Everything You Like Is (Not!) Socialism

A small fraction of conservatives view almost any taxpayer-funded service provided by government as socialism, and anything that smacks of community as communism.

It’s not just the obviously redistributive programs like progressive income tax, earned income credit, housing subsidies, etc. They denounce the basics too: public roads, public libraries, water and sewer systems. You can hear just about anything government proposes denounced as socialism, if it involves spending, hiring, or making new law or regulations.

This faction has its own wing nut fringe. We heard from them in 2018, when Hurricane Florence hit. A Chick-fil-A in North Carolina opened on Sunday (which they almost never do) to provide free food to refugees in three local refugee shelters. Crazy as it sounds, these fringe conservatives said a business’s voluntary donation of free chicken sandwiches to hungry travelers was socialism. (Some on the left were unhappy for other reasons.)

Strange Bedfellows

In a bizarre turn worthy of 2020, now some on the left make the same claim: any service government provides is socialism.

David’s Handy Election Guide – 2018 General Election

Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. For those of us in Utah, that means our mail-in ballots must be postmarked the day before, or earlier, if we don’t want to visit a polling place in person on Election Day. For further information about polling places and more, see vote.utah.gov.

Before we proceed, here’s a pro tip: Your ballot will not tell you that it is continued on the reverse side, but it might be. Mine is. Don’t forget to check.

Now let’s look at my ballot. Yours is probably different in some ways, but if you’re in Utah, a lot will be the same. I’ll summarize my thoughts on each race and issue. They certainly don’t have to be your thoughts too. Comments are a welcome place for your thoughts here, as always.

I’ll hazard some predictions too, at least for my own entertainment.

My Plan for Mitt Romney (An Open Letter)

Dear Mr. Romney:

I voted for you in the 2012 presidential election, and I still think you’d have made an uncommonly good president. I was pleased to hear that you’re running for the US Senate seat which Senator Orrin Hatch will vacate at the end of his term. I’ll be eager to see what you can accomplish.

I’m sure you want to make a difference for Utah itself, not just for the country. So I have an idea for you. First, I’ll tell you what it is. Then I’ll explain.

United Utah

I propose that you change your party affiliation from Republican to United Utah, then run for that party’s nomination for US Senate.

US Capitol
The Capitol in Washington, DC

If you do, I will join that party too, and many others will also, I expect.

You’ll have little difficulty getting their nomination. Right now their website lists no candidate for that office, but even if there is opposition, you have enough support in Utah to win. You could simply urge your supporters to join the United Utah Party, so they can vote for you in its primary. If they’re Republicans now, as I was from age 18 through August 2016, they probably already know that most of the Utah GOP leadership doesn’t want you or them. If they’re unaffiliated, as I am now, perhaps it’s because the feeling is mutual.

Once you’re on the general election ballot, party affiliation won’t matter much. You’ll win in a landslide, assuming you’ve campaigned effectively at all.

Good Numbers, Bad Numbers

In politics, as in work and life generally, I’m a longtime fan of getting the right numbers, getting the numbers right, and understanding what they tell us and what they don’t. My recent essay, Water Bills, Fees, and Our Politics, applied that to local politics.

It also left me thinking that some illustrative, more general examples might be useful or at least fun. They’re not all from politics, let alone the current local election cycle.

Using Numbers Wrong

Let’s warm up with a softball.

The other day, I saw something like this floating around the Internet (I’m paraphrasing): “An orchestra consisting of 80 musicians can play a Beethoven symphony in 30 minutes. How many minutes would it take an orchestra of 120 musicians to play the same symphony?”

orchestra

If you don’t think about the situation, you might just make a calculation and say 20 minutes. Your math would be right, but your answer would be wrong. A moment’s consideration will reveal the obvious: the number of minutes will be approximately the same, no matter what size the orchestra. It’s not like asking how many more Toyota Tundras you can make if you have three identical, adequately staffed and supplied Tundra factories instead of two.

Water Bills, Fees, and Our Politics

One thing I’ve learned to watch for in candidates for local and national offices is how good they are at doing the math and connecting the dots. When I hear a candidate who knows what the numbers mean and what they don’t mean, and who understands and can explain causes and effects, I know I’ve found one who deserves my careful attention and likely my vote.

It’s not so much a question of native intelligence or college degrees, or of being articulate and clever. All these things can help – or hurt. It’s that I know she’ll do her homework on complex issues, if elected, because she’s already doing it. I know he’ll reason carefully in difficult matters, because he’s already doing it.

Water Bills, Water Bills Everywhere

In my small city, American Fork, Utah, water bills are a sore subject and have been for several election cycles. They’re mentioned in virtually every debate, and over the years we’ve seen the full range of responses, from the shallow and the knee-jerk to the well-reasoned and historically aware.

dripping faucet

Proofreading and Politics in Draper

Here’s a headline from yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune: “Draper to hire independent investigator to review councilwoman’s e-mails.”

Hmm. Sounds serious.

Here’s the story’s first paragraph: “The Draper City Council has authorized the city attorney to hire outside counsel to determine whether Councilwoman Michele Weeks violated any ethics rules or laws when she used a city employee to proofread emails unrelated to her official duties.”

They had me until I read the word “proofread.”

Draper City Councilwoman Michele Weeks
Draper City Councilwoman Michele Weeks

Now What? (Electoral Afterthoughts)

I can’t say it was my favorite birthday ever, or even a particularly good one, but it was an interesting evening. And long.

If you prefer to skip my due diligence — my recap of the races on my ballot and my predictions for them — and scroll down to the heading “Now What?” below, I won’t be hurt. Actually, I won’t even know.

Presidential Race

As I write this, it’s unclear what the final electoral vote totals will be in the presidential race. They say a few races are still too close to call: New Hampshire (probably Clinton), Michigan (probably Trump), Minnesota (probably Clinton), and Arizona (probably Trump). The present totals without these states are 279 for Mr. Trump and 218 for Mrs. Clinton. A win is 270 or better, a majority. If the four states I named go as I indicated, he’ll finish with 306, and she with 232. It’s a resounding victory for Mr. Trump, even though the popular vote totals at the moment seem to have him up by only one-fifth of a percentage point. (See my notes on the Electoral College.)

The Electoral College and the Vote

This post is not about candidates or races. I’m not telling you how to vote or why. I’ve already done all I intend to do of that.

Instead, this is something relevant but more general, something to think about while we await results — and briefly, something to do once we know them, whatever they prove to be.

The Vote

Be sure to vote today, if you didn’t vote early – and not to, if you did. (The Chicago exception is noted.) Besides tending to moderate the outcomes, a high turnout among living, registered voters is one of the best ways to ensure that the living outvote the dead, the legal outvote the illegal, and the real outvote the fabricated – if you worry about those things at all.

I believe there is an implied, inalienable voter’s right to be reasonably confident that conscientious measures are in place (a) to facilitate voting by everyone who is eligible to vote and wishes to, and (b) to protect the integrity of the vote from various forms of fraud, intimidation, and other activities which would corrupt it.

The Raw, Verbose Appendix to My Notes on the Presidential Election

If the title wasn’t enough of a warning, here’s one more: These notes are fairly raw, in places less than fully formed, haphazardly organized, and generally undocumented by links to data or other materials. They’re part of my thought process as a voter in the 2016 presidential election. Make of them what you will.

If you’re looking for my traditional voter’s guide, follow that link. All of this material was drafted for it but cut, so it wouldn’t be completely out of control.

Fragmentary General Thoughts

The anti-McMullin crowd, which keeps saying we don’t know enough about him and he’s not qualified, is glossing over the fact that we know a great deal about Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump, including that they are profoundly unqualified.

I believe in a God of miracles. One way or another, we’re going to need a few. I think that, through Tuesday, we should pray for the voters. After that, we should pray for the winner. The less we want to do that, the more we need to.