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Author Topic: AmeriPol thread  (Read 1572087 times)

McTraveller

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30045 on: May 01, 2019, 06:47:44 am »

The example of "civil servants" included nurses though - nurses definitely pull in enough income in the open market to pay off their own debt (my wife is an RN, so I am not just blowing smoke here. Maybe there's a geographic dependency here the article doesn't mention? Nurses do well here in the midwest, maybe it's bad on the coasts?).  Teachers and firefighters - yes those historically have a skewed debt-to-income ratio.  But should this really be a federal program?

Yes, there may be some overall positive return on investment by using public funds to help pay debt compared to using those funds to provide other social services; the devil is in the details.

However - the government forgiving these loans isn't "paying off debt" - it's effectively trading personal debt for public debt since the government runs a deficit.  It is very unclear how public debt compares to private debt in terms of long-term return on investment.  For individuals: yes it's much nicer, but for society as a whole, it becomes less clear because the effects are so diffuse.

I do understand that one role of governments is to do things that are worthwhile that may not be as attractive from a return on investment standpoint to the private markets.  For instance, if social programs have a 0.5% return, but private industry wants 5%, then yes the government should be the "investor of last resort".  But if the return is -0.5%, then even the government should say "yeah, sorry, I know it sounds good, but it isn't sustainable."

NOTE:  This is aggregate return on investment, not individual program.  So maybe it's ok if this program has negative ROI if the total government investment portfolio has a high return - kind of like VCs that lose money on 9/10 investments but make it back and more on that 1/10.  I would argue though that it's very unclear if the overall portfolio for the government is positive...rising debt suggests it is not.
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Iduno

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30046 on: May 01, 2019, 08:08:54 am »

Is that how it works? That if you don't spend it, you lose it? That seems like it would create extremely crooked incentives, and seems like it'd be the kind of financial control that only totally clueless people would use. Or in other words, exactly what you'd expect out of the government.

It's also the way most businesses with multiple departments work. We've known for decades that it creates perverse incentives to avoid buying things that are necessary for the job, then buy crap you don't need at the end of the year to make sure you used 100% of your budget. But the alternative is people buying slightly more than they need while being fairly efficient at producing whatever we hired them for. See also: buying through accepted vendors at 5x the cost to prevent someone buying at 2x the cost and taking a bribe. Beancounters, man. Beancounters.
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smjjames

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30047 on: May 01, 2019, 01:17:55 pm »

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is starting his campaign in two weeks. We're already at or past the limit for people in the two debates, so, the DNC is going to have some tough choices to make. IMO it should be expanded to a third day, but even two days in a row would be stretching it. We're going to have to figure out some fair (or fairer) way to do things if huge fields like this become the norm.
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Dunamisdeos

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30048 on: May 01, 2019, 01:48:29 pm »

I got my higher education outright scammed from me by a for-profit college that lied about its accreditation, thereby rendering its credits unacceptable by even local community colleges. Among many other abuses, mind you.

There's a class action lawsuit going on. I probably won't ever see anything, realistically.
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hector13

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30049 on: May 01, 2019, 02:32:11 pm »

Trump University?
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Trekkin

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30050 on: May 01, 2019, 02:36:33 pm »

NOTE:  This is aggregate return on investment, not individual program.  So maybe it's ok if this program has negative ROI if the total government investment portfolio has a high return - kind of like VCs that lose money on 9/10 investments but make it back and more on that 1/10.  I would argue though that it's very unclear if the overall portfolio for the government is positive...rising debt suggests it is not.

Unfortunately government accounting can't work that way, because you're not dealing with a single organizational hierarchy dispensing funding and mandates simultaneously. At minimum, you're dealing with state and federal in parallel, and usually local/municipal, interests, all of which usually have significant discrepancies between the org chart, jurisdictional divisions, notional organizational remits, and the funding flows.

When we look at the effectiveness of government programs, then, we have to bear in mind that there usually isn't a single monophyletic organization assigned a specific amount of money to do whatever falls under a single conceptual umbrella. This is most egregiously the case when people ask how we could spend $X on one thing but not even $Y<<X on another -- while it's informative, there was probably never a point at which the two things were individually competing for funding, so it's not necessarily an indicator of priority. Similarly, when we ask if we're supporting something most effectively, it's usually not correct to assume that we can get the same dollars put into arbitrary programs with equivalent efficiency, or that the organization had access to the better option we're proposing.

All of the above is just to give context to the larger problem with government profitability: the government is supposed to do unprofitable things, because if they could be done like we want and turn a demonstrable profit, we could (theoretically) have for-profit corporations do them. It's hard to get corporations behind things like entitlements where the outgoing cost is a gigantic question mark, or things like education and blue-sky research that might pay off decades from now. Nor do you want things like the firefighters in your community answerable to a normal cost-benefit analysis, because that's how you get fires prioritized by expense. In this, the government has a terrific advantage as regards its debt: unlike people, governments aren't supposed to die, so their debt doesn't have a big actuarial timer on it before it becomes worthless. Their debt behaves more like stock, in some ways.

In any event, the point is this: determining value for money is really hard with government because it's a complicated mishmash of operational units working on deliberately unprofitable things in different ways and with different operational boundaries, so both the alternatives available and the ultimate accountability for a particular budgetary decision are nontrivial to determine. When we say things like "that $700 million could have bought [X things I think are important]" because the cost of the X things is $700 million, that's not necessarily true.
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Kagus

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30051 on: May 01, 2019, 02:38:46 pm »

Trump University?
I thought that already got settled? My folks managed to get back some of what they shelled out with for some lectures, but that was a long while back.

Dunamisdeos

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30052 on: May 01, 2019, 02:46:53 pm »

Trump University?
I thought that already got settled? My folks managed to get back some of what they shelled out with for some lectures, but that was a long while back.

Not specifically, but yeah same deal. Same problems, different organization.
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Folly

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30053 on: May 01, 2019, 03:05:32 pm »

Well the Barr Senate hearing concluded. It was par for the course, with Republicans using their time to laud his many great achievements and shaming the Democrats for harassing such an honorable man. Meanwhile the Democrats asked about justice and obstruction, which Barr responded to mostly by stalling or redirecting.

Barr did give one interesting response in which he made the case that the President has the constitutional right to obstruct an investigation if he believes that investigation is unwarranted. I'm sure that one will be discussed for a while.
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smjjames

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30054 on: May 01, 2019, 03:20:51 pm »

With a major caveat of ‘who gets to decide whether an investigation is unwarranted?’ I can easily see Barr’s words coming back to deprive the Republicans butts of flesh at some point. I wonder which other countries have that legal option available for their President or Prime Minister?
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Frumple

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30055 on: May 01, 2019, 03:37:09 pm »

It's relatively irrelevant who, if anyone, else does, considering it's straight up bullshit.
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Dunamisdeos

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30056 on: May 01, 2019, 03:58:24 pm »

Yeah as long as the investigation is following legal procedure they can investigate anyone they choose for any reason. Even local cops can legally start an investigation on whoever they want for any reason, there's just no reason or means to do so for every rando citizen.

Noone has a "right" to obstruct legally conducted investigations being carried about by recognized authorities.
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Trekkin

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30057 on: May 01, 2019, 04:16:25 pm »

Noone has a "right" to obstruct legally conducted investigations being carried about by recognized authorities.

That's definitionally true insofar as obstruction is a crime, but the authorities themselves need to have some ability to stop groundless investigations or else the whole system drowns in frivolity and remains vulnerable to malicious (including political) use. Barr's argument rests on a legally ludicrous extension of that principle, in light of the President's role as head of the executive branch and thus the DOJ, to assign him unrestricted power to make those decisions about any investigation. That doesn't mean the principle itself isn't sound, though.
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smjjames

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30058 on: May 01, 2019, 04:42:33 pm »

Noone has a "right" to obstruct legally conducted investigations being carried about by recognized authorities.

That's definitionally true insofar as obstruction is a crime, but the authorities themselves need to have some ability to stop groundless investigations or else the whole system drowns in frivolity and remains vulnerable to malicious (including political) use. Barr's argument rests on a legally ludicrous extension of that principle, in light of the President's role as head of the executive branch and thus the DOJ, to assign him unrestricted power to make those decisions about any investigation. That doesn't mean the principle itself isn't sound, though.


True, only problem is that Trump has repeatedly claimed that the investigation is unwarranted. In that context, Barr sounds a heck of a lot like he is saying that the President can arbitrarily claim an investigation is unwarranted and block it just because they say it’s unwarranted. That might not be legally true, but to a layperson, it does sound like he is declaring the President potentially above the law.
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Frumple

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Re: AmeriPol thread
« Reply #30059 on: May 01, 2019, 04:45:35 pm »

It's more or less the angle barr is trying to roll with, yes. If you were expecting much respect for the law from someone with barr's history I'm not sure what to tell you.
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