24 September 2022

Military Transport Submarines Make Sense

Unlike Ukraine—with porous borders ripe for foreign weapons shipments and aid—Taiwan will be “very hard to arm” during a conflict, says Blake Herzinger, a Pacific security expert. The island sits about 100 miles east of China and is within range of its missiles—along with U.S. forces that would presumably respond from Japan and elsewhere in Asia.

From the Ruck

One solution to this problem could be a military transport submarine.

Submarines aren't immune to anti-submarine warfare tactics, but it is much, much harder to sink a submarine than it is to sink a lightly armed military transport ship and is only marginally slower. The fastest submarine ever built, the Soviet K-222 had a top speed of 51 miles per hour. A speed of 23 miles per hour traveling nearly silently, or 40 miles per hour at the expense of stealth, would be more common.

A submarine can be built to be 10,000 to 20,000 tons (only a portion of which can carry cargo, of course), which while smaller than a commercial freighter, can carry vastly more cargo than a C-130 (about 20 tons), or a C-17 (about 80 tons with a much longer range). I've previously considered the idea here. Historically, capacities of 95-800 tons have been used in practice, although cargo in the tens of thousands of tons are well within the reach of current level technology. Colombian drug cartel submarines can carry about 200 tons. Well developed designs for cargo submarines carrying 6,000 to 11,000 tons of cargo have been serious considered in the past.

The idea isn't entirely conceptual either. The Russian merchant marine has built some nuclear powered transport submarines to deliver freight under the ice pack on the Arctic Ocean.

The basic concept is that the military frequently would like to have the capacity to supply substantial amounts of supplies and equipment by surprise or in blockaded coastal areas.

This could be smuggling supplies to a friendly nation, like Taiwan. This could be delivering supplies in support of a hostile D-day style invasion force. This could also create a capacity to evacuate civilians, injured soldiers, or soldiers who need to be rotated out of a combat zone, away from an interdicted area.

It wouldn't be cheap, but if one used an air independent propulsion diesel-electric power supply, designed it to withstand depths more shallow that nuclear attack submarines and ballistic missile submarines, and the cargo submarine was only minimally armed, it would also probably be cheaper than a nuclear attack submarine.

Another Bat Virus Coming Soon

A COVID-like bat virus could be ready to emerge from Russia.
An ACE2-dependent Sarbecovirus in Russian bats is resistant to SARS-CoV-2 vaccines

Spillover of sarbecoviruses from animals to humans has resulted in outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS-CoVs and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts to identify the origins of SARS-CoV-1 and -2 has resulted in the discovery of numerous animal sarbecoviruses–the majority of which are only distantly related to known human pathogens and do not infect human cells. The receptor binding domain (RBD) on sarbecoviruses engages receptor molecules on the host cell and mediates cell invasion. 
Here, we tested the receptor tropism and serological cross reactivity for RBDs from two sarbecoviruses found in Russian horseshoe bats. While these two viruses are in a viral lineage distinct from SARS-CoV-1 and -2, the RBD from one virus, Khosta 2, was capable of using human ACE2 to facilitate cell entry. Viral pseudotypes with a recombinant, SARS-CoV-2 spike encoding for the Khosta 2 RBD were resistant to both SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies and serum from individuals vaccinated for SARS-CoV-2. Our findings further demonstrate that sarbecoviruses circulating in wildlife outside of Asia also pose a threat to global health and ongoing vaccine campaigns against SARS-CoV-2

From Euronews: "Khosta-2: Scientists warn Russian bat virus could infect humans and resist COVID vaccines." It cites to PLOS Pathogens

Meme Of The Day


23 September 2022

The Economic Implications Of Gender Divisions In South Korea

Few places in the world are experiencing a more intense political division between men and women, especially among young adults, than South Korea, which has perhaps the most potent political movement of angry "incel" (involuntarily celibate) men.

This fairly new and visible political development is buried in a context of deep gender divisions in a society that has rushed towards the future and redefined roles for men and women (and dramatically reduced numbers of children per woman per lifetime to the lowest number in the world) in basically a single generation.

Korea has among the highest rates of women entering colleges and universities in the world, despite the fact that in Korea, unlike Europe, higher education isn't free or even heavily subsidized. As Tyler Cowen explains at Marginal Revolution:
One reason why the Seoul dining scene still has so many nooks and crannies

There are so many places with dishes you’ve never tried before. And they are deep into alleyways, or on the second or third floors of retail establishments. In these places I never see people take out their cameras and photograph the food. The establishments are not “very on-line,” as they say.

More likely than not, a large troupe(s) of middle-aged and older men suddenly come out of nowhere, and descend upon these eateries for dining and intense bouts of conversation. The men don’t seem to want too many other people to know about their special hangouts. English-language menus are hard to come by. . . .

Korea is an especially sexually segregated society, all the more relative to its high per capita income. And so these restaurants are boys’ clubs of a sort, as much private as public. Might that be one reason why the small restaurant food scene here has stayed so undercover?
As is often the case, Japanese and Korean cultural trends don't repeat each other but they rhyme.

Both societies have seen dramatic declines to global lows in the number of children born per woman per lifetime (which is called somewhat confusingly the "Total Fertility Rate" or TFR).

In both societies, only a very small proportion of children are born to unmarried mothers (low single digit percentages).

In both societies, unmarried, childless women can have a near parity in economic prospects in the paid work force with men of similar age, education and abilities, but workplaces are far less friendly to married women with children, upon whom a heavy childcare and eldercare burden rests. Also, in both societies, full time permanent jobs carry a significant expectation that you will spend a lot of time on non-work activities like after work drinking, with co-workers.

Both societies, despite surging rates of college attendance, attach significantly less stigma to pursuing a life path that doesn't involve a college education than the U.S. does.

Both societies have seen dramatic improvements in nutrition and health over the last generation resulting in each new cohort of young adults growing taller than the one that came before them, and with significant shares of these younger cohorts of adults, for whom a well defined path of societal expectations proves hard to live up to also experiencing significant alienation from the "good, respectable" path in life, in which the "Turn on, tune in, drop out" counterculture-era phrase popularized by Timothy Leary in the U.S. in 1966 still resonates notwithstanding the fact that overall these societies are extraordinarily well behaved and conformist by international standards.

Both societies are busy rewriting the scripts of daily life, for example, in marriage rituals. 

In Japan, young people try to balance traditional Japanese customs, Western traditions (which are Christian influenced in a society where only a small minority of people identify exclusively as Christian), and innovations that their own generation and the previous one have designed on their own. 

In Korea, the most Christian country in Asia, some of the new scripts involve figuring out how to integrate Christianity into a traditionally Confucian society in which Christians are a large and growing, but still not a dominant subculture within the society.

In both societies, the proportion of people who are foreign born is small, it is not considered offensive to officially emphasize the nation's racial homogeneity, and people with foreign origins even if they were born there and are fully assimilated are viewed with a certain level of distrust, despite the fact that neither South Korea, nor Japan, is an insular society at this point isolated from the rest of the world. Both societies, for example, are heavily influenced by U.S. culture and mandate the teaching of English to every student in school (although, as in the U.S., the amount of functional proficiency that students acquire from this exercise is often underwhelming).

No one can predict with any confidence what will emerge from this unstable and dynamically evolving process of reshaping gender roles in these societies.

Brain Drain From India Is Over

In the year 2017:

Not even 200 of the approximate 10,000 students from the Indian Institutes of Technology took up positions outside India last year. Fifty students, who make up the largest contingent, will be leaving from IIT-Bombay, followed by 40 from Delhi, 25 from Kharagpur, 19 from Kanpur, 13 from Madras, 17 from Roorkee and five from Guwahati. In 2012, 84 IIT-B candidates had accepted international job offers.

“Compared to 20 years ago, a very small percentage of students go abroad today. This is contrary to the general perception ,” says IIT-Delhi director V Ramgopal Rao. “Twenty years ago, 80% of the BTech class used to go abroad. Now these numbers are insignificant.

Something in the economic balance for Indian tech workers has changed historic brain draining migration patterns. 

Some of this may be due to remote work. Some of this may be due to an increased demand for tech workers in the domestic economy of India. Some of this may be due to a reduced demand for tech workers abroad that graduates from universities in India used to fill. It could also reflect a shift from hiring new college graduates to hiring tech workers with more experience who have proven themselves in the industry. I don't know enough about the economics of this industry to know.

22 September 2022

Tax Code Provisions WIth Expiration Dates in 2022 to 2027

It is much easier in the U.S. political system, especially if there is divided control in Congress after the midterm elections which is a very realistic possibility, to leave the status quo in place than to enact new legislation to extend or replace it. 

Over the next few years, especially 2025, a large share of Trump tax cuts for big businesses and wealthy individuals, most notably the 20% deduction for income from pass through entities, will expire of their own accord if they are not extended. Allowing them to expire could be a powerful tool for Democrats seeking greater tax equity.

Provisions Expiring in 2022
 50% Rate for Railroad Track Maintenance Other Temporary Provision
Full Deduction for Business Meals Provisions

Expiring in 2025
 Special Expensing Rules for Certain Film, Television, and Live Theatrical Productions
 Seven-Year Recovery Period for Motorsports Entertainment Complexes
 Empowerment Zone Tax Incentives
 New Markets Tax Credit
 Employer Tax Credit for Paid Family and Medical Leave
 Work Opportunity Tax Credit
 Transfers of Excess Pension Assets to Retiree Health and Life Insurance Plans
 Look-Through Treatment of Payments Between Related Controlled Foreign Corporations Other Temporary Provisions
 Deductibility of Employer De Minimis Meals and Related Eating Facility, and Meals for the Convenience of the Employer  
 Higher Exclusion Rates for GILTI and FDII
 Lower Tax Rates and Credits for BEAT
20% Deduction for Pass-Through Businesses

Other Temporary Provisions Expiring in 2026
 Limit on Excess Business Losses of Noncorporate Taxpayers
 First Year Depreciation
 Additional Depreciation for Trees Producing Fruits and Nuts
 Election to Invest Capital Gains in an Opportunity Zone

Other Temporary Provision Expiring in 2027
 Citrus Plants Lost by Casualty

From the Congressional Research Service (May 24, 2021 report).

Quote Of The Day

This is a fascinating perspective explaining the logic underlying the political fraud predominantly committed by the Republican party in recent years. 

Donald Trump’s so-called big lie is not big because of its brazen dishonesty or its widespread influence or its unyielding grip over the Republican Party. It is not even big because of its ambition — to delegitimize a presidency, disenfranchise millions of voters, clap back against reality. No, the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election has grown so powerful because it is yoked to an older deception, without which it could not survive: the idea that American politics is, in essence, a joke, and that it can be treated as such without consequence.

The big lie depends on the big joke. It was enabled by it. It was enhanced by it. It is sustained by it.

When politicians publicly defend positions they privately reject, they are telling the joke. When they give up on the challenge of governing the country for the rush of triggering the enemy, they are telling the joke. When they intone that they must address the very fears they have encouraged or manufactured among their constituents, they are telling the joke. When their off-the-record smirks signal that they don’t really mean what they just said or did, they are telling the joke. As the big lie spirals ever deeper into unreality, with the former president mixing election falsehoods with call-outs to violent, conspiratorial fantasies, the big joke has much to answer for.

21 September 2022

Can You Help The Working Class In A Conservative Way Without Raising Taxes?

The Republican Party has a greatly shifted base with new interests, and the conservative political establishment is still struggling to figure out how to reconcile its historical policy positions with this new mix of constituencies.
How does a party that historically represented the rich and big business adapt to a world where conservatism’s constituencies are not just middle class but blue-collar, downscale and disappointed with the modern American economy?
How does the Republican Party, which is still the party of free markets and tax cuts, represent and support its working-class constituents?

Broadly speaking, the national conservative answer has been to combine the Trumpian emphasis on trade and industrial policy with the reform-conservative emphasis on family policy, with some trustbusting impulses added in as well. It’s a vision in which conservative governance supports skilled blue-collar jobs, domestic industry and parents of young children, while seeking to weaken the power of the Ivy League and Silicon Valley. 
. . .

[I]nflation, if it lingers, will force ambitious policymakers to make hard choices, and for conservatives those choices are constrained by the right-wing anathema against raising taxes on the rich.

There are exceptions to this ban, and Cotton and Rubio make the most of them. You can tax the rich if they’re wealthy liberal institutions, and so Cotton funds his training voucher in part with a tax on the endowments of wealthy private colleges. You can tax the upper class by cutting off their tax breaks, and so Rubio funds some of his family policies by ending the state and local tax deduction, a policy that especially benefits higher‌ earners in bluer states.

From Ross Douthat at the New York Times

When Is Higher Education Not Worth It? A Dialog

The Discussion 

This is an excerpt from a Facebook discussion of when higher education is not worth it. Some of this discussion is excerpted from my prior posts at this blog without citation, and the discussion is lightly edited and supplemented with links and bracketed additional support. 

My post:
Most often when you don't have the high school grades, college admission test scores, and the math and English proficiency from high school, sufficiently strong to give you a very high chance of graduating (or full benefits from the experience even if you do scrape out a degree). 
Roughly speaking when you look at the data, college isn't worth it for students who are below the 65th percentile on ACT or SAT composite scores (about 22 for the ACT and 1120 on the SAT), who are not in the top 35% of his high school class (in a high school that is representative of the general population) or have below a B+ high school GPA in schools that are not representative of the general population, or who need remedial math or English.
[[F]ewer than 38 percent of high school students who plan to get a college degree actually do so within 10 years of graduating. Of those with poor high school grades, less than 14 percent achieve their college plans. . . . 92 percent of students with low grades planning to earn an A.A. failed to do so—even higher than the 86 percent of those who abandoned their plans to earn a BA. . . . 45 per cent of dropout in the first two years of college can be attributed to poor academic performance in college classes. . . . One of the better sets of data with marginal graduation probabilities involves a comparison of likelihood of graduating from Northern Iowa Area Community College between students with some college level work exposures in high school and those without this exposure. It compared the performance of students at the lowest quartile (with an average high school GPA of 2.29, the middle quartile with an average high school GPA of 2.74 and the highest quartile with an average high school GPA of 3.21). For those without exposure to college level work, graduation rates were as follows, while those exposed (about a fifth of the sample) had the rates in parenthesis: Lowest Quartile: Male 4.18% (6.57%); Female 17.17% (25.04%); Middle Quartile: Male 19.04% (27.49%); Female 44.51% (56.38%); Highest Quartile: Male 41.25% (53.08%); Female 68.58% (77.86%). . . [S]tudents placed into remediation had lower ACT scores and high school GPAs. For example, students placed in math remediation scored a mean of 17.4 on the math section of the ACT while students who did not take the classes scored 23.3 (a similar gap, 15.8 versus 22.8, is found for English remediation). A simple comparison of the outcomes of students placed into remediation and those who are not suggests that remedial students had worse educational outcomes. After five years, a larger proportion of them dropped out of college without a degree (65.2 for those in math remediation versus 30.8 percent) and fewer of them completed a baccalaureate degree (18.1 for those in math remediation versus 53.3 percent). About sixteen percent of each group received a two year degree rather than the planned four year degree. . . . At least 3%-5% of students will fail to graduate in six years no matter how well academically prepared and screened they are, for reasons that are generally completely unrelated to any lack of academic ability or study skills or interpersonal skills, such as a serious illness or injury, death, family financial woes, elder care demands, deciding to have children, or pursuing a promising non-academic opportunity (e.g. founding a company with some partners). But, the remainder of the non-graduation rate seems to be strongly correlated with academic ability.]
Also, college/university might not be worth it if you have a viable career path in your chosen field (e.g. military service, Olympic sports, baseball, music, art, computer programming, non-financial marketing/sales, running a small business, or a skilled trade) where a college degree is not formally required.

Further education and training after high school do make sense for everyone. But, a two or four year academic degree isn't what benefits everyone, or even most high school graduates.
Response:
Those are solid guidelines. If there were a way to get that into the testing system so kids know. You can imagine those families/students of people who do not reach that promise themselves..."I'm going to work harder in college mom and dad" but when the freedoms of being out in the semi-real world of college and in many cases away from home it doesn't add up. My son's first college room mate lasted 7 weeks before he had to go home. The Constant Party and Drinking were too much.

But again, I appreciate the data. I wonder if they could make a Prep School, held at Community College that students would have an extra year of getting there studies on board and then enter a 2-4 year program would work. Enabling them to sink or swim better.
My next comments:
My intuition is that kids who aren't at that point academically when they are seniors in high school wouldn't benefit much from more classroom instruction, which wasn't very fruitful for the last twelve years, right away. 
Like J.D. Vance (odious politics of late notwithstanding), something like two to four years of military service (or some other structured with a very non-academic classroom format experience, for example, learning a trade or working construction or the Peace Corps or semi-pro art or music, or ski instruction/river guide type work) first would probably be more helpful. Some people just need more time to mature too.

When I was in junior high and high school (I grew up in a college town as a child of a professor and a college administrator) and again in college itself, the old timers on the faculty would talk about how much more thoughtful and focused the GI Bill students were than traditional seventeen or eighteen year old college freshmen. 
[GI Bill students had served in the military in the post-World War II era before going to college and their veteran's benefits paid for it. They were older and had more life experience for that reason. They were also often even older than the twenty to twenty-two year old veterans who enlisted straight out of high school, because many GI Bill students were drafted, or enlisted voluntarily, when they were already a few years out of high school. Most GI Bill veterans were men and men, in particular, often mature later than women, which is one factor in the higher education gap between men and women.]

Even lots of academically high achieving kids were are academically ready can burn out after too many years of non-stop classroom academic education (something that is really common in Japan and Korea and Europe where high school is more intense, that is mediated in places like Korea and Israel and Switzerland with mandatory military service).

Sliding one to four one semester long college class length remedial math or English classes in during that time period, stretched out over two to four years with only one class at a time at a slower pace than in regular school instruction, while doing something else primarily, might work though. Frustration with remedial classes in community college is one important reason that community colleges have the highest dropout rates of all, even after a single year.

Math is the #1 remedial subject that holds kids back from benefitting from college and can be fruitful to remedy because the body of knowledge that kids with remedial needs who are otherwise ready for college need is quite small and can all fit in one or two textbooks that you can learn step by step at a modest pace.  
[Algebra is one of the biggest hurdles to getting a high school or college degree — particularly for students of color and first-generation undergrads. It is also the single most failed course in community colleges across the country. . . . At American community colleges, 60 percent of those enrolled are required to take at least one math course. Most — nearly 80 percent — never complete that requirement. In Colorado, of those starting two year college: 52.7% needed remedial help in math, reading or writing. 40% needed remedial help in math. 17% needed remedial help in math, reading and writing. 12.7% need remedial help only in reading or writing. Of those starting four year college: 19% needed help in math, reading, or writing. 16% needed help in math. 3% needed help in reading or writing and very few need help in all three areas. Students who need remedial work in mathematics are much, much less likely to graduate than those who do not, in part, because of the remediation requirement which slows down the process of getting into real college work and is simply insurmountable for some students, and in part, because it is a litmus test for poor preparation for college and low academic ability in general. But, it certainly isn't entirely about IQ. For example, in the early 2000s, among students identified as "gifted and talented" (i.e. in the 98th percentile of better on standardized tests) by the Denver Public Schools, some high schools sent almost all to college without needing remediation, while others had less than 19% of its gifted and talented students achieve this feat.]
If you are in some sort of environment like electrical work or carpentry or operating an artillery battery that makes math more relevant to you, the motivation needed to cross the remedial math hurdle can surge. This new positive attitude towards math was common place in kids that transferred from traditional format schools to a regional vocational high school in the district I attended growing up, especially for boys from rural farm areas who were being taught by teachers who lived in the college town that shared the district creating a cultural clash and lack of buy-in.

Remediating English is much harder but not impossible if you start as young as possible. It involves several distinct issues that have to be addressed. Sometimes the issue is English as a second language instruction. Sometimes the issue learning an academic standard dialect of English when you grew up speaking a less prestigious dialect of English like AAVE (African-American Vernacular English) or Appalachian dialects of English. Sometimes the issue is just weak vocabulary and grammar and writing style, rather than learning a new language or a new dialect of English. 

Getting away from classroom instruction and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and having a more focused pre-professionally oriented program in the wings tentatively afterwards rather than a vague too free for people not mature enough to benefit from the freedom general four year degree program afterwards, can also re-motivate people.

But there will always be lots of people, probably 25%-50% of high school graduates, more men, fewer women, for whom any further academic instruction ever is simply fruitless for the student and a recipe for frustration and self-confidence destroying failure. 
We should recognize that and not let the best be the enemy of the good by trying to not rule out being a lawyer, doctor, or President of the U.S. for kids, when it has long before been clear that those goals, or even a college degree, is an unreasonable and even absurd expectation for a particular student. We need to have life scripts in our economy and society that work for them too.
Another fun fact: 
I mention the ACT composite above, but ACT English + ACT Math are actually more predictive of college success and retention than the ACT Composite or the other two parts of the ACT that are more content based. In relative terms, here is how predictive each subsection of the ACT is:

Math (significant at p=0.01 level) 26
English (significant at p=0.01 level) 16
Reading (significant at p=0.05 level) 3
Science (not statistically significant) -1.

The May 2013 study tested for differences in predictive power among the four sub-scores of the ACT using Ohio Board of Regents data on all students that matriculated to a four-year public college in Ohio in 1999.
Response:
Again, backing up your intuition with Solid Numbers. I appreciate your insight into this. Its Obviously something you have researched a lot and have thought a lot about.

Other Considerations

This discussion doesn't cover all of the relevant issues. There is also a whole body of data on several other key factors involved in determining if higher education is worth it.

(1) Particular majors and educational programs have greater or lesser returns. 

STEM programs and other quantitatively oriented fields, like economics and finance, tend to have higher economic returns for students. But these programs also require more demanding minimum academic preparation thresholds to succeed; "in most majors (e.g., History, English, Biology, social sciences, ...) students with modest SAT scores can still obtain high GPAs, presumably through hard work. However, we found almost no cases of SAT-M scorers below about 90th percentile who obtained high upper division GPAs in physics or pure mathematics[.]" So, despite high economic returns make these programs a poor choice for academically marginal students.

Other programs vary in the returns that they provide. 

Culinary programs have very poor economic returns despite being pre-professional. 

Sometimes it is hard to separate out factors like the fact that students in many P-12 education majors (especially the less academic ones) tending to be less academically able from the poor economic returns to these majors generally due to lower pay levels in P-12 education.

Graduate and professional school programs also have greatly varying returns. Economic returns in graduate J.D. and medical programs are particularly strong. Many MBA programs provide poor returns, and more generally, many kinds of master's degree programs don't produce great economic returns relative to PhD and professional degree programs. Other kinds of graduate programs vary considerably in the returns that they provide.

Medical school has such rigorous admissions due to an unreasonable shortage of medical school admissions slots (about 50% lower relative to the U.S. population than two generations ago), that almost every admitted graduates, becomes a doctor, and is successful in doing so from an academic ability perspective.

Law schools, however, admit many people who have dim chances of both graduating from law school and then passing a bar exam. If you aren't academically in the top half of college graduates, you are unlikely to graduate and then pass the bar exam. And, even then you are a marginal law student. Students who more reliably become lawyers and who thrive in law tend to be academically in the higher end of the top half of college graduates. This said, there are large economic returns to passing the bar exam even if your academic ability to do so is marginal, if your "W" factors, cultural capital, marketing ability, and business aptitude are strong. Academically marginal lawyers in the right kind of practice with the right other factors can do very well compared to their prospects in another other career.

(2) Particular institutions and kinds of institutions have greater or lesser returns. "For profit" educational institutions aren't worth it with only a handful of exceptions like flight schools. Only 26 percent of students who enrolled in private, for-profit institutions in 2013 managed to graduate within six years. Other schools’ six-year graduation rates weren’t great, either: 62 percent for public institutions and 68 percent for private nonprofits. 

In one study, student characteristics in that study explained 25% of the variance in dropout rates, while institution type explained just under 10% of the variance.

Some colleges are particularly effective at providing good returns for first generation college students and lower income students, such as the City University of New York system and the California State University system.

(3) Factors other than IQ, which test scores and to a lesser extent high school GPA and curriculum rigor discussed below measure, matter as well in academic success. Many of these factors are collectively called the "W" factor by one researcher for "work ethic" that are better reflected in GPAs than test scores and reflect conscientiousness, lack of ADHD, grit, and so on. 

But there are also other non-W factors that matter, such as cultural capital or a lack thereof that puts many first generation college students at a disadvantage. Closing related is the observation that students are more likely to benefit from higher education, if they have fewer "ACEs" (adverse childhood experiences) which can cause students to develop coping strategies that aren't very functional in a college or university environment.

Knowing how to overcome a learning disability or other disability if you have one is another factor.

Someone with strong W factors, lots of cultural capital, and a lack of disabilities or good practices for managing disabilities may benefit from higher education, even if their academic ability reflected in their test scores, grades, and the rigor of their coursework is marginal. This is, in part, because a college degree provides a lot of signaling benefits in the economic marketplace even when the experience itself doesn't intrinsically add much value.  

These additional factors can only make up for so much of a short falling in academic ability, however. Certainly, it isn't enough to make up for being in the bottom quarter of academic ability for typical women, or the bottom third of academic ability for typical men.

(4) Post-secondary education provides economic returns mostly in urban areas with healthy economies while providing much weaker economic returns in rural areas and places with stagnant economies.

(5) Marginal students who are admitted to a college and earn a degree have much better economic prospects than marginal students who can't quite manage to do that, despite similar levels of academic ability, due to signaling effects in the economic marketplace associated with having a college degree, even if they don't actually learn much in college and aren't very well socialized into the socio-economic class of college graduates. 

To some extent this effect is one of the symptoms of the degree inflation that our economy has experienced where many jobs expect college degrees that don't actually provide knowledge necessary to do the job and really just sort for IQ, W factors, and social class socialization.

(6) Less academically prepared students also learn less in college.

[A study] of more than 2,300 undergraduates . . . [from a representative sample of 24 colleges and universities described in] the book, "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses." . . . found an average-scoring student in fall 2005 scored 7 percentage points higher in the spring of 2007 on the [College Learning] assessment [which measures critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing]. In other words, those who entered college in the 50th percentile would rise to the equivalent of the 57th after their sophomore years. . . . After four years, 36 percent of students did not demonstrate significant improvement, compared with 45 percent after two [years]. Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains. . . . Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth, and students who spent more time in the Greek system had decreased rates of learning . . . [A]ctivities such as working off campus, participating in campus clubs and volunteering did not affect learning. Students from families with different levels of parental education enter college with different learning levels but learn at about the same rates while attending college. . . . Black students improve their assessment scores at lower levels than whites.

Factors That Matter For Life Success But Less So For Academic Success

There are also other factors that are demonstrated to help life economic success, like extraversion, and connections with affluent or upper class individuals, that are only modestly relevant to academic success. 

Lots Of People Who Would Benefit Still Don't Get Higher Education Because They Can't Afford It Or Think They Can't Afford It

Also lots of people for whom higher education is worth it in the U.S., don't get that education due to low family incomes and a lack of appreciation of how lower income families can get higher educations with high sticker prices at much lower costs and with little to modest debt if the financial aid game is played right. 

20 September 2022

The Majoritarian Risk

The problem isn't new. There still isn't a perfect or even excellent solution for it.
Looking at democracy in the way in which it is commonly conceived, as the rule of the numerical majority, it is surely possible that the ruling power may be under the dominion of sectional or class interests, pointing to conduct different from that which would be dictated by impartial regard for the interest of all. 
Suppose the majority to be whites, the minority negroes, or vice versa: is it likely that the majority would allow equal justice to the minority? Suppose the majority Catholics, the minority Protestants, or the reverse; will there not be the same danger? Or let the majority be English, the minority Irish, or the contrary: is there not a great probability of similar evil? 
In all countries there is a majority of poor, a minority who, in contradistinction, may be called rich. Between these two classes, on many questions, there is complete opposition of apparent interest.
John Staurt Mill from Considerations on Representative Government (1861).

Monarchy Benefits Overstated

Ed West at the Wrong Side Of History blog makes a case for monarchy based upon the alleged stability of monarchies relative to republics. For example, in 2015, monarchies had less political unrest in the Middle East and North Africa than non-monarchies.

The article make not even a passing reference to correlation vs. causation. It's a little worse than "apples and oranges" when you're comparing Arab republics and Arab monarchies without reference to the postcolonial or sectarian factors that led to those differences. 

The problem with this is selection bias. Almost all countries used to have monarchs. Only the stable ones still do. “Arab republics” are just toppled Arab monarchies.

Similarly, US News ranks of countries by quality of life: Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands, Finland, Germany, New Zealand: 7 of them are monarchies, and 3 of those are members of the British Commonwealth. Another desirable place to live, Japan, is also a monarchy. 

But, in all of these countries the monarchs are figure-heads. They could replace their monarchs with elected heads of state like Germany or France and not much would change. We're not in the 18th century arguing whether actual monarchs rule better than republics. Basically every functioning "monarchy" in a developed country is actually a republic in substance.

I won't entirely discount the possibility that both true monarchies and symbolic constitutional monarchies do have some benefits, but selection bias and the failure to distinguish between the two kinds of monarchies pushes an analysis that overstates their benefits.

Cause, Effect, And Unions

One recurring theme is that people correctly observe that a policy or arrangement persists and works, but the conventional wisdom widely misinterprets the reason that this policy or arrangement persists and works, instead attributing a plausible, but incorrect cause for it.

When a misidentified cause is used merely to justify something that works, albeit for a different reason, this is harmless. But, when one wants to make policy reforms, a misidentification of why something happens leads to reforms that don't fix a problem. 

One of the ubiquitous arguments made by Democrats is that the working class well-being and the size of the middle class that we associate with the 1950s, in which single income families with a working class or middle class income could afford to own a home, could afford a car, could afford to have a stay at home spouse with many children, and had reasonable forty-hour work weeks was due to unions. Likewise, Democrats very frequently attribute the fall of the American family from this state of grace to union busting and legislation that weakened unionization.

While this isn't entirely wrong, for the most part, it gets cause and effect wrong.

Instead, the strong economic demand for less skilled and moderately skilled labor gave these workers economic power which they then utilized unions to accomplish (although the breakdown in meritocracy also created a corps of potential union leaders who weren't coopted by management to make this approach viable).

But, the decline of the private sector union in the U.S., which coincided with the stagnating economic state of working class America and secondarily with a shrinking middle class, likewise is fundamentally driven by declining economic power for less skilled and moderately skilled labor, which made unions less effective at delivering results. Some of this was due to the mechanization and computerization of work that made individual workers more efficient but demanded more from them in terms of skills sets. Some of this was due to off shoring of work to cheaper labor markets. And, the effect of meritocracy at coopting people who might otherwise have become union leaders was a secondary and parallel factor.

One way to see that this is the case is to observe that pro-union, and anti-union legislative changed are lagging indicators, not leading indicators. Pro-union legislation gets enacted only after unions are already getting strong without the benefit of protective legislation. Anti-union legislation gets enacted only when unions and the sector of workers they represent are already getting weaker before they are deprived of protective legislation.

The recent upsurge in unionization, for example, with more than 200 Starbucks locations being unionized in the last year or so, flows from the fact that the going market price for barista skill level labor in the labor market surged in the late pandemic. Wages rose first, and unions followed to better utilize greater market power, and not the reverse.

This matters in the current political environment because one of the most serious causes of political polarization, the anomie that drives Trumpism and right wing political violence and the decline of right wing respect for rule of law, and the demise of working class marriage in the United States, is the stagnant compensation and economic insecurity of working class men accompanied by the improved economic and educational prospects of women, and by the perceived improved economic prospects of minority working class men relative to white working class men relative to the pre-civil rights status quo due to anti-discrimination laws.

Strong protections for private sector unions won't solve this problem, because unionization is an intermediate means to an end facilitated the economic power in the labor market, and not the actual direct cause of working class men's economic woes.

Instead, some other solution for this problem is required.

19 September 2022

Quote Of The Day

There's nothing you could tell me
that could change how I feel about you,
because I'm kind of dumb.
- Bee and Puppycat

16 September 2022

Will Wyoming Become A One Party State?

In Wyoming, out of 60 state representatives, Democrats hold 6 seats, and out of 30 state senators, Democrats hold 2 seats. But, they aren't actually realistically at risk of losing major party status because they will almost surely get at least 10% of the voter for at least one statewide office in November.
The Wyoming Democratic Party is at risk of losing major party status if Democrats in the state don’t register and vote in the general election. The Wyoming Secretary of State’s Office reported that out of the more than 182,000 votes cast in the primary election overall, only 4.5% were for Democratic candidates. Republican candidates received 94.4% of the vote, and nonpartisan votes cast were at 1.1%.

The lopsided numbers were the result of many Democrats “crossing over” and voting Republican to support incumbent U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, who has taken a strong stance against former President Donald Trump and serves as vice chair of the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. . . .  
Cheney lost to challenger Harriet Hageman by 63,709 votes. Democrats need to meet the 10% threshold of total votes cast for any one of the statewide offices — U.S. House of Representatives, governor or secretary of state – in the general election, or else they will be considered a minor political party.

Under state statute, a minor political party is a political organization that receives not less than 2% or more than 10% of the total votes cast in the same office elections.

If they received less than 2%, a representative from the Wyoming Secretary of State’s Election Division said the Democratic Party would need to petition to gain access as a provisional party. Minor and provisional political parties must nominate through a convention, meaning only the Republican Party would be allowed to nominate candidates by primary election, if Democrats lost major party status. Laramie County Democratic Party Communications Director Lindsey Hanlon said it also impacts participation in debates. (Hanlon is also a member of the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s editorial board.)

15 September 2022

Why Are People Leaving Christianity?

Christianity is dying because it is fundamentally a flawed product. Notably, “Over the last 15 years, White evangelical Protestant decline has actually been markedly steeper than the White non-evangelical Protestant decline.”

[P]eople are leaving Christian churches because, among other things, they don’t believe in the churches’ teachings, they are hostile to organized religion writ large and/or they do not find spiritual solace there. Jones says, “One reason younger people are disaffiliating is the hardening of partisanship within churches and conservative political stances are significantly out of step with younger Americans on a range of issues: same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, climate change, immigration, etc.” He continues, “The culture war battle, particularly with the Trumpian/MAGA edge, simply doesn’t resonate with the bulk of a generation that grew up with Roe as settled law of the land and a much more diverse group of friends who were not just straight, White and Christian.”

In short, the irrational panic evident in MAGA circles and the creeping openness to authoritarian theocracy appear to be a reaction to a new reality: Christians (especially White evangelical Christians) do not dominate the United States demographically, economically, socially or politically as they once did. That’s what has freaked out members of the right — from the Jan. 6 insurrectionists to Alito.

14 September 2022

The Latest Religious Affiliation Trends In The U.S.

Pew Research reports: 
The Center estimates that in 2020, about 64% of Americans, including children, were Christian. People who are religiously unaffiliated, sometimes called religious “nones,” accounted for 30% of the U.S. population. Adherents of all other religions – including Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – totaled about 6%. 
Depending on whether religious switching continues at recent rates, speeds up or stops entirely, the projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070. 
Over that same period, “nones” would rise from the current 30% to somewhere between 34% and 52% of the U.S. population. . . .
As recently as the early 1990s, about 90% of U.S. adults identified as Christians. In 2007 the share was at 78%. Today, that number is down to 64%. Since 2007, the share of adults who identify as religious “nones” has grown from 16% to 29%.
A mid-range estimate is 50% Christian, 5% other religions, and 45% "none" by 2070, which would be a 50% increase in the proportion of "nones" and a 12% decrease in the proportion of Christians. This might even involve a net decline in the absolute number Christians because population growth in the United States is leveling off in the same time frame.

Changes in religious affiliation tend to follow an S-shaped logistic curve, with rates of change highest when the proportions are each category are most similar, and lowest when all but one of the main categories is very small (e.g. single digit percentages), so a mid-range estimate based upon current rates of change in religious affiliation is more likely to be an underestimate than an overestimate.

Put another way, the 2070 midrange estimate is likely to actually arrive well before 2070.

13 September 2022

Ukraine Makes Gains In War

A little progress in Ukraine. Also, it is notable, generally, how little either side has gained or lost after the first month of the six and a half month old war.
Also, a Twitter thread makes a convincing case that the Russian Army in Ukraine is ill-trained, ill-equipped, ill-managed, ill-motivated, is suffering from severe losses, and has dismal morale. This bodes poorly for the Russian military going forward in this war.

12 September 2022

A U.S. Private Firearm Ownership And Use Survey

With respect to data on defensive use in the survey results below, I note two main caveats. (And, survey data with well quantifiable systemic error can still be very useful.)

First, there is good evidence that the claimed 302,000 or so instances each year in which shots are fired in defensive uses of firearms is grossly overstated (especially in questions about whether it has ever been done) based upon other data that is "harder" than  survey data, although no shots fired cases are harder to corroborate. 

The number of justified civilian homicides each year 0.1%-0.5% of that number in a typical year, the number of people shot but not killed by civilians in self-defense each year is less than ten times that number, and the case that there are 285,000 warning shot or missed self-defense shots fired each year is extremely implausible given the ratio of warning and missed shots to shots causing injuries and deaths in civilian self-defense circumstances where good data on all of them (e.g. in neighborhoods with automated gunfire locators) is available. Defensive use of firearms in public and in the workplace, for example, is more easily corroborated and doesn't line up with magnitude of the survey responses.

Also, lots of uses of firearms characterized as "defensive uses" of firearms, when analyzed by people familiar with the applicable laws, are in fact illegal. Many constitute illegal menacing, or unjustified uses of deadly force. 

Notably "telling someone you have a gun" is counted as a large share of defense uses of firearms:


It ought to be possible to compare sales data to large magazine, assault rifle, handgun, rifle, and shotgun data to determine how accurate the survey results are in those domains.

The geographic ownership rates by state from the 2021 survey are as follows:


Of course, while statistical sample size sourced uncertainty is easy to estimate, sample selection bias is an issue in every kind of survey data and has gotten worse in recent years. Given the direction of the sample selection bias in election polling (even adjusting for representative samples), it could very well mean that the the bias is towards underestimates rather than overestimates, however. Centiment is not an "A-list" survey operation, especially for such a large survey, but that doesn't inherently mean very much a well done survey is useful no matter who does it.

Both bold and italic emphasis below is mine.
This report summarizes the findings of a national survey of firearms ownership and use conducted between February 17th and March 23rd, 2021 by the professional survey firm Centiment. This survey, which is part of a larger book project, aims to provide the most comprehensive assessment of firearms ownership and use patterns in America to date. This online survey was administered to a representative sample of approximately fifty-four thousand U.S. residents aged 18 and over, and it identified 16,708 gun owners who were, in turn, asked in-depth questions about their ownership and their use of firearms, including defensive uses of firearms.

Consistent with other recent survey research, the survey finds an overall rate of adult firearm ownership of 31.9%, suggesting that in excess of 81.4 million Americans aged 18 and over own firearms. The survey further finds that approximately a third of gun owners (31.1%) have used a firearm to defend themselves or their property, often on more than one occasion, and it estimates that guns are used defensively by firearms owners in approximately 1.67 million incidents per year. 
Handguns are the most common firearm employed for self-defense (used in 65.9% of defensive incidents), and in most defensive incidents (81.9%) no shot was fired. Approximately a quarter (25.2%) of defensive incidents occurred within the gun owner's home, and approximately half (53.9%) occurred outside their home, but on their property. About one out of ten (9.1%) defensive gun uses occurred in public, and about one out of thirty (3.2%) occurred at work.

A majority of gun owners (56.2%) indicate that they carry a handgun for self-defense in at least some circumstances, and about 35% of gun owners report carrying a handgun with some frequency. We estimate that approximately 20.7 million gun owners (26.3%) carry a handgun in public under a ``concealed carry'' regime; and 34.9% of gun owners report that there have been instances in which they had wanted to carry a handgun for self-defense, but local rules did not allow them to carry.

The average gun owner owns about 5 firearms, and handguns are the most common type of firearm owned. 48.0% of gun owners -- about 39 million individuals -- have owned magazines that hold over 10 rounds (up to 542 million such magazines in total), and 30.2% of gun owners -- about 24.6 million individuals -- have owned an AR-15 or similarly styled rifle (up to 44 million such rifles in total). 
Demographically, gun owners are diverse. 42.2% are female and 57.8% are male. Approximately 25.4% of Blacks own firearms, 28.3% of Hispanics own firearms, 19.4% of Asians own firearms, and 34.3% of Whites own firearms. 
In total, Americans own over 415 million firearms, consisting of approximately 171 million handguns, 146 million rifles, and 98 million shotguns.
William English, "2021 National Firearms Survey: Updated Analysis Including Types of Firearms Owned" SSRN (May 18, 2022).

This paper just includes the basically raw results of this particular survey without examining historical trends or comparing it to non-survey data.

Firearm ownership rates (ignoring multiple guns owned by a single person) have historically been lower in urban areas than rural areas and have gradually fallen over time as the population grows more urban and as hunting has grown less popular as a result.

Hat tip to Tom Bridgeland who provided the link to the paper in the comments.

09 September 2022

Highlights From A Book About Chinese History

A recounting of excerpts and observations from Yasheng Huang, The Rise and Fall of the East: Examination, Autocracy, Stability, and Technology in Chinese History and Today (2022):
Keju [the civil service exam system] had a deep penetration both cross-sectionally in society and across time in history. It was all encompassing, laying claims to time, efforts and cognitive investments of a significant swath of Chinese population. It was incubatory of values, norms, and cognitions, therefore impacting ideology and epistemology of Chinese minds. It was a state institution designed to augment the power and the capabilities of the state. Directly, the state monopolized the very best human capital; indirectly, the state deprived society access to talent and preempted organized religion, commerce, and intelligentsia. The Chinese state in history and today is an imprinted version of this Keju system.
* Chinese state is strong because it reigns without a society. . . .

* the exam system expanded in the 17th century, to support a larger and growing Chinese state. . . .
* Chinese bureaucrats in the provinces tend to be generalists and the ministerial officials tend to be specialists. . . .

* “A state without society is a vertically integrated organization…Keju’s powerful platform effect crowded and stymied alternative mobility channels…the Keju was an anti-mobility mobility channel.”

* “In the 1890s, China’s population literacy was only 18 percent, way below 95 percent of England and the Netherlands.”

* Exam competition takes up so much of individual mind space. Furthermore the competition atomizes society and makes it harder to form the kinds of collective movements that might lead to democracy. 
. . .

* “Throughout Chinese history very few emperors were toppled by their generals or senior functionaries, a sharp contrast with the Roman Empire.”

From here

Does Behavioral Science Work?

This paper overstates its case somewhat, but there is some truth to its claims.
How accurately can behavioral scientists predict behavior?

To answer this question, we analyzed data from five studies in which 640 professional behavioral scientists predicted the results of one or more behavioral science experiments. We compared the behavioral scientists’ predictions to random chance, linear models, and simple heuristics like “behavioral interventions have no effect” and “all published psychology research is false.”

We find that behavioral scientists are consistently no better than - and often worse than - these simple heuristics and models. Behavioral scientists’ predictions are not only noisy but also biased. 
They systematically overestimate how well behavioral science “works”: overestimating the effectiveness of behavioral interventions, the impact of psychological phenomena like time discounting, and the replicability of published psychology research.
Dillon Bowen, "Simple models predict behavior at least as well as behavioral scientists" arXiv:2208.01167 (August 3, 2002) (pdf link).

Has China's Overdue Deep Recession Finally Arrived?

China is about due for a major recession after years of uninterrupted growth (which I have predicted). A new Wall Street Journal article's headline suggests that it may finally be appearing. But, it will take more and better data to know.

China’s Property Market Has Slid Into Severe Depression, Real-Estate Giant Says 
Country Garden, which for years ranked as China’s top real-estate developer, reports 96% drop in first-half profit

From the Wall Street Journal (to which I don't have access to the body text). 

There was also a definite COVID related contraction in the Chinese economy in 2020.

08 September 2022

The U.S. Navy Still Has Problems

The U.S. Navy continues to ignore elephants in the room regarding its deep military vulnerabilities. Also, mostly as a result of weak management of the service, the U.S. Navy does a poor job of running the assets it has as a "tight ship" (as evidenced by major screw ups outside of wartime situations) and does a poor job of procuring new major military systems. 

[I]n war games and mock attacks from 1966 to 2006 — a forty year span — submarines and surface warships from the Soviet Union and Russia, China, Chile, Holland, Australia, and Canada theoretically destroyed the carriers Saratoga, Independence, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Forrestal, Constellation, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, Kitty Hawk and Abraham Lincoln. Nor is this ancient history. More recent articles . . . refer to the continuing problem of the Navy’s inability to protect its high-cost core assets. . . .  aircraft carriers are becoming vulnerable to China’s anti-ship ballistic missiles and other systems. Part of the problem is also the Navy’s poor anti-submarine systems (ASW) systems. This all must be given much more serious attention by anyone who thinks everything’s just fine.

But the problems the Navy has today go way beyond the utility of its carriers. Leadership has come under increasing scrutiny. . . .  recent Navy disasters such as the tragedies involving the McCain, Fitzgerald, and the Bonhomme Richard amphibious vessel, which was destroyed in port last year by fire, bear many of his criticisms out. . . . the service [is]. . . “cumbersome, vastly overmanned, stolidly managed, with massive institutional inertia and hobbled by internal and external politics.” . . . [with] “monstrous levels of inefficiency in many respects”[.] . . . According to a 2021 survey of current and retired Navy officers: “Concern within the Navy runs so high that, when asked whether incidents such as the two destroyer collisions in the Pacific (McCain and Fitzgerald), the surrender of a small craft to the IRGC (Iranian Republican Guard Corps) in the Arabian Gulf, the burning of the Bonhomme Richard, and other incidents were part of a broader cultural or leadership problem in the Navy, 94% of interviewees responded ‘yes.’” . . .
The problems plaguing the Zumwalt-class destroyer and Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) programs, for example, represent moral as well as material failures. . . .
it is difficult to see this organization continue to blunder and make mistakes that go uncorrected decade after decade. 

From here.

The losses of the Russian Navy's Black Sea fleet in the Ukraine War were due to vulnerabilities to anti-ship missiles to which U.S. warships are also highly vulnerable.

In addition to anti-ship missiles and hypersonic missiles deployed from land, aircraft, surface combatants and submarines, U.S. surface warships are vulnerable to submarine launched torpedoes, sea mines, and swarm attacks by small boats and drones.

Almost all U.S. Navy destroyers and frigates have naval guns that are basically unguided shell lobbing howitzers with a range too short to be useful in supporting grounds forces in coastal areas, or in combat against missile armed enemy warships, although they might be effective against the kind of militarized civilian pirate and smuggler opponents generally reserved for coast guard vessels. Naval guns are also ineffectual against submarines, drones, and enemy aircraft.

The U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps devote immense resources to maintaining a non-permissive amphibious assault capability that hasn't been utilized in a militarily important way since the Korean War in the 1950s. Long range missiles, aircraft carrying guided bombs and missiles, and paratroopers, have largely made that mission obsolete.

The U.S. Navy devotes immense resources to blue sea warships capable of striking other warships with anti-ship missiles, even though submarines and warplanes are just as effective or more at doing so, at a comparable or lower cost, and are far less vulnerable to enemy attacks than U.S. Navy surface combatants in that mission.

Similarly, submarines and warplanes just as effective or more than surface combatants at launching missiles at land targets, at a comparable  or lower cost, and are far less vulnerable to enemy attacks than U.S. Navy surface combatants in that mission.

Even anti-submarine warfare is an area where patrol aircraft like the P-8 together with submarines, both of which are comparable in cost or less expensive than, and far less vulnerable than U.S. surface combatant aircraft in this mission.

The U.S. Navy has a long neglected sea lift function, that has avoided disaster mostly because no one has seriously tried to take it on militarily. These sea lift resources, as demonstrated in the 1980s and 1990s, is mostly too slow, and has too little capacity, to get ground forces to the battle in the time frames that matter in modern warfare. And, many of the sea lift ships it has are just civilian freighters with U.S. Navy logos painted on their sides with no significant military capacity of their own. Also, the heavy tanks that were once at the core of what used to need to be sea lifted are increasingly of less importance in ground combat.

U.S. Navy surface combatants have crews that are two or three times as large as they would need to be with modern automation technologies and many of their functions can be performed just as well by unmanned surface and submarine drones.

Basically, going to war in a U.S. Navy surface combatant is like going into a battle on land in an armored RV, that is slow, vulnerable, has a small tooth to tail ratio, and puts large numbers of sailors at unnecessary risk.

Yet, the U.S. Navy is extremely expensive. Its budget alone, setting aside the Marine Corps within the Navy, the Army, and Air Force, is still larger than the budget of the entire military of any other country in the world. 

The U.S. Navy is far larger than any other naval force that could conceivably be an opponent of the U.S. Navy in the foreseeable future, even without considering allied support that is likely to be present in any foreseeable conflict. And, it isn't particularly efficient in utilizing the resources that it has, with only about a third of its warships deployed at any one time.

Despite the fact that Russia is one of the main blue sea navy adversaries of the U.S., military lobbyists rarely even bother to portray it as a serious threat for the U.S. Navy to counter any longer. Its allies in Europe and East Asia who are closer to Russia are more than capable of handling that threat themselves. Naval threats from Iran and North Korea, two of the most formidable potential naval opponents of the United State Navy also barely get a mention in debates on funding the U.S. Navy.

Almost all contemporary policy and lobbying arguments for maintain the current high levels of U.S. Navy funding focus on the ability of the U.S. to defend Taiwan from an amphibious invasion from the People's Republic of China, a single potential conflict, about which Taiwan itself vacillates about fighting at times. But the U.S. Navy, with its World War II era derived force structure, which it doubled down on in Ronald Reagan's Navy buildup, isn't even particularly optimized for that mission.

In sum, U.S. spending on the U.S. Navy, and especially its fleet of surface combatants, is probably the single best place for the U.S. to cut its grossly excessive defense budget, without undue harm to U.S. national security.

The U.S. does require a navy appropriate to its needs as a global military power. But it needs to stop throwing good money after bad to address hypothetical adversaries that don't exist. And, the U.S. military needs to far more seriously consider the extent to which ground and air based forces would be better alternatives for carrying out many of the missions to which the U.S. Navy has been assigned.