Posts Tagged ‘politicians’

Originally posted to Facebook Notes

No term limits, but no consecutive terms

I was quite fortunate in that I ran low on money after my music scholarship ran out and ended up compromising by taking some of my core liberal arts credits through night extension courses at Oakland Community College through both the Auburn Hills and Farmington Hills campuses. I say fortunate because larger universities seem to be gathering places for a lot of left-wing thinkers and it tended to be a source of conflict at both Oakland University and Eastern Michigan University where I later transferred after moving to Ann Arbor. (although one of my most enjoyable college classes of all was a business ethics course run by a brilliant philosophy teacher at EMU who was admittedly a liberal)
O.C.C. however, especially in their extension courses (which were often run by professionals from the community rather than tenured faculty), more often than not had conservative minded teachers. One such class was a basic economics course run by an obvious supply-side thinker. All that is neither here nor there to my idea of how to handle term limits, however, one day in class he was discussing the principle of ‘velocity of money’ and this potential solution struck me.

The notion was that I, at the time, foresaw one of the biggest problems with the entrenched incumbency existing in our government as being a lack of new ideas. The same out-of-touch guys keep getting elected and re-elected through combination of their celebrity/name-recognition, franking privilege, party backing, practices like gerrymandering and the use of their pulpit. I don’t really support the notion of term limits because it reduces choice, but at the same time the desires of the founding fathers was not to have ‘career politicians’ holding the same office for life. Moreover most of them were reluctant to even hold office themselves and quickly reverted to civilian pursuits as soon as their one or two terms were complete.
THAT was the intention of their interest in republican rule. To encourage the common man to serve as leader if his ideas resounded with the people, but then to return to the common. The problem was in essence, a lack of ‘velocity of ideas’.

The economic principle was that you did not need to increase money supply to stimulate an economy. You simply needed to seek means by which to increase the ‘velocity of money’ – to make the existing money supply change hands rather than stagnate in savings or investments. In short, to encourage spending to stimulate production to revitalize the economy. Gross National Product goes up faster with increased velocity of money than with any other means.

Therefore if you are going to address problems with stagnant ideas in politics, you need to increase the velocity of ideas. You need to get back to – or at least attempt to approach closer to – the founders’ intentions. Encourage the common man to enter politics and discourage the career politician from stagnating in office.

The answer was obvious. Don’t limit terms – just don’t let anyone hold the same office twice in a row. The big argument on term limits has always been ‘it takes a while for someone to learn the system’ – I replace the word system with the word ‘game’ because that’s pretty much what it is… political game playing. Well guess what, if everyone is coming in to the office fresh (or at least reasonably fresh), far less entrenched ‘system’ of game playing to learn.

Would this mean no career politicians? NO, not at all. But tell me it would be a bad thing for someone that wanted to make a career of it to have to leave the Senate to take a seat for 2 years in the house or back at his state level before again running for the 6 year term!

Instant run-off ballots!

This one is by far not my idea. It’s actually been done. The concept of an instant run-off ballot is that you are not restricted to one choice. I see this as a benefit also because many times third parties with legitimately viable ideas are overshadowed by people’s desire ‘not to waste a vote’ on a candidate they think is unlikely to win. The old Douglas Adams argument comes into play:

“The people are people, the leaders are lizards. The lizards hate the people and the people hate the lizards. It’s a democracy! […] of course people vote for [the lizards], if they don’t, the wrong lizard might get in.”

An instant run-off ballot gives you the ability to make more than one choice in order of preference or to vote no preference at all on candidates you do not like. i.e. if you really like what the reform party candidate is saying but don’t want to waste your vote afraid that party ‘x’s popular candidate will win over your second choice in party ‘y’, you make your first choice for the reform candidate and your second for the party Y candidate.

After ballots are collected, if there is not a ‘super majority’ (over 50%), they take whoever’s name is the last on the list (least number of ‘first choice’ votes) off the list and tally in any ‘second choice’ candidates on those voter ballots to add to the existing totals and so on until one candidate has earned 50%

I think this kind of a process with so many conflicting ideas out there makes a lot more sense than the current ‘this guy or that guy’ method of the bi-cameral, one-person-one-vote-for-one-candidate nonsense we have in place today. And it would go a long way to introduce new concepts into politics as those 2nd (and beyond) choices needed to be tallied in.

Proportional salaries for politicians

I commented briefly on this in another response to someone on another facebook page who was referring to government dictation of executive pay as a factor of corporate profits and company well being. I’m ever and always saying we should hold our politicians to the same standards they try to introduce, legislate and enforce BEFORE giving them any audience for ridiculous notions sold as ‘fairness’.

Therefore, politician salaries should be proportional to the ‘average income’ of people whom they represent. It wouldn’t have to be a 1-to-1 correlation but should be across the board in any political wing (states could decide their own ratio, federal ratios should be uniform in the house and senate) and should be fixed so that only a public vote could change the ratio. (I also firmly believe that politicians should NOT be allowed to arbitrarily vote on their own compensation, benefits or what have you – that is insane!)

This would shift the incentive of politicians from ‘what they could get to give to their voters’ to what they can do to improve the lives, salaries and self-sufficiency of their voters overnight!

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Originally posted to Facebook Notes
Published in the Ann Arbor News
We’ve all heard the outrage from the current majority in the congress about the bonuses being received by AIG executives. The rally cry is to give it all back. So let’s take a look at one of these groups and examine the facts…. 

The group to which I refer have managed to get into leadership positions and are obviously taking advantage of those positions for great personal gain. Most of them started out wealthy and are using their authority to leverage lucrative bonuses to further expand their wealth. The average salary is about $160,000 but the average ‘self-worth’ of this group ranges around 18 million dollars and has been steadily increasing.over the last few years. In addition to the benefits these folks receive as a result of their jobs they also utilize their position to leverage other wealth through investments, writing books or doing speaking engagements.
Their retirement plans are the envy of most ‘common’ americans. Yet they still keep asking for more while taking advantage of the organizations they work for and the people who depend on those organizations. And of course it is public funds that are being used to keep their salaries at these rates.

Am I talking about the CEO’s at AIG? No I am not. I am talking about the United States Senate. As long as they are pointing fingers at the ‘evil rich’ it is about time we hold them to their own standards! Demand your senators to give back what they made last year and see how long it takes for them to hang up the phone on you!


Average wealth for members of the US Congress

Average wealth for members of the US Congress

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I always got quite a hoot out of a bumpersticker I once saw:

“The lottery is a tax on people who can’t do math”

If you ever calculate the odds using Probability & Statistics, you will begin to understand that statement. For example, in this state they use a ‘Lotto 47’ scheme for their big lottery. (scheme is probably a very appropriate word for it!) The process of calculating the odds yourself can get a tad scary.

As it turns out, you don’t have to do that, the State of Michigan is nice enough to have those odds available online. Yup, the odds are 10,737,573 to 1 for winning the big pot. According to their own website the population for the entire state as of the middle of last year was only 10,112,620 people. So by those figures, if everyone in the state were to buy a unique ticket, there would still be a chance that no one would win the big jackpot.

I used to tell people: “Imagine if you take a $1 bill – fully soak it in gasoline for over a minute, set it on the ground and light a match to it. Wait about 60 seconds – flip over whatever might be left and pour a cup of barbeque lighter fluid on it. Wait another 60 seconds – stomp it out thoroughly… the chances of having something you can actually ‘spend’ at the end of this exercise are pretty close to your chances of winning the jackpot

I actually think your odds are better [having something spendable] in that scenario so I started to phrase it another way. Whenever I see people standing in line for the jackpots on these things, I give them a suggestion. (it so often seems that those standing in line to buy lotto tickets are from the lower income brackets – funny, isn’t it politicians {who tell us they are ‘against poverty‘ and want to tax ‘only the rich‘} who bring us such things? But I digress…)

I suggest to them “why don’t you bet ‘1,2,3,4,5,6‘?” They of course respond with something like “oh, that will never happen!” After which I point out that it has the same statistical probability as any other combination.
At this point they will generally glaze over and sometimes those that are at least beginning to comprehend the staggering nature of it will pause briefly only to end up changing all their bets to ‘easy picks’ (instead of using their standard ‘friends and family birthdays’ or ‘road signs I saw on the way home’ scheme) thinking that somehow by having a computer randomly pick their combinations for them it will help them overcome the unsurmountable odds which they still don’t understand.

I am getting off on a tangent, but my point is – I do not play the lotto. You can’t win – or at least it is a virtual impossibility to win. Sure, a lotto die-hard will point out to you that “well you can always win with 3, 4 or 5 numbers” but of course, just about every state system has now stacked the deck in their favor by replacing the ‘proportional’ jackpots on these lower prizes to ‘capped’ (note that the word used on the Michigan website is ‘guaranteed!’ – euphamisms are great aren’t they?) jackpot values. In other words, if the jackpot gets proportionally large, you loose out and don’t get any larger a share of it.
Calculating the odds for these combinations is much more complex but you can refer back to the link mentioned above to see what the odds work out like. It works out to about 1 in 47 that you can win at least $5 and it’s 1 in about 850 that you will win anything larger. Think about this for a second. That means that even if you can figure out the magic methodology to program your computer to pick a series of lotto combinations that would statistically guarantee you would win at least the ‘smallest’ of prizes, you would still have to spend about $48 bucks just to win $5!

So before I get too far off on another tangent let’s get back to the basic principle intended by this post. I don’t play the lotto because you aren’t likely to win. Yet I realize there are other things that I will do everyday even though the odds are not in my favor of winning or otherwise coming out ahead.
Trying to negotiate I-94 during rush hour comes to mind, but at least I have some level of control over whether or not I take I-94 or an alternate route and over whether I become that slow moron in the right lane who insists on going the speed limit so I can make it home safely.

We all of course try to get ahead in our jobs. Some of us start our own jobs. According to the US census bureau in 2002, there are 7,200,770 establishments (businesses) in the United States with an average employee total of about 16 employees per business. So if you start your own firm, you are but on in 7 million (and that’s just in the US) and if you choose to work for someone else, you have an average 1 in 15 chance of rising to just below the top (considering that the owner or proprietor is someone else).

I am politically active and regularly call my (unfortunately ‘Democratic’) senators and my congressman thinking it might actually have some impact on the idiotic things they will support regardless of my phone call. It’s gotten to the point where the women answering the phones will actually say something like “oh no, it’s YOU again”. If nothing else, I have at least that satisfaction so I consider that worthwhile. I’m sure I could pull up the statistics on their districts as well, but you get the point.

Of course, there is one other biggie – the one that motivated this particular chain of thought in the first place. That is of course, trying to understand a woman. Yes, my girlfriend inspired this thought process.
No matter what it is that I try to do to adhere to what she ‘wants’ – I don’t win, yet I still keep trying to do it anyway. Hell, even the matter of trying to figure out just what it is ‘she wants’ is a near impossible task. It’s sorta like the capped lotto jack pots, as soon as you find a way to make the odds a little more in your favor, they up and change the rules on you.

So go figure, perhaps I should play the lotto tomorrow. Goodness knows I can’t get my senator to do anything right and I’ll be working the rest of my life trying to keep a woman happy without much success, so maybe those lottery odds are starting to look a little good.

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