Brexit: No Matter the Vote, UK Already Left the EU

Forget Vote Leave and Vote Remain. Wasn’t Britain sort of withdrawn from the European Union already?

They have been prior to the referendum and the 2015 general election which, by promising to hold this referendum, is how David Cameron re-won a majority in the UK parliament. Consider the two things everyone thinks of when they travel to the 28-member EU:

  • The Euro. In 1992 the Maastricht treaty was built on the idea of a common-market, that one currency would be easy to travel and spend with amongst several countries without need for multiple money exchanges.
  • The Schengen area. Similar to the Euro, the idea in 1995 was to create free and easy movement around most of the tight-knit union. No passports and no internal border controls once you’re inside.

24 of the 28 countries participate in at least one of these major programs. The four that don’t? Eastern Europe – Romania, Bulgaria, & lonely Cyprus – and the United Kingdom. The UK didn’t want any part of either, so they drafted contractual clauses to opt themselves out. If you’re an EU citizen and come to Britain, you’ll have to show your passport to an immigration officer and go through customs like every other foreigner. And those Euros you’re coming with won’t be accepted.

Britain has never been fully invested in the EU. But if in fact the vote to Remain prevails over Leave, which is what late-inning polls say right now, Britain will be even less in the EU. This is because Cameron struck an EU reform deal which will give his country “special” status in the union. It included:

  • A firm reiteration that Britain will never use the Euro,
  • Protection for the City of London’s financial industry both against imposition of Eurozone regulations and against discrimination from Brussels for British companies,
  • Reduction of migrant welfare payments (a big reason why UK immigration levels are so high) and only being able to send child benefit payments back to their home country for the cost-of-living amount in that country,
  • An easier path for national parliaments to unite in blocking unwanted legislation, affirming a commitment that Britain will not be part of an “ever closer [European] union”.

This deal is also a catalyst for the dissolution of the EU, which will in turn be another modern day example of how socialism fails. The EU was always a socialist concept: every country is an equal member regardless of how much in fees they contribute and take. Yet Britain – along with the better off economies of Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Austria, and Scandanavia – give to the EU absurdly more in membership fees and receive absurdly less in return than the likes of debt-ridden Greece or Hungary do, who have it exactly the opposite (remember Grexit last year?). Holding “special” status violates the concept of EU socialism, because no country is supposed to be better than another.

Undoubtedly EU membership is a fiscally bad deal for the UK and co. and a great one for Greece and co. Besides, Britain has always been only half-interested in being in the EU as shown by lack of participation in the Euro, the Schengen area, and other programs. They should pack up their bags and save £18 billion in pointless membership fees. Vote Leave has been campaigning on that point relentlessly, and right now is a great time for a Brexit to happen. Exiting the EU is much easier for Great Britain to do than, say, Austria, because of its geographical isolation. Britain’s distancing from the rule of Brussels mirrors the U.S.’s lack of involvement with the League of Nations. Let the coalition be set up, but stay out of it yourselves.

Economists have predicted short-term volatility in the UK’s financial markets if they decide to leave. But that’s merely an adjustment period for any country that undergoes major political changes. In fact, world economic growth is so anemic that countries are imposing negative interest rates (the German bund dipped into negative territory last week), and the IMF continues to slash their global growth forecast, so how worse could a Brexit really make things? It’d be a different story if it would sour a roaring economy growing at 3-4%.

If the UK leaves the EU, they will leave for good. But if they decide to stay, they will enjoy special EU status beginning Friday morning, solidifying what was already their de facto standing in the EU. Britain will be both further isolated from the EU no matter how the country votes and closer to a permanent departure at some point in time.

The European Union’s days are numbered. Grexit, Brexit… the next _ _exit is sure to come. Who will it be next time?


The presidential race, post-Orlando

On May 19th, Washington Post and FOX News Contributor Charles Krauthammer predicted “we are unlikely to go the next six months without a significant crisis”, stating that spontaneous yet inevitable events are “wild cards” that could decide the November race.

Less than one month in, here we sit with Orlando. A tragic shooting leaving 49 people shot dead and 53 injured certainly qualifies as a significant crisis by U.S. standards. Which brings us to the political effect: the debates about gun control and enhanced public security measures were revived just after Orlando hit the news wire. The discussion isn’t much different than what took place post-Sandy Hook or Aurora; tighter regulations, banning assault weapons, and the like.

But what sets Orlando apart than Sandy Hook and Aurora is that Islam butted heads with the LGBTs. This sparked internal ideological warfare within the left wing political establishment, a political crisis. Radical Islamists killing LGBT persons is a left wing-appeased group attacking another left wing-appeased group.

One group proved again Sunday night that they are unable to live in harmony with the other. Of course, Hillary Clinton and company think they can have it both ways. Why, she herself said that Muslims have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism while also claiming to all the millions of LGBT citizens she will have their back.

Therefore, Clinton believes Belgium, Paris & Lebanon, San Bernadino, Fort Hood, the Boston Marathon, James Foley, the Oklahoma WalMart, and many more – all of which the Islamic State publically took credit for – have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam. Give me a break.

Her pledge to protect LGBT citizens will also continue to deteriorate as long as she keeps generously importing potential radicals without conducting proper verification. Since radical Islam made it clear Sunday night they won’t be tolerating the LGBT way of life anytime soon, no peace will be made.

So what’s it going to be? Are we going to protect LGBT citizens – American citizens, mind you – and keep the Omar Mateens out, or the other way around? Clearly we can’t have both.

Donald Trump has been proposing the first option for quite some time: protect America first and turn away unscreened migrants who may hold bad intentions against the U.S. Yet in return he gets called names: racist, bigot, anti-gay, etc, by people of the exact group he’s now aiming to protect. Despite his broader appeal shifting his overall candidacy further left, Trump laid out a concrete and extensive solution. Did we hear any point-by-point plan from Clinton?

Whether we did or not, it doesn’t matter. Voters continue to back the former secretary, and now in greater numbers. The average poll shows Trump now trailing Clinton by six points, and in a Bloomberg poll by a whopping twelve. The pair were tied just a short time ago.

With Orlando now factored into poll results, it shows the LGBT group and those who firmly support LGBT rights straight have solidified their support for Clinton over Trump. It appears those voters find negatives in Trump’s brash way of communicating his ideas that outweigh the positives of those ideas. It would be unwise for Trump to back away from supporting the LGBT group and again from his proposed Muslim ban so soon, but as long as this two-steps-back, one-step-forward pattern of his perception continues, Clinton will be the 45th president of the United States.

We were certainly bound to have a crisis sometime in the election period. Less than a month later since his theory, Krauthammer’s wild card came true, and the general has once again been turned upside down on its head. But remember: If what is considered the deadliest U.S. attack since 9/11 occur in the early innings of the general election period, imagine what can happen during the rest of the game.

All You Need Is Jobs; Jobs Is All You Need

“As America’s head coach, President Obama needs to make some big and smart adjustments to jump-start economic growth and business investment, stimulate job creation, and get wages up for ordinary Americans.” –Harold Ford Jr.

Because the current game plan has been losing us the game for years. In his remaining months occupying the Oval Office, the president is championing 75 consecutive months of job growth under his watch with great pride. However, that stat comes attached with a lot of fine print – one of which is last Friday’s miserable labor report that showed only 38,000 jobs were created in May.

Sure, jobs have been created every month for the last 75 months. The fine print: during that period from the beginning of 2011 through today, job growth has been stuck in a range between 330,000 and 38,000 new jobs per month. There has been no recognizable uptrend of job growth; more like job stagnation.

And sure, the unemployment rate fell to a low 4.7%. But in the span from 2006 to 2015, the number of people who have left the labor force has risen solidly from 77 million to 93 million. While unemployment might appear under control, the real catastrophe is this 20% rise in the amount of people who have thrown their hands up and ceased trying to find work altogether.

Population growth hasn’t come close to keeping up with the labor force’s rapid contraction. In the same time span, the number of Americans has grown from 298 million to 321 million, precisely a 7.8% rate. Simple math will tell you an American workforce shrinking 2.5 times faster than the population is growing is not a path to prosperity by any means.

Contrary to those who believe Obama when he claims the country “is better off by every economic measure” since he was sworn in, the economy’s in the dump. A broader picture beyond a single month’s jobs report reveals America’s feeble economic state, which contains many alarming trends.

With the labor force contracting, it’s understandable as to why the president is anxious to close the country’s growing economic gap so poorer citizens can get ahead. Enter Wall Street’s wrath: volatile commodity prices have certainly taken its toll there as much as it has on Main Street over the last two years. The difference is the wealthy can easily weather these storms, but the loss of mining and oil drilling jobs have cost many a worker and his family their livelihood.

On top of that, we’ve got three in four Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck and have no money to save and/or invest. And for the one that is fortunate enough to have extra cash, there’s really no place he or she can safely invest for a return on that money. We have banks who have barely paid interest out since the 2008 crisis (some countries’ central banks set negative interest rates which means you, the client, have to pay the bank to hold your money if that hints at how the world economy is doing), we have 10-year government bonds yielding a measly 1.68%, and we have a risky stock market that has reached a peak on multiple recent occasions.

U.S. GDP growth has also trended down since 2000, consistently making lower highs and lower lows. Why, we just found out that U.S. GDP rose a mere 0.8% in Q1 2016. China and India have been trouncing us on the GDP front, clocking in at 7, 8, sometimes 9% annual growth. Meanwhile, under the Obama presidency, our GDP has failed to grow more than 3% in any of those eight years.

There are also longer-term employee trends that signal serious problems. In the investment banking industry, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and others just got swamped with a record 250,000 applicants for unpaid summer internships, many of them undergraduates. Yet the industry can only say “yes” to 2% of applicants or less.

If it means busting your butt at university, going deep into debt, risk being part of the 98% who get sent packing, and if you’re lucky, put in full-time work without earning a dime for three months, all in hope of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel that is paid employment, anyone will do it in a heartbeat.

Which brings us to where we are today. Yes, very few can get a schnazzy New York line of work, and they don’t have much to worry about. There are certainly plenty of people out there who can and should enter the workforce instead of throwing in the towel.

But for the many Americans who truly feel the deck is stacked against them, their pessimistic sentiment is legitimate. It’s no wonder why the economy is voters’ number one concern this election cycle. Many have lost hope of ever finding a job. And if you want to give being your own boss a shot, good luck navigating all the regulations in a country ranked only the 46th easiest to start a business.

The current playbook has been making America the losing team for too long. This country needs to grow again, and it’s crunch time to make that happen.

The 3-1-1 Rule: 3 hours of waiting, 1 line, 1 outraged citizenry

With airlines and airports expecting an all-time high of 231.1 million passengers this summer, flyers get to start their vacations by stand in security lines for sometimes three hours courtesy of the Transportation Security Administration. Three points account for the government agency’s complete idiocy:

#1: Supply and demand. We know the demand for air travel this summer will be staggering, as will be the demand for airport screening. But the supply to meet the needs of travelers hasn’t remotely caught up with the growing demand. Looks like the TSA slacked off a bit in their Economics 101 class.

Consider: what has the TSA done prepare for influxes of the traveling masses? Instead of expanding screening areas to meet a growing population, they decide to shrink them. At Minneapolis-St. Paul International, $17 million was put toward an extravagant new screening area at the airport’s north end. But this is hardly anything new. It was a superficial makeover of Checkpoint 1 (who cares?) coupled with a slight revamp to its layout, which came at the expense of closing Checkpoints 2, 3, 4, and 5. In other words, $17 million was spent to bring MSP from six security checkpoints down to two.

Oh, and not to mention that that 66% reduction in checkpoints brings an extra forehead-slapper, which is constant underutilization of lanes and scanners at the two entrances. Are these measures really the keys to curbing wait times?

Quite the opposite. Which leads us to point #2: Efficiency. The horror stories of literally out-the-door wait times has prompted not just the citizenry but even airport administrations to consider privatizing security. It’s about time. For years, London Heathrow’s security contractor, G4S, has been consistently getting passengers through security in 5-10 minutes or less 99% of the time at the world’s sixth busiest airport.

And what do we get at home? A three-hour line to see the blue shirts at O’Hare. Which may be why the TSA chief himself announced yesterday he would be fine with airports throwing his own agency out for favor of private screening services.

Our government’s answer to speed up the screening process without firing themselves is TSA Precheck. For $85 and passing a background check, you get to use an express security lane for five years.

That is, when it’s actually open. In the midst of this whole TSA debacle, one issue that has flown under the radar is that some airports’ special Precheck lanes have been surrendered to the general public or closed altogether.

A small aside: when taxpayers interact with their government, no one is treated specially. In addition to the TSA, everything from emergency services to the DMV, it should be that all animals are equal. But when you have to pay extra on top of your income tax contribution to achieve results that the private sector could easily accomplish (Heathrow’s G4S), then some animals become more equal than others. And when there are instances where the government says you can’t use those paid-for privileges, that spells tyranny.

Waiting in huge lines is pointless because no matter how long the lines are, the TSA doesn’t do its job any better or worse. Which is precisely point #3: Preventing terrorism in the skies. A.K.A, the reason the TSA was founded in the first place. With every incident of terror comes an equal tradeoff of liberties for security. 9/11 created the TSA. The Brussels bombing brought rigorous security checkpoints, pre-checkpoints before the actual checkpoints, and vehicle searches outside the terminal. Everywhere you look now there’s drug dogs, Invision body scanners, state-of-the-art X-rays; if you can name it, it invades your body.

And yet the TSA, despite being armed with all these fancy screening methods, failed to detect 95% of bombs and weapons last year. As soon as that report went public, you’d think the three hour queue would’ve shifted from the security checkpoint to the Delta ticket counter, where all the terrorists would be lined up to buy tickets hand over fist.

Which begs the question: why even have the TSA? If all they’re doing is reducing screening lanes, increasing wait times to egregious levels, taking an extra $85 from some of us, all while not being able to perform their assigned job 95% of the time, then who are they and what are they doing here?

The answer is not much. American Airlines’ senior VP for customer experience Kerry Philipovitch noted yesterday: “TSA is working to shift canine teams to airports experiencing the worst delays, rebalancing staffing and hiring more TSOs.”

Hiring more is good. But moving around the assets you already have simply strengthens some airports at the equal expense of depleting the resources of others. The terrorists weren’t born the day of this statement; as this news gets around that JFK, LAX, O’Hare and the like are getting the A-team security squads, they can easily move their plots to the supposedly more vulnerable airports like Chicago Midway and LaGuardia.

Perhaps it is time to privatize airport security, or just scrap the metal detectors and lines all together for favor of taboo yet wildly successful profiling. Last year the TSA found, out of 708 million passengers, a mere 2,653 firearms were found in bags. That equates to 0.0000038% of firearms per person; an absolute pinprick. Forcing the other 99.9999962% clean passengers through all the security measures seems meaningless.

Let’s just hope the 99+% of us can enjoy our vacays without boiling tensions this summer.

Donald Trump is the product of GOP ineffectiveness

And here we go again; another tale of the effects caused by the Republican party’s relentless internal warfare.

Donald Trump has been rising to the Republican nomination, bypassing all conceivable barriers the establishment, the media, and voices from the other side have set in front him. But his ascendency is derived more from a state of desperation to get this country on the right track. As conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly said back in December: Trump is the “last hope for America”, the person who could repair the “worst kind of betrayal” caused by the Republican party.

Consider. The GOP has been in the Legislative driver’s seat since 2014. They have had a year and a half’s worth of chances to distinguish themselves as the party that “got things done”, by way by passing loads of bills and slapping them on Barack Obama’s desk. The Republicans would have both looked like the good guys trying to do their job while also exposing the real root of Washington gridlock: ideology-based Obama obstructionism.

Yet they chose to not even turn on the ignition. Both the voters’ single-digit disapproval of Congress and well over half of them feeling betrayed by their own party are continuously evidenced in the latest of blowout Trump victories.

Not to mention this primary season’s debates featured some of the usual inter-candidate attacks, but more noticeably united attacks on Trump (interesting how when the GOP unites, it’s usually out of negativity or being against a cause). The ganging up is less out of disapproval for Trump’s policies but it is more the GOP establishment saving face without publically admitting failure. Republicans know deep down that they could have done way better, but now feel the need to make up for said failure by appealing harder to the mainstream, which only weakens the already divided party’s stance on issues.

And we must not forget Trump’s complete mow down of a whopping 16 candidates, which just adds insult to injury. With each primary election more and more campaigns were shut down, rejection of the establishment intensified, and the voice grew louder that Trump is the people’s guy whether the party likes it or not.

All of this is amidst a record number of votes being brought out by no one other than Trump himself. Who of those 16 other candidates, or frankly any other Republican, would have had a remote shot at winning states in the general election like Pennsylvania?

And yet, the GOP stops at nothing to prevent that from happening either. Albeit Trump is not the way they wanted to bring out the vote, these millions of new followers are ticking the boxes with the letter “R” regardless. Trump comes bearing bountiful gifts and the GOP slams the door in his face?

How inconceivable. What we have in Trump is the GOP’s saving grace: someone who is turning the dissatisfaction around, stands strongly for principles, can win states that the establishment would have previously thought unimaginable to secure, and millions of new voters. Trump’s reward? He gets labeled as a “phony” and a”fraud”.

The cherry on top of all this is that just a short while ago, a contested convention in Cleveland was to be guaranteed. Look at the Democrats’ side: their establishment (Clinton) is also failing to completely put away an insurgent socialist (Sanders), making that contested convention more likely to occur in Philadelphia now. The setup for the GOP just got a lot sweeter. Which party is truly divided at this stage?

The best analogy to illustrate the GOP is a Minnesota professional sports team. When they come close to winning, they blow it. Especially when a playoff run is on the line, they take extra steps to make sure they blow it. The Republicans had every opportunity to distinguish themselves as a pinnacle of anti-Obama hope in Washington and they chose to instead implode on each other’s varying ideologies.

Now when they are presented with the candidate who voters are uniting around (minus those pesky party bosses), putting up record numbers of votes, and campaigns with way less liabilities than both the Clintons have on their plates right now, the GOP does anything but embrace the lead they have after the 3rd quarter.

The general election is just around the corner, and so is the 4th quarter of the game. Let’s not blow the lead this time around.