Budgeting, Firearms, Walls, and Executing Trans People

Several items today.

  • How family and government budgeting are more unalike than similar;
  • How firearms training teaches you that you are in constant danger, and should shoot at once;
  • Thomas L. Friedman on building bigger walls, but also allowing in more immigrants — “both the high-energy, low-skilled immigrants and the high-I.Q. risk takers”;
  • And more examples of conservative animus towards trans people, to the point of executions; donation fraud by conservatives and the Mormon church; and DeSantis’ aim to make Florida students ignorant.


Another simplistic talking point is making the rounds again.

Politifact, 17 May 2023: A family budget is often invoked in U.S. debt fights. Just how similar is it to a federal budget?

Answer: not very.

[Kevin] McCarthy has a point that there are similarities between government budgeting and family budgeting. But experts agree that it’s not “the exact same thing,” citing crucial differences that undercut the analogy’s usefulness.

“It’s an overly simplistic talking point,” said Steve Ellis, president of the nonprofit Taxpayers for Common Sense.

I’ll summarize. Ways in which they’re similar: Both need to live within their means, lest ballooning interest crowds out other needs. (The advantage the federal government has, that individual families don’t, is that the economy keeps expanding, whereas most individual family’s incomes do not.)

Ways in which they’re not similar: government budgeting is infinitely more complex; governments are more powerful than families; governments have wider responsibilities; the analogy ignores differences among families.

Also, families borrow a lot too; it’s not as if they pay off their debts every month. Mortgages; credit card debts, which most people don’t pay off every month. Americans are carrying more than $17 trillion in debt, mostly from mortgages.

In other words, painting the government as wickedly profligate and families as saintedly frugal is deeply flawed.

The comparison “reminds everyone that we have to be respectful of limits of government,” Holtz-Eakin said. “But in the nuts-and-bolts details, the two are very different.”


NY Times, Harel Shapira guest essay, 16 May 2023: Firearms Classes Taught Me, and America, a Very Dangerous Lesson

The classes I attended trained students to believe that their lives are in constant danger. They prepared us to shoot without hesitation and avoid legal consequences. They instilled the kind of fear that has a corrosive effect on all interactions — and beyond that, on the fabric of our democracy.

Many examples. The writer ends:

The N.R.A. says that “an armed society is a polite society.” [[ Heinlein said this too. ]] But learning to carry a gun isn’t teaching Americans to have good manners. It’s training them to be suspicious and atomized, learning to protect themselves, no matter how great the risk to others. It’s training them to not be citizens.


Here’s a startling perspective.

NY Times, Thomas L. Friedman, 16 May 2023: It’s Time for Biden to Out-Trump Trump on Immigration

Friedman recalls the era when Californians were terrified of immigrants: TV commercials showed scurrying families trying to run across Interstate 5 just north of the border. There were even yellow roadsigns, depicting images of running parents and child, as traffic warnings. Yet over time, it all got fixed. In California.

Friedman recognizes that increased immigration is part of a changing world, and he recognizes that America needs *more* immigrants, not fewer. And says the nation should solve the problem the way California did.

As I’ve argued before, there is only one way to deal with the waves of migrants who will continue to come America’s way. And that is with a very high wall with a very big gate.

Democrats don’t want to hear about high walls, and Republicans don’t want to hear about big gates. Too bad. We need both.

Donald Trump was a fraud on immigration. He never wanted to solve the problem. He exploited the fears of an uncontrolled border to stop immigration and appeal to racists and white supremacists in his base. And stoking those fears worked for Trump.

And so

In my view, President Biden should out-Trump Trump. Do everything possible to secure the border like never before — more walls, more fences, more barriers, more troops, the 82nd Airborne — whatever it takes. Make Democrats own border security. But not for the purpose of choking immigration: for the purpose of expanding it. It is good policy and good politics.

If we are going to thrive in the 21st century and compete effectively with China, we need to double down on our single greatest competitive advantage: our ability to attract the most high-aspiring migrants and the most high-I.Q. risk takers, who start new businesses.

America’s advantage has been in attracting “the highest-energy, highest-intellect immigrants.” Now conservatives apparently would like to keep them all out. Despite labor shortages. They are not all dumb field-workers; most of them have iPhones. Most of the world does. There’s not that much difference between them, and us.


Vox, 17 May 2023: Ron DeSantis’s immigration law is already leading to worker shortages, subtitled “Dozens of videos on social media show empty construction sites and farms even before a new law goes into effect.” DeSantis doesn’t care; he’s running for president.


Follow-ups to posts in recent days.

Hemant Mehta, 17 May 2023: Hate-preacher: Parents who let trans kids get surgery should be “shot in the back of the head”, subtitled “‘There should be no excuse to not put these people to death,’ added New Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher Jason Graber

Media Matters, 16 May 2023: Conservative pundits are increasingly open about who they think should be killed, subtitled “Right-wing media cheer DeSantis’ expansion of the death penalty and try to justify the extrajudicial homicide of Jordan Neely”

With examples of Matt Walsh, Michael Knowles, Alex Jones, and others.

SF Chronicle, Soleil Ho [recently retired lead restaurant critic for the paper], 18 May 2023: I attended a secretive anti-trans dinner in San Francisco. And then I puked, subtitled “Nuance wasn’t on the menu this particular evening.”

NY Times, 14 May 2023: How to Raise $89 Million in Small Donations, and Make It Disappear

A group of conservative operatives using sophisticated robocalls raised millions of dollars from donors using pro-police and pro-veteran messages. But instead of using the money to promote issues and candidates, an analysis by The New York Times shows, nearly all the money went to pay the firms making the calls and the operatives themselves, highlighting a flaw in the regulation of political nonprofits.

Hemant Mehta and 60 Minutes: On “60 Minutes,” a Mormon bishop wouldn’t explain the LDS Church’s $100,000,000,000 stash, subtitled “Christopher Waddell couldn’t justify why so much money is coming in but virtually none of it is being spent on charity”

It’s hard not to notice that these shenanigans are almost always from conservatives/religious groups. Why would that be?


And back to DeSantis:

Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, 18 May 2023: Opinion | Ron DeSantis’s big idea: Make Florida students ignorant

A summary of recent goings-on in Florida. It concludes,

Parents, students and businesses seeking well-educated workers might decide it is better to decamp from Florida for states that prepare students for the real world, help them function in a diverse society and foster intellectual excellence. Sadly, that will leave Floridians less prosperous and less capable of performing the obligations of informed citizenry. Perhaps that’s the point.

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