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Kirsten Gillibrand Is No Longer Taking Corporate PAC Money

She announced this yesterday, and I have lots of thoughts on this. This post is seemingly going to be all over the place, but I have a lot to say and a lot of ancillary points to make so bare with me.

Before I get to her announcement, I’d like to share my thoughts in Gillibrand. Before she ran for Hillary’s senate seat, Kirsten Gillibrand was a congresswoman from a conservative congressional district in upstate New York. During that period, she described her own congressional voting record as “one of the most conservative in the state.” She was endorsed by the NRA, who gave her a 100% rating so she was the bestest kind of ammosexual who loved to brag about the gun she kept under her bed. She was not for marriage equality, but instead supported civil unions.

Needless to say, I had no interest in voting for Annie Oakley to become our next senator. I knew that there was no chance that she wasn’t going to win, but she wasn’t going to do it with my vote. By the time she ran for that senate seat again in 2013, her voting record in the senate had won my vote.

I changed my mind, based on new facts (so much more on this later.)

I wouldn’t say that at that (or any) point, that I was an enthusiastic supporter. She’s certainly never impressed me like Bernie or Elizabeth Warren but nonetheless, she impressed me enough to get my vote. I have always had a healthy skepticism about her for a couple of reasons:

  • She’s clearly a chameleon, capable of becoming anything she needs to become.
  • She’s pretty entrenched in the democratic establishment, which always makes me wary. I’m especially wary of democratic establishment candidates from the tristate area, since we’re the epicenter of special interest political contributions.

Healthy skepticism. That’s pretty much how I look at all politicians.What does that really mean? It means that I look at every vote they cast, every statement they make, and every action they take on an individual basis, completely siloed from every previous statement, vote, and action. So when a really scummy politician like Jan Brewer takes the Medicaid expansion money in the ACA, thereby expanding access to insurance for hundreds of thousands of her constituents in Arizona, I give her credit for doing the right thing. This doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten every loathsome thing she had done prior to that day, nor does it mean that I became a fan of hers. It simply means that my mind can process each act on its own merit, and that my brain doesn’t short circuit when it needs to hold two seemingly (but not really) contradictory facts in my head. Jan Brewer made a string of terrible decisions that hurt the people of Arizona. She disrespected the president in a disgusting and racially tinged way and she helped hundreds of thousands of Arizonians get health care. My brain is perfectly content holding all of these facts for me to rely on later.

I don’t have the compulsion to lionize or demonize politicians because politics should not be emotional. When you do anything emotionally, you make the worst decisions.

Here’s another thing I don’t care about: why Jan Brewer took that Medicaid money. I don’t care. I don’t care if she did it for craven political aspirations, or if she did it with the purest of motives. Her thought process is irrelevant to the bottom line, which is that she helped her constituents in a monumental way that day. I am not capable or attributing motivations to people without projecting my own feelings on them, and neither are you. When we start to play the motive game, it’s really nothing more than a tool that we use to avoid that whole short-circuit-of-the-brain thing that happens when you have to hold two seemingly contradictory thoughts in your head.

She did a good thing with bad motivations, so I don’t have to process a good thing since I’ve skillfully negated it and therefore saved my brain the pain of embracing nuance.

This was a difficult habit for me to break, and I must admit that I haven’t entirely broken it but I’m close. We all need to learn to break this habit because it’s poisoning our political decision making process.

If there’s any one thing I’m trying to do with this platform, it’s to get people to think more critically. It’s also an exercise in refining and improving my own critical thinking skills.

I used to love Bill Clinton because he made me feel warm and fuzzy. And then I objectively looked at his record, and his part in shaping the direction of the democratic party. I no longer love Bill Clinton (expect when I’m talking to him – the man can charm like no human on earth should be able to). I have mixed feelings about Bill Clinton, as I do about every politician. So should you.

Now back to Gillibrand. She posted this to Twitter yesterday:

If you’re a longtime follower of mine, you would know that money in politics is my central issue. It is the issue that if solved, solves the lion’s share of our other issues. If you’ve been following me for a couple of years, you would never know this because American is a giant dumpster fire at the moment and I have to dedicate all of my time to addressing the Chief Arsonist. But I digress.

The fact that she has made this move is massive. She’s obviously seriously considering a presidential run. I sincerely hope she does run, because that would make her the second candidate in modern history not to take barrel fulls of corporate money. I want this issue to appear prominently in this next presidential election.

I haven’t spent a single second thinking about her motivations because she’s doing the best thing here.

I was a strong Bernie Sanders supporter in the primaries. He’s also clearly gearing up for a presidential run. Unlike most people, I’m not automatically supporting Bernie because I got so emotionally invested in him last time around that he’s my daddy now. No, I’m going to look at the options before me and reassess. I’ve already vetted Bernie, so the good news is that I don’t need to do that again. But as an informed member of the electorate, I must vet the options I get next time around and give each person running an earnest assessment without projecting my emotions on to them.

I am enthusiastically going to consider someone that I once referred to as “the Annie Oakley of New York” for president because what she’s already done furthers my central issue. I have no compulsion to negate that progress on my core issue by attributing nefarious intentions to her. It simply doesn’t matter to me, because I’ve already won.

So my  point in this post is twofold:

I wanted to share my own evolution of thought with you, and hopefully encourage you to leave your emotions behind and think critically about political decisions you make.

I wanted to let you know what a great thing Kirsten Gillibrand is doing, and hope that you take a look at her if she does indeed run for president.

This last presidential election fell apart for two primary reasons: corruption and emotional voting. I sincerely hope we don’t all go through that again (or worse, in perpetuity).


Shithole Countries

I haven’t posted in a long time because my day job has had me really busy, but I had an exchange yesterday on my Facebook page that prompted me to make time for this post.

The exchange came about because a Trump supporter didn’t want to comment on the article I posted about how Trump’s condos are increasingly being purchased by shell companies (and in cash), which are tell tale signs of money laundering. This commenter instead thought that it would be more convenient for him to talk about how the (legal) immgrunts are robbing him blind with their welfare and such. That didn’t turn out very convenient for him when, after he posted some erroneous (and on it’s face, suspicious) data suggesting that them rapey Mexicans are mooching the majority of that welfare money. I then produced data from several sources demonstrating that the “data” he presented was completely wrong, and selectively manipulated to make racists and xenophobes angry. It’s hard to imagine that it’s possible to find manipulated data, designed to bolster a nefarious agenda on the internet, but it is true. This particular source has a long history of not only bias, but flat out racism.

Anyway, I’m not going to get into any of the government assistance program data. Doing so would entail writing a 16 part series that needs to encompass not only laying out all forms of government assistance (but let me assure you that 86% of us are getting something), demographic consumption of said government assistance, institutional racism that keeps certain demographics from anything resembling equality of opportunity, and results (meaning, what happens to people at incremental stages of receiving public assistance). I will write that 16 part series some day when I’m retired and living in France, where I can get some of that sweet, sweet socialist healthcare (and delightful wine) in my old age.

I want to focus this post in on what I know from living and working in the three largest cities in America. Don’t worry, there will also be some very valuable data! As some of you know, I’m an HR professional. Throughout my career, my focus has largely been on talent acquisition, although I did do a good amount of consulting on benefits packages. I currently live in New York, but I’m working with a company in San Francisco. I’ve recruited engineering professionals on and off in the bay area since the mid 90s so I’ve been intimately aware of the labor market for “highly skilled” workers through a few booms and busts.

I always joke that I’ve been recruiting in the tech space, since Java was a child. It’s true. When I first started hiring Java developers, Java was fairly new and it was just a web development language. C++ developers didn’t take it seriously, and never thought that it would be usable on enterprise applications. The point is that Java was brand new, but in extremely high demand at that time (it was 1995) because that’s the language that the internet was going to grow on.

Here are some of my experiences and observations over the past two decades:

  • In 1995, the most experience with Java that anyone could have had, was around 3 years. At that time, I was offering candidates with two years of Java development experience (in the bay area) between $130k – $150k. A senior developer (five or more years of experience – some of which would had to have been in C++) would get between $150k – $160k.
  • Today, an entry level (meaning fresh out of their masters program) developer in the bay area will start at $125k. Senior level developers (five or more years of development experience) are making between $160k – $190k. That’s not much of an increase over the past twenty years. I’m going to get back to this in a minute.
  • Back then (as is the case now), there were nowhere near the number of US citizens needed to fill these positions. That’s just a fact. And anyone who claims otherwise has never been responsible for filling an engineering position in any major city (you know, where all the jobs are) in America. Americans are simply not getting computer science degrees in the numbers that we need them to. If you don’t believe me, invest $350 on a job ad on Monster, Dice, or Indeed and see who applies. You will pay to re-up that post for months, waiting for a qualified native born American to apply.
  • An interesting observation I made when I started off, was noticing that different types of engineers seemed to be concentrated in different countries. India was largely bringing us developers. Networking engineers were largely coming from China. QA engineers were mostly coming from Eastern Europe. These patterns largely held true until about five or six years ago. Those patterns still exist, although there does seem to be more diversification. We’re getting lots of developers from Russia, Ukraine, Iran, and China. Experts in Machine Learning (that wasn’t a thing twenty years ago) are mostly Chinese and Russian. Each country had their own ideas where the big money or big growth was going to be in the technology ecosystem.
  • The entrepreneurs were largely immigrants, even in the early days of the internet (Sergey Brin and Jerry Yang come to mind off the top of my head).
  • That brings me to data.  A recent Yale study found that 44 out of 87 privately held companies valued at over $1 billion had at least one immigrant founder. It estimates that each of these immigrant-founded companies created 760 jobs.

Here’s another article that says that immigrants start twenty percent of the new businesses in America. They account for thirteen percent of the population, but are creating twenty percent of the new businesses. Twenty percent of Inc’s Fortune 500 CEO list in 2014 were immigrants. From the article:

Immigrant-owned businesses pay an estimated $126 billion in wages per year, employing 1 in 10 Americans who work for private companies. In 2010, immigrant-owned businesses generated more than $775 billion in sales. If immigrant America were a stock, you’d be an idiot not to buy it.

By the way, those numbers and all of the numbers in all of the studies I’m posting don’t encompass the jobs created by first generation Americans, born to immigrants because I guess they’re old news or something?

Here’s another study that demonstrates that immigrants create jobs without lowering wages. From the study:

Each immigrant creates 1.2 local jobs for local workers, most of them going to native workers, and 62% of these jobs are in non-traded services. Immigrants appear to raise local non-tradeables sector wages and to attract native-born workers from elsewhere in the country.

And here’s yet another study from The Pew Research Center that reinforces the conclusions of the previous studies and articles, and adds that immigrants are self employed at a slightly higher percentage than native born Americans.

Okay, I can post data from a variety of credible sources all day but you get my point (also, you can find it on your own). Now back to me and my experiences.

The xenophobe from yesterday who inspired this post, made the assertion (naturally sans data) that the legal foreign workers are suppressing wages. That would appear to be bolstered by the wage numbers I shared above. But those numbers don’t tell a story. They’re just single data points. Immigrants categorically do not lower wages in “highly skilled” (meaning a degree is required) professions. Not exactly. What I left out of the wages I shared above, is what happened between 1995 and today. In both 1995 and today, we’re damned near the top of the employment market so the wages I shared are as good as it gets. Now, right after an economic bubble bursts, those wages go down for the same jobs. So an entry level developer will start at $90k – $100k instead of $125k. A senior engineer’s salary will drop to $150k – $160k for the same job because there aren’t thousands of startups or large, VC funded enterprises competing for the talent. So in 2001, Google will lower the wage for a senior engineer from $190k to 160k and they will collude with Apple and Amazon (among others) to make sure that $160k salary sticks. They will squeeze out the engineers making the 1999 salary of $190k (and that guy’s next job will pay $160 because he doesn’t have a choice). That’s why the wages for even professionals with graduate degrees aren’t going up. It’s not the immgrunts fault, it’s the never ending greed of corporate America and unless you know that Hadoop isn’t a Disney character, no one is taking your job or suppressing your wages.

Do I think that undocumented immigrants are lowering wages for unskilled workers. No, I’m not buying that, although I’m open to reviewing any credible evidence you might want to offer. Here’s that happened in Georgia when they cracked down on eye-legal immgrunts. Even with a high unemployment rate, and the possibility of earning $20 an hour, Americans don’t want to work in the fields. The same thing happened in Arizona, Arkansas, and South Carolina. Some of those farmers were offering the $20 an hour salary, and a 401k. This was still no bueno for unemployed native born Americans.

We do not have a manufacturing based economy. We have a consumption based economy, so we need as many consumers earning as much as they can to keep chugging along.

So to summarize, we have legal immigrants creating jobs and filling jobs that we don’t have the native born work force to fill. We have undocumented immigrants doing jobs that Americans simply won’t do. Are there jobs somewhere in the middle that are being adversely affected by immigrants? Perhaps, but I frankly can’t think of any, and my expertise really isn’t at the lower range of the wage spectrum.

So the xenophobe from yesterday kept asking me if I wanted to do something about immigration. I do. I want to incrementally increase it every year, with a review on ROI every ten years. The bottom line is that this is a country of immigrants, and if it hopes to survive, it needs to embrace its roots. Two hundred and fifty years of immigration has made America a place where very smart or very hard working (or very smart and very hard working) people from other countries want to come.

I say, that no immigrant comes from a shithole too big to deny entry to this country.

With that, I will leave you with Chinedu Echeruo. He came to the US from that shithole, Nigeria and rather than go back to his “hut” founded HopStop which he subsequently sold to Apple (which came to be because of a confluence of events that started with a refugee from Syria coming to America) for $1 billion dollars.