Sunday, August 20, 2017

who is mike pence

I don't want this blog to become a place where I focus on politics. Unfortunately, I am somewhat bound by the current political landscape and the radicalization of the United States party system. 

Before the election, I wrote this blog post about Trump and then another blog post about the great economic risk that is the Trump administration. Both do not shed a good light on what Trump and his people mean for America. Interestingly, there has been one outlier that I haven't known much about and that is our vice president Mike Pence. Before doing the research I have known three things about him.
  1. He is a staunchly conservative Christian 
  2. He is anti-gay and pro-life. 
  3. He was the fiscally inept Governor of Indiana. 
Here is a deeper look into what I found about him.

Mike Pence was elected as the governor of Indiana in 2012 after being in the House of Representatives for a number of years. His reign in these political positions had a number of controversies long before Trump announced that Pence would be his running mate for potus.

As a congressmen Pence did not have an exceptional track record. The New York Times reported that during his twelve years in congress none of his proposed bills became law. Washington corespondent Carl Huse said, “His [Pence’s] interest was more in preventing things from happening — spending, taxing, expanding liberal social policy,” That is a statement on the kind of political representative Pence is. He has a track record of only holding strong positions on topics that are important to him, such as religious protections and anti-abortion regulations.

What was incriminating was the nearly $13,000 Pence took from his congressional campaign funds to pay for an assortment of personal expenses. These expenses ranged from paying his mortgage to covering his wife's car prepayment. It cost him an election race, but that did not deter him. Pence invested his money and time in saturating Indiana media with apologies and remorse as a way to "reinvent himself". Obviously, this worked as he became the poster boy for naive remorse within Indiana and made his way to becoming Governor of the same state that he betrayed.

In 2016 Trump introduced Indiana’s Mike pence with the words, “Governor Pence enacted the largest income tax cut in the state’s history.” Which was a misleading boast for the state's stagnant tax legislation. Which went from the 3.4% (that had been in place since the 1980’s) to a .1% change of 3.3% under Pence. That would mean a whole $85 of yearly savings in tax expenditure for the average Indiana resident. Obviously this cut did not improve the states finances and in some cases affected the economic growth negatively.

His misunderstanding of socioeconmics continued when Pence signed the 2015 the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of Indiana. Previous to the bill being signed two groups of organizations were publicly against the bill: the majority of Indiana's business sector and the LGBTQ community. The business sector included; Anthem, Cummins, Dow AgroSciences, Eli Lilly and Company, Emmis Communications, IU Health, Roche Diagnostics and Salesforce Marketing. 

Pence furthered this controversy during a famous interview with George Stephanopoulos where Pence refused to respond to the same direct question six times. In this interview, Stephanopoulos asked Pence on six separate occasions whether the RFRA would allow businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. The question went unanswered which caused an uproar and a slew of Indiana businesses dropping contracts with the state. There was so much pressure on Pence to correct this mistake that he was forced to add a protection for the LGBTQ community. But the damage was done and the state lost millions in business cash flow.

The LGBTQ community was criticized at the time by conservative groups for being alarmists. Unfortunately. Pence had already shown himself to be a supporter of "conversion therapy" which is a Christian backed idea that mental health therapy can cure someone of their sexual preferences. There were plenty of falsehoods being thrown by liberal supporters like, “Pence had gay children treated with electroshock therapy to cure their gay”. This was not factual and fueled the conservative platform of the LGBTQ being misinformed. What Pence did support was government funding for --  and I quote, "[people] seeking to change their sexual behavior".  

Unfortunately, the science is clear that conversion therapy is a pipe dream. Both the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association, has repeatedly stated that, “the view that homosexuality is a disorder has been rejected by all the major mental health professions”. It is disheartening to think that Pence's misunderstanding of science would lend himself (and government funding) to such a wasteful political move.

This is not the only clash between his good Christian intentions and the understanding of social sciences. Pence put a number of laws into place that would force a large number of the Indiana's Planned Parenthood to close. Dependent on your political views it is debatable whether Planned Parenthood should be allowed to provide services like abortion. However, it is well known that Planned Parenthood provides a number of other services at low cost in places where other health services are not available. More importantly there is proof that mass closings of Planned Parenthood cause a measurable influx of health risks. Pence would soon to see such influxes when there was an immediate HIV breakout of 190 cases within the state that could be directly linked to the loss of the state's Planned Parenthood. 

In this case, there needed to a preventive offset. Meaning, Pence (and his people) should have understood the risks involved with such closings and created a program that encouraged low cost "non-abortion" clinics to provide temporary service support until a more permanent solution could be put in place. That is just simple social risk assessment.

I'm not sure what kind of vice president he would will be. His record, although tenured, does not have the kind of activity to show us how he approaches anything outside of his partisan agenda. Because of his personal Christian values, I can strongly predict that he will have a strong anti-LGBTQ and pro-life focus. And although he presents himself as someone that wants fiscal and economic conservation, he doesn't seem to understand how socioeconomics impact the broader margins.

For many, that might not be a point to quibble. But, for me the deeper understanding of socioeconomics is the number two aspect of a good political representative. The number one aspect being ethical behavior, which Pence proved himself questionable when he stole $13,000 from his  own campaign.

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