Author Archives: weeklysift

Doug Muder is a former mathematician who now writes about politics and religion. He is a frequent contributor to UU World.

Caught In Between

Republicans think I’m too old to be president but not old enough for Social Security.

– a line suggested for Hillary Clinton

This week’s featured posts are “Death, Taxes, and the American Dream” and “The 2016 Stump Speeches: Marco Rubio“.

This week everybody was talking about Social Security

This week Chris Christie walked into one of the most dangerous gaps in politics: Among Republicans, it’s common to raise the specter of Social Security or Medicare going bankrupt soon. That gets you high marks from the Commentariat for being realistic.

But saying what you want to do about that envisioned bankruptcy is another matter. Because once you accept that dogma that no tax can be raised under any circumstances, the only alternative is to make significant cuts in benefits. The more specific you get about those cuts, the less likely anyone is to applaud.

I haven’t read Christie’s plan, but U. S. News summarized it like this:

Christie proposed increasing the retirement age for Social Security to 69, beginning with gradual increases in 2022, as well as raising the early retirement age to 64 from 62, and changing the way cost-of-living increases are calculated for Social Security and other benefit programs, an adjustment that would mean smaller increases in the future.

He’d also increase the Medicare eligibility age gradually to 67 by 2040 — and turn Medicaid into a block grant program to the states, which Republicans have long proposed and critics say could mean reduced benefits over time. … the New Jersey governor also proposed reducing Social Security benefits in the future for retirees earning more than $80,000 a year and eliminating them for those with annual incomes of $200,000 or more.

I have two snap reactions:

  1. There’s a hidden class issue in raising the age limits. If you look at the population as a whole, people are living longer, so it makes sense to gradually raise the ages. But that increase in life expectancy is much smaller for the poor, and to keep working past 65 is much harder if you do manual labor than if you have a desk job.
  2. When you eliminate benefits for those who don’t need them, you’re implicitly turning Social Security and Medicare into welfare programs. The next step is for conservatives to start squeezing those programs the way they squeeze all welfare programs, making those who continue to benefit seem like losers and moochers.

Still, if this plan forces all the other candidates to get specific, that would raise the quality of discussion.

and more about 2016

This week my 2016 speeches series discusses Marco Rubio’s announcement speech on Monday. I stayed serious in that article, so I didn’t get around to mentioning this line from Monday’s Conan O’Brien monologue:

A little fun fact: Marco Rubio’s wife is a former Miami Dolphin cheerleader. In other words, she knows how to generate fake enthusiasm for someone who’s not going to win.


I haven’t included Hillary Clinton’s announcement video in my 2016 Speeches series because there just isn’t enough content there to talk about. It’s well designed, and does a good job of identifying her with Americans who are working towards better things in their lives, but it doesn’t try to answer the basic questions my series is focused on: “Where does America need to go and why am I the person to lead it there?” Presumably she’ll develop a stump speech later on, and then I’ll cover it.

Meanwhile, Hillary’s poll numbers look great: She’s beating Rubio by 14 points nationally, and every other potential Republican opponent by more. The CNN commentary on the poll shows just how far you have to go to spin something against Clinton.

One area where Clinton’s numbers wilt: Only about half of Democratic men (49%) say they would be enthusiastic about having Clinton atop the Democratic ticket, compared with nearly two-thirds of Democratic women (65%).

Think about it: Half the people who are different from you in some key demographic describe themselves as enthusiastic about nominating you for president. And that’s the bad news.

The basic problem all the Republicans face is that they’re either unknown or unpopular. I believe that’s because the Republican worldview is unpopular. Once the public understands what a Republican candidate wants to do, they don’t like him.


I went to a Martin O’Malley event in Nashua (walking distance from my apartment) a couple weeks ago, but I haven’t covered it either. He was speaking to a local Young Democrats meeting. (I do a really bad impersonation of a young Democrat.)

He sounded some basic progressive themes about the destruction of the middle class since the 1970s (i.e., before Reagan took office), and pointed to his own accomplishments as governor of Maryland, but the talk was short and lacked specifics. He didn’t take questions. Like Hillary, he’ll probably flesh out that speech later in the campaign (if he’s really running).

Fun personal facts about O’Malley: He’s a perform-in-public guitar player and led us in singing “This Land is Your Land”. Also, O’Malley is often cited as the model for the Tommy Carcetti character on The Wire. (David Simon says not exactly, but admits O’Malley is one of several inspirations.)

Carcetti is a young white mayor of Baltimore whose ambition ultimately overcomes his idealism. No doubt O’Malley would reject that characterization of his two terms as mayor (1999-2007), which coincidentally overlapped the run of The Wire (2002-2008). Wikipedia says:

During his first mayoral campaign, O’Malley focused on a message of reducing crime. In his first year in office, O’Malley adopted a statistics-based tracking system called CitiStat

which does sound a lot like Carcetti. One persistent theme of The Wire is that statistics-based anything just tempts a bureaucracy to corrupt the data it reports. (When one police detective deduces where the bodies of dozens of missing mobsters must be hidden, his superiors don’t want to look. “You’re talking about raising the murder rate,” one tells him.)


Wednesday, I was at Chris Christie’s town hall meeting in Londonderry (about ten miles down the road). I may get around to describing that in detail in later weeks, but this week I’ll just observe that Christie does an A+ town hall meeting.

A town hall meeting is like an oral exam on public policy, because the candidate can’t predict what people are going to ask. It’s a high-risk situation: If all you know are a few talking points, that quickly becomes obvious, and any mistake you make could be the lead story on the evening news.

But the upside is that if you do a town hall well, the hundreds of people in the room come away far more impressed than if you just gave a good speech. In the 2000 New Hampshire campaign, front-runner George W. Bush avoided town halls (probably because he would have made a fool of himself) while John McCain sometimes did four or five in a day, and was still sharp for the last one. McCain upset Bush in the primary by a wide margin.

Christie’s Londonderry town hall was at a McCain level. (His opening remarks are on YouTube, but that’s the least impressive part. I’m just out of the picture to the left.) He demonstrated a broad and deep understanding of the issues, even to someone like me who disagrees with his answers. He’s nowhere in the polls right now, and I’m not saying he’ll win New Hampshire. But I think he’ll do better than the pundits are predicting.

and you also might be interested in …

Every change is bad for somebody. As solar energy gets cheaper, that’s good for the environment, good for homeowners and businesses, and good for the people who install solar panels.

Who’s it bad for? Utilities. Not only do they sell less power to homes with solar panels, but many states force them to buy the excess power the homes generate on sunny days. They don’t know how to predict the surges, and the transmission system wasn’t built for that.

Don’t get me started on upgrading the electrical grid. That was the project I wanted the Stimulus to focus on in 2009, and it’s even more needed now. But instead we can watch utilities try to use their lobbyists to torpedo the growth of solar.

The NYT article I linked to mentions one small-scale solution: more expensive solar installations that include batteries, so that you can store your own power and don’t rely on the grid buying it from you. One cool two-birds-with-one-stone idea is to repurpose the batteries from worn-out hybrid cars, which there should be more and more of in the coming years.


If you’re wondering what happens in abstinence-based sex education, this Michigan mom (and medical ethics professor) sat in on her son’s class. If anybody in the state legislatures are looking for wastes of tax money, abstinence programs are a place to start.

On the other hand, if you want your kid to get accurate, realistic information about sex and you live anywhere near a Unitarian church, ask if they’ll let him/her into their OWL class. Increasingly, this is what we’re coming to: you have to go to a liberal church to overcome the religion-based crap you learn in the public schools.


The North Carolina legislature is considering destroying two of the universities that define the Research Triangle by mandating a four-courses-a-semester teaching load on all professors at state universities. The head of UNC’s history department told The Daily Tarheel: “There is no major research university in the U.S. that has a four-four teaching load. I think faculty would leave.”

Slate‘s Rebecca Shuman calls the bill: “a “solution’ that could only be proposed by someone who either doesn’t know how research works or hates it.”

Half a century ago, the ideal state university was a world-class institution where tuition was so low (zero at Berkeley until Reagan fixed that “problem”) that any qualified student could afford to go there. Since then, states have been gradually getting out of the great-education-at-low-cost business, slashing their subsidies to the point that tuition at a top state university (not to mention fees and housing) can run more than $16K a year for in-state students and nearly as much as an elite private university for out-of-state students.

It only makes sense that the next step is to get rid of the idea of being a world-class institution. Why do people who can’t afford Yale need a great education anyway? Why do they need professors on the cutting edge, or the chance to work on the frontiers of knowledge? Leave that for the rich kids.


While we’re discussing ways to make the ruling class more hereditary than it already is, this week’s other featured article is “Death, Taxes, and the American Dream“. It’s my response to the House’s attempt to eliminate the estate tax, which already only applies to estates worth more than $5 million.


Here’s how desperate the anti-marriage-equality folks are for a new argument:

A reduction in the opposite-sex marriage rate means an increase in the percentage of women who are unmarried and who, according to all available data, have much higher abortion rates than married women.

and let’s close with something unexpected

Headis. It seems to be a thing in Germany.

The 2016 Stump Speeches: Marco Rubio

[This is part of a series of articles on the speeches of 2016 presidential candidates. The overall vision of the series and links to the other articles can be found here.]

When I described my model for analyzing the Republican presidential campaign a few weeks ago, I began with the cautionary tale of Tim Pawlenty, the candidate Jonathan Chait picked as the most likely Republican nominee in the 2012 cycle. Pawlenty had the virtue of being broadly acceptable to all four Republican factions, but none of them considered him to be their guy. Consequently, even though he made a much more plausible president than Herman Cain or Michele Bachmann, Pawlenty was the first man out.

To me, Marco Rubio looks like the Tim Pawlenty of 2016. (538‘s Harry Enten disagrees with me.) There’s no obvious reason he couldn’t be the Republican nominee: He’s well liked by the Corporatist donors. He’s religious enough to be acceptable to the Theocrats, bellicose enough for the NeoCons, and can preach the low-tax small-government gospel well enough for the GOP’s Libertarian wing (which is not to be confused the far more doctrinaire Libertarian Party). He’s young and good-looking, he’s from an important swing state, and he’s got that successful-son-of-immigrants thing going. If you’re a Republican, what’s not to like?

His problem is that none of the factions looks at him and thinks: “That’s my guy.” Jeb Bush is the heir to the Corporatist dynasty and Rand Paul is the Libertarian crown prince. If you’re so anti-Obama you’re ready to burn the country to the ground, Ted Cruz has been leading your crusade. If you’re holding out for a full-fledged minister of the Religious Right, Mike Huckabee is in the wings. Scott Walker seems like the Corporatists’ first alternate if Bush stumbles. So where does Rubio fit in?

The speech. Listening to Rubio’s announcement speech, (See the Time transcript.) I was expecting a serious answer to the question “Why me?” I was disappointed. His answer, when I insert the names he leaves to the listeners’ imagination, is that nobody wants another Bush vs. Clinton election.

Like Cruz and (to a lesser extent) Paul, Rubio casts his own story as a fulfillment of the American Dream. His mother and father came from Cuba in 1956. They found basic working-class jobs, but because America is the land of opportunity, they could hope for more.

My father was grateful for the work he had, but that was not the life he wanted for his children. He wanted all the dreams he once had for himself to come true for us. He wanted all the doors that closed for him to be open for me.

In what could be interpreted as a backhanded slap at Jeb Bush, Rubio said:

I live in an exceptional country where even the son of a bartender and a maid can have the same dreams and the same future as those who come from power and privilege.

He pivots from his personal story to public policy in the same way that Cruz and Paul did, and I suspect nearly every candidate will:

My parents achieved what came to be known as the American Dream. But now, too many Americans are starting to doubt whether achieving that dream is still possible.

This is becoming the question of 2016, and appropriately so — if we take it seriously and don’t use it as just a jumping-off point for promoting whatever policies we favored anyway: Economic mobility in America is not what it was. Unskilled labor is no longer easy to find and no longer pays well enough to buy a home and raise children in it and launch them into a better life. College and other forms of training for skilled jobs has become prohibitively expensive for those who weren’t born at least part-way up the ladder of success. New small businesses — small shops, small farms, small restaurants — do not so easily thrive without capital outlays beyond the dreams of struggling families. What — if anything — can be done about this?

The shrinking of the middle class and the increasing slipperiness of the ladder to success have been issues since the mid-1970s, through administrations of both parties. Carter, Clinton, and Obama didn’t fix it, but neither did Reagan or the two Bushes. So it’s long past the point where either party can just say, “All you need to do is elect us.” Rubio is exactly right when he says:

While our people and economy are pushing the boundaries of the 21st century, too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the twentieth century. … This election is not just about what laws we will pass. It is a generational choice about what kind of country we will be.

And his claim that we need a new generation of leaders rings true.

Just yesterday, a leader from yesterday [i.e., Hillary Clinton] began a campaign for President by promising to take us back to yesterday. But yesterday is over, and we are never going back. We Americans are proud of our history, but our country has always been about the future. Before us now is the opportunity to author the greatest chapter yet in the amazing story of America. We can’t do that by going back to the leaders and ideas of the past.

But then we get to Walter Mondale’s challenge to Gary Hart’s new-ideas candidacy of 1984: “Where’s the beef?” What are these new ideas that Rubio’s new generation of leaders will implement to bring the American Dream into the 21st century?

Now, the time has come for our generation to lead the way toward a new American Century.

If we reform our tax code, reduce regulations, control spending, modernize our immigration laws and repeal and replace ObamaCare, the American people will create millions of better-paying modern jobs.

If we create a 21st century system of higher education that provides working Americans the chance to acquire the skills they need, that no longer graduates students with mountains of debt and degrees that do not lead to jobs, and that graduates more students from high school ready to work, then our people will be prepared to seize their opportunities in the new economy.

If we remember that family – not government – is the most important institution in society, that all life deserves protection, and that all parents deserve to choose the education that’s right for their children, then we will have a strong people and a strong nation.

And if America accepts the mantle of global leadership, by abandoning this administration’s dangerous concessions to Iran, and its hostility to Israel; by reversing the hollowing out of our military; by giving our men and women in uniform the resources, care and gratitude they deserve; by no longer being passive in the face of Chinese and Russian aggression; and by ending the near total disregard for the erosion of democracy and human rights around the world; then our nation will be safer, the world more stable, and our people more prosperous.

What in that plan does he think Jeb Bush will disagree with? Less regulation, lower taxes on corporations and the rich, less government spending, traditional family values, strong defense, aggressive American leadership in the world. How is that different from what every Republican has been saying since Ronald Reagan?

Republicans can and do argue that those ideas are good, and that previous Republican presidents just didn’t push them hard enough or stick with them long enough. But no one can argue that they’re new, or that they constitute an answer to the unsolved problems of the last 40 years.

In Rubio’s defense, it’s early in the 2016 cycle. It is a time for themes and visions, not 12-point programs. But if the theme of his campaign is going to be that he represents a new generation of leaders for a new century, then at some point he’s going to have to point in a different direction than the old leaders. At some point he’s got to have some new ideas, not just announce the need for them.

Otherwise he’s just making a claim about demography and identity: He’s young, Hispanic, and unburdened by the name “Bush” or “Clinton”. That’s all fine, but I don’t see how it’s going to solve his Tim Pawlenty problem.

Death, Taxes, and the American Dream

As executor of my father’s estate, I learned that the #1 argument against “the Death Tax” is completely false.


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a great fortune seeking to pass from one generation of aristocrats to the next must be in need of tax relief. To this end, Thursday the House voted (mostly on party lines) to repeal the federal estate tax, a.k.a. the Death Tax.

Now, you might wonder why House Republicans would do that, given (1) Obama is sure to veto it if it gets that far, and (2) Republicans now claim they want to do something about income inequality. (They used to say it wasn’t a problem; now suddenly it is.)

So far in the 2016 cycle, the announcement speeches of all the Republican presidential candidates have centered on the next generation’s loss of hope in the American Dream. Typically they say something like this: “For me [or my parents or grandparents — I can’t wait to hear how far back Jeb Bush has to go before he finds someone who struggled] America was a place where you could come with nothing and achieve anything. I want that to continue to be true for future generations of Americans.”

None of them are talking about the old European Dream of establishing a dynasty that hands a huge fortune down through the centuries. But actions speak louder than words, and that’s the tax plan their party has united behind.

Who pays the Death Tax? As it currently stands, the federal estate tax only applies to estates larger than $5.43 million, so it is literally a multi-millionaires’ tax. The whole point of the Death-Tax framing is to fudge that fact. Everybody dies, so something called a “Death Tax” sounds like it ought to affect everyone.

But, sadly, not everybody leaves a multi-million-dollar estate. According to WaPo’s Plum Line, only 1 out of every 553 estates owes any estate tax at all. And that one gets to skim $5.43 million off the top ($10.86 million if the heir is a surviving spouse), so even if you’re fortunate enough to die with $6 million or $7 million, your estate is still not going to pay much.

So repealing the tax has nothing to do with passing a small family farm from father to son, or letting a Mom-and-Pop business continue as a Brother-Sister-and-Two-Cousins business. The real issue is the American equivalent of keeping Pemberley in the Darcy family or saving Downton Abbey for the Crawleys. Repealing the estate tax is all about the plutocracy maintaining itself.

The fairness argument. Even after Citizens United, we still have enough of a democracy that politicians can’t just admit they’re serving the hereditary aristocracy. So what do they say?

The usual argument against the estate tax is that it’s unjust, because the money is being taxed twice. I’m not sure exactly why double-taxation would be unjust — that’s a different discussion — but for now let’s just go with it: As the money came in, it was trimmed by the income tax, so taxing it again at death is unfair. The Patriot Post begins its ringing denunciation of the Death Tax like this:

There are lots of persuasive reasons to kill this odious tax. The money in a person’s estate has already been taxed over the lifetime that it was earned.

Persuasive? Maybe. It’s also false.

Dad’s farm. I’ve been hearing that double-taxation argument for years, but I didn’t realize how wrong it was until I became executor of my father’s will. One of the things Dad left behind was the family farm: a 160-acre square whose abstract of title includes documents going back to the Homestead Act.

My parents bought the farm from my grandparents in 1950 for $30,000, and I sold it to a cousin in 2013 for … well, considerably more than that. (It’s good Illinois topsoil, and Dad took care not to let it erode.) Because of the way the tax laws work, no one ever paid tax on that capital gain: not my parents while they were alive (because they didn’t realize the capital gain by selling), not the estate (which was under the $5 million limit), and not me or my sister (because of a nifty little loophole called stepped-up basis).

That’s not some special arrangement for farms; it applied to the rest of the estate as well. Mom and Dad were conservative investors who didn’t buy or sell that often, so the non-farm portion of their holdings consisted of a house and some stocks they had held for many years (and usually bought for a lot less than the current value). As a result, the great majority of what my sister and I inherited is money that, to this day, has never been taxed.

That’s not unusual. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Estimates recently made by economists James Poterba and Scott Weisbenner, based on data from the Survey of Consumer Finances, suggest that unrealized capital gains make up about 37 percent of the value of estates worth more than $1 million and about 56 percent of estates worth more than $10 million.

I’ll take a wild guess and say that the percentage keeps getting higher and higher as the estates get larger.

Heirs and entrepreneurs. If you look at the top of a list of the richest Americans, you might think we’re still an entrepreneurial society: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Larry Ellison — all founders of major corporate empires. That case gets only slightly dicier with the next two names: Charles and David Koch, who inherited Koch Industries from their Dad, but did manage it aggressively and multiplied its value. Dad’s company wasn’t a household name, but Charles and David’s company is. That’s why they’re on the list.

Four of the next five, though, are the heirs of Sam Walton, founder of WalMart. The singular virtue that makes the Waltons multi-billionaires is that they were born in the right place. Most of what they inherited was WalMart stock that Sam had owned since the founding, when it was worth virtually nothing. When he died, that vast capital gain disappeared for tax purposes, just like the gain on Dad’s farm. So the federal estate tax was the only tax that money ever faced.

Now imagine the “Death Tax” gone. The Gates, Buffett, Ellison, and Koch fortunes are in Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway, Oracle and Koch stock. The vast capital gains on those holdings have never been taxed. Without an estate tax, that stock is just handed off directly to the heirs, who can hand it off to their heirs.

It never gets taxed. Ever.

That’s how you build a hereditary aristocracy.

But the rich have foundations. Another excuse for getting rid of the Death Tax is that the very rich find ways around it anyway. Look at Gates and Buffett: They’ve put billions into the Gates Foundation, money that the tax man will never see.

That continues a long American tradition, going back to the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Andrew Carnegie’s money wound up in countless libraries, museums, and universities, rather than in the federal treasury.

I’m not sure why that’s supposed to be a criticism of the estate tax. If Bill Gates wants his money to fight malaria in Africa rather than lower the federal deficit, I’m OK with that. John D. Rockefeller decided to found the University of Chicago rather than hand his money over to the government. I got my graduate degrees there, so it worked out fine as far as I’m concerned.

Without the Death Tax. You know what would be worse than that? If the richest-Americans list were still dominated by Rockefellers and Fords and Carnegies. That would make us a fundamentally different kind of country.

It could have worked out that way. I’m not sure I buy Celebrity Net Worth’s estimate that Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Henry Ford put together were worth about $800 billion in today’s dollars — that would be about ten times Bill Gates — but I don’t doubt that those fortunes would still be competitive if the heirs could have held them together and invested them well.

Without the “Death Tax” either collecting taxes or pressuring billionaires to find other ways to dispose of their money, a century from now we could be that kind of country — the kind where the wealthiest people aren’t entrepreneurs, they’re heirs. The richest-Americans list of 2115 might consist almost entirely of Waltons and Ellisons and Kochs. The way to get on that list would be to marry into one of those empires, not try to start one of your own.

If thing work out that way, I’m sure the politicians of 2115 will still give inspiring speeches about the American Dream. But it will be the old European Dream of the Medicis and the Rothschilds that has won out. Don’t waste your time trying to invent the Next Big Thing, just hope your daughter finds her Darcy. Then keep handing the money down your family line forever.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I was only going to do a short weekly-summary note on the House passing a repeal of the estate tax. But then I started reading conservative blogs arguing against the “death tax”, and remembering what I learned from being executor of my father’s estate. It got too long for the summary, so it turned into one of this week’s featured articles: “Death, Taxes, and the American Dream”.  That should be out sometime around 8 EDT. (I’m back home in the East.)

The other featured article continues the 2016 speech series by looking at Marco Rubio’s announcement speech. Short version: If your campaign is about being the new face with new ideas for a new century, you really ought to include one of those new ideas in your speech. Because “we need new ideas” is not a new idea. Gary Hart tried it in 1984, and his campaign started going south when Walter Mondale asked: “Where’s the beef?”

The weekly summary includes the debate about Social Security that Chris Christie started. And attending a Christie town hall meeting in New Hampshire Wednesday — I’ll get to the content of it some other week — caused me to make some observations about the importance of town hall meetings. (Christie is really good at them.) Also: a medical ethics professor live-tweeted from the abstinence-sex-education presentation the public schools inflicted on her son, and the North Carolina legislature is debating a proposal that would pretty much wreck the Research Triangle.

I’ll close the summary with a new sports craze from Germany. It involves a ping-pong table, a miniature soccer ball, and your head. My neck aches just from watching it.

Expect the Rubio article around 9 and the weekly summary by 11.

 

Equality on Earth

It is easy to proclaim all souls equal in the sight of God. It is hard to make men equal on earth in the sight of men.

James Baldwin

This week’s featured post is “The 2016 Stump Speeches: Rand Paul“.

This week everybody was talking about another police shooting

The initial report was very familiar: Sure, it was only a stop for a busted taillight, but the subject was a bad guy and he went for the policeman’s weapon. The cop had no choice but to shoot him, and he died in spite of everything the cops did to save him.

Then it turned out that somebody had a video. (Huffington Post imagines the news report we’d be reading otherwise: another justified shooting.) The policeman was in no danger, and after calmly gunning down the fleeing Walter Scott (“like he was trying to kill a deer” as Scott’s father put it), he makes no effort to revive him, but drops the taser Scott had supposedly grabbed next to the body.

So this time, it looks like justice is being done: the cop has been charged with murder. But doesn’t it make you wonder about all the other times a white cop killed a black suspect and there wasn’t a video? (In the last five years, police in South Carolina have fired at people 209 times, resulting in a handful of official charges and no convictions.)

ThinkProgress collects what the local police department said before they knew about the video: It’s eerily similar to what the police have said in a lot of other shootings that ultimately were judged to be justified. The Week concludes: Without the video “he probably would have gotten away with it.”

How many other cops have?

and 2016

After Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy on YouTube yesterday, it’s hard to remember that Rand Paul just announced on Tuesday. But Paul is an interesting candidate that some liberals are tempted to support, given his strong positions on civil liberties. However, Paul also carries a lot of baggage. I try to collect the good and the bad as I annotate his announcement speech.

One thing I will point out about Hillary’s video: Notice how deep into it you have to go before a straight white man shows up.

and the 150th anniversary of Appomattox

I’ve been pleased by how many historians have written anniversary articles agreeing with the point I laid out last summer in “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“: the Civil War didn’t end at Appomattox; the planter aristocracy continued fighting a guerrilla war until the North finally withdrew its troops and let white supremacy resume. See, for example, Gregory Downs’ NYT article “The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox“.

Other articles have supported “Not a Tea Party’s” other main point: that the right-wing surge we are seeing today is a continuation of the Confederate worldview. For example: “Why the Confederacy Lives” by Euan Hague in Politico. And WaPo’s Harold Meyerson writes:

Today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.


In “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party” I described the Confederacy as a worldview:

The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries. … The Confederate sees a divinely ordained way things are supposed to be, and defends it at all costs. No process, no matter how orderly or democratic, can justify fundamental change.

For a contemporary example of the Confederate mindset at work, listen to a recent interview with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson:

I really believe if what the Supreme Court is about to do [i.e. legalize same-sex marriage nationwide] is carried through with, and it looks like it will be, then we’re going to see a general collapse in the next decade or two. I just am convinced of that. So we need to do everything we can to try to hold it back and to preserve the institution of marriage.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for nearly a dozen years, and for almost a decade in Canada, with no visible evidence of any ill effects on society. You’ve got to wonder when Dobson and his ilk will start seeing facts and reality rather than their own apocalyptic nightmares. Probably never. If Dobson is still around twenty years from now, I imagine he’ll have rolled his disaster prediction forward to “in the next century or two”.

And what does “do everything we can” mean? Get violent, apparently.

Talk about a Civil War, we could have another one over this.

Because accepting social change is impossible. All forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified.

but I was reading two unrelated books

In the past I’ve reviewed the books Merchants of Doubt and Doubt Is Their Product, which describe the tactics by which corporations keep selling a product long after people start dropping dead from it. I found those to be very radicalizing books, but I doubt that many of my readers managed to finish either one. They’re each a slog, and they’re depressing.

Well, sometimes fiction can get ideas across more effectively than factual reporting (i.e., Uncle Tom’s Cabin). Paolo Bacigalupi is a post-apocalyptic young-adult sci-fi writer, known for The Wind-Up Girl, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities. (They’re good.) His new novel The Doubt Factory is set in the present and covers a lot of the same ground as the factual doubt books, but does it with action and characters.

The main character of The Doubt Factory is a high-achieving senior at an exclusive prep school who knows her Dad runs a public relations firm, but has never paid much attention to the specifics. Then she is kidnapped by a skilled gang of teens who have been orphaned by products that her Dad helped keep on the market. They release her, believing they have turned her to their side. But have they?

The plot raises issues about how you know what’s true and where your loyalties should lie. In the background are broader issues of privilege: How much should it bother you if your lifestyle depends on a corrupt system?

As a young-adult novel with political content, The Doubt Factory in a class with Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother and Homeland, which center on surveillance and privacy. In order to follow the story, you need to learn some facts about product safety and the ways corporations manipulate science and the media. But the book is a page-turner; like Doctorow, Bacigalupi never sacrifices the integrity of the story for political polemic.


I finally got around to reading Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven Davis. It’s a well-researched month-by-month political history of Dallas from January, 1960 to the day JFK was killed.

Not a Kennedy-assassination book per se, it’s more about the rising tide of anti-Kennedy feeling in Dallas that culminates in the assassination. In some ways it resembles the movie Crash, where a swirl of loosely-connected tension seems fated to result in something bad, even if none of the characters can predict what it will be or who will do it. In the end (unless you buy one of the conspiracy theories) it was a left-winger who killed Kennedy, but afterward “Distraught women from all over Dallas are on the phones lines [to police headquarters]. Each one is sobbing, confessing to police that she is certain that it must have been her husband who shot the president.”

The striking thing about Dallas during the Kennedy years is how closely it parallels America as a whole during the Obama years: Instead of Obama, there’s Kennedy. He’s not a “real American” because he’s Catholic rather than black. Where Obama is supposed to be a secret Muslim who’s betraying America with his Iranian nuclear deal, Kennedy is supposedly a secret Communist who is betraying America to the Soviet Union in the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Instead of the billionaire Koch Brothers, 1963 has billionaire H. L. Hunt. Instead of ObamaCare, there’s Medicare, which a Hunt-funded radio program says “would literally make the President of the United States a medical czar with potential life-or-death power over every man, woman, and child in the country.” (It fails in the Senate by two votes; LBJ passes it after Kennedy’s death.)

Rather than Louis Gohmert, Texas of 1963 has Congressman Bruce Alger, who says more-or-less the same things: “Kennedy is operating as chief executive without regard to the rule of law and is, indeed, substituting his own judgment and will for the exercise of the constitutional powers by the Congress and the people.” And right-wing author Dan Smoot echoes: “Kennedy, by Executive Orders which bypass Congress, has already created a body of ‘laws’ to transform our Republic into a dictatorship.”

There’s even an imaginary secret-in-Kennedy’s-past parallel to the Birther theory: a failed secret marriage before Jackie.

I come away with the impression that today’s political controversies really have more to do with right-wing pathologies than with anything President Obama has done. The Right has projected its hate and fear onto Obama the same way it projected onto JFK half a century ago.

Let’s hope Obama lives to tell the tale.


You’ll never catch up: The Oyster Review has its list of the 100 best books of the decade so far. How many books do these people read? I’ve read just six of the 100; at this rate there are 16 more every year.

and you also might be interested in …

Michael Brown’s legacy: Voter turnout in Ferguson’s municipal elections more than doubled, from 12% to 30%. The City Council is now half black.


Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas says President Obama is exaggerating when he says that scrapping the nuclear deal with Iran risks another Iraq War (only worse, because Iran is three times bigger). An attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities would be simple.

It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox: several days’ air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior.

And then Iran will do what? This is the kind of logic we often hear from fans of military action: We’ll hit them, and then that will be the end of it. Cotton is like the guy who has no intention of starting a bar fight, he just wants to punch that other guy in the nose.

Imagine instead that Iran surveys the world, picks out an American vulnerability somewhere, and hits back hard. Won’t Cotton be the first to say that we can’t let this stand and have to hit back harder yet? How many rounds of attack-and-retaliation will have to happen before he decides that only boots-on-the-ground regime change will end this threat?


A tangential thought about the CNN reporter who interviewed rural Georgia florists about whether they’d sell flowers for a same-sex wedding: There’s a class issue the reporter doesn’t see. When you ask professional-class people an abstract question, they usually picture themselves being nicer than they actually are. But working-class people generally imagine they’d be more rule-abiding.

So the florists say they’d have nothing to do with a same-sex wedding, because that’s the set of rules they were brought up with. If an actual same-sex couple came through the door, though, things might turn out differently. “Normally I’m against this kind of thing, but you seem like nice folks.”


Thursday, a Unitarian Universalist woman led a pagan prayer to open a session of the Iowa legislature. Some Christian legislators boycotted, while others turned their back on her.

The invocation is given in full at the Progressive Secular Humanist blog; it’s pretty benign other than calling on “god, goddess, universe, that which is greater than ourselves” rather than just the Christian God.

Don’t be fooled by the Religious Right types who say they just want government to respect religion. They have no respect for anybody else’s religion. They want their religion to dominate.


If you’ve been curious about the Apple Watch, The Verge has it covered.


WaPo’s Dana Milbank collects a number of recent red-state efforts “to dehumanize and even criminalize the poor”. Kansas, for example, has specifically banned the poor from using their benefits on cruise ships. Because, I guess, that was a common problem, and it wasn’t already covered by bans against using benefits out of state.

and let’s close with Mary Poppins

or at least, with Kristen Bell’s version of Mary campaigning for a higher minimum wage.

The 2016 Stump Speeches: Rand Paul

[This is part of a series of articles on the speeches of 2016 presidential candidates. The overall vision of the series and links to the other articles can be found here.]

Paul and his candidacy. Rand Paul is in many ways the most interesting of the potential Republican candidates, the one whose positions are most idiosyncratic and least in step with GOP groupthink. He usually tries to sound like an Ayn Rand libertarian — which already sets him apart on some issues — but occasionally a bit of Occupy Wall Street anarchy gets into his rhetoric as well.

Most other Republicans argue that the Republican Party just hasn’t been Republican enough. It needs to double down on its principles, not move to the center or compromise with Democrats to get things done. Good stuff will happen only after the last Democrat has been driven into the hills.

Paul, on the other hand, is arguing that both parties are the problem: Both are part of a culture of corruption that makes government spending and government power constantly increase.

If he could quit there, he’d have an attractive message. Paul’s “Stop the Washington Machine” slogan sounds really good to people with a wide range of views. Consequently, like Barack Obama in 2008, Paul has a chance to expand the electorate by attracting people otherwise too alienated to vote. But it leaves his campaign with two problems:

  1. He’s running for the nomination of one of the parties he’s attacking. So he somehow has to get Republicans to vote for a candidate who says that Republicans are part of what’s wrong with America. But Republicans view acknowledging mistakes as weakness; they don’t want their candidate to go on an apology tour for the sins of George W. Bush.
  2. Once he stops the Washington machine, what is he going to put in its place? Other candidates are in a position to be vague and hopeful, but Paul’s record includes a lot of white papers and proposed bills whose details (if they become common knowledge) will turn off a lot of the people his slogan attracts.

The speech’s theme. [All unattributed quotes are from Time‘s transcript of the speech Paul gave Tuesday in Louisville. Watch out for The Independent‘s “full transcript”; parts of the speech are missing.]

A typical announcement speech is a blend of autobiography and political vision. Sometimes (as in Ted Cruz’s speech), those are two separate segments. But Paul’s speech is organized by issue, and biographical details are sprinkled in as they seem relevant. That structure sends a message in itself: Who I am is not important compared to what I want to do. Where Cruz frames himself as a prophet raised up to do God’s work, Paul frames himself as Cincinnatus temporarily putting aside his farming (or, in Paul’s case, his practice as an eye doctor) to save the Republic.

Paul begins his speech saying: “We have come to take our country back.” This is a common trope for any party out of power, and (depending on your vision of what America used to be) can mean anything from restoring white Christian supremacy to redistributing wealth. To Paul it means:

The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped. … I want to be part of a return to prosperity, a true economic boom that lists all Americans, a return to a government restrained by the Constitution. A return to privacy, opportunity, liberty. [1]

Debt and spending. Paul’s primary symbol and symptom of too-big government is the $18 trillion federal debt.

I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been able to enjoy the American Dream. I worry, though, that the opportunity and hope are slipping away for our sons and daughters. As I watch our once-great economy collapse under mounting spending and debt, I think, “What kind of America will our grandchildren see”?

It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system are to blame. Big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration. And it’s now tripling under Barack Obama’s watch. President Obama is on course to add more debt than all of the previous presidents combined. We borrow a million dollars a minute.

This mixes some truth with some falsehood: A million dollars a minute is a little high, but in the ballpark. George W. Bush did double the national debt, but Obama didn’t triple it, and isn’t on course to add more debt than all previous presidents combined. (Details in endnote [2].)

The more abstract idea that big government and debt are collapsing the American economy is less easily fact-checked, but shouldn’t be accepted as obvious. Other rich countries (Sweden and Germany, for example) have much higher per-capita government spending than we do, and Japan’s per-capita government debt is almost double ours. The fastest-growing of the world’s large economies is China, which has a far more intrusive government. [3]

Fixing the budget. Paul proposes that we balance the budget entirely with spending cuts.

Currently some $3 trillion comes into the U.S. Treasury. Couldn’t the country just survive on $3 trillion?

The way he wants to make that happen is through a constitutional amendment:

Congress will never balance the budget unless you force them to do so. Congress has an abysmal record with balancing anything. [4] Our only recourse is to force Congress to balance the budget with a constitutional amendment.

Usually, conservatives wave a balanced-budget amendment like a magic wand: It will balance the budget without forcing us to spell out the harsh spending cuts that are required once tax increases are off the table.

Paul can’t be criticized for that. In 2011 he put out a proposal to strip $500 billion out of the budget (almost exactly the current deficit). That proposal demonstrates how draconian a balanced-budget-with-no-new taxes is. As I observed at the time: it cut 28% from the Center for Disease Control, and made similar cuts in the agencies that monitor food safety. The National Park Service got cut 42%. And so on.

When people think “The government spends too much money”, I’ll bet they’re not thinking about Yellowstone, or planning to cut corners on the next Ebola outbreak. But Paul is.

This is the problem when you get specific: The American people dislike “big government” and “spending” in its trillion-dollar abstraction, but the big things that the government spends money on — defense, Social Security, Medicare — are popular. In the rest of the budget, nearly all the easy cuts were made long ago. And when you’re sitting on your rooftop in New Orleans wondering whether the helicopters or the flood waters will reach you first, “big government” sounds pretty good.

Inequality. For a long time, conservatives refused to recognize growing economic inequality as a problem. (Talented ambitious people are out-performing inept lazy people. What’s the problem?) But recently that has turned around. At least rhetorically, conservatives are now addressing inequality.

Trillion-dollar government stimulus packages has only widened the income gap. Politically connected cronies get taxpayer dollars by the hundreds of millions [5] and poor families across America continue to suffer. I have a different vision, … a vision that will offer opportunity to all Americans, especially those who have been left behind.

My plan includes economic freedom zones to allow impoverished areas like Detroit, West Louisville, Eastern Kentucky to prosper by leaving more money in the pockets of the people who live there.

This “economic freedom zone” idea has been kicking around for a while under various names. Jack Kemp first called them “enterprise zones” and later “opportunity zones of prosperity“. (I call them “hellholes”, for reasons that will become apparent. But I’ll try to be nice and use Paul’s terminology.)

The idea is that if you lower taxes and cut regulations in some impoverished region, businesses will sprout there like mushrooms, providing jobs for all the previously unemployed residents. If you just stop there, it sounds like it might work. But Paul put out a 6-page outline of his plan in 2013, so we know a lot more of the disturbing details.

Reducing taxes in economically depressed areas is a stimulus that will work because the money is returned to businesses and individuals who have already proven that they can succeed.

i.e., to rich people.

These “Economic Freedom Zones” allow blighted and bankrupt areas to remove the shackles of big government by reducing taxes, regulations, and burdensome union work requirements. These zones give parents and students the flexibility to find better schools, allow talented immigrants to pursue entrepreneurial and job-creating endeavors, and will provide additional incentives for philanthropy to help those in need.

So how does that work? Let’s start with the tax part. When an impoverished area like Detroit or West Louisville is declared a hellhole — sorry, an Economic Freedom Zone — both the individual and the corporate tax rates go down to 5%. Payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare) are reduced for both the employer and the employee. And the capital gains tax goes away for “stock or tangible assets that are located within the area”.

This is supposed to encourage new businesses. I know immediately the new business I would want to be in: turning abandoned buildings into tiny cheap condos that rich people could buy to establish residency, even though they would never be caught dead there. With all the zoning regulations suspended, I could probably build them for $20,000 each easy. Then I sell them for $100,000, and a guy with a billion-dollar income saves hundreds of millions in taxes by buying one. Everybody wins!

Mailboxes Etc would also do well, as corporations move their “headquarters” to mailboxes inside the Zone. Now they pay low taxes, and capital gains on their stock become tax free!

You think this kind of stuff wouldn’t happen? Again and again, we’ve been sold the idea that cutting taxes will give rich people lots of money to create jobs with. But why should they? Why not just pocket the extra money and do as little as possible to help anybody? And if you start writing rules to prevent this chicanery, not only would the tax-avoiders always be one step ahead of you, you’d end up creating yet another complex set of bureaucratic rules.

If actual people or businesses did move into the Zones, their enclaves would look like Israeli settlements on the West Bank. They’d be as isolated as possible from the impoverished residents. They wouldn’t, for example, lift a finger to improve the local public schools, because part of the program is that everybody gets private-school vouchers.

But one kind of business would be attracted to the Zones: businesses that pollute a lot. That’s because EPA non-attainment designations would be suspended. The Zones would also be exempted from regulations on municipal storm-sewer run-off, and they could waive land use restrictions like “Wilderness Areas, National Heritage Sites, or Wild & Scenic Rivers”. Also, construction permits under the National Environmental Policy Act would be “streamlined”.

So, if a real-estate corporation wanted to take over a Zone’s wilderness areas and heritage sites, the local government could sell to them. And it might be motivated to sell, because the program specifically forbids any government bailouts if the municipality gets into financial trouble. (But they would be authorized to renege on their pensions.)

So there you have it: Polluted districts populated mainly by phony residences and fake corporate headquarters, with abandoned public schools, pensionless local residents, and all the beautiful or historic areas privatized. Hellholes.

Meanwhile, enormous tax loopholes have been created that require even more massive spending cuts than the ones Paul has already laid out.

Infrastructure. But wait, there’s more:

I want to see millions of Americans back at work. In my vision for America, we’ll bring back manufacturing jobs that pay well. How? We’ll dramatically lower the tax on American companies that wish to bring their profits home.

More than $2 trillion in American profit currently sits overseas. In my vision for America, new highways and bridges will be built across the country, not by raising your taxes, but by lowering the tax to bring this American profit home.

This is the overseas profits tax holiday he co-sponsored with Democrat Barbara Boxer. Multinational corporations like Apple and Google (both headquartered in Boxer’s state) juggle their books to make most of their profits appear overseas, so that they can avoid the 35% corporate income tax. The Paul-Boxer bill would let them bring those profits home and pay just 6.5%. It would create an immediate one-time slug of revenue, but, as Bloomberg Business explains:

It’s not clear that the Paul-Boxer plan would actually raise revenue. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the official scorekeeper for tax bills, said last year that a similar proposal would raise money in the first few years and then cost the government a net total of $95.8 billion over a decade.

That’s because companies would interpret a repeat of a tax holiday enacted in 2004 as a sign that they should shift even more profits outside the U.S. in anticipation of another holiday.

Criminal justice reform. After Ferguson, Paul wrote an op-ed in Time calling for demilitarization of the police. He wrote:

Anyone who thinks that race does not still, even if inadvertently, skew the application of criminal justice in this country is just not paying close enough attention. Our prisons are full of black and brown men and women who are serving inappropriately long and harsh sentences for non-violent mistakes in their youth.

He mentioned the issue in Tuesday’s speech without elaborating:

I see an America where criminal justice is applied equally and any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color is repealed.

Most other Republicans don’t believe that race is a factor in our criminal justice system, so in the debates I expect Paul to be challenged to name some law that should be repealed because of its unfairness to blacks. It will be interesting to see what he says.

Defense and foreign policy. Historically, Libertarians have been isolationists. For good reasons: War inevitably increases government power, both economically and in terms of civil liberties. In wartime, ordinary political dissent turns into disloyalty or even treason.

For years, this reluctance to involve the United States in foreign conflicts has distanced both Rand and Ron Paul from the Republican mainstream. (In the 2011 Republican debates, Ron Paul said about the prospect of Iranian nuclear weapon “What’s so terribly bad about this?” and opposed even trade sanctions. Just a year ago, Rand Paul told ABC’s Jonathan Karl “The people who say ‘by golly, we will never stand for that,’ they are voting for war.”)

Since he began moving towards his own presidential run, though, Rand has tried to walk that back and sound more bellicose, even supporting higher defense spending. In his announcement speech, he proclaimed “radical Islam” as “the enemy”.

And not only will I name the enemy, I will do whatever it takes to defend America from these haters of mankind.

And he tried to walk narrow line supporting negotiations with Iran without siding with President Obama.

I see an America strong enough to deter foreign aggression, yet wise enough to avoid unnecessary intervention.

which sounds a lot like what Obama sees. So what’s the difference?

The difference between President Obama and myself, he seems to think you can negotiate from a position of weakness. Yet everyone needs to realize that negotiations are not inherently bad.

But it’s not clear what would make a President Paul “stronger” than President Obama, other than simply being a Republican. I’m sure he’ll be pressed on this during the campaign.

Civil liberties. One place Paul is not backing down is on limiting government spying on American citizens who have committed no crime.

The president created this vast dragnet by executive order. And as president on day one, I will immediately end this unconstitutional surveillance. … We must defend ourselves, but we must never give up who we are as a people. We must never diminish the Bill of Rights as we fight this long war against evil. We must believe in our founding documents. We must protect economic and personal liberty again.

This is one issue where his difference with other Republican candidate might be popular even among the Republican electorate. I hope he’ll challenge other candidates to match his day-one pledge.

Summary. To appeal to the Republican primary electorate, Paul will be tempted to shift his positions towards the Republican mainstream and away from this Libertarian roots. To an extent he already has. But his hope of winning also has to depend on drawing alienated voters to the polls. To do that, he’ll have to maintain an image as a different kind of Republican.

That will require a lot of political skill, which Paul has never shown in the past. (He has a tendency to get testy when questioned, as he did this week.) There is a place in American politics waiting for the candidate who can run a pox-on-both-your-houses campaign. But I personally don’t believe Rand Paul is skillful enough to be that candidate.

More of a problem is his record of specific proposals. It’s hard to run an Obama-style hope-and-change campaign when your opponents can so easily pull you into unpopular details you have laid out in your own words.


Addendum. It’s been pointed out in the comments that I said nothing about Paul’s position on social issues like abortion. That’s because Paul said nothing. My take is that he wishes he could avoid talking about these issues. One of the times he got testy with a reporter was when he was asked whether an abortion ban should have a rape exception.

The fact that he doesn’t want to answer that question tells you where he is on abortion in general: He’s against it to the point that he’s willing to consider forcing a woman to have her rapist’s child. That’s where the question starts getting difficult for him.

He has also said that same-sex marriage “offends myself and a lot of other people“, but supports letting same-sex couples have “contracts” with each other, whatever that means.


[1] Paul puts forward a zero-sum view of government and the people: any expansion of government necessarily diminishes individuals. This clearly makes sense with regard to privacy: As the government snoops more, our sphere of privacy shrinks. But it’s less obvious with opportunity and liberty: Liberals would argue that programs like government-subsidized state universities and community colleges can increase opportunity for people born into poverty, and regulations that restrain the power of big business (net neutrality, for example) can increase liberty for individuals. Libertarians have arguments against these points, but Paul usually doesn’t go there: He frames these objections out of the discussion rather than address them.

[2] Kimberley Amadeo does the analysis of debt-added-per-president through Obama’s first five budgets. Paul’s statement about President He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (i.e., George W. Bush; the word “Bush” does not appear in the transcript) is accurate: The debt was $5.8 trillion at the end of Bill Clinton’s last budget, and (excluding the FY 2009 spending of Obama’s stimulus plan, which was added to the FY 2009 budget after Bush left office) he added another $5.849 trillion. So yeah: doubled.

In Amadeo’s analysis, President Obama added $6.167 trillion in his first five years, including the FY 2009 spending taken out of Bush’s total. The current CBO projection of the FY 2015 deficit is $486 billion. FY 2016 and FY 2017 come in at $455 billion each. Total: $7.563 trillion.

So “tripled” is only accurate if you mean that the debt has (more than) tripled since Bush took office, which is a generous way to read Paul’s statement — certainly not the way the typical voter hears it. Obama himself is nowhere near tripling the debt; he hasn’t even doubled it. (And if you want to spin the numbers Obama’s way, he inherited a $1.6 billion annual deficit and has whittled it down to under $500 billion.)

The bit about “more debt than all of the previous presidents combined” is simply false. If you add up just the last three Republican presidents — Bush II at $5.849, Bush I at $1.554, and Reagan at $1.86 trillion — you get $9.263 trillion of debt, which is considerably more than Obama is projected to add by the time he leaves office. (In inflation-adjusted numbers, the comparison is even worse for the Republicans.)

If you want try juggling numbers to make Paul’s statement accurate, you can charge Obama with the full FY 2009 deficit (including the part already run up before Inauguration Day), and give the next president credit for the FY 2017 projection. That adds $1.177 trillion and brings Obama up to $8.74 trillion, which is still less than half the projected national debt at the end of FY 2016. (Also, giving Obama the full blame for FY 2009 ruins Paul’s claim that Bush doubled the debt.) So no, you just can’t make Paul’s claim work no matter what you do. It’s a lie.

And a million dollars a minute? Close enough for this kind of analogy. There are 60 x 24 x 365 = 525,600 minutes in a year. Times a million is $525.6 billion. The projected deficit for this year is $486 billion.

[3] The major disagreement between the parties is over why the middle class is vanishing, and I hope the campaign centers on that debate. Republicans largely back Paul’s view, that the problem is the growth of government. Liberals blame the effects of the Reagan Revolution: By lowering taxes on the wealthy, freeing corporations from anti-trust regulations, and making it nearly impossible for workers to unionize — policies that Clinton and Obama never managed to reverse — government has allowed the 1% to squeeze all the juice out of the economy.

Liberals have timing in their favor: wage growth stopped tracking productivity growth with the jump in oil prices in 1973, but the gap really started opening up during the Reagan administration and has not closed since.

Conservatives have to explain why the explosive growth of government that began with FDR went together with the growth of the economy and the middle class until the mid-1970s.

For a completely different view of the meaning of the national debt, see Warren Mosler’s Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy.

[4] In Republican circles, the Clinton surplus just never happened. What’s more, the way it happened — a combination of controlled spending and increased taxes — is a theoretical impossibility.

[5] This popular conservative talking point seems to refer to the sustainable-energy part of stimulus, which made the famous failed loan to Solyndra. But in spite of extension congressional investigations, no big corruption scandal ever emerged. According to The Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s final report “does not provide specific evidence to back up GOP allegations aired over past months that administration officials provided the Solyndra loan as payback for campaign donations.”

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m still in Arizona, so everything is running a little later than usual. The featured post this week will continue the 2016 Stump Speeches series, focusing this week on Rand Paul’s announcement speech. (Yesterday, Hillary also said she’s running; maybe I’ll get to her next week.) Figure that to come out around 10 or 11 eastern time.

The weekly summary will include the Walter Scott shooting, some 150th-anniversary articles about the end of the Civil War that make similar points to my “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“, and two mini book reviews, before closing with Mary Poppins’ plea for a higher minimum wage. Expect that around noon or so.

Sincere Beliefs

I have no doubt that Christian conservatives do feel limited by other people’s rights. There is that saying, “Your rights end where my nose begins.” Christian conservatives are arguing that they should be able to punch you in the nose if that desire to punch you in the nose is sincerely held.

— Amanda Marcotte, How Conservatives Hijacked ‘Religious Freedom’

This week’s featured posts are “The 2016 Stump Speeches: Introducing the Series“, “The 2016 Stump Speeches: Ted Cruz“, and “Religious Freedom: Colorado’s sensible middle way“.

This week everybody was still talking about “religious freedom”

Indiana passed a “clarification” of last week’s “religious freedom” law:

The fix provides that Indiana’s RFRA does not authorize businesses “to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodation, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public” on the basis of a list of protected traits that includes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Another provision provides that the state’s RFRA law does not “establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution” brought against someone who engages in such discrimination.

So it rolls back the worst of the new law, but in no case does it do any more than restore the status quo. Arkansas likewise watered down the RFRA it passed last week, though I’m not clear on the details.


I started to do a short explanation of how I think First Amendment rights should balance against gay rights, but it got out of hand so I turned it into its own article.


Bigotry can be profitable! That Indiana pizza shop has collected over $800K in donations, while the Oregon florist that was fined $1K has gotten $85K to help pay it.


CNN’s conversation with several florists in rural Georgia implicitly pointed out one of the holes in conservative Christian theology: They treat homosexuality as a more serious sin than just about anything else, when there’s no Biblical justification for doing so. There are a handful of verses in the Bible against homosexuality, but the idea that it’s worse than other common sins — premarital sex, say — is not Biblical.

and a nuclear deal with Iran

Or at least the framework of a deal that both sides are committed to finishing by the end of June.

Salon’s Jim Newell suggests that any politician who wants to renounce the deal be asked what they’d do next. He lists the realistic options he sees:

(1) sitting around and hoping that some magical unicorns swoop into Iran, topple its regime, and put in place a United States puppet government or (2) bombing Iran.

Rachel Maddow did a good job of summarizing the technical details involved, and why they matter.

Steve Benen discusses the plans in Congress to sabotage the deal.

and a massacre in Kenya

The al-Shabab terrorist group killed 148 people in an attack on a university.

and you also might be interested in …

Thursday will be the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender, which effectively ended the Civil War. Brian Beutler makes a modest proposal, which I endorse:

to mark the occasion, the federal government should make two modest changes: It should make April 9 a federal holiday; and it should commit to disavowing or renaming monuments to the Confederacy, and its leaders, that receive direct federal support.


The Bob Menendez corruption case demonstrates the kind of corruption that Justice Kennedy didn’t think would be an issue.


Who’re the oldest “people” in the United States? Corporate people. The oldest ones just turned 129.


11 Atlanta educators were convicted in a plot to raise test scores through cheating. 178 teachers and principals were involved, and 35 were indicted, with most negotiating guilty pleas to lesser charges.

This case exposes an important flaw in the high-stakes-testing approach to education, in which the futures of everyone from students and teachers to mayors and governors ride on test scores. Literally everyone in the system has a motive to cheat, and no one has a motive to catch cheaters. According to the NYT:

Evidence of systemic cheating has emerged in as many as a dozen places across the country, and protests in Chicago, New York City, Seattle, across Texas and elsewhere represent a growing backlash among educators and parents against high-stakes testing.

So if you’re going to do testing right, you need an independent testing bureaucracy, with its own employees and budget. And once you figure in the cost of that, I think the whole scheme might become impractical.


Here’s another Indiana law that should give people pause: After taking drugs to induce a miscarriage, a woman was convicted of “feticide” and sentenced to 20 years.


While we’re all waiting to see if the Supreme Court monkey-wrenches ObamaCare, it just did some serious damage to Medicaid.

and let’s close with a taste of things to come

Comedy Central has announced Jon Stewart’s successor as host of The Daily Show: South African comic Trevor Noah. In spite of some early problems, this could be good:

Religious Freedom: Colorado’s sensible middle way

There have been a lot of painful back-and-forths about what the proposed state “religious freedom” laws allow. Like this one, where ABC’s Jake Trapper tries to get the sponsor of Arkansas’ original RFRA bill (which has since been watered down a little) to admit that it allows “discrimination” against a same-sex couple getting married, while the legislator will admit only that it allows bakers, florists, et al to refuse to “participate in the message”.

There actually is a sensible in-between position, and I doubt a new law was necessary to allow it, because it was already embedded in the judge’s decision in the 2013 Colorado bakery case, as I noted last week.

There is no doubt that decorating a wedding cake involves considerable skill and artistry. However, the finished product does not necessarily qualify as “speech,” as would saluting a flag, marching in a parade, or displaying a motto. … [The baker] was not asked to apply any message or symbol to the cake, or to construct the cake in any fashion that could be reasonably understood as advocating same-sex marriage. [my emphasis]

Let me take this out of the gay-rights arena with a hypothetical example: Suppose I represent an atheist group that is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary. I go to a baker and ask for a cake. Suppose I want him to write “God is Dead” on the cake, and he refuses. If I sue, then I believe he should win the case, because his freedom of speech is violated if he’s forced to write something he doesn’t agree with.

But now suppose we didn’t get that far: As soon as I say why I want a cake, the baker responds, “I’m not going to make a cake for an atheist group.” All I want is a cake with a 10 on top of it, and he says no. Now if I sue, I believe I should win, because the baker is discriminating against atheists as a religious group. In other words, a business open to the public should be (and I believe is, without any new religious-freedom laws) free to refuse to endorse an idea, but it should not be free to refuse service to people merely because they practice or promote that idea.

Colorado followed that principle again this week when it upheld the right of a baker not to make an anti-gay cake:

The complaint against Marjorie Silva, owner of Azucar Bakery, was filed by Castle Rock, Colo., resident Bill Jack, who claimed Silva discriminated against his religious beliefs when she refused to decorate a cake showing two groomsmen with a red “x” over them and messages about homosexuality being a sin.

Silva said she would make the cake, but declined to write his suggested messages on the cake, telling him she would give him icing and a pastry bag so he could write the words himself. Silva said the customer didn’t want that.

If conservative Christian bakers would offer gay and lesbian couples a similar compromise — “I’ll make the cake and sell you two groom figures, but you’ll have to put them on the cake yourself.” — I suspect they’d have no problems with the courts. Certainly not in Colorado, and probably not anywhere.

The loophole the Arkansas legislator is trying to wiggle through is that the Supreme Court has extended First Amendment protection to “symbolic speech” — wordless actions that make a statement, like burning an American flag. He wants to claim that providing any of the services involved in a same-sex wedding can be construed as a symbolic statement that the provider approves of same-sex marriage. So a florist’s or photographer’s right to free speech is violated if s/he is forced to make such a statement.

That’s ridiculous. It’s the kind of passive aggression I’ve pointed out before: exaggerating your sensitivity in order to control others by claiming offense. Society could not function if we allowed everyone to claim this degree of moral sensitivity. (“If you force me to hire beef-eaters in my widget factory, then you’re making me say I approve of eating beef, which violates my Hindu faith.”) So it’s an implicit claim that conservative Christians have special rights that other people don’t have.

What this situation cries out for is a “reasonable person” interpretation: Would reasonable people look at the flowers at a same-sex wedding and see the florist making a political/religious statement? (“Those must come from Belle’s Flowers. I didn’t know Belle endorsed same-sex marriage. I thought she was a Christian.”) Or would they just think “nice flowers”?

This interpretation separates actual religious-freedom issues from the bogus ones that fundamentalists are putting forward. A reasonable person would assume that the officiating minister approves of the ceremony, so the minister’s presence makes a statement that the law can’t force. But florists? photographers? bakers? caterers? No.

The 2016 Stump Speeches: Ted Cruz

On March 23 at Liberty University in Virginia, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas became the first major Republican to announce his presidential candidacy. As I explained in the introduction to this series, I don’t think the mainstream media takes candidate stump speeches seriously enough: In them, a candidate presents a vision of what leadership America needs at the present moment, and why he or she is the person to provide it. That vision is typically a combination of truth and fantasy, both about himself/herself and about America, but it is a telling and instructive combination all the same.

Unless otherwise attributed, all quotes below are from the Washington Post transcript. (I’ve left out the crowd reactions.)

Significance of the site. “To come to the world’s largest Christian university [1] is a statement in and of itself,” said student government president Quincy Thompson. “I think he was very clear in his commitment to Christ.”

Liberty University was founded by televangelist Jerry Falwell and is still headed by his son, Jerry Jr. It describes its mission as “training champions for Christ“. Falwell Sr. can be regarded as a founder of the Theocrat wing of the Republican Party — I discuss the four Republican factions here and here — so by announcing his candidacy at Liberty, Cruz is identifying himself as a Theocrat. (He has since doubled down on that with his first campaign ad.)

Cruz’ speech is one of Liberty’s three-times-a-week Convocations, and he is introduced by President Falwell. (I haven’t found what Falwell said.) Attendance at Convocations is mandatory for students, which explains why you can see a few Rand Paul t-shirts in the crowd. In general, the audience is respectful but not enthusiastic, except when Cruz pledges his support to Israel. (Christian Theocrats are major supporters of Israel, for reasons largely having to do with end times prophecies.)

Outline. The overall theme of Cruz’s 31-minute speech is “re-igniting the promise of America”. It falls into three parts: The first ten minutes are about Cruz and his family, the next 13 make a contrast between where he thinks America is and where he wants to take it, and the final eight explain why the difficult things he wants to do are possible: a combination of people power (“The power of the American people when we rise up and stand for liberty knows no bounds.”) and divine assistance (“God’s blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe God isn’t done with America yet.”).

Family bio. Telling your story is a standard part of a stump speech, and if your theme is “re-igniting the promise of America”, it helps if your family’s story illustrates the promise of America. This isn’t a conservative or liberal thing: In many ways Cruz’ use of his father’s Cuban-immigrant struggle reminds me of Mike Dukakis’ use of his father’s Greek-immigrant struggle.

It’s particularly important for Cruz, though, because his father is going to be an issue in the campaign: Rafael Cruz is pastor of a Purifying Fire franchise in Carrollton, Texas. He is a popular religious-right speaker on his own, and regularly says the kinds of things that liberals imagine conservatives think but don’t say. That relationship will be a plus for Cruz as long as he’s only facing far-right audiences, but in a general election his Dad problem will dwarf Barack Obama’s Jeremiah Wright problem.

As Ted tells it, his parents’ story has two themes: How in America two people can start with nothing and put their son in the Senate, and how Jesus Christ can transform a family. He also tries to pick up some working-women cred through his mother’s success in a male-dominated field (computer programming). [2]

Rafael arrived from Cuba at 18, after rebelling against the corrupt dictator Batista and then getting disillusioned by Castro. He worked his way through the University of Texas washing dishes (something you could do back in the days when state universities were heavily subsidized). Ted conveniently skips Rafael’s failed first marriage, but does tell how he abandoned his second wife when Ted was three. That was when Rafael found Jesus.

And God transformed his heart. And he drove to the airport, he bought a plane ticket, and he flew back to be with my mother and me. There are people who wonder if faith is real. I can tell you, in my family there’s not a second of doubt, because were it not for the transformative love of Jesus Christ … I would have been raised by a single mom without my father in the household.

Ted’s wife was the child of white missionaries to Africa. In telling the story of her business success, he focuses on her childhood cake-baking business, and manages not to say the words “Goldman Sachs”.

Similarly, he leaves out some things when talking about himself

heading off to school over a thousand miles away from home, in a place where he knew nobody, where he was alone and scared, and his parents going through bankruptcy meant there was no financial support at home, so at the age of 17, he went to get two jobs to help pay his way through school. He took over $100,000 in school loans, loans I suspect a lot of ya’ll can relate to, loans that I’ll point out I just paid off a few years ago.

That’s got to be the strangest way I’ve ever heard someone say he went to Princeton and then got his law degree at Harvard. [3]

He draws this segment to a close by saying: “These are all of our stories.” In other words, the American dream is “to come to America with nothing, and to achieve anything.” We all share that dream, but the Cruz family embodies it.

The threat. Having shown us how the promise of America has been fulfilled for him and his family, Cruz transitions to the second part of the speech by introducing the idea that the promise of America is threatened, and may not be available for the students in the audience unless they fight for it.

For so many Americans the promise of America seems more and more distant. … So many fear that that promise is today unattainable.

The promise of America has to be “re-ignited” if it’s going to be available to this generation.

What’s interesting here is how Left and Right are telling the same story with different villains. In Cruz’ version, the promise of America has been corrupted by over-reaching government and the loss of the Christian values the country was founded on. In the liberal version, the promise of America has been stolen by the 1%; they have climbed the ladder of success and pulled it up behind them. A candidate who could combine these stories would really have something; but I don’t see that coming from the husband of a Goldman Sachs executive — or from Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton.

Cruz uses war imagery to imagine how this might turn around. He begins with Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death.” [4]

Today millions of young people are scared, worried about the future, worried about what the future will hold. Imagine millions of young people coming together and standing together, saying “we will stand for liberty.”

and in the closing invites the students “to join a grassroots army”. His implicit message is that one way Liberty students can be “champions for Christ” is to be champions for Ted Cruz.

Imagine how things could be rather than how they are. The “imagine” in the previous quote is the start of a litany of the form “Instead of X, imagine Y.”

Imagine, instead of economic stagnation, booming economic growth. … Instead of small businesses going out of business in record numbers, imagine small businesses growing and prospering.

Again, this kind of stuff will play well in the Republican primaries, but I can imagine an attack-dog Democratic VP candidate (Al Franken would deliver the line best) countering with: “Instead of the slow but steady growth we’ve had under a centrist Democratic president, imagine the economy falling completely off a cliff the way it did the last time we had a conservative Republican president.”

That’s going to be the general-election challenge of any Republican candidate: You can talk a good game about “booming economic growth”, but when the details come out, what are you proposing other than a return to Bushism? In large part, that is what sunk Romney. He wanted to project an image as an economic turn-around specialist, but he didn’t have any credible proposals to back it up. Lower taxes? Less regulation? How is that different from what failed so disastrously under Bush?

And “small businesses going out of business in record numbers”? False.

Sometimes there are policies behind Cruz’ litany, if you know how to interpret.

Imagine innovation thriving on the Internet as government regulators and tax collectors are kept at bay and more and more opportunity is created.

If wasn’t until the second time I listened to the speech that I realized he was talking about his opposition to net neutrality. The idea that the FCC’s endorsement of net neutrality will have a side-effect of raising taxes is speculative at best, but is accepted as gospel on the right. And the belief that letting Comcast and Verizon dominate the internet will make innovation “thrive” and create “opportunity” … well, that’s just crazy.

Cruz repeats several other baseless conservative fantasies:

Instead of a tax code that crushes innovation, that imposes burdens on families struggling to make ends met, imagine a simple flat tax that lets every American fill out his or her taxes on a postcard. Imagine abolishing the IRS.

Every proposed flat tax that collects the same revenue as the current system does so by increasing taxes on “families struggling to make ends meet”. It has to, because the whole point of flattening the tax is so that rich people can pay less.

Similarly, the flatness of a tax has nothing to do with how complicated tax returns are. [5] The complicated part of the income tax is figuring out what your income is after deductions, not what tax rate you pay on it. Having a flat tax is not going to help you compute the basis price on your investments, or what part of your small-business revenue is actually income. (How are you going to do that on a postcard?) And if you want to simplify by getting rid of deductions, you can do that without flattening the tax. (If you want to make deduction-cutting revenue-neutral, lower all the tax rates by equal percentages.) The point of a flat tax is not simplicity or anything other than shifting the tax burden from the rich to the rest of us.

And “abolishing the IRS” means what exactly? That the government is just going to take our word for what our income is? The only way to abolish the IRS is to abolish the income tax, which would have to be replaced by something more regressive, like a national sales tax.

Instead of the lawlessness and the president’s unconstitutional executive amnesty, imagine a president that finally, finally, finally secures the borders.

What kind of police state would we need to “secure the border”? Reagan couldn’t do it. Bush couldn’t do it. Even Nazi Germany never managed to secure its borders completely. Also: about half our undocumented immigrants come in legally, but overstay their visas. Nothing we can do on the border will fix that.

And imagine a legal immigration system that welcomes and celebrates those who come to achieve the American dream.

All of them? Isn’t that exactly what a lot of conservatives want to prevent? How many immigrants does Cruz imagine letting in each year? Won’t they “steal our jobs“?

And some Cruz’ proposals are just nonsense:

Imagine repealing every word of Common Core.

As many people have pointed out, Common Core is not a law, so it can’t be repealed. Pretty much everything Cruz says about Common Core is disconnected from reality. Vox explains:

If Cruz really wanted to get rid of Common Core, he could run the Obama administration’s play in reverse: create his own version of Race to the Top, with financial incentives for states to toss out the Common Core standards and develop their own based on what local authorities think students should learn. But that’s just another form of federal interference — and Cruz wants the federal government out of the education standards business entirely.

Cruz continues:

every single child, regardless of race, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of wealth or ZIP Code, every child in America has the right to a quality education.

But if there are no national standards, what does “quality education” mean? And if there’s no definition, what is Cruz’ assertion of every child’s rights worth?

And of course, no Ted Cruz speech would be complete without trashing ObamaCare.

Instead of the joblessness, instead of the millions forced into part-time work, instead of the millions who’ve lost their health insurance, lost their doctors, have faced skyrocketing health insurance premiums, imagine in 2017 a new president signing legislation repealing every word of Obamacare.

It will be interesting to see how long the Right can stay in the alternate universe where ObamaCare is a horrible failure. An ever-larger percentage of the electorate either gets insurance through ObamaCare or knows someone who does, so the made-up horror stories can’t cut it forever, as Cathy McMorris Rodgers found out.

Imagine health care reform that keeps government out of the way between you and your doctor and that makes health insurance personal and portable and affordable.

You need imagination to see the Republican alternative to ObamaCare, because in the real world there isn’t one. I’ll bet Cruz will go as long as he can without offering any more details than what you see above.

But the portions of the Imagine litany aimed at the Religious Right ring true.

Instead of a federal government that wages an assault on our religious liberty, that goes after Hobby Lobby, that goes after the Little Sisters of the Poor, that goes after Liberty University, imagine a federal government that stands for the First Amendment rights of every American.

Instead of a federal government that works to undermine our values, imagine a federal government that works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.

Instead of a government that works to undermine our Second Amendment rights, that seeks to ban our ammunition imagine a federal government that protects the right to keep and bear arms of all law-abiding Americans.

I’ve got nothing cynical to say about any of that. [6] He means it.

God’s help. One theme of Cruz’ career is that conservatives don’t need to compromise, they just need to fight. That principle and Cruz’ leadership was how we wound up with the government shutdown of 2013.

So he closes his speech by explaining why he believes — in spite of sad experience — that compromise is unnecessary and his vision is possible. He recalls a number of crisis points in American history [7], and then concludes:

From the dawn of this country, at every stage America has enjoyed God’s providential blessing. Over and over again, when we face impossible odds, the American people rose to the challenge.

So Theocrats shouldn’t seek a compromise candidate that might have a better chance of winning. Ted Cruz should be their first choice, and with their help and God’s he will become president.

Is it working? The first new poll out says it is: Cruz has gone from 5% support to 16%, within striking distance of the leaders Scott Walker (20%) and Jeb Bush (17%). God may not be throwing his weight into the scale, but the Theocrats are.


[1] Liberty has nearly 14,000 students on its campus and another 100,000 online. I’m not sure exactly how it justifies its claim to be “the largest Christian university in the world”, which Cruz repeats in his speech.

Just in the U.S., Catholic DePaul has over 30,000 students on campus. Maybe Liberty has more online students, or maybe they think Catholic universities are not really Christian. Certainly you don’t have to be Christian to attend DePaul, while Liberty’s application requires an essay on “How will your personal faith and beliefs allow you to contribute to Liberty’s mission to develop Christ-centered leaders?”

One good background source is the book The Unlikely Disciple, by a liberal Brown student who goes undercover at Liberty.

[2] Since Ted was born while the family was living in Canada, he gets his American citizenship and his right to run for president from his mother, who was born in Delaware. Some on the left want to make an issue out of this, since there is at least more substance to it than to the pure-fantasy Birther objections to President Obama’s legitimacy — which Rafael Cruz promoted. But two wrongs don’t make a right. Birthers tear down democracy by injecting bullshit into the public discourse. Those of us who want to uphold democracy can’t use their tactics.

[3] In context, this talking-about-himself-in-the-third person is not as weird as it sounds out of context. Rhetorically, he has set it up well.

[4] That choice of founding father is a dog whistle: To most of us, Patrick Henry is just another founder. But he was a Theocrat in the Virginia of his day, and clashed often with secularists like Jefferson and Madison. Liberty students probably know this.

[5] I just finished doing my own taxes. If we’d had only one tax rate in 2014, all that would have changed were the numbers in the Tax Tables. Everything else in my tax return (and yours too, I believe) would have been exactly the same.

[6] Well, one thing. The “ban our ammunition” line is about a proposal to ban armor-piercing bullets, whose main civilian application is in killing cops. The Obama administration dropped that proposal after the NRA threw a fit.

This shows how far you have to stretch if you want to claim that Obama is a threat to gun owners: You have to point to a moderate, sensible proposal that he didn’t follow through on anyway.

[7] Leaving out the Civil War, interestingly. I wonder if Cruz believes God’s side won that war.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,756 other followers