The Party of Principle

Are you a Democrat or a Republican?

I hate that question. I always try to explain that I am partially both, but not really either. For example: Democrats hate the rich, and Republicans hate the gays. Well shit, these aren’t my views. I don’t think the rich should be penalized for being rich and expected to provide for everyone else. And hating gays is just, well, completely ridiculous (and laughably ignorant).  So where does this leave me in terms of my political stance? Stuck somewhere in between and not really belonging to either.

A few years back I realized I’m almost perfectly compatible with the Libertarian party (see below if you are confused). The problem is that most people that I encounter with very strong political opinions also don’t believe that anything exists outside of the two dominant parties. When I answer with “Libertarian” I’m usually greeted with a blank stare and a repeat of the question “So which are you?”. Or someone that throws out a mildly condescending laugh and asks “Why? You know you won’t win.” Umm hello? This isn’t a horse race. You don’t win a prize for betting on the winner.

Am I registered Libertarian? No. I live in a very Republican state, and so I register as Republican. Why? So I can vote in the primaries: at this point I’m not voting for someone I want to win, but rather against the candidate that I think would do the most damage if elected. This is quite sad, I know. But the reality is that the odds of a Republican losing in my state are so small that this seems to be a logical play. Also note that when I lived in Los Angeles, I was registered as a Democrat for exactly the same reason (although the party bias is much less severe in California than it is here).

I also want to point out that while my political views are well aligned with the Libertarian party, this does not necessarily mean I vote Libertarian.  During the primaries I vote against someone in the dominant party in whatever state I happen to reside in at the time. Once we pass the primaries, I’m voting for who I want to win, but to be clear, I’m voting for candidates not parties.

Does anyone else do this?


Are Libertarians liberal or conservative?

Libertarians are neither. Unlike liberals or conservatives, Libertarians advocate a high degree of both personal and economic liberty. For example, Libertarians advocate freedom in economic matters, so we’re in favor of lowering taxes, slashing bureaucratic regulation of business, and charitable — rather than government — welfare. But Libertarians are also socially tolerant.  We won’t demand laws or restrictions on other people who we may not agree because of personal actions or lifestyles.

Think of us as a group of people with a “live and let live” mentality and a balanced checkbook.

In a sense, Libertarians “borrow” from both sides to come up with a logical and consistent whole — but without the exceptions and broken promises of Republican and Democratic politicians. That’s why we call ourselves the Party of Principle.

via FAQ | Libertarian Party.

How can we expect elected officials to spend our money wisely while in office, when they have to spend it irresponsibly to get elected in the first place?

According to a blog post from the WSJ made over three years ago, in 2008, presedential candidates spent $195 million dollars on television adds alone. The Center for Responsive Politics estimated the [total] cost of the 2008 presidential race at $2.4 billion, and reported that fundraising by the presidential candidates was double that of 2004. Should we expect to see double the 2008 campaign cost in 2012?

Time for a thought experiment. Consider what would happen if television advertisements were against the campaign rules and YouTube became the accepted medium for ads instead? What would happen if the candidates were to not allowed travel all over the country to talk to small groups of people in town hall meetings, and instead relied on an interactive virtual forum to talk to the voters instead (like a video chat version of those very same meetings, which would also make them accessible to a much larger group of people).

How much of that $2.4 billion is really necessary? I suppose that unspent money could have ended up any number of places, but I’m willing to bet that a lot more of it would have found its way into the economy than it did being wasted on frivolous campaign expenses.

This week, flash mobs are popping up all over London, looting, rioting, and setting fire to the city. The momentum of these mobs is being escalated by the effectiveness of conveying information across social media. We know social media works, but a move to it as a standard campaign practice would require new rules to ensure everyone was playing the same game — is leveling the playing field really so bad after all?

Would this internet-based approach to campaigning work? Probably. Would the economy have seen more benefit from this money if it weren’t spent on the presidential campaign? Probably. More importantly, however, how can we expect elected officials to spend our money wisely while in office, when they have to spend it irresponsibly to get elected in the first place? Maybe it all starts with changing our campaign mentality.

Pension Extinction?

In light of all of the recent talk about the US debt and deficit, I decided to see just where all of our tax dollars are going… and then I found this pie chart. I like pie charts, and I like the color yellow, so I was quite pleased when I stumbled upon this. Is the website that I got this from legit?  I have no idea, but I’m going to believe it until someone proves otherwise.  Check for yourself at

Assuming this is in fact legit, I was flabbergasted that 16% of the spending is on pensions. Really? That’s slighty more than we are spending on education, almost as much as on health care, and the same amount as on defense. So what does this translate into in terms of our tax dollars? Well, for 2011 it equates to $793.2 billion. Why not just round up slightly to an even trillion?! What the fuck?! In case you have a hard time grasping how much money that is, it’s about 294 times Oprah‘s net worth… we are paying 294 time Oprah-fucking-Winfrey‘s net worth, annually, for federal pensions. Let that sink in for a minute.

It seems like very few US companies still offer pension plans to new hires; January 1, 2011 marked the end of this at my company and I’m fairly certain we held on a lot longer than most. While this is unfortunate, these companies realized that cutting pensions out of their benefits package was just something they had to do to survive. In some extreme cases, companies have even ripped existing pension plans out of the retirement portfolios of long time employees (airlines declaring bankruptcy, for example). This is really, really shitty, but again, these companies were fighting for survival.

And so in a time when our government is struggling with a deficit that is growing beyond control, why aren’t you fighting to survive? Why aren’t you taking the same hits that the rest of us are? Maybe this would be a good place to start trying to get our finances under control? Hmm?

Yes, I am not a complete idiot and I know that federal employees extend far beyond politicians.  But my point remains unchanged: what makes you so goddamn special?

On a side note, does anyone know if federal employees that are new hires are still given pension plans? Or is this cost just a residual from people that already had existing ones?

On another side note, if anyone decides to fact check this and comes up with different numbers, by all means, please let me know.  I really hope this is all a lie.

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