Friday, January 28, 2022

Unbalance of the Senate vs The house, and the problem with Gerrymandering

 

In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won with 365 electoral college votes to McCain’s 173. But in 2010, both the house and senate flipped, switching from democrat controlled to republican controlled. Was this because in two short years the desires of the American people changed? Perhaps, or perhaps it was due to the major redistricting that took place in 2010 after the census.

 

When we look at the state of our politics today we can see a divide. This divide is not by accident, it grows every 10 years. The reason, Gerrymandering. Every 10 years we have a census. We count the number of people we have in our country, legal or illegal. No discrimination no risk for deportation[1] . Then in most states, the districts are drawn by the state legislature, while the governor has a veto. It is a tradition, it is necessary, but there is a problem. The state legislature carves up these new districts not to further diversify the votes and take true samples of society, but to retain power. It started in 1812, governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gerry, signed a bill that allowed the redistricting of Massachusetts to benefit the then Democratic-Republican Party. This process attacks democracy as states are allowed to redistrict to politically benefit one party over another. With no competitive districts, can democracy truly thrive? Is it not in the clashing and conflict of principles that we can become further enlightened?

 

When we go through this redistricting process; it is a major political battle, and it always ends with districts becoming more and more partisan. There is, however, a way to counter this. Take Iowa, they have a simple yet effective way to redistrict. After census data is reviewed, there are four simple rules Iowa state representatives will follow when creating new districts.  One, population equality, without this rule one representative could be responsible for many more people than another, as is the case with the senate, I’ll save that for another time. Two, contiguity, districts should look like each other, no weird shapes, no odd angles, just simple square boxes, or as close as we can get. Three, Unity of counties and cities. Representatives should represent the people in the county or city they are a part of. That is the true purpose and reason for having a representative, someone who lives within the community who can and will talk to the government on the people's behalf. And fourth, districts should remain as compact as possible. There is no reason to have abnormally large districts, simple compact squares, that is what we need.

 

This process seems to work well for Iowa, could we not implement it at a national scale? We already tried this, and it worked! In the 1960s, the population was growing significantly. Cities were getting larger and larger. Many people who lived in rural areas were moving to the city. The result was cities that housed more people than the rural areas had fewer representatives in congress, both at the state, and federal levels! There were multiple court cases brought to the supreme court [Baker c Carr (1962) Wesberry v Sanders (1964a), Reynolds v Sims (1964b)].

The supreme court decided that malapportionment - drawing districts that differed in population size was unconstitutional. This was held to violate the principle of “one person, one vote,” which is derived from both Articles I of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. Before malapportionment was outlawed, districts could vary in population by a factor of ten; now districts need to be redrawn every ten years following the Census to ensure they have an equal population. This denied the state governments a powerful tool by which they could fix political outcomes.

 

We have a problem though, in 2004 there was a supreme court case Vieth v. Jubelirer (2004); it was a challenge to the redistricting of Pennsylvania. In this case, the court decided to not overturn a redistricting that occurred in Pennsylvania. Although there were diverging opinions in the 5-4 ruling that day. The decision was made more so the court will stay out of politics than the legality or illegality of the redistricting. This decision is key to the reason for the state of our politics. Although it may not have been the intention of our supreme justices, they have effectively made challenging a districting plan on the premise of gerrymandering practically impossible.

 

If partisan gerrymandering is again permitted, this creates a loophole that once again gives state governments some of this power. It also seriously undermines the egalitarian intentions of the “one person, one vote” jurisprudence of the 1960s. The courts have already decided that they wish to stay out of political decisions, and that is ok. What we need to do then is bring this issue up, to our representatives, to our neighbors, or friends. The more people are aware of this problem that divides our nation, then the more likely we are to be able to do something about it.

 

There is no bigger proof than in the election year of 2012, following the 2010 Census. There was a shift in the partisan advantage. The Republican Party won a majority of the 33 seats though it won fewer votes than the democrats. This was not an accident, but rather a systematic bias that we will see be repeated throughout the next decade. The House of Representatives has a total of 435 seats, 234 of those seats (54%) were won by republican representatives, even though the Democratic Party won a slim majority (50.6%) of the popular vote. This could only have been possible through political gerrymandering.

 

If you are a democrat or republican, it shouldn’t matter. Political gerrymandering is dividing our nation more so than we already divide it. The more our nation becomes divided we weaken ourselves. Yes, different ideas are good, it allows us to challenge and debate. However, when our representatives only represent a specific demographic there is little chance of compromise.

 

I beseech you, understand that compromise is key, different ideas help create better ideas. Skewing the election only helps those in power stay in power. New ideas are needed to stir the pot and create even better solutions. Talk to your representatives, talk to your neighbors, talk to your friends. Bring back the idea that we should take an active role in our politics.

 

This is the start. After this, we take on the senate, with their amassed consolidation of power, the excess of money they deal with, and the lack of morals our political elite have.

 

 

References:

 

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jul/27/gerrymandering-republicans-electoral-maps-political-heist

https://web.archive.org/web/20091107114029/http://www.centrists.org/pages/2004/07/7_buck_trust.html


     Gerrymandering in America: the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the future of popular sovereignty / Anthony J. McGann, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow; Charles Anthony Smith, University of California-Irvine; Michael Latner, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo; Alex Keena, University of California-Irvine.


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Why Single Party Rule is Bad For Democracy (Factually)

This isn't the first time we have shared the Factually podcast here (the first time was regarding homelessness). 

Well, this episode is also great and is very similar to the outline to the book we were going to write. I hope you enjoy. More content to come shortly.  

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Bring Democracy to America

 “As the Founding Fathers were emerging from Constitution Hall in Philadelphia, a woman from the crowd called out:

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“Dr. Benjamin Franklin turned to her and replied: 

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

(The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, ed. Max Farrand, vol. 3, appendix A, p. 85)



My question to this is, Do we even want a republic?



Some people might be offended by this comment. The founding fathers were inspired by God to make this country, and who am I to question divine providence?  Such a tale is a bit of revisionist history told by modern christians. The founding founders were deists, and did not even believe in the judeo-christian God. The founding fathers were not perfect by any means. Afterall, many of them were slave owners, literally owning people while seeking freedom for themselves.  The government they created was not perfect by any means either.


But this republic has failed its citizens too many times over. In just 2016, the will of the people was subverted by the electoral college. A system created to give the white slave holders of the south more political power. That seems like a bold statement, but consider this. The census counts everyone, voter or non voter, and in the case of black people or “other persons” as the constitution puts would be counted as 3/5ths of a person. 


Source


Look at this chart

Think about it, a whole ⅓ of the south was slaves.  And all of those slaves counted in the census gave power to the white men that were actually allowed to vote. The electoral college was a tool of oppression. 


It is a relic of the past, in a time where the framers of the constitution doubted the judgement of the people, and when information traveled slowly. Perhaps, there would be a good reason for a delegate to go rogue, as things could change between the vote and the convection. The electoral college wasn’t entirely the product of racism, there was some reason behind it.


But the electoral college has outlived its usefulness. It's time the will of the people is adhered to.The electoral college isn’t the one part of our republic that ought to be changed. The senate has two senators per state.  For what, so the states are equality represented. What are states though except arbitrary lines drawn in the sand. Why does it matter that states are equally represented? It should be the people that are equally represented. All people. And even people from outlying areas. Puerto Ricans should have a voice in the government. The lack of democracy is so egregious, that people in the very nation’s capital have no voice in the federal government and no voice in who becomes the president.  And do they pay federal tax in Washington DC? You bet they do.


We have become the literal thing we fought, a government that taxes its citizens without their consent or representation. A government that doesn’t listen to the will of the people. It's time to change our country into a true representative democracy. A system of government that listens to the people, and not some archaic system. 


I’m calling for an abolishment of the electoral college and the abolishment of the US senate.


No senate? But the legislative branch has always had two parts.


Well, I think it should still. 


And here is a new part of the legislative branch, I call it, “The House of Randoms”


And it is what it professes to be. Instead of being elected, The house of randoms randomly selects its members. Each member serves a single year, and each year the entire house is redrawn. The results are truly random, meaning it's possible to serve any number of years consecutively or nonconsecutively, but it is unlikely.  However, this is a topic for another day.


In summary, America needs change, America cannot rest on its laurels. The former tools of oppression need to be removed from the American system if we are to be a true democracy. If we truly want to be the land of the free and not just a land where some people are free. Where some people are listened to and others are not. Let's improve this great country.


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Immigration In America

I recently watched a video by Mr. Beat about PragerU. I enjoyed Mr. Beat’s analysis of the assertions made by PragerU. Fact checking is critical. But I think there is something even more fundamental to the PragerU video I want to object to. 


The host of the PragerU video says it is not possible or desirable to let in everyone. 


In a sense, she is right. But she asserts the method of enforcement for this is the US government. I have a big issue with this. Let's take a step back and think about what the video is asserting, that the government should regulate immigration. That the US government should decide the amount of people who should be let into the country, they should determine the skills and qualifications they have. The video asserts that unskilled workers should not be let into the country.


Let's go on a short tangent now.


Imagine instead of living in a free market like we do now, we lived in a centrally planned command economy. That the government projected the amount of bread that would be needed in the next year and directed factories to produce adequate bread for the population.


This is a system that has been tried before. It might remind you of the USSR, where millions of people died because of food shortages. It seems time and time again, forecasting needs is difficult. The government is not in a good position to estimate the needs of consumers.  And it seems central planned economies often fail.


Consider North Korea and South Korea. There are countless metrics I could reference here. 


Look at this graph of GDP per capita in south Korea vs North. Also, North Koreans are shorter than South Koreans


Now this isn’t definitive, but I think this difference in height is probably at least in part explained by differences in diet, that an unhealthy diet will lead to stunted growth.


In short, centrally planned economies have failed time and time again and lead to suboptimal outcomes.


Now instead of looking at projections for food, why should the government project labor needs? After all, that is what regulating immigration is doing. Farms, for example, need laborers. Ideally, cheap, unskilled labor and they need a lot of it. With less regulation, farmers could hire the workers they want. With increased regulation though, the government needs to project how many unskilled workers to be let in.


Really though, I don’t know what the right number of immigrants to be let in is, and I don’t think anyone really knows. Except, as people act in rational self-interest in a free market we ultimately get to the right answer.  It is the free market itself that should regulate immigration. When there are jobs to be had, workers will come to get them. And if there are ever no jobs to be had, then people will not come, as it is no longer to their advantage to come.


Any system where the government is projecting what the market will want is a system that is inherently flawed. The market will demand what it wants, the government does not need to interfere, and in fact, when it does, suboptimal outcomes result.


Friday, September 11, 2020

Is Success Luck or Hard Work?


Here is a great video on the roles that luck and hard work play into success. I think it makes a great point that leaders also tend to be lucky.  I think this idea gives some credence to the idea that system of government with not just elected officers, but also randomly selected, would give a larger breadth of experience in government.


Monday, June 29, 2020

Why I Don't Support Donald Trump

A friend of mine and an avid Trump supporter recently asked me to share my thoughts on Donald Trump and why I probably will not be voting for him in this upcoming election. To share a little context, I was a lifelong member of the GOP. But after the election of Donald Trump, I have left the party. Describing why I am not a fan of Donald Trump is a bit of a daunting task and one that I likely will only manage to do a cursory job of.


Moral Character

Donald Trump is an individual that lacks moral character. Donald Trump in the Billy Bush tapes that have been brought up again and again talks about sexually assaulting women. While I don’t believe in extramarital affairs, Donald Trump isn’t merely unfaithful, he seems to have committed illegal acts. In short, Trump is at best a liar, and at worst, a rapist. Neither of them are traits I look for in a president. He simply is not a good moral character. I think he is a poor role model for children across the U.S. and over the world. His moral flaws seem irredeemable.


Mentally Unfit

Donald Trump has an enormous ego. It has led him to say many hilarious and stupid things over his time in the White House. Statements like, “Puerto Rico is an island surrounded by water, big water, ocean water.”

Sure other president’s have said stupid things before, George Bush once spoke about how he knows how hard it is to put food on your family. But for Donald, this isn’t a mere gaffe. He at his core thinks he is an intelligent person, often the smartest person in the room. Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he talks with consistently about foreign policy, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things."

Source


This is one of the most troubling answers I could possibly imagine to this question. The idea that anyone could know enough to deal with foreign policy alone is laughable. There are just too many countries to have anything but a cursory knowledge of most of them at best. The idea that Donald Trump knows enough about the world that he doesn’t even need to talk to anyone else is just not reality. Donald Trump isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.


Donald Trump has also claimed he is excellent at business, and excellent at taxes. An interview with Donald Trump's accountants shows otherwise, “Mitnick said that Trump had “virtually zero” role in preparing his own taxes.” Donald Trump hired the same CPAs his dad worked with. Donald Trump is no genius when it comes to his taxes. And I’m not sure he is a genius at business. Then again, it's not a requirement to be great at business to be a good president.

Source


Trump is racist

There are lots of statements about who Trump employs or doesn’t employ at his businesses. There may be merit to these claims, I haven’t researched it much myself. But here is an example out of Donald Trump's own mouth:

“When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Source

The idea that most Mexican immigrants are bad people, and that good people are so rare Donald can only assume a few are good people is so abhorrent, I can’t believe it. Growing up in San Diego, this is simply not my experience at all. The Mexican immigrants I have met are some of the kindest and hardest working. Many times in my life, poor, Mexican families have welcomed me into their homes, shared food with me, and have been some of the kindest people I know.


Someone asserted to me Donald isn’t provably racist. He is xenophobic for sure, but he only discriminates against poorer countries. At the same time, I don’t think you can make that distinction. While Trump may give an alternative explanation, if you just look at the color of the skin of the people targeted by his policies, you will notice a trend.


So far, I have only spoken on Trump's flaws as a person. Let's get into how his policy is wrong.


In addition to being racist towards Mexican immigrants, he wants to build a wall. Spoiler, there really is a wall already. Growing up in San Diego, I have been to it. I have crossed the border on foot. La linea they call it. The Line, it's a bit of a play on words as it is not just a border line, but a literal line to get back into the country. It took hours.


But back on topic, Trump says, “They’re taking our jobs. They’re taking our manufacturing jobs. They’re taking our money. They’re killing us.”

Source

This statement doesn’t really have any basis in reality. The work that Mexican immigrants do is often work that no one else will do. You cannot hire Americans to work as day laborers picking fruit. The work is too hard and the pay is too little. Many processes in farming require a human hand. Peaches have to be picked by hand. Denying workers to come to the United States means increased labor prices and increased costs of foods. Really, everyone loses when we stop migrant labor. The migrants don’t get jobs, and everyone pays higher prices for food.


Let's move on to a related topic, Trade.

Donald Trump does not understand economics. He actively fights against free trade. He asserts he is bringing jobs back to the United States. In truth, there were some jobs that left the U.S. when NAFTA was signed. I have a friend in Michigan who told me about this father's business drying up after NAFTA. It is a pain felt strongly by some. But it wasn’t just jobs in the U.S. that were affected. NAFTA destroyed the corn industry in Mexico, they just can’t compete with cheap U.S. corn (source). But what does this shuffling of jobs mean? It means that the countries most suited to a particular task will perform that task and we all are better off for it. Mexico gets cheap corn, we get cheaper cars or other goods requiring labor. The system runs more efficiently and we all get some benefit, it isn’t a zero sum game. Trump doesn’t seem to see this though. He sees trade with China as a win-lose relationship. He just doesn’t come to the table with the right mental model.


Redemption?

Oftentimes, I think the sentiments some of my religious friends use regarding Trump is that he has done bad things in the past, but he is doing one critical matter. He is appointing conservative justices to the Supreme Court to fight Roe vs Wade, and that is why they are supporting him.


There are a lot of aspects to unpack from this. I do have to mention the pick of Brett Kavanaugh is still perplexing to me.

Kavanaugh, understandably, lied about some aspects of his past. When asked about a Devil’s Triangle, a sex act, Kavanugh claimed it was a drinking game. (Source)

That is a somewhat minor detail about the hearing and his past, but still, it bothers me he lied under oath. And it does paint him in a different light. Claims by his accusers in this light seems to make some sense.

Let's get back though, Trump appoints conservative justices. For me, this isn’t a plus either. I think this topic deserves a post of its own. In short, as a deeply religious person, I believe abortion is a decision a woman must make with God, not the government. While abortion is terrible, in some cases (like rape or incest) it might be the least terrible option for a woman to make. That decision should be hers to make. She should not have to explain, recount, or relive the experience that brought her to that place. By no means am I pro-abortion, I think abortion is not the correct choice in many instances. I am pro-education though, pro the teaching of correct principles, not pro-force and coercion.


Trump Recently

Lastly, let's talk about what Trump did recently, just days ago from writing this.

In the Rose garden, Trump made the following statement, “I will fight to protect you. I am your President of law and order and an ally of all peaceful protesters.” (Source)

Minutes later, Trump ordered federal troops to break up a peaceful protest. So he could take a photo-op with a bible at a local church. Trump did exactly what he said he won’t do. Not months later, not days, not even hours. Literally minutes after his speech he went back on what he said.


Conclusion

Perhaps in a boardroom amongst his contractors and business associates Trump's rhetoric was effective. Perhaps in a different setting Trump is a genius and is competent.

But on the global stage, Trump comes across as a would-be dictator, an idiot, a hypocrite, and a buffoon. After all this writing I still have not scratched the surface on why Donald Trump is unfit for office. He is a disgrace to our great nation, and a disgrace to the Grand Old Party.

I haven’t even touched his crony ways of running the country. Providing states aid through his son-in-law Jared Kushner, the governors that are close and well connected get aid, and those that aren’t suffer. That he did not divest in his companies before taking office, that he makes money by hosting events at his own hotels and resorts. There are certainly countless other items I am missing from this very incomplete piece, but this has to end at some point.


Donald Trump certainly is no Hitler. But that is also an insanely low bar to meet. I would more rack him up with the likes of Warren G. Harding, the U.S. president that literally lost the White House china in a game of cards.


Monday, February 17, 2020

Why I might seriously vote for a man who wears a boot on his head.


If you aren't familiar, Vermin Supreme is politically... well, something. A bit of a character. Kind of like the “the rent is too damn high” guy or “Lord Buckethead.”

Vermin has run in before. For the past 30 years, he claims. In the past he has advocated for mandatory tooth brushing laws as well as for free ponies for every American which also double as a form of ID. These positions and policies are just jokes. Like Stephen Colbert’s persona in the Colbert report.

This election, things are different for Vermin. This year, for the first time, Vermin is actually taking the campaign seriously. Listen to him at one of the libertarian debates.

I'm in shock. This year he is also the only candidate with any name recognition at all. So I really might vote for him in this upcoming primary. Now, does this mean I will vote for him in the general election? I don't know about that yet. Let's take it one step at a time.

I am a little sad to be missing out on some of the other interesting primaries. The democrats certainly have some interesting things going on. And as a blog that loves to talk about UBI, Andrew Yang is pretty interesting (although, as I live in California, which is a state that votes pretty late in the primary process, I often don’t actually get to vote for the candidates that interest me. It seems Andrew Yang recently dropped out before I would have had a chance to support him. This same thing happened to me in 2016, when Donald Trump was the presumptive nominee before I even got to vote.)

On the republican side, Bill Weld is pretty interesting too. He is taking one delegate so far from the sitting president, which honestly is quite a feat. I am very happy for him. I voted for him in 2016 and would happily do so again.

Also, be on the lookout, as the blog has an exciting update post coming out shortly to talk a little about where the authors of the blog have been and the state of the blog.

Unbalance of the Senate vs The house, and the problem with Gerrymandering

  In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won with 365 electoral college votes to McCain’s 173. But in 2010, both the house and senate flipped,...