Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Xi Jinping's 21st Century Silk Economic Belt and Road
  About California's future if China becomes
  the world's 21st Century economic center

At the beginning of this month, for two weeks an event took place for which I can find no news coverage in the United States - not even California news sources. Here is how the China Daily described it:
    An annual event dedicated to promoting business and cultural exchanges between China and California, ChinaWeek draws industry and government representatives from Guangdong, Hebei, Inner Mongolia, Jiangsu, Shandong, Shanghai and Chongqing to expand and deepen bilateral trade and investment, said Peter Shiao, chairman of ChinaWeek and its organizer.
    California Governor Jerry Brown, as usual, was upbeat on the state's relationship with China during his keynote speech at Tuesday's California-China Business Summit, an important component of ChinaWeek.
    Brown anticipates closer and deeper collaborations within a wide spectrum of industries and fields between China and California, especially high tech, clean tech, real estate, agriculture, infrastructure and education. "Let's roll up our sleeves to have the work done," said the governor.
    China in the past 16 years has invested $16 billion in more than 370 businesses in California and accounted for 60 percent of international trade activities in the "gateway state", said Shiao, adding that China remains Los Angeles County's biggest trader partner.
Not one American news website story on this gathering can be found if you do a Google news search.

On the other hand, this past week's Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was given some, albeit mostly dismissive, coverage by the American press, from both mainstream and alt right.

Click on images to see larger versions!

What may have been the most significant political speech of 2017 was a toast at a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. China's President Xi Jinping in calling for renewing the Silk Road spirit said:
    More than 2,000 years ago, our ancestors, driven by a desire for friendship, opened the overland and maritime Silk Roads and thus started a great era of exchanges among civilizations. Today, we gather here to renew the Silk Road spirit and discuss the Belt and Road development for international cooperation. This is both a continuation of our shared legacy and a right choice for the future.
He also noted that the Belt and Road Initiative embodies the aspiration for inter-civilization exchanges, the yearning for peace and stability, the pursuit of common development and the shared dream for a better life.

Silk Road? Belt and Road Initiative?? 2000 years??? Where is the all important "me" in that????

In considering such a span of human history, it is wise to keep in mind these words from the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz:

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Despite the fact that "selfies" and self-important tweets are all the rage among the consumers of the world, there is no "me" in considering 2000 years, even in or particularly in the World Wide Web. Individual fruit flies and individual humans are equally unimportant over time periods measured in centuries.

Yes there have been individual humans who made a significant continuing impact on humans in time spans measured in thousands of years. It would be fair to say that of the 100,000,000,000± billion folks who have ever lived and are not alive today, 100± individuals made a significant impact that reverberates through history to today. That's 1 out of every 1 billion.

So it's likely that, out of the 7 billion now alive, there are seven individuals out there who will be recognized as someone who still impacts significantly on human life 2,000 years from now.

And not that most of us don't contribute to the cumulative gross mess that is human history. But it is likely that when it comes to altering the course of that history in a meaningful way, this guy is probably one of the seven....

You probably recognize he is not Donald Trump nor any other American. Nor for that matter is he from any European culture. If you are among 95%+ of Americans, just from the picture below you will not be able to place a name...

...with the face of the man in the middle with is wife, China's President Xi Jinping.

On February 11, 2009, while visiting Mexico, then Vice-President Xi spoke in front of a group of overseas Chinese noting that China's task was to keep "its 1.3 billion people from hunger" and regarding the financial crisis affecting the Atlantic oriented world: "There are some bored foreigners, with full stomachs, who have nothing better to do than point fingers at us. First, China doesn't export revolution; second, China doesn't export hunger and poverty; third, China doesn't come and cause you headaches. What more is there to be said?"

That helps put a bit of perspective on his visit to Central Asia and Southeast Asia in September and October 2013, when as China's President he raised the initiative of jointly building the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road.

Additional perspective (for those who live in a country that is less than 400 years old) comes from China's history where writing began around 7000 BCE,  the first empire dynasty emerged around 2100 BCE, and the Shang Dynasty from the 17th to the 11th century BCE created oracle bone script which is a direct ancestor of modern Chinese characters. To make a long story short, around 220 BCE the state of Qin established the first unified Chinese state. Its King Zheng enacted legalist reforms throughout China, notably the forced standardization of Chinese characters, measurements, road widths (i.e., cart axles' length), and currency. His dynasty also conquered the Yue tribes in Guangxi, Guangdong, and Vietnam. The Han dynasty emerged to rule China between 206 BCE and CE 220, creating a cultural identity among its populace still remembered in the ethnonym of the Han Chinese. The Han expanded the empire's territory considerably, with military campaigns reaching Central Asia, Mongolia, South Korea, and Yunnan, and the recovery of Guangdong and northern Vietnam from Nanyue. Han involvement in Central Asia and Sogdia helped establish the land route of the Silk Road, replacing the earlier path over the Himalayas to India. Han China gradually became the largest economy of the ancient world. For more historical detail on the Silk Road click on this image:

Historical extent of Silk Route/Silk Road. Red is land route and the blue is the sea/water route.

Xi's Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road - also known as the Belt and Road Initiative, the Belt and Road (abbreviated B&R), or One Belt, One Road (abbreviated OBOR) - is a broad international economic development strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries.

The plan covers 65 nations, about 60 per cent of the world’s population and a third of global GDP. China has budgeted $40 billion for the project. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which began operations last year with $100 billion in capital, is also expected to fund Belt and Road projects.

The Belt and Road initiative is geographically structured along six corridors, and the maritime silk road:
  • New Eurasian Land Bridge, running from Western China to Western Russia
  • China–Mongolia–Russia Corridor, running from Northern China to Eastern Russia
  • China–Central Asia–West Asia Corridor, running from Western China to Turkey
  • China–Indochina Peninsula Corridor, running from Southern China to Singapore
  • China–Pakistan Corridor, running from South-Western China to Pakistan
  • Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar Corridor, running from Southern China to India
  • Maritime Silk Road, running from the Chinese Coast over Singapore and India to the Mediterranean.
The initiative calls for the integration of the region into a cohesive economic area through building infrastructure, increasing cultural exchanges, and broadening trade. Apart from this zone, which is largely analogous to the historical Silk Road, another area that is said to be included in the extension of this 'belt' is South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Many of the countries that are part of this belt are also members of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). North, central and south belts are proposed. goes through Central Asia, Russia to Europe. The Central belt goes through Central Asia, West Asia to the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean. The South belt starts from China to Southeast Asia, South Asia, to the Indian Ocean through Pakistan. The Chinese One Belt strategy will integrate with Central Asia through Kazakhstan's Nurly Zhol infrastructure program. (Much of this information is from the Wikipedia entry which offers more.)

From a movement point of view the B&R historical ties looks something like this:

But in terms of world impact it could also be viewed this way...

...or this way:

Click on image to access links to each country.
Attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation this past week were the following representatives of non-member nations:
Heads of State:
  • Argentina: President Mauricio Macri Chile: President Michelle Bachelet
  • Fiji: Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
  • Greece: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras
  • Italy: Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni
  • Kenya: President Uhuru Kenyatta
  • Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte
  • Poland: Prime Minister Beata Szydło
  • Spain: Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy
  • Switzerland: President Doris Leuthard
Minister Level:
  • Australia: Trade Minister Steve Ciobo
  • Brazil: Secretary for Strategic Affairs Hussein Ali Kalout
  • Finland:  Minister of Transport and Communications of Finland Anne Berner
  • Germany: Minister of Economic Affairs Brigitte Zypries
  • North Korea: Kim Yong-jae, Minister of External Economic Relations
  • France: Jean-Pierre Raffarin, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, Defense and Armed Forces in the French Senate
  • Japan: LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai
  • South Korea: Ambassador to China Kim Jang-soo; Park Byeong-seug, National Assembly member for the Democratic Party
  • United States: Matt Pottinger, National Security Council senior director for Asia (Who???)
There is a lot of recent history and current activity involved, not all of which has been successful as explained in Wade Shepard's I Spent Two Years On China's Belt And Road, And This Is What I Found. Shepard also provides a proper perspective:
    China takes a long-term view of these investments, and have show that they are willing to exercise the requisite patience. By long-term view, I mean 30, 40, 50 years down the line, not the 5 to 10 years that is roughly where the west’s nearsightedness kicks in.
    China has shown that it is both willing and able to weather the storms of domestic and international politics in order to get what they want in the end.
Shepard is one of those rare American's who, in addition to being able to read and write well above a 6th grade level, is a China expert based upon his travels and study in China. He is currently traveling the New Silk Road doing research for a new book. You can follow his writings through this feed.

Which brings us back to that 2000 year window. As Shepard commented about Americans, we are limited by "the 5 to 10 years that is roughly where the west’s nearsightedness kicks in." That is really generous as much of our business activity is controlled by a 5 to 10 week time frame and generally Americans struggle with a planning attention span of 5 to 10 days.

So it's probably ok that those selfies and tweets are on some electronic device and/or cloud that will certainly and inevitably disappear over the next hundred years. They don't matter, not even Donald Trumps tweets, nor all the self-important news reporters following them.

As explained in an Atlantic article while most post-election analysis cited economic anxiety as the main concern when people chose to vote for Donald Trump, a newer survey paints a different picture - it was cultural anxiety that drove white, working-class voters to Trump.  Sixty-eight percent of white working-class voters said the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence and nearly half agreed with the statement, “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.”

So, the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence. Members of the alt-right and Trump tweet about it on their smart phones manufactured in Asia by Asians. But then again so do the members of what is now being called "the Alt-Left" led by Bernie Sanders which is working to take over the Democratic Party.

Meanwhile, The Sydney Morning Herald reported Sunday that Eleven Asia-Pacific nations agree to salvage Trans-Pacific Partnership:
    Eleven Asia-Pacific nations, including Australia, agreed on Sunday to salvage a massive free trade deal that US President Donald Trump pulled out of days after taking office in January.
    Australia's Trade Minister Steve Ciobo pushed for the agreement at a meeting in Vietnam to "launch a process to assess options" to bring the Trans-Pacific Partnership into force.
    New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay, who chaired the meeting, left open the possibility of the US rejoining the TPP despite Mr Trump saying he prefers bilateral free trade deals.
    Mr McClay said each country had to consider both economic values and the strategic importance of the agreement "but in the end there is a lot of unity among all of the countries and a great desire to work together to come up with an agreement."
As I explained almost one year ago Sanders and Trump to destroy Pacific Rim states of California, Oregon, and Washington by forcing the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Because the Alt-Left and -Right led American voters (I consider them both among "The Deplorables") wanted their grandchildren to have income and eat, before voting they examined major economic shifts, studying them as much as they possibly could, ignoring their own self-indulgent feelings of stress. So they knew the TPP was a plan to reduce the impact of China on the economies of the Pacific Rim nations and the World over the next 50-100 years - the lifespans of their children and grandchildren.

Except, of course, that isn't what they did because the ignoramuses leading them, Trump and Sanders, still don't know what's happening. As Bill Maher regularly notes, the American voters mostly are stupid, failing to vote their own self-interest mostly because they don't know what that is.

At this point we are facing what I call The Deplorables Map of the Future of World Economics because they at election time assured it (click on it for a larger version):

This economic China-centric world is the future. As the intent of the B&R is explained by The New York Times:
    [China's President] Xi is aiming to use China’s wealth and industrial know-how to create a new kind of globalization that will dispense with the rules of the aging Western dominated institutions. The goal is to refashion the global economic order, drawing countries and companies more tightly into China’s orbit.
    “President Xi believes this is a long-term plan that will involve the current and future generations to propel Chinese and global economic growth,” said Cao Wenlian, director general of the International Cooperation Center of the National Development and Reform Commission, a group dedicated to the initiative. “The plan is to lead the new globalization 2.0.”
    Mr. Xi is rolling out a more audacious version of the Marshall Plan, America’s postwar reconstruction effort. Back then, the United States extended vast amounts of aid to secure alliances in Europe. China is deploying hundreds of billions of dollars of state-backed loans in the hope of winning new friends around the world, this time without requiring military obligations.
    Mr. Xi’s plan stands in stark contrast to President Trump and his “America First” mantra. The Trump administration walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the American-led trade pact that was envisioned as a buttress against China’s growing influence.
    “Pursuing protectionism is just like locking oneself in a dark room,” Mr. Xi told business leaders at the World Economic Forum in January.
As of 2017, China (including Hong Kong) holds $1.324 trillion in U.S. debt derived from our deficit balance of trade. The average American can pretty much figure out where that came from by looking at the stuff around his or her house, cupboards, and closests (as well as staring at that phone in his or her hand). Much of it contains components, or is entirely, made in China. After all it is where the Trump family has their clothing lines made. So President Xi is pretty comfortable loaning a few billion here and there around the world.

But wait. Didn't I say that while the B&R includes about 60 per cent of the world’s population, it only includes a third of global GDP?  And my "Deplorables Map" above doesn't correctly reflect the World as it does not include Europe, particularly the European Union members. After all, the EU is the second largest economy in the world and the world's largest trading block. Of course, Brexit likely will change all that. However, what were talking about here is the area in the square...

...which geographically isn't perhaps the largest block. But nonetheless, it the following map initially would seem to indicate a meaningful portion of the World's economy...

...except... notice the round purple dots on all the countries that are members of China's Belt and Road Initiative and remember as mentioned above that the heads of state of Greece, Italy, Poland, and Spain, plus cabinet ministers from Finland and the United Kingdom attended the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation.

It might not be unreasonable to assume that China's economic policy influence in Europe would increase substantially in the next 50-100 years as the United States abandons its allies like it did in the Pacific Rim.

When contemplating Europe, we have to remember that it is the same distance between Berlin and Beijing as it is between Berlin and the State Capitol of Illinois, Springfield. Far more Chinese citizens live closer to Berlin than Americans. Denver is closer to Beijing than Berlin.

The problem is, our history is Atlantic-centered (except for California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska). That made sense when the sailing ship was the primary source of transportation between continents. But since the mid-20th Century aircraft altered the reality for everyone except Americans East of the Mississippi and Europeans who still live in the 18th Century.

I get it. Sure the Deplorables of the left and right and the Brexiters feel things have changed so much that they often feel like a stranger in their own countries. But it's long past the time that sailing ships were lobbing cannon balls while Francis Scott Key wrote those sterling versus in the defense of owning slaves. Get over it. There are new problems now. Americans are going to have to adjust or lose out completely by the beginning of the 22nd Century.

Back in January, California Governor Jerry Brown went to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco to speak at a Lunar New Year celebration to reaffirm what he called the state's "great interest" in working with China. As explained in the LA Times:
    "There will be a few side arguments in Washington," Brown said. "Don't worry. When it comes to California and China, we're on the right track, and we're going to stay there."
    California has collaborated closely on climate change with Chinese officials, who have studied the state's programs as they formulate their own. Brown said the state also has benefited from China's production of solar panels, helping to drive down the cost of renewable energy.
    "We are working together with China," he said. "Whatever little differences we have, or whatever big differences, the fact is, we have one world. We have one space we're all connected by."
    Brown's brief comments at the consulate weren't all rosy. Often preoccupied with existential threats , he told the audience that he wanted to make sure they "walk out of here with at least three things to worry about."
    First, he said, "you will suffer" if climate change isn't addressed. Second, nuclear bombs could "get used by somebody," which would be "very bad." Third, the global financial system "might collapse again."
    "That's a lot to worry about," Brown said.
Next month Brown will be in China to attend a climate change conference. Brown previously visited China in 2013 on a trade policy trip. He makes these trips because he knows that China and the U.S. have to take the lead on climate change. He also knows the most serious threat of nuclear war comes from North Korea. He understands that as was true in 2008 the potential collapse of the global financial system will result from U.S. economic policy, the impact of which China is trying to avert.

Finally, he understands that while California's economy ranks, depending on year, between #5-#8 in the world, it couldn't without strong foreign trade as represented by this data:

At the end of the 19th Century, bilateral trade relationships between countries dominated which led to the most murderous century in history. At the end of the 20th Century during which 100+ million people died in wars, multilateral trade relationships between countries became the norm to avoid conflict.

China's leadership understands this world reality and intends to take the leadership role which will be facilitated by the absence of U.S. influence. California's leadership understands this world reality and intends to continue its active role in order to protect the interests of its people, particularly necessary in the vacuum left by the U.S. government.

And if you don't think there is a potential threat, consider this article that appeared in Asian news sources but not American news sources in March 2017 Moscow and Beijing join forces to bypass US dollar in world money market and perhaps you'll begin to understand that isolating the U.S. as Trump touts bilateral trade negotiations could become a disaster for the grandchildren of The Deplorables.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

California and Kentucky - A tale of two states
  From Sen. Henry Clay's Compromise of
  1850 to Obama's Affordable Care Act

Californians and Kentuckians have one truth in common - neither State shares a cultural identity with another state based on political history. But Californians and Kentuckians have common interests that were in the spotlight in the last seven days.

One is the close relationship between some folks in Cupertino, California, and folks in Harrodsburg, Kentucky - specifically at Apple's headquarters in Silicon Valley and at Corning's glass plant in Kentucky.

Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, explained to a group of Corning employees on the plant floor Friday that the iPhone originally had plastic on the surface, but when Steve Jobs showed a prototype on the stage in 2007, he kept it in his pocket and by the end of the day the surface was covered with scratches.

Jobs decided that the phone, which was to be released in six months, had to have a glass surface. Every time Apple had tested the iPhone with glass, the glass broke when they dropped it. Shatter resistant glass existed only in Corning's lab. But Corning scrambled and the Harrodsburg plant has been making the Gorilla Glass for iPhones ever since.

Apple announced Friday that it plans to invest $200 million in the Corning Gorilla Glass plant in Harrodsburg. The money will come from Apple’s new Advanced Manufacturing Fund, which the company says will invest $1 billion with U.S.-based companies to develop innovative production and skilled jobs.

The previous Saturday was the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby as noted in newspapers here in the Northern California Redwoods where we celebrate Seabiscuit. This tie to Kentucky goes much further back than 10 years ago. Seabiscuit was foaled in Lexington, Kentucky, on May 23, 1933 and grew up on Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, where he was trained.

California and Kentucky share some history that goes beyond horse racing. California became a state in 1850 because of Kentuckian Henry Clay.

Tensions between the North and South over the issue of slavery were high in the 1840's. By 1850, after the Mexican-American War, how to handle the former Mexican territory occupied by the United States placed a critical strain.

The Compromise of 1850 was formally proposed by Clay, then a Senator from Kentucky, and guided to passage by Senator Stephen A. Douglas, Democrat of Illinois, over Northern Whig and Southern Democrat opposition. It was enacted September 1850:
  1. California was admitted as a free state;
  2. Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory were organized with slavery to be decided by popular sovereignty;
  3. Texas dropped its claim to land north of the 32nd parallel north and west of the 103rd meridian west in favor of New Mexico Territory, and north of the 36°30' parallel north and east of the 103rd meridian west which became unorganized territory. Texas's boundaries were set at their present form. Senator James Pearce of Maryland drafted the final proposal where Texas ceded its claims to land which later became half of present-day New Mexico, a third of Colorado, and small portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming to the federal government, in return for the assumption of $10 million of the old republic's debt. El Paso, where Texas had established county government, was left in Texas;
  4. Slave trade was abolished in Washington, D.C. (but not slavery itself);
  5. The Fugitive Slave Act was strengthened.
Of particular concern was California and its gold.

I would guess that fewer than one-in-a-hundred-thousand of persons raised in California know about Henry Clay and the Compromise of 1850. Unfortunately, the in-depth teaching of American History in public schools has not been a priority in California where creating student self-involvement was once prioritized under the euphemism "self-esteem."

A failure to understand each other because of a lack of awareness of how historical context alters culture is significant in the United States.  The history is reflected in the differences in the populations. Compare California's racial/ethnic makeup...

to Kentucky's....
Kentucky's population is 85% non-Hispanic White and 8% non-Hispanic Black, which totals to 93% of the population. California is 39% Hispanic and 14% Asian which total to 53% of the population, while 38% of the population is non-Hispanic White and 6% non-Hispanic Black which total to 44% of the population.

It is almost as if the two states have no history in common. And except for Henry Clay having an important role in their histories, they don't have any important cultural history in common.

As I've explained elsewhere, California was a Spanish colony/Mexican territory from the late 1500's to 1849. On the other hand, Kentucky was part of the British colony/U.S. State of Virginia during that 300 year period. Kentucky has no sea coastline but has the most navigable miles of water in the lower 48 states and is the only U.S. state to have a continuous border of rivers running along three of its sides. California is on the Pacific Rim with 3,427 miles of measured coastline.

These different States embraced he Affordable Care Act  ("ObamaCare") but are now responding to the very knotty public policy problem that (1) it requires additional subsidies by the state government and (2) Congress may replace it.

Both the State of California and the State of Kentucky jumped into program enthusiastically. Despite that fact that in 2013 Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky railed against the Affordable Care Act, calling it a “catastrophic failure” for people everywhere, Kentucky's then Democratic Governor Steve Beshear responded: “I have a U.S. senator who keeps saying Kentuckians don’t want this. Well, the facts don’t prove that out."

In Kentucky, more than 400,000 people gained health insurance through the program, with the highest growth rate of Medicaid coverage of any state.

In late 2013, as McConnell pointed out, it was learned that about 280,000 Kentuckians would have to give up their existing insurance policies and enroll in alternatives that comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. Kentucky Department of Insurance spokeswoman Ronda Sloan said individual policies for about 130,000 people would be discontinued, as would small group policies for about 150,000 more.

Beshear’s successor, Republican Governor Bevin, was elected in 2015 on a promise to repeal and replace the healthcare law on the view that thousands of Kentuckians had unaffordable premiums and only one health insurer to choose from.

Bevin explained: “We want this to be a helping hand for people at a time when they need it, but then be able to return to the commercial marketplace.” Last year, Bevin submitted the waiver to restrict Medicaid eligibility by requiring enrollees to work or volunteer at least 20 hours per week and to pay monthly premiums based on income.

In an ideologically Neoliberal proposal Bevin's plan would take away from Medicaid recipients most eye care and dental benefits but then allow recipients to earn them back based on this chart:

Californians, on the other hand, now have Socialist Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders telling us "Please make my life easier. The great state of California can send a message that will be heard all over this country and all over the world if you pass single-payer here.” (He doesn't tell anyone that in Vermont the Governor and the Legislature are locked in battle because under the Affordable Care Act, virtually all teacher health insurance plans must be re-done to start a new plan on January 1, 2018. But hey, nobody cares that Bernie is politically useless in his home state when it comes to solving problems.)

Indeed the "great state of California" is looking at Senate Bill 562, the Healthy California Act, which for all Californians would cover all medical care, including inpatient, outpatient, emergency care, dental, vision, mental health, nursing home care, eliminate co-pays, insurance deductibles and allow Californians to choose their doctor plus referrals would not be required. (It's tempting to say that also for anyone who loses a tooth, regardless of age a State tooth fairy will leave $1,000 under your pillow....)

A nine-member unpaid board appointed by the governor and Legislature would oversee the health system. An advisory committee, consisting of doctors, nurses, consumers and other health care providers, also would guide public policy.

The state would seek waivers from the federal government for Medi-Cal (Medicaid), the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare, and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to offset the cost of the program. But how to pay the substantive balance of the cost has yet to be proposed.

The last California single-payer proposal was introduced in 2007. Estimates indicated it would have cost the state $209.8 billion rising to as much as $252 billion in 2015, according a fiscal analysis by the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The plan included an 8% wage tax on employers and 4% on employees. Based on now known medical care cost increases since 2007, the tax for that plan would have to have been raised substantially, probably some number like 12% on both employers and employees. And the plan was not as comprehensive as the new proposal. It was vetoed by then Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Democratic Governor Jerry Brown when in Washington lobbying about the billions his state could lose on the eve of the House Republican vote to repeal and replace Obamacare said regarding SB562: “Where do you get the extra money? This is the whole question. I don’t even get ... how do you do that? This is called ‘the unknown by means of the more unknown.' In other words, you take a problem, and say ‘I am going to solve it by something that’s ... a bigger problem,’ which makes no sense.”

The reality is that Social Security and Medicare are mostly funded by taxes on wages, partly paid by employers and by employees. Make no mistake about it, any single-payer plan in California will require additional such taxes. And no it won't come from "the rich" as California already has a billionaire-income-tax supporting its deficit budget in a significant amount.

It is a deficit budget, worse than expected as Brown’s administration miscalculated costs for Medi-Cal by $1.9 billion in the 2016-17 budget. The Democratic governor called for more than $3 billion in budget cuts in 2017-18 because of a projected deficit he pegged at $1.6 billion for that year. The massive hole in the Medi-Cal budget surprised state lawmakers.

Since it is likely that California will see reductions in federal support for Medi-Cal within the next few years, it's going to be interesting to watch "liberal" Californian's deal with taxes. Because in 2017 the Democrats controlled 's of the votes in both houses of the Legislature, a very large gasoline tax increase was approved to do badly needed road maintenance. Now a ballot measure has been proposed to have the voters repeal the gas tax increase.

Without a 's vote in each house of the Legislature any health care taxes, like all California tax proposals, must be approved  by the voters.

Assuming a tax on wages is proposed, because the State has fumbled a lot of programs over the past two decades, it will be interesting to see if the over-65, most of whom wouldn't be taxed, would consider supporting the measure. Or would the Legislature run into a wall old protestors with signs saying "Keep the STATE GOVERNMENT out of my Medicare." My guess is that would happen if the bill continues to propose to interfere with Medicare.

And of course they would have to get it past voters who have good employer-sponsored health plans. What's the slogan going to be - "Trust Us State Officials to Get Healthcare Right!...even though we risked too much with the Affordable Care Act and now can't even pay that bill."

Consider this problem. In order to pay for health care for a child in a poor family whose Facebook page you don't follow, it might prevent you from buying the next iPhone, as you do each year. That could negatively impact workers in Kentucky.

Which interestingly brings us back to Kentucky's Senator, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who according to a newspaper report noted he had nothing to do with Apple’s investment but came to the plant for the announcement to congratulate the company.

“The last thing I look at at night and the first thing I look at in the morning is my iPhone,” McConnell said. “And unlike most people, I think of Harrodsburg, Kentucky.”

So do some people in Cupertino, Senator.  But why do I doubt you ever think of them?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Chilling Trump Civil War Blurt-Blat
  About that cruel slave owner Jackson
  and the genocide of Native Americans

This week's Trumpist is actually President Donald Trump. If he weren't President it would be hard to be critical of him for what he said even though it is easy to criticize what he said. He is just a typical American completely unfamiliar with the facts of American history while repeating the mythology of that history:
    TRUMP: [President Andrew Jackson] was a swashbuckler. But when his wife died, did you know he visited her grave everyday? I visited her grave actually because I was in Tennessee.
    ZITO: That's right. You were in Tennessee.
    TRUMP: And it was amazing. The people of Tennessee are amazing people. They love Andrew Jackson. They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee.
    ZITO: He's fascinating.
    TRUMP: I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said, “There's no reason for this.” People don't realize, you know, the Civil War — if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?
First of all, Andrew Jackson may be loved by some in Tennessee, but in fact historically he was the Englishic-American who most successfully advocated for the inclusion of the genocide of Native Americans in U.S. policy.

Second, Andrew Jackson died in 1845, 16 years before the Civil War started. It is fair to assume he would not have compromised on slavery as this hero of white supremacy was a rabid, cruel slave owner as indicated in this ad to recover one of his slaves who ran away offering an additional "ten dollars extra for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred dollars":

Of course, context is important. When he became President, four of his six predecessors were slave owners even while in office. In fact, of the first 18 Presidents, 8 (in red) owned slaves during their Presidency, 5 (in green) owned slaves some other time in their lives, 5 (in blue) never owned slaves:
  1. George Washington
  2. John Adams
  3. Thomas Jefferson
  4. James Madison
  5. James Monroe
  6. John Quincy Adams
  7. Andrew Jackson
  8. Martin Van Buren
  9. William Henry Harrison
  10. John Tyler
  11. James K. Polk
  12. Zachary Taylor
  13. Millard Fillmore
  14. Franklin Pierce
  15. James Buchanan
  16. Abraham Lincoln
  17. Andrew Johnson
  18. Ulysses S. Grant
And if context is important, compared to the generals on the Union side in 1861, Jackson was a pretty competent general. So perhaps had he been alive and well in 1861 today we might be talking about two countries. That really would have made him popular in today's Tennessee.

Trump's belief that Jackson could have negotiated to avoid the war reflects a poor understanding of the difference in the Southern populism that led to Jackson's election and the Northern populism that led to Lincoln's election. In Trump's case the Rust Belt - Deep South populism he rode to victory had much in common with Jackson's victory.

I hope Trump's blurt-blat only reflects a troubling overall American ignorance. But I fear that deep-down it reflects a chilling property-ownership economic slant of Trump which parallels Jackson when it comes to workers. Perhaps it is both.

It is chilling to me as a Californian because the most recent legalized slavery in the United States is deeply embedded in Trumpist anti-Mexican rhetoric. It brings up memories associated with this 1966 Phil Ochs song:


Wade into the river, through the rippling shallow waters
Steal across the thirsty border, bracero
Come bring your hungry body to the golden fields of plenty
From a peso to a penny, bracero

Oh, welcome to California
Where the friendly farmers will take care of you

Come labor for your mother, for your father and your brother
For your sisters and your lover, bracero
Come pick the fruits of yellow, break the flowers from the berries
Purple grapes will fill your bellies, bracero

Oh, welcome to California
Where the friendly farmers will take care of you

And the sun will bite your body, as the dust will draw you thristy
While your muscles beg for mercy, bracero
In the shade of your sombrero, drop your sweat upon the soil
Like the fruit your youth can spoil, bracero

Oh, welcome to California
Where the friendly farmers will take care of you

When the weary night embraces, sleep in shacks that could be cages
They will take it from your wages, bracero
Come sing about tomorrow with a jingle of the dollars
And forget your crooked collar, bracero

Oh, welcome to California
Where the friendly farmers will take care of you

And the local men are lazy, and they make too much of trouble
Besides we'd have to pay them double, bracero
Ah, but if you feel you're fallin', if you find the pace is killing
There are others who are willing, bracero

Oh, welcome to California
Where the friendly farmer will take care of you
The term "slavery" in the 21st Century United States is associated with racism. In fact, in human history while slavery frequently is associated with with some variation on tribalism or extended tribalism. But in U.S. history it is ongoing within the competitive private property economic system embraced by Americans and the United States Constitution. From the Wikipedia entry:
    Slavery is, in the strictest sense of the term, any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a de jure form of property. A slave is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration. Many scholars now use the term chattel slavery to refer to this specific sense of legalised, de jure slavery. In a broader sense, however, the word slavery may also refer to any situation in which an individual is de facto forced to work against his or her will. Scholars also use the more generic terms such as unfree labour or forced labour, to refer to such situations. However – and especially under slavery in broader senses of the word – slaves may have some rights and/or protections, according to laws and/or customs.
    Slavery began to exist before written history, in many cultures. A person could become a slave from the time of their birth, capture, or purchase.
    While slavery was institutionally recognized by most societies, it has now been outlawed in all recognized countries, the last being Mauritania in 2007. Nevertheless, there are still more slaves today than at any previous point in history: an estimated 45 million people remain enslaved worldwide. The most common form of the slave trade is now commonly referred to as human trafficking. Chattel slavery is also still practiced by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. In other areas, slavery (or unfree labour) continues through practices such as debt bondage, serfdom, domestic servants kept in captivity, certain adoptions in which children are forced to work as slaves, child soldiers, and forced marriage.
    Evidence of slavery predates written records, and has existed in many cultures. Slavery is rare among hunter-gatherer populations because it requires economic surpluses and a high population density to be viable. This, although it has existed among unusually resource-rich hunter gatherers, such as the American Indian peoples of the salmon-rich rivers of the Pacific Northwest Coast, slavery became widespread only with the invention of agriculture during the Neolithic Revolution about 11,000 years ago.
    Slavery was known in almost every ancient civilization and society.
It is not hard to imagine a modern economic system of several classes which includes a corporate ownership class and a corporate-owned slave class. In such a system if the dominate morality required best-of-care for slaves, the corporations allowed to own slaves would provide adequate housing, food, clothing, transportation, quality health care, entertainment, etc., for every slave from infancy through old-age.

In a different economic system, we now require the ownership class to pay wages to employees only when profitable work is available. As several economists have determined from the economic modeling of slavery, it is cheaper to let the children of the working class go without healthcare. If you owned them as valuable property, you'd have to adequately provide for them.

Economists do not model morality, of course. And most certainly, politicians do not, including the Trumpists.

As I noted in the prior post, Wall Street financiers, commercial shippers, and merchants all had economic interests in the South maintaining its slave-based economy. In the wake of the Compromise of 1850 which resulted in California's admittance to the Union, the Union Safety Committee was created in New York City and pledged “to resist every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest.” As current Wall Street financiers (many of whom are in Trump's cabinet), would say "it's economics, you see...."

It has been said that Churchill's quote near the beginning of this post paraphrased this one...

The difference is that Churchill assumed people might be taught history. Santayana assumed people would notice what's going on around them to learn from the errors of their grandparents' generation, the errors of their parents' generation, and their own accumulating errors.

Neither anticipated 21st Century American Trumpists....