Opinion | Truth and Virtue in the Age of Trump – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman
By Paul Krugman, Opinion Columnist
Nov. 12, 2018, 423 comments
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At a rally in West Virginia a few days before the midterms, President Trump did as he had more than 100 times a week in the run-up to the elections: lie.              CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

“Remember when freedom was just another word for nothing left to lose? These days it’s just another word for giving lots of money to Donald Trump.

What with the midterm elections — and the baseless Republican cries of voting fraud — I don’t know how many people heard about Trump’s decision to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson, wife of casino owner and Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The medal is normally an acknowledgment of extraordinary achievement or public service; on rare occasions this includes philanthropy. But does anyone think the Adelsons’ charitable activities were responsible for this honor?

Now, this may seem like a trivial story. But it’s a reminder that the Trumpian attitude toward truth — which is that it’s defined by what benefits Trump and his friends, not by verifiable facts — also applies to virtue. There is no heroism, there are no good works, except those that serve Trump.

About truth: Trump, of course, lies a lot — in the run-up to the midterms he was lying in public more than 100 times each week. But his assault on truth goes deeper than the frequency of his lies, because Trump and his allies don’t accept the very notion of objective facts. “Fake news” doesn’t mean actual false reporting; it means any report that hurts Trump, no matter how solidly verified. And conversely, any assertion that helps Trump, whether it’s about job creation or votes, is true precisely because it helps him.”


Paul R. Krugman | Dean of the Faculty

“Paul Krugman will transfer to emeritus status at the end of the current academic year, after spending 15 years on the Princeton faculty. It is no exaggeration to say that Paul is one of the leading economists and one of the leading public intellectuals of his generation.

Paul grew up on Long Island, earned his B.A. at Yale, and received his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1977. After teaching at Yale for three years, he returned to MIT, where he revolutionized the field of international trade theory. A short stint at Stanford and a return engagement with MIT were followed by the longest stretch of his academic career, which he spent at Princeton with a joint appointment in the economics department and the Woodrow Wilson School. Of course, Paul is equally well known for his “other career,” as an outspoken opinion writer for The New York Times.

Paul was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2008 for his work on international trade with increasing returns to scale. When Paul came to the field, the traditional theory of trade based on the 19th-century writings of David Ricardo explained trade by differences between countries that generated a comparative advantage for each. But Paul (and others) noticed the tension in the fact that a majority of trade took place between similar countries, with similar factor endowments and access to similar technologies. Surely, something else besides comparative advantage must be at the root of such trade. Moreover, traditional trade theory emphasized interindustry trade, with countries specializing in the production of some goods and exporting them in exchange for others. In fact, much of actual trade was intra-industry; countries imported and exported different varieties of relatively similar goods that fell into the same industry classification. Paul developed an elegant theory of international trade based on economies of scale and product differentiation. The existence of scale economies internal to the firm limited the extent of product differentiation that the market could support. But trade allowed countries to consume varieties that were not produced locally. Countries trade in order to take advantage of a larger world market and all gained from the greater diversity in consumption and potentially from longer production runs. Soon, Paul’s models formed the core of the “new trade theory,” which rapidly generated a paradigm shift in thinking about trade that persists today.

Paul’s work on “new trade” led relatively quickly and naturally to his 1991 monograph Geography and Trade, which soon spawned the “new economic geography.” In his monograph and a nearly contemporary paper in the Journal of Political Economy on “Increasing Returns and Economic Geography,” Paul developed a now-famous “core-periphery model” in which economies of scale in manufacturing interact with transport costs to generate the agglomeration of economic activities in a few large markets, leaving the periphery with the residual, constant-returns-to-scale activities. He demonstrated the possibility for cumulative causation in which the core grows large, because a large market is attractive to businesses, which want to locate near to their customers. In the process, the periphery can be left behind, even if the periphery is no different from the core at the beginning of the process. Soon, an army of regional and urban economists were running with his ideas, much as had been true in the trade field just a decade earlier.”

Source: Paul R. Krugman | Dean of the Faculty

Opinion | Last Exit Off the Road to Autocracy – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Whatever happens in the midterms, the aftermath will be ugly. But the elections are nonetheless a fork in the road. If we take one path, it will offer at least a chance for political redemption, for recovering America’s democratic values. If we take the other, we’ll be on the road to autocracy, with no obvious way to get off.

It’s a near-certainty that Democrats will receive more votes than Republicans, with polling suggesting a margin in votes cast for the House of Representatives of seven or more percentage points — which would make it the biggest landslide of modern times. However, gerrymandering and other factors have severely tilted the playing field, so that even this might not be enough to bring control of the chamber.

And even if Democrats do climb that tilted slope, anyone expecting Republicans to accept the result with good grace hasn’t been paying attention. Remember, Donald Trump claimed — falsely, of course — that millions of immigrants voted illegally in an election he won. Imagine what he’ll say if he loses, and what his supporters will do in response. And if and when a Democratic House tries to exercise its powers, you can be sure it will be met with defiance, never mind what the Constitution says.

But ugly as the scene will be if Democrats win, it will be far worse if they lose. In fact, it’s not hyperbole to say that if the G.O.P. holds the line on Tuesday, it may be the last even halfway fair elections we’ll ever have.

Opinion | The Great Center-Right Delusion – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“What’s driving American politics off a cliff? Racial hatred and the cynicism of politicians willing to exploit it play a central role. But there are other factors. And an opinion piece by Hertel-Fernandez, Mildenberger, and Stokes in today’s Times (which is actually social science, not opinion!) seems to confirm something I already suspected: misunderstanding of what voters want is distorting both political positioning and public policy.

What the authors of the piece show is that congressional aides grossly misperceive the views of their bosses’ constituents; this is true in both parties, but more so of Republicans. What they don’t point out explicitly is that with the exception of A.C.A. repeal, Democrats err in the same direction as Republicans, just less so. Specifically, both parties believe that the public is to the right of where it really is.”

Opinion | Hate Is on the Ballot Next Week – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“In America 2018, whataboutism is the last refuge of scoundrels, and bothsidesism is the last refuge of cowards.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a wave of hate crimes. Just in the past few days, bombs were mailed to a number of prominent Democrats, plus CNN. Then, a gunman massacred 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Meanwhile, another gunman killed two African-Americans at a Louisville supermarket, after first trying unsuccessfully to break into a black church — if he had gotten there an hour earlier, we would probably have had another mass murder.

All of these hate crimes seem clearly linked to the climate of paranoia and racism deliberately fostered by Donald Trump and his allies in Congress and the media.

Killing black people is an old American tradition, but it is experiencing a revival in the Trump era.

When the bombs were discovered, many on the right immediately claimed that they were fake news or a false flag operation by liberals. But the F.B.I. quickly tracked down the apparent source of the explosive devices: A fanatical Trump supporter, whom many are already calling the MAGABomber. His targets were people and a news organization Trump has attacked in many speeches. (Since the bombings, Trump has continued to attack the news media as the “enemy of the people.”)”

Opinion | The Party of No Ideas – by Paul Krugman – NYT

Democrats will almost certainly receive more votes than Republicans in the midterm elections. But gerrymandering and other factors have severely tilted the playing field, so they would need to win the popular vote by a wide margin to retake the House, and a huge margin to retake the Senate. I don’t know how it will turn out — or what will happen to the perceived legitimacy of the federal government if all three branches are controlled by people the voters rejected. Neither does anyone else.One thing we do know, however, is that Republicans have decisively lost the battle of ideas. All of their major policy moves, on health care, taxes and tariffs, are playing badly with voters.In fact, Republican policies are so unpopular that the party’s candidates are barely trying to sell them. Instead, they’re pretending to stand for things they actually don’t — like protecting health coverage for Americans with pre-existing conditions — or trying to distract voters with culture war and appeals to white racial identity. The G.O.P. has become the party of no ideas.

Opinion | A Smorgasbord Recession? (Wonkish) – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

“The 2008 financial crisis is (duh) a decade in the past; employment has been growing steadily since early 2010. Since nothing is forever, and proclamations that the business cycle is over have always ended in embarrassment, lots of people are looking for the sources of the next recession.

The thing is, there’s nothing out there as obvious as the housing bubble of the mid-2000s, or even the tech bubble of the late 1990s. So here’s my thought: maybe the next recession won’t be caused by one big shock but instead by the combined impact of several smaller shocks. There are arguably several mid-sized bubbles out there, from private equity debt to emerging markets. Stocks are priced as if there’s no risk despite omens of trade war, consumer confidence similarly seems to discount dangers. There’s probably other stuff I’m missing.

The point, anyway, is that we might be looking at a smorgasbord recession, one that involves a mix of smallish things rather than a single dominant item. And there’s a model for that kind of recession: the slump of the early 1990s.”

Opinion | What Do We Actually Know About the Economy? (Wonkish) – Paul Krugman – NYT

“So let me talk about three things:

The unsung success of macroeconomics

The excessive prestige of microeconomics

The limits of empiricism, vital though it is

The clean little secret of macroeconomics

There’s a story about quantum physics – not sure where I read it – about the rivalry between the physicists Julian Schwinger and Richard Feynman. Schwinger was first to work out how to do quantum electrodynamics, but his methods were incredibly difficult and cumbersome. Feynman hit upon a much simpler approach – his famous diagrams – which turned out to be equivalent, but vastly easier to use.

Schwinger, as I remember the story, was never seen to use a Feynman diagram. But he had a locked room in his house, and the rumor was that that room was where he kept the Feynman diagrams he used in secret.”

Opinion | Botching the Great Recession – by Paul Krugman – NYT

” . . . Why, then, didn’t we get the fiscal policy we should have had? There were, I’d say, multiple villains in the story.

First, we can argue whether the Obama administration could have gotten more; that’s a debate we’ll never see resolved. What is clear, however, is that at least some key Obama figures were actively opposed to giving the economy the support it needed. “Stimulus is sugar,” snapped Tim Geithner at Christina Romer, when she argued for a bigger plan.

Second, Very Serious People pivoted very early from concern about the unemployed — hey, they probably lacked the necessary skills — to hysteria over deficits. By 2011, unemployment was still over 9 percent, but all the Beltway crowd wanted to talk about was the menace of the debt.

Finally, Republicans blocked attempts to rescue the economy and tried to strangle government spending every step of the way. They claimed that this was because they cared about fiscal responsibility — but it was obvious to anyone paying attention (which unfortunately didn’t include almost anyone in the news media) that this was an insincere, bad-faith argument. As we’ve now seen, they don’t care at all about deficits as long as a Republican is in the White House and the deficits are the counterpart of tax cuts for the rich.

The end result was that policy moved quickly and fairly effectively to rescue banks, then turned its back on mass unemployment. It’s a story that’s both sad and nasty. And there’s every reason to believe that if we have another crisis, it will happen all over again.”

David Lindsay:  It is all true. I remember when Obama became president, and Krugman spent the year after the melt down begging for a much bigger stimulus. He called for a second trillion ( or 800 billion)  dollars of spending, to get the giant aircraft carrier which was the US economy moving again through the water.

Opinion | Democrats Are Credible on Health Care – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“It’s worth remembering what Republicans said would happen before the A.C.A. went online: that it would fail to reduce the number of uninsured, that it would blow a giant hole in the budget, that it would lead to a “death spiral” of rising premiums and declining enrollment.

What actually happened was a dramatic fall in the uninsured, especially in those states that expanded Medicaid. The budget costs of expanding Medicaid and subsidizing other insurance have been significant, but estimates for 2019 suggest that these costs will be around $115 billion — much less than half the revenue lost due to the Trump tax cut.

What about that death spiral? Premiums on the health exchanges established by the A.C.A. initially came in much lower than expected, then rose sharply when the people signing up for those exchanges turned out to be fewer and sicker than insurers had hoped. But the markets have now stabilized, with only modest premium increases for 2019 and insurers returning to the exchanges.

And while the exchanges are covering fewer people than projected, Medicaid is covering more than expected, so that overall gains in coverage have been surprisingly on target. In early 2014, the Congressional Budget Office projected that under the A.C.A., by 2018 there would be 29 million uninsured U.S. residents. The actual number is … 29 million.”