|Vote or this dinosaur in Hollywood will eat you.|
Every time I saw something in the news that made me think I had gone crazy because how could anyone say such a thing, they made fun of it on one of these shows and I breathed a sigh of relief that I am not the only one who spent the day with their mouth dragging on the floor. For example, women vote based on hormones! Women can't handle disagreement in a debate! (Apparently, potential female voters watched the debates not knowing what a debate was. Or just women who shop at Walmart. Or all women shop at Walmart. I'm not quite clear on that.) Also, body language determines who wins a debate. Not making any attempt to strengthen gun control for 4 years as president means you will for sure take everyone's self-defense assault rifles in the next 4 years, and every other Obama paranoia that didn't come true is scheduled for the day after the election. Two trillion dollars (Romney's proposed increase in military spending, sort of) is less than $445 million (2011 federal budget for public radio and television) and $75 million (Planned Parenthood funding).
Funny how all of those shows that gave me comfort are hosted by men, by which I mean, Holy Christ, these are not "women's issues"; they are, "Excuse me but it is 2012, not 1912" issues! But, like approximately 100% of female voters, I don't vote purely on these so called "women's issues". I care about other things, like economics. Basically, Romney represents an economic as well as social philosophy totally opposed to mine. My idea of free market capitalism is markedly different. On the military budget, I think the problem is that the government throws money at our military, which provides zero incentive to the military to focus, plan, make choices, re-assess and/or cut programs that are out of date or the technology is not working, make vendors compete for contracts to push the costs down, keep accurate records for Iraq reconstruction money ($6-8 billion LOST, are you kidding me???), and recycle or otherwise properly dispose of assets (like not pushing working planes into the ocean so the new plane budget isn't cut. Yes, they've done that.) Apparently, efficiency is a virtue everywhere but the military and every other government program benefits from tough budgetary review and matching funding with the most effective and relevant programs. Just not the military. Since 20% of the federal budget goes to the military ($718 billion in 2011) and only 7% goes to benefits for retirees and veterans, 2% to education and 2% to science and medical research, a small reduction would be a big deal. What wouldn't make a big deal is cutting funding to PBS and NPR, at most a whopping .014% of the federal budget (or 7% of the amount the Pentagon admitted to losing in Iraq). I'm not even going to get started with how I feel about farm subsidies because I'd be ranting all day, except to say that politicians say they believe in free markets, except when they don't. Which is a lot.
My other issue with the Republican party line is that I believe (as a public company financial compliance professional) regulations are critical to any kind of free market capitalism. One of the reasons is that you can't have free markets if investors don't have equal access to information about publicly traded companies. If investors don't have accurate information, or have less information than other investors (i.e. insider trading) than the price of stocks doesn't reflect the economic reality of the company and the stock prices won't adjust for changes, plus insider trading directs profits and losses incorrectly. From the perspective of consumers, subsidies, monopolies, and price fixing depresses and increases the cost of goods and services artificially. Consumers are supposed to influence prices through demand and without real choices (monopolies, price fixing, and other unfair competitive practices) we have no influence in the market. Subsidies screw up the supply part of the equation by encouraging production that is not otherwise economically viable.
When companies commit environmental and human harm and don't have to pay for it, the damage is not reflected in prices. A company that injures workers and damages the environment needs to pay for what they do. Otherwise, others pay for it who aren't responsible, and the economy doesn't reflect reality. In short, the way we run the economy in this country is like a game, but without referees (regulators), the game is unfair and the best team does not win, which hurts consumers and companies and stifles innovation which has short and long-term consequences for the U.S.'s success in global markets. Without regulations and properly funded regulatory agencies, the markets are rigged, "virtuous capitalists" are disadvantaged, the cheaters cheat and are rewarded for it, and our country and other countries suffer. My biggest beef with economic theory is when it oversimplifies the economy and economic behavior, but that's my oversimplified explanation for why regulations are necessary.
Not that I entirely agree with Obama's approach. I was bitterly disappointed when he didn't clear out Bush's economic team. I'm also like most liberals in that I don't approve of the continuation of Bush's foreign policy and "war on terror". But I still have hope for Obama. If Romney is elected, I have no doubt that this country will be a flaming apocalypse in 4 years. I have other reasons for believing that, and keeping rape-denying, victim-blaming, violators of women's bodies and autonomy out of office (the "women's issues") is huge. I don't know how much more personal politics can get than to be forced to have a baby by a rapist and snotty hypocritical misogynist politicians or have a dildo shaped ultrasound wand shoved in my vagina against my will and my doctor's. So that's what I'm thinking about as I wait for election results.
The real reason I wanted to write this (7 paragraphs in) is to give a shout-out to Nate Silver, the New York Times blogger, statistician, and writer. He built a computer model that correctly predicted the results for 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 presidential election (Obama v. McCain). As of last night, he gave Obama a 90.9% chance of winning the election on his blog Five Thirty Eight. For some reason his predictions enraged Joe Scarborough of MSNBC's Morning Joe, who said anyone who thinks they can predict the results of the presidential election is "such an ideologue...they're jokes." Now I don't know why Joe is so pissed at Nate Silver. Silver was on The Colbert Report last night, and both him and Stephen Colbert seemed to think that his math-based predictions threatened political pundits who routinely make baseless predictions that are frequently wrong and they don't get called for it. I have another theory though. Nate Silver is the biggest geek I've ever seen and Joe Scarborough doesn't like geeks.
I grew up in a time where being a geek was decidedly NOT cool. I might sound like I'm trying to be cool by saying how I'm not cool, but far from it. I'm not a trendy geek. I think of trendy geeks as the well-paid, IT-obsessed, Mac-using business savvy super nerds to come out of the Internet boom. People tolerate, even admire those kind of geeks. I grew up a nose-always-in-a-book, straight-A student, social awkward, funny-looking glasses-wearing geek with no friends. I still geek out at random times and get the weird looks that confirm I can still be socially repellent. I've often suppressed my geekiness because, as I said, being a real geek does not make you cool or well-liked. I have no doubt that my belief that I know more about Sarbanes-Oxley compliance than my boss contributed to his desire to get rid of me. Actually, I think it bugged him that I DO know more than he does. I came into the job with more experience, a higher level of certification, and a genuine interest in financial compliance rather than an ambition to move up in the company. In the 5 years I was there, I worked more directly with the internal controls. I didn't shove it in his face, but I didn't hide it either because it was my job and it is unethical to not do your job when you're a CPA. It has to be because telling people they screwed up and that they should do their jobs differently does not make you popular and it's a whole lot easier to tell people what they want to hear. It's also unethical to skirt the rules for personal gain, i.e. to not challenge management because you think it will help you get into management. There's nothing wrong with wanting to get into upper management or being a manager rather than a subject matter expert, but someone who is the head of a compliance department should not look the other way, tell their employees to lie, and lie themselves. I am unable to go along with something I think is wrong, and despite how I was treated, I was good at my job. So there you go. You may be able to tell why I can irritate people. (I initially named the company, but since I have a lot more to say about them and this post is not directly about them, it's been redacted. I'll avoid any search term DIscoveRiEs by sharing my Conviction that it's importanT to Vote.)
Silver has kind of a defensive arrogance, and I hate to use that word because it sounds negative, but it's a justified arrogance because of his intelligence and the work he's done to get to his predictions, only to get what seems like unjustified criticism from someone who is not even challenging him on his methods or anything measurable. He had a laugh that was a nervous snort, and he went on a hilarious rant on why he doesn't like pundits that was both substantial and completely belittled pundits as a whole. Colbert said it was "the longest possible way of calling him (Joe Scarborough) a bullshitter." My theory is that Silver is a nerd and Scarborough is a bully/jock, and their feud is based on that fucked up dynamic of brawn vs brains. Not that Joe is going to beat Nate up (I hope). The brawn was a verbal attack, and an incoherent one. I know nothing about Joe Scarborough except his TV persona, but he looks and acts like a jock bully so I'm going with that theory. Team Nate! I certainly hope his predictions are right, although Joe went after him for having the audacity to even make a prediction, so even if he's right it doesn't make Joe wrong. But my main concern is not showing up Joe, it's avoiding the apocalypse. To that point, Obama is clearly the geek and Romney is the bully jock. Obama is judged as too thoughtful, which is a strange criticism for someone with access to nuclear weapons. Romney won the first debate because he was aggressive, not because he explained or sold his proposed policies well. There was a briefly reported story back in May of Romney bullying a fellow prep school student who turned out to be gay. It didn't seem to hurt him much politically. At any rate, this time next week no one will be talking about this anymore so I wanted to geek out on it while I still can.
Also while I have the chance I want to come out strongly against the inexplicable term "razor tight". Last night's Colbert Report did a montage of political pundits using the term to describe how close the election looks. What the hell? I can maybe see how one language and time-challenged pundit might make up this nonsensical term accidentally, but a lot more than one said it. It's like they want you to know they are full of it. They are purposely not making any sense to get on the comedy shows. "Razor tight" has replaced "folks" as the most annoying political term that never should have gotten started in the first place. (No, it does not make you sound like a commoner to call people "folks". It makes you sound like a politician.)
Despite my trepidation, I am super excited for the exit polls and result to start coming in. Will it be a long night? Will my enthusiasm for politics jump start my flagging interest in the outside world? We shall see.