20 September 2011

Politics as usual

So there's some scandals out there finally.

1) HPV vaccination mandates and Rick Perry. I don't think of this as a major issue. For starters, the vaccine mandate as written had an opt-out clause for conscientious objections (religious mostly, though presumably people who can't get vaccinated for medical reasons as well) . For another, it wasn't passed. That sounds to me like the proper processing, the system decided to reject some unilateral attempt to act. Finally, I while I have kind of mixed opinions on whether such a vaccine actually should be mandated in the first place, I'm not that concerned if its so strongly recommended that is "mandated" with an opt-out clause. Basically what the vaccine really prevents, or reduces the risk of anyway, is a type of cancer. If you can prevent cancer, even if it is treatable, that has all sorts of nasty side effects (such as infertility), and you can do it essentially by giving people a shot well before they would ever develop it, by all means. This is an entirely sensible approach to health care. Prevention is much cheaper than the cure.

What seems to rile people up is the idea that somehow this vaccination will encourage young people to have sex with each other. I think this is neglecting that young people (especially boys of course), have all sorts of already existing reasons to want to have sex with others, and have very poor assessments of long-term risk. Particularly when opportunities to have sex arise. In other words, we already have very scary diseases that are transmitted sexually (HIV), and some less scary but annoying ones (herpes), and our kids still go out in overwhelming numbers to have sex either a) before they are married or b) before they are 18. Whatever "encouragement" would exist from this medical procedure is therefore limited to a much smaller population of teens than people think it is; essentially teens who are good at long-term risk assessments. Good luck finding those.

More sensible objections to Rick Perry emerge for me in any of the following
a) his handling of death penalty processing in Texas. Particularly for personally quashing a review board into a case where it appears the conviction was based on faulty evidence. I'm not morally opposed to the death penalty (I am practically opposed because it costs too much). But people should not cheer killing others for one (thanks conservatives for looking like as big assholes as libertarians did for cheering letting sick people die), and they shouldn't appear to be so eager to kill people that due process is washed aside. His overall handling of civil liberties doesn't impress me here.
b) His jobs record is largely phony. He basically poaches jobs from other states. That's not going to work at the national level. Also one of the most effective reasons Texas didn't go into a tailspin is that it had a sensible (dumb) regulation concerning home mortgages (20% down rule) that for some reason had been largely abandoned elsewhere. This kept home prices more reasonable and construction from being a total boom-bust cycle. A GOP politician isn't going to run on "we should have more effective regulations" (note: not more regulations, smarter regulations) but that's kind of a nice part of the Texas jobs' story.
c) His budget record is pretty bad, or at least weak. Some of that is constrained by Texas having a pretty weak governor and very weak controls over some fiscal matters (taxes for instance)
d) if people are concerned about women's health issues (like the HPV vaccine), Perry just slashed the budget for such spending in a state that already had a pretty weak health care provision.
e) Presumably conservatives will be up in arms over his immigration record. I'm not.
f) Crony capitalism. While it's unlikely that that bill is a source of such things, much of what Perry did was effectively recruit companies to come to Texas by offering them all sorts of sweetheart deals. Some of that is sweetened more by Texas' business friendly regulatory and tax environments. But not all of it. Offering special breaks to specific companies is not a very free market idea.

2) Solyndra.
I think the most proper assessments here are as follows
a) Crony capitalism. Governments favoring specific businesses with special benefits is always a problem and always has costs. Not just when it blows up very publicly in that government's face by having the business they favor implode. (See also: the end result of the Kelo decision).
b) Generally opposing the effectiveness of the green jobs movement. I'm not sure that the "green jobs" movement is a fine place to set American hopes for job creation anyway. That said, I'm not opposed to use of cleaner energy. But I'd say we'd be better off starting by nixing all the subsidies we have to non-cleaner energy (coal, oil, ethanol) than by handing out even more money to clean energy folks. Basic R&D, sure. Picking companies or even whole industries like we often do, not a great idea.
c) Generally opposing the stimulus bill. There's a whole range of things that were in that bill that don't appear to have been all that stimulative. Or rather, what they were was palliative care to an economy that got very sick. We basically put a washcloth on our heads for a migraine headache. Or a stroke even. Passing out money to companies to do specific things might have kept some of those companies afloat. But guess what: banks are supposed to do that. So the appropriate response was from monetary policy (not banking bailouts, see Bank of America's continued floundering about). And not stimulative care. Most of the money actually went to help state governments stay afloat (see, Perry and Texas for this, as an example). Another big chunk went to tax cuts of various sorts (yes it did). Another to help the unemployed by passing them out money (which wasn't as helpful as passing out to companies wage insurance like the Germans did). And then some went for long-term infrastructure projects rather than simpler things like fixing roads and bridges or updating/fixing water and sewage lines. Long-term infrastructure projects like, say, putting a bunch of solar panels up (or attempting to build a bunch of high speed rail lines in places that it wouldn't be economically sustainable without a large set of reforms to pre-existing infrastructure subsidies in the form of eliminating HMI deductions and cutting new highway spending). While this might have been politically necessary to pass the bill to put these sorts of projects in, it's not exactly "stimulative" even in the Keynesian sense to spend a bunch of money down the road sometime to do something eventually. Spending a bunch of money now to have people do things now is the theory. The bill they passed a couple years was essentially an omnibus bill not a stimulus bill. It isn't a question of it not being big enough. It's a question of what was in it in the first place.

Update: Perry's comments on Israel-Palestine the other day give me a tremendous amount of proof that his foreign policy is liable to be more unpleasant even than the Obama administration (and that he's more than willing to pander to the Zionist voting bloc of Christian conservatives in this country rather than demonstrate what our foreign policy actually is already, which is pretty much what he says it should be). Great. No thanks. Have a seat sir.

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