Category Archive for: Politics [Return to Main]

Friday, November 17, 2017

Paul Krugman: Everybody Hates the Trump Tax Plan

"The only significant winners would be those making more than $1 million a year.":

Everybody Hates the Trump Tax Plan, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Looking at the reactions to Republican tax plans, I found myself remembering what people used to say about former Senator Phil Gramm...: “Even his friends don’t like him.”...
The general public strongly disapproves — by a 2-1 majority, according to Quinnipiac, although the majority would be even bigger if people really understood what’s going on. But surely at least C.E.O.s like the plan, right?
Actually, not so much. A few days ago Gary Cohn, Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser, met with a group of top executives. They were asked to raise their hands if lower taxes would lead them to raise capital expenditures; only a handful did. “Why aren’t the other hands up?” asked Cohn, plaintively.
The answer is that C.E.O.s ... know that tax rates aren’t that important a factor in investment decisions. ...Most serious economic analyses agree..: Corporate tax cuts wouldn’t actually do much to raise investment. They would, however, explode the budget deficit.
So in an attempt to limit that deficit blowout, Senate Republicans are proposing significant tax increases on working families..., taxes would rise on average for every group with incomes under $75,000 a year... The only significant winners would be those making more than $1 million a year. Populism!
Oh, and this doesn’t even take account of the health care sabotage... By repealing the mandate ... the plan would ... cause 13 million to lose coverage; that loss of coverage, and the associated government subsidies, is why mandate repeal saves money that can be given to corporations. But the move would also drive up premiums... So that’s an additional, hidden indirect tax on the middle class.
Nor does it take account of what would inevitably come next: tax-cut-induced deficits would, by law, trigger cuts in Medicare, and this would just be the start of a G.O.P. assault on programs like disability insurance...
All of which raises the question, why are Republicans even trying to do this? It’s bad policy and bad politics, and the politics will get worse as voters learn more about the facts. Well, last week one G.O.P. congressman, Chris Collins of New York, gave the game away: “My donors are basically saying get it done or don’t ever call me again.”
So we’re talking about government of the people, not by the people, but by wealthy donors, for wealthy donors. Everyone else hates this plan — and they should.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Paul Krugman: Republican Class Warfare: The Next Generation

"This isn’t just ordinary class warfare; it’s class warfare aimed at perpetuating inequality into the next generation.":

Republican Class Warfare: The Next Generation, by Paul Krugman: The other day, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, admitted to The New York Times that he “misspoke” when he declared that his party’s tax plan wouldn’t raise taxes on any middle-class families. But he misspoke when he said “misspoke”: The proper term is “lied.” ...
We’re still waiting for detailed analysis of the Senate bill, but the House bill doesn’t just raise taxes on many middle-class families: It selectively raises taxes on families with children. In fact, half — half! — of families with children will see a tax hike once the bill is fully phased in.
Suppose that a child from a working-class family decides ... to attend college, probably taking out a loan to help pay tuition. Well, guess what: Under the House bill, that interest would no longer be deductible, substantially raising the cost of college.
What if you’re working your way through school and your employer contributes toward your education expenses? The House bill would make that contribution taxable income.
What if your parent is a university employee, and you get reduced tuition as a result? That tuition break becomes taxable income. So would tuition breaks for graduate students who work as teaching or research assistants.
So what we’re looking at here are a variety of measures that will close off opportunities for children who weren’t clever enough to choose wealthy parents.
Meanwhile, funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which covers more than eight million children, expired a month and a half ago — and so far, Republicans have made no serious effort to restore it. This is surely the shape of things to come: If tax cuts pass, and the deficit explodes, the G.O.P. will suddenly decide that deficits matter again and will demand cuts in social programs, many of which benefit lower-income children.
So this isn’t just ordinary class warfare; it’s class warfare aimed at perpetuating inequality into the next generation. Taken together, the elements of both the House and the Senate bills amount to a more or less systematic attempt to lavish benefits on the children of the ultra-wealthy while making it harder for less fortunate young people to achieve upward social mobility.
Or to put it differently, the tax legislation Republicans are trying to ram through Congress with indecent haste, without hearings or time for any kind of serious study, looks an awful lot like an attempt not simply to reinforce plutocracy, but to entrench a hereditary plutocracy.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trump and Ryan Versus the Little People

"The end result of this tax bill would be to leave most working Americans, even those who wouldn’t face direct tax increases, worse off, all for the benefit of a tiny minority":

Trump and Ryan Versus the Little People, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: According to news reports, Donald Trump wanted the House Republican tax “reform” bill to be called the Cut Cut Cut Act. Alas, he didn’t get his wish, and it was instead given a boring name nobody can remember. But there’s still time to change it! So let me propose, as one reader suggested, that it be renamed the Leona Helmsley Act, after the New York hotelier convicted of tax evasion, who famously declared that “only the little people pay taxes.”
That, after all, is the main thrust of the bill. It hugely favors the wealthy over the middle class, which is pretty much always true of Republican proposals. But it’s not just about favoring high incomes: It also systematically favors people who live off their assets, especially inherited wealth, over the little people — that is, poor shlubs who actually have to work for a living. ...
So when Gary Cohn, Trump’s top economic adviser, says that the bill’s goal is “to deliver middle-class tax cuts to the hard-working families in this country,” he’s claiming that up is down and black is white. This bill does little or nothing for the middle class, and even among the affluent it’s biased against those who work hard in favor of the idle rich.
Also let’s not forget that tax increases on working Americans are only part of the story. This bill would also, according to the Congressional Budget Office, add $1.7 trillion to the national debt over the next decade. You know what that means: If this bill or anything like it passes, Republicans will immediately revert to their previous pretense of being deficit hawks and start demanding spending cuts.
And since federal spending is dominated by programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — that benefit the middle and working classes, the end result of this tax bill would be to leave most working Americans, even those who wouldn’t face direct tax increases, worse off, all for the benefit of a tiny minority, especially those who haven’t even worked for their wealth.
You might wonder how Republicans imagine that they can get away with this. But anyone who has paid attention to U.S. politics knows the answer. First, they will lie, unashamedly, about what their bill actually does. Second, they will try to distract working-class voters by stoking racial animosity. That didn’t work too well in Tuesday’s elections, but they’ll keep on trying.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Trade Policy and the Macroeconomy

Barry Eichengreen:

Trade Policy and the Macroeconomy, by Barry Eichengreen, IMF: It’s an honor and privilege to have been asked to deliver the Mundell-Fleming Lecture. It’s also a bit intimidating. I won’t read off the entire list of luminaries who have given this lecture. But they include our master of ceremonies and my Berkeley colleague Maury Obstfeld. They include Stanley Fischer, my boss when I worked at the IMF. And they include my oldest and closest childhood friend from the age of three. (If you don’t know who that is, you get to guess.)
My topic today is trade policy and the macroeconomy. I chose this as my topic for several reasons.
The first is, of course, Donald Trump. President Trump has controversially argued that tariffs are good for economic growth. This makes now an important time to reconsider the question.
A second reason is: Paul Ryan, or more precisely the idea of a border-adjustment tax...
Third, the framework most widely used to analyze these issues is, appropriately for this venue, the Mundell-Fleming model. ...
Fourth, the literature on this subject is importantly informed by research here at the IMF. ...
Fifth, these are issues on which historical evidence has been used to shed light. ...
Sixth and finally (perhaps I should say “sixth and self-indulgently”), this is where I came in. My Ph.D. dissertation was on the macroeconomic effects of trade restrictions...
My remarks are in three parts. First, I will consider the evidence on tariffs and growth from an historical vantage point. Next I will review what we know about trade policy and macroeconomic fluctuations. Although the first part is about growth and the second part is about fluctuations, similar issues arise in the two contexts. In concluding, I will then return to the current policy debate.
I will argue that both theory and empirics in this area have ambiguous implications. Even more than other areas of economics perhaps, conclusions are sensitive to assumptions. Theoretical results are fragile, and empirical findings are context specific. Given this uncertainty, I will argue that the best guideline for practitioners tempted to deploy trade policy for macroeconomic purposes remains Hippocrates’ dictum, “first, do no harm.” ...continue...  [conference papers]

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trump, Gillespie and the Same Old Party

"And the cynic would be right":

Trump, Gillespie and the Same Old Party, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Since last year’s presidential election a number of establishment Republicans have very publicly wrung their hands over what has happened to their party. ...
But how different is Trump, really? ...
What, after all, does the modern ... Republican Party stand for? A cynic might say that it has basically served the interests of the economic elite while winning votes from the white working class with racial dog whistles. And the cynic would be right.
And if that’s what modern Republicanism is really about, how much has changed in the era of Trump? Consider two current news stories: the House Republican tax plan and the campaign that Ed Gillespie, a consummate Republican insider, has been running for governor of Virginia.
On the tax plan...
True, the plan contains a few initial tax breaks for middle-income families, but these erode or disappear over time. According to the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, by the time the law would be fully phased in, there would be huge income gains for millionaires — even bigger if you take repeal of the estate tax into account — with minimal benefits for a great majority of the population. In fact, tens of millions of middle- and lower-income families would end up facing tax increases, which is pretty amazing for a bill that would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit. ...
In short, Trumpist tax policy is as elitist if not more elitist and anti-populist than the policies of previous Republican administrations. Same old, same old.
But what about Trump’s more or less naked white nationalism? Isn’t that a departure? Well, how different is it from Ronald Reagan’s talk about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, or the elder Bush’s Willie Horton ad? And in any case, we don’t have to argue about the past: Just look at how Ed Gillespie has campaigned in Virginia over the past few months. ... As The Washington Post put it, “His campaign’s thrust has not been just a dog whistle to the intolerant, racially resentful parts of the Republican base; it’s been a mating call.”
So has Gillespie faced strong criticism from establishment Republicans for waging such a gutter campaign? No...
Oh, and if you’re in Virginia, reading this, and haven’t yet voted, please do. This is a hugely consequential election, and it will be a shame — indeed, a tragedy — if its outcome is determined by people who couldn’t be bothered to get to the polls.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Paul Krugman: Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and the Con Man Caucus

"The big question should be, why do any of this?":

Donald Trump, Paul Ryan and the Con Man Caucus, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...On Thursday, House Republicans unveiled a tax “reform” bill with the same good order and careful deliberation with which they unveiled their various attempts to repeal Obamacare. That is, after having had years to prepare, the G.O.P. waited until the last minute to throw something together, without any hearings or serious analysis.
Budget wonks are frantically going through the legislative language, trying to figure out what it means and what it would do — but they can take some comfort in the fact that the bill’s authors are almost equally in the dark.
O.K., some things are clear: The bill would give huge tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, especially wealthy heirs, while opening vast new opportunities for tax avoidance. You won’t go far wrong if you think of the big tax cuts in the law as having been custom designed to benefit the Trump family.
But these big tax cuts would blow a multitrillion-dollar hole in the budget, so Republicans have been scrambling to find “pay-fors” that limit the addition to the deficit. ...
Since the point of these measures is to offset tax cuts for the rich, they will, more or less by definition, end up raising taxes on large numbers of middle-class families. ...
The big question should be, why do any of this? Ryan used to claim that his plans were about reducing the budget deficit, but he has now given up that pretense.
And why should tax cuts even be on the table? We have budget deficits, not surpluses, and lots of unmet needs for future spending. U.S. taxes are low, not high, compared with other wealthy countries. Predictions that tax cuts will lead to rapid economic growth have been wrong time and again. And by large margins, voters want taxes on corporations and the wealthy to go up, not down.
The ruling theory among Republicans seems to be that going into the midterm elections they need a “win”... I guess this might be right, although it’s a theory that reveals extraordinary contempt for voters, who are supposed to be impressed by the G.O.P.’s ability to ram through policies that only benefit a tiny elite.
How ever the politics turn out, this is remarkably terrible policy, devised via a remarkably terrible process. Most Americans realize that Donald Trump is a very bad president; they need to realize that his party’s congressional leadership is pretty awful, too.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trump Won’t Bring Joy to Moolaville

"The party’s willingness to turn a blind eye to corruption with a hint of treason would be horrifying whatever the motivation":

Trump Won’t Bring Joy to Moolaville, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Over the weekend Donald Trump raged against the Russia “witch hunt,” which he claimed was an effort to distract from his push for “historic Tax Cuts & Reform.” And there actually is a relationship — but it goes in the other direction. If Trump survives this crisis — which may mean that American democracy doesn’t — tax cuts will have a lot to do with it.
For Republicans in Congress know perfectly well that Trump is utterly unfit for office and has been abusing his position for personal gain. Many of them surely suspected, long before Monday’s indictments, that members of his inner circle, and perhaps he himself, have colluded with a hostile foreign power.
If they nonetheless circle the wagons around Trump — in particular, if they allow him to fire Robert Mueller... — there will be one main reason: Trump offers their big opportunity to cut taxes for the very wealthy. Indeed..., almost 80 percent of the Trump tax cut would go to people with incomes over $1 million; these people would get an average cut of around $230,000 a year.
But here’s what gets me: The wealthy donors for whom the G.O.P. will apparently do anything, up to and including covering up for possible treason, will get no joy from their tax cuts.
I don’t mean that history will judge them harshly, although it will. I don’t even mean that plutocrats as well as plebeians will eventually suffer if America becomes a lawless, authoritarian regime. I mean that a few hundred thousand dollars extra will do little if anything to make the already wealthy more satisfied with their lives. ...
Again, arguably none of this matters very much. The G.O.P. policy agenda of rewarding the wealthy at the expense of the poor and working class would be vile even if tax cuts would make the rich ecstatic. The party’s willingness to turn a blind eye to corruption with a hint of treason would be horrifying whatever the motivation. Still, there seems to me to be an extra dimension of awfulness to the whole situation once you realize that all this betrayal serves no real purpose, not even a bad one.
And maybe, just maybe, members of the G.O.P. donor class will take this moment of national crisis to ask themselves what really matters. For what shall it profit a man, if he gain a $230,000 tax cut, and his formerly democratic nation lose its soul?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Paul Krugman: The Doctrine of Trumpal Infallibility

"What happens to economists who never admit mistakes, and never change their views in the light of experience?":

The Doctrine of Trumpal Infallibility, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...we are living in the age of Trumpal infallibility: We are ruled by men who never admit error, never apologize and, crucially, never learn from their mistakes. Needless to say, men who think admitting error makes you look weak just keep making bigger mistakes; delusions of infallibility eventually lead to disaster, and one can only hope that the disasters ahead don’t bring catastrophe...
Which brings me to the subject of the Federal Reserve. ...
You see, when the 2008 financial crisis struck, the Federal Reserve ... cut interest rates to zero and “printed money” on a huge scale — not literally, but it bought trillions of dollars’ worth of bonds by creating new bank reserves.
Many conservatives were aghast. ... In 2010 a who’s who of conservative economists and pundits published an open letter warning that the Fed’s policies would cause inflation and “debase the dollar.”
But it never happened..., the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation has consistently fallen short of its target of 2 percent... Four years after that open letter..., Bloomberg tracked down many of the signatories to ask what they had learned..., not one ... was even willing to admit having been wrong.
So what happens to economists who never admit mistakes, and never change their views in the light of experience? The answer, apparently, is that they get put on the short list to be the new Fed chair.
Consider, for example, the case of Stanford’s John Taylor (one of the signatories of that open letter). ...
Since the financial crisis ... he has repeatedly demanded that the Fed raise interest rates in line with a policy rule he devised a quarter-century ago. Failing to follow that rule was supposed to cause inflation... — but seven years of being consistently wrong hasn’t inspired any rethinking on his part.
What it has inspired is a descent into increasingly strange reasons the Fed should raise rates despite low inflation. ... And never, ever, an admission that maybe something was wrong with his initial analysis.
Again, everyone makes forecast errors. ... But it’s much worse if you can never bring yourself to admit past errors and learn from them.
That kind of behavior makes it all too likely that you’ll keep making the same mistakes; but more than that, it shows something wrong with your character. And men with that character flaw should never be placed in positions of policy responsibility.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trump, Trade and Tantrums

"Breaking up or degrading Nafta would have the same disruptive effects that came from Nafta’s creation":

Trump, Trade and Tantrums, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Everyone here wants to know what’s going to happen to Nafta — the North American Free Trade Agreement... Donald Trump has described Nafta as the “worst trade deal ever made.” But will he actually destroy it?
Until just a few days ago I was pretty sure that he wouldn’t. My guess was that he would negotiate some minor changes to the agreement, declare victory and move on. Markets seemed to agree...
But I’ve been revising that view in light of recent events — especially Trump’s health care temper tantrum. Breaking up Nafta would be terrible for Mexico and bad for the U.S. ... But it might be good for Trump’s fragile ego. And that’s a reason to fear the worst. ...
We now live in a North American economy built around the reality of free trade. In particular, U.S., Canadian and Mexican manufacturing are deeply enmeshed with one another. Many industrial plants were built precisely to take advantage of our economic integration, buying from or selling to other industrial plants across the borders.
As a result, breaking up or degrading Nafta would have the same disruptive effects that came from Nafta’s creation: Plants would close, jobs would disappear, communities would lose their livelihoods. And, yes, many businesses, small, large and in some cases huge, would lose many billions of dollars.
Oh, and it’s not just manufacturing. What do you think would happen to the farmers of Iowa if they lost one of the most important markets for their corn? ...
Most important, look at what Trump has been doing with his open, indeed gleeful sabotage of the U.S. health care system. Never mind the huge human costs he’s imposing; he isn’t even following any plausible political strategy, since he and his party are likely, with good reason, to be blamed for the damage. Furthermore, his actions will cost big businesses — insurers and health providers — billions; he’s even boasting about how much he has hurt their stock prices.
So we’ve now seen Trump deliberately hurt millions of people and inflict billions of losses on a major industry out of sheer spite. If he’s willing to do that on health care, why assume he won’t do the same thing on international trade policy?
Nafta, then, is at real risk. And if it does get destroyed, the only question is whether the consequences will be ugly, or extremely ugly.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Paul Krugman: The G.O.P. Is No Party for Honest Men

"A strategy based entirely on lies":

The G.O.P. Is No Party for Honest Men, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: According to a new CBS News poll, almost 60 percent of the American public believes that the current Republican tax plan favors the wealthy. Some people see this number as a sign that the plan is in trouble; I see it as a sign that Republican lies are working far better than they deserve to.
For the plan does indeed favor the wealthy — overwhelmingly.... It’s shocking that as many as 40 percent of Americans don’t realize this. ...
So the question about this plan isn’t whether it favors the wealthy — it does, to an outrageous extent. The questions we should be asking instead are why Republicans are pushing this so hard, and how they can hope to get away with it. ...
So what’s behind this priority? Follow the money. Big donors are furious at missing out on the $700 billion in tax cuts that were supposed to come out of Obamacare repeal. If they don’t get big bucks out of tax “reform,” they might close their pocketbooks for the 2018 midterm elections.
Beyond that, modern conservatism is a sort of ecosystem of media outlets, think tanks, lobbying outfits and more that offers many lucrative niches — so-called wingnut welfare — for the ideologically reliable. And that means being reliable to the interests of the wealthy.
But how can an administration that pretends to be populist, to stand up for ordinary (white) working people, sell such elitist policies?
The answer is a strategy based entirely on lies. ...
Nor do I mean that there are just one or two big lies. There are many — so many I literally don’t have space to ... list them... In a long blog post ... I came up with 10 major Republican lies about tax cuts, and I’m sure I missed a few.
So, politically, can they really get away with this? A lot depends on how the news media handles it. ...
One thing we know for sure, however, is that a great majority of Republican politicians know perfectly well that their party is lying about its tax plan — and every even halfway competent economist aligned with the party definitely understands what’s going on.
What this means is that everyone who goes along with this plan, or even remains silent in the face of the campaign of mass dissimulation, is complicit — is in effect an accomplice to the most dishonest political selling job in American history.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Paul Krugman: Let Them Eat Paper Towels

"The betrayal and abandonment of three and a half million of our own people":

Let Them Eat Paper Towels, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: The situation in Iowa remains horrifying. More than a third of the population has been without clean water for three weeks, and waterborne diseases appear to be spreading. Only a sixth of the population has electricity..., health care system is a shambles, and sheer hunger may be a problem in some remote areas.
Fortunately, the federal government is going all out to aid its citizens in distress..., while praising the often heroic efforts of Iowa residents to help themselves. And generous aid, he promises, will continue as long as it’s needed.
O.K., I lied. The dire situation I just described is in Puerto Rico, not Iowa (which happens to have just about the same number of U.S. citizens). And my upbeat portrayal of the federal response ... is the opposite of the truth. What we’re actually witnessing, in effect, is the betrayal and abandonment of three and a half million of our own people. ...
From the beginning, Donald Trump — who literally seems to think that he deserves praise for throwing a few rolls of paper towels into a crowd — has suggested that Puerto Rico is responsible for its own disaster, and he has systematically denigrated the efforts of its people to take care of one another. ...
Meanwhile, it took almost three weeks ... before Trump asked Congress to provide financial aid — and his request was for loans, not grants, which is mind-boggling when you bear in mind that the territory is effectively bankrupt.
And then came Thursday morning... Trump ... appeared to threaten to cut off aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the military. ...
The simple fact is that millions of our fellow citizens are facing catastrophe. How can we be abandoning them...?
Much of the answer, no doubt, is ... race. Puerto Ricans would doubtless be getting better treatment if they were all of, say, Norwegian descent.
But let’s be fair: Trump is also working ... to destroy health care for millions of other Americans, many of them working-class non-Hispanic whites — the very people who voted for him... I wouldn’t go so far as to call him an equal-opportunity monster — he clearly has a special animus toward minorities — but his self-centeredness and complete lack of empathy extend quite widely.
Whatever the precise mix of motives, what’s happening in Puerto Rico is utterly shameful. And everyone who enables the regime perpetuating this shame shares part of the guilt.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Paul Krugman: Virginia Is for Haters

"Virginia is now the most important place on the U.S. political landscape":

Virginia Is for Haters, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...If you want to understand why policies toward the poor are so different at the state level..., one predictor stands out: the African-American share of the population. The more blacks, the less compassion white voters feel.
The story gets even clearer if you look at the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which allows states to expand Medicaid coverage at federal expense...
Which brings me to Virginia, which is holding crucial state elections in just four weeks. ... The state is becoming more ethnically diverse..., it supported the Democratic presidential candidate in the last three elections.
But is Virginia’s apparent moral progress an illusion? And if it is, what does that say about America as a whole?
Virginia was, of course, the site of the infamous Charlottesville march by torch-carrying white supremacists — “very fine people,” according to Donald Trump — that ended with the death of a counterprotester. More important, perhaps, is ... that despite its growing political moderation and its Democratic governor, Virginia is among the states still refusing to expand Medicaid, even though that refusal means gratuitous financial hardship for many and a significant number of people dying from lack of medical care.
How is this possible? Democratic-leaning voters are much less likely than Republican-leaning voters to cast ballots in state and local elections; as a result, a politically moderate state has a hard-right legislature. And there’s a real possibility that it may soon have a Republican governor, too.
...Ed Gillespie, the G.O.P. candidate, is trying to pull off an upset by going full-on Trumpist, doing all he can — with assistance from the tweeter in chief — to mobilize the white nationalist vote. ...
Whatever happens..., the consequences will be huge. If Gillespie pulls this off, all the worst impulses of the Trumpist G.O.P. will be empowered; you might think that things can’t get even worse, but yes, they can.
If ... Northam wins and Democrats make big inroads in the state legislature, it won’t just probably mean that hundreds of thousands of Virginians will get health insurance, and it won’t just be an omen for the 2018 midterms. It will also encourage at least some sane Republicans to break with a man they privately fear and despise (see Corker, Bob). ...
Folks, right now ... Virginia is now the most important place on the U.S. political landscape — and what happens there could decide the fate of the nation.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Paul Krugman: Will Trump Trumpify the Fed?

"The Fed, which sets monetary policy, is by far our most important economic agency":

Will Trump Trumpify the Fed?, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: By all accounts, Rex Tillerson has demoralized and degraded the State Department to the point of uselessness. Tom Price did much the same to Health and Human Services before jetting off. Scott Pruitt has moved rapidly to eliminate the “protection” aspect of the Environmental Protection Agency. And similar stories are unfolding throughout the executive branch. ...
And one question I don’t see being asked often enough is, will the same thing happen to the Federal Reserve? And if it does, how disastrous will that end up being for the world economy?
The Fed, which sets monetary policy, is by far our most important economic agency...
When the financial crisis struck in 2008, it was essential that the Fed engage in aggressive monetary expansion...
But congressional leaders fought these necessary measures every step of the way. Most notably, Paul Ryan, who gets his ideas about monetary policy from Ayn Rand novels, berated Bernanke, claiming that his policies would debase the dollar and lead to runaway inflation. ...
And it goes more or less without saying that none of the people who kept warning that the Fed would cause terrible inflation have admitted having been wrong, or learned anything from the experience.
What all this means is that if congressional Republicans play a large role in selecting the next Fed chair, they’ll insist that it be someone who has been wrong about everything for the past decade.
Kevin Warsh, a former Fed governor widely considered a favorite for the job, certainly fits the bill. He warned about inflation in the midst of global economic collapse; he argued vigorously against doing anything, monetary or other, to fight 10 percent unemployment; he warned that the United States was about to turn into Greece, Greece I tell you. And he has shown no hint of being chastened by the failure of events to play out the way he expected.
Now, I don’t know who Trump will actually pick to head the Federal Reserve. It might actually end up being someone smart, knowledgeable and honest. Hey, there’s a first time for everything.
But surely it’s possible, even probable, that the Federal Reserve, like other government agencies, is about to get Trumpified, that one of American policy’s last remaining havens of competence and expertise will soon share in the general degradation. And won’t that be fun when the next crisis hits?

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Paul Krugman: Republicans, Trapped by Their Flimflam

"In broad outlines, the tax story is a lot like health care":

Republicans, Trapped by Their Flimflam, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Last week the Trump administration and its congressional allies working on tax reform achieved something remarkable. They released a tax plan — or, actually, a vague sketch of a plan — that manages both to add trillions to the deficit and to raise taxes on a large fraction of the population. That takes talent.
...On taxes, as with health, leading Republicans have been lying for years. And now the fraud has caught up with the fraudsters.
The road to this tax-cut turkey began in 2010, when Paul Ryan ... unveiled the first of a series of much-hyped budget plans, all purporting to offer a blueprint for eliminating the U.S. budget deficit.
In fact, they did no such thing. They proposed major tax cuts — primarily benefiting the rich, of course — then simply asserted that no revenue would be lost ...
And what was the Ryan plan if you took out those mysterious revenue raisers and spending cuts? A plan to drastically cut taxes on the rich, savagely cut benefits for the poor and the middle class, and increase the overall deficit.
In other words, it was all a con. ...
And the con went on for years. ...
But then Republicans regained the White House, meaning that they had to come up with actual tax legislation. And this has put the con under terrible strain. ...
So they came up with what probably seemed like a clever idea: eliminate the deductibility of state and local taxes. Hey, that would mainly punish people in tax-and-spend blue states, right? Not their problem.
But this turns out to be a much bigger deal than they seemed to realize. ... According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, their plan would give huge tax cuts to the top 1 percent, who would receive 79.7 percent of the benefits. But eliminating deductions would make many Americans, especially in the upper reaches of the middle class, directly worse off: ...
And this would happen even though the plan would add several trillion dollars to the deficit. Did I mention that many of those facing tax hikes vote Republican? ...
In broad outlines, the tax story is a lot like health care. In both cases, Republicans have spent years getting away with big promises backed by lies. Now, with real policy to be made, the lies won’t work anymore. And they can’t handle the truth.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trump’s Deadly Narcissism

"Trump truly is unfit for this or any high office":

Trump’s Deadly Narcissism, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: According to a new Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans believe that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. That’s pretty remarkable. But you have to wonder how much higher the number would be if people really knew what’s going on.
For the trouble with Trump isn’t just what he’s doing, but what he isn’t. In his mind, it’s all about him — and while he’s stroking his fragile ego, basic functions of government are being neglected or worse.
Let’s talk about two stories that might seem separate: the deadly neglect of Puerto Rico, and the ongoing sabotage of American health care. What these stories have in common is that millions of Americans are going to suffer, and hundreds if not thousands die, because Trump and his officials are too self-centered to do their jobs.
Start with the disaster in Puerto Rico and the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands.
When Hurricane Maria struck ... it knocked out power to the whole of Puerto Rico, and it will be months before the electricity comes back. Lack of power can be deadly..., but what’s even worse is that ... much of the population still lacks access to drinkable water. How many will die because hospitals can’t function, or because of diseases spread by unsafe water? Nobody knows. ...
So have we seen the kind of full-court, all-out relief effort such a catastrophe demands? No. ...
Trump spent days after Maria’s strike tweeting about football players. When he finally got around to saying something about Puerto Rico, it was to blame the territory for its own problems.
The impression one gets is of a massively self-centered individual who can’t bring himself to focus on other people’s needs, even when that’s the core of his job.
And then there’s health care.
Obamacare repeal has failed again, for the simple reason that Graham-Cassidy, like all the other G.O.P. proposals, was a piece of meanspirited junk. But while the Affordable Care Act survives, the Trump administration is openly trying to sabotage the law’s functioning. ...
Why are the Trumpists doing this? ... A.C.A. sabotage is best seen not as a strategy, but as a tantrum. We can’t repeal Obamacare? Well, then, we’ll screw it up. It’s not about achieving any clear goal, but about salving the president’s damaged self-esteem.
In short, Trump truly is unfit for this or any high office. And the damage caused by his unfitness will just keep growing.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trapped by Their Own Lies

"health care isn’t the only issue on which lies are coming back to bite the liars":

Trapped by Their Own Lies, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...Republicans have spent years routinely lying for the sake of political advantage. And now — not just on health care, but across the board — they are trapped by their own lies, forced into trying to enact policies they know won’t work.
...“You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” said Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. “But,” he continued, “Republicans have campaigned on this,” meaning repeal-and-replace, and had to fulfill their promise.
But repealing the Affordable Care Act wasn’t the only thing Republicans promised; they also promised to replace it with something better and cheaper ... without creating any new problems. ...
Yet Republicans never had any idea how to fulfill that promise ... without taking insurance away from tens of millions..., they were lying about health care all along.
And the base, both the grass roots and the big money, believed the lies. Hence the trap in which Republicans find themselves.
The thing is, health care isn’t the only issue on which lies are coming back to bite the liars. ...
The next big item on the G.O.P. agenda is taxes. ... But Republicans ... have ... spent years posing as the party of fiscal responsibility, and they have no idea how to cut taxes without blowing up the deficit.
As with health care, the party has masked its lack of good ideas with lies... But as with health care, these lies will be revealed once actual legislation is unveiled. ...
So tax policy, like health care, will be hobbled by a legacy of lies.
Wait, there’s more.
Foreign policy ... lies have put the Trump administration in a box over things like the Iran nuclear deal: Canceling the deal would create huge problems, yet not canceling it would amount to an admission that the criticisms were dishonest.
And soon the G.O.P. may even start to pay a price for lying about climate change. As hurricanes get ever more severe — just as climate scientists predicted — climate denial is looking increasingly out of touch. Yet donors and the base would react with fury to any admission that the threat is real, after all.
The bottom line is that the bill for cynicism seems to be coming due. For years, flat-out lies about policy served Republicans well, helping them win back control of Congress and, eventually, the White House. But those same lies now leave them unable to govern.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Paul Krugman: Cruelty, Incompetence and Lies

"the evasions and lies we’re seeing on this bill have been standard G.O.P. operating procedure for years":

Cruelty, Incompetence and Lies, by Paul Krugman: Graham-Cassidy, the health bill the Senate may vote on next week, is stunningly cruel. It’s also incompetently drafted: The bill’s sponsors clearly had no idea what they were doing... Furthermore, their efforts to sell the bill involve obvious, blatant lies.
Nonetheless, the bill could pass. And that says a lot about today’s Republican Party, none of it good. ...
Did Graham-Cassidy’s sponsors know what they were doing when putting this bill together? Almost surely not, or they wouldn’t have produced something that everyone, and I mean everyone, who knows anything about health care warns would cause chaos.
It’s not just progressives: The American Medical Association, the insurance industry and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have all warned that markets would be destabilized and millions would lose coverage. ...
Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, and the bill’s other sponsors have responded to these critiques the old-fashioned way — with lies.
Both Cassidy and Graham insist that their bill would continue to protect Americans with pre-existing conditions — a claim that will come as news to the A.M.A., Blue Cross and everyone else who has read the bill...
Cassidy has also circulated a spreadsheet that purports to show most states actually getting increased funding under his bill. ... Independent analyses find that most states would, in fact, experience serious cuts... — and everyone would face huge cuts after 2027.
So we’re looking at an incompetently drafted bill that would hurt millions of people, whose sponsors are trying to sell it with transparently false claims. How is it that this bill might nonetheless pass the Senate?
One answer is that Republicans are desperate to destroy President Barack Obama’s legacy ... no matter how many American lives they ruin...
Another answer is that most Republican legislators neither know nor care about policy substance. ... Vox asked a number of G.O.P. senators to explain what Graham-Cassidy does; the answers ranged from incoherence to belligerence to belligerent incoherence.
I’d add that the evasions and lies we’re seeing on this bill have been standard G.O.P. operating procedure for years. ... Graham-Cassidy isn’t an aberration; it’s more like the distilled essence of everything wrong with modern Republicans.
Will this awful bill become law? I have no idea. But even if the handful of Republican senators who retain some conscience block it — we’re looking at you, John McCain — the underlying sickness of the G.O.P. will remain.
It’s sort of a pre-existing condition, and it’s poisoning America.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Paul Krugman: Complacency Could Kill Health Care

"there is a real chance that Graham-Cassidy ... will ... become law, because not enough people are taking it seriously":

Complacency Could Kill Health Care, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...last year far too many people were complacent; they assumed that Trump couldn’t possibly become president, so they felt free to engage in trivial pursuits. Then they woke up to find that the inconceivable had happened.
Is something similar about to go down with health care?
Republican attempts to destroy Obamacare have repeatedly failed, and for very good reason. Their attacks on the Affordable Care Act were always based on lies, and they have never come up with a decent alternative. ...
The sponsors of the Graham-Cassidy bill now working its way toward a Senate vote claim to be offering a moderate approach that preserves the good things about Obamacare. In other words, they are maintaining the G.O.P. norm of lying both about the content of Obamacare and about what would replace it.
In reality, Graham-Cassidy is the opposite of moderate. It contains, in exaggerated and almost caricature form, all the elements that made previous Republican proposals so cruel and destructive. ... It would eliminate the individual mandate, undermine if not effectively eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions, and slash funding for subsidies and Medicaid. There are a few additional twists, but they’re all bad...
Yet there is a real chance that Graham-Cassidy ... will nonetheless become law, because not enough people are taking it seriously. ...
The main reason Republican leaders couldn’t do that on previous health bills was public outrage and activism. Letters and phone calls, demonstrators and crowds at town halls, made it clear that many Americans were aware of the stakes, and that politicians who voted to take health care away from millions would be held accountable.
Now, however, the news cycle has moved on, taking public attention with it. Many progressives have already begun taking Obamacare’s achievements for granted, and are moving on from protest against right-wing schemes to dreams of single-payer. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the kind of environment in which swing senators, no longer in the spotlight, might be bribed or bullied into voting for a truly terrible bill.
The good news is that for technical reasons of parliamentary procedure, Graham-Cassidy has to pass by the end of this month, or not at all. The bad news is that such passage is a real possibility.
So if you care about preserving the huge gains the A.C.A. has brought, make your voice heard. Otherwise we may wake up to another terrible morning after.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Paul Krugman: Politicians, Promises, and Getting Real

Paul Krugman:

Politicians, Promises, and Getting Real, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: On Wednesday Donald Trump demanded that Congress move quickly to enact his tax reform plan. But so far he has not, in fact, offered any such plan...
Meanwhile, 17 Senate Democrats ... have signed on to Bernie Sanders’s call for expanding Medicare to cover the whole population. So far, however, Sanders hasn’t produced either an estimate of how much that would cost or a specific proposal about how to pay for it.
I don’t mean to suggest that these cases are comparable: The distinctive Trumpian mix of ignorance and fraudulence has no counterpart among Democrats. Still, both stories raise the question of how much ... policy clarity matters for politicians’ ability to win elections and ... govern.
About elections: The fact that Trump is in the White House suggests that politicians can get away with telling voters just about anything that sounds good. ...
On the other hand, the ignominious failure of Trumpcare shows that reality sometimes does matter. ... Once the public realized that tens of millions would lose coverage..., there was a huge backlash...
The story of tax reform ... is starting to look a bit similar. ...
In fact, Trump himself seems to be experiencing cognitive dissonance. “The rich will not be gaining at all with this plan,” he declared Wednesday. ... Is he oblivious, lying, or both? ...
The contrast between what he’s claiming and anything Republicans in Congress will be willing to support is so great as to practically invite ridicule and another popular backlash. ...
But is the push for single-payer health care taking Democrats down a similar path?
Unlike just about everything Trump and company are proposing, Medicare for all is a substantively good idea. Yet actually making it happen would probably mean ... a serious political backlash. For one..., it would require a substantial increase in taxes. For another, it would mean telling scores of millions of Americans who get health coverage though their employers, and are generally satisfied..., that they need to give it up and accept something different. ...
Democrats could eventually find themselves facing a Trumpcare-type debacle, unable either to implement their unrealistic vision or to let it go.
The point is that while unrealistic promises may not hurt you in elections, they can become a big problem when you try to govern. Having a vision for the future is good, but being real about the difficulties is also good. Democrats, take heed.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Paul Krugman: Conspiracies, Corruption and Climate

"Why are U.S. conservatives so willing to disbelieve science and buy into tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories":

Conspiracies, Corruption and Climate, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: After the devastation wreaked by Harvey on Houston — devastation that was right in line with meteorologists’ predictions — you might have expected everyone to take heed when the same experts warned about the danger posed by Hurricane Irma. But you would have been wrong.
On Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh accused weather scientists of inventing Irma’s threat for political and financial reasons: “There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it,” he declared, adding that “fear and panic” help sell batteries, bottled water, and TV advertising.
He evacuated his Palm Beach mansion soon afterward.
In a way, we should be grateful to Limbaugh for at least raising the subject of climate change and its relationship to hurricanes..., it’s a topic the Trump administration is trying desperately to avoid. ...
So what should we learn from Limbaugh’s outburst? ... The important point is that he’s not an outlier..., denying science while attacking scientists as politically motivated and venal is standard operating procedure on the American right. ...
And thanks to Trump’s electoral victory, know-nothing, anti-science conservatives are now running the U.S. government. ... Almost every senior figure in the Trump administration dealing with the environment or energy is both an establishment Republican and a denier of climate change and of scientific evidence in general. ...
All of these scientists, they insist, motivated by peer pressure and financial rewards, are falsifying data and suppressing contrary views.
This is crazy talk. But it’s utterly mainstream on the modern right, among pundits ... and politicians alike.
Why are U.S. conservatives so willing to disbelieve science and buy into tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories about scientists? Part of the answer is that they’re engaged in projection: That’s the way things work in their world. ... Today’s right-wing intellectual universe, such as it is, is dominated by hired guns who are essentially propagandists rather than researchers.
And right-wing politicians harass and persecute actual researchers whose conclusions they don’t like — an effort that has been vastly empowered now that Trump is in power. ...
The bottom line is that we are now ruled by people who are completely alienated not just from the scientific community, but from the scientific idea — the notion that objective assessment of evidence is the way to understand the world. And this willful ignorance is deeply frightening. Indeed, it may end up destroying civilization.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Paul Krugman: Dreamers, Liars and Bad Economics

"Trump and company tell a lot of lies about economics":

Dreamers, Liars and Bad Economics, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Does it matter that Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, tried to justify Donald Trump’s immigration cruelty with junk economics?
It’s definitely not the main issue. Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy is, above all else, immoral. The 800,000 beneficiaries of DACA — the so-called Dreamers — have done nothing wrong; they came to the United States illegally, but not of their own volition, because they were children at the time.
They are, according to all available data, an exemplary segment of our population: hard-working young people, many seeking to improve themselves through higher education. They’re committed to the values of their home — because America is their home.
To yank the rug out from under the Dreamers ... is a cruel betrayal. ...
Still, Sessions chose to put economics front and center in his statement, declaring that DACA, which allows the Dreamers to work legally, has “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.” That’s just false...
Trump and company tell a lot of lies about economics (and everything else). ...
The truth is that letting the Dreamers work legally helps the U.S. economy; pushing them out or into the shadows is bad for everyone except racists.
To understand why, you need to realize that America, like other advanced economies, is facing a double-barreled demographic challenge thanks to declining fertility.
On one side, an aging population means fewer workers paying taxes to support Social Security and Medicare. Demography is the main reason long-run forecasts suggest problems for Social Security, and an important reason for concerns about Medicare. Driving out young workers who will pay into the system for many decades is a way to make these problems worse.
On the other side, declining growth in the working-age population reduces the returns to private investment, increasing the risk of prolonged slumps like the one that followed the 2008 financial crisis.
It’s not an accident that Japan, which has low fertility and is deeply hostile to immigration, began experiencing persistent deflation and stagnation a decade before the rest of the world. Destroying DACA makes America more like Japan. Why would we want to do that? ...
In short, letting Dreamers work is all economic upside for the rest of our nation, with no downside unless you have something against people with brown skin and Hispanic surnames. Which is, of course, what this is all really about.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Monopoly Rents and Corporate Taxation

Paul Krugman:

Monopoly Rents and Corporate Taxation (Wonkish): At one level it’s hard to take the Trump administration’s tax “reform” push seriously. A guy gets elected as a populist and his first two big proposals are (a) taking away health insurance from millions (b) cutting corporate taxes. Wow.
Furthermore, Trump is invincibly ignorant on taxes (and everything else) — he keeps declaring that America is the highest taxed nation in the world, which is nearly the opposite of the truth among advanced countries. And his allies in Congress aren’t ignorant, but they’re liars: Paul Ryan is the master of mystery meat, of promising to raise and save trillions in unspecified ways.
But there is an actual interesting question here, even if we shouldn’t give any credence to Republican answers. Who does, in fact, pay the corporate profit tax? Does it fall on corporations, and hence eventually on their shareholders? Or is the ultimate incidence mainly on wages, as the administration claims?

Skipping forward to the punchline:

...much corporate taxation probably doesn’t fall on returns to physical capital, but rather on monopoly rents. ... As long as the local source of profit is some kind of monopoly rent, corporate tax incidence is going to fall on shareholders, not workers. ...
And there’s a lot of reason to believe that market power is an increasingly big deal. ...
This changes the narrative, doesn’t it? Instead of focusing on rising capital mobility as a reason profits taxes might fall on workers, maybe we should focus on rising market power as a reason why profits taxes fall on capitalists.
The point for now is that when someone tells you that changes in the world have made old-style corporate taxes obsolete, be skeptical. Some changes in the world may have made profit taxation a better idea than ever.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Better Way to Elect Presidents (Video) - Eric Maskin

The systems that most countries use to elect presidents are deeply flawed. In particular, candidates A and B may each be more popular than C (in the sense that either would beat C in a head-to-head contest), but nevertheless each may lose to C if they both run. The systems therefore fail to reflect voters’ preferences adequately. In this lecture, I will illustrate this point with examples from U.S. and French political history. I will also propose an election system that is far superior to the current ones.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Paul Krugman: Fascism, American Style

"Let’s call things by their proper names":

Fascism, American Style, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: As sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio engaged in blatant racial discrimination. His officers systematically targeted Latinos, often arresting them on spurious charges and at least sometimes beating them up... Read the report from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and prepare to be horrified.
Once Latinos were arrested, bad things happened to them. Many were sent to Tent City, which Arpaio himself proudly called a “concentration camp,” where they lived under brutal conditions, with temperatures inside the tents sometimes rising to 145 degrees.
And when he received court orders to stop these practices, he simply ignored them, which led to his eventual conviction — after decades in office — for contempt of court. But he had friends in high places, indeed in the highest of places. We now know that Donald Trump tried to get the Justice Department to drop the case against Arpaio, a clear case of attempted obstruction of justice. And when that ploy failed, Trump ... pardoned him. ...
Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style. ...
There have been endless reports about the low-education white voters who went overwhelmingly for Trump... But he wouldn’t have made it over the top without millions of votes from well-educated Republicans who ... had no excuse for not realizing what kind of man he was. ...
This bodes ill if, as seems all too likely, the Arpaio pardon is only the beginning: We may well be in the early stages of a constitutional crisis. Does anyone consider it unthinkable that Trump will fire Robert Mueller, and try to shut down investigations into his personal and political links to Russia? Does anyone have confidence that Republicans in Congress will do anything more than express mild disagreement ... if he does?
As I said, there’s a word for people who round up members of ethnic minorities and send them to concentration camps, or praise such actions. There’s also a word for people who, out of cowardice or self-interest, go along with such abuses: collaborators. How many such collaborators will there be? I’m afraid we’ll soon find out.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trump and Pruitt, Making America Polluted Again

"Don’t say that the administration’s agenda is stalled":

Trump and Pruitt, Making America Polluted Again, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Efforts to kill Obamacare have failed, at least for now. Tax “reform” — which really means big tax cuts for the rich — faces doubtful prospects. ...
So many observers are asking whether Trump can restart his stalled agenda. But that turns out to be a bad question...
First, Trump doesn’t really have an agenda beyond “winning.” He has instincts and prejudices, but no interest in the details, or even the broad outlines, of policy...
Which brings me to my second point: While the legislative agenda does indeed appear stalled, a lot of what those interest groups want doesn’t require legislation, and is anything but stalled. This is especially true for environmental policy, where decisions about how to interpret and enforce laws ... can have a huge impact.
So Trump’s true legacy may well be defined not by the laws he does or more likely doesn’t pass, but by his decision to put Scott Pruitt in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.
As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt effectively acted as a servant, not of the public, but of polluting industries. That’s not an accusation; it’s confirmed by his own email trail. ...
Pruitt can do a lot of harm without changing the law. He can, for example, reverse the ban on a pesticide that the E.P.A.’s own scientists say may damage children’s nervous systems. Or he can move to scrap a rule that would limit heavy-metal contamination from power-plant wastewater.
And he can cripple enforcement of the rules he doesn’t undo simply by working with Trump to starve his own agency of personnel and funds. The Trump budget released in May ... was an indication of priorities — and it called for cutting funding for the E.P.A. by 31 percent, more than any other agency.
Individually, no one of these actions is likely to be treated as front-page news... Cumulatively, however, they will kill or cripple large numbers of Americans — for that is what pollution does, even if the damage is gradual and sometimes invisible.
By the way, if you’re wondering whether an anti-environmental agenda will at least be good for job creation, the answer is no... This agenda will, however, be worth billions to certain campaign donors.
So don’t say that the administration’s agenda is stalled. Some parts are, but other parts are moving right along. When it comes to environmental policy, Trump will definitely change America — and his legacy will literally be toxic.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Paul Krugman: What Will Trump Do to American Workers?

"So is the Trump agenda dead? Not necessarily":

What Will Trump Do to American Workers?, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...Donald Trump’s promise to be a populist fighting for ordinary workers was worth about as much as any other Trump promise — that is, nothing. His agenda, such as it is, amounts to reverse Robin Hood with extra racism — the conventional Republican strategy of taking from struggling families to give to the rich, while distracting lower-income whites by attacking Those People, with the only difference being just how blatantly he plays the race card.
At first sight, however, the Trump version of this strategy doesn’t seem to be going very well. ...
So is the Trump agenda dead? Not necessarily, because trickle-down has never been the whole story of the Republican assault on workers. Or to put it another way: Don’t just watch Congress, keep your eyes on what federal agencies are doing.
When you step back and take the long view on trickle-down policies, what you realize is that Trump’s legislative failure is more the rule than the exception. The election of Ronald Reagan was supposed to have set America on a path toward lower taxes and smaller government — and it did, for a while. But those changes have largely been reversed. ...
But here’s the thing: While the rich still pay taxes and the safety net has in some ways gotten stronger, the decades since Reagan have nonetheless been marked by vastly increased inequality, with stagnating wages for most, but soaring incomes for a tiny elite. How did that happen?
Yes, globalization probably played some role, as did technology. But other wealthy countries, just as exposed to the winds of global change, haven’t seen anything like America’s headlong rush into a new Gilded Age. To understand what happened to us..., you need to look at policy — and especially the kind of policy that often flies under the media’s radar. ...
Which brings us back to Trump and the effect he’ll have on America’s working class. Right now it looks as if he may have much less impact on taxing and spending than most people expected. But other policies, often made administratively by federal agencies rather than via legislation, can matter a lot. ...
The point is that progressives shouldn’t celebrate too much over Trump’s legislative failures. As long as he’s in office, he retains a lot of power to betray the working people who supported him. And in case you haven’t noticed, betraying those who trust him is a Trump specialty.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trump Makes Caligula Look Pretty Good

"The Worst President Ever™":

Trump Makes Caligula Look Pretty Good, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Even before the media obsession with Hillary Clinton’s email server put The Worst President Ever™ in the White House, historians were comparing Donald Trump to Caligula, the cruel, depraved Roman emperor who delighted in humiliating others, especially members of the empire’s elite. But seven months into the Trump administration, we can see that this comparison was unfair.
For one thing, Caligula did not, as far as we know, foment ethnic violence within the empire. For another ... Rome’s government continued to function reasonably well despite his antics...
Finally, when his behavior became truly intolerable, Rome’s elite did what the party now controlling Congress seems unable even to contemplate: It found a way to get rid of him.
Anyone with eyes — eyes not glued to Fox News, anyway — has long realized that Trump is utterly incapable, morally and intellectually, of filling the office he holds. But in the past few days things seem to have reached a critical mass. ...
Everyone in Washington now knows that we have a president who never meant it when he swore to defend the Constitution. He violates that oath just about every day and is never going to get any better.
The good news is that the founding fathers contemplated that possibility and offered a constitutional remedy: Unlike the senators of ancient Rome, who had to conspire with the Praetorian Guard to get Caligula assassinated, the U.S. Congress has the ability to remove a rogue president.
But ... all we get from the vast majority of elected Republicans are off-the-record expressions of “dismay” or denunciations of bigotry that somehow fail to name the bigot in chief. ...
The fact is that white supremacists have long been a key if unacknowledged part of the G.O.P. coalition, and Republicans need those votes to win general elections. Given the profiles in cowardice they’ve presented so far, it’s hard to imagine anything — up to and including evidence of collusion with a foreign power — that would make them risk losing those voters’ support.
So the odds are that we’re stuck with a malevolent, incompetent president... If so, we have to hope that our country somehow stumbles through the next year and a half without catastrophe, and that the midterm elections transform the political calculus and make the Constitution great again.
If that doesn’t happen, all one can say is God save America. Because all indications are that the Republicans won’t.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Paul Krugman: When the President Is Un-American

"we don’t need to wonder whether an anti-American cabal ... has seized power in Washington. It has:":

When the President Is Un-American, by Payl Krugman, NY Times: ...what makes America America is that it is built around an idea: the idea that all men are created equal, and are entitled to basic human rights. Take away that idea and we’re just a giant version of a two-bit autocracy. ...
Real Americans understand that our nation is built around values, not the “blood and soil” of the marchers’ chants; what makes you an American is your attempt to live up to those values, not the place or race your ancestors came from. ...
But the man who began his political ascent by falsely questioning Barack Obama’s place of birth — a blood-and-soil argument if ever there was one — clearly cares nothing about the openness and inclusiveness that have always been essential parts of who we are...
Real Americans understand that our nation was born in a rebellion against tyranny. They feel an instinctive aversion to tyrants..., and an underlying sympathy for democratic regimes...
But the present occupant of the White House has made no secret of preferring the company, not of democratic leaders, but of authoritarian rulers...
Real Americans expect public officials to be humbled by the responsibility that comes with the job. They’re not supposed to be boastful blowhards ... like Trump...
Real Americans understand that being a powerful public figure means facing criticism... Foreign autocrats may rage against unflattering news reports, threaten to inflict financial harm on publications they dislike, talk about imprisoning journalists; American leaders aren’t supposed to sound like that.
Finally, real Americans who manage to achieve high office realize that they are ... meant to use their position for the public good. ... Now we have a leader who is transparently exploiting his office for personal enrichment, in ways that all too obviously amount in practice to influence-buying by domestic malefactors and foreign governments alike.
In short, these days we have a president who is really, truly, deeply un-American, someone who doesn’t share the values and ideals that made this country special...., it’s remarkable that Trump won’t even pretend to be outraged at Putin’s meddling with our election. ...
Whatever role foreign influence may have played and may still be playing, however, we don’t need to wonder whether an anti-American cabal, hostile to everything we stand for, determined to undermine everything that truly makes this country great, has seized power in Washington. It has: it’s called the Trump administration.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Paul Krugman: The Axis of Climate Evil

"Where does climate denial come from?":

The Axis of Climate Evil, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...At this point the evidence for human-caused global warming just keeps getting more overwhelming, and the plausible scenarios for the future — extreme weather events, rising sea levels, drought, and more — just keep getting scarier.
In a rational world urgent action to limit climate change would be the overwhelming policy priority for governments everywhere.
But the U.S. government is, of course, now controlled by a party within which climate denial — rejecting not just scientific evidence but also obvious lived experience, and fiercely opposing any effort to slow the trend — has become a defining marker of tribal identity. ...
So where does climate denial come from? ... The answer, I’d argue, is that there are actually three groups involved — a sort of axis of climate evil.
First, and most obvious, there’s the fossil fuel industry — think the Koch brothers — which has an obvious financial stake in continuing to sell dirty energy. And the industry ... has systematically showered money on think tanks and scientists willing to express skepticism about climate change. ...
Still, the mercenary interests of fossil fuel companies aren’t the whole story here. There’s also ideology.
An influential part of the U.S. political spectrum — think the Wall Street Journal editorial page — is opposed to any and all forms of government economic regulation; it’s committed to Reagan’s doctrine that government is always the problem, never the solution. ...
Some conservatives ... support market-friendly intervention to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But all too many prefer simply to deny the existence of the issue — if facts conflict with their ideology, they deny the facts.
Finally, there are a few public intellectuals — less important than the plutocrats and ideologues, but if you ask me even more shameful — who adopt a pose of climate skepticism out of sheer ego. In effect, they say: “Look at me! I’m smart! I’m contrarian! I’ll show you how clever I am by denying the scientific consensus!” And for the sake of this posturing, they’re willing to nudge us further down the road to catastrophe.
Which brings me back to the current political situation. Right now progressives are feeling better than they expected to a few months ago: Donald Trump and his frenemies in Congress are accomplishing a lot less than they hoped, and their opponents feared. But that doesn’t change the reality that the axis of climate evil is now firmly in control of U.S. policy, and the world may never recover.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Paul Krugman: Obamacare Rage in Retrospect

"What was Obamacare rage about?":

Obamacare Rage in Retrospect, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: I guess it ain’t over until the portly golfer sings, but it does look as if Obamacare will survive. ...
It’s true that the tweeter in chief retains considerable ability to sabotage care, but Republicans are basically begging him to stop, believing — correctly — that the public will blame them for any future deterioration in coverage.
Why did Obamacare survive? The shocking answer: It’s still here because it does so much good. ...
Which raises a big question: Why did the prospect of health reform produce so much popular rage in 2009 and 2010?
I’m not talking about the rage of G.O.P. apparatchiks, who hated and feared the A.C.A., not because they thought it would fail, but because they were afraid it would work. (It has.) Nor am I talking about the rage of some wealthy people furious that their taxes were going up to pay for lesser mortals’ care.
No, I’m talking about the people who screamed at their congressional representatives in town halls... What was Obamacare rage about?
Much of it was orchestrated by pressure groups like Freedom Works, and it’s a good guess that some of the “ordinary citizens” who appeared at town halls were actually right-wing activists. Still, there was plenty of genuine popular rage, stoked by misinformation and outright lies from the usual suspects: Fox News, talk radio and so on. ...
The question then becomes why so many people believed these lies. The answer, I believe, comes down to a combination of identity politics and affinity fraud.
Whenever I see someone castigating liberals for engaging in identity politics, I wonder what such people imagine the right has been doing all these years. For generations, conservatives have conditioned many Americans to believe that safety-net programs are all about taking things away from white people and giving stuff to minorities.
And those who stoked Obamacare rage were believed because they seemed to some Americans like their kind of people — that is, white people defending them against you-know-who.
So what’s the moral of this story? ...
It’s certainly not encouraging to realize how easily many Americans were duped by right-wing lies, pushed into screaming rage against a reform that would actually improve their lives.
On the other hand, the truth did eventually prevail, and Republicans’ inability to handle that truth is turning into a real political liability. And in the meantime, Obamacare has made America a better place.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Paul Krugman: Who Ate Republicans’ Brains?

"Where did this zombie horde come from?":

Who Ate Republicans’ Brains?, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: When the tweeter-in-chief castigated Senate Republicans as “total quitters” for failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, they showed zombie-like relentlessness in their determination to take health care away from millions of Americans, shambling forward despite devastating analyses by the Congressional Budget Office, denunciations of their plans by every major medical group, and overwhelming public disapproval.
Put it this way: Senator Lindsey Graham was entirely correct when he described the final effort at repeal as “terrible policy and horrible politics,” a “disaster” and a “fraud.” He voted for it anyway — and so did 48 of his colleagues.
So where did this zombie horde come from? Who ate Republicans’ brains? ...
The Republican health care debacle was the culmination of a process of intellectual and moral deterioration that began four decades ago...
A key moment came in the 1970s, when Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, embraced supply-side economics — the claim, refuted by all available evidence and experience, that tax cuts pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. Writing years later, he actually boasted about valuing political expediency over intellectual integrity: “I was not certain of its economic merits but quickly saw its political possibilities.” In another essay, he cheerfully conceded to having had a “cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit,” because it was all about creating a Republican majority — so “political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.”
The problem is that once you accept the principle that it’s O.K. to lie if it helps you win elections, it gets ever harder to limit the extent of the lying — or even to remember what it’s like to seek the truth. ...
Given this history, the Republican health care disaster was entirely predictable. You can’t expect good or even coherent policy proposals from a party that has spent decades embracing politically useful lies and denigrating expertise. ...
Now what? Maybe, just maybe, Republicans will work with Democrats to make the health system work better — after all, polls suggest that voters will, rightly, blame them for any future problems. But it wouldn’t be easy for them to face reality even if their president wasn’t a bloviating bully.
And it’s hard to imagine anything good happening on other policy fronts, either. Republicans have spent decades losing their ability to think straight, and they’re not going to get it back anytime soon.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Paul Krugman: The Sanctimony and Sin of G.O.P. ‘Moderates’

"The hypocrisy sweepstakes":

The Sanctimony and Sin of G.O.P. ‘Moderates’, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: ...When we look at the degeneration of American politics, it’s natural to blame the naked partisans — people like Mitch McConnell, with his principle-free will to power, or Ted Cruz, with his ideological rigidity. And Trump has, of course, done more to degrade his office than any previous occupant of the White House.
But none of what is happening right now would be possible without the acquiescence of politicians who pretend to be open-minded, decry partisanship, tut-tut about incivility and act as enablers for the extremists again and again.
I started with McCain because so many journalists still fall for his pose as an independent-minded maverick, ignoring the reality that he has almost always been a reliable partisan yes-man whenever it matters. ...
But he has rivals in the hypocrisy sweepstakes. Consider, for example, Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia — whose state has benefited enormously from the Affordable Care Act. “I didn’t come here to hurt people,” she declared not long ago — then voted for a bill that would quadruple the number of uninsured in West Virginia.
Or consider Rob Portman of Ohio, who cultivates an image as a moderate, praises Medicaid and talked big about the defects of Republican health plans — but also voted for that bill. Hey, in Ohio the number of uninsured would only triple. Let’s add Dean Heller of Nevada, who has lauded his state’s federally financed Medicaid expansion, but voted along with McCain to let debate proceed on an unknown bill, very much putting that expansion at risk.
Credit where credit is due: two senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have stood up against the effort to betray every promise Republicans have made — and McCain did something right in the end. But every other supposed moderate in the Senate has offered a profile in cowardice.
And let’s be clear: This story didn’t start in the last few weeks, or the past few months. Republicans have been denouncing Obamacare and pledging to repeal and replace it for seven years, only to be caught flat-footed when given the chance to come up with an alternative. ...
So will the Senate pass something awful? If it does, will the House pass it, too, or try to use it as a Trojan horse for something even worse? I don’t know. But whatever happens, every Senate Republican besides Collins and Murkowski should be deeply ashamed.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Paul Krugman: Health Care Is Still in Danger

"The latest round of falsehoods about health care, combined with the defamation of the C.B.O., may be gaining some political traction":

Health Care Is Still in Danger, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Will Senate Republicans try to destroy health care under cover of a constitutional crisis? That’s a serious question, based in part on what happened in the House...
As you may remember, back in March attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act seemed dead after the Congressional Budget Office released a devastating assessment..., the House Republican bill would lead to 23 million more uninsured Americans. Faced with intense media scrutiny and an outpouring of public opposition, House leaders pulled their bill, and the debate seemed over.
But then media attention moved on to presidential tweets and other outrages — and with the spotlight off, House leaders bullied and bribed enough holdouts to narrowly pass a bill after all.
Could something similar happen in the Senate? A few days ago the Senate’s equally awful version of repeal and replace ... seemed dead. And media attention has visibly shifted off the subject, focusing on juicier topics like the Russia-Trump story. ...
One particular concern is that the latest round of falsehoods about health care, combined with the defamation of the C.B.O., may be gaining some political traction. ... In particular, the claim is that its prediction of huge losses in coverage is outlandish, and that to the extent that fewer people would be covered, it would be due to their voluntary choices.
In reality, those C.B.O. predictions of coverage losses are totally reasonable, given the ... drastic cuts to Medicaid...
And on those claims that it’s O.K. if people drop coverage, because that would be their own choice... Current law provides enough in subsidies that an individual with an income of $26,500 can afford a plan covering 70 percent of medical expenses, which ... implies an $800 deductible. The Senate bill reduces that standard of coverage to 58 percent, which would raise the implied deductible to $13,000, making the insurance effectively useless. Would deciding not to buy that useless insurance really be a “choice”? ...
In short, the Senate bill is every bit as cruel and grotesque as its critics say. But we need to keep reminding wavering senators and their constituents of that fact, lest they be snowed by a blizzard of lies. ...
And while ordinary citizens can’t yet do much about the looming constitutional crisis, their calls, letters, and protests can still make all the difference on health care. Don’t let the bad guys in the Senate do terrible things because you weren’t paying attention!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Paul Krugman: Health Care in a Time of Sabotage

"It’s basically about spite":

Health Care in a Time of Sabotage, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Is Trumpcare finally dead? Even now, it’s hard to be sure, especially given Republican moderates’ long track record of caving in to extremists at crucial moments. But it does look as if the frontal assault on the Affordable Care Act has failed.
And let’s be clear: The reason this assault failed wasn’t that Donald Trump did a poor selling job, or that Mitch McConnell mishandled the legislative strategy. Obamacare survived because it has worked — because it brought about a dramatic reduction in the number of Americans without health insurance, and voters ... don’t want to lose those gains.
Unfortunately, some of those gains will probably be lost all the same: The number of uninsured Americans is likely to tick up over the next few years. So it’s important to say clearly, in advance, why this is about to happen. It won’t be because the Affordable Care Act is failing..., when Trump threatens to “let Obamacare fail,” what he’s really threatening is to make it fail.
On Wednesday The Times reported on three ways the Trump administration is, in effect, sabotaging the A.C.A.... First, the administration is weakening enforcement of the requirement that healthy people buy coverage. Second, it’s letting states impose onerous rules like work requirements on people seeking Medicaid. Third, it has backed off on advertising and outreach designed to let people know about options for coverage. ...
And there may be worse to come: Insurance companies, which are required by law to limit out-of-pocket expenses of low-income customers, are already raising premiums sharply because they’re worried about a possible cutoff of the crucial federal “cost-sharing reduction” subsidies that help them meet that requirement.
The truly amazing thing about these sabotage efforts is that they don’t serve any obvious purpose. They won’t save money — in fact, cutting off those subsidies ... would probably end up costing taxpayers more money than keeping them. They’re unlikely to revive Trumpcare’s political prospects.
So this isn’t about policy, or even politics in the normal sense. It’s basically about spite: Trump and his allies may have suffered a humiliating political defeat, but at least they can make millions of other people suffer.
Can anything be done to protect Americans from this temper tantrum? In some cases, I believe, state governments can insulate their citizens from malfeasance at H.H.S. But the most important thing, surely, is to place the blame where it belongs. No, Mr. Trump, Obamacare isn’t failing; you are.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

This Ridiculous Republican Propaganda is Exactly Why We Need the CBO

Catherine Rampell:

This ridiculous Republican propaganda is exactly why we need the CBO: Tuesday I wrote about the GOP’s systematic efforts to discredit and disempower any independent voice — media, the Congressional Budget Office, the Office of Government Ethics — that tries to hold government accountable.
Today we have a great example of the ridiculous propaganda that Republicans expect the public to swallow in the absence of such independent critics and scorekeepers.
The Washington Examiner has gotten its hands on a Trump administration “analysis” (I use that word loosely) of the Consumer Freedom Amendment, a proposal from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). ...
Talk to literally any economist, including conservative ones, and you’ll learn that this idea would lead to adverse selection, a huge spike in premiums for sick people..., a proliferation of mini-med junk plans that cover virtually nothing..., and a possible death spiral. A more detailed explanation of this phenomenon is here. ...
Contrary to the predictions of economists everywhere, the HHS propaganda document claims that the Cruz amendment would cause insurance coverage to go up and premiums to fall. Astoundingly, even premiums for people in the Obamacare-compliant plans — which, again, economic theory suggests would get stuck with only the very sickest, most expensive Americans — would allegedly decline relative to current law. ...
This is garbage, and exactly why we need nonpartisan scorekeepers like the CBO. ...

Friday, July 14, 2017

Paul Krugman: The Cruelty and Fraudulence of Mitch McConnell’s Health Bill

"the last act in a long con":

The Cruelty and Fraudulence of Mitch McConnell’s Health Bill, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: A few days ago the tweeter in chief demanded that Congress enact “a beautiful new HealthCare bill” before it goes into recess. But now we’ve seen Mitch McConnell’s latest version of health “reform,” and “beautiful” is hardly the word for it. In fact, it’s surpassingly ugly, intellectually and morally. Previous iterations of Trumpcare were terrible, but this one is, incredibly, even worse. ...
The most important change in the bill ... is the way it would effectively gut protection for people with pre-existing medical conditions. The Affordable Care Act put minimum standards on the kinds of policies insurers were allowed to offer; the new Senate bill gives in to demands by Ted Cruz that insurers be allowed to offer skimpy plans that cover very little, with very high deductibles that would make them useless to most people.
The effects of this change would be disastrous. Don’t take my word for it: It’s what the insurers themselves say. ...
Or to put it another way, this bill would send insurance markets into a classic death spiral. Republicans have been predicting such a spiral for years, but keep being wrong: ...Obamacare ... is stabilizing, and doing pretty well in states that support it. But this bill would effectively sabotage all that progress.
And let’s be clear: Many of the victims of this sabotage would be members of the white working class, people who voted for Donald Trump in the belief that he really meant it when he promised that there would be no cuts to Medicaid and that everyone would get better, cheaper insurance. So why ... is there even a chance that it might become law?
The main answer, I’d argue, is that ... conservative ideology always denied the proposition that people are entitled to health care; the Republican elite considered and still considers people on Medicaid, in particular, “takers” who are effectively stealing from the deserving rich.
And the conservative view has always been that Americans have health insurance that is too good, that they should pay more in deductibles and co-pays, giving them “skin in the game,” and thus an incentive to control costs.
So what we’re seeing here is supposed to be the last act in a long con, the moment when the fraudsters cash in, and their victims discover how completely they’ve been fooled. The only question is whether they’ll really get away with it. We’ll find out very soon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How Market Power Leads to Corporate Political Influence

 From ProMarket:

How Market Power Leads to Corporate Political Influence, by Asher Schechter: Neoclassical economic theory assumes that firms have no power to influence the rules of the game. A new paper by Luigi Zingales argues: This is true only in competitive product markets. When firms have market power, they will seek and obtain political influence and vice versa.
In 2016, the advocacy group Global Justice Now published a report showing that 69 of the world’s largest 100 economic entities are now corporations, not governments. With annual revenues of $485.9 billion, Walmart topped all but nine countries. As the world’s corporations continue to grow bigger and more profitable, so does the power and influence they wield: multinational corporations employ vast armies of lobbyists, lawyers, and PR people across borders and continents, and they have more than enough resources to capture regulators and elected representatives the world over.
Yet, the prevailing economic definition views firms as merely “a nexus of contracts” with “no power of fiat, no authority, no disciplinary action any different in the slightest degree from ordinary market contracting between two people.” How is it possible to reconcile these two views? A new paper by Luigi Zingales (Faculty Director of the Stigler Center and one of the editors of this blog) tries to bridge this gap.
The Medici vicious circle
The neoclassical model of the firm, notes Zingales, is a reasonable description of firms operating in highly competitive markets, where firms have little incentives and fewer resources to distort the rules of the game. Little incentives because in a neoclassical framework firms are relatively small, and thus the costs of these activities tend to exceed their share of the benefits. Fewer resources, because a competitive market does not provide firms with abnormal profits to spend in lobbying activities. 
The opposite is true in concentrated markets, where firms enjoy sufficiently high profits to spend in lobbying activity. Some market power is particularly important to gain political influence when cash bribes are relatively rare, writes Zingales. In such an environment, firms gain political power through promises of future benefits. Only if firms have significant market power do they have rents to allocate. At the same time, firms’ promises of future rents are credible only to the extent that firms are expected to be around in the future, a prospect greatly enhanced by the existence of some barrier to entry in the markets in which they operate. Thus, firms can gain political power only when they have significant market power. ...

Friday, July 07, 2017

Paul Krugman: Attack of the Republican Decepticons

Conservatives "keep scaling new heights of dishonesty in their attempt to sell their reverse-Robin Hood agenda":

Attack of the Republican Decepticons, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Does anyone remember the “reformicons”? A couple of years back there was much talk about a new generation of Republicans who would ... move their party off its cruel and mindless agenda of tax cuts for the rich and pain for the poor, bringing back the intellectual seriousness that supposedly used to characterize the conservative movement.
But the rise of the reformicons never happened. What we got instead was the (further) rise of the decepticons..., conservatives who keep scaling new heights of dishonesty in their attempt to sell their reverse-Robin Hood agenda.
Consider ... Republican leaders’ strategy on health care..., here are a few low points. ...
Despite encountering some significant problems, the Affordable Care Act has ... extended health insurance to millions of Americans... And these numbers translate into dramatic positive impacts on real lives. ...
How do Republicans argue against this success? You can get a good overview by looking at the Twitter feed of Tom Price,... secretary of health and human services...
First, he points to the fact that fewer people than expected have signed up on the exchanges ... and portrays this as a sign of dire failure. But a lot of this shortfall is the result of good news: Fewer employers than predicted chose to drop coverage and shift their workers onto exchange plans. ...
Second, he points to the 28 million U.S. residents who remain uninsured... But nobody expected Obamacare to cover everyone... And you have to wonder how Price can look himself in the mirror ... when his own party’s plans would vastly increase the number of uninsured.
Which brings us to Republicans’ efforts to obscure the nature of their own plans. ...
On one side, they claim that a cut is not a cut, because dollar spending on Medicaid would still rise over time. ...
On the other side ... senior Republicans ... dismiss declines in the number of people with coverage as no big deal, because they would represent voluntary choices not to buy insurance.
How is this supposed to apply to the 15 million people the C.B.O. predicts would lose Medicaid? ...
Political spin used to have its limits: Politicians who wanted to be taken seriously wouldn’t go around claiming that up is down and black is white.
Yet today’s Republicans hardly ever do anything else. It’s not just Donald Trump: The whole G.O.P. has become a post-truth party. And I see no sign that it will ever improve.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Paul Krugman: Understanding Republican Cruelty

What's the driving force behind the Republican's "ugly health plan":

Understanding Republican Cruelty, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: The basics of Republican health legislation ... are easy to describe: Take health insurance away from tens of millions, make it much worse and far more expensive for millions more, and use the money thus saved to cut taxes on the wealthy. ...
The puzzle ... is why the party is pushing this harsh, morally indefensible agenda.
Think about it. Losing health coverage is a nightmare, especially if you’re older, have health problems and/or lack the financial resources to cope if illness strikes. ...
Meanwhile, taxes that fall mainly on a tiny, wealthy minority would be reduced or eliminated. These cuts would be big in dollar terms, but because the rich are already so rich, the savings would make very little difference to their lives. ...
Which brings me back to my question: Why would anyone want to do this?
I won’t pretend to have a full answer, but I think there are two big drivers — actually, two big lies — behind Republican cruelty on health care and beyond.
First..., Republicans spent almost the entire Obama administration railing against the imaginary horrors of the Affordable Care Act — death panels! — repealing Obamacare was bound to be their first priority.
Once the prospect of repeal became real, however, Republicans had to face the fact that Obamacare, far from being the failure they portrayed, has done what it was supposed to do...
So one way to understand this ugly health plan is that Republicans, through their political opportunism and dishonesty, boxed themselves into a position that makes them seem cruel and immoral — because they are.
Yet that’s surely not the whole story, because Obamacare isn’t the only social insurance program that does great good yet faces incessant right-wing attack. Food stamps, unemployment insurance, disability benefits all get the same treatment. Why?
As with Obamacare, this story began with a politically convenient lie — the pretense ... that social safety net programs just reward lazy people who don’t want to work. And we all know which people in particular were supposed to be on the take.
Now, this was never true..., some of the biggest beneficiaries of these safety net programs are members of the Trump-supporting white working class. ...
So what will happen to this monstrous bill? I have no idea. Whether it passes or not, however, remember this moment. For this is what modern Republicans do; this is who they are.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Will Macron’s Marchers take power?

Thomas Piketty:

Will Macron’s Marchers take power?: With over 350 seats, the MPs elected on the « La république en marche » (LREM) ticket will have an overwhelming majority in the Assemblée Nationale (Parliament). Will they use it to be in the forefront of reform and renewal of French politics? Or will they simply play a passive role, rubber stamping and obediently voting the texts that the government sends them?
It happens that they will shortly be faced with their first real-life test with the question of deduction of income tax at source. The government wishes to postpone the implementation until 2019, perhaps forever, for reasons which are totally opportunist and unjustified. This big step backwards is bad news for the alleged intention to reform and modernise the French fiscal and social system proclaimed by the new government (a general intention that is unfortunately rather vague once we enter into the details: see What reforms for France), and leads us to fear the worst for what is to come. Now, contrary to what has been stated, the government cannot take this sort of decision without a vote in Parliament which should therefore take place in the coming days or weeks.
There are two possibilities. Either the LREM MP’s force the government to maintain this crucial reform and its application as from January 2018, as was already voted by the outgoing Parliament in the autumn of 2016 in the context of the 2017 Finance Act. It will then be clear that the new MP’s are ready to play their role fully in future reforms and oppose the executive when necessary. The other option is to follow in the steps of the conservatism of the government, which, unfortunately, seems to be the most likely outcome. This would alert us to the fact that with this new majority and this new authority we are dealing with reformers who are mere paper tigers. ...

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pure Class Warfare, With Extra Contempt

Paul Krugman:

Pure Class Warfare, With Extra Contempt: The Senate version of Trumpcare – the Better Care Reconciliation Act – is out. The substance is terrible: tens of millions of people will experience financial distress if this passes, and tens if not hundreds of thousands will die premature deaths, all for the sake of tax cuts for a handful of wealthy people. What’s even more amazing is that Republicans are making almost no effort to justify this massive upward redistribution of income. They’re doing it because they can, because they believe that the tribalism of their voters is strong enough that they will continue to support politicians who are ruining their lives.
In this sense – and in only this sense – what we’re seeing now is a departure from previous Republican practice.
In the past, laws that would take from the poor and working class while giving to the rich came with excuses. Tax cuts, their sponsors declared, would unleash market dynamism and make everyone more prosperous. Deregulation would increase efficiency and lower prices. It was all voodoo; the promises never came true. But at least there was some pretense of working for the common good.
Now we have none of this. This bill does nothing to reduce health care costs. It does nothing to improve the functioning of health insurance markets – in fact, it will send them into death spirals by reducing subsidies and eliminating the individual mandate. There is nothing at all in the bill that will make health care more affordable for those currently having trouble paying for it. And it will gradually squeeze Medicaid, eventually destroying any possibility of insurance for millions. ...
But Republican leaders believe that their voters are tribal enough, sufficiently walled off from information, that they’ll ignore the attack on their lives and keep voting R – indeed, that as they lose health care, get hit with crushing out-of-pocket bills, see their friends and neighbors face ruin, they’ll blame it on Democrats.
I wish I were sure that this belief was false.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Paul Krugman: Zombies, Vampires and Republicans

"The one obvious payoff to taking health care away from millions: a big tax cut for the wealthy":

Zombies, Vampires and Republicans, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Zombies have long ruled the Republican Party. ... What are these zombies of which I speak? Among wonks, the term refers to policy ideas that should have been abandoned long ago in the face of evidence and experience, but just keep shambling along.
The right’s zombie-in-chief is the insistence that low taxes on the rich are the key to prosperity. This doctrine should have died...
Despite the consistent wrongness of their predictions, however, tax-cut fanatics just kept gaining influence in the G.O.P. — until the disaster in Kansas...
Will this banish the tax-cut zombie? Maybe — although the economists behind the Kansas debacle, who have of course learned nothing, appear to be the principal movers behind the Trump tax plan, such as it is.
But even as the zombies move offstage, vampire policies — so-called not so much because of their bloodsucking nature, although that too, as because they can’t survive daylight — have taken their place.
Consider what’s happening right now on health care.
Last month House Republicans rammed through one of the worst, cruelest pieces of legislation in history. ...
This bill is, as it should be, wildly unpopular. Nonetheless, Republican Senate leaders are now trying to ram through their own version of the A.H.C.A., one that, all reports suggest, will differ only in minor, cosmetic ways. And they’re trying to do it in total secrecy. ...
Clearly, the goal is to pass legislation that will have devastating effects on tens of millions of Americans without giving those expected to pass it, let alone the general public, any real chance to understand what they’re voting for. ...
This is unprecedented...
Of course..., the one obvious payoff to taking health care away from millions: a big tax cut for the wealthy. As I said, while bloodsucking isn’t the main reason to call this a vampire policy, it’s part of the picture....
You can blame Donald Trump for many things, including the fact that he will surely sign whatever bad bill is put in front of him. But as far as health care is concerned, he’s just an ignorant bystander...
So this isn’t a Trump story; it’s about the cynicism and corruption of the whole congressional G.O.P. Remember, it would take just a few conservatives with conscience — specifically, three Republican senators — to stop this outrage in its tracks. But right now, it looks as if those principled Republicans don’t exist.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Janet Yellen Is Her Own Best Successor

Narayana Kocherlakota:

Janet Yellen Is Her Own Best Successor: President Donald Trump has reportedly begun the process of deciding who will lead the U.S. Federal Reserve after Janet Yellen's term ends early next year. If he wants the best outcome for the economy, he can't do better than Janet Yellen. ...
Yellen's policies have contributed to a surprisingly strong labor market recovery, yet also been sufficiently cautious to keep inflation below target. Some would see this as an all-around success, though the Fed's caution does have a downside: Markets appear to believe that the central bank is unwilling or unable to hit its inflation target with consistency. ... If it persists, this loss of credibility means that the Fed will have less ammunition to fight the next recession.  
So could any of the other potential appointees do better? ...
Warsh, Taylor, and Hubbard all reportedly see Yellen’s Fed as having been too dovish, suggesting that that they would have done less to support the economic recovery. This approach would have led to higher unemployment and lower inflation -- an inferior fulfilment of the Fed's dual mandate that marks them as worse candidates than Yellen.  It's also important to remember that Taylor and Warsh argued publicly against additional monetary stimulus in November 2010, when the unemployment rate was almost 10 percent and the inflation rate had fallen nearly to 1 percent. Their concerns about excessive inflation proved to be completely unjustified. Yellen, by contrast, supported stimulus.
Yellen has a proven track record that's hard to beat. ... The president should reappoint her to the position of Fed chair.

The Silence of the Hacks

Paul Krugman:

The Silence of the Hacks: The actual text of the Senate version of Trumpcare is still a secret, even from almost all the Senators who are expected to vote for it. But that’s actually a secondary issue: never mind the precise details, what’s the organizing idea? What is the bill supposed to do, and how is it supposed to do it?
The answer — which I’ve been suggesting for a while — is that they have no idea, and more broadly, no ideas in general. Now Vox confirms this...
Time was when even the worst legislation came with some kind of justification, when you could count on the hacks at Heritage to explain why eating children will encourage entrepreneurship, or something. ...
But now we have legislation that will change the lives of millions, and they haven’t even summoned the usual suspects to explain what a great idea it is. If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, Republicans have decided that even that’s too much; they’re going to try to pass legislation that takes from the poor and gives to the rich without even trying to offer a justification.
And they’ll try to do it by dead of night, of course.
This has nothing to do with Trump, who is, as I’ve been saying, an ignorant bystander — yes, he’s betraying every promise he made, but what else is new? It’s about Congressional Republicans.
Which Congressional Republicans? All of them. Remember, three senators who cared even a bit about substance, legislative process, and just plain honesty with the public, could stop this. So far, it doesn’t look as if there are those three senators.
This is a level of corruption that’s hard to fathom. Yet it’s the reality of one of our two parties.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

I’ve Covered Obamacare Since Day One. I’ve Never Seen Lying and Obstruction Like This.

Sarah Kliff:

I’ve covered Obamacare since day one. I’ve never seen lying and obstruction like this, Vox.com: Republicans do not want the country to know what is in their health care bill.
This has become more evident each day, as the Senate plots out a secretive path toward Obamacare repeal — and top White House officials (including the president) consistently lie about what the House bill actually does. ...
My biggest concern isn’t the hypocrisy; there is plenty of that in Washington. It’s that the process will lead to devastating results for millions of Americans who won’t know to speak up until the damage is done. So far, the few details that have leaked out paint a picture of a bill sure to cover millions fewer people and raise costs on those with preexisting conditions.
The plan is expected to be far-reaching, potentially bringing lifetime limits back to employer-sponsored coverage, which could mean a death sentence for some chronically ill patients who exhaust their insurance benefits. ...

Monday, June 05, 2017

The More Trump Fails, the Better Off We’ll Be

I have a new column:

The More Trump Fails, the Better Off We’ll Be: The Trump administration has gone to war against independent sources of information that pose a challenge to its policy goals and the narratives it tells to support them. One of the most recent targets is the Congressional Budget Office. ...

Paul Krugman: Making Ignorance Great Again

The truth is out there, but it's buried under a large pile of nonsense, lies, misleading statements, and deception:

Making Ignorance Great Again, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Donald Trump just took us out of the Paris climate accord for no good reason. I don’t mean that his decision was wrong. I mean, literally, that he didn’t offer any substantive justification... It was just what he felt like doing.
And here’s the thing: What just happened on climate isn’t an unusual case — and Trump isn’t especially unusual for a modern Republican. ... Facts and hard thinking aren’t wanted, and anyone who tries to bring such things into the discussion is the enemy.
Consider ... health care. ... Did the administration and its allies consult with experts, study previous experience with health reform, and try to devise a plan that made sense? Of course not. In fact, House leaders made a point of ramming a bill through before the Congressional Budget Office ... could assess its likely impact.
When the budget office did weigh in, its conclusions were what you might expect:... a lot of people are going to lose coverage. Is 23 million a good estimate...? Yes — it might be 18 million, or it might be 28 million, but surely it would be in that range.
So how did the administration respond? By trying to shoot the messenger. Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, attacked the C.B.O...
So, Mr. Mulvaney, where’s your assessment of Trumpcare? You had plenty of resources to do your own study before trying to pass a bill. ...
But Mulvaney and his party don’t study issues, they just decide, and attack the motives of anyone who questions their decisions. ... Truth, as something that exists apart from and in possible opposition to political convenience, is no longer part of their philosophical universe. ...
And as health care and climate go, so goes everything else. Can you think of any major policy area where the G.O.P. hasn’t gone post-truth? ...
But does any of it matter? The president, backed by his party, is talking nonsense, destroying American credibility day by day. But hey, stocks are up, so what’s the problem?
Well, bear in mind that so far Trump hasn’t faced a single crisis not of his own making. As George Orwell noted ... in his essay “In Front of Your Nose,” people can indeed talk nonsense for a very long time, without paying an obvious price. But “sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.” Now there’s a happy thought.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trump Gratuitously Rejects the Paris Climate Accord

If liberals are for it, they’re against it:

Trump Gratuitously Rejects the Paris Climate Accord, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: As Donald Trump does his best to destroy the world’s hopes of reining in climate change, let’s be clear about one thing: This has nothing to do with serving America’s national interest. The U.S. economy, in particular, would do just fine under the Paris accord. This isn’t about nationalism; mainly, it’s about sheer spite.
About the economics:... Clearly, it would be an economy running on electricity...
What would life in an economy that made such an energy transition be like? Almost indistinguishable from life in the economy we have now. ...
Wouldn’t energy be more expensive in this alternative economy? Probably, but not by much: Technological progress in solar and wind has drastically reduced their cost, and it looks as if the same thing is starting to happen with energy storage.
Meanwhile, there would be compensating benefits. Notably, the adverse health effects of air pollution would be greatly reduced, and it’s quite possible that lower health care costs would all by themselves make up for the costs of energy transition, even ignoring the whole saving-civilization-from-catastrophic-climate-change thing. ...
Why, then, are so many people on the right determined to block climate action, and even trying to sabotage the progress we’ve been making on new energy sources?
Don’t tell me that they’re honestly worried about the inherent uncertainty of climate projections. ...
Don’t tell me that it’s about coal miners. ...
While it isn’t about coal jobs, right-wing anti-environmentalism is in part about protecting the profits of the coal industry, which in 2016 gave 97 percent of its political contributions to Republicans. ...
Pay any attention to modern right-wing discourse — including op-ed articles by top Trump officials — and you find deep hostility to any notion that some problems require collective action beyond shooting people and blowing things up.
Beyond this, much of today’s right seems driven above all by animus toward liberals rather than specific issues. If liberals are for it, they’re against it. If liberals hate it, it’s good. Add to this the anti-intellectualism of the G.O.P. base, for whom scientific consensus on an issue is a minus, not a plus, with extra bonus points for undermining anything associated with President Barack Obama.
And if all this sounds too petty and vindictive to be the basis for momentous policy decisions, consider the character of the man in the White House. Need I say more?

Thursday, June 01, 2017

The Working Class’s Role in Trump’s Election

Caroline Freund:

The working class’s role in Trump’s election: President Donald Trump’s election victory last year was driven in part by support he got in the traditionally Democratic parts of the industrial Northeast and Midwest of the US. Many analysts have argued that Trump’s promises to bring back US manufacturing hollowed out by trade and technology changes paved the way for his achievement.
Recent empirical evidence shows that trade shocks can influence voting patterns. Autor et al. (2016) find that import competition from China is associated with increased political polarisation in US congressional elections, as measured by the number of moderate incumbents who lost their seats. Using data on voting patterns in six presidential elections, Jensen et al. (2016) extend this analysis to include trade in services and exports, and find that while rising imports are associated with more polarisation, rising exports are associated with more support for the incumbent. Che et al. (2016) find that greater import competition from China is correlated with increases in election turnout and the share of votes for a Democrat in congressional elections. 
Evidence that the decline in manufacturing was not the real reason for Trump’s success
The data show that this bit of conventional wisdom might be misplaced. Education and race were far bigger factors in determining the change in voting results from the 2012 election.  These two factors alone explain more than 70% of the variation in the Republican vote share across counties, as compared with the last election, and more than 80% in the swing states.
And within manufacturing, race mattered greatly: only the predominantly white manufacturing counties were drawn to Trump’s message.  Racially diverse manufacturing counties rejected it.  These twin factors roughly cancelled each other out. In the end, whether or not manufacturing was part of a county’s economic base did not have much of an effect on its change in voting behaviour.
In a new paper, Dario Sidhu and I examine electoral data from the 2016 compared with previous presidential elections (Freund and Sidhu 2017). The county-by-county breakdown in the data shows that on aggregate, manufacturing jobs did not play a significant role in the election results.
When economics, identity, and demographic variables were considered together, the share of employees in manufacturing was not significantly associated with increased support for Donald Trump, versus Mitt Romney in 2012. Even more striking, counties where manufacturing declined since 2000 – many of which received special attention during the campaign – also did not have an increase in their vote share for Trump from four years before.
None of this is to say manufacturing as an economic foundation for a county did not matter at all in the election. But it boosted Trump only in counties that were predominately white.
In mostly white manufacturing counties, there was a significant increase in the Republican vote share since 2012. In more racially and ethnically diverse manufacturing counties (above average share of black and Hispanic residents), there was a significant decline in the share of votes going to the Republican candidate. On aggregate, these effects roughly offset each other, with the net result that the presence of manufacturing in a county (or the extent of job loss) was not associated with the result. To the extent manufacturing played a role, it was through the ethnic makeup of counties. The impact of this effect was magnified in crucial swing states, where counties are on average less diverse than the nation as a whole.

Figure 1 Republican vote share change from 2012 to 2016 and manufacturing employment

Freundfig1

Notes: Standardized coefficients.  Additional controls, median wage, unemployment, labour force participation, age, religion, county size. 
Source: Freund and Sidhu (2017).

Why are counties polarised within manufacturing by race?
There are two potential explanations for why predominantly white manufacturing counties became more Republican and diverse manufacturing counties voted more Democratic in this election. 
The first is that economic shocks were different across white and diverse counties.  Perhaps white manufacturing towns specialise in products more prone to technological change or facing pronounced import competition; alternatively, white manufacturing towns may have been largely one company towns with few alternative employment opportunities.
The second is that the two groups reacted differently to economic changes that have occurred over time.  It is possible that white manufacturing towns rejected existing policies, such as openness to trade and increased income redistribution (for example, through the Affordable Care Act); while diverse manufacturing towns rejected the message that economic conditions in the US were deteriorating.
The analysis shows that the second explanation – different reactions to economic change – is more consistent with the data. Perhaps most telling, comparing the 2016 election results with the county’s share of employment in manufacturing from 1986 – when manufacturing employment was near its peak and one in four manufacturing workers was in a union – the same polarisation is evident.  Historical manufacturing counties that are mostly white voted more Republican, but historical manufacturing towns that are relatively diverse voted more Democratic, as compared with 2012. 
Does this mean the population is becoming more polarised?
Morris Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford University, has shown that polarisation can be driven by the electorate or the candidates (Fiorina 2004). While a polarised population – with a large group on the right and a large group on the left – produces a split electorate, polarising candidates can yield a similar outcome, even if most of the population has centrist political views. The difference is that with an increasingly polarised electorate, voter participation should logically increase, as each group is tied to its candidate and opposed to the alternate. In contrast, with polarising candidates, the middle of the distribution is unsatisfied, so voter participation should in theory decrease.
When other factors are eliminated, the data show that the rise in the Republican share of votes in white manufacturing counties was largely due to a drop in Democratic votes; while the rise in the Democratic share in non-white manufacturing counties was driven by a relatively higher drop in Republican votes.  In addition, on average across counties, as compared with 2012, relatively low voting rates among Democratic voters was a bigger contributor to the results than high voting rates among Republicans. Put differently, Trump did not win the white working class, Clinton lost it.
The 2016 election outcome is thus more consistent with Fiorina’s example of polarising candidates than a polarised electorate.  The good news is that Americans are probably far less divided then they appear. The bad news is that the US desperately needs a more centrist and less partisan government to unify and lead, but that seems unlikely anytime soon.
References
Autor, D, D Dorn, G Hanson, and K Majlesi (2016), “Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure”, NBER Working Paper No. 22637.
Che, Y, Y Lu, J R Pierce, P K Schott and Z Tao (2016), “Does Trade Liberalization with China Influence US Elections?”, NBER Working Paper No. 22178.
Fiorina, M (2004), Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, Stanford University Press.
Freund, C and D Sidhu (2017), “Manufacturing and the 2016 Election: An Analysis of US Presidential Election Data”, PIIE Working Paper No. 17-7. 
Jensen, J B, D P Quinn and Ss Weymouth (2016): “Winners and Losers in International Trade: The Effects on US Presidential Voting,” NBER Working Paper No. 21899.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Paul Krugman: Trump’s Energy, Low and Dirty

King Coal has a scary soul:

Trump’s Energy, Low and Dirty, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Donald Trump has two false beliefs about energy, one personal, one political. ...
On the personal side, Trump reportedly disdains exercise of any kind except golf. He believes that raising a sweat depletes the finite reserves of precious bodily fluids, I mean energy, that a person is born with, and should therefore be avoided.
Many years of acting on this belief may or may not explain the weird and embarrassing scene at the G-7 summit in Taormina, in which six of the advanced world’s leaders strolled together a few hundred yards through the historic city, but Trump followed behind, driven in an electric golf cart.
More consequential, however, is Trump’s false belief that lifting environmental restrictions ... will bring back the days when the coal-mining industry employed hundreds of thousands of blue-collar Americans. ...
These days..., those who take energy policy seriously see a future that belongs largely to renewables... But that’s not what voters from what used to be coal country want to hear. They enthusiastically backed Trump, who promised to bring those coal jobs back, even though his real agenda would punish those voters with savage cuts in programs they depend on. And Trump cares a lot more about public adulation than he does about serious policy advice.
Which brings me ... to Trump’s European trip...
First, in Brussels, he declined to endorse NATO’s Article 5, which says that an attack on any NATO member is an attack on all. In effect, he repudiated the central plank of America’s most important alliance. Why, it was almost as if he’s more interested in appeasing Vladimir Putin than he is in defending democracy.
Then, in Taormina, he was the only leader who refused to endorse the Paris climate accord ... that may be our last good chance to avoid catastrophic climate change. ... But Trump isn’t offering coal country real help, just a fantasy about turning back the clock. ...
So am I suggesting that the world’s most powerful leader might put the whole planet’s future at risk so that he can keep telling politically convenient lies...? Yes. ...
Now, maybe Trump won’t really pull the plug on Paris; or maybe he’ll be gone from the scene before the damage is irreversible. But there’s a real possibility that last week was a pivotal moment in human history, the moment when an irresponsible leader sent the whole world careening off to hell in a golf cart.