18 April 2018

Trump's Latest Domestic Spending Plot May Be To Ignore The Law

Stan Collender

Corruption, Not Russia, Is Trump’s Greatest Political Liability

It is hardly a coincidence that so many greedy people have filled the administration’s ranks. Trump’s ostentatious crudeness and misogyny are a kind of human-resources strategy. Radiating personal and professional sleaze lets him quickly and easily identify individuals who have any kind of public ethics and to sort them out. (James Comey’s accounts of his interactions with the president depict Trump probing for some vein of corruptibility in the FBI director; when he came up empty, he fired him.) Trump is legitimately excellent at cultivating an inner circle unburdened by legal or moral scruples. These are the only kind of people who want to work for Trump, and the only kind Trump wants to work for him.

Jonathan Chait

17 April 2018

It’s harder for Democrats to gerrymander effectively

Matthew Yglesias

Trump-era politics is a surreal nightmare and we can’t wake up

Reality has confounded both expectations, with Trump displaying no hidden depths whatsoever, even as life continues to be basically fine for most people. America has its share of problems to be sure: sky-high child poverty rate, unsustainable greenhouse gas emissions, infrastructure woes, childcare woes, prescription drug affordability woes, you name it.

But these are basically longstanding issues that our political system writ large has failed to address. They don’t hold a particularly close relationship to the fact that the president is a racist buffoon who is possibly being blackmailed by the FSB over some sex tapes.

On the other hand, the fact that the president of the United States has literally nothing to say about any of the country’s most urgent long-term problems is itself a fairly noteworthy situation.

Matthew Yglesias

16 April 2018

Employers are increasingly using their workers as lobbyists. Here’s why that’s a problem.

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez

It’s Time to Stop Yammering About Liberal Bias

The right has plenty of representation in the nation’s opinion pages.

This raises a few obvious questions that are, for whatever reason, rarely asked. If American institutions really were intolerably liberal in 1951 and in 1966, then what would a state of affairs that satisfied the conservative movement actually look like? If, as conservatives have insisted over decades of uninterrupted complaint, the American people really are being indoctrinated into liberalism in their formative years at our schools and colleges and in their adult years by an oppressively slanted press, how exactly does one explain the American political situation in 2018, with right-wing control of the presidency, the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, 33 governorships, and 32 state legislatures? If America’s citizenry really has been spoon-fed leftist propaganda for nearly 70 straight years, isn’t the reorganization of the United States into semiautonomous workers’ republics long overdue?

Osita Nwanevu

13 April 2018

Why Would the Atlantic Hire Kevin Williamson?

Describing a 2014 visit to the impoverished city of East St. Louis, Illinois, Williamson compared a black child to a “primate” and a “three-fifths-scale Snoop Dogg” before likening his own trip through Illinois to Marlow’s journey up the Congo River in Heart of Darkness, all within the space of a single paragraph.

Jordan Weissmann

Who Made the Worst Decision of the Iraq War?

On May 15, 2003, one day after he arrived in Baghdad to head the Coalition Provisional Authority, Bremer issued CPA Order No. 1, which barred members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, which disbanded the Iraqi army.

With those two orders, the future of Iraq was doomed, the already-likely failure of the American mission was sealed, and the prospect of a sectarian civil war—enveloping not only Iraq but the entire Middle East—became nearly inevitable. Not only did the orders remove the country’s two main indigenous institutions of authority, they also put 50,000 civil servants and a quarter-million soldiers out of a job, many of them with access to weapons. In other words, Bremer’s orders amounted to a recipe for resentment, anarchy, and violence.

Fred Kaplan

11 April 2018

How the NRA derails gun control debates

The NRA speaks for gun companies. Why should we listen?

Carlos Maza

Make Them Pay

Gun control activists must focus on fighting for the right to sue firearms manufacturers.

Cars became more crashworthy, and hence less lethal and injurious, as a result of tort litigation and federal regulation. Cars are instrumentalities of death and injury, not because producers and purchasers intend this, but because cars are involved in crashes and crashes cause death and injury. Similarly, most of the people who buy guns do not intend to use them for suicide or homicide, but these outcomes can be expected when guns are in use. In the case of automobiles, the law tracks the recognition that cars can be designed and marketed so as to enhance crashworthiness. Damage awards and regulatory penalties have motivated automobile manufacturers to improve crashworthiness and to promote crashworthiness as a desirable feature. Over time, this has yielded major reductions in the rates of fatality and injury from car use.

Heidi Li Feldman

10 April 2018

John Bolton and Gina Haspel Are the Consequences of Our Failure to Reckon With the Bush Years

Americans have been able to comfort themselves over the last 15 years with the notion that the war was a “blunder” or “mistake” rather than an immoral act or crime. (Though, as my colleague Ben Mathis-Lilley noted, 43 percent of Americans, like Bolton, don’t even think it was a mistake.) Certainly, the central architects and advocates of the war have paid little professional price for its consequences.

Joshua Keating

It’s Time to Panic Now

John Bolton’s appointment as national security adviser puts us on a path to war.

His agenda is not “peace through strength,” the motto of more conventional Republican hawks that Trump included in a tweet on Wednesday, but rather regime change through war. He is a neocon without the moral fervor of some who wear that label—i.e., he is keen to topple oppressive regimes not in order to spread democracy but rather to expand American power.

Fred Kaplan

09 April 2018

No Strength, No Peace

Trump is the Willy Loman of foreign policy. He thinks, as does the tragic traveling salesman of Arthur Miller’s play, that “personality always wins the day” and “a smile and a shoeshine” are more important than having something to sell that customers want.

Fred Kaplan

Mick Mulvaney’s Latest Scandal Makes Him Look Like a Craven Hypocrite

This weird and wonky scandal shows how far the administration is willing to go to downplay unflattering data and push through a regulation that will likely hurt working class Americans.

Jordan Weissmann

06 April 2018

Celebrating 50 years of the Chrystie Street Connection

On November 27th, 1967 there was chaos on the New York City subway. That Monday, as strap-hangers began their daily commute, many of them found that trains they had taken every day for years, decades even, were no longer running or were running to new places.


The myth of “forcing people out of their cars”

At the same time, parking takes up land. And in some parts of the country (California certainly included), land is expensive, so paying the full price of a parking space might get expensive. The question is whether towns should require that new developments come with a certain minimum amount of new parking attached (as virtually every city, including New York City, currently does) or whether they should simply allow people to decide how much parking they want to pay for.

Matthew Yglesias

04 April 2018

The Artifice of the Deal

Forget the standard photo ops; his entire presidency, save for a giveaway-laden tax bill that actually originated in Congress, is a string of dramatic flourishes, without even the aspiration to translate them into something like actual governance.

Trump was dead right about our politics over the years — too much of it became a tired kind of stagecraft. But that kind of stagecraft was almost always designed to sell an agenda.

Larry Kudlow, Trump’s new top economic adviser, explained

He’s a die-hard supply-sider for whom corporate tax cuts are the highest goal.

Dylan Matthews

02 April 2018

The real reason the U.S. spends twice as much on health care as other wealthy countries

Carolyn Y. Johnson

Trump wants to liberalize health data. Easier said than done.

The hardest part of liberalizing patient data is that you have hundreds of thousands of hospitals and doctor offices all across the country who have a financial interest in keeping data private. If a patient can take her record from Hospital A and walk down the street to Hospital B to seek treatment, that’s bad for Hospital A’s bottom line.

Sarah Kliff

30 March 2018

Was the Poisoning of a Former Russian Spy a Chemical Weapons Attack?

The open—and very difficult to answer—question of whether Moscow ordered the hit or merely lost possession of the nerve agent leaves London a bit of wiggle room in how it responds, but not much.

Joshua Keating

Trump’s VA Is Purging Civil Servants

A bipartisan law was supposed to make it easier to fire bad actors at the Department of Veterans Affairs. But it’s targeting the wrong people.

Isaac Arnsdorf

28 March 2018

Trump’s Perversion

But the worst thing about Trump’s perverse treatment of friends and enemies isn’t that he punishes our allies.

Congratulations, Mr. President. You’ve one-upped Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Obama. You’ve humiliated our allies, renounced human rights, and snagged a photo-op with the head of the world’s most repressive state. You win.

William Saletan

Rough Trade

The president’s rhetoric will make a trade war even worse.

William Saletan

27 March 2018

Martin Shkreli Is Going to Jail and I Can’t Even Bring Myself to Enjoy It

That sums up a lot about the state of U.S. capitalism and law. It’s perfectly kosher to milk grotesque profits from old, life-saving medications. But playing games with a relatively small amount of investors’ cash can get you put away for the better part of a decade.

Jordan Weissmann

Summit Surprise

A meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un could be a major opportunity—if Trump actually prepares for it.

If Trump wants this meeting to accomplish anything of value, he needs to do the following:

First, appoint an envoy to South Korea. (It is amazing that, more than a year into his term, he has yet to do this.)

Second, have his staff bring in the experts on Korea. Swallow hard if this means letting in the occasional Democrat.

Third (and this is a directive more for Trump’s advisers), do not let this meeting take place in Pyongyang. Kim would put on the most extravagant show in the history of the world, and Trump would be so impressed by the welcome that he’d likely embrace the “Hermit King” as his new best friend and concede who knows what at the bargaining table. The meeting should be held in the most boring neutral city in the world.

Fourth (a related point), Trump should not be allowed to meet with Kim all alone. At least one senior aide should be in the room along with a note taker and a State Department translator.

Fifth, the National Security Council should draw up a list of goals—three things, say, that Trump should try to get from this meeting, three things that he’d be willing to offer in exchange for a true pledge to freeze or dismantle the nukes, and three things that the North Koreans are likely to push for but that Trump should reject at all cost.

Fred Kaplan

22 March 2018

Why Isn’t Trump President for Life Yet?

He is following the same playbook as other authoritarian populists around the world. He’s just bad at it—so far.

Yascha Mounk

There Is Not a Single Good Reason to Deregulate Banks Right Now. Democrats Are Helping It Happen Anyway.

If Dodd-Frank was truly throttling the banking system with red tape, though, you would expect to see some signs that Americans were having trouble borrowing. But there simply aren't any.

Jordan Weissmann

20 March 2018

Blacks Were Enslaved Well into the 1960s

More than 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, there were black people in the Deep South who had no idea they were free. These people were forced to work, violently tortured, and raped.

Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier

How the ex-spy tried to warn the world about Trump’s ties to Russia.

19 March 2018

What Donald Trump understands about conservatism

People who aren’t conservative often fail to realize this, but conservatism really does speak to and for people who have lost something. It may be a landed estate or the privileges of white skin, the unquestioned authority of a husband or the untrammeled rights of a factory owner. The loss may be as material as money or as ethereal as a sense of standing. It may be a loss of something that was never legitimately owned in the first place; it may, when compared with what the conservative retains, be small. Even so, it is a loss, and nothing is ever so cherished as that which we no longer possess.

Ezra Klein

The Soul-Crushing Legacy of Billy Graham

13 March 2018

No, Fascism Can’t Happen Here

Tyler Cowen

Trump Comments Show Disdain for the Rule of Law

It doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to say that some Republican members of Congress would have called for Barack Obama’s impeachment if he had ever called for taking people’s guns away without due process.

James Hohmann

12 March 2018

Cop Stoppers

How did the NRA become an enemy of law enforcement?

Millions of decent people pay dues every year to sustain the NRA. They think they’re supporting law and order. What they’re really supporting is the nation’s most effective anti-police lobby.

William Saletan

7 world maps show the highs and lows of American exceptionalism

Frank Jacobs

09 March 2018

06 March 2018

U.S. GDP Expenditure Components

David Andolfatto

The New Graveyard of Empires?

Vladimir Putin’s grand ambitions for Syria aren’t working out quite as planned.

In Syria, the Russians are making a better show of things than we are. In part that’s because we’re pursuing lots of interests (with varying degrees of enthusiasm), many of them mutually exclusive, while the Russians are focused on just one. We want to crush ISIS, help the Kurds, placate Turkey, contain Iran, keep Iraq from falling apart, and reach a political settlement that eases President Bashar al-Assad out of power. These are all worthy goals, but it’s impossible to achieve any one or two of them without torpedoing the others.

Fred Kaplan

05 March 2018

Trump’s plan does nothing for America’s real infrastructure problem

Matthew Yglesias

Heritage of Hate

It’s worth remembering that countless black Americans were lynched, captured, beaten, hosed, tortured, and terrorized with either the overt support or the deliberate indifference of “the people’s protectors” over the course of American history. During most of the time “since our founding,” local law enforcement has played the role of an oppressive force against black Americans, rather than a protective one.

Daniel Horwitz

28 February 2018

Fiscal Policy and the Price-Level

This post is me thinking out loud about how fiscal considerations may influence the price-level.

David Andolfatto

The Party of Carter Page

How Devin Nunes and the GOP ended up defending a Putin apologist.

William Saletan

27 February 2018

Here’s what war with North Korea would look like

Yochi Dreazen

Mattis Goes Nuclear

As someone who has studied the nuclear world for 40 years and has interviewed hundreds of its denizens for a book and many articles, I have learned this: When it comes to nuclear strategy, there is no reality. The weapons are real, and their destructive power is cataclysmic. But the countless attempts to harness this destruction into an elaborate war-fighting strategy are excursions into metaphysics, not the hard-boiled realism that its purveyors like to believe.

26 February 2018

The robots v. robots trading that has hijacked the stock market

Why is it that when the market is climbing by improbable leaps and bounds month after month, that we are supposed to take that as a genuine reflection of the fundamentals, but when the market is in a free fall, we are supposed to write that off as momentary fits of irrationality?

The truth is that the market is just as irrational and divorced from fundamentals on the way up as it is on the way down. It is in the nature of markets more so today than ever, thanks to the computerized high-frequency trading strategies of the Wall Street wise guys. What we've watched this week is herd behavior on steroids.

In truth, there is no reason that a financial system has to be this complex and so volatile. There is no reason that it has to divert so much of the country's talent and capital, and to siphon off so much for traders and bankers and hedge fund managers. With a bit of intelligent regulation, we could have a financial system that is simpler, less risky, less expensive and less susceptible to manipulation.

There is a cost to the kind of financial "innovation" that produces instruments like the Velocity Shares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term Exchange-Traded Note. And my guess is that those costs now greatly exceed the benefits.

Steven Pearlstein

What is the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX)?

Zachary Basu

23 February 2018

In defense of Social Security Disability Insurance

Dylan Matthews

Don’t kid yourself. The future is bleak.

Democracy is really a prisoner's dilemma, and we're losing at ours.

The only way democracies stop being so polarized is after some kind of catastrophe — a catastrophe that more often than not is brought on by, yes, polarization. Indeed, the two most optimistic examples that Levitsky and Ziblatt can come up with are the way Chile's parties from across the ideological spectrum were eventually able to set aside their rather substantial differences to support democracy in the years after Augusto Pinochet's coup and how German conservatives managed to overcome their traditional Catholic-Protestant divide to do the same in the wake of World War II. Remember, the fact that democracy can come back after a dictatorship is supposed to be the good news here.

Matt O'Brien

22 February 2018

The Smearing of Christopher Steele

A former British intelligence officer provided information to the FBI because it alarmed him. Given the way he’s been treating, future tipsters will be less likely to come forward.

John Sipher

What David Brooks Misunderstands About Abortion

“Late term” abortion is a wastebasket term used by the anti-choice zealots to describe a spectrum of procedures and needs. It is nonspecific and conjures up the worst images, likely on purpose. Most procedures beyond 20 weeks do occur before 24 weeks, the long-standing threshold for viability, but most of these babies would not be viable if they reached term anyway. The reason there is no comfortable upper threshold for ending a pregnancy is that lethal anomalies can be discovered late in a pregnancy. Should a mother be condemned to carry her anencephalic fetus (which would be born without any brain tissue but a brainstem) to term because she received late prenatal care? What is the argument for that?

Cheryl Axelrod

20 February 2018

Why Rising Wages Scare the Heck Out of Investors

The answer is a useful illustration of why the stock market is often a poor guide to the overall health of the economy.

Jordan Weissmann

It's Time for Wall Street to Give Up Its Love Affair With the Dow Jones Industrial Average

Let's face the facts: The Dow is a historic novelty, and the S&P 500 is a much better stock market barometer.

Sean Williams 

19 February 2018

Survival at All Costs

By releasing the Nunes memo, Trump betrayed the intelligence community to save his own skin.

Phillip Carter

The Backward Logic of the Nunes Memo

Amid all the lies Donald Trump has told about the Russia scandal, there is one underlying truth: The intelligence community truly fears him and considers him unfit for the presidency. This is not because the intelligence community is traitorous, or left wing, or (as Donald Trump Jr. sneeringly put it) wine-spritzer-drinking elites. It is because the IC had early access to a wide array of terrifying intelligence linking Trump and his orbit to Russia. People who spend their lives protecting their country from foreign threats saw in Trump a candidate who had at some level been compromised by one of them.

Carter Page is the kind of person who would be brought on as a foreign policy adviser only if (a) the campaign was actively seeking out Russian assets, or (b) it was so slipshod it could easily be penetrated by Russian intelligence.

Jonathan Chait

16 February 2018

A close reading of the Nunes memo shows how sketchy it is

The memo is conspicuously vague in key places and tends to downplay or omit information that doesn’t fit its narrative.

Andrew Prokop

15 February 2018

How the GOP Went Crazy

The conspiracy-nut wing has long been at the fringes of Republican politics. Here’s how it took over.

Kurt Andersen

14 February 2018

Forged Under Fire—Bob Mueller and Jim Comey’s Unusual Friendship

The inside story of how the most surreal night of the War on Terror united the retiring FBI director and his evident successor.

13 February 2018

12 February 2018

Donald Trump Just Asked Congress to End the Rule of Law

Trump is calling for an end to any semblance of independence for the IRS, the FBI, the Department of Justice, or any other federal agency.

Yascha Mounk

06 February 2018

Defending the Indefensible

Republican excuses for firing Mueller show how dangerous the party has become.

William Saletan

02 February 2018

01 February 2018

30 January 2018

Democrats didn’t cave on the shutdown

Democrats are funding CHIP for six years and reopening the government without losing their shutdown leverage.

Ezra Klein

23 January 2018

How to deal with the age of celebrity candidates

So here's the proposal: At party conventions, in addition to nominating a president and vice president, party leaders should put together a Cabinet. Party leaders would negotiate over this, a log-rolling process that would give different groups in the party coalition representation in their party's government. The presidential nominee could play an important role in the process, but ultimately it would have to be a negotiation among different groups within the party. Losing candidates might wind up in the Cabinet, bringing their supporters along.

Lee Drutman

18 January 2018

Bitcoin is the new Middle Ages

Bitcoin changes prices too quickly to be a currency and processes transactions too slowly to be a payments system, but it is juuust right for teaching libertarians everything they don't know about economics.

Not that they're paying attention.

Matt O'Brien

Must-Reads of 2017: Debunking Southern Mythmaking

11 January 2018

What Elon Musk Doesn't Get About Urban Transit

The most common falsehood about transit, the one that underlies most of the comments transit agencies receive and many of the worst mistakes in transit planning, is this: “Transit would be better for everyone if it were better for me.”  

A special danger arises when relatively wealthy people take this view, demanding that expensive mass transit systems be designed according to their personal tastes. I call this mistake elite projection, and explore it here. Many poor transit investments have arisen from a too-small group of fortunate people assuming that everyone shares their tastes and priorities. They forget that to be elite is to be a minority, and it makes no business sense to design transit around elite tastes if what you really want are lots and lots of riders.

The uninsured are overusing emergency rooms — and other health-care myths

Carolyn Y. Johnson

10 January 2018

The real cost of the Republican tax bill

Is Trump’s IRS really going to tighten the screws on giant new loopholes?

If I were undertaking a radical re-write of the tax code, I would also provide the Internal Revenue Service with additional resources to make sure they can enforce it properly.

But does anyone believe the GOP is going to be stepping-up IRS funding?

Matthew Yglesias

Do It Yourself

Trump’s quiet attack on the regulatory state is another part of his broader class war.

Jon D. Michaels

05 January 2018