Paul Krugman | The Good News on Unemployment for Black Americans – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“In a recent article that stressed America’s impressive recovery from the Covid economic slump, I compared current conditions with those in late 1988, when George H.W. Bush won an electoral landslide in part because of the perception that the economy was in great shape. As I noted, inflation at the time was roughly what it is now, while the unemployment rate was about two points higher.

What I didn’t point out was that unemployment was especially high among disadvantaged groups, especially Black Americans. And one of the relatively unsung bright points of the U.S. economy in recent years has been a reduction in Black unemployment.”

Paul Krugman | How Biden Blew It on the Debt Ceiling – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“As soon as Republicans took control of the House last November, it was obvious that they would try to take the economy hostage by refusing to raise the federal debt limit. After all, that’s what they did in 2011 — and hard as it may be to believe, the Tea Party Republicans were sober and sane compared to the MAGA crew. So it was also obvious that the Biden administration needed a strategy to head off the looming crisis.

More and more, however, it looks as if there never was a strategy beyond wishful thinking. I hope that I’m wrong about this — that President Biden will, at the last minute, unveil an effective counter to G.O.P. blackmail. He may even be forced to do so, as I’ll explain in a bit. But right now I have a sick feeling about all of this. What were they thinking? How can they have been caught so off-guard by something that everyone who’s paying attention saw coming?

For those somehow new to this, the United States has a weird and dysfunctional system in which Congress enacts legislation that determines federal spending and revenue, but then, if this legislation leads to a budget deficit, must vote a second time to authorize borrowing to cover the deficit. If even one house of Congress refuses to raise the debt limit, the U.S. government will go into default, with possibly catastrophic financial and economic effects.

This weird aspect of budgeting allows a party that is sufficiently ruthless, sufficiently indifferent to the havoc it might wreak, to attempt to impose through extortion policies it would never be able to enact through the normal legislative process.”

David Linday:  I fear Krugman has panicked prematurely. I am very sympathetic to his reaction, but I like the commenters who remind us of little faith, that Biden isn’t as soft as likes to sound.  Here is an excellent comment I approve:

John Brews
Santa Fe, NMMay 16

Well, Paul is upset. But here is my idea of Biden’s plan. Speculation of course. Biden wants Americans in general to understand the GOP is ready to ruin the Country for no reason. No reason. So Biden is letting the clock run and letting McCarthy look more and more like a flailing victim of the GOP nut cases. When the situation is clear to most of us, Biden will state that there really is no alternative to the 14th Amendment solution. He must simply pay the bills and ignore McCarthy, because McCarthy cannot do a thing to compromise. Biden will have to make a speech clearly describing why this action is needed. He might also address the possibility of the Supreme Court being drawn into the fray. But probably that issue should be left to later. If the Supreme Court is enticed to rule that the 14th Amendment action is “unconstitutional” or some other objection is raised, Biden has one option, perhaps not the only one, but one option is open: ignore the Court. The Court and the GOP might fume, but the Court has no power to compel compliance, and Congress is incapacitated, and can do nothing either. So Biden will be free to pay the bills, and the naysayers can go take a walk.

3 Replies190 Recommended

Paul Krugman | What’s the Matter With New York? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Bashing New York City has long been a popular pastime on the right. Conservatives routinely portray the Big Apple as a dystopian wasteland. And the bashing has reached a fever pitch since Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, announced multiple charges against Donald Trump. How dare Bragg pursue these cases, Republicans ask, when crime is running out of control on his home turf?

But New York crime isn’t really out of control. As in many places, crime jumped during the pandemic, but it seems to be subsiding; although Republicans won’t believe it, crime in America’s safest big city remains much lower than crime in, say, Miami or Columbus, Ohio.

Still, even before the pandemic there was a steady if not huge flow of people out of New York. Why were they leaving? It probably wasn’t crime, although perceptions can be at odds with reality. It probably also wasn’t taxes; I’ll get there in a minute. The biggest factor, almost surely, was and is the cost of housing.”

Paul Krugman | Plutocratic Power and Its Perils – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/17/opinion/plutocrats-power-trump.html

Opinion Columnist

‘The rich are different from you and me: They have immensely more power. But when they try to exercise that power they can trap themselves — supporting politicians who will, if they can, create a society the rich themselves wouldn’t want to live in.

This, I’d argue, is the common theme running through four major stories that have been playing out over the past few months. They are: the relationship between Justice Clarence Thomas and the billionaire Harlan Crow; the rise and seeming decline of Ron DeSantis’s presidential campaign; the trials (literally) of Fox News; and the Muskopalypse at Twitter.

First, some notes on the role of vast wealth in a democracy.

People on the right often insist that expressing any concern about highly concentrated wealth is “un-American.” The truth, however, is that worrying about the dangers great wealth poses for democracy is very much part of the American tradition. And our nation basically invented progressive taxation, which was traditionally seen not just as a source of revenue but also as a way to limit excessive wealth.

In fact, if you read what prominent figures said during the Progressive Era, many expressed views that would be hysterically denounced as class warfare today. Theodore Roosevelt warned against “a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power.” Woodrow Wilson declared, “If there are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States, they are going to own it.” “

Paul Krugman | Guns, Ships and Chips: On Economic Inflexibility – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“What do shipping containers and artillery shells have in common? This isn’t a trick question. The answer is that both have been in very short supply at some point over the past three years. And these shortages tell us something disturbing about modern economies: They aren’t nearly as flexible as many people, myself included, had thought.

About those artillery shells: Like many people, I’ve been closely following the war in Ukraine. Everyone knows the broad outlines of the story so far: Vladimir Putin’s Russia invaded in February of last year, expecting a quick victory over Ukraine’s much weaker army, but the Ukrainians, astonishingly, defeated the would-be blitzkrieg and the war has turned instead into a brutal slugging match.

No matter how valorous, Ukrainians on their own would have no chance in such a match. But they have received crucial aid from Western nations that see Ukraine — as do I — as a crucial front in the defense of democracy.”

“. . . .   That is, in contrast to the story told by Samuelson’s curve, it may be very hard to produce more guns in the short run even if you’re willing to give up a lot of butter.

The revelation that economies aren’t as flexible as we thought has many implications for policy. Supply-chain constraints weren’t the sole reason inflation took off in 2021, but they were clearly an important part of the story, with implications for future monetary policy. And in general, economic inflexibility suggests that we should be taking more precautions against the possibility of future disruptions, especially for strategic goods, but possibly more widely.

But all of that demands a much longer discussion. The main point for now is that it turns out that the Rolling Stones may have had it backward: Modern economies generally do a very good job of getting people what they want, but sometimes you just can’t get what you need.”

Paul Krugman | Conspiracy Theorizing Goes Off the Rails – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“On Feb. 3 a train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Some of the contents immediately caught fire. Three days later authorities released and burned off additional material from five tankers. These fires caused elevated levels of harmful chemicals in the local air, although the Environmental Protection Agency says that the pollution wasn’t severe enough to cause long-term health damage.

Train derailments are actually fairly common, but you can see how this one might become a political issue. After all, the Obama administration tried to improve rail safety, for example by requiring superior modern brakes on high-hazard trains, and then the Trump administration reversed these regulations. As it happens, these regulations probably wouldn’t have prevented the Ohio derailment, because they were too narrow to have covered this particular train. Still, the events in East Palestine would seem, on the face of it, to strengthen the progressive case for stronger regulation of industry and hurt the conservative case against regulation.

Instead, however, the right is on the attack, claiming that blame for the disaster in Ohio rests on the Biden administration, which it says doesn’t care about or is even actively hostile to white people.

This is vile. It’s also amazing. As far as I can tell, right-wing commentators have just invented a whole new class of conspiracy theory, one that doesn’t even try to explain how the alleged conspiracy is supposed to work.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CTPending Approval

Great essay Paul Krugman, thank you. Incandescent. It seems time again here to mention, that we should bring back the fairness doctrine for journalism and social media, which Ronald Reagan gutted.

InconvenientNews.net

Paul Krugman | Why Republican Politicians Still Hate Medicare – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The Republicans who now control the House will soon try to slash Social Security and Medicare. They plan to achieve this by holding the economy hostage, threatening to create a financial crisis by refusing to raise the federal debt ceiling. The interesting questions are why they want to do this, given that it appears politically suicidal, and how Democrats will respond.

Before I get into the puzzles, let me start by pointing out that the plot against the social safety net isn’t a conspiracy theory. The general shape of the scheme has been widely reported for months. The arithmetic is also clear: It isn’t possible to achieve huge reductions in the budget deficit, while at the same time depriving the I.R.S. of the resources it needs to go after tax cheats, without deep cuts in popular social programs.”

Paul Krugman | Why Republican Politicians Still Hate Medicare – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The Republicans who now control the House will soon try to slash Social Security and Medicare. They plan to achieve this by holding the economy hostage, threatening to create a financial crisis by refusing to raise the federal debt ceiling. The interesting questions are why they want to do this, given that it appears politically suicidal, and how Democrats will respond.

Before I get into the puzzles, let me start by pointing out that the plot against the social safety net isn’t a conspiracy theory. The general shape of the scheme has been widely reported for months. The arithmetic is also clear: It isn’t possible to achieve huge reductions in the budget deficit, while at the same time depriving the I.R.S. of the resources it needs to go after tax cheats, without deep cuts in popular social programs.

And beyond all that, we now have it in black and white — well, blue on blue. CNN has obtained a screenshot of a slide presented at a closed-door Republican meeting on Tuesday. The first bullet point calls for balancing the budget within 10 years, which is mathematically impossible without deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The second calls for reforms to “mandatory spending” — which is budget-speak for those same programs. And the final point calls for refusing to raise the debt limit unless these demands are met.”

” . . . . Here’s what I think is going on: Even now many, perhaps most Republicans in Congress aren’t culture-war zealots. Instead, they’re careerists who depend, both for campaign contributions and for post-Congress career prospects, on the same billionaires who have supported right-wing economic ideology for decades. They won’t stand up to the crazies and conspiracy theorists, but their own agenda is still tax cuts for the rich and benefit cuts for the poor and middle class.

And the culture warriors go along because they basically aren’t interested in policy substance.”

Paul Krugman | Is the Inflation Storm Letting Up? – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“The average national price of regular gasoline this Christmas was almost 20 cents a gallon lower than it was a year earlier. Prices at the pump are still higher than they were during the pandemic slump, when economic shutdowns depressed world oil prices, but the affordability of fuel — as measured by the ratio of the average wage to gas prices — is most of the way back to pre-Covid levels.

Now, gas prices aren’t a good measure either of economic health or of successful economic policy — although if you listened to Republican ads during the midterms, you might have thought otherwise. But subsiding prices at the pump are only one of many indicators that the inflationary storm of 2021 to ’22 is letting up. Remember the supply-chain crisis, with shipping rates soaring to many times their normal level? It’s over.

More broadly, recent reports on the inflation measures the Federal Reserve traditionally uses to guide its interest rate policy have been really, really good.

So is this going to be the winter of our diminishing discontent?”

David Lindsay: I am sharing this article mainly to share this one comment:

Vic
WashingtonDec. 26

@Sheila Here on the west coast gas prices rose over $1/gallon about a month before the election because the oil companies took six refineries offline for “unscheduled maintenance”. An obvious attempt to influence the election. Since the election, prices have dropped almost $1.50 a gallon.

In Reply to Sheila484 Recommended

Paul Krugman | Why Petulant Oligarchs Rule Our World – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Some years ago — I think it was 2015 — I got a quick lesson in how easy it is to become a horrible person. I was a featured speaker at a conference in São Paulo, Brazil, and my arrival flight was badly delayed. The organizers, worried that I would miss my slot thanks to the city’s notorious traffic, arranged to have me met at the airport and flown directly to the hotel’s roof by helicopter.

Then, when the conference was over, there was a car waiting to take me back to the airport. And just for a minute I found myself thinking, “What? I have to take a car?”

By the way, in real life I mostly get around on the subway.

Anyway, the lesson I took from my moment of pettiness was that privilege corrupts, that it very easily breeds a sense of entitlement. And surely, to paraphrase Lord Acton, enormous privilege corrupts enormously, in part because the very privileged are normally surrounded by people who would never dare tell them that they’re behaving badly.

That’s why I’m not shocked by the spectacle of Elon Musk’s reputational self-immolation. Fascinated, yes; who isn’t? But when an immensely rich man, accustomed not just to getting whatever he wants but also to being a much-admired icon, finds himself not just losing his aura but becoming a subject of widespread ridicule, of course he lashes out erratically, and in so doing makes his problems even worse.”