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

Solow on Friedman’s 1968 Presidential Address and the Medium Run

Mark Thoma had this up on Facebook. and pulled this from Tim Taylor’s Conversable Economist. It is an interesting read.

“Fifty years ago in 1968, Milton Friedman’s Presidential Address to the American Economic Association set the stage for battles in macroeconomics that have continued ever since. The legacy of the talk has been important enough that in the Winter 2018 issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, where I work as Managing Editor (Tim Taylor), we published a three-paper symposium on ‘Friedman’s Natural Rate Hypothesis After 50 Years.'”

What was the key insight or argument in Friedman’s 1968 address? Friedman offers a reminder that interest rates and unemployment rates are set by economic forces. Friedman uses this idea to build a distinction between the long-run and the short-run. In the short run, it is possible for a central bank like the Federal Reserve to influence interest rates and the unemployment rate. In the long run, there is a “natural” rate of interest and a “natural” rate of unemployment which is trying to emerge, gradually, over time from all the various forces in the economy.

The rest you can read for yourself at Tim’s site.

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More House Speaker Details on Who Will Lead

A Rehash

Paul Krugman noted on twitter, this is a group that is “still in the old cringe position, buying into GOP demonization (which happens to any strong Democrat) despite a huge midterm victory.” Cringing at the GOP’s demonization is a tactic that too many Democrats embraced in the past and is what sent so many of them on a journey rightward in search of validation. In other words, it is a losing strategy undermining liberal values. The really superb Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms completely rejected the approach and it is clear that Nancy Pelosi joins them.

Nancy LeToureau at Washington Monthly detailed a Pelosi experience giving her remarks on Twitter. “On Wednesday some young climate activists joined by newly elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez held a demonstration at Nancy Pelosi’s office. While we can debate whether it is a smart move to hold such an event at the office of a leader who is on your side as opposed to the myriad of Republican leaders who are climate deniers, Pelosi welcomed them with open arms.

Nancy Pelosi, Nov 13, 2018 on Twitter:

Deeply inspired by the young activists & advocates leading the way on confronting climate change. The climate crisis threatens the futures of communities nationwide, and I strongly support reinstating the select committee to address the crisis.

We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.

Nancy LeToureau: These types of actions are what makes Pelosi a great leader and is a wonderful example of how Democrats embrace grassroots activism and organizing.

The Letter’s 17

On the same day, some House Democrats were organizing against the election of Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House. There are those who mistakenly conflate the two developments; however, the group challenging Pelosi’s leadership has different motives.

About a dozen incumbent Democrats and a half-dozen incoming Democrats are preparing a letter pledging to not support Pelosi on the House floor for speaker. The members also intend to note another contingent of Democrats who privately say they won’t support the longtime California Democrat but won’t sign the letter, according to Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), one of the ringleaders of the effort to block Pelosi.

Sources (HuffPost) familiar with the letter say there are currently 17 names on it, but the group is trying to get more than 20 members before releasing it. Currently on the letter, though not certain to stay on it, are:

– Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)
– Seth Moulton (D-Mass.)
– Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.)
– Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.)
– Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)
– Filemon Vela Jr. (D-Texas)
– Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio)
– Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.)
– Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.)
– Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.)
– Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.)
– Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.)
– Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.)
– Max Rose (D-N.Y.)
– Anthony Brindisi (D-N.Y.)
– Ben McAdams (D-Utah)

There is another contingent of Democrats ― including Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Dan Lipinksi (D-Ill.), Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.) ― who are seen as likely to vote against Pelosi, but who appear to be hesitant to sign the letter.

In comparison, just “How progressive Is Nancy Pelosi” when compared to the 17?

Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) writes; “not only has Pelosi consistently been in the top third of the most liberal Democrats in the House, Pelosi is a lot more liberal than Republican Paul Ryan is conservative.” The insurgency against Pelosi amongst House Democrats consists of people who are to Pelosi’s right on the ideological scale. The 17 Democratic signatories on the anti-Pelosi letter when compared to FiveThirtyEight’s DW NOMINATE ranking / Trump scorecard shows that only two of those people have voted against Donald Trump’s policy preferences more than Pelosi has.

The person from that group who’s being floated as a potential replacement for Pelosi, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, is accused of being openly hostile to LGBTQ rights. Osita Nwanevu of the New Yorker: “The anti-Pelosi stuff in Congress is mostly backed by centrist & conservative Dems who want to cave to the right’s sexist & latently anti-LGBT messaging (‘San Francisco values’) against her.”

Do We Want to Be a Part of the 17?

One sure way of dampening the forward progressive movement of the Democrats in the House is to have open warfare amongst ourselves on leadership when the leader is already more progressive than the upper third of Democrats in the House and much of the 17. Such fighting will give rise to questioning of the ability of new and incumbent representatives to gain bi-partisan agreement in the House for passage of Democratic bills. If they can not agree amongst themselves without open warfare, then we have already lost even before the new session has started.

This is not the time to kick the most experienced Progressive House leader out the door. It is time to start grooming new and younger leadership who have returned to the House over the last decade. First term representatives should spend time learning the politics of the House, the Democrats and Republicans, and avoid the conflict being led by those to the right of Pelosi. Only two of the 17 have voted against Donald Trump’s policy preferences more than Nancy Pelosi.

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MbS Guilty!

MbS Guilty!

According to the top stories in both the New York Times and Washington Post this morning, somebody in the CIA has leaked that Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  Of course no sensible observer is remotely surprised, but the Trump administration had been working mightily to deny this obvious fact, with reports surfacing that they were plotting to send Turkish cleric Gulen to Turkey as authoritarian President Erdogan has long been demanding (Gulen is Erdogan’s all-purpose scapegoat for everything) in the hopes that Erdogan would stop making it clear that MbS was guilty of ordering the assassination.  But now there is no point in that as the cat is fully out of the bag, no matter how much this leak will anger Trump (Fake CIA leak!).  Indeed, it may well have been reported unhappiness by various government officials in the face of this effort to sacrifice Gulen that triggered the leak.

What is a bit surprising is that the leak involved publicizing that NSA bugs the Saudi embassy, although I would imagine that anybody there who did not know that was stupid.  But crucial to the leak is both that MbS phoned his full brother, Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the US, ordering him to phone Khashoggi and tell him he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to the documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee, and that he would be safe in doing so, and that KbS then followed through and made the phone call. The only thing we do not know is whether KbS was in on what was going to happen to Khashoggi or not when he made the phone call.

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Pelosi Challenging Outdated Norms

From Washington Monthly Nancy LeTourneau

On Wednesday some young climate activists joined by newly elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez held a demonstration at Nancy Pelosi’s office. While we can debate whether it is a smart move to hold such an event at the office of a leader who is on your side as opposed to the myriad of Republican leaders who are climate deniers, Pelosi welcomed them with open arms.

Pelosi Nov 13, 2018

Deeply inspired by the young activists & advocates leading the way on confronting climate change. The climate crisis threatens the futures of communities nationwide, and I strongly support reinstating the select committee to address the crisis.

We welcome the presence of these activists, and we strongly urge the Capitol Police to allow them to continue to organize and participate in our democracy.

These types of actions are what makes Pelosi a great leader and is a wonderful example of how Democrats embrace grassroots activism and organizing.

As it happened on the same day some House Democrats were organizing against the election of Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House, there are those who mistakenly conflate the two developments. But the group challenging Pelosi’s leadership is completely different.

As Paul Krugman noted on twitter, this is a group that is “still in the old cringe position, buying into GOP demonization (which happens to any strong Democrat) despite a huge midterm victory.” Cringing at the GOP’s demonization is a tactic that too many Democrats embraced in the past and is what sent so many of them on a journey rightward in search of validation. In other words, it is a losing strategy undermining liberal values. The really superb Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms completely rejected the approach and it is clear that Nancy Pelosi joins them.

The theme demonstrated by Nancy Pelosi and well articulated by Nancy LeToureau at WM? In her leadership role, Pelosi is challenging some of the old vestiges of power and strengthening the small “d” democratic processes in overall party. It should come as no surprise that these changes are being resisted as power shifts from top-down to bottom-up. But it’s important for all of us to be clear about exactly what’s happening and weigh in accordingly.

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A Serious Centennial

A Serious Centennial

After failing to show up at a major American cemetery in France at least our president did not add to his shame by failing to show up for the big show with 60 or so other national leaders at the Arc de Triomphe for the official ceremony marking the centennial of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month of November, 1918, when the guns fell silent on the western front of World War I, officially ending it in the eyes of most historians, even though fighting would escalate in certain other important zones whose outcomes still shake the world, most notably between Greece and Turkey, with the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire coming out of that leading to many wars since, some of them gong on right now.  We get it that Trump was uncomfortable given that President Macron was lecturing against the sort of nationalism that led to WW I, with a three day forum to follow that Trump will run as fast as possible back to the US to avoid. And, hey, Macron did not even have tanks and missiles for the parade this time, which Trump really likes to see.

This important day, the first Armistice Day, which we renamed Veterans Day in the US after the War to End All Wars’ unfortunate sequel (actually  in 1954 right after the end of the “forgotten” Korean War) and have since turned into one of those Monday holidays, has turned into a curiously sad one personally.  It involves another war, Vietnam.  My cousin, Bill Atwater, died yesterday, the day before this serious centennial and also the 243rd birthday of the U.S. Marines.  Yes, Bill was a Marine and was in Vietnam where he was exposed to Agent Orange that led him to have various cancers that basically led to his death, although it was an opportunistic pneumonia that finally actually did him in.  He will be cremated with his ashes spread over the cemetery at Arlington. I had not communicated with him directly for over 20 years (did through another cousin), but he told me at his mother’s funeral that he had been spat on when he returned to the U.S.  I have more recently seen stories that such reports were exaggerated, if not outright true.  As it is, I have no way of checking on Bill’s story now, but I know  that he was a multiply wounded man.

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Is It Not The Economy, Stupid?

Is It Not The Economy, Stupid?

On many Mondays I indulge in taking Robert J. Samuelson to task after his regular Washington Post column of the day.  Today he was almost right, or if you prefer, even mostly right.  This one was titled “It’s Not the Economy, Stupid” about the outcome of the midterm election, as well as a delayed comment on the 2016 presidential election (although, of course, HRC did win the popular vote by three million popular votes, if not the electoral college).  His main argument is that in both of these elections, but especially last week’s midterms, the state of the economy was relatively unimportant.  The argument is that here is Trump with GDP growth exceeding 3%, the unemployment rate under 4%, inflation largely under control, but this supposedly good performance did not help him out much with his party taking a pretty serious hit (the size of which still being counted).  He also sees something similar in 2016, although arguably the economy was not as strongly favorable, but still quite respectable while not obviously helping the incumbent party.  Indeed, in 2016 many saw the economy as hurting the Dems, especially in the Rust Belt.

There is a lot of truth to this, with a lot more attention on ethnic and cultural issues, although it should be kept in mind that the top issue for Dems, health care, is at least partly an economic issue.  Certainly one sign of the weakness of the economic issue is the matter of the big GOP tax cut.  They were quite convinced when they passed it last December that this was their ticket to a strong showing in the midterm election.  And indeed it is almost certain that at least some of the acceleration of GDp growth can be attributed to it even if it may be setting up the economy for slower growth down the road.  So according the usual views, it should have helped the GOP. But in the end it seems to have been an electoral flop.  It has consistently done poorly in the polls, and most GOPs running for reelection in the end barely mentioned it.

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The Death of Shame

The Death of Shame

In any society not in a state of civil war, shame is a powerful force, perhaps the most powerful.  Individuals or organizations caught cheating, lying or otherwise doing evil, when exposed and called out, are expected to be embarrassed.  They should repent their sins and promise to make amends.  Other than pure coercion, what else can disarm those who violate the norms of society?

Evolutionary biologists tell us shame is hardwired not only in humans but many other social animals.  (They may not experience shame the same way humans do, but the outward markers and consequences are the same.)  We seek group membership in good standing, and while there is an incentive to exploit others for personal gain, or just relax our commitment for a while, the punishment of group rejection is a more powerful force.  That’s what holds us together.

It is natural that shame is invoked as a political weapon.  Corrupt businessmen, politicians and public officials may be flying high, but if we can document the facts they are trying to hide, we can clean them out.  A video documenting otherwise hidden police abuse, an audio recording of the murder of civilians released by Wikileaks, the disclosure of evidence of law-breaking by justices or political leaders should accomplish this.  Also testimony from women abused by powerful men: if they come forward and tell the world what really happened, that should stop abuse in its tracks.

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A baseline road map for the 2020 elections

A baseline road map for the 2020 elections

Now that the 2018 midterm elections are behind us, let’s take a preliminary look at 2020.
It occurred to me that a decent baseline for that election is to simply take the total 2018 House votes for each state, assume that the Presidential vote in 2020 in each state will be the same, and apply that to the Electoral College. Alternatively, you could use the results of the 2018 Senate races in those states where there were races in 2018, and apply those results for those states. That’s because the midterm turnout approached Presidential election levels, and Trump is going to engender the same intensity in two years as he did this past week.
So, using the 2018 results as the template for 2020, who wins?
It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who had that thought. Nate Silver already had the same idea and did that for the House vote. Here’s what that hypothetical 2020 Electoral College map looks like:
If you apply the 2018 House votes to the Presidency in 2020, the Democratic candidate wins handily.  As Nate Silver points out, it is a virtual duplicate of the 2012 map.
[Before I go further, let me just note that the above House map has a few glitches. Florida only went Democratic when the votes in House districts where there was no GOP candidate are added. Conversely, in North Carolina, there was a House district without a Democratic candidate. If we were to add just 2/3’s of the typical democratic vote in other GOP-dominated districts in NC to that district, then NC flips to the democratic column.]

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Kristallnacht: Lights left on to mark 80th anniversary

Between 9 and 10 November 1938, more than 1,400 synagogues and prayer rooms, thousands of Jewish-owned homes, hospitals, shops and cemeteries were damaged or destroyed across Nazi Germany and Austria.

At least 91 Jewish people were killed and an estimated 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps at Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.

It does not look like much has changed in the last 30 years and indeed has worsened for Jews and minorities as the white majority exercises its rule and capability to inflict upon them poverty. Poverty is more than just being poor. It is the loss of freedom to pursue religion, education, safety, etc. Ghandi had it right when he said Poverty is the worst form of violence. It comes is so many different forms.

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Why Gerrymandering Matters

Gerrymandering is not going away any time soon. It will just be used in different manner, a manner in which to achieve congressional districts with a fairer representation of the district’s constituency.

Why won’t gerrymandering go away? The districts are too big at an average of 700,000 people per district. This is the result of Congress freezing the number of Congressional Representatives at 435 in 1929 and reapportioning the districts of each state based upon population every 10 years. The inequality of this methodology can be seen in a comparison between Wyoming with its one Congressional Representative and it population of 586,000 as compared to California and its average size of 700,000 for each Congressional District. If the average was set at 586,000 people per district as Wyoming has, then California would gain 15 more Congressional Representatives.

The Washington Post has an article up on the impact of both unfair gerrymandering and a fairer version of gerrymandering as dictated by the court The later achieves a much fairer split of the districts meant to represent the makeup of the population within the state and their political interests as discovered through national elections.” One state fixed its gerrymandered districts, the other did not.“

The picture depicts the change in numbers of Republicans and Democrats elected to office as determined by the Congressional districts make up. Pennsylvania had its districts redrawn by the court and “a 53 percent majority in the popular vote yielded a hair under half of the contested seats for Democrats — a big difference from 2016, when 48 percent of the vote gave Democrats 27 percent of the seats.”

In North Carolina, the districts were not redrawn. “The old maps were still in place and a electoral result in 2018 was identical to that of 2016. Despite a Democratic wave in which more than half the state’s voters opted for a Democratic House candidate, Democrats won one-quarter of the contested seats.”

Michigan passed Proposal 2 which established a civilian board to redraw the boundaries of the Congressional districts. I suspect it will still have issues as it will be selected by the legislature.

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