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Thursday, August 25, 2011

New Letter to the Editor - Cover all Candidates

Today, I had a new letter to the editor published in the Poughkeepsie Journal. To read it, click on the link (noting that it is spread over two pages, though I am told it is one page on the mobile website) or read below.

I hope that you will provide more coverage of third-party candidates during the upcoming election season than you have in years past.
You may feel that they have no chance of winning. However, you are misunderstanding cause and effect. It is the lack of attention from media that renders these candidates unviable. In other words, the fact that you think they can't win is exactly what is preventing them from winning. If fair coverage were given to other candidates, we would see completely different results on election day.
In fact, if everyone who was fed up with both "major" parties were to vote for a third party instead, no Democrat or Republican would stand a chance. But the press continuously ignores them, lest attention allow them to seize control from what Ralph Nader described as a "two-party dictatorship."
Therefore, I strongly urge both the paper and the voters to pay attention to other candidates on election day. If you are fed up with politics as usual, vote for someone who will bring something different.The Green Party gained full ballot access in New York state and should contest many local offices. The Libertarian Party is expected to field some candidates as well. But whatever your political preferences, vote for a candidate you truly support, even if that candidate is not a Democrat or a Republican. And to the media, provide attention to those candidates. If you truly are balanced, don't decide for us who can and can't win an election.
Gregory Koch 


 I am on medical leave from UConn this semester *, but still hope to submit some letters to the Daily Campus if I can read it online. With the semester starting Monday, look for those on some Fridays beginning next week.

* - I don't want to post full details about this online. If you want them, email me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

How the Mainstream Media Influences Elections

Update: An updated version of this article was included in the Alternative Political Society's magazine, The Alternative. You can view it here (PDF).

Recently on The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly responded to a viewer's question about why he did not provide coverage of GOP candidates Ron Paul and Herman Cain. After all, isn't O'Reilly supposed to be the "no-spin zone"?. Bill's response was simply "they have no chance of winning". Aside from the fact that the show still covers unwinnable wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, this illustrates a major paradox of election coverage.

Paul and Cain are not being denied coverage because they have no chance of winning. Rather, they have no chance of winning because they are being denied coverage. Below is a list of current GOP candidates, and the number of Google News articles for the last 30 days referring to each of them as of 2:20 PM on August 20. The names were put in quotes, to avoid articles about Paul Rudd and Ron Berkle from being included in this.

Michele Bachmann: 15,400
Ron Paul: 10,400
Mitt Romney: 17,200
Rick Perry: 23,200
Herman Cain: 5,320
Rick Santorum: 5,520

With Bachmann, Perry, and Romney being hailed as the front-runners, it comes as no surprise that they have far more news stories than Paul, Cain, and Santorum. However, is this a cause or an effect of their lack of success? First of all, Ron Paul finished a close second in the Iowa Straw Poll. But the media still ignored him. Jonathan Martin of Politico.com wrote an article which originally had the headline "Michele Bachmann wins Ames Straw Poll, Tim Pawlenty Gets Third". After Pawlenty withdrew, the headline was revised to simply note Bachmann's win. However, at no point did it note Paul's second place finish, even though he received 2,500 more votes than Pawlenty.

This attention bias is not new. During the CNN-Youtube debate for the 2008 Democratic nomination, fringe candidate Mike Gravel questioned whether it was "fair" that he had received significantly less airtime than Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards had. Indeed, according to the Wikipedia article, 13 candidates were asked to all the candidates, though Obama, Edwards, and Clinton were frequently given more time to answer these. Furthermore, seven questions were specifically directed at Edwards, ten at Obama, and nine at Clinton. So-called "minor" candidates Joe Biden and Dennis Kucinich were given five questions each. Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson, also dubbed "minor" by the mainstream media, were given seven each, the same as Edwards, but many of those were redirects that had already been asked to a major candidate. Gravel himself received six questions in addition to the ones for everybody.

In the 2010 New York Governor election, the TV networks managed to hold a debate featuring all seven candidates on the ballot. In addition to Democrat Andrew Cuomo and Republican Carl Paladino, five minor party candidates were featured. Howie Hawkins (Green), Warren Redlich (Libertarian), Jimmy McMillan (Rent is Too Damn High), Charles Barron (Freedom) and Kristin Davis (Anti-Prohibition) all appeared in person. This is a change from the standard practice of only featuring the Democrat and the Republican and ignoring everyone else.

The results showed. Hawkins, Redlich, and McMillan all exceeded their parties' highest vote totals ever in a NY governor election, and in the case of Redlich and McMillan, by a large margin. Hawkins managed to obtain 50,000 votes and get the Green Party "major party" status in New York, thus entitling it to easier ballot access in local elections within the state for the next four years. The Libertarian Party came within 1,500 votes of the magic 50K, whereas it had never even achieved more than 15,000 votes before. McMillan, on the other hand, become somewhat of a celebrity, inspiring a sketch on Saturday Night Live. Of course, "major party" and "minor party" status is just as bad as "major candidate" and "minor candidate" differentiation, but nevertheless, helping these third parties gain more attention is never a bad thing. I give a lot of credit to NY1 for organizing this, and to Cuomo and Paladino for agreeing to it, something most Democrats and Republicans would never do.

I hope that in the future, we will stop seeing less of a media bias against alleged "minor candidates", both in the primaries and general elections. I also hope that voters themselves will stop refusing to vote for minor parties simply because they are "minor". The Saratoga, NY newspaper The Post-Star endorsed Andrew Cuomo in that election. However, it said something rather curious about Redlich and Hawkins.

We've been particularly impressed by Libertarian candidate Warren Redlich, a Guilderland town councilman and attorney who distinguished himself at the lone gubernatorial debate with reasonable, well-considered, educated responses to discussion of the state's problems. He is willing to be specific about how he will eliminate several state agencies, end corporate welfare, and cap public sector pay and pensions as a way of stopping the state's wasteful spending practices.
With more governing experience and by broadening his voter base, Mr. Redlich could become a serious statewide candidate in the future. If you're casting a protest vote, Mr. Redlich is your best choice. But now is not the time to install a newbie in the governor's office, even an articulate one with good ideas.

Perennial Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins, a UPS worker from central New York, is running on a modified New Deal platform that calls for public works projects and taxing the rich, as well as legalizing marijuana and free SUNY tuition. He's not ready to run the state.

This begs two similar questions. Why isn't now the time to elect a political newbie as governor? Has politics as usual worked yet? And why isn't Hawkins ready to run the state. So they don't agree with his platform. I certainly don't either. But they also obviously don't agree with Paladino's platform, or they would have endorsed him. Yet they don't say he's not ready to run the state. (Interestingly enough, the Daily News did mention that the GOP failed to field a remotely credible candidate in their endorsement of Cuomo. Had they said anything else, that wouldn't be too unusual. They didn't.)

So to summarize, we should judge for ourselves who the best candidates are. And we should be given the resources to consider ALL candidates equally, not just the ones the media wants us to consider. So to both the media and the voters in general - be open to those candidates you consider "minor". With your help, we can make them major.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Economic Journal Article #5http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=6144408548910691939

Here is the fifth installment of my economic journal articles for ECO 202 - Macroeconomics at Dutchess Community College. This has been reprinted with the permission of Professor Noreen Van Valkenburgh. I was supposed to publish one a day but forgot to upload one yesterday, so this is the second one for today. Unfortunately, for some reason there is no date on this one.

Subject: Republican proposals for debt cuts
Source: Various


Some Republicans in Congress are proposing $45 billion in welfare spending cuts in exchange to raise the debt ceiling. Other Republicans refuse to even do that. And some Democrats aren't willing to make the cuts. So it looks like disaster

My opinion:

We wouldn't be in this mess in the first place if the government didn't spend so much. We need to cut spending by a lot more than $45 billion. And yes, some areas will have to go. You can privatize, eliminate, or reduce almost every government agency. If something really is important and useful to the population, the private sector can handle it and be funded by those who want it. This would also have the added benefit of reducing taxes. I am a libertarian and do not feel that most government spending projects are proper. With the exception of law enforcement (which would not prosecute victimless crimes as they do now), courts, and maybe a few other agencies, I would cut everything ideally. But that is ideally. In this case, at the very least, you have to cut more than $45 billion.


Economic Journal Article #4

 My apologies for not posting yesterday. I'll be posting two of these today as a result. In any case, here is economic journal entry #4, written for ECON 202: Macroeconomics at Dutchess Community College in Summer 2011. These have been reprinted with permission of Professor Noreen Van Valkenburgh.

Topic: Obama gives a speech on the debt ceiling crisis
Source: TV 
Date: July 11
Summary: President Obama gave a speech today discussing the approaching of the debt ceiling. He said that he would not sign a short-term solution. Also, the Republicans are not cooperating without significant cuts and no tax increase.


This is ridiculous. The government defaulting on their loans would be a disaster, but we can't keep spending like this. And the so-called $45 billion cuts are a joke. We would still be running a huge deficit and the debt would keep rising. The cuts should not just be limited to Medicare. We also need to cut our massive defense budget. We could cut it by 90% and it would still be the world's largest. The Republicans need to start cutting their own spending, not just the Democrats'. And they need to cut a lot of it. Most of our spending is wasteful. There is the pyramid scheme that is medicare, but there is also NCLB, and the huge military, and three unnecessary wars. Republicans' programs are not immune from their cuts. No program is immune. I don't want to see the government default, but we need to cut spending significantly. Earlier this year, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) ran the "Chinese Professor" TV ad, which has been compared to such legendary political ads as "Daisy Girl" and"Morning in America". It featured a professor at Beijing University in 2030 giving a lecture to a history class. He discusses the fall of "great empires" - the Greeks, the British Empire, and … the United States! He explains how they all "turned away from the principles that made them great" and describes America's financial failures - stimulus spending, universal healthcare, the list goes on and on. He then concludes his lecture about the USA by saying "now, they work for us." If this possibility isn't enough to send shivers down any American's spine, I don't know what is. Cut spending now!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Economic Journal Article #3

Here is my third economic journal article from ECO 202: Macroeconomics. Published with permission of Professor Noreen Van Valkenburgh.

Title: Obama: "Real Differences" remain on Debt Deal
Date: July 5, 2011


President Obama said today that Republicans and Democrats are working towards a deal with the debt ceiling deadline fast approaching. He said that the Democrats agreed to tens of billions of dollars in concessions in exchange for Republicans allowing certain other programs to stay. The deal apparently needs to have some basic framework laid out by around July 22 to avoid massive economic and government chaos.

My reaction:

Both sides' reactions are far less than sufficient. Our national debt is about $14.5 trillion and the deficit for the last year alone is roughly $1.5 trillion and rising rapidly. $10 billion in reductions won't come anywhere close to lowering the debt. It will lower the deficit by about 0.6%, which is not going to help much at all. And the debt will still continue to rise and this country will fall worse into financial turmoil. Eventually, other foreign nations are going to demand payment on the money we owe. And unfortunately, we don't have the money. With Medicare essentially acting as a pyramid scheme with the younger investors (taxpayers) paying the older ones' profits, and social security functioning the same way, the problem is only getting worse. Not to mention the wasteful government spending on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and bombing targets in Libya and Pakistan, plus the defense budget almost the size of the rest of the world's combined. We need to reduce government spending far more drastically than either side is willing to do. The problem is, politics is a business. And no politician wants to be accused of cutting "Hundreds of billions dollars of government services" even if those services either are useless or could more efficiently be handled by private and/or local authorioties. Any politician that agrees to massive cuts stands almost no chance of being reelected. That is, unless a libertarian/Tea Party movement sweeps the nation and the government is significantly downsized and spending massively reduced. If that does not happen in the next few years, the great nation of America will fall from glory to shambles.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Economic Journal Article #2

The following was my second economic journal article. It was written for ECO 202 - Macroeconomics at Dutchess Community College for Professor Noreen Van Valkenburgh. It has been published here with her permission now that the summer term is over.

Article: 2011 White House Salaries are Released
Source: St. Petersburg (FL) Times
Date: Saturday, July 2, 2011

The 2011 White House Salary figures were released today. There are 454 employees, as opposed to 467 last year, and they make $37.1 million as opposed to $38.8 million last year. The article also listed specific numbers for certain employees.

My opinion:

This is good. Let's hope other government departments on a local, state, and federal level make significant, or greater, spending cuts. There is a lot of wasteful government spending on useless departments at all levels. However, I hope that when making cuts, the government will cut these useless areas and not cost teachers or emergency workers their jobs. However, this seems unlikely since most of the useless workers and departments got where they are because of special interests (aka campaign donations and/or endorsements) to the government. So, when the government is called upon to make cuts, they will cut more important areas like education or police, thus saving less money and hurting society more than they would have if they had cut useless employees and departments. I like what the White House is doing. Without seeing a complete list of employees, I cannot identify any more positions (if any) that they should have cut. However, I hope that other areas of government will follow suit and make significant cuts as well. That is, more significant than this, because with our government debt around $14 trillion, we need to make a lot more cuts than this. Of course, however, this could vary by department, so I can't say for sure that the White House didn't do all they could to cut their own employees.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Economic Journal Article #1

As I previously promised, here is the first of 15 economic journal articles from Professor Noreen Van Valkenburgh's Macroeconomics course at Dutchess Community College. I wrote this entry on June 28, based on a story from June 21.

Gregory Koch

Article Title: "Man Robs Bank … For Healthcare?"
Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summary: 59-year old James Verone of North Carolina is accused of robbing an RBC Bank of $1. Verone, who has no criminal history, had an unusual motive for his crime - he couldn't afford healthcare but knew he would get it for free in prison. Verone had intended to be charged and convicted of armed robbery so he could be sent to prison until he was old enough to be eligible for Social Security. However, he was only charged with petty larceny and likely won't be sent to prison for long enough. Verone apparently had developed a life-threatening growth on his chest and ruptured two tendons in his back in addition to problems in his left foot. However, having been laid off from his job, he could no longer afford healthcare. He had hoped that by being sent to prison, the state would pay for his healthcare.

My commentary: As a libertarian, I feel that the government should not pay for anyone's healthcare. Prisoners are an interesting case because, just as a child is in the legal custody of his or her parents (who, in theory, should be the ones to pay for the child's healthcare), a prisoner is in the custody of the state. So, even some fiscal conservatives might still conclude that the government is responsible for the healthcare of prisoners even if they are against public healthcare in general.

Cases like this though, show what is wrong with the system. People like me, who have a conservative fiscal viewpoint, would say this is absolutely why we should NOT have government-sponsored healthcare. It only leads people to cheat the system to get the government to pay for their problems. However, some liberals could argue that this is why we DO need public healthcare - the fact that someone would need to rob a bank to get the government to pay for their medical needs shows what is wrong with society. While both sides would likely agree with that statement, I must differ with the liberals on the conclusion.

That being said, it is no coincidence that crime rates go up in winter. The book Freakonomics discussed this a little bit. While conventionally this is attributed to more hours of darkness, the authors concluded that this was not the case. They found, by analyzing the difference in temperature instead of the difference in daytime hours, that it was really due to the colder temperatures - presumably, the poor people knew that the only way they could get a roof over their heads, good healthcare, and three meals a day was to go to prison, so they did precisely that. Granted, the cities that have warmer winter temperatures are often located further south, and as such have longer daylight hours in the winter (and shorter in the summer). However, the authors specifically looked at cities where this wasn't the case. For instance, Seattle is warmer in the winter than Washington, DC, but DC is further south (thus longer daylight compared to Seattle). However, DC saw the higher crime increase.

The article also attempts to make a case for public healthcare, saying that it is no different from private healthcare because
"How do socialist systems pay for health care? Taxes are collected from businesses and citizens, and a portion of those taxes go to cover the health care costs of everyone in the plan - in other words, everyone in the country.
How do health insurance systems pay for health care? Premiums are collected from businesses and employees, and a portion of those premiums go to cover the health care costs of everyone in the plan."'

However, there are two fundamental flaws in this argument. First of all, it does not allow for choice. If I don't need top-notch private healthcare, I don't have to pay for it. I can't be forced to put money into a system I gain nothing from.
Second of all, one of the critical factors in this case is that Mr. Verone did not have a job, and therefore did not have a healthcare plan. However, one of the reasons there are problems with the economy is that the government is forcibly taking our money (aka "taxing us") to pay for social welfare for the unemployed. French economist Frederic Bastait introduced the concept of "the seen vs. the unseen" in his 1850 essay Ce qu'on voit et ce qu'on ne voit pas. While on the surface level, the poor appear to benefit from welfare programs, in fact it does not help them significantly and hurts the economy as a whole. Bastait points out a smaller-scale scenario: suppose you live in a town with 100 other residents. The other 100 residents all have jobs paying $35,000 a year and you have no job and consequently earn nothing. The government can opt for the social welfare option and take $350 from everyone through taxes, and give it to you as a "welfare program". This is similar to what governments do now - it is the "seen". You now have $35,000, which is significantly better than you were before, and everyone else only loses 1% of their income, which isn't much. However, this doesn't take into account the "unseen" -what would happen if not for the taxes. Everyone's $350 would go back into the economy, and in the long run, instead of the $35,000 going to you to do absolutely nothing, it will create a new job market and you will be able to get a job and be paid $35,000 to contribute to the economy. This in turn will allow the economy to grow, which will create more jobs, and so on. So, in an America without social welfare programs, then assuming the government didn't use the tax revenue for some other form of wasteful spending and instead gave the taxes back to the people, the economy would be better off, and, aside from deliberate bums, in the long run nobody would be worse off. -

So clearly our system is broken. We should not be rewarding people who cheat the system. We should certainly not be rewarding people who commit a crime to cheat the system (that is, another crime in addition to fraud for the said system cheating). Increasing public healthcare will only lead to more cheating of the system. We already see it with other public welfare programs such as foodstamps. Most people receiving food stamps should not be eligible, but they fudge or fake data so it seems like they are. And often, they will turn down marginally-paying jobs that will take them just above the threshold to ensure that their eligibility continues. Privatizing welfare programs would lead to less system cheating   and stop wasting our tax dollars. Mr. Verone's situation is very sad, but the system involved is even sadder.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gary Johnson for President 2012 (and why I'm not Completely Sold on Ron Paul but Still Support Him)

Note: This post was originally titled "Gary Johnson for President 2012 (and why I don't like Ron Paul)". However, the purpose of this post was never to criticize Paul, but rather to say that I don't particularly agree with him on certain issues. I think Paul would make a good president. But I think Johnson would make a great president.

I have mentioned before that I consider myself to be a libertarian. Sometimes I support the Libertarian Party while other times I don't. Many libertarians feel that Ron Paul is the answer to all our problems. However, I am not entirely sold on him.

There is no doubt in my mind that "Dr. No" will cut federal spending significantly. This is a major accomplishment, especially in light of current events. However, in terms of government power overall, I fear he will simply give authority to the states. Authority that should not be given to any government, whether local or national. For instance, Paul supports the Defense of Marriage Act, which would prevent the federal government from establishing a definition of marriage and allow states to make their own laws regarding what is and isn't marriage, however discriminatory they may be. Additionally, Paul co-sponsored the Marriage Protection Act, which removed DOMA challenges from the jurisdiction of the federal court.

As I have said before, I support marriage privatization - let the government recognize any union by two consenting adults, but don't call it marriage. But that being said, same-sex couples should be allowed all the same rights as married couples. It shouldn't be left up to the government to decide what is or isn't marriage, regardless of which government that is. That is only one example of where Paul would give authority to the states - the War on Drugs being another along with laws concerning abortion and medical research.

I appreciate Paul's efforts to improve our civil liberties in some areas, for instance opposing the PATRIOT Act. However, I feel that there is a libertarian-leaning Republican who will protect our liberties, cut spending significantly, and (unlike Paul) reduce government authority instead of transferring it. That candidate is Gary Johnson. When he was governor of New Mexico for two terms, he was called "the most fiscally conservative governor in America". Indeed, he earned this honor, using his line-item veto to ensure the state had a balanced budget the whole time he was in office.

As governor, Johnson created 20,000 new jobs in the state. However, Johnson says he did not actually actually create them. Instead, as he pointed out recently,

"I can unequivocally say that I did not create a single job while I was governor. We kept government in check, the budget balanced, and the path to growth clear of unnecessary regulatory obstacles. My priority was to get government out of the way, keep it out of the way, and allow hard-working New Mexicans, entrepreneurs and businesses to fulfill their potential. That’s how government can encourage job growth, and that’s what government needs to do today."
In other words, Johnson didn't actually create new jobs with taxpayer money like the Financial Stimulus did. Instead, he reduced government spending, giving more money to the people and companies of New Mexico, which in turn created jobs. 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat talked about "the seen and the unseen". Well, the unseen effect of high government spending certainly revealed itself in New Mexico. Spending money to promote job growth actually hurts job growth, and Johnson knows that.

However, Ron Paul is fiscally conservative too. What distinguishes Johnson is his focus on all civil liberties, returning them all to the people instead of letting the states run free like Congress does now. Johnson (like me) supports full marriage privatization, giving civil unions to all couples, male and female, and letting churches and individuals decide who is and isn't married. He also is fully pro-choice, though he does believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned, calling it "judicial legislation". And frankly, though I too support a woman's right to choose, he's probably right. That being said, I agree with Johnson that after the case is overturned, legitimate, Congressional legislation should be passed asserting that abortion is legal. (Paul disagrees, saying it should be left up to the states).

Johnson has not been getting that much attention, primarily due to Paul's influence in the primaries. So, since virtually anyone who might consider voting for Gary will instead vote for the well-known candidate in Dr. Paul, I highly doubt Johnson has any hope of winning. I am still debating whether or not I want to switch to the GOP, since I don't particularly like the party as a whole. If I were to register in Connecticut where I go to school, I could register as an Independent and still vote in the GOP primary, but given issues that occurred in last year's general election with students, I'm not sure I want to do that either. In any case, if I do switch my registration, I must decide by mid-October, since New York doesn't switch party registrations until after the following general election, and all requests must be received 21 days before.  So I've got time to decide.

However, if I do vote for Johnson in the primary, I am confident that my vote will not be wasted. Even if he is totally a fringe candidate, I am still voting for a candidate who I genuinely support, just as I was doing when I supported LP candidate Warren Redlich for governor in 2010. If Paul were to eventually win the nomination, perhaps I'd vote for him over the LP candidate. Then again, perhaps I wouldn't. I really don't know yet. I'll figure that out later. For now, though, I am supporting Gary Johnson for President in 2012. I encourage anyone who cares about this country to do the same.

Note: This article previously indicated that Ron Paul co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act. Although he is a supporter of DOMA, Paul was not in Congress when it was passed. However, Paul did co-sponsor the Marriage Protection Act.