The Case Against “Loss and Damage” Payments

The recent U.N. Conference on Climate (COP27) ended with a commitment for so called rich countries to provide “loss and damage” transfers to poor countries to help deal with the consequences of climate change. The Centrist Independent Voter believes that climate change is a serious problem and supports a variety of solutions including a significant greenhouse gas tax and tariff system.

I, personally, do not believe that wealth transfers from richer to poorer nations should be a part of that policy package. In my opinion, there are two major reasons to exclude these wealth transfers from the public policy approach to climate change. The first is political and the second is ethical.

The Political Case Against Loss and Damage Payments

Given the general animosity in the U.S. and Europe toward the loss of jobs to third world countries from free trade, which provides substantial benefits to rich countries, I see the likelihood of popular support for loss and damage programs as close to zero. It strikes me that we will need all of the political capital we can muster to get the consent of the citizens of rich countries to accept the kind of carbon tax systems necessary to help slow the rate of climate change. It would be a shame to squander that political capital trying to get the citizens of rich countries to also accept wealth transfers to poor countries.

The Ethical Case Against Loss and Damage Payments

Loss and damage payments to poorer countries are often defended because most of the carbon in the atmosphere got there as a result of the use of fossil fuels to feed the industrial revolution in rich countries. While that is certainly true, we don’t charge poor countries for the benefits of the industrial revolution either. If faced with the choice of living without the technological changes or the global markets that emerged as a result of the industrial revolution or dealing with the consequences of climate change, I think most poor countries would opt for the technology and the markets. That might not be true for the Maldives, or other nations that face catastrophic losses from climate change, but I think it would be true for most poor countries.

The Alternatives

The Centrist Independent Voter does support a number of responses to climate change that will benefit poorer countries.

First and foremost is the tax and tariff solution, which holds out the best hope for actually having an impact on the rate of climate change. These taxes will be borne disproportionately by consumers in rich countries who consume significantly more energy, and therefore fossil fuels. The benefits in terms of reduced climate change impacts will be enjoyed globally.

Second, we support federally funded basic research into technological alternatives that will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. Basic research is by its nature a public good and other nations, rich and poor, will be able to take advantage of this research at no charge.

Third, we support research in and potential use of geo-engineering solutions to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. If these technologies prove to be economically justifiable, they will be available globally and the benefits of using them will be felt globally.

Fourth, we might support loan guarantees and insurance arrangements funded by the IMF or World Bank that are intended to offset “market imperfections” that retard private investment in climate friendly technologies in poor countries. I am suspicious of this argument because the “market imperfections” that are often cited are not market imperfections at all. For example, the expected rate of return necessary for a private sector investor to build a solar or wind power generation facility in a poor country might be significantly higher than that required to induce the same investment in a rich country. The reasons are many but include: unstable economic and political (tax) environments and corrupt, or potentially corrupt, government officials. These risks are real and do not constitute market imperfections. If, however, the World Bank and IMF have sufficient clout in poor countries that the participation of these organizations can actually lower the likelihood of expropriation through taxation or corruption then these kinds of loan guarantees or insurance programs for private sector investment might be justifiable. It should be obvious that a quid pro quo for any such programs would be participation by the host country in a climate tax and tariff arrangement. It should also be obvious that threats on the part of poor (debtor) countries to withhold interest payments on debt in order to extract “loss and damage” payments are counterproductive to efforts to create these loan guarantee or insurance programs.

Fifth, I think it also might be reasonable to add incentive arrangements for some countries to the list of policy options to deal with climate change. Rich countries might pay countries that control sensitive ecosystems to restrain the rate of development of these ecosystems. An obvious example would be paying Brazil to restrict the development of the Amazon rain forest.

Conclusion

While much can, and should, be done to reduce the impact of climate change on poor countries, direct wealth transfer programs are both politically counter-productive and ethically unjustified. Nevertheless, the fact that climate change will often have devastating effects on poor countries should help motivate rich countries to embrace the kinds of public polices that will reduce or slow climate change such as: carbon tax and tariff arrangements, funding basic research on climate friendly technologies and geo-engineering alternatives, loan guarantees through the World Bank and IMF that would reduce the disincentives for private investment in climate friendly investment in poor countries, and incentives for the preservation of critical natural environments (such as the Amazon rain forest). The argument here is like the one for free trade: we should do these things because they are good for us and because they are good for others.

Burying the Evidence of Racial Discrimination and The Failures of Public Education

The Supreme Court is expected to ban the use of racial preferences in college and university admissions sometime this session. The Centrist Independent Voter supports this decision. To quote Justice Roberts: “The way to stop racial discrimination is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” For a more nuanced discussion of our position on this issue, including the downside of affirmative action for African-Americans, visit our policy position on the question.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson has raised the issue of legacy admissions as a greater inequity in the admissions process. She is right on moral grounds and the Centrist Independent Voter also opposes legacy admissions. Perhaps the obvious inequity of eliminating racial preferences in admissions while retaining legacy admissions will shame more colleges and universities into abandoning both practices. There is, however, a key difference: legacy status, or lack thereof, is not a protected status under the 14th Amendment or the Civil Rights Act; race is. We would happily support legislation to ban legacy admissions at any institutions that receive federal aid (essentially all). Nevertheless, the law bans racial discrimination and it is time for the Court to enforce the law.

Will The Supreme Court’s Decision End Racial Preferences in Admissions

In anticipation of the Supreme Court’s decision on this issue, the American Bar Association (the organization that accredits law schools) is dropping its requirement for the use of the LSAT in law school admissions. At least four major top ranked law schools have indicated that they will now stop requiring the LSAT and will stop cooperating with US News and World Report on rankings. (The USNWR rankings rely heavily on the standardized test scores.) Similarly, a number of undergraduate colleges and universities are dropping their requirements for the SAT or ACT for applicants.

These institutions are up front that their motivation for dropping the requirement for standardized test scores is to preserve racial diversity in their student populations. Connecting the dots is pretty easy. African-American students perform significantly worse on standardized tests than other ethnic groups. If standardized tests remain a requirement, disparities in test scores are tangible evidence of the use of racial preferences in admissions. The solution, in the minds of the colleges and universities, is to bury the evidence.

Up until now, standardized tests and reliance on them for ranking schools did not significantly interfere with most school’s diversity objectives. The scores are reported on the basis of the top 75th percentile and the bottom 25th percentile. This system allowed colleges and universities to admit students with exceptionally low standardized test scores (provided that they didn’t change the score associated with the bottom 25th percentile) without adversely affecting their rankings.

By dropping standardized test requirements, colleges and universities have eliminated the most visible evidence of racial preferences in admissions. If the Supreme Court does declare racial preferences in admissions to be illegal, colleges and universities can still be sued for using racial preferences in admissions but proving the case will be far more difficult. Individuals or groups that feel they have been discriminated against because of the use of racial preferences will have to obtain evidence that admissions officers were biased in their evaluation of soft evidence, like grades, activities, and essays.

The bottom line is that a Supreme Court decision on racial preferences will not end racial preferences in college and university admissions any more than Brown v. the Board of Education ended racial segregation in public schools. The system adjusts. Colleges and universities will no doubt continue to use standardized tests on a voluntary basis. This information, as virtually the only objective tool for evaluation, is just too useful to abandon completely. Students who score poorly on these exams will opt to withhold them. Students who have a claim to be in a disadvantaged minority will find a way to communicate that information even if universities can no longer ask for that information on the application.

Can We Move Toward a Racially Blind Admissions System?

The only way to move the system toward being truly racially blind would be to redact the names of the students and their schools on the applications. We would also need to abandon the use of essays. The loss of the essays seems to me to be a benefit, rather than a cost, since there is no way to know who wrote these essays. The redaction of school information does benefit minority groups since minority schools are generally less competitive in terms of grades. In the absence of standardized test scores there is no easy way to account for differences in grading procedures. In fact, those states that have banned racial preferences, like California and Texas, have substituted a system that grants preferences to students who graduate at the top of their high school classes, regardless of test scores. This gives a competitive advantage to students who go to less competitive high schools. The flagship universities in these systems are over-represented by Asians and under-represented by most other ethnic groups, but they still have a significant number of African-American students.

Dropping Standardized Tests Also Hides the Evidence of the Failures of Our K-12 Educational System

I think everyone would like to see greater diversity, of all kinds, on college campuses: racial; ethnic; class; geography; and political. The failure of colleges to achieve racial diversity is not, primarily, due to the college admission system but rather due to a K-12 educational system that does not prepare all students to fulfill their potential. You can’t fix that problem by sweeping it under the rug by abandoning standardized tests. Really fixing that problem would require attracting more and better teachers, paying those who perform well salaries that will keep them, and firing those who do not perform well. None of this can be accomplished while the teachers’ unions have a stranglehold on public education. Banning collective bargaining for teachers in public schools, eliminating tenure, and instituting pay-for-performance systems would help a lot. Voucher systems and charter schools may be a part of the solution. We should certainly give these alternatives an honest chance and evaluate their performance.

Political Implications

Politically, the Democratic Party needs to make a choice. Does it intend to represent the interests of the teachers’ unions or the interests of poor and minority students who have been short-changed by the teachers’ unions? The teachers’ unions have tried to fool the parents of minority kids into thinking that they are on the parents’ side by embracing “woke” teaching ideologies. These “woke” teaching approaches will still produce kids who can’t read or do math, but who have unrealistic expectations and grievances. If the Democratic Party does not embrace these solutions, it will continue to see its support among poor and minority voters slip away.

The Republican Party also has a choice to make. The end of racial preferences is a victory for the Republican Party. It will prove to be a pyrrhic victory if Republicans fail to acknowledge that these preferences existed for a legitimate reason. Slavery and Jim Crow left African-Americans handicapped in America. Neither the end of slavery nor the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts caused that handicap to magically disappear. Racial preferences were a counter-productive solution to that problem. Better solutions exist. Among these solutions are significantly increased support for effective K-12 education, subsidized health insurance (including expanding Medicaid nationally), and a Guaranteed Basic Income. These solutions disproportionately benefit African-Americans, without being race-based. They are also good public policy.

Moderate House Republicans Need to Push Back Against Freedom Caucus

Who Should Be Speaker of the House?

It looks like the Republicans will have a slim majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kevin McCarthy hopes to become the Speaker of the House. The House “Freedom” Caucus is trying to extract concessions from McCarthy in return for their support.

The Freedom Caucus is a far right group of roughly 47 Republicans in the House. They tend to be Trump supporters and election deniers. They tend to vote against bi-partisan legislation as a matter of principle. They are, mostly, members of the Centrist Independent Voter’s Rogues Gallery of candidates we would never endorse.

Moderate Republicans in the House, like those in the Problem Solvers Caucus, should unite to oppose granting any concessions to the Freedom Caucus. Moderate Republicans generally come from swing districts and have a lot to lose if the Republican Party turns further to the right. They also have alternatives. Moderate Republicans can change parties and have a chance at re-election. Short of that they are free to vote with the Democratic Caucus on a compromise Speaker of the House. That person does not even have to be a member of the House. (How about Liz Cheney). The members of the Freedom caucus have nowhere to go.

The Republican’s are likely to have, at best, a slim majority in the House. If McCarthy wants the support of moderate Republicans he should grow a spine and tell the Freedom Caucus to sit down and shut up. He should remind the Freedom Caucus that they, and those like them, are the reason the House majority is so tiny and the reason why the Republicans will, probably, not have control of the Senate. If McCarthy is too cowardly to do this he may lose, not just the Speakership, but also a Republican majority in the House.

A Centrist Perspective on the 2022 Mid-Term Elections

No One Should be Popping the Champagne

I don’t think that either party should be particularly proud of their performance during the 2022 Mid-Terms.

The Democrats, faced with a bushel basket of bozo Republican candidates, managed to only lose control of the House and maybe keep their razor thin majority in the Senate. The Republicans, with the tail wind of a mid-term election against the party in power and an unpopular President, just barely managed to grab hold of the House. That despite high inflation, a border crisis, rising crime, and “woke” Democrats spouting obvious nonsense.

Either party could have turned this election into a rout by just being reasonable. Sadly that did not happen.

The Upside of Divided Government

Divided government may be the best government we can hope for and it is not all bad.

A Republican House gives Biden the opportunity to govern as a centrist. The Progressive wing of his party can no longer pass outrageous left-wing legislation in the House and abuse Biden, Schumer, Manchin and Sinema for not dispensing with the Senate filibuster rule. Biden can defend centrist legislation as the only legislation that has a chance and not get slammed by his own party.

The left can stop pushing for expanding the Supreme Court, or looking for a federal legislative fix on abortion, and get on with the business of trying to legislate abortion rights at the state level. Numerous legislative victories, during and before the mid-terms, suggest that this is likely to be a successful strategy even in red states.

The Biggest Loser is Trump

It finally looks like Republicans are starting to realize Donald Trump’s toxicity. Trump is delaying any announcement on running until he can try to recast the narrative. Donald Trump promoted the candidacy of a bunch of losers in races that could easily have been won by reasonable Republican candidates. DeSantis won big. Pence has obvious credibility as a true conservative and a defender of constitutional democracy against personal threats.

The best course for the Republican Party is to distance itself from Trump and discourage him from running. Virtually any other Republican candidate for President would stand a better chance of winning than Donald J. Trump. Sure Trump could be the nominee, if a crowded field challenges him and his base remains loyal. At that point Biden should be able to win a second term by an even larger margin of victory. Can anyone doubt that Trump is a less attractive candidate now than he was in 2020? Biden on the other hand, with the benefit of a Republican House, can move sharply to the center.

Should Inflation Be the Dominant Election Issue in 2022?

Both Republicans and Democrats talk about inflation. Neither has anything useful to say.

A number of political analysts have observed that inflation has displaced other issues as the dominant issue in this election cycle. That may well be true, but should it be?

The left at first tried to dismiss inflation as transitory. When that was clearly false, some said inflation is not that harmful. When voters clearly appeared to believe that inflation matters, the left switched to “it’s not our fault,” citing high levels of inflation in many other countries and blaming supply chain disruptions and Russia’s war against Ukraine.

The last of these has at least a little bit of merit, but there are many low inflation countries that suffered from these same problems. The unifying feature of economies with high inflation is loose monetary and aggressive fiscal policies to combat the Covid induced recession.

Republicans certainly share the blame for loose monetary policy. Political pressure from both parties has encouraged the Fed to keep interest rates far too low for far too long. Other countries have experienced a similar dynamic to varying degrees. Democrats bear most of the blame for just how aggressive fiscal policy has become, but Republicans share some of the blame for actions taken during the Trump administration.

Democrats say that Republicans complain about inflation but offer no solutions. On that the Democrats have a point. The Democrats offer solutions, that aren’t solutions. The “Inflation Reduction Act” was about climate change subsidies. Most economists agree its role in terms of inflation will be minimal. Student loan forgiveness is a wealth transfer. If unfunded through tax increases on someone, student loan forgiveness will just make inflation worse in the long term. Price controls on drug prices, like all price controls, just make markets less efficient. Real reform here would require U.S. drug companies that receive U.S. patent protection grant “most favored nation” status to U.S. consumers. Under this rule drug companies would be free to set prices, but they could not charge any U.S. consumer, including Medicare, any more than the least expensive price they charge outside the U.S. This would be good public policy, but it has nothing to do with inflation.

What is inflation?

Remember, inflation is a rise in the general price level. Higher or lower prices for individual commodities are not inflationary or deflationary. For example, in the absence of accommodating monetary policy, higher energy prices just mean lower prices for other goods (or recession, but that requires a much longer discussion).

What would help?

So what should both parties be saying on inflation. First, it is a serious problem. Second, the Fed is doing the right thing by raising interest rates, and we (the politicians) will avoid pressing the Fed to back off before the job is complete. Third, if elected we (the politicians) will not make the Feds job harder by cutting taxes or increasing spending.

What role should inflation play in the mid-term elections?

Neither party is saying anything like that. So from my perspective, inflation is not an issue for the mid-terms. Maybe it should be, but it certainly does not help me decide on who to vote for. In any case, we will have divided government for the next two years, even if the Republicans gain both the House and the Senate, since Biden is President. Divided government means that we are unlikely to see either tax cuts or major spending legislation. That may be the best we can hope for since it will make the Feds job easier.

If not inflation, what issues should drive the election?

Vote on abortion rights, there are clear choices to choose from, no matter where you stand. Vote on preserving democracy and election integrity, there are clear choices. Vote on America’s commitment to NATO and the defense of Ukraine against Russia, there are clear choices. Vote on climate change or energy security, there are clear choices.

But please don’t vote on inflation. There is no party that offers a good answer here.

A New Group for the Rogues Gallery of Candidates

The Washington Post just published a story about 30 members of the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party who have urged Biden to bypass Ukraine and negotiate directly with Putin to end the war against Ukraine. This plays directly into Putin’s narrative about the war and has no chance of accomplishing a lasting peace.

Anyone who does not realize that lasting peace in Ukraine, and Eastern Europe generally, requires Russia’s defeat and Ukraine’s admission to NATO has not been paying attention.

Russia’s word on any peace agreement is meaningless. They previously agreed to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, including Crimea, in return for Ukraine handing over Soviet era nuclear weapons to Russia. The U.S. and the U.K. were co-signatories to that agreement. If America fails to support Ukraine, our word will also be meaningless.

If Russia is able to carve up Ukraine because it has nuclear weapons and Ukraine does not, we can expect all independent countries to acquire nuclear weapons in short order.

It is common for the far left and the far right to both be wrong. It is ironic that they are both wrong on this issue and are both taking, more or less, the same position. In this case both the extreme left and the extreme right have decided to play the role of “useful idiots” for the Kremlin.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, along with many other members of the Progressive Caucus, did have the wisdom to part company with the group of 30 on this issue. For that reason we are not including the entire Progressive Caucus in the Rogues Gallery. For a list of those who did sign, they can be found at the end of the letter they sent to Biden (link in Washington Post article). Or you can go to our Rogues Gallery for the the complete list of Rogues.

Recommendations for 2022 U.S. House Races

Vote, even if the choices are poor. Just Vote!

I have been asked why we have so few endorsements in U. S. House races for the mid-term elections. The answer is partly that we don’t have the resources to cover these races. It is also partly because most U.S. House races are foregone conclusions after the primaries.

We do have some general guidelines about how to think about these races. In order of priority they are: we oppose any candidate who supports Donald Trump and his 2020 election behavior; we oppose any candidate who is against U.S. efforts to aid Ukraine’s defense from the Russian invasion; we oppose candidates who support extreme positions on the abortion issue; we oppose any candidate who believes we should address inflation with price controls or windfall profits taxes; and we oppose candidates who deny that climate change is a serious issue.

Our feeling is that the first two of these issues are the priority for the 2022 U.S. Congressional elections.

Donald Trump, never a good person or candidate, has become increasingly destructive to the nation and even his own party. Candidates who would not be on the ballot but for Donald Trump’s endorsement and who support his wild claims about the 2020 election should not be voted for under any circumstances. For a complete list of Trump endorsements, go here. Obviously Trump endorses a lot of candidates just because he likes backing winners. As a general rule, I would recommend against voting for most of these candidates. (I might make exceptions for incumbent candidates who did not ask for and did not need Trump’s endorsement and who deny Trump’s claims about the 2020 election.) If you can’t abide the Democrat, vote for a third party candidate or write in someone’s name.

The fate of Western democracy, the preservation of a rules-based international order, and the prevention of a physical and cultural genocide in Ukraine depends upon the U.S. and our allies supporting Ukraine and expelling Russia from Ukraine. Conveniently, all 57 of the U.S. House members who voted against aid for Ukraine are Trump supporters. For their names, visit our Rogues Gallery of Candidates.

Abortion, no matter how important the issue is to you, or which side you are on, is almost certainly going to be decided at the state level. If that is your priority issue, focus your attention on the gubernatorial and state legislature elections.

Inflation is primarily an issue for the Federal Reserve Board. We would recommend voting against candidates who want to undermine the Feds efforts. We also oppose candidates who think the right way to deal with inflation is price controls or windfall profits taxes. There aren’t very many candidates who support either of these policies and they are recognizable by their association with the “Working Families Party,” so they are easy to identify.

On climate change, the “Inflation Reduction Act” went about as far as either party is willing to go. Republicans are unlikely to get enough votes to repeal it. Many Democrats seem reluctant to take the one step that would make a difference: a carbon tax with a comparable tariff. There are reasonable differences of opinion on the issue of what, if anything, should be done about climate change. However, candidates who view concerns about climate change as a hoax do not seem worthy of consideration. Again, these candidates are fairly easy to identify because they tend to be hard-core Trump supporters.

What Outcome Should Centrists Hope for in the 2022 Mid-Term Elections?

Definition of Success for Centrist in 2022 Mid Terms.

What Outcome Should Centrists Hope for in 2022?

Here is what I’d like to see happen at the end of the 2022 mid-terms. The Senate would remain split 50-50. The Democrats would remain in control of the House by just 1 vote.

If this happens it will probably be because Trump-endorsed Republicans will have lost in contests that a more moderate Republican could easily have won. This outcome will also make it clear to Democrats that they have no mandate. Their success was the result of the other side’s foolishness (or their own hypocrisy in promoting Trump-endorsed candidates in the primaries), not because America hungers for a progressive agenda.

This outcome should make it clear to both sides that success in 2024 requires moving toward the center. Republicans should abandon Trump, as political poison. Democrats should find and promote centrist candidates within their ranks and do their best to hush up the far left. Both parties should accept that rallying your base at the expense of alienating the center is bad campaign strategy.

If you have a different vision of centrist success, please comment below.

Guidelines for Centrists Voting in the 2022 Mid-Term Elections.

Vote to Move the Politics to the Center

What Should Centrists Do in the 2022 General Election?

The Centrist Independent Voter is a new organization. We have a very small, all volunteer staff. With the limited time and resources available to us this year, we have tried to identify some high profile, mostly U.S. Senate, races and endorsed candidates in the primaries and the general election in those races.

Beyond those specific endorsements, I have some general advice about how to promote a more sane and centrist approach to politics during the general election in 2022.

First, vote against any candidate that owes their position on the ballot to Donald Trump. This does not mean voting for every Democrat. It does not even mean voting against every Republican that Donald Trump endorses. Trump has endorsed many candidates who would have won easily without his support and did not go out of their way to ask for it. It does mean voting against any candidate that would not be on the ballot in the general election were it not for Donald Trump’s endorsement. Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, J.D. Vance in Ohio, and Herschal Walker in Georgia come to mind. Many of these candidates show up in our Rogues Gallery of Candidates.

Second, where the first rule does not dominate, vote against Democratic candidates that are endorsed by the “Working Families Party.” This far-left organization includes Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren along with the so-called Squad in the House of Representatives. Many of these candidates, also, show up in our Rogues Gallery of Candidates.

Third, vote for those Republicans who crossed party lines to support bi-partisan infrastructure, gun control, and aid to Ukraine legislation or to vote for Trump’s impeachment/conviction. This rule is rarely in conflict with the first rule, as far as I know.

Fourth, vote for fiscally conservative Democrats who broke party ranks to oppose excessive government spending and who oppose packing the Supreme Court and ending the filibuster rule in the Senate. This rule is never in conflict with the second rule, as far as I know.

Unfortunately, there may be races where these rules conflict with each other. In those cases, I would recommend that you start with the first and work your way down.

Utah U.S. Senate Race

Vote in the U.S. Senate Race in Utah.

There is nothing normal about the 2022 race for the U.S. Senate seat from Utah.

Mike Lee (R) is the incumbent and was initially a heavy favorite. The race is now too close to call. Mike Lee is a full throated Trump supporter. Lee’s opponent, Evan McMullen is a conservative who has been endorsed by the Democratic Party in Utah.

While there is no true centrist running in Utah, you would not expect to see one in what is certainly among the most conservative states.

McMullen has promised not to caucus with either party in the Senate. That may be a mistake since it would limit his access to committee appointments. In our view, if he wins, he should caucus with the majority party. This is especially valuable if he gives that party a majority, in which case he should demand key committee assignments as a quid pro quo. He should then feel free to break party ranks and vote truly independently on legislation.

For the Centrist Independent Voter this is not a difficult call. The Centrist Independent Voter enthusiastically endorses Evan McMullen for the U.S. Senate seat from Utah.