Opinion | Why Can’t Trump Build Anything? – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

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President Trump being presented with a hard hat at a convention of electrical contractors in Philadelphia.CreditCreditEvan Vucci/Associated Press

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 18, 2019, 245

“Donald Trump isn’t the first president, or even the first Republican president, who has sought to define his legacy in part with a big construction project. Abraham Lincoln signed legislation providing the land grants and financing that created the transcontinental railroad. Theodore Roosevelt built the Panama Canal. Dwight Eisenhower built the interstate highway system.

But Trump’s wall is different, and not just because it probably won’t actually get built. Previous big construction projects were about bringing people together and making them more productive. The wall is about division — not just a barrier against outsiders, but an attempt to drive a wedge between Americans, too. It’s about fear, not the future.

Why isn’t Trump building anything? Surely he’s exactly the kind of politician likely to suffer from an edifice complex, a desire to see his name on big projects. Furthermore, during the 2016 campaign he didn’t just promise a wall, he also promised a major rebuilding of America’s infrastructure.

But month after month of inaction followed his inauguration. A year ago he again promised “the biggest and boldest infrastructure investment in American history.” Again, nothing happened.”

“. . . Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress are aggressively uninterested in any kind of public investment program. During Trump’s first two years in office, they first bullied him into submitting a plan that actually provided hardly any money for new investment, then invented excuses for not dealing even with that emasculated proposal.

The truth is that modern conservatives hate the idea of any kind of new public spending, even if it would make Americans better off — or perhaps it would be more accurate to say especially if it would make Americans better off, because a successful spending program might help legitimize a positive role for government in general. And while Trump may not fully share his party’s small-government ideology, all his limited energy is going into finding ways to punish people, not help them.”

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– -Opinion | Democrats- Debt and Double Standards – By Paul KrugmanThe New York Times

By Paul Krugman
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 11, 2019

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Deficit scolds were mute in 2017 when the Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi fought the Republican tax cuts.
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Tom Brenner/The New York Times

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Deficit scolds were mute in 2017 when the Democratic congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi fought the Republican tax cuts. CreditCreditTom Brenner/The New York Times
Much of Donald Trump’s State of the Union address was devoted to describing the menaces he claims face America — mainly the menace of scary brown people, but also the menace of socialism. And there has been a lot of discussion in the news media of what he said on those topics.

There has, however, been little coverage of one of the most revealing aspects of the SOTU: what Trump said about the menace of America’s historically large government debt.

But wait, you may object — he didn’t say anything about debt. Indeed he didn’t — not one word. But that’s what was so revealing.

After all, Republicans spent the entire Obama administration inveighing constantly about the dangers of debt, warning that America faced a looming crisis unless deficits were drastically reduced. Now that they’re in power, however — and with the deficit surging thanks to a huge tax cut for corporations and the rich — they’ve totally dropped the subject.”

Opinion | The Empty Quarters of U.S. Politics – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Paul Krugman
By Paul Krugman, Opinion Columnist

Feb. 4, 2019, 606
Howard Schultz, the coffee billionaire, who imagined that he could attract broad support as a “centrist,” turns out to have an approval rating of 4 percent, versus 40 percent disapproval.

Ralph Northam, a Democrat who won the governorship of Virginia in a landslide, is facing a firestorm of denunciation from his own party over racist images on his medical school yearbook page.

Donald Trump, who ran on promises to expand health care and raise taxes on the rich, began betraying his working-class supporters the moment he took office, pushing through big tax cuts for the rich while trying to take health coverage away from millions.

These are, it turns out, related stories, all of them tied to the two great absences in American political life.

One is the absence of socially liberal, economically conservative voters. These were the people Schultz thought he could appeal to; but basically they don’t exist, accounting for only around, yes, 4 percent of the electorate.

The other is the absence of economically liberal, socially conservative politicians — let’s be blunt and just say “racist populists.” There are plenty of voters who would like that mix, and Trump pretended to be their man; but he wasn’t, and neither is anyone else.

Understanding these empty quarters is, I’d argue, the key to understanding U.S. politics.”

David Lindsay on Facebook: I’ve just posted some excellent articles about the enviromnent to blogs 1 & 2, which are now set up to repost at my Facebook pages for those same blogs, listed under pages I manage. Here is a Paul Krugman piece I enjoyed immensely, though commenters are tearing it apart by disecting its small imperfections, rather than appreciating his deeper truths. What I liked most, was a comment to Krugman’s swashbuckling analysis that expressed my deep concern that the Democrast are destroying themselves, when they decide to hound Governor Northam out of office in Virginia:
Trajan The Real Heartland Times Pick
“Democrats love to eat their own. We have one of the most racist presidents to ever hold office in modern times, yet some Democrats are going after Northam over some dumb stunt that happened decades ago. Is he a good leader NOW? Does he support good policies NOW? Is Northam’s behavior really any worse (blackface versus sexual misconduct) than someone who just got a seat on the Supreme Court? Wow, this is like watching an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Republicans have a strategic advantage because, while Democrats get all twisted up in identity politics, Republican leaders are only tightly focused on serving the rich and powerful at the expense of average Americans. No party disunity there.

Democrats need to start focusing on the basic, kitchen table issues that average Americans care about, like affordable health care, affordable housing and affordable higher education. With that strong streak of self-destruction that runs through Democrats, Nancy Pelosi is needed more than ever in the people’s House where badly needed legislation has to move forward.”

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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

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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.
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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

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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
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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.”