Opinion | Elizabeth Warren Does Teddy Roosevelt – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman
By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 28, 2019, 633 c

Image
Elizabeth Warren at a campaign event in Iowa early this month.CreditCreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

“America invented progressive taxation. And there was a time when leading American politicians were proud to proclaim their willingness to tax the wealthy, not just to raise revenue, but to limit excessive concentration of economic power.

“It is important,” said Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, “to grapple with the problems connected with the amassing of enormous fortunes” — some of them, he declared, “swollen beyond all healthy limits.”

Today we are once again living in an era of extraordinary wealth concentrated in the hands of a few people, with the net worth of the wealthiest 0.1 percent of Americans almost equal to that of the bottom 90 percent combined. And this concentration of wealth is growing; as Thomas Piketty famously argued in his book “Capital in the 21st Century,” we seem to be heading toward a society dominated by vast, often inherited fortunes.

So can today’s politicians rise to the challenge? Well, Elizabeth Warren has released an impressive proposal for taxing extreme wealth. And whether or not she herself becomes the Democratic nominee for president, it says good things about her party that something this smart and daring is even part of the discussion.”

Opinion | The Economy Won’t Rescue Trump – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman
By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist

Jan. 21, 2019, 724 c

“Although there have been approximately 100,000 media profiles of enthusiastic blue-collar Trump supporters in diners, the reality is that Donald Trump is extraordinarily unpopular. A recent Pew analysis found only one other modern president with such a low approval rating two years into his administration.

On the other hand, that president was Ronald Reagan, who went on to win re-election in a landslide. So some Trump boosters are suggesting their champion can repeat that performance. Can he?

No, he can’t. And it’s worth understanding why, both to assess current political prospects and to debunk the Reagan mythology still infesting U.S. conservatism.

Let’s talk first about the Reagan story.

Reagan was indeed unpopular in January 1983, mainly because of the economic situation. Despite a huge tax cut in 1981 and a sharp rise in military spending, more than 10 percent of the labor force was unemployed.

Although many voters blamed Reagan for this economic distress, the truth was that it had little to do with his policies; it was, instead, the consequence of the Federal Reserve’s attempts to bring down inflation, which had driven interest rates as high as 19 percent.

By mid-1982, however, the Fed had reversed course, sharply reducing rates. And these rate cuts eventually produced a huge housing boom, which in turn drove a rapid economic recovery.

Like the earlier slump, this boom had little to do with Reagan’s policies, but voters gave him credit anyway. Unemployment was still fairly high — more than 7 percent — in November 1984, but what matters for elections is whether things are getting better or worse, not how good they are in absolute terms. And in 1983-84, unemployment fell fast, so Reagan won big.”

Opinion | Donald Trump and His Team of Morons – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By Paul Krugman,  Opinion ColumnistJan. 14, 201. 855 c
President Trump greeting a member of his team, Sean Hannity, at a political rally in , November.
Credit
Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“There have been many policy disasters over the course of U.S. history. It’s hard, however, to think of a calamity as gratuitous, an error as unforced, as the current federal shutdown.

Nor can I think of another disaster as thoroughly personal, as completely owned by one man. When Donald Trump told Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, “I will be the one to shut it down,” he was being completely accurate — although he went on to promise that “I’m not going to blame you for it,” which was a lie.

Still, no man is an island, although Trump comes closer than most. You can’t fully make sense of his policy pratfalls without acknowledging the extraordinary quality of the people with whom he has surrounded himself. And by “extraordinary,” of course, I mean extraordinarily low quality. Lincoln had a team of rivals; Trump has a team of morons.

If this sounds too harsh, consider recent economic pronouncements by two members of his administration. Predictably, these pronouncements involve bad economics; that’s pretty much a given. What’s striking, instead, is the inability of either man to stay on script; they can’t even get their right-wing mendacity right.

First up is Kevin Hassett, chairman of Trump’s Council of Economic Advisers, who was asked about the plight of federal workers who aren’t being paid. You don’t have to be a public relations expert to know that you’re supposed to express some sympathy, whether you feel it or not. After all, there are multiple news reports about transportation security workers turning to food banks, the Coast Guard suggesting its employees hold garage sales, and so on.

So the right response involves expressing concern about those workers but placing the blame on Democrats who don’t want to stop brown-skinned rapists, or something like that. But no: Hassett declared that it’s all good, that the workers are actually “better off,” because they’re getting time off without having to use any of their vacation days.”

Opinion | Elizabeth Warren and Her Party of Ideas – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

“You don’t have to agree with any of the various Medicare for All plans, or proposals for a Green New Deal, to recognize that these are important ideas receiving serious discussion.

The question is whether our media environment can handle a real party of ideas. Can news organizations tell the difference between genuine policy wonks and poseurs like Ryan? Are they even willing to discuss policy rather than snark about candidates’ supposed personality flaws?

Which brings me to the case of Elizabeth Warren, who is probably today’s closest equivalent to Moynihan in his prime.

Like Moynihan, she’s a serious intellectual turned influential politician. Her scholarly work on bankruptcy and its relationship to rising inequality made her a major player in policy debate long before she entered politics herself. Like many others, I found one of her key insights — that rising bankruptcy rates weren’t caused by profligate consumerism, that they largely reflected the desperate attempts of middle-class families to buy homes in good school districts — revelatory.”

Opinion | The Economics of Soaking the Rich – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

What does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know about tax policy? A lot.

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist, Jan. 5, 2019, 2666 c

Image
Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Jahana Hayes of Connecticut on the House floor in Washington on Thursday.CreditCreditCarolyn Kaster/Associated Press

“I have no idea how well Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will perform as a member of Congress. But her election is already serving a valuable purpose. You see, the mere thought of having a young, articulate, telegenic nonwhite woman serve is driving many on the right mad — and in their madness they’re inadvertently revealing their true selves.

Some of the revelations are cultural: The hysteria over a video of AOC dancing in college says volumes, not about her, but about the hysterics. But in some ways the more important revelations are intellectual: The right’s denunciation of AOC’s “insane” policy ideas serves as a very good reminder of who is actually insane.

The controversy of the moment involves AOC’s advocacy of a tax rate of 70-80 percent on very high incomes, which is obviously crazy, right? I mean, who thinks that makes sense? Only ignorant people like … um, Peter Diamond, Nobel laureate in economics and arguably the world’s leading expert on public finance. (Although Republicans blocked him from an appointment to the Federal Reserve Board with claims that he was unqualified. Really.) And it’s a policy nobody has ever implemented, aside from … the United States, for 35 years after World War II — including the most successful period of economic growth in our history.

To be more specific, Diamond, in work with Emmanuel Saez — one of our leading experts on inequality — estimated the optimal top tax rate to be 73 percent. Some put it higher: Christina Romer, top macroeconomist and former head of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimates it at more than 80 percent.”

Opinion | Conservatism’s Monstrous Endgame – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist,  Dec. 17, 2018, 1092c
Credit
Timothy A. Clary/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The midterm elections were, to an important extent, a referendum on the Affordable Care Act; health care, not Donald Trump, dominated Democratic campaigning. And voters delivered a clear verdict: They want Obamacare’s achievements, the way it expanded coverage to roughly 20 million people who would otherwise have been uninsured, to be sustained.

But on Friday, Reed O’Connor, a partisan Republican judge known for “weaponizing” his judicial power, declared the A.C.A. as a whole — protection for pre-existing conditions, subsidies to help families afford coverage, and the Medicaid expansion — unconstitutional. Legal experts from both right and left ridiculed his reasoning and described his ruling as “raw political activism.” And that ruling probably won’t be sustained by higher courts.

But don’t be too sure that his sabotage will be overturned. O’Connor’s abuse of power may be unusually crude, but that sort of behavior is becoming increasingly common. And it’s not just health care, nor is it just the courts. What Nancy Pelosi called the “monstrous endgame” of the Republican assault on health care is just the leading edge of an attack on multiple fronts, as the G.O.P. tries to overturn the will of the voters and undermine democracy in general.

For while we may congratulate ourselves on the strength of our political institutions, in the end institutions consist of people and fulfill their roles only as long as the people in them respect their intended purpose. Rule of law depends not just on what is written down, but also on the behavior of those who interpret and enforce that rule.”

Opinion | Climate Denial Was the Crucible for Trumpism – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Many observers seem baffled by Republican fealty to Donald Trump — the party’s willingness to back him on all fronts, even after severe defeats in the midterm elections. What kind of party would show such support for a leader who is not only evidently corrupt and seemingly in the pocket of foreign dictators, but also routinely denies facts and tries to criminalize anyone who points them out?

The answer is, the kind of the party that, long before Trump came on the scene, committed itself to denying the facts on climate change and criminalizing the scientists reporting those facts.

The G.O.P. wasn’t always an anti-environment, anti-science party. George H.W. Bush introduced the cap-and-trade program that largely controlled the problem of acid rain. As late as 2008, John McCain called for a similar program to limit emissions of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

But McCain’s party was already well along in the process of becoming what it is today — a party that is not only completely dominated by climate deniers, but is hostile to science in general, that demonizes and tries to destroy scientists who challenge its dogma.”

Opinion | When MAGA Fantasy Meets Rust Belt Reality – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By Paul Krugman,   Opinion Columnist, Nov. 29, 2018,          837
Image: Union workers concerned about jobs interrupted President Trump at a rally in Ohio in early November.
Credit:  David Maxwell/EPA, via Shutterstock

“Let’s face it: Make America Great Again was a brilliant political slogan. Why? Because it could mean different things to different people.

For many supporters of Donald Trump, MAGA was basically a promise to return to the good old days of raw racism and sexism. And Trump is delivering on that promise.

But for at least some Trump voters, it was a promise to restore the kind of economy we had 40 or 50 years ago — an economy that still offered lots of manly jobs in manufacturing and mining. Unfortunately for those who trusted Mr. Art of the Deal, Trump never had any idea how to deliver on that promise. And even if he had a clue about policymaking, he couldn’t have changed the long-term trajectory of our economy, which is moving steadily away from making physical stuff and toward providing services.

As a result, Trump, who cares above all about image, is now getting headlines that make a mockery of his campaign posturing — headlines about closing auto plants and lost jobs. Now, autos are a special case; overall manufacturing employment is still rising, although not especially fast. But relative to his grand promises, what’s happening is an embarrassing bust.

Why was the vision of revived manufacturing nonsense? Talking about what Donald Trump doesn’t know is, of course, a vast task, since his ignorance is both broad and deep. But he seems to have misunderstood three specific things about manufacturing.

First, he believes that trade deficits are the reason we’ve shifted away from manufacturing. But they aren’t.

To be fair, those deficits have played some role in shrinking U.S. industrial employment. If we could eliminate our current trade imbalance, we’d probably have around 20 percent more workers in the manufacturing sector than we actually do. But that would reverse only a small part of manufacturing’s relative decline, from more than a quarter of the work force in 1970 to less than 10 percent now.

Indeed, even countries that run huge trade surpluses, like Germany, have seen big declines in manufacturing as a share of employment. Trade just isn’t the main story. What’s happening instead is that as overall spending grows, an increasing share goes to services, not goods. Consumption of manufactured goods keeps rising, but technological progress lets us produce those goods with ever fewer workers; so the economy shifts toward services.”

Opinion | Why Was Trump’s Tax Cut a Fizzle? – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Last week’s blue wave means that Donald Trump will go into the 2020 election with only one major legislative achievement: a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Still, that tax cut was supposed to accomplish big things. Republicans thought it would give them a big electoral boost, and they predicted dramatic economic gains. What they got instead, however, was a big fizzle.

The political payoff, of course, never arrived. And the economic results have been disappointing. True, we’ve had two quarters of fairly fast economic growth, but such growth spurts are fairly common — there was a substantially bigger spurt in 2014, and hardly anyone noticed. And this growth was driven largely by consumer spending and, surprise, government spending, which wasn’t what the tax cutters promised.

Meanwhile, there’s no sign of the vast investment boom the law’s backers promised. Corporations have used the tax cut’s proceeds largely to buy back their own stock rather than to add jobs and expand capacity.

But why have the tax cut’s impacts been so minimal? Leave aside the glitch-filled changes in individual taxes, which will keep accountants busy for years; the core of the bill was a huge cut in corporate taxes. Why hasn’t this done more to increase investment?”

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
Image above:
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.”