Tag Archives: stupidity

Reality Is So Inconvenient

Time Magazine  recently ran a story illustrating the problem with electing stupid, uninformed people.

Numerous media outlets have explained–patiently, and in detail– why Trump’s evident belief that China is paying his tariffs is wrong; they’ve laid out–in painful detail–the way tariffs really work, and why those tariffs are more properly labeled tax increases on the American public.

The Time article addresses a subsequent demonstration of Trump’s utter economic cluelessness.

Tariffs on foreign goods are supposed to help companies that make things in the United States by increasing the costs of products sold by foreign competitors. Indeed, when rationalizing his administration’s increased tariffs on Chinese goods, President Donald Trump on Monday encouraged consumers and businesses to buy goods from countries other than China, or, in what he called the “best idea,” to buy American-made goods.

That would have been good advice, back when American companies were busy manufacturing  horse whips and corsets. These days, however, advice to “buy American” simply displays an embarrassing ignorance about the current realities of  the world of business.

But that advice is almost impossible to follow, as products made in America can contain parts sourced from all over the world. Even the most quintessentially American of goods has parts from somewhere else, whether that be a Ford F-150 pickup, a can of Budweiser, or tire chains from Worcester, Mass. “In the last 20 years, businesses have become much more strategic,” says Kara Reynolds, an economics professor at American University. “More and more often, they are looking at where they can find highest quality and lowest-cost parts so that they can be competitive.” More often than not, that’s China — and that means many U.S. businesses are feeling the pain thanks to Trump’s tariffs.

Trump, as usual, has ignored the warnings of more knowledgable people (a category that includes most sentient humans), and has doubled down on his tariff policy. Farmers have been the most notably hurt, but manufacturers and retailers aren’t far behind. Automobile companies are already feeling the pinch.

The most recent round of tariffs is expected to affect a broad swathe of industries that make products in the United States. “This is playing havoc with the supply chains of Americans producers — increasing their cost and reducing their worldwide competitiveness,” says Robert T. Kudrle, an economics professor at the University of Minnesota. St. Pierre, for example, makes chains and wire rope in its Worcester facility, as it began doing in 1920 when Henry St. Pierre started the company. But as it started facing foreign competition, St. Pierre began buying chain slings and other parts from producers overseas, then cutting them and adding hooks and fittings in the United States.

The cost of those imported chain slings have gone up as tariffs have risen. Even St. Pierre’s horseshoes, which are made completely from U.S. steel, have been affected by the tariffs on foreign goods. As the cost of foreign steel went up, the cost of U.S.-made steel rose too, says Peter St. Pierre, vice president of finance at St. Pierre Manufacturing — and Henry St. Pierre’s grandson. “Everything we do here is steel-related, and over the last year or so, the price of steel has been going up and up,” he said. Increased demand for domestic steel has allowed U.S. producers to raise their prices; one estimatefound that U.S. steel prices have more than doubled since 2015.

Companies affected by the tariffs include a number that make goods in the U.S., thanks to rising duties on imported parts.

A South Carolina plant that assembled televisions using Chinese parts said last yearit was shutting down because of the tariffs. The Beer Institute, which represents 6,000 brewers and 2.2 million American jobs, said thatabout six percent of the cost of beer is the aluminum used in cans, and predicted that higher aluminum tariffs could cost 20,000 American jobs.

Are we tired yet of all that “winning”?

Will his brainwashed base ever decide that it may be time to elect someone with less ego and more functioning brain cells?

Trump’s Empty Threats

At least once a day–and sometimes more often– Donald Trump reminds us that he is an idiot.

Most recently, he displayed his ignorance of economics by imposing new tariffs on China, and then confidently asserting that China was paying them. Since his massive ego doesn’t allow him to learn from anyone–not even the third-rater “experts” with whom he has surrounded himself and who (dim as some of them are) still know far more than he does–he doesn’t understand that tariffs are essentially a tax on American consumers. (His steel tariffs alone have raised the price of washers and driers by more than $100 each.)

Not too long ago, Trump issued what he clearly thought was an oh-so-clever threat to those evil “sanctuary cities.” He proposed to resettle immigrants exclusively in those cities, an idea that the Brookings Institution called “part and parcel of the president’s approach to immigration, an issue on which he has always maintained a tenuous relationship to reality.”

Tenuous indeed.

He has apparently abandoned the threat, clearly puzzled by the lack of concern expressed by those he’d threatened. (Actually, “bring it on” is more than a lack of concern…)

In Trump’s view, sending immigrants to sanctuary cities is a way to punish those Democrats unwilling to “change our very dangerous immigration laws.” In the president’s eyes, because illegal immigration is so appalling to him, it must be appalling to everyone, and the transfer of refugees seeking asylum to sanctuary cities will turn voters against pro-immigration reform Democrats.

The president’s aborted plan for sanctuary cities is emblematic of everything that is wrong with his approach to immigration. Even if the claim that a disproportionate number of immigrants are criminals were true (it is not), the obvious problem with his plan is that there is nothing to guarantee that all these “bad actors” would stay in these Democratic strongholds. Once there, they might just move to places where large proportions of Trump voters and supporters live, and data the Washington Post obtained on a small sample of recent immigrants shows that occurring.

The Brookings article also noted that implementing this cockamamie policy (my terminology, not theirs) would require numerous violations of the laws, beginning but not ending with the Hatch Act.

Think of it this way: what if a Democratic president decided that Republican states who had voted against him or her on the basis of opposition to welfare programs should not get food stamps. There would obviously be howls of opposition if deep-red states were systematically deprived of federal funds, raising concerns about political abuse of power and a subjugation of Congressional intent in appropriations.

Trump constantly demonstrates that he doesn’t understand law–not only is he ignorant of specific rules that most Americans know, he clearly doesn’t understand the role of law in governance generally. (Granted, he also doesn’t understand governance…or really, much else.)

It isn’t just the legal framework that eludes him. He is also blissfully fact-free. As the Brookings analysis explains:

 As of the halfway mark of the fiscal year, 190,000 people have been apprehended in family units—almost a four-fold increase over last year. They currently make up the majority of all border apprehensions.

What would be the impact of relocating those asylum-seekers? There are eight states that have designated themselves sanctuary states (California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont) totaling a population of 80.23 million. In addition, there are another 87 counties and municipalities outside of those eight states that have designated themselves sanctuary jurisdictions, with a population totaling 39.71 million. Thus, the total population living in areas designated as sanctuary jurisdictions totals 119.94 million people.

The president believes the transfer of asylum-seekers to sanctuary jurisdictions would put such an undue burden on those local governments and populations that the people would rise up against their governments’ embrace of sanctuary status. In reality, however,… all families apprehended so far this year total an equivalent of .016 percent of the population of those sanctuary jurisdictions. Put differently, if those asylum-seekers were spread across sanctuary jurisdictions according to population, those jurisdictions would receive 16 asylum-seekers per 10,000 residents.

Hardly an unsupportable burden, even if asylum-seekers were the unproductive drains on local economies that Trump insists they are. But of course, he’s wrong about that too.

In 2017, researchers in the Department of Health and Human Services conducted an analysis of the economic impact of refugees, a very similar population to asylum-seekers. They found that in a 10-year period, they contributed $63 billion more in government revenues than they cost.

The administration rejected the report, because facts aren’t their thing.

America’s Oval Office is currently occupied by an incredibly uninformed (and embarrassingly stupid) raving bigot. If the (misspelled and ungrammatical) comments his supporters post to this and other blogs are any indication, they share those characteristics.

It explains a lot.

 

Trump, The Not-Just-April Fool

Tomorrow is April fools Day, which raises the question: how many fools are there? (Does the apostrophe go between the l and the s, or after the s?)

Among the many, many detestable things that Donald Trump and his “best people” have done is shake my former faith in the good sense of most Americans–and increase my estimate of the country’s percentage of fools.

If the last two years have taught me anything, it is that approximately a third of Americans are unable or unwilling to recognize stupidity and incompetence when they see it. I’m not talking about bad ideas, unworkable policies or even the venality and self-dealing that has characterized this administration; I’m talking about the special blend of arrogance, ignorance and limited intellectual capacity that Trump demonstrates anew every day.

Take these remarks reported by The Hill.

Trump touted at an event in Ohio that the U.S. was the largest producer of crude oil and natural gas in the world. He suggested that would not have been the case had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election.

“Hillary wanted to put windmills all over the place,” he told workers at a tank factory in Lima, Ohio.

Trump then mimicked a man telling his spouse to “turn off the television” when the wind doesn’t blow in order to save electricity. The joke was reminiscent of a similar line he delivered earlier this month at the Conservative Political Action Conference in which he derided the Green New Deal.

“Put the windmills up, and watch the value of your house if you’re in sight of a windmill — watch the value of your house go down by 65 percent,” he said Wednesday. “Wonderful to have windmills. And solar’s wonderful too, but it’s not strong enough, and it’s very very expensive.”

How incredibly dumb do you have to be in order to believe that if you use wind power, its availability will be intermittent–that when the wind isn’t blowing, the energy isn’t available? Does he really think the enormous growth of wind power use would have occurred if that was the way it worked?

Has he ever heard of batteries?

And solar is not weak and “very expensive.”One megawatt-hour of solar-produced electricity in North America currently costs $50, compared to $102 for coal-originating power, according to new analysis.

Alternative power generation is much cheaper now over the lifetime of a plant than when working with traditional fuels like coal, according to a report by investment bank Lazard.

I’ve posted before about this administration’s war on science; much of it is being waged by former lobbyists who’ve been installed at the EPA and Department of the Interior to protect the bottom lines of fossil fuel interests. Those officials probably know better and simply don’t care–maybe they have grandchildren who don’t have to breathe air and drink water.

But I don’t think Trump does know better. (One of the reasons I never thought he actually colluded with Russia is that he lacks the mental capacity and self-discipline for collusion–he was simply Putin’s useful fool.) Trump is a walking, talking illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect.

In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effectis a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is. The cognitive bias of illusory superiority comes from the inability of low-ability people to recognize their lack of ability. Without the self-awareness of metacognition, low-ability people cannot objectively evaluate their competence or incompetence.

I think that is a perfect description of Trump.

The more important question is: what explains those Americans who–two years into this disastrous Presidency–still support him and cheer him on? A lot of it, of course, is simply racism/white nationalism. He hates and fears the same people they do, and in return, they’re willing to overlook the fact that he is an embarrassing idiot. But some of it may also be attributable to their own Dunning-Kruger effects.

Either way, the rest of us need to get off our duffs, soundly defeat him and them in 2020, and begin to reclaim and rebuild our country.

Otherwise, Fools Day won’t just be in April.

Sociological Whiplash

Yesterday’s New York Times Magazine was devoted to innovation. It had a story about Craig Ventner, who sequenced the human genome and is working on producing artificial life–including bacteria that will excrete a substitute for oil. It had a story about inventions poised to come on the market–a fabric that can charge your cellphone, a car with cruise control that automatically maintains a set distance between you and the car in front of you, a bike with anti-theft handlebars, synthetic alcohol (on Star Trek, that was called synthahol!), vastly improved resolution for movies,a blood test for depression… My favorite was a breakthrough that would substitute an edible “shell” for food packaging. For example, your yogurt might come in a shell of strawberry you could eat, rather than another carton to clutter our landfills.

The whole issue was a tribute to human ingenuity and smarts–to our ability to understand our world and its building blocks and to confront our challenges big and small.

And then there’s our politics. If America is producing savvy scientists and remarkable technologies–and we are–we are also electing embarrassing buffoons who are doing their best to return us to that state of nature known as “ignorant.”

There are so many examples, choosing one was hard, but let me try. This week, North Carolina lawmakers proposed a new law that would require estimates of sea level rise to be based only on historical data—not on all the evidence that demonstrates that the seas are rising much faster now thanks to global warming. The sea level along the coast of North Carolina is expected to rise about a meter by the end of the century. Business interests in the state are worried that the projected rise will make it harder for them to develop along the coast line. So legislators plan to deal with that issue by writing a law requiring inaccurate projections.

Scott Huler, who works for Scientific American and lives in North Carolina, summed up this brilliant approach thusly:

Which, yes, is exactly like saying, do not predict tomorrow’s weather based on radar images of a hurricane swirling offshore, moving west towards us with 60-mph winds and ten inches of rain. Predict the weather based on the last two weeks of fair weather with gentle breezes towards the east. Don’t use radar and barometers; use the Farmer’s Almanac and what grandpa remembers.

In this corner, the brilliant minds that gave you your computer and IPhone. In that corner, the champions of denial and short-term gratification. The existential questions: can the smart guys save us from the idiots we elect?  And figure out why we elect them?