Careening Down The Road To Stupid

It's been a long time since a New York voter got to have some real say in a presidential election, so I suppose that I should celebrate that somebody may actually notice that I voted this morning.  Still, all the polls seem to be indicating that on the Republican side Donald Trump is way ahead in New York, and indeed may for the first time in any primary receive more than 50% of the Republican vote.  Meanwhile, on the Democrat side, although Hillary seems to have a reasonably comfortable lead in statewide polls, believe me, in our neighborhood you would barely know she is running.  All the energy is on the Sanders side.  Our local newspaper (The Villager) has endorsed Sanders.  If you went to a fancy college and got a fancy job in New York and moved into fancy and expensive Greenwich Village, it is now just a given that you believe that the government is an infinite source of free money that can and should be passed around by those in power to solve every human problem and create perfect fairness and justice.  Hey, we all know it!  Feel the Bern!  

Back to the Republican side.  Readers here will not be surprised to learn that I don't think much of Trump.  Yes, I don't naturally take well to people who are obnoxious and insulting to everyone else; but I could learn to live with that if I agreed with the person on major issues.  In Trump's case he's just completely at sea on the issues.  It's not so much that I disagree with him as that when he's not contradicting himself I often can't even figure out what he's talking about.  In this post last month I commented on Trump's endlessly-repeated line that running a trade deficit with another country means that we are "losing" some kind of trade war with that country, and that the situation can be fixed by having some really good negotiator as President to negotiate better government-to-government "trade deals."  Then we'll be "winning."  It just doesn't make any sense, and shows complete ignorance of the subject matter.  I could even live with ignorance on a complex subject like this, if the person was willing to be humble and show a willingness to learn.  Obviously, that's not Trump, who has made the subject of his greatest ignorance into his signature issue.

And then there I was last night watching a video clip of Trump at a campaign rally in Buffalo.  In the particular clip that somebody had chosen, Trump was saying that "nobody here can vote for Ted Cruz."  And the reason?  Because Ted Cruz had dissed New York by voting against the Hurricane Sandy relief bill at the end of 2012.

Now, as anyone who can do basic arithmetic will immediately recognize, the Hurricane Sandy relief bill was a terrible thing for New York.  Not for the then governor and mayor, who got big wads of free money to pad their budgets for a couple of years; but for the people of New York it was a terrible thing.  The Hurricane Sandy relief law passed out a wildly-inflated $60 billion, mostly to New York and New Jersey, to pay for everything that anybody could think of to put on a wish list at an emotional moment, without the slightest consideration of whether particular expenditures made sense or were justified.  This was a terrible thing because it established the precedent that the federal government after a natural disaster will pay whatever it takes to restore everything to perfection in any amount, reasonable or unreasonable, that anyone can think to claim.  This precedent was terrible for New York because, Hurricane Sandy notwithstanding, New York is not very subject to natural disasters.  Therefore, under a regime where the federal government provides complete no-limits relief and recovery aid for every natural disaster, over time New York will pay out in disaster relief to other parts of the country a large multiple of anything that it ever receives, likely ten or twenty or more times as much.  

New York rarely gets a serious tornado or earthquake.  And while it does get a hurricane occasionally, it gets far, far fewer of them than the South Atlantic states and the Gulf coast.  Just look at a map, and you will realize how difficult it is for a hurricane coming up the East coast to score a bulls-eye on New York.  For this post written at the time of the Hurricane Sandy relief bill, I did some research and discovered that in the 50-year period from 1961 to 2010, some 27 "major" hurricanes (categories 3, 4 and 5) made landfall in the United States.  Of those, 23 hit the Gulf coast or Florida, 3 hit the Carolinas, and just one (Gloria in 1985) hit the mid-Atlantic.  By demanding and taking the Hurricane Sandy money, we have put ourselves securely on the hook for the cost of recovery from the twenty or thirty or more serious hurricanes that are sure to strike the South for every one that we get over the coming decades.  Take a look some time at the dozens of miles of multi-million-dollar mansions and condos lining the oceanfront north and south of Miami in Florida.  A good cat-3+ hurricane strike in the middle of them would cause losses a multiple of those from Sandy.  The oceanfront mansions and condos wouldn't even be there except that the Floridians are secure in the knowledge that New York and the rest of the country are going to replace everything when the big hurricane comes through.

And then give some thought to tornadoes in Kansas, earthquakes in California, and floods along the Mississippi.

I don't know about you, but for me, the first thing I would expect from a negotiator negotiating on my behalf would be that he/she can do the basic arithmetic to figure out which position in the negotiation benefits me and which position costs me.  If you lack that basic skill, you will promptly get taken to the cleaners by your negotiating counterparties.  From the evidence I can see, Trump seems to lack that skill.  And supposedly, negotiating skill is his big selling point.  Lord help us.  

Cruz?  Whatever else you may think of him, he definitely had this one figured out.

Well, I take heart from realizing that as bad as Trump's basic arithmetic skills seem to be, he's not in the league of Bernie and Hillary and their supporters.  Disaster relief is a question of some tens or maybe hundreds of billions of dollars every now and then.  Not being able to figure out that Social Security and Medicare and Obamacare (and single payer healthcare for all, and free college, etc., etc.) are ponzi schemes is more like a $100 trillion issue.  I guess Bernie and Hillary have the excuse that they are old enough that they can dupe the suckers for now and they're likely to have died as heroes by the time everything comes apart.

UPDATE, April 20:  Who says that my Congressional District (NY-10) is good for nothing?  Our district covers the West Side of Manhattan and some pieces of Brooklyn, and is known for loopy left-wing thinking, Columbia and New York Universities, Greenwich Village, and the highest income inequality of any district in the country.  According to election results here, we gave enough votes to John Kasich yesterday to take a delegate away from Donald Trump.  But we were bested by our cross-town rivals NY-12, where Kasich actually took a plurality of the votes and 2 of the 3 available delegates.  Outside Manhattan, Trump swept all but a couple of delegates.  If you are looking for an explanation, I don't have it.