Friday, June 24, 2011

Responding to The Gumball Video

Yesterday, I tweeted the following:
Worldwide, 145 million adults want to move to the US & 43 million to Canada: Let them in! #tcot #tlot #uspoli #cdnpoli
Fellow twit Winghunter responded with this:
@planstoprosper The Gumball Video (5 min) It's always better to have a clue.

The embedded video on that site is tiny, so I've embedded a larger version above. If my embedding doesn't work for you, the Youtube page is here.

In the video, Roy Beck uses gumballs to argue against increasing immigration. The thrust of his argument is that the people who are allowed to immigrate to the US (about a million per year) are so very few compared to the three billion "desperately poor" that it doesn't make enough of a difference. Therefore, he is against allowing even more people to immigrate. Wait, what?

Beck says that there's too little immigration to make a difference, therefore there should be even less immigration. He makes this argument with a straight face, so either he's a better actor than me, or he honestly believes this nonsense (or both-- I'm really bad at acting). Either way, I don't support immigration just because I think it will help other countries (even though it does, however small the effect might be). I support (legal) immigration because I think it will help my country, the good ol' U.S. of A. Maybe that's selfish, but it's true.

There are undeniable benefits to increased immigration. The greatest natural resource available to the United States (or any other country) is the human mind. Only people can innovate, and we need innovation if we want to grow. The more legal immigrants who come to the US, who go to our schools, who work for our companies, the better off we will be. They will bring their own ideas, or improve on American ideas, or work with Americans to develop totally new ideas. Think of Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, I.M. Pei, Joseph Pulitzer, Irving Berling, Andrew Carnegie, Levi Strauss or Muhammad Yunus, all of them immigrants. (Never mind the children of immigrants, or their children!) We would be a far poorer society, both economically and culturally, without the steady influence of immigrants throughout American history.

What about the downsides? Roy Beck makes some vague and unsubstantiated references to the effect of legal immigration "on our unemployed, the working poor, the most vulnerable members of our society," and "on our natural resources." It is true that immigration increases labor supply, and when supply increases, the price falls, if everything else is kept constant. But everything else is not kept constant, because all these immigrants want to eat and buy homes and go on vacations and find other ways to spend the money they're earning. This means businesses have to expand to serve them, which means they have to hire new employees. This increases labor demand, and when labor demand increases, wages rise. Since immigration increases both labor supply and labor demand, there is very little to no net effect on wages or native employment. The downsides that Beck is afraid of simply don't exist, which might be why he spends so little time talking about them.

What this boils down to is the freedom of individuals to act in their own best interests without the government getting in the way. Immigration is one of those bizarre issues where many people who otherwise recognize the power and beauty of the free market beg for government control. As in so many other areas, the best thing the government can do is get out of the way. If people want to move to America, I say let them in.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Second Republican Primary Debate (NH)

The second Republican primary debate was held Monday night. I watched the hockey game instead, but the entire debate is now on Youtube (this version is in three parts but is missing some chunks, this version is in nine parts and has some local weather warnings obscuring the sound from time to time, while this version seems to be the official CNN version, ads and all). It's a shame that Gary Johnson wasn't invited, as he was one of my favorites from the first debate, and he was, after all, the governor of New Mexico for eight years. That's more experience than some of those who were invited can claim.

Seven candidates took to the stage for this debate, among them two former Congressmen (Santorum and Gingrich), two current Congresspersons (Bachmann and Paul), two former governors (Romney and Pawlenty) and Herman Cain. Before watching this debate, my opinions of Gingrich, Romney and Paul were solidly negative; of Santorum and Cain, slightly negative; of Bachmann basically neutral; of Pawlenty, slightly positive.

Below, I've summarized and responded to each candidate's positions. As I did last time, I've also scored each position positive, zero or negative based on my gut reaction to it.

  • Introduction: He wants us to know about his executive experience (doing what?) and his seven children. His "six or seven second" statement lasted 16 seconds. (0)
  • In order to stimulate the economy, he wants to drill for oil. Drilling for oil is good, but it's not gonna do a thing for the economy right now. (0)
  • Asked how he would appeal to non-Tea-Partiers and independents, he talks about eliminating entitlements. He thinks the Tea Party is "great" and calls it the "backbone" of the Republican party. Definitely not the answer that the questioner wanted to hear, but I like it. (+1)
  • He doesn't even let the moderator finish the question before he interrupts to say how he's from a manufacturing state. He would cut the capital gains tax in half and eliminate it for five years for those investing in manufacturing. Wrong answer. Why should we encourage investment in manufacturing over telecommunications or medicine or any other industry? (-1)
  • Leno or Conan: Neither, but maybe Leno. (0)
  • When the entire group is asked about auto bailouts, Santorum is the one to speak up and emphatically say that he agrees with Romney (the auto companies should have gone through bankruptcy earlier and without the bailouts). Which is alright, because I agree too. (+1)
  • He says Ryan's plan takes Medicare Part D and applies it to the rest of Medicare, which he supports. He also refers to himself in the third person, which is kinda creepy. (0)
  • "If your faith is pure and your reason is right, they'll end up in the same place." (+1)
  • Supports an amendment to the US Constitution on gay marriage, but points out that an amendment requires three-fourths of the states to approve it for it to pass. (-1)
  • The military is not a place for "social experimentation." He says, "It should be repealed," which I assume means DADT should be repealed like Obama is doing, although he could be saying that Obama's repeal should be repealed. Then he says he agrees with Ron Paul, which sounds like it contradicts his first statement. Hmm. (0)
  • He says voters should pay attention to candidates' records on abortion, and calls into question Romney's authenticity as a pro-lifer (without saying it directly). Social issues are where Santorum really shines, and it's a shame that his question on abortion was wasted by having to focus on Romney instead. (0)
  • "We should not be offering government benefits" to illegal immigrants. (0)
  • He wants to phase out the ethanol subsidy and the ethanol tariff over five years. Getting rid of these things is good, but why take five years? Why not do it right away? Or, you know, within a single term as President? (0)
  • "We do need" military bases around the world. No, Mr. Santorum, we don't. (-1)
  • What has he learned in the past two hours? That this is a strong field of candidates. Good answer, even if it's parroting what Cain said a minute before. At least he acknowledged that Cain said it first though. (+1)
  • Introduction: She wants us to know that she used to be a lawyer, now she's in Congress, and she has had 23 foster children. Take that, Santorum! Her "six or seven second" statement lasted 24. (0)
  • She wants to repeal Dodd-Frank too, and oh-by-the-way, she's now officially a candidate, but she's going to wait awhile to formally announce. Because people who aren't running for office show up for the debate all the time. (0) 
  • Asked about her specific plan to get rid of Obamacare, she'd rather talk about how bad Obamacare is. Thanks, but we already know that. (0)
  • She's got a nice defense of the Tea Party, saying it represents a "wide swath" of Americans. She also gets the first real applause of the night by declaring that Obama is a one-term President. (+1)
  • On manufacturing jobs, she says we need to repeal Obamacare (at least she's on-message) and do something about the EPA. I don't know what that has to do with manufacturing jobs. (0)
  • Elvis or Johnny Cash: "Both." Really? I know this isn't a pressing national issue, but could you be more of a politician in your answer? (0)
  • She says she fought her own party on TARP, because it was wrong then and it's wrong now. (+1)
  • "Unless there are serious cuts, I can't" vote to raise the debt limit. She also brings up Obama's "failure of leadership" quote about the debt limit. (+1)
  • "The best possible way to raise children is to have a mother and father in their life." At the same time, the federal government should not overturn state laws on gay marriage. (+1)
  • She does support an amendment to the US Constitution on gay marriage, but would not overturn state law... erm, clarification, please? This is like answering "both" for Elvis or Johnny Cash. (-1)
  • She would keep DADT, but when the moderator reminds her that Obama is getting rid of it, she basically changes her mind to "what Newt said." (-1)
  • She is "100% pro-life" and mentions her 23 foster children for a third time. (0)
  • We do not have "a vital national interest" in Libya. I'm not sure whether she's more upset that Obama went into Libya in the first place, or that he wasn't leading the pack when he did. Elvis or Johnny Cash? (-1)
  • If she had to pick one of the other candidates on stage to be her VP, who would it be? I love her answer, to put it to a vote and "let the audience decide," but I don't believe for a second that this is what she actually believes. This is just another way of answering, "Both." Still, she's put the idea out there. (0)
  • What has she learned in the past two hours? About "the goodness of the American people." Oh, goodness. (-1)
  • Introduction: Newt doesn't want us to know anything we don't already know, and rather than campaign against the other Republicans, he's already campaigning against Obama. On the other hand, his "six or seven second" statement lasted only 9, the shortest by far. (-1)
  • Asked about the deficit and taxes on the rich, Gingrich doesn't want to talk about either of them, he just wants to talk about jobs and the Reagan era. He finally says that Congress should repeal Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley this week. Hey, maybe if he hadn't quit Congress he could've actually done something instead of just talking about it. (-1)
  • He's supported the individual mandate in the past, but now believes that it's unconstitutional. I'd like him to really address that contradiction, but he doesn't want to. (-1)
  • Gingrich wishes he was at the South Carolina debate so he could talk about Boeing. That's what you get for not showing up, Newt. He would not support federal right-to-work legislation on Tenth Amendment grounds. (-1)
  • NASA has given us "failure after failure" and "bureaucracy after bureaucracy", and it needs to get out of the way. This is the strongest answer Gingrich has given by far, and I absolutely love his unbridled optimism on this issue. "You could get into space faster, better, more effectively, more creatively, if you decentralized it, get out of Washington and cut out the bureaucracy. It's not about getting rid of the space program, it's about getting to a real space program that works." (+2)
  • Dancing with the Stars or American Idol: American Idol, no hesitation. (0)
  • He says his "right wing social engineering" quote was taken out of context, and he'd be "happy to repeat" it. Wrong answer. He supports Representative Tom Price's private contracting bill. Meh. (-1)
  • "If you're not prepared to be loyal to the United States, you will not serve in my administration, period." (+1)
  • Helped write DOMA, and supports an amendment to the US Constitution on gay marriage. DOMA is alright, insofar as the federal government has to have a gay marriage policy as long as they offer marriage benefits to employees. But we don't need an amendment. (-1)
  • He would "listen to the commanders" on DADT, which is code for bringing it back. (-1)
  • "Herman Cain is essentially right," on immigration, Gingrich says, and then focuses on securing the border. Which means Newt Gingrich is essentially wrong. Of Cain's four points on immigration, securing the border is the weakest. (-1)
  • Get out of Libya "as rapidly as possible" and we need a "totally new strategy for the region." Getting out of Libya is good, but trying to scare people about al Qaeda controlling the rebels isn't. (0)
  • What has he learned in the past two hours? Why New Hampshire is first in the nation-- because it asks good questions. Erm... (-1)
  • Introduction: Mitt doesn't want to talk about being governor of Massachusetts. He doesn't even mention it. Way to run on your record! Although with his record, I can understand why. His "six or seven second" statement lasted 20. (-1)
  • He doesn't want to talk about Pawlenty's plan for growth, or what he would do, he just wants to talk about how bad Obama has made things. (-1)
  • Three differences between Romneycare and Obamacare: Romney didn't raise taxes, Romney didn't take money from Medicare and states can do what the federal government can't. He also says he would extend waivers to all 50 states on his first day in office and would repeal Obamacare. I wish I could believe him... (0)
  • He says he wishes that Obama had called him and asked what parts of Romneycare worked and what didn't before basing Obamacare on it. This is the response he should have given the first time. (+1) Also, this is why most debates have those bells. The moderator's constant interruptions are getting annoying.
  • Mitt thinks the auto companies should have gone through the regular bankruptcy process from the beginning, and the auto bailout was a waste of money that gave Obama the chance to "put his hands on the scales of justice". (+1)
  • He'd like to say something about the role of government and the space program, and he seems to be leaning towards privatization, but the moderator cuts him off. (0)
  • Instead of asking what we should cut from the federal budget, we should ask what we should keep, and get rid of the rest. (+1)
  • We should only raise the debt limit if Obama lays out a serious plan to cut spending. (+1)
  • We are never going to have sharia law, but, "People of all faiths are welcome in this country. We treat people with respect regardless of their religious persuasion." (+2)
  • Spicy or mild: Spicy, and Bruins are up 4-0 (they went on to win 5-2). (0)
  • Supports an amendment to the US Constitution on gay marriage. (-1)
  • We should be talking about the economy, but since he has to answer the question, he thinks DADT should have been kept in place. He doesn't say what he would do as President, though. (-1)
  • He says he would appoint judges who follow the constitution, and he believes in the sanctity of life from beginning to end, but doesn't address the fact that he didn't always believe this. (0)
  • Romney believes in eminent domain for "a public purpose," though not for private organizations. (-1)
  • We should bring our troops home "as soon as we possibly can," but then he gets confused about whether the Taliban is our friend or not. Hmm. Then he says we should listen to the generals. Hmm again. (-1)
  • "I wasn't asked a question, but I'd like to speak up and complain about Obama again." (-1)
  • What has he learned in the past two hours? "People in New Hampshire love the future." I thought he was about to steal the Gingrich-Obama WTF slogan. (-1)
  • Introduction: Ron Paul has probably given the best introduction so far. The only mention of children is a reference to his job before becoming a Congressman, and he gave a concise description of his experience and vision. His "six or seven second" statement lasted 17. (+1) I'm also glad to see from the relative amounts of applause that this crowd doesn't seem to be as heavy on Paulites as the South Carolina debate was.
  • Has Obama done one thing right on the economy? "That's a tough question!" So instead, he talks about monetary policy and how bad the last decade has been. (-1)
  • How would he bring manufacturing jobs back (as though we needed to)? We need a stronger dollar, and to cut taxes on foreigners who want to repatriate US dollars... Yeah, because political control of monetary policy has worked so well in every other country it's been tried in. (-1)
  • Government assistance to private enterprise is "not morally correct," "not legal," "bad economics" and "not part of the constitution." He manages to get the third applause of the night, not counting the introduction round, and his first. I'm really glad the Paulites didn't show up for this one. (+1)
  • "Corrections are good." If you call it a "correction" that sounds a lot better than calling it what most people do, a recession. Do you really want to elect a President who believes that "recessions are good"? (-1)
  • Blackberry or iPhone: Hesitation... Blackberry. (0)
  • Medicare "can't be made solvent." Unless we do something about the military-industrial complex. Yawn. (-1)
  • "You can't teach people how to be moral," which is something every Sunday school teacher in the country would disagree with. The Constitution "literally" says "no theocracy"... No, Mr. Paul, the Constitution literally does not contain the word "theocracy" at all. Then he misquotes the First Amendment, and as if that wasn't enough, he says the First Amendment means, "Congress should never prohibit the expression of your Christian faith." Every other faith is fair game! The more I listen to Ron Paul, the more astonished I am that anyone takes him seriously. (-2)
  • "Get the government out" of marriage. Exactly what I think, except then he muddles his point by talking about individual vs group rights. (+1)
  • Would not "work to overthrow" the overturning of DADT. (+1)
  • We should be protecting our borders, not "the borders between Iraq and Afghanistan"... Wait, does he think those two countries border each other? (-1)
  • Paul is against eminent domain, and he says it "goes back to [a] basic understanding of property rights." Right on. (+1)
  • "I'm the commander in chief. I tell the generals what to do." And he would tell them to withdraw from Afghanistan and Libya. (+1)
  • Which one of his fellow candidates would he have in his administration? He'd have to do some "quizzing" first and find out what they believe about the Federal Reserve. (0)
  • What has he learned in the past two hours? "We can be civil to each other." Yawn. (0)
  • Introduction: He wants us to know that he's... a neighbor? What on earth does that mean? Who would he say isn't a neighbor? His "six or seven second" statement lasted 19. (-1)
  • Five percent growth isn't out of our reach because China and Brazil can grow five percent. That's a pretty bad defense, since China and Brazil are achieving that growth by implementing technologies that were previously developed in advanced economies. But I like that he called Obama a "declinist." (+1)
  • Asked about his "Obamneycare" comment, T-Paw goes to great lengths to avoid talking about it. Even when asked directly by the moderator, he basically blames Obama for his own comment about "Obamneycare." (-1)
  • He grew up in a meat-packing town and was in a union... yawn. "Number one, we gotta have fair trade." He also says, "I'm not for being stupid." Sorry T-Paw, but those two statements are contradictory. (-2)
  • He "support[s] strongly" a federal right-to-work law, which would make union membership voluntary. (+1)
  • We shouldn't "end the space program" even though we're facing budget difficulties. What Gingrich says right after is right on target: "You mischaracterized me." (0)
  • How to end the housing crisis? "Get the government out of crony capitalism" and grow the economy again. Nice generic answer. (0)
  • He "is going to have" his own plan, focused on making Medicare an option. Could be good when it gets here. (+1)
  • The separation of church and state is to "protect people of faith from government, not government from people of faith." Another nice generic answer. (0)
  • Unclear on whether he thinks gay marriage is a state or federal issue, but it sounds like he supports an amendment to the US Constitution. (-1)
  • On DADT, he would do what military commanders tell him to do, which means he'd bring it back. (-1)
  • He says he is "solidly pro-life" and touts his record from Minnesota as proof. (+1)
  • If the federal government won't secure the borders, then the states should. He also will appoint "conservative justices" who will oppose birthright citizenship. Because somehow opposing birthright citizenship is conservative? What the hell, T-Paw? (-1)
  • Coke or Pepsi: Coke, no hesitation. (0)
  • Does he agree with Ron Paul on Yemen? Blah blah blah, stall stall stall... he would do the same thing Obama is doing. (0)
  • Iraq is one of the "shining examples of success" and Sarah Palin is "a remarkable leader," and "qualified to be President." No comment. (-1)
  • What has he learned in the past two hours? "The Boston Bruins have more heart than the Vancouver Canucks." Sounds like someone was paying more attention to his Blackberry/iPhone than to the actual debate. (0)
  • Introduction: He says he's "not a politician" but "a problem solver." That's a good way to handle his lack of experience, but I didn't need to hear about his grandkids. His "six or seven second" statement lasted 21. (0)
  • How to create jobs? Lower taxes, eliminate the capital gains tax and make the changes permanent because there's too much uncertainty right now. (+1)
  • He believes he can use his business experience to include the American people in his administration, rather than exclude them as he says Obama has done. It's a pretty vague answer, but it does address his lack of experience. (0)
  • He supports right-to-work, at least at the state level, and says Obama is "killing our free market system." (+1)
  • Cain initially supported TARP, but opposes how Obama handled it by "picking winners and losers." He also doesn't believe in "too big to fail," for which he gets the night's fourth round of applause. (+1)
  • The federal government should be doing food safety inspections, but he'd rather talk about "a crisis of the three E's"-- economy, entitlements, energy. (0)
  • "You're not gonna get most of the money you put into Medicare if we don't restructure it." How do we restructure it? Cain "totally support[s]" Ryan's plan. (+1)
  • Move gradually to a private Social Security system like Chile's, with a cut-off at age 40. He would not raise the retirement age. (+1)
  • Cain would not be comfortable with a Muslim in his administration, but he doesn't want to call it a litmus test or a loyalty test. (-1)
  • Deep dish or thin crust: Deep dish, with a deep voice. (0)
  • Gay marriage: "States' decision." (+1)
  • He would've liked to keep DADT, but he won't reinstate it. (+1)
  • Is abortion an issue in this campaign, or is everyone pro-life enough that it's case closed? Herman Cain says, "Case closed," but I'd like to hear more. (0)
  • Cain believes there should be no birthright citizenship. (-1) (He also repeats his four points on immigration from the first debate, which earned him a (0) the first time.)
  • We need to know more about Libya before going forward, and if it's not in our "vital national interest" to be there, then we shouldn't be there. (+1)
  • People only think this is a weak field of candidates because they "don't know us yet." (0)
  • What has he learned in the past two hours? "It's about the children." He almost gets a point just for being able to say that with a straight face. (0)
I really wish CNN would have used bells or something to time the candidates. The moderator's constant "B- b- b- b-" was extremely annoying, and CNN should know better than to use the "honor system" for timing the debate. A lot of people on Twitter were annoyed by the "this or that" questions, but I thought they were short enough to provide some variety without getting in the way. Plus, Bachmann's answer of "both" really foreshadowed her answer on just about every substantive question where she was asked to make a choice.

Summing my gut reactions for each candidate, Cain gets +6, Santorum +1, Bachmann 0, Paul -1, Romney -2, Pawlenty -4, Gingrich -6. These don't really matter, since every candidate got different questions for the most part, and some got more than others.

Gingrich is flat wrong about almost everything except space. I think he should forget about the White House and campaign for NASA Administrator instead. Romney should also forget about the White House. I know he's currently the "front-runner" (whatever that means with about 8 months before the first primaries), but for me he's just the loser from last time. And remember that last time we nominated the loser from the previous time, we got McCain. (I have similar feelings about Palin if she ever decides to get into the race.) Romney needs to step aside and let the new faces provide some new solutions.

Which brings me to Bachmann, who really disappointed me. I have a feeling that I agree with her on a lot of important issues, but she kept changing her mind in the debate, or trying to have it both ways. "Both" is a mildly acceptable answer for "Elvis vs Johnny Cash." It's not at all acceptable for "Federal Control vs State Control" or "Bomb Libya vs Don't Bomb Libya."

T-Paw also disappointed me. I mean, fair trade, really? How can anyone oppose regulation and "crony capitalism" so strongly and then do a complete 180 and oppose free trade? The thing is, he did so well in the first debate, and then he came out and opposed ethanol subsidies in Iowa and went and got my hopes up. I hope he comes out with a statement that he meant to say "free" instead of "fair" and was just distracted by watching the hockey game on his smartphone. I would also accept the explanation that he couldn't stop thinking how unfair it was that he got stuck next to Ron Paul.

Speaking of Ron Paul, he did much better than I thought he would. He was right on when it came to gay marriage, eminent domain and corporate welfare, and he managed to sound sane on Afghanistan and Libya. If only he wasn't so nutty on every other issue... Santorum clearly struggled in this debate. His strength is really the social issues, and he didn't get a chance to talk about those very much, since this debate focused on the economy. I love his quote about faith and reason, though.

Finally, Herman Cain. Two huge blunders-- First, his response on Muslims should have been exactly what Romney said right after. The United States does not discriminate based on religion. Second, supporting birthright citizenship is a no-brainer. Every person in America is equal under the law, and the sins of the parents are not passed on to the children.