Paul Krugman | How Democrats Can Fight This G.O.P. – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Normally, one would expect a political party that suffered severe electoral disappointment — falling far short of typical midterm gains despite high inflation and consumer discontent — to moderate its positions, to seek compromise in order to achieve at least some of its policy goals.

But the modern G.O.P., in case you haven’t noticed, isn’t a normal political party. It barely has policy goals, other than an almost reflexive desire to cut taxes on the rich and deny aid to those in need. It certainly doesn’t have policy ideas.

Republicans spent much of the election talking about inflation. But in a news conference just after securing a narrow majority in the House, top Republicans declared that their top priority would be … investigating the Biden family.

So the G.O.P. won’t help govern America. It will, in fact, almost surely do what it can to undermine governance. And Democrats, in turn, need to do whatever they can both to thwart political sabotage and to make the would-be saboteurs pay a price.”

“. . . . .  The good news is that Democrats can, as The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent puts it, “crazyproof” policy during the lame duck session, raising the debt limit high enough that it won’t be a problem and locking in sufficient aid for Ukraine to get through the many months of war that surely lie ahead. And Democrats would be, well, crazy not to do these things as soon as possible.

Beyond that, Democrats can and should hammer Republicans for their extremism, for focusing on disruption and fake scandals rather than trying to improve Americans’ lives.”  -30-

Paul Krugman | Wonking Out: Stealing Away the Golden Years of the Working Class – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“My Thursday column is about the assault on Medicare and Social Security that is almost certain to follow if Republicans prevail on Tuesday. If the G.O.P. wins control of Congress, we can expect it to hold the economy hostage, most obviously by weaponizing the debt ceiling, in an attempt to force big cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

This isn’t an outlandish scenario. It already happened once. In 2011, after taking control of the House, Republicans sought to extort major cuts in the social safety net from the Obama administration — and they almost succeeded. In fact, President Barack Obama agreed to a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility, from 65 to 67. The deal fell through only because Republicans were unwilling to accept even modest tax increases as their part of the bargain.

This time around, the demands are likely to be even bigger. A report from the Republican Study Committee, which probably gives a good idea of where the G.O.P. will go, calls for upping the retirement age and the age of Medicare eligibility to 70.

The report justifies such a rise by pointing to the long-term increase in the number of years Americans can expect to live after age 65, which it calls a “miracle.”

What the report doesn’t note are two probably related caveats for this miracle. First, the increase in seniors’ life expectancy has actually been much smaller here than in other wealthy nations. Second, progress has been very uneven within America, with much bigger gains for groups with high socioeconomic status — precisely the people who need Medicare and Social Security the least — than for the less fortunate.”

“. . . . . . . How does all this bear on Republican proposals to raise the retirement and Medicare eligibility ages? Because seniors’ life expectancy varies so much by class, an increase in the age of eligibility for major programs will take a much bigger bite out of retirement for Americans with low socioeconomic status, and correspondingly fewer years to collect benefits, than it will on those higher on the ladder.

And because disparities have been rising over time, the disproportionality of that effect has been rising, too.

Look back at the figure on life expectancies by quartile. According to these estimates, American men in the bottom quartile born in 1960 can expect to live only 1.9 more years after 65 than their counterparts born in 1928. That’s slightly less than the increase in the retirement age that has already taken place. And even men in that quartile born in 1990 are expected to have only 3.5 years more time after 65 than those born in 1928; meanwhile, Republicans are proposing a rise in the retirement age to 70, a five-year total increase, and an equal rise in the Medicare age.

One way to think about all of this, which is only a slight caricature, is that Republicans are telling janitors in Oklahoma that they can’t get benefits in their 60s — even though their life expectancy hasn’t gone up by much — because lawyers in New York are living longer.

It’s quite a position to take, and it would surely provoke a huge backlash — if voters knew about it, which most of them seem not to.”  -30-

Paul Krugman | Trump Is Weak, but the G.O.P. Is Weaker – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“After their party’s disappointing performance in the midterms, Republican elites seem to have decided that Donald Trump is their big problem. The Murdoch media empire has been trashing the former president. Many donors and operatives are reportedly rallying around Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. But Trump, who is widely expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign on Tuesday, won’t go quietly.

Will Trump secure the nomination despite elite qualms? If he doesn’t, will a man who has never shown any loyalty to his party or, for that matter, anyone but himself, sabotage the G.O.P. out of spite? I don’t know more than anyone else who follows the news.

Let’s talk instead about how remarkable it is that someone like Trump managed to dominate one of America’s two major political parties and surely retains a substantial base.

I’m not talking about the fact that Trump holds what I consider reprehensible policy views or even the fact that he engaged in several acts, including an attempt to overturn a national election, that can reasonably be described as seditious. Clearly, most of the G.O.P. is OK with all of that.”

” . . . . . .   Also, the Republican elites trying to distance themselves from Trump spent years fluffing his image. Until a few days ago Fox News, the main source of political information for much of the G.O.P. base, gave Trump the kind of hagiographic coverage you’d expect from state media in a dictatorship.

And Republican politicians, many of whom knew Trump for what he was, spent years praising him in language reminiscent of Politburo members praising the party chairman.

Now those same elites want to push Trump out of the picture. But while they may be able to deny him the nomination, they probably won’t be able to avoid paying a heavy price for their past cowardice.”   -30-

Paul Krugman | A MAGA America Would Be Ugly – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“If you aren’t feeling a sense of dread on the eve of the midterm elections, you haven’t been paying attention.

We can talk about the conventional stakes of these elections — their implications for economic policy, major social programs, environmental policy, civil liberties and reproductive rights. And it’s not wrong to have these discussions: Life will go on whatever happens on the political scene, and government policies will continue to have a big impact on people’s lives.

But I, at least, always feel at least a bit guilty when writing about inflation or the fate of Medicare. Yes, these are my specialties. Focusing on them, however, feels a bit like denial, or at least evasion, when the fundamental stakes right now are so existential.

Ten or 20 years ago, those of us who warned that the Republican Party was becoming increasingly extremist and anti-democracy were often dismissed as alarmists. But the alarmists have been vindicated every step of the way, from the selling of the Iraq war on false pretenses to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Indeed, these days it’s almost conventional wisdom that the G.O.P. will, if it can, turn America into something like Viktor Orban’s Hungary: a democracy on paper, but an ethnonationalist, authoritarian one-party state in practice. After all, U.S. conservatives have made no secret about viewing Hungary as a role model; they have feted Orban and featured him at their conferences.

At this point, however, I believe that even this conventional wisdom is wrong. If America descends into one-party rule, it will be much worse, much uglier, than what we see in today’s Hungary.

Before I get there, a word about the role of conventional policy issues in these elections.

If Democrats lose one or both houses of Congress, there will be a loud chorus of recriminations, much of it asserting that they should have focused on kitchen table issues and not talked at all about threats to democracy.

I don’t claim any expertise here, but I would note that an incumbent president’s party almost always loses seats in the midterms. The only exception to that rule this century was in 2002, when George W. Bush was able to deflect attention from a jobless recovery by posing as America’s defender against terrorism. That record suggests, if anything, that Democrats should have talked even more about issues beyond economics.

I’d also say that pretending that this was an ordinary election season, where only economic policy was at stake, would have been fundamentally dishonest.

Finally, even voters who are more worried about paychecks and living costs than about democracy should nonetheless be very concerned about the G.O.P.’s rejection of democratic norms.

For one thing, Republicans have been open about their plan to use the threat of economic chaos to extract concessions they couldn’t win through the normal legislative process.

Also, while I understand the instinct of voters to choose a different driver if they don’t like where the economy is going, they should understand that this time, voting Republican doesn’t just mean giving someone else a chance at the wheel; it may be a big step toward handing the G.O.P. permanent control, with no chance for voters to revisit that decision if they don’t like the results.

Which brings me to the question of what a one-party America would look like.

As I said, it’s now almost conventional wisdom that Republicans are trying to turn us into Hungary. Indeed, Hungary provides a case study in how democracies can die in the 21st century.

But what strikes me, reading about Orban’s rule, is that while his regime is deeply repressive, the repression is relatively subtle. It is, as one perceptive article put it, “soft fascism,” which makes dissidents powerless via its control of the economy and the news media without beating them up or putting them in jail.

Do you think a MAGA regime, with or without Donald Trump, would be equally subtle? Listen to the speeches at any Trump rally. They’re full of vindictiveness, of promises to imprison and punish anyone — including technocrats like Anthony Fauci — the movement dislikes.

And much of the American right is sympathetic to, or at least unwilling to condemn, violence against its opponents. The Republican reaction to the attack on Paul Pelosi by a MAGA-spouting intruder was telling: Many in the party didn’t even pretend to be horrified. Instead, they peddled ugly conspiracy theories. And the rest of the party didn’t ostracize or penalize the purveyors of vile falsehoods.

In short, if MAGA wins, we’ll probably find ourselves wishing its rule was as tolerant, relatively benign and relatively nonviolent as Orban’s.

Now, this catastrophe doesn’t have to happen. Even if Republicans win big in the midterms, it won’t be the end for democracy, although it will be a big blow. And nothing in politics, not even a full descent into authoritarianism, is permanent.

On the other hand, even if we get a reprieve this week, the fact remains that democracy is in deep danger from the authoritarian right. America as we know it is not yet lost, but it’s on the edge.” -30-

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Great essay, but I give it a B rather than an A, because it is a week late.

Paul Krugman | Liz Truss in the Libertarian Wilderness – The New York Times

 

“Liz Truss, Britain’s newish prime minister, has fallen from grace faster than any leader I can think of. According to a poll released Monday, she has only 9 percent approval among British voters — a performance that would probably be impossible in the United States, where extreme political polarization guarantees that even a leader who, say, instigated a violent insurrection will retain a large base of support. The Star, a British tabloid, has a livestream of a head of lettuce next to a picture of Truss, asking which will last longer.

But how did it go so wrong, so fast?”

Paul Krugman | Has The Fed Gone Too Far on Interest Rates? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Meteorologists tell us that global warming has created new problems for forecasters. Not only are hurricanes getting stronger, they’re also intensifying more rapidly than they used to, making it difficult to issue early warnings for communities in their path. Notably, officials in Florida’s Lee County waited for definitive evidence that they would be hit hard by Hurricane Ian before ordering evacuations — and by then it was too late for many people.

Is something similar happening with economic policy? Recently I wrote about the growing buzz from economists and businesspeople to the effect that the Federal Reserve, which has been trying to slow the economy to fight inflation, is braking too hard. Since then the buzz has intensified. And I’m increasingly convinced that, despite a disappointing inflation report and what still looks by some measures like a robust job market, the Fed is getting behind the curve.

We are, I’d now argue, just starting to see the effects of the interest rate hikes the Fed has been making since early this year. Never mind what inflation and jobs data are saying right now; there’s a lot of reduction in inflationary pressures — and a lot of drag on output and employment — already in the pipeline. The economy, as some business analysts like to say, may well be “rolling over.”

And the risks a hard-money policy poses to financial stability and the world economy in general are looming larger.”

Paul Krugman | War, Inflation and Squandered Credibility – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“What does Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve, understand that Vladimir Putin doesn’t?

OK, I know that may sound like a trick question, or a desperate effort to offer a counterintuitive take on recent events. We may say that the Fed has gone to war against inflation, but that’s just a metaphor. Russia’s war on Ukraine, unfortunately, is all too real, leading to tens of thousands of deaths among both soldiers and civilians.

Yet the Fed and the Putin regime have this in common: Both took major policy actions this week. The Fed raised interest rates in an attempt to curb inflation. While Putin announced a partial mobilization in an attempt to rescue his failed invasion. Both actions will inflict pain.

One important difference, however — aside from the fact that Powell is not, as far as I know, a war criminal — is that the Fed is acting to maintain its credibility, while Putin seems determined to squander whatever credibility he might still have.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Did I write before that I love Paul Krugman. His columns are almost always excellent, and always challenging. It is good for the brain, like doing a hard jig saw puzzle, only you learn more reading Krugman than doing a jig saw puzzle,– about economics, politics and the world. The commenters here think Krugman has made a mistake in his assumption that a dictator has to worry at all about his credibility. They are wrong. Remember the French revolution. Where they might be on to something, it is hard to think of many examples were credibility is more important than raw power. There are more examples if you scrape. The Confederacy miss-estimated that England would support their uprising, because England valued their cotton more than it valued the human rights of slaves. My fear is that Putin will use these poor, pressed, 300,000 young men to secure the large eastern part of the Ukraine, and keep it. So I want NATO and the US to dramatically increase its support, and possibly even take over the Black Sea, for humanitarian reasons. The United States might have to go onto a war footing, without declaring war, to fight two wars at once. We need a war to slow the climate crisis, and a war to stop the spread of Putinism and fascist overreach. But we should not get confused. The climate crisis is the larger danger to our national and personal security. David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion on 18th century Vietnam and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Paul Krugman | Europe’s Gonna Party Like It’s 1979 – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“You probably have to be a senior citizen to remember the gasoline shortages of 1979. I am, and I do. I also remember how demoralizing they were. Then as now, outside a few big cities, America was a highly car-dependent nation, and waiting in long lines, not knowing whether you would be able to fill up, was deeply disconcerting.”

Paul Krugman | What Can We Do to Bring Inflation Down? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“You’re reading the Paul Krugman newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  A guide to U.S. politics and the economy — from the mainstream to the wonkish. Get it in your inbox.

Not long ago, many people were predicting a long, hot summer of inflation. To their surprise — and, for some Republicans, dismay — that isn’t happening. Overall consumer prices were flat in July, and nowcasts — estimates based on preliminary data — suggest that inflation will remain low in August.

However, I don’t know any economists who believe that inflation has been beaten. Much of the recent good news is the result of falling gas prices, which won’t continue. It’s true that we’ll probably get another round of good news from falling food prices: The Food and Agriculture Organization’s index of global food prices plunged in July, and the effect will probably show up in supermarket aisles in a few months:

Image

Relief is coming at the supermarket.
Credit…Food and Agriculture Organization
In fact, beef is already getting cheaper.”
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David Lindsay:  Good essay, but my main reason for posting it, is the Kruman at the end sticks a music recommendation,

Sierra Hull – Mad World (Tears For Fears) – DelFest – Cumberland, MD – 5/28/22

Paul Krugman | Why We Don’t Have a Carbon Tax – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Three and a half years ago, an open letter that more than 3,600 economists eventually signed declared that “climate change is a serious problem calling for immediate national action.” The signatories included 15 former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers, more than half of whom served under Republican presidents — a display of bipartisanship that contrasts sharply with the lock-step opposition of Republicans in Congress to the national action we’re finally taking in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act (which, despite its name, is mainly a climate bill) that President Biden is expected to sign today.

While we’re getting action, however, that action isn’t taking the form called for in the letter. That huge array of economists agreed that climate change mitigation should take the form of a carbon tax — a fee levied on businesses and individuals who emit greenhouse gases. This, the letter argued, was the remedy recommended by “sound economic principles.” But the I.R.A. doesn’t include a carbon tax, nor does it introduce a system of tradable emissions permits, which would provide similar incentives.

Instead, the act relies almost entirely on subsidies intended to promote clean energy, offering tax credits for renewable energy, aid to keep nuclear plants operating, incentives to buy electric vehicles and make homes more energy efficient and more.

So what happened to the carbon tax idea? Biden administration officials are well aware of the Econ 101 case for emission taxes. Indeed, Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, and Cecilia Rouse, the current C.E.A. chair, were among the letter’s signatories. I also understand that logic — in fact, the introductory economics textbook I wrote with Robin Wells makes that argument in some detail. But a few months after the letter was released I made the case in a Twitter thread against being a “carbon tax purist,” arguing that an exclusive focus on carbon taxes was “dubious economics and bad political economy.” “

David Lindsay:  Yes, and, the problem is still an existential crisis. We don’t have much time to change our polluting ways.  Here are two comments I approved:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC 4h ago

We’ve been seeing numerous impacts catching many scientists by surprise with how soon they are occurring. In 2014 two independent teams of scientists reported that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is likely irreversibly retreating. 3.3 meters of sea level rise equivalent of ice there is being destabilized by a warming ocean. The paleoclimate record indicates that increasing global temperature by just 1.5-2 °C above preindustrial temperature commits the system to an eventual 6-9 meters of sea level rise, a large fraction of which could arrive within the next 100 years. Corals may not survive this century of warming and acidifying oceans, and droughts and floods linked to global warming—and conflict linked to those droughts—have already caused four countries to face famine. Because of the decades to millennial long lag between a climate forcing and our feeling the full effect, due to the thermal inertia of the ocean and response time of the ice sheets, the effects we are feeling now are largely just the beginning of the result of emissions from the 20th century. And emissions have been increasing steadily for decades. We are also seeing numerous amplifying feedbacks: loss of albedo (heat reflectivity) from ice melt, permafrost melt, methane release and massive wildfires; the Earth is starting to wrest any possible further human control of the climate away. We’re about out of time on this, if not already, and leaders are still acting as if this is not a planetary emergency.

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Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NCAug. 16

@Herbert Here is James Hansen to explain a carbon fee. From a 2012 TED Talk. “Now the tragedy about climate change is that we can solve it with a simple, honest approach of a gradually rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies and distributed 100 percent electronically every month to all legal residents on a per capita basis, with the government not keeping one dime. Most people would get more in the monthly dividend than they’d pay in increased prices. This fee and dividend would stimulate the economy and innovations, creating millions of jobs. It is the principal requirement for moving us rapidly to a clean energy future. Several top economists are coauthors on this proposition. Jim DiPeso of Republicans for Environmental Protection describes it thusly: “Transparent. Market-based. Does not enlarge government. Leaves energy decisions to individual choices. Sounds like a conservative climate plan.” But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true cost to society, our governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels by 400 to 500 billion dollars per year worldwide, thus encouraging extraction of every fossil fuel — mountaintop removal, longwall mining, fracking, tar sands, tar shale, deep ocean Arctic drilling.” https://www.ted.com/talks/james_hansen_why_i_must_speak_out_about_climate_change/transcript?language=en

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