Opinion | Our Irrational Anxiety About ‘Slow’ Growth – by Ruchir Sharma – The New York Times

“Germany is one of at least five major economies on the verge of a recession, which is typically defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. But the real issue is whether that definition still makes sense in a country with a shrinking labor force like Germany’s.

Its working population has been declining for years and is expected to fall to 47 million from 54 million by 2039. And it’s not alone in this. Forty-six countries around the world — including major powers like Japan, Russia and China — now have shrinking populations.

Demographics are usually the main driver of economic growth, so it is basically inevitable that these countries will now grow at a much slower pace. And we are not talking about minor population declines. Projections for 2040 show China’s working-age population falling by 114 million, Japan’s by 14 million. With a shrinking labor force, these economies will inevitably slow and, at times, contract. To keep calling two negative quarters in a row a “recession” implies that this outcome is somehow abnormal or unhealthy. That will no longer be the case.

To avoid overreacting, the discussion about economic health needs to shift to measures that better capture satisfaction and contentment, like per capita income growth. In countries with shrinking populations, per capita incomes can continue to grow so long as the economy is shrinking less rapidly than the population. This helps explain why, for example, Japan isn’t facing more social unrest. Its economy has grown much more slowly than that of the United States in this decade, but because the population is shrinking its per capita income has grown just as fast as America’s — around 1.5 percent per year.”

This Carnivorous Plant Invaded New York. That May Be Its Only Hope. – The New York Times

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“Across their kayaks, the three men passed the green shoot back and forth. Occasionally, one of them would cradle it in one palm and bring a hand lens to it with the other, inspecting the carnivorous plant that was their bounty.

By day’s end, the group — Seth Cunningham and Michael Tessler, biologists at the American Museum of Natural History, and John Thompson, coordinator of the Catskill Regional Invasive Species Partnership — filled eight vials with the plant, Aldrovanda vesiculosa, also known as the waterwheel.

The plant shouldn’t be in this small, privately owned pond in Orange County, N.Y., and it presents an ecological conundrum.

Around the world, the waterwheel is going extinct. But from summer through late fall, the carnivorous, rootless, wetland-loving plant is plentiful in this swampy body of water near the Catskill Mountains.”

Opinion | Trump and Xi Sittin’ in a Tree – By Thomas L. Friedman – The New York Times

Thomas L. Friedman

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Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“I was glad to see the stock market get a boost from the news that Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators were talking again and that President Trump blinked a bit and pulled some of his planned tariffs.

But don’t be fooled. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China are still locked in a cage match over who is the true big dog in today’s global economy. Both are desperate not only to “win,” but to be seen to win, and not be subjected to the scorn of their rivals or critics on social media.

Precisely because neither leader feels he can afford that fate, both have overplayed their hands. Xi basically believes that nothing has to change — and all can be made to stay the same by the force of his will. Trump basically believes that everything has to change — and all can be made to change by the force of his will.

The rest of us are just along for the ride.

Let’s look at both men’s calculations and miscalculations. Trump was right in arguing that America should not continue to tolerate systemic abusive Chinese trade practices — intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, huge government subsidies and nonreciprocal treatment of U.S. companies in China — now that China is virtually America’s technology equal and a rising middle-income country.”

Opinion | Useful Idiots and Trumpist Billionaires – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman

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Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“Whoever came up with the phrase “useful idiots” — it’s often credited to Lenin, but there’s no evidence he ever said it — was on to something. There are times when dangerous political movements derive important support from people who will, if these movements achieve and hold power, be among their biggest victims.

Certainly I found myself thinking of the phrase when I read about the Trump fund-raiser held at the Hamptons home of Stephen Ross, chairman of a company that holds controlling stakes in Equinox and SoulCycle.

Most reporting on the Ross event has focused on the possible adverse effects on his business empire: The young, educated, urban fitness fanatics who go to his gyms don’t like the idea that their money is supporting Donald Trump. But the foolishness of Ross’s Trump support goes well beyond the potential damage to his bottom line.

I mean, if you’re a billionaire who also happens to be a racist, supporting Trump makes perfect sense: You know what you’re buying. But if you’re supporting Trump not because of his racism but despite it, because you expect him to keep your taxes low, you’re being, well, an idiot.”

Opinion | How White Democrats Moved Left – by David Brooks – The New York Times

“. . . .  To say that white educated Democrats have moved left is true, but it’s not the essential truth. The bigger truth is that this segment is now more likely to see politics through a racial lens. Racial equity has become the prism through which many in this group see a range of other issues.

 

For example, immigration is now seen through the lens of race, in a way that simply wasn’t true two decades ago. As Zach Goldberg noted in an essay in Tablet Magazine, between 1965 and 2000, the percentage of white liberals who wanted higher immigration levels never deviated far from 10 percent. During the Obama administration, the number rose to the range of 20 to 30 percent. Now, more than 50 percent of white progressives want to see higher immigration levels.

 

Many progressives see barriers to immigration as akin to unjust racial barriers. Many want to dismantle the border enforcement agencies and eliminate criminal sanctions against undocumented crossings precisely because they are seen as structures of oppression that white people impose on brown people.”

David Lindsay:  The commentors take Brooks apart for the usual issues, and ignore the main idea he confronts and the question he raises. It is important to understand why so many progressives are quiet about closing our open borders, since this is the issue that will probably give the next election to Trump if they don’t recongnize it’s potency with voters.

Opinion | Why Are We Still Looking for Oil and Gas? – By Lee Wasserman – The New York Times

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Mr. Wasserman is director of the Rockefeller Family Fund.

CreditCreditIllustration by John J. Custer; Photographs by Julia Wolf and Urs Moritz Ernst/EyeEm, via Getty Images

“If an artist were to choose colors for portraits of public officials to represent their records on climate change, one color would suffice for Donald Trump: charcoal black. How better to capture the president’s efforts to increase the extraction of coal, oil and gas at a time when emissions from these fuels are likely to expose tens of millions of people to life-threatening heat waves, coastal flooding, severe storms and water shortages.

But to be honest, the portraits of most of the world’s progressive leaders wouldn’t be much brighter. The United States was well on its way to becoming the world’s largest producer of fossil fuels before Donald Trump. Even today, with only a few decades left for us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without potentially catastrophic long-term consequences, far too many officials of all political stripes continue to expand the amount of fossil fuels we now extract and burn.

It was President Barack Obama, after all, who described “all of the above” as the preferred nonchoice of energy sources. He enthusiastically embraced the fracking boom that is now primed to unleash a tidal wave of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. His successful effort to end the country’s export ban on fossil fuelsencouraged industry to go after every ounce of oil and gas it could find — and it is finding plenty. Taken together, President Obama’s legacy is a nation that produces more oil and natural gas than Saudi Arabia.

Climate policy can get complicated fast, but there is really only one question to ask when considering an official’s climate bona fides: Will his or her policies lead to an increase or decrease in the amount of fossil fuels coming out of the ground? One peer-reviewed study found that to have a 50 percent chance of meeting the Paris accord’s target of staying “well below” 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit of additional warming, we must refrain from burning much of the fossil fuel reserves currently listed as assets on the balance sheets of energy companies.

Opinion | Trump’s Secret Foreign Aid Program – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman

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Opinion Columnist

“Donald Trump often complains that the media don’t give him credit for his achievements. And I can think of at least one case where that’s true. As far I can tell, almost nobody is reporting that he has presided over a huge — but hidden — increase in foreign aid, the money America gives to foreigners. In fact, the hidden Trump program, currently running at around $40 billion a year, is probably the biggest giveaway to other nations since the Marshall Plan.

Unfortunately, the aid isn’t going either to poor countries or to America’s allies. Instead, it’s going to wealthy foreign investors.

Before I get there, let’s talk for a second about a claim Trump often makes about a highly visible part of his economic strategy, the tariffs he has imposed on imports from China and other countries. These tariffs, he has insisted again and again, are being paid by China and represent billions in gains to the United States.

This claim is, however, demonstrably false. Tariffs are normally paid by consumers in the importing country, not exporters. And we can confirm that this is what’s happening with the Trump tariffs: Prices of goods subject to those tariffs have risen sharply, roughly in line with the tariff increases, while prices of goods not subject to the new tariffs haven’t gone up.”

Opinion | Joe Biden Is Learning That Liberals Eat Their Own – By David French – The New York Times

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Mr. French is a senior writer for National Review and a columnist for Time.

CreditCreditKathryn Gamble for The New York Times

“As a conservative watching the Democratic debates, I found that one of the most astonishing aspects of the multicandidate assault on Joe Biden was that the case against him seems to be based in large measure on his role in two generations of Democratic victories. His “crimes” consist partly in playing crucial roles in the political successes of two previous Democratic presidents — men who were personally so popular that it’s entirely likely that they would have won a theoretical third term.

In key issue after key issue, Mr. Biden isn’t running against the failures of the past. He’s running against the arrogance of the present.

Let’s take, for example, his role in passing Bill Clinton’s signature anti-crime legislation, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Yes, it was tough on crime. It enhanced penalties; it expanded the death penalty; and it funded new police officers and new prison cells. It also included the Violence Against Women Act and an assault weapons ban that wouldn’t have a ghost of a chance of passing Congress today. Moreover, it did not play a material role in mass incarceration, which is a product mainly of state prosecutions, not federal law enforcement.

And what two additional elements do Mr. Biden’s critics miss? First, it was passed with overwhelming Democratic support (including a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus), which means that most of his present critics — had they been in office at the time — would have also voted for the bill.”

Opinion | Why Was Trumponomics a Flop? – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman

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Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditChristopher Lee for The New York Times

“Donald Trump has pursued two main economic policies. On taxes, he has been an orthodox Republican, pushing through big tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, which his administration promised would lead to a huge surge in business investment. On trade, he has broken with his party’s free(ish) trade policies, imposing large tariffs that he promised would lead to a revival of U.S. manufacturing.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates, even though the unemployment rate is low and overall economic growth remains decent, though not great. According to Jay Powell, the Fed’s chairman, the goal was to take out some insurance against worrying hints of a future slowdown — in particular, weakness in business investment, which fell in the most recent quarter, and manufacturing, which has been declining since the beginning of the year.

Obviously Powell couldn’t say in so many words that Trumponomics has been a big flop, but that was the subtext of his remarks. And Trump’s frantic efforts to bully the Fed into bigger cuts are an implicit admission of the same thing.

To be fair, the economy remains pretty strong, which isn’t really a surprise given the G.O.P.’s willingness to run huge budget deficits as long as Democrats don’t hold the White House. As I wrote three days after the 2016 election — after the shock had worn off — “It’s at least possible that bigger budget deficits will, if anything, strengthen the economy briefly.” And that’s pretty much what happened: There was a bit of a bump in 2018, but at this point we’ve basically returned to pre-Trump rates of growth.”

Opinion | Where the Cold War Never Ended – By Ian Buruma – The New York Times

Japan and South Korea stir up an old, odd rivalry.

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Mr. Buruma is a writer and a professor at Bard College.

CreditCreditOleksii Liskonih/iStock, via Getty Images Plus

“In a rational world, South Korea and Japan ought to be the best of friends. Their cultures and languages are closely linked. Their economies are deeply entangled. And as the only liberal democracies in East Asia (along with Taiwan), they have to contend with the threat of North Korean belligerence and Chinese domination.

But the world is not so rational, and so the two American allies have recently become engaged in a flaming economic row, ostensibly sparked by historical wrongs. Late last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that Japanese companies should compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines during World War II. Assets of major Japanese companies, such as Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have been seized in South Korea, and they could soon be sold. The Japanese government protested that this matter had already been resolved in 1965, when the two countries reached an agreement claiming to settle “completely and finally” all colonial-era claims in exchange for financial aid and loans from Japan worth $500 million.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan retaliated last month by slapping controls on vital exports to South Korea. He cited reasons of national security, but few believe that. Demonstrators in Seoul then protested against a Japanese “economic invasion,” and the South Korean government threatened to stop sharing military intelligence with Japan.

This latest spat follows many others to do with history: the alleged lack of sincerity in official Japanese apologies for having subjected Korea to brutal colonial rule between 1910 and 1945; fights over revisions to school textbooks that downplay Japan’s wartime aggression; the refusal of conservative Japanese governments to admit that Korean women were systematically recruited to serve as sex slaves of the Japanese Imperial Army.”