Opinion | Scam I Amn’t: Voters and the Tax Cut – by Paul Krugman – NYT

I don’t know what will happen in the midterm elections. But if Republicans pull it out – that is, if they lose the popular vote by a small enough margin that gerrymandering and the geographic concentration of nonwhite voters frustrate the public’s will – it will be the result of tribalism. It won’t be because the G.O.P. won voters over with a tax cut.That’s not what they expected. The people who rammed through a massive tax cut without hearings or analysis thought they could sell it to voters as free money for everyone; never mind the big bucks for corporations and the wealthy, look at the extra cash we’re putting in your pocket.

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Opinion | Unicorns of the Intellectual Right – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“The hiring-then-firing of Kevin Williamson followed a familiar script. A mainstream media organization hires a conservative in the name of intellectual diversity, then is shocked, shocked to discover that he’s dishonest and/or holds truly reprehensible views – something that the organization could have discovered with a few minutes on Google. But when the bad hire is let go, the right treats him as a martyr, proof of liberal refusal to let alternative viewpoints be heard. Why does this keep happening?

As others have pointed out, the real problem here is that media organizations are looking for unicorns: serious, honest, conservative intellectuals with real influence. Forty or fifty years ago, such people did exist. But now they don’t.”

Yes. And here is the most popular comment:

Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

In 1993, Kudlow predicted that Bill Clinton’s tax increases would dampen economic growth.

When the economy boomed in the late-1990s, Kudlow credited it to tax cuts enacted during the Reagan administration (1981-1989).

Kudlow was a strong advocate of George W. Bush’s substantial tax cuts, and argued that the tax cuts would lead to an economic boom of equal magnitude.

After the implementation of the Bush tax cuts, Kudlow insisted year after year that the economy was in the middle of a “Bush boom”, and chastised other commentators for failing to realize it.

Kudlow firmly denied that the United States would enter a recession in 2007, or that it was in the midst of a recession in early to mid-2008. In December 2007, he wrote: “The recession debate is over. It’s not gonna happen. Time to move on. At a bare minimum, we are looking at Goldilocks 2.0. The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth splendid year with many more years to come”.

In a May 2008 column entitled “‘R’ is for ‘Right'”, Kudlow wrote: “President George W. Bush may turn out to be the top economic forecaster in the country”.

By July 2008, Kudlow continued to deny that the economy was looking poor, saying “We are in a mental recession, not an actual recession.”

The most important Republican political talent is a sociopathic combination of pathological liars, congenital greedsters, and award-winning incompetents.

Republicans adore manmade catastrophe.

Grand Old Psychopaths are in the cockpit.

Opinion | What’s the Matter With Trumpland? – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Take, for example, the case of Mississippi, America’s poorest state. In the 1930s, per-capita income in Mississippi was only 30 percent as high as per-capita income in Massachusetts. By the late 1970s, however, that figure was almost 70 percent — and most people probably expected this process of convergence to continue.

But the process went into reverse instead: These days, Mississippi is back down to only about 55 percent of Massachusetts income. To put this in international perspective, Mississippi now is about as poor relative to the coastal states as Sicily is relative to northern Italy.

Mississippi isn’t an isolated case. As a new paper by Austin, Glaeser and Summers documents, regional convergence in per-capita incomes has stopped dead. And the relative economic decline of lagging regions has been accompanied by growing social problems: a rising share of prime-aged men not working, rising mortality, high levels of opioid consumption.

An aside: One implication of these developments is that William Julius Wilson was right. Wilson famously argued that the social ills of the nonwhite inner-city poor had their origin not in some mysterious flaws of African-American culture but in economic factors — specifically, the disappearance of good blue-collar jobs. Sure enough, when rural whites faced a similar loss of economic opportunity, they experienced a similar social unraveling.”

Opinion | Is It Policy- or Just Reality TV? – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“The other day the Trump administration announced a new trade deal with South Korea. It also announced that President Trump was nominating the White House physician to head the Department of Veterans Affairs. What do these announcements have in common?

The answer is that both are indicators of how Trump views his job. He doesn’t seem to see actual policymaking as important; instead, he treats it all as an exercise in reality TV.

Unfortunately, what looks good on TV isn’t necessarily good for America, or the world.Ronny L. Jackson, the veterans affairs nominee, certainly looks good on TV, as we saw when he gave Trump an excellent bill of health, including a declaration that the president, while overweight, is just shy of being officially obese — thanks to having apparently grown an inch in office.

However, girtherism isn’t the real issue here; as David Axelrod says, “a waist is a terrible thing to mind.” The point, instead, is that running veterans’ health is a management, not medical, job — and Jackson has no managerial experience.”

Putting the Ex-Con in Conservatism – Paul Krugman – NYT

“And this sustained reliance on the big con has, over time, exerted a strong selection effect both on the party’s leadership and on its base. G.O.P. politicians tend disproportionately to be con men (and in some cases, con women), because playing the party’s political game requires both a willingness to and a talent for saying one thing while doing another. And the party’s base consists disproportionately of the easily conned — those who are easily fooled by claims that Those People are the problem and don’t notice how much the true Republican agenda hurts them.

The point is that Trumpism was more or less fated to happen. Trump’s crude racism and blatant dishonesty are only exaggerated versions of what his party has been selling for decades, while his substantive policy agenda — slashing taxes on corporations and the wealthy, taking health care away from lower-income families — is utterly orthodox.

Even his protectionism is less of a departure from Republican norms than people imagine. George W. Bush put tariffs on steel, while Reagan limited imports of Japanese autos. Cutting taxes on the rich is a fundamental G.O.P. principle; free trade isn’t.Once you realize the extent to which Republican politics has been shaped by the big con, three implications follow.”

Nasty- Brutish and Trump – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“On Wednesday, after listening to the heart-rending stories of those who lost children and friends in the Parkland school shooting — while holding a cue card with empathetic-sounding phrases — Donald Trump proposed his answer: arming schoolteachers.

It says something about the state of our national discourse that this wasn’t even among the vilest, stupidest reactions to the atrocity. No, those honors go to the assertions by many conservative figures that bereaved students were being manipulated by sinister forces, or even that they were paid actors.Still, Trump’s horrible idea, taken straight from the N.R.A. playbook, was deeply revealing — and the revelation goes beyond issues of gun control. What’s going on in America right now isn’t just a culture war. It is, on the part of much of today’s right, a war on the very concept of community, of a society that uses the institution we call government to offer certain basic protections to all its members.

Before I get there, let me remind you of the obvious: We know very well how to limit gun violence, and arming civilians isn’t part of the answer.No other advanced nation experiences frequent massacres the way we do. Why? Because they impose background checks for prospective gun owners, limit the prevalence of guns in general and ban assault weapons that allow a killer to shoot dozens of people before he (it’s always a he) can be taken down. And yes, these regulations work.”

The Content of the G.O.P.’s Character – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Even those who have long since accepted the premise that Donald Trump is corrupt, self-centered and dishonest seem a bit shocked by his tirades over the Presidents’ Day weekend. Using the Parkland, Fla., massacre as an excuse to attack the F.B.I. for investigating Russian election intervention on his behalf — while lying about his own past denials that such intervention took place — took vileness to a new level, which is truly impressive given Trump’s previous record.

Yet if you step back a bit and think about it, Trump’s latest outbursts were very much in character — and I don’t just mean his personal character. When did you last see a member of the Trump administration, or for that matter any prominent Republican, admit error or accept responsibility for problems?Don’t say that it has always been that way, that it’s just the way people are. On the contrary, taking responsibility for your actions — what my parents called being a mensch — used to be considered an essential virtue in politicians and adults in general. And in this as in so many things, there’s a huge asymmetry between the parties. Of course not all Democrats are honest and upstanding; but as far as I can tell, there’s almost nobody left in the G.O.P. willing to take responsibility for, well, anything.

And I don’t think this is an accident. The sad content of modern Republican character is a symptom of the corruption and hypocrisy that has afflicted half of our body politic — a sickness of the soul that manifests itself in personal behavior as well as policy.”

Trump Doesn’t Give a Dam – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“Donald Trump doesn’t give a dam. Or a bridge. Or a road. Or a sewer system. Or any of the other things we talk about when we talk about infrastructure.But how can that be when he just announced a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan? That’s easy: It’s not a plan, it’s a scam. The $1.5 trillion number is just made up; he’s only proposing federal spending of $200 billion, which is somehow supposed to magically induce a vastly bigger overall increase in infrastructure investment, mainly paid for either by state and local governments (which are not exactly rolling in cash, but whatever) or by the private sector.

And even the $200 billion is essentially fraudulent: The budget proposal announced the same day doesn’t just impose savage cuts on the poor, it includes sharp cuts for the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy and other agencies that would be crucially involved in any real infrastructure plan. Realistically, Trump’s offer on infrastructure is this: nothing.”

Yes, yes, yes. Here is the most recommended comment, which I liked:

Socrates is a trusted commenter Downtown Verona. NJ 19 hours ago

The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says the US needs to invest $4.59 trillion by 2025 in the nation’s infrastructure, according to its Infrastructure Report Card.

The ASCE gave the America’s infrastructure an overall grade of D+.

The ASCE says that the current low level of government investment makes trillions in GDP losses and job losses inevitable due to America’s 3rd world infrastructure.

America’s infrastructure grades:

Aviation: D
Bridges: C+
Dams: D
Drinking Water: D
Energy: D+
Hazardous Waste: D+
Inland Waterways: D
Levees: D
Parks and Recreation: D+
Ports: C+
Rail: B
Roads: D
Schools: D
Solid Waste: C+
Transit: D-
Wastewater: D+

https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

America is a D student when it comes to infrastructure, and as a reminder for our dumb, deplorable Donald, infrastructure costs real dollars, not fake dollars.

In Donald’s defense, he’s probably confused, because he’s used to stiffing contractors and people – not paying them – so he underestimated the real cost by a trillion or two….an honest crook’s mistake.

Of course just over a month ago, we had an extra $1.5 trillion to spend on infrastructure, BUT there was an urgent emergency renovation of the giant levee systems in 50,000 of the country’s millionaire/billionaire bank accounts that required immediate attention and a rapid response.

Infrastructure represents the common good: Donald Trump and Greed Over People will be having none of that.

Three cheers for Dumb D+onald.

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Fraudulence of the Fiscal Hawks – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“In 2011, House Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, issued a report full of dire warnings about the dangers of budget deficits. “The United States is facing a crushing burden of debt,” it declared, warning of a looming fiscal crisis that might soon “capsize” the economy. Citing the horrors of big deficits, Republicans refused to raise the federal debt ceiling, threatening to create financial turmoil and effectively blackmailing President Barack Obama into cutting spending on domestic programs.

How big were these horrifying deficits? In the 2012 fiscal year the federal deficit was $1.09 trillion. Much of this deficit, however, was a direct result of a depressed economy, which held down revenues and increased outlays on unemployment benefits and other safety-net programs. The deficit fell rapidly over the next few years as the economy recovered.

This week Republicans, having just enacted a huge tax cut, cheerfully agreed to a budget deal that, according to independent experts, will push next year’s deficit up to around $1.15 trillion — bigger than in 2012. True, this won’t quite match 2012’s red ink as a percentage of G.D.P.; but this time none of the deficit will be a result of a depressed economy.

Wait, it gets worse. In 2012 there were strong economic reasons to run budget deficits. The economy was still suffering the aftereffects of the 2008 financial crisis. Unemployment was around 8 percent. And the Federal Reserve, which normally takes the lead in fighting slumps, had very limited ammunition: It had already cut interest rates to zero, and its policy of “quantitative easing” — purchasing longer-term debt — was of questionable effectiveness. (And Ryan, among others, fiercely attacked the Fed’s efforts, which he claimed — wrongly — would “debase the currency.”)

The state of the economy in 2012 was exactly the kind of situation in which running budget deficits is actually a good thing, because they help sustain overall spending. By contrast, there is no comparable case for deficits now, with the economy near full employment and the Fed raising interest rates to head off potential inflation. (Maybe the Fed is moving too soon, but the contrast with 2012 is still extreme.)”

DL: Bravo Paul Krugman. You wrote about this stuff when Obama was president, and now you get to write about it again. You were correct both times in identifying the hypocracy and economic and social damage that the GOP is wreaking on the United States. Thank you.

Has Trumphoria Finally Hit a Wall? – by Paul Krugman – NYT

“When talking about stock markets, there are three rules you have to remember. First, the stock market is not the economy. Second, the stock market is not the economy. Third, the stock market is not the economy.

So the market plunge of the past few days might mean nothing at all.On one side, don’t assume that there was a good reason for the slide (although the fact that the Dow fell 666 points on Friday hints either at satanic forces or at some mystical link with the Kushner family’s bum investment at 666 Fifth Avenue). When stocks crashed in 1987, the economist Robert Shiller carried out a real-time survey of investor motivations; it turned out that the crash was essentially a pure self-fulfilling panic. People weren’t selling because some news item caused them to revise their views about stock values; they sold because they saw that other people were selling.

And on the other side, don’t assume that the stock price decline tells us much about the economic future, either. The great economist Paul Samuelson famously quipped that the stock market had predicted nine of the past five recessions. That 1987 crash, for example, was followed not by a recession, but by solid growth.”

David Lindsay Jr.

Hamden, CT 

Great column, thank you Paul Krugman. I learned from a hyperlink in this extraodinary op ed the following. Shiller’s adjusted pe is 33.6. I found that the regular pe is 24.7. Can anyone explain how Shiller adjusts the pe so that it is so different than the unadjusted pe? Last week, Professor, I thought you made a rare mistake, when you suggested the Democrats should continue to continue to shut down the government over relief for the DACA dreamers. I agreee with Brett Stevens on that one, it would have reduced the chances that sane people take over the congress in the next election, by playing into the GOP’s most popular issue. As David Leonhardt wrote, we always lose when we play the identity politics game, or remind unhappy white voters that they are becoming the minority.

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David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth-century Vietnam,” and blogs at The TaySonRebellion.com and InconvenientNews.wordpress.com