This week’s print edition of The Atlanta Voice provides two Associated Press stories discussing the Democratic Party’s fifty-state strategy and the GOP’s about face on fiscal responsibility. In one article, the Democrats’ “Resistance Summer” is designed to organize and expand the local Democratic voting rolls, seeded by an initial $1 million. According to the article, the Democratic Party wants to help its local affiliates manage rallies, town halls, neighborhood meetings, registration drives, and voter database improvements. The party wants to have local infrastructure in place that support their candidates’ arguments that Democrats provide a better way of governing.
The current governing Republican Party, putting health care on the back burner for a hot minute, has hopes that it can provide Americans with the ultimate political package, economic growth, and hope to do it with tax cuts. The Republicans also want to close the deficit gap and reduce debt by cutting programs including social welfare programs as proposed by President Donald Trump. To make their tax cuts revenue neutral, Republicans are looking at getting rid of certain deductions including state and local tax deductions and the mortgage interest deduction.
Republicans have long argued that high deficits, high debt, and high taxes have limited individual liberty while the Democrats still have to go to a dictionary to look up the meaning of the word, “liberty.” Democratic efforts seem just focused on securing more bodies to the voting booth. No plan coming out of the Tom Perez-led Democratic National Committee on how to boost the economy for those very rural voters who thought, erroneously, that Donald Trump had a plan for growth.
I’m not surprised that the Democrats are lacking. Their idea of economic growth has always been low wage earning jobs combined with increased social welfare programs. And forget individual liberty unless the notion is closely related to crime against minorities or abortion rights for primarily white women.
The GOP talk a good game on liberty (see the article’s quick discussion of Orrin Hatch’s 2011 position on individual liberty, prosperity, and national security), but increasing military budgets or more weapons for cops does not increase individual liberty. The GOP is simply in favor of moving tax dollars, the collection of which is an oppressive action by the State, from one progressive-sponsored political package (social programs) to a conservative-preferred political package (national defense).
And when it comes to economic growth, the GOP offer nothing better. Tax cuts, going primarily to wealthier individuals, won’t do much for personal consumer expenditures. The wealthy have a higher propensity to save. Unless they see the “next big thing”” in terms of investment, I don’t see much pick up in economic activity.
Based on the structure of the political economy and the administrative state apparatus that runs it, diverting greater returns to investors or bond holders is what we should expect. Government ensures an orderly political economy in order to secure return of and on capital.
Last night, The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration would seek cuts to Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Medicaid, a joint federal and state program, provides financial assistance to low-income medical services consumers while SNAP is known for providing financial assistance to low income consumers with difficulties buying food.
As with any budget proposal offered by any president, this proposal gives the general public and the bond markets an idea as to the priority Mr Trump places on social spending, apparently very little. I expect bond markets overall to see cuts as an attempt on the Trump administration to be fiscally disciplined. So far this morning the bond market is flat with more attention being paid to Congress’ probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to disrupt the November 2016 elections.
Left leaning congressmen and advocacy groups are making the collectivist arguments that Mr Trump and the GOP are heartless; putting at risk 10 million consumers who may find themselves kicked off the Medicaid rolls over the next ten years. Government has a duty to provide these services and people will suffer without them, they argue.
Their argument demonstrates not only naivete but a disregard for the resiliency of individuals and community. It is not government’s role to be a health care provider. Government’s role is to provide the day-to-day operations of the State. The State has an interest in maintaining civil order including authorizing the political packages i.e. health care, necessary for keeping the barbarians from knocking down the gate.
And the services that government offers are one dimensional and sub-par such that if they went away, fewer people would miss them than assumed. Take for example food stamps. The monthly maximum allotment for one person is $194. In reality, individuals may not even get half that amount per month, relying on family members, church groups, other civic groups, and friends to fill the gap where income cannot. While some may argue that something is better than nothing, I find that argument to be empty; a half-ass justification of political packaging designed to get votes rather than actually aiding people.
Collectivists will argue that the best solution is increased funding for Medicaid and SNAP. In other words, increased funding for their insurance company friends that administer Medicaid for the states; more money to the commercial banks that provide clearing services for food stamps; and more money to the program managers with the administrative state that set policy for Medicaid and SNAP.
A better solution is one that is community-based without a lick from the government. Churches, families, individuals, and other social agents can fund preventative care facilities and small hospitals or clinics that serve patients within their geographical area, i.e. West End Atlanta, Oakland City, Westview. In addition, these social agents should fully fund students from their community who commit to completing nursing, medical, or pharmacy programs and working directly in these communities. Such commitments would reduce the costs of supplying medical and wellness programs.
This is not a panacea, nor does this recommendation address a community’s short term needs, but if health care costs are to be kept under control in the long run, then a community-based plan where the community is invested in the performance of health care providers to the point where health care costs fall is the viable option. The administrative state’s half ass “scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” approach does not work.
Today the Federal Communications Commission voted on a notice of proposed rule making that repeals net neutrality rules put in place by the Commission in 2015. The rules classified broadband access services as a telecommunications service, taking it out of the previous information services box.
Telecommunications services have been historically looked at as a multi-point service that allows a consumer to send a voice or text message from a point of origin to a termination point with no changes in the content and format of the message. Except for some technology that ensures the signal remains strong from one end of the call to the other, the service was pretty much bare bones; plain old telephone service or POTS as we old heads referred to it back in the day.
Information services provided a few more enhancements to communications. It integrated computer applications and protocols with telecommunications services. Instead of voice being the “message” or “content”, the integration of software with plain old telephone lines gave people who exchanged information via analog methods the enhanced ability to exchange information digitally. Not only could messages or content designed for end use consumption be sent, but now, whether in text or graphic medium, information that served as input for production could be sent. Engineering schematics, draft articles, business data, all sent and shared with the opportunity of joint collaboration between individuals sitting in various points around the globe.
Today, this information travels through 70,000 plus interconnected computer networks where the interconnections, including consumer access to these networks, are provided by private firms. These investor-owned access providers, such as Comcast, Cox, Verizon, and AT&T, engage in the collection and trade of information that they obtain from their subscribers. Internet service providers such as Facebook and Google also engage in this information trade, using the information collected from the users of their services to package and sell to advertisers.
Net neutrality rule advocates have been arguing that government is needed to ensure that all messages, from live video used during surgeries to the video of a cat knocking over a bowl of milk, should get the same treatment from access providers, including sending data and information through at the same speeds and no blocking of Ali Bubba’s cat video sent from his private server because Comcast wants to send you an important video Amber Alert. Democratizing the internet, argues the net neutrality posse, means all data being treated equally. Democracy. That’s the problem
Somewhere along the commercialized internet’s quarter century history, democracy raised its ugly head, along with the irrational conflations that come along with it. Democracy, which simply means that the masses can choose their leaders, has now come to mean, when it comes to net neutrality, that the masses, outside of the price mechanism, can tell private companies how to manage the commercial platforms upon which information is traded. This includes requiring private firms to ignore the value of information coming across or captured in their networks and to abdicate the responsibility for determining how to dispose of, allocate, or price the information. Net neutrality is turning into an example of how tyranny by mass rule can be used to bludgeon investors who voluntarily come together to provide a product.
Rather than draft rules or even advocate for legislation that allows the State to intervene in the information markets via net neutrality, internet access, along with the rest of the internet ecosystem, should be self-regulated by its participants under any voluntary agreements they enter into, including agreements on how disputes should be settled, how data should be priced, and how fast it should flow.
Net neutrality rule advocates will argue that the State is needed to ensure the four freedoms the Commission introduces in today’s NPRM:
- Freedom to access lawful content;
- Freedom to use applications;
- Freedom to attach personal devices to the network; and
- Freedom to obtain service plan information.
I beg to differ. The only way your freedom to do any of the above would be abridged is if you were incarcerated or otherwise prohibited by the State from accessing lawful content, using applications, attaching personal devices, or obtaining service plan information.
And even if one access provider prohibited a consumer or producer from exchanging information and data on the provider’s network, the next action on the part of consumer or producer should be to find another network to store, transmit, or receive data. The last resort action would be for stakeholders to build their own networks.
Clearly the vast majority of consumers and producers don’t value data and information transmission via the internet high enough so that they would build their own networks. Then again, the vast majority of consumers and producers don’t have data so valuable that they could generate returns on such data and information that they could use the returns and invest them in such networks. Not even the mighty Google bothered to complete a global wide network themselves.
I see little value in the information exchanged via the internet short of the data and information exchanged by problem solvers; researchers that work in hard data that can be converted into inputs that are then used to build things. Access to the internet is not a right. When Americans start framing things as a right, such framing will attract the State and the way the State deals with problems is the way Loki would deal with an ant: by crushing it with his boot.
In an opinion piece published last week in The Washington Post, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and former Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler made the argument that planned attempts by current FCC chair Ajit Pai to remove Title II net neutrality rules would have a negative impact on consumers. The three argue that deep pocketed broadband access providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon want to take away the consumer protections that Title II of the Communications Act provides. Since broadband was reclassified as a telecommunications service by a Democratic weighted FCC under Mr Wheeler’s tenure, the privacy protections afforded to customer proprietary information connected to telecommunications customers would be lost to broadband consumers. The three go as far as to argue that net neutrality has created jobs because smaller retailers and other consumer services providers are able to get their products and services in front of the eyeballs of the everyday consumer because their traffic is now being treated fairly.
Given that there are two lawmakers authoring this piece I figured that they would at least offer an amendment to the Communications Act that defines net neutrality thus giving policy makers some firm platform from which to proceed and make good policy. The piece conveniently lacked that. Instead, Messrs Wheeler, Franken, and Wyden stuck with the lofty, airy definition of net neutrality that gives the impression that democracy is under attack. This is how the Democrats were able to scare four million consumers into putting their concerns onto postcards while blocking Mr Wheeler’s driveway.
What the opinion piece fails to explain is that net neutrality has to be defined in the context of commercialism, not as an assault on democracy. The internet has been commercialized for a quarter of a century. It provides the platform for gathering, processing, and selling information. Broadband companies are seeking out other revenue streams including processing and leveraging data for the purpose of generating advertisement revenues. Internet portals such as Google, Yahoo, and Facebook have been using customer information to attract advertisers. I sometimes refer to these sights as “legal hackers.” They get consumers to give up personal information for free and craft advertisements based on the personal information they garner. Ironically, Messrs Wheeler, Wyden and Franklin don’t discuss this disparity in treatment; that broadband providers who collect less personal information than these portals should find themselves under more statutory scrutiny than Facebook.
So dismissive of the market aspect of the internet that Messrs Wyden, Franken, and Wheeler could not even offer up a market solution for protecting consumer privacy. One solution I recommend is allowing consumers to sell their proprietary information, allowing them to trade on their info for cash or some other in-kind offering. Instead, Messrs Wheeler, Wyden, and Franken prefer stick with the “Government is a benevolent God” business model of consumer protection, usurping the individual’s power to use the markets to satisfy their own self interests.
Democracy is about the freedom of residents to choose leaders. That term has been tossed about too much by the net neutrality posse to the point where it is near meaningless. Net neutrality is not about democracy. Ron Wyden, Al Franken, and Tom Wheeler should do better than just stirring up the pot.
The digital divide argument, that there is a disparity between non-whites and whites when it comes to broadband access, is losing its mojo for me. While broadband access for minority households via hard line may fall behind that of white households, since the mid 2000s, access via mobile wireless devices by minorities has been on par or exceeded that of whites. Stroll into the Starbucks near I-285 and Cascade Road and see every Black American patron connecting their lap tops to WiFi while checking messages on their smart phones. Even our kids have at least two wireless devices and we parents brace ourselves annually for our teenager’s request for the latest phone even when the one they currently own is still pristine.
Plenty of politicians and civil rights groups have been pushing for greater access to high speed broadband, making the argument that more broadband facilities should be deployed in communities of color especially since Black Americans and Latinos have been spearheading the “cut the cord” movement and going 100% wireless over the past 15 years or so. Minority leadership is demonstrating, however, that it has not been paying attention to changes in business models that would provide entrepreneurs in communities of color exposure to more lucrative opportunities versus following the same consumption of end-use product model that has been plaguing communities of color for decades.
Broadband access providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are leveraging their customer data in order to attract advertising dollars. Verizon’s recent disclosure that it lost 307,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2017 in part due to competition from Sprint and T-Mobile has some analysts on Wall Street wondering if Verizon is up for merger. Bloomberg has reported that the wireless company has considered Comcast, Walt Disney, or CBS for corporate marriage. Ironically the aforementioned companies are content providers who could probably do well leveraging Verizon’s wireless infrastructure to get content out including use of the company’s spectrum.
While Black Americans and Latinos are, unfortunately, known primarily for providing entertainment content, both communities should consider exploring creating and investing in content storage and content delivery systems. Constructing these facilities in neighborhoods with large numbers of Blacks or Latinos means access to short term and long term employment. High tech labor will be needed to design, construct, and operate server farms and other facilities that result from the decision to do more than buy another cell phone or activate some unlit fiber from the old MCI days.
This is an opportunity for a young Black or Latino entrepreneur or engineer to break from the herd mentality and not wait for permission from the Jesse Jackson posse on whether or not it should be done. One would think that the old heads from the civil rights movement would have the capital or access to capital that would assist outside-the-box minority entrepreneurs in getting capital, but since these leaders have not demonstrated that they even understand the emerging business models in communications, this may be a closed avenue.
In the end, the minority entrepreneur should be prepared to abandon the collective mindset that has communities of color thinking only about the next smartphone and form new, smaller, leaner, profit seeking collectives that generate ideas of value and use these ideas to create their own data and media companies.
I will not comment on the bill passed yesterday by the U.S. House of Representatives that continues financial support and regulation of the health insurance market. I will not comment because, like most of the representatives and almost everyone on Facebook, I have not yet read the entire bill.
I did read the entire legislation that gave the U.S. Obamacare, so I will extend the same professional courtesy to this piece of legislation should it be passed by the Senate, in whatever final format that ensues.
In the meantime, I will treat comments from the public as the typical chimp noise that is symbolic of a democracy that is overly dependent on a schizophrenic media and the talking chimps that they employ.
I am sometimes amused when some people refer to me as a conservative and a few others refer to me as a liberal when I assess the current state of American political affairs. I am neither for I stopped being enamored with political systems a long time ago. They exist but their existence alone is no excuse for flag waving.
I believe there would be less flag waving if people were honest about what they want out of a political system and after real deep analysis concluded that they were getting way less than what they were promised. And if they concluded that a political system was giving them a significant portion of what they wanted, I would then have to question their level of self-esteem because anyone finding a system whose primary purpose is to regulate the behavior of humans to be fulfilling their needs may have been a candidate for the central character in “12 Days a Slave.”
Needless to say, I enjoy pissing off both sides of the political spectrum. It ensures a balanced perspective while I enjoy a good laugh at their expense …
About 20 years ago I noticed a trend in Florida state government where secretaries were going back to school to get their BS degrees. They had gone from secretaries to administrative assistants seemingly overnight as the demands of their positions increased.
Fast forward twenty years and half the cashiers at Kroger and the bank tellers at Chase have college degrees and the demands of their positions haven’t changed in 100 years.
College is becoming a playpen for the children of the 99% giving the one percent some time to determine what to do with them.