispanic versus White Hispanic mishagosh.

[4] Abby Philip, John Wagner, and Anne Gearan, “Black vote key in Democratic caucus in Nev.,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 21 February 2016.

Explaining Bernie Sanders—and Perhaps Donald Trump.

Two-thirds of Americans believe that there is at least one presidential candidate who would make a good president in the current crop. Most (75 percent) of Republicans believe that Donald Trump could win a general election—even though only about half of Republicans want him as their candidate. Virtually all (83 percent) Democrats believed that Hillary Clinton could win election–before Bernie Sanders ran even with Clinton in Iowa and then torched her in New Hampshire. Among the less-favored candidates are Ted Cruz (60 percent of Republican); Marco Rubio (55 percent of Republicans); and Bernie Sanders (54 percent of Democrats).[1]

In theory, Hillary Clinton wipes the floor with the leading Republican candidates when it comes to dealing with terrorism. Americans preferred her to Donald Trump (50-42), Marco Rubio (47-43), and even Jeb Bush (46-43).[2] On the other hand, that means that 43 percent of Americans want anyone-but-Hillary, no matter how clownish or inexperienced, to deal with terrorism. Is it the same for other issues? If it is, then she has remarkably high negatives for someone running for president. Still, so did Richard Nixon. Oh. Wait.

On the other hand, Independents fail to share this enthusiasm. Only 58 percent of them believe that there is anyone who would make a good president. (If Independents sit out in large numbers, then that might leave the November 2016 election in the hands of party regulars.)

Why are Americans so rabid for anti-establishment candidates?

In 2003, the net worth of the average American was $87,992. In 2013, the net worth of the average American was $56,335 in 2013. That amounts to a 36 percent fall in net worth, before allowing for nugatory inflation.[3] On the other hand (2003-2014), the net worth of the top five percent of earners increased by 14 percent over the same period.[4]

About one-third of Americans have no savings accounts at all.[5] Twenty percent of people aged 55 to 64 have no retirement savings. Almost half (45 percent) of people surveyed expected to live on whatever Social Security paid them.[6] Almost half (44 percent) of Americans don’t have an “emergency fund” to cover basic expenses for three months. Almost half (43 percent) of American workers would be willing to take a pay cut IF their employer would increase the contribution to the 401k retirement savings plan.[7] In August 2014, about 77 million Americans had a debt “in collection.” The median amount owed is $1,350.[8]   That’s not a lot of money. Unless you don’t have it.

If the “Great Recession” had not occurred, then college graduates entering the job market might have expected salaries 19 percent higher. The “normal” penalty for graduating in a recession is about 10 percent.[9] The recent unpleasantness has been unusually unpleasant. Also, state aid to public colleges has fallen during the recession. That means that students have been graduating with much larger debt loads than previously. They have to service those debts out of smaller starting salaries.

People hiring employees tend to favor those who are narcissistic over the humble.[10] Apparently, they are right to do so. “Narcissistic” CEOs make an average of $512 million more over their careers than do those who are not.[11] Will it be the same for voters? Hard to think of anyone more narcissistic than the Clintons. Unless it is Donald Trump.

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 5 February 2016, p. 19.

[2] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 4 December 2015, p. 19.

[3] “Noted,” The Week, 8 August 2014. P. 14.

[4] “Noted,” The Week, 8 August 2014. P. 14.

[5] “The bottom line,” The Week, 15 February 2013, p. 32.

[6] “Noted,” The Week, 22 August 2014, p. 16.

[7] “The bottom line,” The Week, 22 August, 2014, p. 32.

[8] “The bottom line.” The Week, 15 August, 2014, p. 31.

[9] “The bottom line,” The Week, 1 August 2014, p. 31.

[10] “The bottom line,” The Week, 27 June 2014, p. 32.

[11] “The bottom line,” The Week, 1 August 2014, p. 31.

More degrees than a protractor factory.

Senator Bernie Sanders favors making a BA at the 629 public four year colleges a free good for all “qualified” applicants. He says that this would be on the European model. https://www.facebook.com/OccupyDemocrats/photos/a.517901514969574.1073741825.346937065399354/844186619007727/?type=1&theater

What is the American model?

  Number Enrollment
Public 4-year institutions 629 6,837,605
Private 4-year institutions 1,845 4,161,815
Public 2-year institutions 1,070 6,184,229
Private 2-year institutions 596 303,826
Total 4,140 17,487,475
Undergraduate 14,473,884
Graduate 2,097,511
Professional 329,076

See: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0908742.html

What is the European model?

European universities.

Country.          Universities.   Students.        Percent.[1]         Cost.               Drop-out rate.

Britain.           115                  2.6m.               43                    E10,500.          8.6 percent.

France.            80                  2.3m.               39                    E     177.          42.0 percent.

Italy.                79                  1.8m.               43                    E1.5-3,000      45.0 percent.

Germany.       108                  2.4m.               42                    Free.               28.0 percent.

Poland.            98                  1.8m.               54                    N.A.                24.0 percent.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/interactive/2012/may/31/european-students-statistics-interactive

The obvious lesson to draw here is that if something costs you something, you value it more. Where college costs are high, the drop-out rate is low; where college costs are low, the drop-out rate is high. “Eh, I’ll take a shot at it instead of looking for work, but if the professors want real work (or if the girls won’t come across), I’ll bag it.”—Anonymous.

http://www.bbc.com/news/education-11438140

So, France, Germany, and Italy all have virtually free tertiary education, BUT they spend one-third to one-half of what the USA does. How do they make it work? They admit a lot of kids from good schools, then throw them in the deep end of the pool and tell them to swim for it. No hand-holding. No office hours with professors. No counseling. No Writing Centers and Math Centers for free tutoring. No “second chance” when young Bobby messes up. You need help writing a paper? Hire a grad student with your own money. Short of money and you don’t want to admit to your parents that you’ve messed up? Try dealing hash. (I’m told that the “Milkweg” in Amsterdam used to be a good place to go, but how would I know? See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melkweg ). Also, no sports teams. No dorms and dining halls. No marching bands. Just cafes on the Left Bank and Gitanes.

So, one follow-on question is which countries have people with degrees, rather than just having attended college?

Germany and Italy have lower graduation rates than does Britain or the United States.

Obviously, there is a lot more that can be done with this data, but this is a start. For one thing, why isn’t Sanders going off on the Finnish model? Nokia and mink ranches: let’s build our future on that.

Your thoughts?

[1] Percent of “young people” (otherwise undefined) in tertiary education of any sort.