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.

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.

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.

Florida U.S. Senate Race

Our Board of Governors is still wrestling with whether to endorse Sen. Marco Rubio (R), the incumbent, or Rep. Val Demings (D) in the Florida U.S. Senate race.

Some oppose Rubio because he has Trump’s endorsement and because he co-sponsored Lindsay Graham’s national ban on abortions after 15 weeks. Some are also put off by Rubio’s dismissal of a bi-partisan effort to protect same sex marriage rights, legislatively, at the federal level as a “waste of time.”

Some oppose Val Demings because she consistently voted along party lines in the House and was therefore likely to be a rubber stamp for Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D) in the U.S. Senate. This later fear is made all the more important by the fact that President Biden recently announced that if he gets two more votes in the Senate and keeps control of the House, he will support overturning the filibuster rule. Rep. Demings has referred to the filibuster rule as a “procedural game,” so we know where she stands.

Faced with the inability to find a majority in support of either of the two major party candidates, I decided to examine the issue positions of the other candidates in the U.S. Senate race in Florida.

The Libertarian candidate was far too isolationist for us. Many of the others were either too right wing or too vague to be worth considering.

One candidate had a surprisingly thoughtful, albeit short, set of policy positions that struck me as remarkably centrist and reasonable: Tuan Nguyen. To see his platform, click here: Platform.

I realize that Nguyen has little to no chance to win the election. However, if a centrist candidate were able to capture enough votes to prevent either major party candidate from having a majority, that could be important. If the votes for a centrist, non-affiliated candidate would have provided the margin of victory to the major party candidate that loses, we will have made an important point.

If either of the major party candidates were notably more centrist than the other, the opportunity cost of casting a vote for Nguyen might be considered too high. That does not appear to be the case.

If you were considering not voting because you cannot abide either of the major party candidates, please consider voting for Tuan Nguyen. There is no downside.

It is very easy to imagine that a centrist candidate could win if Florida adopts Ranked Choice Voting. Until then, it is important to do everything possible to demonstrate that extremism of the right and the left are not good campaign strategies.

At this point our Board of Governors is still trying to decided who, if anyone, to endorse in this race. I suspect that the fact that Nguyen’s platform does not address the issues of abortion, the filibuster, and court packing may make it difficult for the Board to endorse him. Nevertheless , Tuan Nguyen has my personal endorsement in the U.S. Senate race in Florida.

North Carolina General Election for U.S. Senate

North Carolina U.S. Senate Election

As Donald Trump’s problems mount, many Republican Senate candidates are now trying to distance themselves from him. Ted Budd, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate for North Carolina, is an exception to that trend. He has doubled down on his association to Trump while also emphasizing his support for national legislation to restrict abortion after 15 weeks.

To see Budd’s positions on a number of issues, visit his website.

His Democratic opponent Cheri Beasley is the former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. She is no centrist but counts as a moderate among Democrats, although her willingness to consider expanding the U.S. Supreme Court seems less than moderate.

To see Beasley’s positions on a number of issues, visit her website.

Those familiar with the Centrist Independent Voter’s Policy Positions will know that we don’t align well with either of these candidates.

Nevertheless, the Centrist Independent Voter endorses Cheri Beasley for the U.S. Senate seat from North Carolina. We do so because of Budd’s close association with Trump and because Beasley is more moderate than most of the Democratic Party.

Alaska General Election for the U.S. Senate

The Alaska U.S. Senate Election.

Alaska is Using Ranked Choice Voting

Alaska now uses a non-partisan, primary voting system in which the top four candidates advance to the general election regardless of party. The general election is then decided by ranked choice voting. In ranked choice voting the candidate with the lowest number of first place votes will be eliminated. For example, if you voted for the eliminated candidate in first place, your second place candidate will receive a first place vote and your third place candidate will receive a second place vote and so on. The votes are then recalculated until someone receives an outright majority of first place votes. The Centrist Independent Voter fully supports this approach to elections as the best way to move American politics toward the center and away from extremism of both the right and the left.

The Results of the Alaskan Non-Partisan Primary

The top four candidates in the Alaskan non-partisan U.S. Senate primary are in order of the number of votes: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), the incumbent; Kelly Tshibaka, a Trump-backed Republican challenger; Patricia Chesbro, a progressive Democrat; and Buzz Kelly (R). Kelley, the fourth place finisher in the Alaskan primary, has chosen not to run in the general election, so the election should only require a maximum of two rounds of calculations.

If you favor the Democrat you can safely vote for her and make Murkowski your second choice without risking the possibility that your vote will help the Trump-backed candidate win. If you despise the Democrats, you can vote for Murkowski and let the other Republican be your second choice and there is no chance that your vote will help the Democrat win.

The beauty of the system is that you can vote how you feel without fearing that you will be wasting your vote on a losing candidate or enabling the success of your least liked candidate.

Our Endorsement

Sen. Murkowski is not a centrist, but she is among the most moderate Republican senators. We therefore endorse her over her Republican, Trump-backed, opponent and over the progressive Democrat.

Endorsement In the New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race

New Hampshire U.S. Senate Race

The New Hampshire Senate Race Should be Closer than It Is

Normally, the New Hampshire Senate race would be in play since the the incumbent Democrat, Maggie Hassan, only defeated her Republican opponent by 0.1% when she took office six years ago. But despite the fact that mid-term elections generally turn against the party in power and the fact that President Biden still suffers from low approval ratings, Hassan appears to be about 11% ahead of her Republican opponent, Don Bolduc, a Trump endorsed extremist.

The reason Bolduc won in the primary is two-fold. The first is poor judgment on the part of Republicans in nominating him. The second is cynical hypocrisy on the part of some Democrats in promoting the election of Bolduc during the Republican primary.

It is difficult to understand how Democrats can think that their claims that MAGA Republicans are a threat to the nation will be taken seriously when they promote the election of MAGA Republicans in the primaries. All it leaves one with is the feeling that these Democrats are every bit as power hungry and indifferent to the fate of the nation as the Republicans they decry for sticking with Donald Trump.

The Centrist Independent Endorsement (with a caveat)

Sen. Maggie Hassan is a moderate Democrat. We might well have endorsed her even if the Trump endorsed candidate had not won the Republican primary. At this point, we have to move forward and endorse the more moderate candidate, while noting our disgust at the craven cynicism of Democrats who promote the election of the very candidates they believe constitute an existential threat to the nation.

With that caveat noted, the Centrist Independent Voter endorses Sen. Maggie Hassan for the U.S. Senate seat from New Hampshire.