Review of Winner-Take-All Politics by Hacker and Pierson

Link to Amazon website for the book:
Winner-Take-All Politics


Review of Winner-Take-All Politics by Hacker and Pierson

Must Read: for those who care about economic inequality and feel disillusioned or depressed by the inaction in Washington.

This is one of the most eye-opening books about modern political policy, political history of how the Super-rich took so much of the control from Washington DC, and why it is difficult to make meaningful change.

Due to the fact it covers the history of the rise of the top 1% through political maneuvering from Presidents Reagan to Obama, it would be too much to unpack in just this simple blog post. If you truly care about the economic inequality that has shattered the middle and lower class of the US, this book is an absolute must-read that will give you the full breadth of information and clarify much of the purposeful misinformation that the Mainstream news media posits as reasons for the economic inequality and the chronic inaction of Washington.

In brief, I’ll cover some of the broad range of topics that this book covers and fully clarifies. I can only go into a minutiae and highly recommend personally buying and reading every single chapter in chronological order so you understand the full scope of the contemporary events that are creating problems in the US.

A brief warning though, this is mostly going to seem incredibly one-sided and although I don’t doubt bias, much of this makes far too much sense and is consistent with much of the political issues that are making the Middle and lower class of the United States suffer. It’s a hard pill to swallow and it completely destroys the failure of bipartisanship on both sides narrative.

Most interestingly, Hacker and Pierson do not pull any punches on the ignorance of the majority of US citizens on policy issues, agenda setting, the inner workings of Washington, and the average US American knowledge of how many of which party voted on a highly publicized policy such as Obamacare. They take it even further, and elaborate on how each party use the ignorance of the broad public to purposefully create the sense of disillusionment, apathy, and despair that the majority of US Americans feel with Washington. Moreover, how it’s used to stoke anger, backlash, and constant resentment so that tax cutting initiatives for the super-rich go unimpeded.

One key aspect before you begin to read:

Who are the Super-rich? Broadly speaking: The heads of Financial institutions such as CEOs in banking, investment banks, brokerage firms, corporate CEOs, Realtors, and private equity firms. Essentially, Wall Street executives.

They typically hide how much in millions they’re making from their tax returns via stock options and deferential payments to avoid showing up on their tax returns. For that matter, their expenditures for donations to both major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, are four times as much as energy companies and other organizations. The financial industry donates the highest in campaign contributions to both parties of Congress and the White House.

Without further ado, here are just a few topics covered in this book and the explanations below are only the tip of the iceberg. If you wish to fully understand the key issues, purchase and read the full book yourselves. You will gain a clear insight and possibly pick-up on specifics that I possibly missed.

To reiterate and emphasize, this political book is highly recommended:

  1. The Mainstream News Media is purposefully misleading voters/viewers on what the problems are:

The coined term “objective journalism” isn’t really objective at all. It’s really the Middle-ground fallacy, that is trying to find fault with both parties in equal measures, when the data shows that one side is disproportionately the problem. The Mainstream media continues this fallacious narrative in trying to make a “our side” and “their side” narrative with Pundits going on ego-stroking explanations on how a disaster would have been avoided if the current administration (whether Democrat or Republican) had just followed an idea that the pundit had after some financial or political disaster has happened.

The mainstream news media also continues to play up or give credence to this distorted narrative of “big government” being in the way of economic entrepreneurs who wish to freely express their individual freedom for economic growth and job creation. This is a completely fictitious narrative, not the least of which is because corporations and the top 1 percent and, even more so, the top .001 percent have received constant tax cuts for the past thirty years. Even more importantly, the income bracket has not been updated to reflect the whooping increase in wages for the top .001 percent to raise their taxes for infrastructure and to update economic regulation on unchecked corporate power. As a result, wages for the bottom 80 percent have effectively stagnated while inflation has risen, and upper middle to lower class Americans are paying more and more while the wealthy are getting tax cuts.

The idea that technological changes created this inequality, while true in some slight respects, is pure garbage in regards to the broad economy. Other countries do not have such a vast difference in wealth disparity apart from countries like Great Britain which modeled themselves after US economic policies and harbor a vicious classist culture of their own. But countries like France, Germany, and Japan do not hold this problem, because their labor unions didn’t fall apart like US labor did during the Carter years and onward. More on that in #3.

  1. The Mainstream Media is using Swing Voters as a scapegoat.

Contrary to what mainstream outlets have the majority of US Americans believe to be true about swing voters, poll after poll shows that they’re the least informed and most ignorant about political events and the differences between both major parties. This means that they can be utilized as convenient scapegoats with this narrative of racism or ruthlessness on the part of voters against racial minorities, White Americans, or those of the lower-income bracket. The idea that the average US American hates it’s poor or hates a specific racial group gets personified. While there may be some truth to these claims, especially from outlandish types online and violent types that make headlines, the majority of US Americans don’t actually secretly hate each other as this narrative implies.

The most crucial and dangerous aspect of this issue is the attempt, engendered by the super-rich, to differentiate social equality with economic equality. To put bluntly, it’s trying to make people believe the impossible. While yes, to a significant degree, economic inequality helps perpetuate racial divisions, the fact of the matter is that true social equality simply cannot exist when everyone is struggling to make a living. It creates apathy for social issues at best and places blame on racial minorities at worst. But, when the slice of the metaphorical pie is being taken more and more by the super-rich, there’s simply no quality of life for the rest of the country because the public simply cannot function when there is no livable wages for anyone. The Mainstream media is completely apathetic to this basic fact and does everything to essentially brainwash US Americans into believing that the two can be separate.

It’s actually a strong show of the US’s strength of character that discrimination continues to be highlighted, criticized, and robustly vilified by the majority of US Americans even as everybody is losing out to the Super-rich thanks to the two-party system.

  1. Organized Labor’s fall caused an information vacuum and Economic Drift.

In brief, during the Carter years, there was a massive shift in business organizations linking together to fund special interest groups. By the 1980s, American Labor couldn’t compete with the massive and concerted organized funding of lobbying groups representing business interests. Previously, they weren’t making any concerted organization and felt threatened by American Labor’s powerful lobbying firms. So, corporations took action and joined together to form powerful interest groups. They spent, for their time, unprecedented amounts of donations for fundraising for politicians. Within short order, politicians of both parties had to fundraise hefty amounts of money for televised advertisements and flyers to keep their seats in office. It was, during Carter’s time, a massive shockwave that changed the contours of US politics.

Over the years, there was an expansion of the number of lobbying firms, expenditures for business lobbying firms rose exponentially, and the lobbying firms eventually – and still do – functioned as “floating heads” without any organized grassroots efforts. Their expenditures were initially three times higher than what American Labor groups could do, this unprecedented and sharp rise in lobbying from business crippled American Labor within a short time. It only got worse by the 1980s, the expenditures rose from three times what American Labor could do for fundraising and donations to then becoming ten to thirteen times higher. American Labor broke down and the massive protests did little to stop the policy shift of economic drift.

Economic Drift, in Hacker and Pierson’s terms, are not derailing policies, but rather failing to upgrade existing regulatory policies to reflect the modern political landscape, economic shifts of wages, inflation, and providing regulations for emerging technologies. Instead, organized efforts of interest groups made loopholes for tax breaks, put stops to critical social protections for the American workforce, deregulated the financial industry, and worked to make sure that politicians didn’t upgrade emerging financial trends to prevent economic catastrophes like the Great Recession of 2007-2008. Then, after the catastrophes, made sure to keep tax cuts for the super-wealthy while forcing the bottom 80 percent of the American workforce to foot the bill for their disregard and lack of regulatory oversight to protect consumers, stockholders, and the American workforce.

This, in and of itself, is a very brief synopsis since Hacker and Pierson meticulously go through the history and details of exactly how all of this happened from the Carter years onward. They make a definitive point to note two key changes that truly harmed the American workforce and helped the deregulation that prompted the careless disregard by the super wealthy:

First, due to the rapid decline of American Labor – which was partly shielded by the rise in labor unions in the public sector while the private sector unions all but evaporated – the American workforce became less tuned to Washington policy changes. Despite the funny hats and social customs, American labor was key in getting the majority of Americans to understand policies that effected their living standards. No more. Thanks to their fall and the rise of special interest groups working exclusively for corporate power.

Second, during the supremacy of television, televised advertisements for politicians by lobbying firms helped to spread misinformation and focused on anger inducing techniques to inspire voting for policies which were harmful for the majority of US Americans. Sometimes they utilized outright lies to fool people into voting for a politician who supported policies harmful to the majority of the US public but helpful to corporate interests.

Even worse, US Americans don’t understand the true importance of elections because the mainstream media utilizes Us versus Them sports analogies. This is ultimately a corrosive and disingenuous view of the politics of capitol hill. What matters most is that the supermajority in power determines the policy agenda that the Congress will discuss for their years in power and what the majority of Americans should pay attention to is what policies that politicians actually pass and permit to become law. Often, they’ll try to bluff by espousing rhetoric about how economic policies favorable to the majority of the US public couldn’t pass because of the specific bill in place, but the politician will insist they support the public good while passing laws that diminish and harm the majority of the US public. The main focus needs to be on policies and laws actually being passed to learn what politicians in general – and your specific politician – really support on a consistent basis.

  1. Partisan Politics is useful for the agenda of the Super-rich.

Have you ever heard the phrase, flaunted as a soundbite by the wealthy when donating to the two major parties, “Give to the Republicans to get what you want, but give to the Democrats for insurance.”?

It’s interesting and gives a superficial understanding of what has happened, it is ultimately wrong. It does not unveil the true extent of the problem. The two-party system hatred is absolutely valuable for the agenda of the Super-rich, if anything it is highly crucial to keep their stronghold on Washington. That is because retired government officials or those who’ve moved to private sector jobs usually find work with the very powerful interest groups that lobby in Washington. People understand this, for the most part, but they don’t understand how deep it goes.

As time has gone on, since the beginning of this trend during President Carter’s administration, significant increases in millions of dollars of expenditures for lobbying groups have been pumped into lobbying to increase the proficiency of organized groups. These organized special interests work diligently to make into law the interests of the Super-rich. Typically, they work hard on tax cut loopholes for the Super-rich.

Special interest groups representing the Super-rich have keyed in and have gone from developing strategies in which they hire former congressional staffers, who have knowledge of or a close personal relationship with each congressman in Washington. Typically, it is congressmen who are on specific congressional boards and whose policy formations represent their business interests. Over the past thirty years, the Super-rich and their lobbying firms have “modernized” this strategy. The problem was that, when there was political overhaul with a new supermajority party in power, the special interests typically cajoled the previously hired staffer of a political party, that was no longer the majority in Congress, to retire early. This was so that they could hire someone new from the other political party to take the helm and pursue their political interests utilizing the close personal ties to that specific party.

No more; this strategy proved inefficient and obviously led to distrust. Now, with the increasing expenditures of special interest groups to create a more efficient organized capacity for lobbying, it has created a massively successful framework. The special interest groups representing the Super-rich have created two sets of organizations – one for Democrats and one for Republicans – so that regardless of whichever party is in power, the Super-rich will simply switch up the teams to use the most relevant political party that has ties to the elected congressman. Thus, the two-party system, and the public’s idea that one political party is “their team” and that their corruption is “less worse” or “necessary” to fight the other team, helps the Super-rich continue to demand tax cuts while both political parties write up new tax laws that raise the taxes of the lower-income Americans, the Middle Class, and the Upper-Middle class while slashing taxes vigorously for the Super-rich.

The Super-rich and both political parties have helped obfuscate the heinous degree in which they’ve ruthlessly continued this policy for the party thirty years. They have the Mainstream News media depict reduced taxes for the lower-income, middle, and upper-middle class and seem to increase taxes for the Super-rich; what isn’t shown however is the chronological effect of such tax policies. While most of them will have reduced taxes for the bottom 80% for the first year or even the first two years, and have that part publicly shown on mainstream news outlets, within short time (for a tax policy), the 5 or 10 year tax policy will have aggressive cuts for the Super-rich and significant – often massive – increases in taxes for the lower-income, Middle, and Upper-Middle class of the US public. Obviously, it’s proportional to what they have but there are significant increases all around, and the burden is solely on the bottom 80 percent.

So what happens? Lower-income voters feel detached and like they don’t matter so they don’t vote. Middle-class voters become more permissive or apathetic to discriminatory rhetoric for racial minorities (those who lose jobs either blame identity politics or the racial minorities who they feel are stealing their jobs), and the Upper Middle-class has this biased idea that they’re becoming poorer despite working harder than lower-income Americans. They may blame their lessened wealth on the idea of lazy poor people because they met one or two lazy people or know of a family they think of as lazy or with certain problems. Reactionary politics ensues, the “other party” Democrat or Republican, takes the supermajority hold in Congress and promise reform while then helping distribute more tax cuts for the Super-rich without any meaningful debate on what it’s doing to the rest of US society. The Super-rich use their other team of their special interest group that have close ties to the other political party and then the Super-rich walk home with the grand prize of less taxes while the bottom 80% begin to blame their morals or technology or lack of religion or racial minorities or Millenials or whatever.

This is also why Gerrymandering is important, and often given the narrative of us vs them between Republican and Democrat political parties to further obfuscate how much the bottom 80% is losing out to the Super-Rich. Gerrymandering assures that the two-party system stays in power and is vitally important for the Super-rich to keep their own power over the bottom 80 percent.

  1. Evangelical Christians faithfully served the Super-rich and destroyed the Middle-Class.

This is probably the most contentious aspect of their book, but they have the historic facts to back it up and the tale is unfortunately very one-sided under legitimate objective scrutiny.

In brief, starting from the Carter years over rising anger over the possibility of churches being taxed, the anger simmered since Evangelicals were already reluctantly conceding to racial integration, the approximately 50 million US Americans (a number Evangelicals are happily to self-tout in their propaganda) staunchly and happily acted as the grassroots force of the Republican party. And with the majority of the US public inattentive and ill-informed, the Evangelicals highly organized and motivated grassroots organization proved effective in keeping Republicans under majority control from the Carter years to the Clinton years in the US Congress. The political advocacy for conservative social values only increased for the Presidency of George W. Bush and especially during the 2004 campaign against John Kerry.

Republicans organization forces, and during the 1980s, their mail-in donation orders, helped to eclipse the organizational capacity of the Democrats. The dedication and tireless work of Evangelical Christians for the Republican party helped to cement their supermajority foothold. Evangelicals were quick to campaign door to door, to phonebank for candidates, and to help fellow Evangelicals to drive to the polling locations. And for all their hard work? They happily sat back as Republicans aggressively promoted Conservative social values such as the anti-LGBT scare of 2004 and the anti-abortion bills in local, State, and Federal government, sometimes even in the cases of infringing upon the rights of rape victims. Recall, if you will, the 2008 election in which Sarah Palin deflected questions on raped women’s rights to abortion, and consider the fact that none of the mainstream media covered the lack of laws protecting Native American children from being raped by opportunistic, racist US citizens.

And what was the economic cost? Republicans kept pushing an economic fundamentalist agenda. Economic fundamentalism in the sense that they made a concerted and deliberate effort to aggressively slash taxes for the Super-rich while massively increasing taxes for the poor, Middle-class, and Upper Middle-class while doing little to adjust wages for inflation. Essentially, Evangelical political action groups stole the American Dream from the rest of their fellow Americans while the US public was largely blind or ignorant of their activities.

Evangelicals were happy to concede to the economic interests of the Super-rich, if it meant their conservative social values were defended. While the broader US public largely thought of them with a patronizing outlook, the general idea of Evangelicals being ignorant and perhaps kooky but ultimately harmless, because they were mostly noticed by the general public when loudly protesting against LGBT peoples and women’s reproductive rights, helped to shield the impact of what they actually did. Evangelicals have concerted with corporate interests into systematically robbing the rest of the US public of their wealth and handing it on a silver platter to the Super-rich. The economic redistribution to the Super-rich was thirty years in the making and is most certainly permanent. Evangelicals robbed the American people of their wealth, they robbed you of your wealth, and the degree of their impact means that they have most certainly robbed your children and grandchildren of a better life. You could argue that perhaps in another thirty years, after you’ve worked hard being part of massive protests that barely move Washington DC into acting upon the public good, that you’ll eventually be able to redistribute wealth . . . maybe. But the dismantling of Occupy Wall Street and, more recently, the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline should give you pause to consider whether or not this will be the permanent state of affairs. Regardless of where you stand on either protest, it is indicative of the fact that if the Super-rich feel their interests aren’t being met then your first amendment rights don’t matter anymore. All because Evangelicals worked hard for thirty years to make this state of affairs permanent. And then, when economic woes get tough, racial minorities are blamed and often killed by socially conservative, usually Evangelical sympathizing vigilantes.

On a personal note, I now have to live in fear of being shot to death on my front lawn thanks to the ongoing hatred of Sikhs and the recent killings of Indian origin US citizens, all because Evangelicals decided to unilaterally destroy the livable wages of the US public in service to the Super-rich. Evangelicals themselves blame racial minorities for the economic downturn that they helped create. One might question how they could be this stubborn and shallow, all I can say is, this is what happens when you give a permissive cultural norm to ignorant people who don’t believe in facts, but strongly believe in a moral high-ground irrespective of real life conditions and how their actions hurt others. To the Evangelical mind, they most likely believe that the US is suffering economic downturn for their support for progressive social values like women’s reproductive rights and treating the LGBT community like human beings worthy of respect and equal rights. To the Evangelical mind, it would just be a punishment from God and the permanent loss of your wealth because of their actions is just “arrogance” on the part of people who disagree with their authoritarian mindset in favor of freedom of expression. They would simply believe that you’re being punished for being a sinner and celebrate the permanent loss of your livable wages as Jesus Christ’s judgment upon you. They likely believe your suffering is justified because they don’t agree that you have the right to your own personal beliefs on faith.

  1. Republicans became “tax cut fundamentalists” for the Super-rich and continue to raise the taxes for everybody else.

This part is going to seem overly biased and one-sided, but true objective analysis means taking a hard look at what activities each party is pursuing and what bills they’re supporting to bring into law. It is not, as the mainstream media continues to espouse, finding faults with both parties to create an “equal” form of journalism that gives a disingenuous view of events. However, since this information tells a very bizarre and altogether one-sided story, people may come to expect it’s pure ignorance or one-sided propaganda. Previously, I pointed out to their modern assessment of what is going on, but the history of how we got to this point gives us an insane picture that is hard to believe and even more difficult to stomach. It’s anger-inducing and I don’t believe that most will take this part of their analysis seriously because the broader US public is so use to this idea that both parties have failed the public.

Regrettably, the actual picture shows that Republicans were aggressively moving hard-right on Economic issues to support tax cuts for the Super-rich while increasing taxes for everybody else. The days of fiscal conservatism had a painful death as a result of politicians becoming bought and paid for by lobbying groups exclusively working for the Super-rich.

In brief, the increase in lobbying groups and imperative for politicians to seek fundraising in the millions has caused massive inattentiveness and inaction for the majority of politicians. Compounded with this is the Hard-right Republican culture of Newt Gringrich during the Clinton years. Thanks to Gingrich and those who followed the “tax cut fundamentalism” approach of the 90s Republican party, the fiscal conservatives became shunned and then eventually replaced. The Gingrich Republican party filibustered and sidelined any attempt to regulate or update the existing financial structure and blithely demanded tax cuts for the Super-rich as the most prominent and important agenda aspect of the Congress. Due to the sixty vote majority necessary to end filibusters, the Gingrich Republicans continued to advocate for tax cuts. When discontent with Republicans rose over this new and extreme platform, the States that usually shift from each party during an election, ended-up removing the few remaining fiscal conservatives out of office in favor of Democrats. As a result, the Gingrich tax cut fundamentalists became even more extreme in tax cuts for the Super-rich to show they were more useful to the Super-rich. Republicans could still prevent a raise in taxes thanks to vetoes requiring sixty votes.

What about the Democrats? Many did support the Republican party’s entrenched and concerted partisan position. By the Clinton years, needing fundraising from the Super-rich to get elected became a necessity to keep your seat in Congress, and the Democrats under Chuck Schumer positioned themselves with aggressive fundraising tactics, but the majority of Democrats generally try to balance the interests of the Super-rich with the needs of the public and their constituents varying requirements.

Hard-Right Economic Republicans under Gingrich, however, do not concern themselves with matters of inflation or with the need for livable wages for the poor, the middle class, and the Upper-middle-class. In fact, the Gingrich Republicans flaunted the very idea of economic regulation to help the majority of a country. They don’t view it as their duty to help the public good and feel the government should stay out of issues of social or economic inequality. They don’t need to. The authoritarian mindset of Conservative culture and the unshakeable faith of Evangelicals working as grassroots organizers assured that they would remain with enough congressional seats to filibuster and promote tax cut fundamentalism in favor of the Super-rich.

The rise of the tea party made the situation increasingly more partisan and even more extreme since they didn’t accept any rise in taxes for the Super-rich while emphasizing no rise in taxes, even for a few short years, for the Super-rich. From the Gingrich veto-happy Republicans onward, Republicans have stopped concerning themselves with the needs of lower-income, Middle class, and Upper-Middle class society. They’ve used the biased assumption that Republicans lower taxes to slash taxes for the Super-rich while raising taxes for the lower-income, middle-class, and upper-middle class via long-term tax policies that initially seem favorable to the majority of US Americans before changing overtime to favor the Super-rich and burden the rest of society. Since the Gingrich years, the Republican party no longer thinks of the broader US public as their “base”, but rather the Super-rich as their exclusive base that they need to appeal and show favor towards. Even in situations where a rational set of regulatory policies could have prevented the economic collapse known as the Great Recession, Republicans have remained unfazed in their tax cut fundamentalist policy positions since Wall Street doubled-down and spent more lobbying money to assure that nothing too extensive changed. As a result, Democrats had conduct a painful, costly bailout that burdened the rest of the US public because Republicans resolutely refused to even consider raising taxes on the Super-rich and by 2008, Democrats had to compete with balancing what was the sensible solution for the US public with gaining favor from the Super-rich to continue being an elected official for the next term in office.

The unvarnished truth isn’t simply both parties being utterly corrupt. It’s Republicans refusing to consider anything but slashes for the Super-rich and Democrats having to balance the requirements of fundraising from the Super-rich with the public good. It’s Democrats constantly reacting to competing interests and Republicans remaining firmly set on hard-right economics. Republicans don’t consider it their job to balance the budget or to concern themselves with the needs of the broader public; not for the minimum wage, not for medicare, not for the reality of climate change, or the future prosperity of the country. Their concern is only appeasing the Super-rich and any catastrophe that happens, they will let the Democrats deal with and the US public pay the costs of.

Their strategy has proved efficient and Democrats have fallen out of favor. Republicans know, and consistently utilize, the political reality that when a supermajority of Democrats fail to live up to their promises to the US public then the positive election buzz eventually loses steam and the broader public becomes discontent with them. They question why compromise and often unfavorable compromises are necessary, but because of the veto and delay tactics of Republican members of Congress in conjunction with extensive fundraising activities that take more and more precedent over the many years, the US Congress has effectively become paralyzed with perpetual inaction. When promised changes fail to materialize and voters become angry, there is an obvious tendency to blame the majority because they’re perceived to hold the most power in the US Congress. The reality that both parties need compromise to fully function as a result of aggressive lobbying escapes notice.

Republicans, especially with the Tea Party branch of Republicans, seize the anger every time the positive feelings lose steam. They aggressively and staunchly oppose bipartisanship so that the public feels fear, anger, and stress over the fact their lives never get better. The Republicans openly flaunt and brag about this strategy, they don’t want to be seen as having a bipartisanship resolution because it makes people feel relieved and feel as if the politicians will resolve matters. The Republicans have boasted that they tap into the anger and frustration to motivate people into believing they’ll get tax cuts, if they vote Republican, and once Republicans retake supermajority role, they don’t concern themselves with even weak regulatory legislations that Democrats pass to protect the US public and instead create loopholes and continue to aggressively cut taxes for the Super-rich while raising taxes for the lower-income, middle, and Upper-middle class of US society.

If problems should arise? They let the Democrats deal with the fallout and have – since the Gingrich years – stopped concerning themselves with the majority of US Americans as being relevant to their agenda. The ignorance of the broad US public, the angry sentiments that arise from failed promises, and most importantly, the organized and concerted grassroots efforts have firmly kept Republicans in power. Republicans know how reactionary the US public is and how ignorant they are of what actual policies the Republicans support. They continue to pass policies of tax cuts for the Super-rich as proof of this continued assault on the US public and destroy whatever meager regulatory protections there are with loopholes or fear campaigns of socialism or deviate the argument away from tax cuts by highlighting conservative social values to engender Evangelicals continued compliance.

Hacker and Pierson even highlight this with Obamacare. They point out the Democrats were already conceding to the Super-rich to even push Obamacare forward and even then, it had almost failed. They show the horrifying ignorance of the US public over the issue. A poll about Obamacare showed that most of the US public believed approximately 20 to 30 Republicans voted in favor of Obamacare when asked how many they believe voted in favor of it. That would be a reasonable and possibly compelling idea, if we assume the Republican party cared about the US public’s healthcare and ability to continue living after conceding to the interests of the Super-rich. It’s also wrong. The correct answer was none. Not a single one of the Republicans voted in favor of Obamacare. And with Republicans unilaterally opposed to any tax increases for the Super-rich, the Democrats had to follow the Republican agenda and agree to increase taxes for everyone else to make sure that healthcare averted an economic fallout similar to the Great Recession but at the US public’s expense and not at the expense of the Super-rich.

Finally, it’s unlikely even this small article will change voting practices, I’m not naive enough to believe people will even want to listen because this seems so irrational. But we’re 20 trillion in debt, by comparison our GNP/GDP is 4 trillion a year, and the bottom 80 percent is continuing to foot the bill for the recklessness of Wall Street and other financial firms because the Republicans have successfully held a firm hold using the ignorance of the US public and reactionary sentiments whenever the Democrat majority fails to deliver on promises. The fear and anxiety is useful for reactionary shifts so that Republicans, who gain significantly more in donations from the Super-rich, continue to have organized grassroots activities from conservatives more in favor of the authoritarian mindset and from the general ignorance of the US public who don’t pay attention to what policies and laws that Republicans largely sponsor. It sounds one-sided, ridiculous, and insane that Republicans simply don’t concern themselves with the debt, the reckless financial activities of the Super-rich, and that they would burden Democrats to fix whatever they broke, but the policy preferences and fundraising disparity paint a clear picture.

The modern Republican party of our time doesn’t believe that economic equality is important, doesn’t concern itself with the struggles of the lower income or the middle-class or even the upper middle-class, and continue the tax cut fundamentalism to keep themselves in power and to keep Democrats in a perpetually reactionary state of affairs. This party is devoted to destroying the country; the failed economic policies of Reagan, Bush Sr., and Bush Jr. make it apparent that Democrats are actually better for the economy, but the effect has weakened since both parties need to keep in mind that they need to appease the Super-rich to stay relevant. Democrats try to play a balancing act, but Republicans tap into reactionary sentiments and see the broader public as little more than rabid dogs while offering tax cuts to the only base that they have concern for; the Super-rich.

Personally, after reading this book, and acknowledging the fact that the overt racism of Donald Trump’s campaign didn’t stop people from voting for him, and thus people with racially discriminatory views have increased hate crimes – including shooting people of Indian origin dead in their front lawn. I’ve since concluded that I’ve been incredibly naive. I don’t believe things will get better, I don’t believe the very scant few people who read this will believe this is what’s happening, and it’s doubtful people will pick-up Hacker and Pierson’s book to better understand the objective policy agendas that both parties follow without the partisan nonsense seen on television to make both sides seem equal. The one-sided nature of this seems altogether ridiculous and it’s a vexing truth to swallow. But nothing will ever change. The Super-rich have won and the Evangelicals helped them do irreparable damage to the United States economy.

If you do wish to learn more about what is going on, this book is highly recommended. Please read it, at least you won’t be as confused about why nothing positive seems to be happening with the US Congress regarding economic inequality. If you still have hope for change, unlike me, then please read this book.

Lying by Sam Harris

This book is, by far, one of the silliest that I’ve ever read. Sam Harris makes bold claims about how lying is always morally wrong and goes so far as to argue that a college lesson by a professor influenced him into realizing that lying is always wrong. Harris actually claims that even in the situation of Nazis knocking on your door on the hunt for Jews that you’re protecting, lying can be seen as morally wrong.

By the end of the book, Harris’s claim left in the most ridiculous “thought experiment” to try and argue his extreme interpretation on the morality of lying. When setting up the example of a Nazi knocking on your door, Harris states that redirecting the Nazi to some other location would put other people in danger. Okay, great, so why not just say “No, I haven’t seen them.” and continue to hide the Jews that you’re protecting? He never addresses the most obvious option and goes on to make some absurd statement about threatening the Nazi with a gun. Because apparently, a single person with a gun that shoots and kills an officer of what is effectively a military dictatorship is going to live after that experience and keep the Jews in hiding safe. Even if that one officer dies, his fellow Nazis would hear the shot, see the body, kill you, and raid your house. The example and explanation that Harris used simply lacks any degree of critical thinking that I’m surprised that he felt confident enough to publish an argument that he wanted people to regard seriously.

I couldn’t help but read the Amazon reviews and realize that Harris’s fans have effectively become the equivalent of atheist evangelicals. How can they not recognize the obvious defects of Harris’s scenario? The rest of the book is just cherry-picking examples of situations that cause severe social problems. It certainly isn’t good to lie but telling the truth isn’t always the answer.

Now, a weakness of this review is that I can only bring my own personal opinion to my argument. I don’t have any qualitative data so please just regard this as my own biased and self-centered outlook on life because that is all I can provide. However, I would like to add that Harris’s use of social psychology seemed dubious to me from the citations that he used but I digress . . .

There are three chief points that I feel necessary to argue as a counterpoint to what I view as a silly argument by Sam Harris.

The first is that people enjoy being told lies. The brief feelings of appreciation, self-worship, happiness, and what they feel to be innocence when being told a lie that makes them feel happy is enough to satisfy the majority of people. That is precisely why the elected officials, in all democratic countries, are evasive and indirect in their responses. The public calls it lying, but the politician knows that a brief moment of self-reverence is all that the public needs to feel that their lives are meaningful and to convince them to vote for the politician. We see this all the time during elections. That is how empty the lives of the majority of people are; a few seconds of kind words is all that people need to feel appreciated and to convince them to vote for a man or woman that they recognize as two-faced and condemn as a liar every other month. The majority of people are, indeed, that shallow within your home country and across the world. If I’m wrong, then prove me wrong; the people’s actions speak louder than their angry responses. A few seconds of cheering up is all the meaning that the majority of people require in their lives. To be clear, I am not saying this to be insulting; I’m saying it because it’s what I’ve observed. I might be wrong and I hope that I am.

Second, people don’t want the truth; they just want their preconceived notions to be the truth. When people holler in real life or online that they’re just going to say the truth, what they’re really espousing is their own worldview because they believe it to be the truth. A person could honestly believe that 9/11 was a government hoax or that President Obama is a Muslim pretending to be a Christian but both these “truths” that the person believes is empirically false. Thus, people don’t honestly want the truth; they just want their view of the world to be the objective truth.

Finally, and this part is truly a complete anecdote and shouldn’t be regarded as anything else but a personal view, I can safely say that, for the majority of times in my life from grade school to now, I have hardly ever seen a situation in my life improve from telling the truth. It was almost always the opposite. Even when I didn’t mean offense, and simply felt that something needed to be said, it was never appreciated. It was always seen as spreading “shit-talk” among my ex-high school peer groups, as making complaints about my grade school teachers, as insulting my friends, or just being viewed as an asshole. Even when said upon the nicest possible terms and in the most compassionate of reasons, I was simply viewed as a jerk and an idiot for bringing up “the truth” of a situation. The truth has hardly ever brought any positivity in my life. I usually received degrading insults and deprecating remarks as rebukes. I honestly find no compelling reason to believe that Sam Harris’s argument for this particular book, Lying, is anything but sophistry or naïve stupidity. The very few times I recall a situation improving was due to clarifying something I didn’t know in school. However, the majority of times were just totally disparaging. People hate being told the truth and view you as a terrible friend when you’re honest. Now, certainly in situations of health, fitness, and habits, people should be told the truth to improve but otherwise I see no use for it. For the most part, people seem to enjoy living in their own illusions about themselves and the world. As much as I hate to admit it, I’m probably also part of that equation.

It’s also one of the reasons why I don’t bother using my real name or showing a picture of myself on this blog or twitter. I just don’t want to bother with any possible hounding or stupid comments. It’s just not worth my time and effort. Maybe I’ll get over these misgivings in the future. I’m pretty sure people dislike the mystery and I apologize for that.

Anyway, Harris’s book gets a 0/10. It fails on every level and I don’t find cherry-picking examples to be compelling evidence. His failure to address his own lauded argument about Nazis at the door is what clinched this negative review. This book is a total failure. Sorry for being honest.

Persuasive Writing: The 80/20 Solution

I cannot fathom why anyone would spend their own money to market this book for $2.99. Seriously? The author has no understanding of marketing and competition. You can finish this book in five minutes of reading and all this author does is make utterly worthless suggestions on how to frame each paragraph to connect them. For example, creating the main purpose of an article, then writing a personal story in the second paragraph, then using scientific facts to support it in the third paragraph while mentioning parts of the second paragraph, then more information in the fourth paragraph while mentioning parts of the third paragraph, and rinse and repeat for five paragraphs. These suggestions are utterly worthless and would permit confirmation bias.

My suggestion: Don’t buy it. It is a total waste of money. At best, and I am being very generous of even this, it is worth 0.99 cents and not a penny more than that.

I Hero: The Beginning by Jason Zandri

The main character is a Gary Stu. After a fairly interesting prologue, the story devolves into ridiculously obvious cliches, the author portrays a “Middle Eastern” side character with some weird mix of Israeli and Pakistani name origins. Assuming the author was trying to portray a typical person from the Middle East then he failed to do his research on names. The main character goes into boring monologue after boring monologue to explain the “plot” of the story; talking about his favorite superhero to then speaking of a comet aligning with all the planets… so that he can go blind staring at the sun because the comet will be located the sun. Then some random old lady, who he befriended for whatever reason, is dying but grasps his arm tightly and says some magic spell before she dies. After that, he wakes up in the hospital and starts to go into a boring monologue about himself, how the old lady just happened to be accused of being a witch, and yadda yadda. I stopped after that point because I found the story to be boring.

Pretentious, boring, and it seems like this author is just writing for the sake of his own personal wish fulfillment. Even the title itself seems to imply wish fulfillment.

Dating and interviewing: How improving one skill improves others by Aadi Reddy

This book suffers from a myriad of run-on sentences, awkward wording that often times makes little sense within the context of the sentence, and it reads like an unedited diatribe of whatever was on the author’s mind.

The title seems misleading; the author offers a scant few hypothetical examples that rely on the author’s obvious stereotypes about people and doesn’t seem to appropriately understand the term “skill” because of how the word is used. After each hypothetical example, the author has a “skill acquired” section at the bottom of most pages that explains the author’s reasoning for why the reader should act in a specific manner. Yet, this is based on the author’s hypothetical examples and not based on any qualitative research.

I doubt this author has actually dated another person or been interviewed. The “skills” are either stating the obvious in a long-winded fashion or using a bunch of hypothetical stereotypes.

It’s a seventeen page book and should take the average reader less than half an hour to complete . . . but don’t waste your time. For anyone looking for a job or dating advice, I recommend that you ignore this book.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

By far, one of the greatest books I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Daniel Kahneman goes into such details for biases in availability, to substitution of hard questions to how we feel about such difficult questions, and how we try to find causes where there are none.

There is a plethora of riveting, academic, and simply phenomenal information that one can gain from this reading. Not only would a reader feel less worry about abnormal events such as terrorism, but may even gain a better understanding of mathematics too.

Kahneman’s book is divided into 5 parts that range from our cognitive biases such as biases of heuristics, to our biases of stories that we tell ourselves, our narrow focus and overestimation on abnormal issues without a proper understanding of probabilities, and the shocking difference between our actual experiences and how we remember them.

Examples include the overestimation of terrorist events because they’re far out of the norm compared to statistically more likely dangers such as car crashes, how we choose certain activities based on our recollection of how pleasurable or painful they ended instead of the length of time of the activity, and how we make financial decisions based on reference points from our previous socioeconomic status.

I probably sound like a fanboy but I think it might be accurate to say that I am a fanboy of this book. I highly recommend it to anyone. It is lengthy but the information is worthwhile. I cannot truly go into the depth of what this book covers. Try a free sample if you have a kindle.

Listed below is my understanding of certain aspects of cognitive biases that the book covers; understanding the issue is the first step to preparing defenses against it:

System 1: utilizes intuition.

System 2: Effortful/contemplative and lazy.

Base-rate fallacy, ignoring the percentage of people because the story sounds consistent with our automatic biases.

Anchoring: Moving slightly above or below a set standard that has been set. For example, realtors being given the price of 70,000 for a 90,000 dollar house and moving slightly above or slightly below the initial starting price despite it being far below the actual value of the house. Anchoring doesn’t work in circumstances in which the price or subject matter is immediately considered unreasonable such as asking 10,000 for a 90,000 dollar house.

Framing: How we set-up questions to get the answers we want. For example, food being described as 1% fat free versus 98% Fat.

Understanding talent: Talent is consistently performing an action, having constant feedback towards that action, and learning mini-skills to eventually raise their ability up to a higher level. A “talent” is a set of several learned mini-skills.

Cognitive ease: filling the gaps of what we don’t know with what we expect to be reasonable information. For example, believing that police officers are lawfully bound to protect the public despite this lacking legal basis. (More on that here:

Cognitive ease usually consists of the following:

People being unable to understand how they previously defended arguments before they changed their mind.

Theory-induced blindness: Being unable to see the flaws of a theory until after one’s mind has been changed.

People try to find causes where there are none such as rural areas that have low populations having extremely low or extremely high cancer rates. Events are in a flux and life sometimes has a regression to the mean in just about every circumstance in life.

We have trouble distinguishing rumors from factual evidence because our system 1 absorbs them as if they’re equal.

We tend to have a planning fallacy, ignoring how many others are doing the same thing that we are and we try to ignore how statistics apply to our behavior and the behavior of people we know.

Overall, 5/5 stars. It has been a great pleasure to read. I cannot recommend it enough!

Schopenhauer’s book “The Wisdom of Life”

Schopenhauer’s book “The Wisdom of Life” is pretentious garbage. Nietzsche’s assessment of Schopenhauer, which seemed altogether extreme, turned out to be correct. Schopenhauer was a nihilist of the most lamentable sort – you read that right: Schopenhauer was a nihilist that was more lamentable than traditional nihilism.

The framework of Schopenhauer’s “The Wisdom of Life” is by far the most idiotic principle that I’ve ever encountered. It can and should only be regarded as a piece that was contemporary to its own time from a buffoon. Critics and even agitators of philosophy would be able to use this as the stereotype for why people believe that philosophy is nonsense.

Schopenhauer’s principle is thus: That we should rescind the idea of commercial wealth because they’re just things and they will vanish eventually; if not by us then by our progeny. Thus, because our wealth will eventually disappear and is thus not the key to true happiness. He argues that other people are also not the key to true happiness because being around other people makes one stupid and he uses a very racist generalization of American blacks to support this point. Apparently, singing and dancing are acts of stupidity according to Schopenhauer and he felt that black people – whom he perceived as an inferior race – epitomized this idea of other people being a waste of time.

It actually becomes worse from there. He goes on to make spurious generalizations of women needing men to be rulers of the household – contemporary to how they were treated during his time period – and then talks about honor. He makes it quite clear that honor is just meant to preserve, even violently preserve, the idea of one’s public perception. Men shooting each other on the street in a duel is about honor in his worldview. This type of violence is seen as morally good and rational while he – and others of his time – condemn women for being too emotional because women “give into” gossip. The self-contradiction is for all to see in these modern times. It also shows that chivalry really was nothing more than self-aggrandizing given the veneer of self-respect in accordance with customs at that time. Dueling for “honor” was never some good versus evil type of affair as depicted in Hollywood.

I haven’t been able to finish it because the book was so terrible. I got about half-way through it before I had to put it down so feel free to give me any criticisms on this one. I just couldn’t endure the beginning half of the philosophical book.