Democracy Worldwide: Authoritarian crackdown in Russia

Old liberalism never really sunk in in Russia. When the winds of freedom swept over Europe in the 19th century, Eastern Europe was only minimally touched. Through the strong hand of the state, the Russian people were kept down. Only in 1860s was serfdom abolished. Even when reformers such as Czar Alexander II were in power, the government did not transform into a true democracy. To add insult to injury, whatever liberalization occurs is reversed as soon as said reformer no longer occupies the seat of power. Alexander III did so to the works of his predecessor and used his autocratic power to crack down on minorities. In the Soviet days, a similar pattern repeated itself with Brezhnev’s violent hostility to liberalization resulting in the use of arms to put down a marginally more liberal movement in Czechoslovakia. Through sheer force, democracy was never allowed to take root in Russia. Whenever the Russian people get close to become a true democracy, it is snatched away by a strong man.

Their current strong man is Vladimir Putin. Just like all of the czars and red dictators that ruled Russia before him, he is the antagonist of the reformer. Recently, Putin continued the pattern of hard handed government by cracking down on pro-democracy protestors in the streets of Moscow. Around 1,300 people were detained by police after gathering to demand electoral reform, specifically the ability for opposition candidates to run for local offices. The Heritage Foundation marveled at their size noting that they were the largest over a decade. When protestors attempted to tear down barricades, riot police sprang into action and wounded multiple protestors. Activists Van Zhdanov, Ilya Yashin, Valery Rodin, Lyubov Sobol, and Dmitry Gudkov were assaulted and detained. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny (more on him later) was also taken to a hospital with an “acute allergic reaction” in the aftermath of the protests which aroused suspicion of poisoning since that had never happened to him before.

It must be made clear that Russia is in no way, shape or form a democracy. The czars may be long dead and communism may have fallen but freedom has not arisen in its place. The Washington, DC based 501c group Freedom House makes this very clear. On a scale of 1-7, with 1 being the most free and 7 being the least free, Russia’s freedom rating is 6.5, their political rights are 7, and their civil rights are 6. Freedom House’s bleak summary of the situation in the country, they write:

Power in Russia’s authoritarian political system is concentrated in the hands of President Vladimir Putin. With loyalist security forces, a subservient judiciary, a controlled media environment, and a legislature consisting of a ruling party and pliable opposition groups, the Kremlin is able to manipulate elections and inhibit genuine opposition. The country’s rampant corruption is one notable threat to state power, as it facilitates shifting links among bureaucrats and organized crime groups.

-Freedom House

The group also goes on to notes that in 2017 all of the state took many repressive actions. Among these were banning Putin’s opponent Alexei Navalny from challenging him, banning the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and two journalists were murdered in strange circumstances.

 What passes for democracy in Russia would be called authoritarianism in the west. Allowing opposition to go ahead unmolested is one of the hallmarks of a free society. What has been occurring in Russia in the past few years in this regard is not the conduct a democracy, it is one of despotism. Free countries do not kill journalists, imprison opposition leaders on irrelevant charges or arrest thousands of protestors with great violence and vigor in the streets of the capital. The very fact that events like these are not uncommon in Russia makes clear that Russia is not free and so long as Vladimir Putin is in power, it will never be.

Photo credit: “Protests in Moscow reveal a disparity in Russian democracy” via the Heritage Foundation

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Socialists either don’t understand economics or are liars Part 2 of 3

                As was stated in part one[1], the Democratic Party has substantially changed. Capitalist elements of the party are taking a back seat to a new breed much farther to the left of them. To the whole country’s dismay, this new element is socialistic to a European degree. Democrats have been trending leftward for a very long time, but only recently have they embraced the socialist image openly. What started that was, of course, the candidacy of Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders in the last presidential election cycle. He was defeated, but the energy he mobilized lived on. Sanders tapped into a dormant socialist bloc that had been building on the left and activated it. In the 2018 midterms, the aforementioned socialist energy was enough to elect a number of hard-left congressmen and women most notably Ocasio-Cortez. Emboldened by their capture of the House of Representatives, new policy proposals for 2020 are being advanced which have little coherence. In the article previous, the Medicare for all plan advanced by Bernie Sanders was examined and it was found that multiple estimates[2] placed its 10 year budget at over $30 trillion ($30,000,000,000,000) dollars.[3] This article will focus on the impracticality of the Green New Deal advanced by representative Ocasio-Cortez. The third and final entry in this series will focus on the plans to pay for these central planning schemes. Get ready for frustration, because this article is about to enter the leftist Twilight Zone.

                The Green New Deal styled after the 1930s programs of Franklin Roosevelt is a plan to systematically destroy the US economy and rebuild it in the image of a centrally planned green party paradise. Greens are elated at the idea and their website is plastered with its utopianism. To get an idea of what their version[4] of it is (there indeed have been multiple versions), a few excerpts will be provided from its platform.

  • Initiate a WWII-scale national mobilization to halt climate change, the greatest threat to humanity in our history. Create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable (regenerative) agriculture, conservation and restoration of critical infrastructure, including ecosystems.
  • [The Green New Deal includes an] “Economic Bill of Rights” – the right to single-payer healthcare, a guaranteed job at a living wage, affordable housing and free college education.
  • Enact energy democracy based on public, community and worker ownership of our energy system. Treat energy as a human right. (Presumably they will wish to rewrite the Declaration of Independence to read “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal and are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of solar energy.”)
  • Redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation. Build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled, energy.
  • End destructive energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. Halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies. End all subsidies for fossil fuels and impose a greenhouse gas fee/tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.”
  • The implementation of the Green New Deal will revive the economy, turn the tide on climate change and make wars for oil obsolete. This latter result, in turn, enables a 50% cut in the military budget, since maintaining bases all over the world to safeguard fossil fuel supplies and routes of transportation could no longer be justified.[5]

Congratulations for getting through the highlights of the Green New Deal for anyone who hasn’t closed the page yet. It is not difficult to see that this plan is off-the-rails insane without even going into the numbers but for due prudence, the numbers are ahead. The only question is where to start?

No, there won’t be an economic boom

                Displayed loudly and proudly on the Green New Deal platform page is the claim that it will produce “20 million new jobs” but that is not true. Since the plan is so expansive and incorporates the entire economy, it is impossible to measure all its effects. Undeterred, the Heritage Foundation[6] tried to model part of it and reached telling results. Though not mentioned in this version of the GND, the way it is most likely to be done is via a carbon tax as mentioned in Ocasio-Cortez’s version’s FAQ that has since been taken down. The actual carbon reducing portion of the plan is going to cost massive amounts of jobs. Where the 20 million figure originally came from is suspect and its reasoning is even more so.    

Did I mention it could cost $90 trillion dollars?

                The last article exposing the outlandish proposals of the socialists focused heavily on the price tag of the Medicare for all plan. It is only necessary then to discuss at brief the price tag of the GND at least for the sake of consistency. A report by the American Action Forum peered at the pricier portions of the program and proclaimed that it would at least $50 trillion and could cost a whopping $90 trillion[7] ($90,000,000,000,000) dollars. The aspects analyzed were: redoing the electrical grid, redoing the transportation infrastructure, jobs for everyone, healthcare for everyone, housing for everyone and food security for everyone. With all these other things that seem to have little to do with the environment it looks almost like an attempt to impose central planning on the whole economy cloaked in the rhetoric of saving the planet. The electrical grid will cost at least $5.4 trillion ($5,400,000,000,000) to go green and earlier estimates have even put it at $13 trillion ($13,000,000,000,000). The transportation angle of it wishes to replace air travel with high speed rail lines which will cost $1.3 trillion ($1,300,000,000,000) to $2.7 trillion ($2,700,000,000,000) and hundreds of billions more for the trains themselves. The jobs guarantee will cost $6.762 trillion ($6,762,000,000,000) over the next decade and if workers making less than the wage of the new government guaranteed jobs switched over, the price tag could rise to $44.6 trillion ($44,600,000,000,000). Again, healthcare is a big ticket item and costs a pretty penny. This report gave the number to be $36 trillion ($36,000,000,000,000) over the next decade (this report is all about costs over the next decade). Housing will cost another $12 billion, but if GND building standards are applied to government subsidized buildings, the cost of compliance to that will bring the total to around $4.2 trillion ($4,200,000,000,000). The food program isn’t that bad when looking at these numbers coming in at less than two billion.

Final thoughts

Here, America runs into a strange situation: the leaders of the country that is the vanguard of freedom and the bureaucrats under them are running into the problems of Soviet-style central planning. That is what the GND represents, a massive effort of central planning in which various levels of the state will direct massive swaths of the economy. There are references to government control of the energy sector, but by and large this plan is not about government ownership, but rather control. Advocates of this plan gleefully tell of how they will shut down the fossil fuels industry, invest untold billions or trillions into windfarms and move around tens of millions of living, breathing, thinking and free human beings like they were so many inanimate chess pieces. That is central planning whether advocates like that term or not. It is socialistic whether the advocates like that term or not. Parts of it –especially references to “public, community and worker ownership of the energy system” approach being communistic whether they like the term or not. This plan is unworkable, utopian and utterly Soviet in spirit. If the socialists try to sell this plan, they either do not understand its economics or they don’t care about the same. Stated another way, socialist green new deal advocates either don’t understand its economics or are lying about the same.

Photo credit: “The unserious face of an unserious movement” via the National Review

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Socialists either don’t understand economics or are liars Part 1 of 3

It is time to face facts. The Democratic Party is dead and in its place has risen a European-style socialist party while still maintaining the old moniker. In days past, the Democrats were Keynesians like Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson but no more. Keynes and the economic theory that bears his name while being leftist in orientation, is still a capitalist outlook. It was and still is mainstream in capitalist economic theory and the old Democrats latched onto it like it was going out of style. Over time, socialists rose in the ranks of the party and in the past few years they have gained new prominence. The baton has been passed and the old guard of the Democratic Party that still accepts capitalism is fading away. Today socialists like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez have seized power in their party and stand ready to test it in the coming elections. Socialists have supplanted the liberal capitalists on the left and this is a major problem.

This is so because the socialists either don’t understand economics or are plain and simple liars. A series of three articles will be written to back up this claim with this first focusing on the folly of a Medicare for all plan, the second focusing on that of the Green New Deal and the third focusing on the insufficiency of their plans to pay for all of it. Without further ado, onto the facts. Exhibit A of the case against the socialists is one of their new favorite pet projects: Medicare for all. Through the peachy words of a career politician Sanders’s campaign website[1] proclaims, “[that we must join] every other major country on Earth and guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege, through a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program.” Here Sanders displays a great nonchalance for an expenditure that is by leaps and bounds outside of reality. There is not a single number on his official campaign website about how much that will cost. Nor is there a word about how to pay for this.

How expensive would Medicare for All be? Estimates vary a bit but they all suggest that it would be too extravagant for the Soviet central planning board to consider let alone the American congress. In July of last year, the Mercatus Center[2] asked this question to and came to a disturbing conclusion. Quoting from the abstract:

“The leading current bill to establish single-payer health insurance, the Medicare for All Act (M4A), would, under conservative estimates, increase federal budget commitments by approximately $32.6 trillion during its first 10 years of full implementation (2022–2031), assuming enactment in 2018. This projected increase in federal healthcare commitments would equal approximately 10.7 percent of GDP in 2022, rising to nearly 12.7 percent of GDP in 2031 and further thereafter. Doubling all currently projected federal individual and corporate income tax collections would be insufficient to finance the added federal costs of the plan. It is likely that the actual cost of M4A would be substantially greater than these estimates, which assume significant administrative and drug cost savings under the plan, and also assume that healthcare providers operating under M4A will be reimbursed at rates more than 40 percent lower than those currently paid by private health insurance .”

-Charles Blahous, Mercatus Center

Nothing more need be said. The plan is unworkable via their analysis. But is this study an outlier? Not quite. The CATO Institute[3] found that the upper estimates for how much a Medicare for all plan would cost figures out to $38 trillion ($38,000,000,000,000) over the next decade.  When trillions start being thrown around like they are beginning to be, that looks like a rounding error. For perspective, only China, the combined European Union, India and America[4] have a higher gross domestic product than this rounding error as of 2017. The discrepancies alone in the new mandatory spending estimates for a Medicare for all program are greater than the total value of all final goods and services produced in almost any individual nation on Earth. This is not feasible.

 As alluded to in the abstract of the Mercatus Center study, this cannot be paid for. The socialists claim to be geese capable of laying golden eggs. They claim that corporate greed and the ultra-rich present to paraphrase Orwell, a boot stamping in our face that they can not only remove but enrich everyone with said removal. What they don’t say is that the supposed plutocracy a misnomer, and that even by placing their own hammer and sickle emblazoned boot in the face of business and the rich, they cannot steal enough money to fund their programs. America is not Europe –what works across the Atlantic will not work here and any attempt to say different is either ignorant of the facts or just lying.

Photo credit: “Bernie Sanders” Wikiquote

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[4] =

Unfunded liabilities: The untold story of the American debt

Every American knows that the debt Uncle Sam has racked up is mindboggling. A single visit to the website, a website that shows real time economic statistics for the United States, shows this well enough. As of the 7th of July 2019 the figures do indeed look grim. The federal government owes $22.523 ($22,523,000,000,000) trillion dollars which would figure out to $68,387 per citizen and $183,031 per taxpayer. Note, the website has a feature called “the debt clock time machine” where it predictably states what figures looked like in the past or what they estimate they will look like in the future. Incidentally, by 2023 the national debt is projected to be $29.908 ($29,908,000,000,000) trillion, $87,274 per citizen and $224,663 per taxpayer.

Those figures do not bode well for our economic future at all but that does not even tell half of the story. Back in good old 2019 at the bottom of the page rests much scarier numbers. As one could infer from the title of this article, they are the unfunded liabilities. Simply put, an unfunded liability is mandatory government spending on programs such as social security and Medicare that are just that, unfunded. The money is not there to give out. Eventually, the welfare coffers will run dry and severe changes will need to be made. Such shocking changes as will inevitably be inflicted by the collapse of the welfare state aside, the real problem are how it relates to the national debt. Some of these liabilities must be paid out each year (social security for today’s retirees) and if the money is not there to pay that out it must be acquired somehow. This can be done through raising taxes to increase revenue, borrowing or printing more money. However it is done, there are negative economic effects. Raising taxes has a self-evidently negative effect. Borrowing makes the problem worse and increases the cost to service the debt. Creating more money runs the risk of inflation which reduces the value of all money and drains savings.

With the inherent dangers of unfunded liabilities in mind, now their size can be appreciated. The debt clock places the total at $125.015 trillion ($125,015,000,000,000) at this time. Social Security stands at a cool $19.895 trillion ($19,895,000,000,000) and Medicare at $30.680 trillion ($30,680,000,000,000). Before panic sets in, not everyone agrees that these numbers are accurate. Some think the number should be far higher. Forbes recently claimed that the total amount of unfunded liabilities is actually an incomprehensible $210 trillion ($210,000,000,000,000). Keep in mind that at this moment, democrats running for the presidency in 2020 are pitching programs like Medicare for all, universal healthcare, universal basic income and other prohibitively expensive programs. Just because they are just that, prohibitively expensive won’t stop the left from implementing them if given half a chance. Any grandiose program like those proposed by the socialists would astronomically increase not only the debt but the unfunded liabilities.

One would imagine that every news outlet in America would be sounding the alarm about financial commitments like this. After all, anyone watching the news is bombarded with rhetoric about the national debt but there are almost never any words spoken on this subtopic of it. Indeed, searching the internet for articles on this topic reveals only a few articles –the Forbes article sourced above and a stray Real Clear Politics editorial. The silence is deafening from the media on a critical issue that has the possibility of blowing apart the American economic system. If real solutions are to be advanced, attention must be paid to it by both the media and the American people at large.

Photo credit: Screenshot of

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Translating Trump: the ‘go back’ saga

                A few days ago president Donald Trump touched off yet another firestorm with a series of tweets directed at radical left wing congressmen. The liberals in Trump’s sights are the four members of the so-called “squad” representatives Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Pressley and Omar. As of late they have captured headlines with radical policy proposals. In late 2018, Cortez made the obscene demand of $40 trillion for Medicare for all for the next decade, loan forgiveness, paid family leave and a myriad of other giveaways. Representative Omar has a history of flagrantly anti-sematic statements such as when she claimed the Jewish lobby was forcing congressmen to “pledge allegiance” to Israel and on another occasion she suggested that “Israel has hypnotized the world.” Representative Tlaib’s record is so anti-sematic that the Zionist Organization of America has formally called for her expulsion from the Democratic Party. Representative Pressley is yet to do anything extravagantly radical while in office. 

                The record of the so-called “squad” puts them in stark opposition to President Trump and the conservative movement. Clashes between the two have already happened but it heated up with Trump’s July 15th tweets. In their entirety the tweets in question go as follows:

“So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……

….and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….

….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”

                Immediately, the leftists responded in force starting with a condemnation from the so-called “squad.” At a press conference Omar retorted, “This is the agenda of white nationalists, whether it is happening in chat rooms or on national TV. And now it’s reached the White House garden. He would love nothing more than to divide our country based on race, religion, gender orientation or immigration status because this is the only way he knows he can prevent the solidarity of us working together despite all our differences.”

Such went the leftist line of attack. The strategy was to brand Trump as a racist even more so than they already have. In the past, accusations of racism against the president have relied on his comments about “Sh*t hole countries” and the desire to build the wall. With these new tweets, playing the race card has become significantly easier for leftists.

The Democrat controlled House of Representatives followed up the racism argument by approving a resolution to condemn the president’s tweets. Four republicans threw in with the Democrats to condemn him –Will Hurd, Fred Upton, Brian Fitzpatrick, Susan Brooks and Independent Justin Amash. Six republicans abstained from the vote with the rest voting against it. At this point in this chronicle, the argument of the conservatives defending Trump was basically went like this: “The tweets were worded poorly but this is a question less of race and more about love of country. Anyone who does not like this country is free to leave it and go to a country they do. It appears that those congresswomen do not love America and therefore, they are free to leave.” The racial angle of it is downplayed to whatever extent possible as another Trump gaffe that failed to communicate his ideas effectively.

The situation changed after a Trump rally in Greenville, North Carolina. After lambasting the so-called “squad” at some length, a chant of “send her back” started up. With parts of a crowd chanting that a rally, it any racial element of the matter had been exacerbated. More conservatives denounced the president or his supporters for that. Former GOP congressman Joe Walsh tweeted, “‘SEND HER BACK, SEND HER BACK,’ is ugly. It’s ignorant. It’s dangerous, and it’s un-American. It’s flat out bigotry. And every Republican should condemn this bigotry immediately. Stop this now.” Illinois representative Adam Kinzinger (R)similarly wrote, “I deeply disagree with the extreme left & have been disgusted by their tone. I woke up today equally disgusted – chants like “send her back” are ugly, wrong, & would send chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers. This ugliness must end, or we risk our great union.” Representative Tom Emmer responded by saying that “there is no place [for Trump’s rhetoric.”

Trump did disavow the chant saying, “I was not happy with it, I disagree with it.” At that point unfortunately, the damage was done and the entire debacle had colored Trump and portions of his base as racists. In the coming days the president would tweet multiple times defending himself by either doubling down on the “love it or leave it” line sans any hints of racial commentary or by sampling saying that he “doesn’t have a racist bone in [his] body.” This strategy represents Trump realizing albeit late, that the tweet was worded poorly and he is being more concise in his criticism of the hard left. He has distanced himself from anything wording to the effect of “go back to your country” in favor of the old conservative tag line “love it or leave it.”

Leaving out any wording that suggests any racial commentary –even if none was meant, is a must for Trump going forward. He was wrong to use any wording related to the phrase “go back to your country” or any similar theme. The president is not a racist; he touts the prosperity brought to minorities under his administration every other day on twitter. He has appointed minorities to high government offices such as black neurosurgeon Ben Carson as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Elaine L. Chao who was the first Asian-American to be appointed to a cabinet position as Secretary of transportation etc. The American people seem to believe this too considering that his poll numbers among blacks are significantly higher than they were for him in 2016 and far better than Mitt Romney’s before him. The tweets that set off this mess appear to be one-off mistakes that will not be repeated. Now, he is sticking with the race neutral message that anyone who does not love America is free to leave it, inferring that his radical left wing opponents do not love America of course. Wording like that is largely safe from misinterpretation. Senator Ron Johnson (R) concurred with this recently declaring on CNN that, “the whole America love or leave it is not a new sentiment. Back in the 1960s, that wasn’t considered racist” he then went on to blame race creeping into to every facet of life for mischaracterizing the phrase as racist. With any luck, Trump can keep from sticking his foot in his mouth with more poorly worded tweets and chants like that which happened in North Carolina do not repeat themselves.

Image credit: CNN “Donald Trump isn’t learning from his mistakes (opinion) – CNN”

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