31 August 2018

Donald Trump Was Too Incompetent to Pick a Fed Chair He Agreed With, and Now He’s Mad About It

It would have been trivially easy for Trump to nominate a more dovish Fed chair better aligned with his own instincts on monetary policy. (“Hawkish“ central bankers are apt to raise interest rates, while “dovish” ones prefer to keep them low.) But Trump blew the call because he’s an incurious bullshitter who fails to do a modicum of basic homework before making major decisions, and is thus at the mercy of his advisers. While all presidents get advice from their advisers, and most presidents choose at least some officials who later go on to do things they don’t agree with, flubbing the Fed nomination in this way is indeed the kind of thing that could only happen to Trump.

Jordan Weissmann

23 August 2018

22 August 2018

“Socialism” vs. “capitalism” is a false dichotomy

We need go-go capitalism to afford a generous welfare state, and people won’t support go-go capitalism without a safety net. “Socialists” and Republicans forget different parts of this lesson.

 Will Wilkinson

20 August 2018

Bitcoin is still a total disaster

There’s one thing a currency is supposed to do that bitcoin never has. That’s maintain a stable value.

Indeed, as investment analyst Eddy Elfenbein points out, bitcoin has gone through four bear markets in 2018 alone. Now, maybe you don’t care if your money periodically loses 20 percent of its value, but most people tend to.

Matt O'Brien

16 August 2018

New York’s Uber Cap Is Good News for Basically Everyone

Both the wage system and the cap will push Uber and its ilk to improve what are called “utilization rates,” or the percentage of miles during which the driver has a passenger. In 2017, that rate stood at just 58 percent, according to the TLC, meaning that TNC vehicles were driving empty more than 40 percent of the time. Despite the backing of an algorithm providing an endless stream of pick-ups, that’s scarcely an improvement over street-hail taxis, who (in 2014) had the meter running about 54 percent of the time.

As demand continues to increase (and it will, with a major subway line shutting down in less than a year’s time), the path forward looks like drivers clocking fewer, busier hours. That’s good news for existing drivers, good news for the environment, and good news for traffic congestion. 

Henry Grabar

15 August 2018

Racism is a problem of white elites, and Kris Kobach proves it

White nationalism and elite education make a powerful combination.

We have an unfortunate tendency in America to treat racism and racial resentment as a pathology of the white underclass. Takes about the need for Democrats to abandon woke “identity politics” typically cite a desire to win back the “white working class,” not white members of the Harvard Club.

But while there’s some survey data backing the idea that working-class whites are likelier to harbor racial resentment (see table 3 here), the racism that kept Jews and black people out of country clubs (and out of Harvard) for generations is still around. And Kobach is a great example of how it can continue to have real political consequences.

Dylan Matthews

13 August 2018

Liberals Don’t Have to Defend Sarah Jeong’s Tweets

The impulse to bash “old white men” is satisfying, but it’s also wrong and counterproductive.

Yascha Mounk

09 August 2018

Amusing ourselves to Trump

The president of the United States emerged out of reality television, cable news, and caps-lock tweeting, and his great gift is his ability to own our attention in the precise ways those mediums own our attention — by stoking conflict, deepening grievance, starting fights, and turning everything, absolutely everything, into can’t-look-away entertainment.

Since Trump was elected, the bookshelves and op-ed pages have been alive with fears of Orwellian fascism — fears that, for the most part, remain far from manifesting. But even as Orwell’s dystopia has failed to materialize, Huxley’s dystopia has: We are buried under ignorance disguised as information, confused by entertainment masquerading as news, distracted by a dizzying procession of lies and outrages and ginned-up controversies, inured to misbehavior and corruption that would’ve consumed past administrations. We have lost control of our attention, if not of our government.

Ezra Klein

Trump Might Cut Taxes Without Congress. It’s His Ultimate Heist for the Rich.

While cutting taxes for the rich by decree may seem like an overwrought parody of Trump’s specific governing ethos, this idea has actually been on the wish list of Wall Street conservatives for decades: The George H.W. Bush administration examined and rejected the idea all the way back in 1992. None other than Larry Kudlow, director of Trump’s National Economic Council, has been a longtime proponent, which may help explain why this plan for a glorified bank heist is enjoying new life today. 

Jordan Weissmann

08 August 2018

What Economists Still Don’t Get About the 2008 Crisis

To lots of people, it seems obvious that the 2008 crisis was long in the making — the product of years of financial and regulatory folly. In general, the notion that economic booms cause busts, instead of being random unrelated events — an idea advanced by the maverick economist Hyman Minsky — seems to have much more currency beyond the ivory tower than within it.

Noah Smith

New Report: Uber and Lyft Riders Aren’t Giving Up Their Cars—They’re Giving Up Transit

Because users are choosing the car ride instead of the subway and drivers spend a lot of time driving around without passengers (deadheading), Schaller projects services like Lyft and Uber put 2.8 new vehicle miles on the road for every mile of personal car travel they remove.

Henry Grabar

07 August 2018

We’re Never Going to Get Our “Have You No Sense of Decency, Sir?” Moment

Because that moment from the 1954 Army-McCarthy hearings isn’t quite what we remember.

Rebecca Onion

American white people really hate being called “white people”

In politics, we talk about groups all the time — minorities, immigrants, criminals, what have you — and by and large, no one blinks. The only time I get blowback is when I generalize about men or white people (okay, or baby boomers). Suddenly, "lumping people together" becomes a sin.

David Roberts

06 August 2018

Russian Intervention

Republican congressmen, on TV, try to get through to Donald Trump about Russia.

William Saletan

Why Trump Has Such a Soft Spot for Russia

 It’s not a plan or a strategy as such. Trump is bereft of the attention span to sustain any of those. It is rather the reflection of a set of core beliefs and instincts that have governed him for much of his life. The lies come and go. But his deeper convictions really are in plain sight.

And they are, at root, the same as those of the strongmen he associates with and most admires. The post-1945 attempt to organize the world around collective security, free trade, open societies, non-zero-sum diplomacy, and multicultural democracies is therefore close to unintelligible to him. Why on earth, in his mind, would a victorious power after a world war be … generous to its defeated foes? When you win, you don’t hold out a hand in enlightened self-interest. You gloat and stomp. In Trump’s zero-sum brain — “we should have kept the oil!” — it makes no sense. It has to be a con. And so today’s international order strikes Trump, and always has, as a massive, historic error on the part of the United States.

Andrew Sullivan

03 August 2018

Donald Trump and the crisis of elite impunity

But I think I know why Trump thought it was okay to do what he did — why he could get away with it. The reason is a culture of elite impunity, where business and political leaders face absolutely no accountability for misdeeds. And it’s a culture that Brennan and many political elites like him have fostered, and from which they have personally benefited.

It’s much bigger than collusion. It encompasses many decades during which political officials have evaded accountability for broken laws and illicit foreign contacts, and business and corporate elites have skirted punishment for outright fraud. It’s a problem that, ironically, Trump hammered home in the campaign: that there’s a different set of rules for elites than for normal people. It just happens that Trump knows that because he, for decades now, has been taking advantage of elite impunity.

Dylan Matthews

02 August 2018

Socialists Will Need to Be 10 Times Smarter Than Republicans to Get Taken Seriously in Washington

What’s interesting about Ornstein’s comment is that it implicitly assumes members of Congress are generally good at talking about economics in the first place. In fact, much of what passes for policy discussion on Capitol Hill, especially among conservatives, is a jambalaya of nonsense far more absurd and consequential than Ocasio-Cortez’s mistake. This, I think, speaks to a double standard that self-identified socialists will face in certain parts of Washington. Because they are new and considered fringey, they will have to be twice as smart as your typical Democrat and about 10 times smarter than your typical Republican to be taken seriously. 

Jordan Weissmann