Opinion | Finland Is a Capitalist Paradise – The New York Times

“We’ve now been living in Finland for more than a year. The difference between our lives here and in the States has been tremendous, but perhaps not in the way many Americans might imagine. What we’ve experienced is an increase in personal freedom. Our lives are just much more manageable. To be sure, our days are still full of challenges — raising a child, helping elderly parents, juggling the demands of daily logistics and work.

But in Finland, we are automatically covered, no matter what, by taxpayer-funded universal health care that equals the United States’ in quality (despite the misleading claims you hear to the contrary), all without piles of confusing paperwork or haggling over huge bills. Our child attends a fabulous, highly professional and ethnically diverse public day-care center that amazes us with its enrichment activities and professionalism. The price? About $300 a month — the maximum for public day care, because in Finland day-care fees are subsidized for all families.

And if we stay here, our daughter will be able to attend one of the world’s best K-12 education systems at no cost to us, regardless of the neighborhood we live in. College would also be tuition free. If we have another child, we will automatically get paid parental leave, funded largely through taxes, for nearly a year, which can be shared between parents. Annual paid vacations here of four, five or even six weeks are also the norm.”

Opinion | Why Is Trump a Tariff Man? – by Paul Kruman – The New York Times

“One answer is that Trump has long had a fixation on the idea that tariffs are the answer to America’s problems, and he’s not the kind of man who reconsiders his prejudices in the light of evidence. But there’s also something else: U.S. trade law offers Trump more freedom of action — more ability to do whatever he wants — than any other policy area.

The basic story is that long ago — in fact, in the aftermath of the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930 — Congress deliberately limited its own role in trade policy. Instead, it gave the president the power to negotiate trade deals with other countries, which would then face up-or-down votes without amendments.

It was always clear, however, that this system needed some flexibility to respond to events. So the executive branch was given the power to impose temporary tariffs under certain conditions: import surges, threats to national security, unfair practices by foreign governments. The idea was that nonpartisan experts would determine whether and when these conditions existed, and the president would then decide whether to act.

This system worked well for many years. It turned out, however, to be extremely vulnerable to someone like Trump, for whom everything is partisan and expertise is a four-letter word. Trump’s tariff justifications have often been self-evidently absurd — seriously, who imagines that imports of Canadian steel threaten U.S. national security? But there’s no obvious way to stop him from imposing tariffs whenever he feels like it.

And there’s also no obvious way to stop his officials from granting individual businesses tariff exemptions, supposedly based on economic criteria but in fact as a reward for political support. Tariff policy isn’t the only arena in which Trump can practice crony capitalism — federal contracting is looking increasingly scandalous — but tariffs are especially ripe for exploitation.

So that’s why Trump is a Tariff Man: Tariffs let him exercise unconstrained power, rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies. Anyone imagining that he’s going to change his ways and start behaving responsibly is living in a fantasy world.”

Opinion | Why Progressive Candidates Should Invoke Conservative Values – By Robb Willer and Jan Voelkel – The New York Times

By Robb Willer and 

Dr. Willer is a sociologist. Mr. Voelkel is a Ph.D. student in sociology.

Credit…Eiko Ojala

“To beat President Trump in the 2020 election, what sort of policies should a Democratic nominee promote?

Two theories dominate. One says that he or she should run to the left, focusing on energizing the party’s base. This strategy, exemplified by Elizabeth Warren’s and Bernie Sanders’s campaigns, appears plausible given the base’s recent progressive turn.

The other theory says that a nominee should run to the center, making a bid for swing voters. This strategy, exemplified by the short-notice candidacy of the former Republican Michael Bloomberg, is supported by research on the electoral perils of ideological extremism.

But both of these theories neglect the fact that there is more to a candidate than his or her policies. As the political scientists Christopher Ellis and James Stimson have observed, a candidate’s policies can be distinguished from his or her “symbolic politics” — the values or ideology (like “family” or “social justice” or “going rogue”) that a candidate explicitly espouses or implicitly represents.

An influential analysis of national polling data by Professors Ellis and Stimson suggests that the most effective candidate in a national election would combine the most popular feature of the Democratic Party, progressive economic policies, with the most popular feature of the Republican Party: the invocation of conservative ideology and values like patriotism, family and the “American dream.”

But are candidates free to mix and match their policies with their symbolic politics? If a Democratic candidate pursued such a mixed strategy, would it work? Or would it make him or her seem hypocritical or incoherent?

To investigate these questions we conducted two experiments, one using a nationally representative sample of Americans, in which we looked at Americans’ support for “Scott Miller,” a hypothetical 2020 Democratic nominee. The participants in our studies were presented with excerpts from Scott Miller’s speeches — but we systematically varied the content of the speeches to analyze the effects of policy platform and symbolic politics.

We found that the most effective Democratic candidate would speak in terms of conservative values while proposing progressive economic policies — with some of our evidence suggesting that endorsing highly progressive policies would be best.

In our studies, we varied Scott Miller’s economic policy platform, portraying him to some participants as moderately progressive and to others as highly progressive. The highly progressive version of Scott Miller proposed a large minimum wage increase, generous paid family leave, a huge jobs program and the expansion of Medicare to cover all uninsured Americans. The more moderate version favored smaller versions of the minimum wage increase, family leave program and jobs program, and wanted to defend the Affordable Care Act in its current form.

Our studies found that the degree of support for Scott Miller wasn’t much affected by whether his policy platform was highly progressive or more moderate. Overall, people showed a slight preference for the highly progressive candidate, but this result was small and statistically significant only in one of our studies.

What mattered far more was how Scott Miller talked about those policies. We found that when he spoke of his platform in terms of conservative values like patriotism, family and the American dream, he consistently drew more support than did the Scott Miller who couched those same policies in more liberal values like economic justice and compassion.

Interestingly, most of the increase in support for the Scott Miller with conservative values came from participants who identified as moderate as well as those who identified as conservative. Notably, liberals were inclined to support the candidate regardless of which rhetorical approach he took.

These results suggest that the most effective Democratic challenger to President Trump in 2020 would invoke conservative values while offering progressive economic policies.

This description does not closely match any of the top Democratics — with the notable exception of Pete Buttigieg, who pairs invocations of freedom, military security and religious faith with a progressive platform. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Mr. Buttigieg is also the candidate who has most outperformed expectations so far.”

Opinion | Forget the Scarf. These Gifts Change Lives. – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Lynsey Addario/Getty Images

” ’Tis the season for giving, when those of us in the rich world hand each other overpriced scarves that no one much wants.

So every fall I offer an alternative holiday gift guide with suggestions for “gifts with meaning” that save or change lives. This year’s recommendations come with something extra: A reader has pledged $1 million so that for each of the next 10 years, a charity I find most worthy will receive $100,000. In addition, $50,000 will be split among three runners-up, thanks to a few other large donations. And judging from the past, readers will send in many more donations to these groups. We’ve made that easier through a new website.

This year’s top prize goes to support the lifesaving hospital of Edna Adan, a Somali midwife who fights for women’s health, trains doctors and empowers women in her native Somaliland. I’ve seen her work on the ground in two visits to Somaliland, and I’m awed by what she does.

Opinion | The Double-Barreled Dream World of Trump and His Enablers – By Glenn R. Simpson and Peter Fritsch – The New York Times

By Glenn R. Simpson and 

Mr. Simpson and Mr. Fritsch are the founders of Fusion GPS.

 

“As the founders of Fusion GPS, the research firm that commissioned the reports by the former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele that raised some of the earliest warnings of Russia’s actions, we’re willing to clear up some of the nonsense now so abundant on the right.

House Republicans like Representatives Devin Nunes and Jim Jordan seem eager to portray Fusion as co-conspirators with the Ukrainians in some devilish plot to undermine Mr. Trump’s 2016 candidacy. That could not be farther from the truth. None of the information in the so-called Steele dossier came from Ukrainian sources. Zero. And we’ve never met Serhiy Leshchenko, the Ukrainian former legislator and journalist whom Republicans want to blame for the downfall of Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

That said, our investigation of Donald Trump did get a great boost because of Ukraine, just not in the way Republicans imagine. We began looking into Mr. Trump’s business dealings and ties to Russia in the fall of 2015 with funding from Republicans who wanted to stop his political ascent. The Ukraine alarms went off six months later, when candidate Trump brought into his campaign none other than Mr. Manafort, a man with his own tangled history with Russian oligarchs trying to get their way in Ukraine.

It turns out we already knew a great deal about Mr. Manafort’s activities in Ukraine because we worked on several stories about his work for Russian-backed politicians eight years earlier, when we were both still writing for The Wall Street Journal. That reporting threw a spotlight on how Mr. Manafort, while representing clients involved in fierce geopolitical struggles over Ukraine, had neglected to comply with a lobbying law requiring that he register as a foreign agent — the very law, among others, to which he pleaded guilty of violating.”

Opinion | The Life and Death of the Local Hardware Store – by Tim Wu – The New York Times

“On Ninth Avenue in Manhattan, not far from where I live, there’s a small neighborhood hardware store called Chelsea Convenience Hardware, which is distinguished by its unlikely display of dozens of Russian nesting dolls in the storefront window. Inside, tools and supplies are piled to the ceiling, and when you enter, the owner, Naum Feygin, an immigrant from Boris Yeltsin’s Russia, looks up to ask you what you need.

The “convenience” in the store’s name is no misnomer, for the place is extraordinarily efficient. It is cheaper and faster than ordering from Amazon and offers expert advice that reduces the risk of buying the wrong thing. It is all too easy on Amazon, for example, to buy halogen bulbs that don’t fit your lamp base; Mr. Feygin has spared me many such headaches. And the store’s small size is a virtue: Unlike at Home Depot, you can be in and out in 10 minutes.

Nonetheless, Chelsea Convenience is set to close at the end of November, another casualty of rising commercial rents and competition from e-commerce. The closing is of no great economic significance, other than to Mr. Feygin. But it is a microcosm of the forces reshaping the United States economy, often paradoxically and for the worse. Why is a less efficient, less personalized and more wasteful way of buying screws and plungers — ordering online — displacing the local hardware store?”

Opinion | Why the Searing Politics of the Trump Era Give Me Hope – by Lee Drutman – The New York Times

“But here’s why I’m ultimately optimistic: I see how much the election of Mr. Trump acted as an impetus for people who care about democracy to get involved. The 2018 election registered the highest turnout midterm election in 104 years, and the smart money is on a similarly high turnout election in 2020. It may sound strange to say, but Mr. Trump’s election may yet turn out to be the shock and near-death experience that American political system needed to right itself.

I’m also optimistic because the one reform with the most potential to break our zero-sum partisanship, ranked-choice voting, is gaining tremendous momentum at the state and local level. In 2018, Maine became the first state to use ranked-choice voting for federal elections (after Mainers approved it in two statewide referendums). This month, New York City voters adopted it. Also in 2020, expect voters in Alaska and Massachusetts to decide whether they want in on ranked-choice voting.

By removing the spoiler effect of third parties, ranked-choice voting can break the us-versus-them force driving our partisan warfare, and create space for a political realignment that creates new coalitions to shape economic reforms and negotiate social change.”

Opinion | The Day That Decided the 2020 Election – by Timothy Egan – The New York Times

“The impeachment hearings had been bumping along, the main story clear: a parade of impeccable public servants trying to uphold the values of their country against a gangster White House. A candidate who had gloated over chants of “lock her up” for an opponent who had used unsecured emails had, once elected, conducted foreign policy by extortion, on open cellphone lines penetrated by the Russians.

Most Americans felt that Trump had committed an impeachable offense, but barely half favored removing him by the constitutional equivalent of the death penalty.

Instead, he said that the unusual diplomatic dance in Ukraine was not part of a rogue operation holding up American tax dollars as part of a scheme to take down a political opponent. It was White House policy, the government of the people in service of one person.

“We followed the president’s orders,” he said. “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.” “

Opinion | Vacillating Trump Supporter, Take Two – by Roger Cohen – The New York Times

Hardwick’s is very much an American story. He was born in rural Kentucky, where his father, Joseph, was a grocery store manager. His mother, who was manic-depressive and underwent electroconvulsive therapy, died when he was 5. His dad eventually remarried and borrowed heavily to open a truck-stop restaurant in Burnside, Ky., on a busy highway. The restaurant failed. It took years to pay off the loans.

Hardwick’s father moved the family to Akron, Ohio. Wonder Bread hired Joseph as a bakery worker. He was 50. He was happy because you had to have 15 years of experience to qualify for the pension plan, so he would just qualify if he retired at 65.

“We had no car and he walked to work every day for 15 years,” Hardwick told me. “He was crushed in an elevator accident when I was in the eighth grade and he didn’t work for over a year. I dropped off the basketball team and got a paper route delivering The Akron Beacon Journal and essentially became self-supporting. I also gave money to the family from the $15 a week which I earned, good for a kid in the mid-1950s.”

Hardwick’s break came when Wonder Bread supported a new program at Florida State University that granted degrees in baking science and management, and chose to jump-start it with scholarships to four children of employees. Hardwick was one of those children. He eventually earned an M.B.A. in marketing, worked for two years for Wonder Bread and joined Pfizer in 1966. Over almost four decades, he rose to the highest echelons of the company.

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The American dream? Looks pretty like it to me. Along the way Hardwick was involved in the civil rights movement in Florida in the 1960s. At the end of his Pfizer career, he worked for several months in Vietnam on a program to eliminate trachoma. He does not rule out Medicare for all one day, and he thinks there’s a case for a wealth tax, but he’s convinced Elizabeth Warren’s program shifts the United States leftward too far, too fast, denying some essence of the country that gave him and countless others an opportunity to get ahead through hard work.

There’s not much point denying that Trump, foul as he is, has released Keynes’s “animal spirits” in the United States. The challenge to the next Democratic candidate is to keep the economy strong while returning the country Trump has dishonored to decency. The task is immense: reasserting American values, widening opportunity, reinventing education, tackling the climate crisis, re-establishing the meaning of truth. It needs the involvement of all Americans of good will.

Hardwick is such an American. Plutocrat? Oligarch? Big Pharma? I don’t think such labels help. I don’t think they tell you anything about the human being so labeled. If there’s one sure route to a second Trump term, it’s more of the liberal contempt that produced the “deplorables.” It’s more of the knee-jerk stereotyping that denies that Trump supporters have reasons for thinking as they do. We know exactly how that movie ended in 2016.

Opinion | What if All That Flying Is Good for the Planet? – By Costas Christ – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Christ is the founder of Beyond Green Travel.

Credit…Hannah Mckay/Reuters

“A growing movement known as “flight shame” and popularized by well-meaning climate activists is gaining momentum around the world. Its premise: Flying is bad for the climate, so if you care about life on Earth, don’t fly. The movement, which began in Scandinavia, has ballooned into protests to disrupt flights at London’s Heathrow Airport and social media campaigns outing celebrities and others for planning long-haul trips.

With the holiday season fast approaching, many climate-conscious people may be wondering: Is my planned vacation for the other side of the world ethically indefensible? But let’s try another question: If we really did all stop flying, would that save the planet?

The counterintuitive answer is that it might actually do the opposite.

The tourism industry depends on air travel, and increasingly, saving nature is directly linked to tourism’s economic clout. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, one in 10 people are employed in the travel and tourism industry, representing more than 10 percent of the global economy. In many countries, nature-based tourism is a top foreign exchange earner.

At the same time, aviation accounts for approximately 2.5 percent of human-induced C0₂ emissions. By contrast, deforestation, according to some estimates, contributes nearly 20 percent, about as much as all forms of transportation combined. If we want to truly take a clean sweep at reducing global greenhouse gases, then we must stop clear-cutting the world’s forests.

Don’t get me wrong. As a conservationist and sustainable tourism expert, I am an advocate for a more responsible approach to tourism. Although I began my career as a wildlife ecologist, my work in the tourism industry is focused on transforming travel to be more environmentally friendly. While I recognize that flying is harmful to the climate, I also know what will happen if, in their understandable concern for climate change, travelers stop booking trips to go on a wildlife safari to Africa or decide to forgo that bucket list vacation to South America. Conservation and poverty alleviation will suffer twin blows.

By 2030, tourism to Africa is projected to generate more than $260 billion annually. Subtract that from Africa’s economy and not only will it plunge an entire continent into more poverty (millions of Africans rely on tourism as their economic lifeline), but it will also undermine hard-won efforts to protect some of the world’s most endangered species. Save the elephants? Forget about it. Rhinos, ditto.”