Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Jeeps Made w/American Steel by Union Workers in Toledo

CLEVELAND — Hillary Clinton entered the final phase of her campaign on Friday, working to ensure a victory that is decisive enough to earn a mandate for her presidency and a surge of voters to help Democrats win congressional races.

Emerging from a nine­-day absence from the trail, Mrs. Clinton seized on the momentum of her performance in the final presidential debate, choosing Ohio — a battleground state where she has struggled the most against Donald J. Trump — as her first stop on a four­-day swing. With new polls showing Mrs. Clinton closing in on Mr. Trump in the state, her campaign is glimpsing the opportunity for a clean sweep of traditional swing states.

Reminding voters of Mr. Trump’s refusal in Wednesday’s debate to say definitively he would accept the outcome on Election Day, Mrs. Clinton said that as secretary of state she had visited countries whose leaders jailed political opponents and invalidated elections they did not win. “We know in our country the difference between leadership and dictatorship,” she said.

She also portrayed herself as a the candidate who could attract independent, undecided and even Republican voters unhappy with Mr. Trump’s campaign. “I want to say something to people who may be reconsidering their support of my opponent,” she said. “I know you still may have questions for me, I respect that. I want to answer them. I want to earn your vote.”

Her stop here marked the start of a rare multiday tour of swing states as the Clinton campaign revved up its efforts to decisively defeat Mr. Trump on Nov. 8, including releasing a powerful minute­-long ad featuring Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim American soldier killed in Iraq. The ad featuring Mr. Khan, who was attacked by Mr. Trump after he spoke at the Democratic convention, will run in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, as well as other crucial states.

Hillary Clinton Makes Pitch for Mandate and a Swing-­State Sweep, Trip Gabriel and Ashley Parker, New York Times, today

She knows some voters still may have questions for me, and she respects that and wants to answer them, and earn her listeners’ vote?  Does she think those questions are whether or not she would accept the outcome on Election Day if she lost?  And about whether as president she’d trash families of fallen U.S. Armed Services members who are Muslim, and attempt to categorically keep Muslims from immigrating here?

Who does she think that reminding voters of Trump’s actions and words of those sorts, including ones that has dominated the news and internet since last Wednesday night, is concerned about whether Clinton would do these things?

Clinton obviously thinks that these things are the only things that moderates and mainstream Republicans would support her about.  That’s what’s been at the heart of her campaign from its inception to, apparently, this very minute.  And it’s why she’ll win only because of who her opponent is, and why Dem Senate candidates are struggling so hard.

Paul Krugman keeps pushing the line that Clinton actually  is a terrific candidate, and by golly she’d be way ahead against Rubio or another mainstream Republican, partly because those candidates’ policy agendas and base-baiting lines are mostly pretty similar to Trump’s.  He’s right about mainstream Republican candidates’ policy agendas and, certainly, about the meaning of the Rubio bot.  But he probably still would be very much in the running to beat Clinton—who herself is trapped in a bot.

Meanwhile, yesterday, there was this little news story:

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and a staffer were in a car crash in the senator’s home state on Thursday, but have been released after receiving treatment for minor injuries at a Cleveland area hospital.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that Brown and the staffer were driving from Columbus to Brown’s home in Cleveland when they were hit by another car around 4 p.m.

Brown, a Democrat, thanked hospital staff and the makers of his Jeep Cherokee in a statement to the newspaper. “[M]y Jeep Cherokee, made with American steel by union workers in Toledo, made all the difference in allowing us to walk away from this crash, a little stiff, but unharmed,” he said.

Brown reaffirmed his thanks in a Twitter post on Friday: “Thx for care & concern. Doing fine. Grateful to Parma police, medical staff & my Jeep made w/American steel by union workers in Toledo,” he wrote.

The Dispatch also reports that “Brown’s rescue dog Franklin, strapped in with a harness, was uninjured.”

Sherrod Brown treated for minor injuries after car crash, Madeline Conway, Politico

I don’t doubt that the ad featuring Mr. Khan is powerful.  But I do doubt that it will sway many wavering Rust Belters, because they already know Mr. Khan’s message.

Had the Clinton stranglehold on the Democratic Party apparatus (certainly including donors) not elbowed out the very thought of any progressive other than Bernie Sanders—who ran only because no other progressive would—Sherrod Brown I think would have.  And would be about to witness a largely-progressive Democratic wave not seen since Franklin Roosevelt’s death.

Instead, Democrats may not even retake the Senate.

Even Franklin probably knows that things such as NLRB appointments would be good to mention in Ohio.  Maybe he can tell Clinton.  Since her campaign gurus apparently haven’t.



ADDENDUM:  Gail Collins’s NYT column today, titled “Don’t Take Donald Trump to Dinner,” is mostly about Trump’s jarring use of the annual Catholic Charities dinner in NYC a few days ago as just another forum for his usual ugly comments about Clinton.  But Collins also said this:

In a perfect world, Hillary Clinton would then have gotten up and given the most good-­natured speech in political history, scrapping all the barbed lines in her prepared script, like the one about how a Trump White House would be awkward for gatherings of the ex­-presidents (“How is Barack going to get past the Muslim ban?”). But she didn’t change a word, because Clinton is not a spontaneous politician.

If this were a normal election, we could have a very interesting discussion about how programmed she can be, and whether that would be a problem if she’s elected. But as things stand, unless we discover she’s actually an android, there’s just no point.

I wouldn’t have expected Clinton to spontaneously scrap her prepared speech and give an entirely off-the-cuff one, and at least that joke that Collins quoted was funny and pointed at Trump’s and the alt-right’s actual words and positions.

But this is a person who genuinely seems unable to take a breath on her own, and who apparently delegated to campaign consultants and advisors her campaign’s very raison d’être.  G.W. Bush did the same.  But that was unusual.  And it was a very different political era, although Clinton and her circle hadn’t noticed this until Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump forced them to belatedly, and even then not really.  Or at least not fully.  Even yet.

We have no choice now but to look forward, not backward.  But anyone who thinks that had either one run, Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown would not be about to usher in a genuinely progressive era, is willfully blind.  That is precisely because a Warren or a Brown campaign’s raison d’être would be Warren’s or Brown’s own raison d’être as politicians to begin with, argued eloquently and passionately, and contrasted to their Republican opponent’s and the Republican Party’s—in their own words, their own sentences, their own paragraphs.

Added 10/22 at 4:40 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , , , Comments (4) | |

Watching aggregate sales and payrolls

by New Deal democrat

Watching aggregate sales and payrolls

Way back in the depths of the Great Recession in 2009, I used to hear a lot of comments like, “How can people buy anything, when they don’t have jobs?!?”  But the truth is, as I pointed out at the time, that sales lead jobs.  This was true at the bottom, and it is generally true at the top too.

With this morning’s release of consumer prices, up +0.3% for September, let’s take an updated look at sales and jobs.

Let’s start with real aggregate payrolls for nonsupervisory workers.  This is the grand total, in real terms, of wages being paid to average Americans, which I believe is the best measure of how well the jobs market is or isn’t delivering.  To make it easier to see, I am dividing the data into two 25 year intervals:

Figure 1

Figure 2

Note that in the last 50 years, real aggregate payrolls have always peaked 6 to 12 months before the onset of a recession, usually declining but occasionally just going sideways for an extended period.  These last made a peak 2 months ago.

Comments (1) | |

The Start-Up They Signed

“The one thing you have over me is experience,” Mr. Trump said at one point.

And yet it seemed clear through this last confrontation that there was a gap in knowledge, or at least in command of the material that candidates seeking to be president are expected to master.

“Take a look at the Start­-Up they signed,” Mr. Trump said at one point, apparently referring to the Start nuclear arms reduction treaty.

Hillary Clinton, Mocking and Taunting in Debate, Turns the Tormentor, Amy Chozick and Michael Barbaro, New York Times, yesterday

When Trump said that Wednesday night—said it really emphatically—Clinton’s facial expression reflected what I’m sure was mine: What the hell is he talking about?

I figured he was referring to some provision in NAFTA or the Paris climate-change accords, having to do with small-business startups.

So now I know I was wrong.  And I even know what Start-Up they signed.

Glad I read the New York Times.

Tags: , , , , , Comments (10) | |

Donald Trump, A Man After My Own Heart

I don’t think we should have justices appointed that decide what they want to hear.

– Donald Trump, last night

Wow.  Out of the mouths of babes.   Or something.  I don’t think we should have justices appointed that decide what they want to hear, either.

OMG.  I’ve been supporting the wrong candidate!

Repeal the Supreme Court Case Selections Act of 1988!  Repeal the Supreme Court Case Selections Act of 1988!

Tags: , , Comments (0) | |

Obama should tell the public specifically—in meticulous detail—what the Syrian refugee vetting process IS. Since Clinton once again failed to do that.

There has been a great deal of concern about the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. Are we letting terrorists into the United States? How much do we know about the Syrians being admitted? Is our vetting process strict enough?

For more than two decades, I’ve devoted my professional life to refugee resettlement, working and collaborating with nongovernmental organizations, the U.N. Refugee Agency and the U.S. government. Now I lead one of the few global agencies involved both with refugee resettlement for displaced communities and in the policy sphere.

Here are the facts:

– America already uses strict refugee vetting. Here are the facts., Sasha Chanoff, op-ed today in the Washington Post

The facts are a multi-step, lengthy process.  Multi-step.  Lengthy.  Why does Clinton repeatedly fail to detail this in response to Trump’s outlandishly false representations?  And since Clinton refuses to do so, why doesn’t Obama take up that slack?

I forgot to include that issue in this post this morning.  And it’s beyond frustrating.

Tags: , , , Comments (20) | |

Really disappointed that Clinton last night didn’t mention Trump’s single-year businesses losses of $916 million and his habitual stiffing of employees and contractors, and didn’t directly protest Wallace’s absurd the-stimulus-led-to-the-slow-growth assertion

After the first debate, there was some criticism of Clinton that she came off as “too prepared”—a semantic contrast to Trump’s lack of preparation—and then criticism of the criticism: How can someone be too prepared for something?

The answer to that question is that what was really meant by “too prepared” was “too programmed.”

That was true again last night to some extent, in my opinion, particularly when she didn’t respond to Trump’s bragging about his business prowess that Trump’s businesses lost $916 million in a single year and that he habitually stiffs employees and contractors.  Instead she just mentioned that Trump started his business with a yuge loan from his multimillionaire father—an important point, but one that should have been joined to a comment noting that he lost $916 million in a single year and that he habitually stiffs employees and contractors.

That’s a point Clinton has made many times, including at each of the two earlier debates, when, granted, it mattered more.  But the points are key to so much deconstructing Trump’s claim to business genius and also as critical evidence of his sociopathology.  I hope she places this at the center of ads and rally comments going forward.

Clinton also failed to explicitly correct a glaring and really significant misstatement of fact by Chris Wallace, when he said that the low level of economic growth was caused byled to—the 2009 Obama stimulus program.  That was a preposterous falsehood, and I wondered whether any pundit would actually catch that and make an issue of it.

Thankfully, one did.  Thank you, Professor Krugman.  And I bet (and hope) you discuss it fully in your column tomorrow.

Look, I fully recognize that Clinton is at this point emotionally exhausted—really drained—as is Trump.  It was evident on both of their faces almost from beginning to end last night.  And on balance, she did fine, I thought.

But her very best moment last night came in a spontaneous comment, when she retorted, “Well, that’s because he [Putin] wants a puppet.”  Obviously, it’s important to come to a debate armed with specific points to get across.  But that should not preclude responding extemporaneously to statements by your opponent or by the moderator.

Still, ….

Tags: , , , , , Comments (13) | |

The darkening skies

by New Deal democrat

The darkening skies

In my Weekly Indicators column on Saturday, I noted that the data had gotten a little darker.  Since I have been increasingly concerned about the direction of the economy over the next year or two, I thought I would spell out where my worry is coming from..

Let me start with the long leading data, and go from there.

First of all, while corporate bond yields made a new low after the Brexit vote, (blue in the graph below) mortgage rates did not follow (red):

Meanwhile,while  adjusted corporate profits have rebounded from their Q4 2015 low, they are still stalled below their previous highs:

Figure 2

Turning to the consumer side of the ledger, housing starts (blue in the graph below) did make – just barely – a new high several months ago, but basically have been stalled since the early part of 2015.  Meanwhile, motor vehilcle sales (red) (a shorter leading indicator) appear to have made their peak for the cycle one year ago:

Mortgage applications have not made a new high since June, and may go negative YoY by December:

Which leaves real money supply the only one of Prof. Geoffrrey Moore’s original long leading indicators as unambiguously positive.  Further, according to the paradgm spelled out by Prof. Edward E. Leamer typically housing turns down first among consumer expenditures, followed by cars, followed by nondurable goods, before a recession hits.  Right now neither houses nor cars are really going anywhere — not down, but not up either.

Two other short leading indicators are no longer helping.

First, the price of gas is now only about 1% less than it was a year ago, and has been trending up, not down as per a typical autumn, since August:

Further, as industrial metals have weakened again, the US$ has also turned just a little higher:

Neither one of these are headwinds yet.  But if gas were to go back up to the $3.25 range next year or so, and the US$ strengthens, this would be very bad news.

Finally, when it comes to coincident indicators, industrial production is the first among equals, and while it bottomed in March, it hasn’t made a lot of progress since:

Worse, the progress it has made has chiefly been from natural resource extraction bouncing off the bottom (red in the graph below), while manufacturing, which made slow progress in 2015, has completely stalled this year (blue):

None of this is to say that we are presently in a recession, or even that one is imminent.  For example, the continual new lows in initial jobless claims are potent evidence that the jobs market is still in decent shape, and consumer spending continues to rise in real terms.

But put the above all together, and you have a more fragile expansion, with little in the way of new tailwinds to help it.  The one good thing that has happened in the last six months — the lows in interest rates — really need to start feeding through to a significant improvement in housing starts and permits.  I still think they will, because historically they have done so.  But if for any reason they don’t, then the economy can be tipped into contraction by not much of a negative shock.

If the economy were to tip into recession soon, my concern isn isn’t just academic.  This expansion has witnessed the poorest YoY wage growth of any expansion in over 60 years (red in the graph below), and as the unemployment rate risses during a recession, – and stays elevated for potentially several years afterward — YoY wage growth tends to fall by at least 2%:

Since our best YoY growth in wages to date is only  2.6%, that measns we are very vulenrable to outright wage deflation in the next recession, for the first time since 1938.

So, this month’s housing permits and starts report takes on added importance, as does the long leading indcator of coproate profits in the upcoming Q3 GDP report, as does the tightening (or not) of credit conditions for Q3 that will be reported in early November.

Comments (1) | |

Paul Krugman Gets Berned. Er, Burned.

In a speech to a Morgan Stanley group on April 18, 2013, WikiHillary praised the Simpson­Bowles deficit reduction plan, which included reforming the tax code to increase investment and entrepreneurship and raising certain taxes and trimming some spending and entitlements to make them more sustainable.

The ultimate shape of that grand bargain could take many forms, she said, but Hillary stressed behind closed doors: “Simpson-­Bowles … put forth the right framework. Namely, we have to restrain spending, we have to have adequate revenues and we have to incentivize growth. It’s a three-­part formula.”

She is right. We’ll never get out of this economic rut, and protect future generations, unless the business and social sectors, Democrats and Republicans, all give and get something — and that’s exactly where WikiHillary was coming from.

WikiHillary for President, Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, today

Eeewwwwwe.  I mean, um … yikes.

Friedman, of course, has spent the last decade or more obsessively pushing a “Grand Bargain.”  He says in today’s column that he wishes Clinton had campaigned on this.  In order to build an electoral mandate for it, see.

Seriously; he says this.

Paul Krugman, by contrast, has spent the eight years or so trashing deficit mania, and the last five years mocking Simpson-Bowles.  And Simpson and Bowles.  And their ilk.  Including Thomas Friedman.

Also in Friedman’s column today:

In an October 2013 speech for Goldman Sachs, Clinton seemed to suggest the need to review the regulations imposed on banks by the Dodd­Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2010. Her idea was not to get rid of all of the rules but rather to make sure they were not imposing needless burdens that limited lending to small businesses and start­ups.

As Clinton put it, “More thought has to be given to the process and transactions and regulations so that we don’t kill or maim what works, but we concentrate on the most effective way of moving forward with the brainpower and the financial power that exists here.” Again, exactly right.

Friedman thinks this, too, would have been a hit with the public if only Clinton had had the guts to campaign on it.

Krugman in his Twitter feed has been pushing the proposition that Clinton really, honestly, dammit, was the strongest possible Democratic nominee to beat Trump, cuz she so deftly baited him during the first debate into his weeklong meltdown about that former Miss Universe, and no other candidate would have thought to do that.  Then again, there are a few possible candidates whose victory would have been assured without that.  But, whatever. Candidates who speak like this, for example.*

And he responded to some pundits’ dismay at the tail-wagging-the-dog role that Clinton’s campaign consultants and friends—as Frank Bruni put it recently, the extensive array of Clinton whisperers—who crafted everything from minutia to the very raison d’être for her candidacy, by insisting that that’s what consultants do.  Making me wonder why we don’t just cut to the chase and cut out the puppet, and nominate a consultant instead.

None of this matters now, of course.  I’ll reiterate, yet again, that I believe that Clinton is a genuinely different candidate, politician, and in important respects, person now than she was until recently.  And I support her wholeheartedly now.  But even if she were who she was in 2013 I’d be supporting her, if grudgingly.

But the instant I read that Friedman column—particularly the part about Clinton telling Morgan Stanley she supports Simpson-Bowles—I thought of Krugman.  And wondered whether upon reading that, if he did, he was moving close enough to the bonfire to feel a tad Berned.


*The link, inadvertently omitted originally, is to an op-ed by Elizabeth Warren in yesterday’s Washington Post titled “Elizabeth Warren: Trump didn’t invent the ‘rigged election’ myth. Republicans did.” The second Friedman excerpt also was not indented here originally.  All is now corrected.  10/20 at 2:12 p.m.

Tags: , , , , , , Comments (9) | |

No, Mr. Trump, THIS is what a movement looks like

There it was.  That familiar logo, the one I’d seen on so many lawn signs and bumper stickers in my (very) liberal small-city college town, and at the top of so many emails I’d received since early summer 2015.  The logo with “Bernie” in sky blue, with a little star over the “I” instead of a dot, and the narrow wave of a sky blue line underlining it, with the similar line except in red under the blue one.

I’d checked my emails late last night and had seen the one from him.  With a subject line reading: Yuuuge.

Below the familiar logo at the center top was this message:

Beverly: Since earlier today, 10,000 people have donated more than $400,000 to Catherine Cortez Masto, Deborah Ross, Maggie Hassan, and Katie McGinty.

That’s how much people want Paul Ryan’s warning about Bernie Sanders becoming chair of the budget committee to become true.

What you’re doing for these candidates is yuuuge. It’s game-changing for their campaigns. But there’s still more to do, because we can do more than just take back the Senate. We have a chance to take back the House. It starts with helping candidates for Congress who are inspired by the political revolution.

So we’re going to set an audacious goal that we don’t know is possible to hit by tomorrow night’s final FEC fundraising deadline – but it’s one that is very important to try to reach.

Let’s raise $1 million for candidates for the House and Senate by tomorrow’s final FEC fundraising deadline of the campaign. Split a contribution between Deborah Ross, Zephyr Teachout, Nanette Barragan, Tom Nelson, Pramila Jayapal, Rick Nolan, and Morgan Carroll.

Adding a contribution to these candidates – even if you’ve already supported them – is so important right now. Every poll shows these races within a handful of percentage points. And every contribution you make to these candidates will go to the critical work of communicating with voters and organizing for Election Day.

We don’t know if we can reach $1 million for House and Senate candidates tomorrow. But it’s very important that we try.

Adding a contribution to these candidates – even if you’ve already supported them – is so important right now. Every poll shows these races within a handful of percentage points. And every contribution you make to these candidates will go to the critical work of communicating with voters and organizing for Election Day.

We don’t know if we can reach $1 million for House and Senate candidates tomorrow. But it’s very important that we try.

If you can, add a contribution to reach our goal.

Thank you,

Jeff Weaver
Team Bernie

By this morning I’d forgotten about it.   And anyway, I’d sworn that that donation I made last week to the DSCC during one of their triple-match drives was my absolute last campaign donation.  Ever.  Okay, I’d meant, in this election cycle.  Which feels like ever.  (I haven’t donated to Clinton.)

But then.  There it was again.  The logo.  Bernie had emailed me again, this time with the subject: I hear you want me to have a gavel.

I do, so I’d clicked the message, which read:


I heard what Paul Ryan said about me: that if the Republicans lose the Senate, I will be the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

That sounds like a very good idea to me. It means that we can establish priorities for working people, and not just the billionaire class.

What would be equally exciting is if the Democrats took back the House, and Congressman Ryan was no longer Speaker. That would mean the clearest possible path to enact our agenda – the most progressive agenda of any party in American history.

In the last day, you have responded tremendously to our call to support four leaders who will help shift the balance of the Senate. More than 20,000 people have contributed more than $900,000 to ten candidates who are inspired by the political revolution.

During our campaign we pushed ourselves to reach goals that many thought impossible. That is why we set a very big, very audacious goal that we didn’t know if we could reach, but that we thought it was very important to try. But you’re about to smash that $1 million goal.

So, we’re going to need a bigger goal.

Let’s raise $2 million before tonight’s final FEC deadline of the campaign for candidates for the House and Senate. Can you start with a contribution between Paul Clements, Catherine Cortez-Masto, Deborah Ross, Zephyr Teachout, Morgan Carroll, Nanette Barragan, and Rick Nolan?

Consider for a moment the power that exists in the U.S. Senate. Right now, the Republican majority is using their power to block any meaningful action on addressing income inequality or climate change. In addition, without a Democratic majority the Senate is refusing to confirm federal judges and, incredibly, has left open a critical seat on the Supreme Court.

With a Democratic majority, we can change all of that. What Paul Ryan is specifically afraid of is the power of the budget committee. That committee defines the spending priorities of the entire government. The work of that committee says how much revenue the government should have, and where its money should go.

I have some thoughts on how the government should allocate its spending. I’m sure you do, too.

The first step to being able to enact our progressive agenda is taking back the Senate. And if we take back the House… well, the sky is the limit for what we can achieve.

Help us reach for our new, audacious goal of raising $2 million for candidates for the House and Senate by midnight tonight. Add a contribution now split between Paul Clements, Catherine Cortez-Masto, Deborah Ross, Zephyr Teachout, Morgan Carroll, Nanette Barragan, and Rick Nolan.

Thank you for all you do.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders

Sigh.  I’ll hate myself in the morning.

Here’s the link, folks.  And, btw, a graphic inserted into the second email, sent at 2:10 this afternoon, shows that they’d raised $1,137,888. Since yesterday morning.

Tags: Comments (4) | |