“Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president. His Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, was Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Reserve. The director of Biden’s National Economic Council, Brian Deese, was deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council. His chief of staff, Ron Klain, was his chief of staff for the first two years of the Obama administration and then Obama’s top Ebola adviser. And so on.
The familiar names and faces can obscure how different the new administration, in practice, has become. The problems Biden is facing are an almost perfect inversion of the problems Obama faced. The Obama administration was bedeviled by crises of demand. The Biden administration is struggling with crises of supply.”
Brilliant. Many valid points, despite the comments, which have some truth too. Maybe the Republicans threw the banana peels, but Biden chose to slip on them all.
“But before we get to that, I want to widen the definition of “supply,” a dull word within which lurks thrilling possibilities. Supply-side progressivism shouldn’t just fix the problems of the present; it should hasten the advances of the future. A problem of our era is there’s too little utopian thinking, but one worthy exception is Aaron Bastani’s “Fully Automated Luxury Communism,” a leftist tract that puts the technologies in development right now — artificial intelligence, renewable energy, asteroid mining, plant and cell-based meats, and genetic editing — at the center of a post-work, post-scarcity vision.
“What if everything could change?” he asks. “What if, more than simply meeting the great challenges of our time — from climate change to inequality and aging — we went far beyond them, putting today’s problems behind us like we did before with large predators and, for the most part, illness. What if, rather than having no sense of a different future, we decided history hadn’t actually begun?”
Bastani’s vision is bracing because it insists that those of us who believe in a radically fairer, gentler, more sustainable world have a stake in bringing forward the technologies that will make that world possible. That is a political question as much as a technological one: Those same technologies could become accelerators of inequality and want if they’re not embedded in thoughtful policies and institutions. But what Bastani sees clearly is that the world we should want requires more than redistribution. It requires inventions and advances that render old problems obsolete and new possibilities manifold.
Climate change is the most pressing example. If the Biden administration gave every American a check to transition to renewables, the policy would fail, because we haven’t built that much renewable capacity, to say nothing of the supply chain needed to deploy and maintain it. In a world where two-thirds of emissions are now coming from middle-income countries like China and India, the only way for humanity to both address climate change and poverty is to invent our way to clean energy that is plentiful and cheap, and then spend enough to rapidly deploy it.”
“. . . Focusing on the execution of the withdrawal is giving virtually everyone who insisted we could remake Afghanistan the opportunity to obscure their failures by pretending to believe in the possibility of a graceful departure. It’s also obscuring the true alternative to withdrawal: endless occupation. But what our ignominious exit really reflects is the failure of America’s foreign policy establishment at both prediction and policymaking in Afghanistan.
“The pro-war crowd sees this as a mechanism by which they can absolve themselves of an accounting for the last 20 years,” Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, told me. “Just think about the epic size of this policy failure. Twenty years of training. More than $2 trillion worth of expenditure. For almost nothing. It is heartbreaking to watch these images, but it is equally heartbreaking to think about all of the effort, of lives and money we wasted in pursuit of a goal that was illusory.” “
“For months, there’s been a debate over what should count as infrastructure. Roads and bridges, sure. But what about preschool and health insurance and child care? Democrats say yes, Republicans say no. With the exception of broadband access, however, there’s been almost no discussion of the infrastructure underpinning the digital economy. But right at the end, that changed, when a meltdown over cryptocurrency regulation almost derailed the bipartisan infrastructure bill’s passage in the Senate.
I’m going to try to do a few things here. First, I want to explain why crypto matters, even if you think Bitcoin is just goldbuggery for nerds. The technology is evolving to be much more than a digital currency, and Silicon Valley sees it as the digital infrastructure atop which the next internet will be built. Then I want to trace the fight that consumed the final days of the bill, because this was just an early skirmish in what will be a much longer campaign.”
This piece by Klein is pathetically vague, but the comments are not.
I’m no closer to understanding crypto currencies, but this article made the associated problems wonderfully clear. What it did NOT do was point out that in our current environment, anything that burns as much electricity as Indonesia should either be shutdown or construct its own solar/wind power source. The notion that someone somewhere is burning coal so these “whiz kids” can avoid the banking system is unacceptable. Climate change is 1000 times more important than more “digital innovation”…
As a retired computer engineer in his mid-seventies, I hope to die before I have to understand and deal with cryptocurrencies, blockchains, etc. Regrettably, my children (in their forties, more or less) won’t be so lucky. For what it may be worth, to me Bitcoin looks a lot like gold: it has to be “mined,” with substantial expense and environmental damage; it has no intrinsic value; and it is little more than a medium for speculation.
I live in the Finger Lakes, an area full of farms, wineries, rolling hills and lakes. We are working hard to end out reliance on carbon. On Seneca lake, a crypto mining facility is spewing enormous amounts of carbon into the air to run the computers. Crypto now uses as much carbo energy as Argentina. This industry does not belong in a world where dealing with the carbo emergency is paramount. The neglect to mention this reality makes this piece worthless. Everything should be now be studies through the lens of the climate emergency.
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As I might sing in my concert on the environment, Noah’s New Ark,
“I hate that I believe the sentence I’m about to write. It undermines much of what I spend my life trying to do. But there is nothing more overrated in politics — and perhaps in life — than the power of persuasion.
It is nearly impossible to convince people of what they don’t want to believe. Decades of work in psychology attest to this truth, as does most everything in our politics and most of our everyday experience. Think of your own conversations with your family or your colleagues. How often have you really persuaded someone to abandon a strongly held belief or preference? Persuasion is by no means impossible or unimportant, but on electric topics, it is a marginal phenomenon.
Which brings me to the difficult choice we face on coronavirus vaccinations. The conventional wisdom is that there is some argument, yet unmade and perhaps undiscovered, that will change the minds of the roughly 30 percent of American adults who haven’t gotten at least one dose. There probably isn’t. The unvaccinated often hold their views strongly, and many are making considered, cost-benefit calculations given how they weigh the risks of the virus, and the information sources they trust to inform them of those risks. For all the exhortations to respect their concerns, there is a deep condescension in believing that we’re smart enough to discover or invent some appeal they haven’t yet heard.
If policymakers want to change their minds, they have to change their calculations by raising the costs of remaining unvaccinated, the benefits of getting vaccinated, or both. If they can’t do that, or won’t, the vaccination effort will most likely remain stuck — at least until a variant wreaks sufficient carnage to change the calculus.”
Ezra Klein is professionally delicate. The comments are far more direct and forceful. Time for sticks. No vaccination, no more access to public events, no more access to government services and payments, no more health or life insurance. Carrots don’t work, but sticks do.
“I spent the weekend reading a book I wasn’t entirely comfortable being seen with in public. Andreas Malm’s “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is only slightly inaptly named. You won’t find, anywhere inside, instructions on sabotaging energy infrastructure. A truer title would be “Why to Blow Up a Pipeline.” On this, Malm’s case is straightforward: Because nothing else has worked.
Decades of climate activism have gotten millions of people into the streets but they haven’t turned the tide on emissions, or even investments. Citing a 2019 study in the journal Nature, Malm observes that, measuring by capacity, 49 percent of the fossil-fuel-burning energy infrastructure now in operation was installed after 2004. Add in the expected emissions from projects in some stage of the planning process and we are most of the way toward warming the world by 2 degrees Celsius — a prospect scientists consider terrifying and most world governments have repeatedly pledged to avoid. Some hoped that the pandemic would alter the world’s course, but it hasn’t. Oil consumption is hurtling back to precrisis levels, and demand for coal, the dirtiest of the fuels, is rising.”
“Joe Biden didn’t wake up one day and realize he’d been wrong for 30 years.
I covered him in the Senate, in the Obama White House, in the Democratic Party’s post-Trump reckoning. Biden was rarely, if ever, the voice calling for transformational change or go-it-alone ambition.
But you’d never know it from his presidency. The standard explanation for all this is the advent of the coronavirus. The country is in crisis, and Biden is rising to meet the moment. But I don’t buy it. That may explain the American Rescue Plan. But the American Jobs Plan, and the forthcoming American Family Plan, go far beyond the virus. Put together, they are a sweeping indictment of the prepandemic status quo as a disaster for both people and the planet — a status quo that in many cases Biden helped build and certainly never seemed eager to upend.
Over the past few months, I’ve been talking to White House staff members, to congressional Democrats, to policy experts and to the Biden administration’s critics to better understand why President Biden is making such a sharp break with Joe Biden. Here are a few of them, though this is by no means a complete list.
The collapse of the Republican Party as a negotiating partner.” . . . “
The piece goes on with a section, We all trust economists less than before.
“. . . The backdrop for this administration is the failures of the past generation of economic advice. Fifteen years of financial crises, yawning inequality and repeated debt panics that never showed up in interest rates have taken the shine off economic expertise. But the core of this story is climate. “Many mainstream economists, even in the 1980s, recognized that the market wouldn’t cover everyone’s needs so you’d need some modest amount of public support to correct for that moderate market failure,” Felicia Wong, the president of the Roosevelt Institute, said. “But they never envisioned the climate crisis. This is not a failure of the market at the margins. This is the market incentivizing destruction.”
Deese, the N.E.C. head, is notable for being a climate wonk who’s now in charge of the nerve center of White House economic policymaking. And the scale of the climate disaster, and the speed at which it must be addressed, simply demands a different role for the government. “If you think across the big systems in our country — the transportation system being one, the power and energy system being another — in order to actually solve climate change, we’re going to have to transform those systems,” he told me.” . . .
“Here’s a question I’ve been mulling in recent months: Is Alex Tabarrok right? Are people dying because our coronavirus response is far too conservative?
I don’t mean conservative in the politicized, left-right sense. Tabarrok, an economist at George Mason University and a blogger at Marginal Revolution, is a libertarian, and I am very much not. But over the past year, he has emerged as a relentless critic of America’s coronavirus response, in ways that left me feeling like a Burkean in our conversations.
Excellent op-ed, thank you Ezra Klein You can write! Many be you should podcast less and write more. I never listen to your podcasts, because they take more time than I’m willing to give. A real summary of all podcasts in the opinion section should be required.