Tuesday, November 29, 2016

David Brooks Is Still Looking For A Job

David Brooks was pretty happy when the Republican Party was a party in which he could believe.  Donald Trump's election has made it difficult for him to be an advocate for a political party with tainted leader.  He considered the idea of starting up a third party but he describes a more practical alternative in this article.  He believes that coalition between moderate members of Congress from both parties can work together to define a new political center that is between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.  The ingredients for the new center would contain a mixture of Milton Friedman's economic ideology, Ronald Reagan's foreign policy and Franklin Roosevelt's social welfare policies.  In other words, it would be two parts Republican and one part Democratic.  That seems a lot like the old Republican Party that he admired.  Its economic policies were centered around Milton Friedman's libertarian ideology;  its foreign policies were backed up by a powerful military.  It did  not oppose most of FDR's social welfare programs but they were incompatible with Republican efforts to cut taxes, primarily for wealthy Americans.  The richest nation in the world cannot afford them and remain fiscally responsible.

I can sympathize with David Brooks' efforts to locate an ideological space for his op-eds.  Donald Trump has made it hard for him to remain an advocate for the new Republican Party.  Unfortunately, it is the party that now controls Congress and the White House.  We will have to figure out how we can survive four years of "Animal House". 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Why Corruption Matters

Paul Krugman explain how the potential for corruption is amplified by Donald Trump's far flung business empire.  Some governments might strike deals with The Donald in return for foreign policy considerations.  There is nothing to prevent this from happening when the Trump deal is with a foreign power that is not constrained by a free press and elected officials.  Of course, crony capitalism of the usual sort would also take place in a Trump government.  He has already nominated individuals to important positions who would be free to take advantage their positions.  For example, he appointed an advocate for privatizing public education as his Education Secretary.  She is primarily driven by ideology but her ideology opens the door for entrepreneurs to establish for profit schools that are funded by government.  Schools with a profit incentive have a very poor record.  The Donald's Trump University is a case in point.  Students took out government supported loans to pursue careers by taking courses and seminars with instructors without relevant business or teaching experience. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Privatization Of Everything

Donald Trump has no particular ideology, but he won the election as a Republican.  He is surrounded by Tea Party Republicans who have influenced the government appointments he has made.  This article shows how Trump's appointment of the federal Education Secretary fits into a privatization pattern that is consistent with the far right wing of the GOP.  It operates under the assumption that government should turn over the operation of government programs to private industry.  Privatizing education, by promoting charter schools and the use of government vouchers, is just another plank in the far right dream of siphoning tax dollars into for- profit enterprises.  Trump's Education Secretary is a member of the Koch Brother organization that has been laying the groundwork for the privatization of everything.  Her brother is the head of the Blackwater firm that provided mercenaries to the Bush Administration during the Iraq war. She has little interest in providing a higher quality education; she opposed a law that would close down failing charter schools in Michigan.

How Russia Used The Social Media In Election Campaign

This article explains how the social media was corrupted with fake news orchestrated by Russia in the US election.  Russians believe that the US uses the social media to influence opinion in Russia and that they are just retaliating.  In any case, the fake media operated like a super PAC by providing millions of dollars worth of misinformation during the campaign.  One of the fake news sites got more hits in the social media than CNN's site during the election campaign.

In addition to operating fake news sites thousands of trolls were employed to comment on US media sites.  If your read the comments following this article you will find that the Washington Post is described as a fake news site by the trolls who are frequent contributors to the Post's comment sections.  If the intent of some fake news sites (many are just in it for the money} is to promote conspiracy theories that weaken our democracy it has worked.  The social media have replaced responsible journalism as a source of information for many Americans.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Transcript Of Trump Meeting With NYT Management

Many of Trump's comments in this meeting have been reported.  I provided a link to the transcript for those who would like to learn more about the way Trump responded to questions.  It was classic Trump he danced around most of the questions and he took every opportunity to tell them how great he is.

No Trump. We Can't Just Get Along

Donald Trump has been trying to get the media to soften its reporting tone now that he is the President Elect.  The Washington Post and the New York Times targeted by Trump because of their prominence in the print media.  This article by a Washington Post reporter explains why he will not soften his tone.  He is not impressed by the more moderate statements that Trump has made after his election victory.  During the election campaign Trump put his character on full display.  He cannot be trusted and the media should remain vigilant during his presidency.

Trump's Choice For Educaion Secretary Is Privatization Zealot

Trump picked a woman who has promoted Charter schools and the use of vouchers to promote school choice as his Education Secretary.  More government money is spent on education on any other government service.  Privatizing the public schools will send a lot of sharks after this opportunity.  She has campaigned against closing Charter schools that have failed in her home state of Michigan.  The NYT was critical of Trump's choice but he was congratulated for selecting a woman.  This may be part of its effort to be nicer to Trump.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

What Do Trump Supporters Want and How Can He Deliver It

Trump has lots of supporters.  He got 90% of the votes from Republicans.  He will cut taxes for wealthy Americans along with a big cut in corporate taxes.  That will make many wealthy Republicans happy.  He won the election, however, by convincing lower income Americans that he will make them powerful again.  Can Trump deliver on that promise?  Many low income Americans oppose raising taxes on high income Americans so that the government can redistribute some of that income back to them in social welfare programs.  The don't want handouts; they want to feel empowered.  Unfortunately,  Trump cannot reverse market processes that have cost them jobs.  They are in a difficult predicament.  The don't want income redistribution and Trump is unable to return the jobs that they desire to them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

David Brooks Tells Us To Give Trump A Chance

David Brooks has been a critic of The Donald.  In this article he suggests that Trump was right about the plight of many working class Americans.  Perhaps his critics should listen to them.  Furthermore, he directs criticism to our failing public school system that has not educated Trump's base supporters.  He then turns his attention to the professional class that has good schools but has little sympathy for Trump's supporters.  He suggests that they are part of the elite class that insults Trump's base.

David Brooks was very unhappy with Trump's rise prior to his victory. In particular, he worried that his favorite political party was damaged by Trump's rise and suggested that it was time to think about a third party that would embody the conservative principles of the Republican Party that he admired.  He is no longer talking about a third party.  His fellow conservatives, and most of the Republican establishment, have decided to take advantage of the opportunity provided by Trump's takeover of the White House.  Trump may be the leader that they needed to make the changes that conservatives have been unable to make in our political system.  The Republican Party is alive and well.  Its the Democratic Party that is in trouble.  David Brooks can resume his career as a cheerleader for the Republican Party.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Right Way To Resist Trump: Don't Do What Failed In Italy

Italy suffered many years from the Silvio Berlusconi dynasty.  He was a demagogue like Trump but his opponents used the wrong strategies to defeat him.  This article tells us to avoid those strategies so that we can prevent a Trump dynasty.  We should avoid attacking Trump's personality and character; that only inspires resistance in his supporters and among independents who accept the results of the Italian elections.  He was unseated by candidates who debated the issues with Berlusconi and even supported some his ideas.  For example, Trump wants to promote infrastructure investment in the US.  Democrats will not agree entirely with his approach but they might find ways to support him on ideas that they have in common.  Trump also inspired his base, that hates Wall Street, by advocating for reinstating the law which requires banks to separate retail banking from investment banking.  The Democrats might do well to support this effort, which Trump most likely never intended to promote, after winning the election.  Lastly, the Democratic Party needs to find effective younger candidates who are not regarded as part of the Democratic establishment.

Identity Liberalism And The Lost Election

Donald Trump based his campaign on the broad theme of "Making America  Great Again"  He also told his base that liberalism was the enemy that had weakened our nation.  A vote for Trump was a vote against liberalism and "political correctness".  Hillary Clinton's campaign is described by the quote below:

One of the many lessons of the recent presidential election campaign and its repugnant outcome is that the age of identity liberalism must be brought to an end. Hillary Clinton was at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they relate to our understanding of democracy. But when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, L.G.B.T. and women voters at every stop. This was a strategic mistake. If you are going to mention groups in America, you had better mention all of them. If you don’t, those left out will notice and feel excluded. Which, as the data show, was exactly what happened with the white working class and those with strong religious convictions. Fully two-thirds of white voters without college degrees voted for Donald Trump, as did over 80 percent of white evangelicals.
The Clinton campaign was based upon the premise that she could turn out the vote from minorities and liberals who shared her commitment to inclusiveness.  She also took advantage of the flaws in Donald Trump's character, that he made obvious in the campaign, as well has his qualifications for the presidency.  The majority of Americans believed that Clinton was more qualified for the presidency than Trump but she lost several states that she was expected to win which cost her the election. The turnout for Trump in Republican areas exceeded the turnout for Romney in the last election.  The turnout for Clinton in areas that voted for Obama in the last election was lower than Obama's.  This article argues that it was a failure of the identity politics that informed the Clinton campaign.  To some extent her use of identity politics was apparent in her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders. Sanders based his campaign on the broad problem of income inequality and the steps that he would take to reduce income inequality.  Clinton focused her campaign on programs that would benefit each of the constituent groups that she had identified.  She defeated Sanders in states with large minority voters but Sanders did especially well in states that had fewer minority groups.  Sanders campaigned with Clinton in the general election but the election was really about Clinton versus Trump and the turnout advantage, especially in rural areas, that won the election for Trump in Democratic states.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Why Democrats Shouldd Not Support Trump's Infrastructure Plan

Democrat's typically support government programs that stimulate the economy  This article describes the problems in Trump's plan.  This is not your typical infrastructure plan.  It consists primarily of tax breaks for contractors and construction firms.  The government does not fund infrastructure projects directly.

We Elected Donald Trump So That He Could Make America Great Again: This Is What That Means

Many Americans thought that President Trump would be different from the Trump on the campaign trail whose statements were targeted towards his base.  His first three selections for key offices in his administration dispute that happy thought.  They align very well with his campaign bluster.  His appointments tell us a lot about the government that is putting together.  Trump has not only won the presidency he has taken over the Republican Party.  It is now his Party and there is little Democrats can do to turn back the results of the presidential election.  The comments that follow this article in the Washington Post are pretty typical of his base.  They believe that one of our most respected newspapers is a "liberal rag".  They prefer to get their information from fake news sites on the social media.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Key Facts From 2016 Exit Polls Shows Georaphic, Gender and Race Impact On Election

Gender was an important issue in this election.  Hillary Clinton won 54% of the woman vote but there were huge differences by race and geography.  Clinton only won 43% of white woman vote nationally.  She only received 34% of the white vote from women in rural areas.   The results were similar for men.  Trump won 53% of the national male vote but he won 63% the white male vote.  In rural areas Trump won 73% of the white male vote.  Race made a huge difference in the election and the white advantage enjoyed by Trump was amplified in Rural America.

Post Truth Politics Is The New Standard

Politicians have a difficult job, they most run for elections which equires them to raise funds for their campaigns and to avoid the loss of potential voters.  Its not surprising that we don't expect politicians to be absolutely honest.  Donald Trump has taken dishonesty to a new level.  He lies about almost everything and his supporters have no interest in fact checking.  He told his supporters that he was going to prevent jobs from moving to foreign countries.  The Ford Motor company had no plans to close one of its plants in Louisville Kentucky. It made a decision about the allocation of two its models which concentrated the production of one its models in Louisville and shifted the production of another model to another US plant.  The Donald used Twitter, which lets him say anything that he pleases, to tell his Twitter followers that he prevented Ford from closing the Louisville plant.  He had nothing to do with that decision but that make no difference to The Donald.  We live in fact free world under our President Elect.  The media allows him to say whatever he wants and facts have no bearing on what The Donal tells his loyalists.

Is Rising Populism Slowing Down Global Trade?

Donald Trump's victory in the US election, and the rise in populist sentiment in Europe, does not explain the slowdown in global trade.  The trade to GDP ratio had been rising steadily for many years but it has fallen in recent years.  The decline in the trade to GDP ratio has little to do with rising populism.  It is more easily explained by slower GDP growth.

One reason for slower GDP growth is a decline in investment spending which is caused by uncertainty and other factors.  Investment spending is trade intensive because a relatively small number of nations produce high technology capital goods.  When demand for capital goods decline global trade will decline.

The China growth miracle is over.  That can only happen once.  China's double digit GDP growth in over.  China's raw material imports have normalized and so have its exports.  GDP growth in China has become more dependent on internal consumption.

Global supply chain growth was fueled by transport and logistics efficiency.  We are reaching the limit in transport and logistics efficiency.  Production efficiency will continue to continue to increase. More goods will be produced domestically.

Donald Trump plans to stimulate the US economy by investing in infrastructure.  That will promote GDP growth and stimulate trade but its not clear the politics in the US will allow the government to find productive infrastructure investments with our current level of polarization.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Is The Democratic Party The Party Of Multiculural Cosmopoliticism?

There has been a significant change in voting behavior by income class between 2004 and 2016.  Those with incomes under $30,000 in 2004 provided a 20% majority to the Democratic candidate; the Democratic share dropped to 16% in 2016. The loss of low income white votes in the the rust belt states cost her 70 electoral votes.  Clinton did much better with higher income voters. Republicans got 15% of the votes from households with incomes between $100,00 - $200,000 in 2004. Households with incomes above $200 thousand in 2004 went Republican by 28%.  In 2016 the Republican advantage in both of the high income groups fell dramatically to only 1%.  There is greater parity between the two parties in the higher income groups.  The drop in the Democratic share among low income Americans, which includes white and minority voters, goes a long way towards explaining Donald Trump's victory.

There is also a geographic interpretation of these results.  The higher income voters are concentrated around the large cities in America.  The Democratic Party has done much better with the richer and better educated voters in these cosmopolitan areas over this period.  They did less will with lower income voters in these areas and Donald Trump got the great majority of votes from lower income Americans in rural areas.  The Republican Party under Donald Trump is now a Populist Party but its fiscal policies in the key areas of taxation and government spending have a traditional Republican flavor.  Trump will cut taxes for corporations and wealthy Americans while increasing government spending on infrastructure and the military.  The resulting increase in the federal budget deficits will put the Democratic Party in a bind.  It will have to choose between being the fiscally responsible party or to join the Trump bandwagon.  In either case, is not clear that either party will be able to do much for low income Americans.  Running budget deficits will provide a short term stimulus to the economy but it will lead to an increase in the value of the dollar and large trade deficits in the longer term.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How Econolmists Contributed To The Rise In Populism

Economists are very much aware of the distributional impacts of free trade.  On the other hand, they have typically ignored the known problems by assuming away the problems that are well understood.  The rise in populism, and demagogues in the US and Europe, might have been avoided if economists had taken a more balanced position on trade.  The one sided views of economists on trade have made them less effective defenders of trade.  The public tends to ignore their defense of trade as well as the politicians who preach the gospel of free trade.  Moreover, the politicians have done little to alleviate the distributional consequences that have caused the public to align with demagogues who are promoting policies that may be harmful to everyone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

How Did Clinton Lose Wisconsin and Michigan?

Almost everyone thought the Clinton would win Wisconsin and Michigan.  These have been Democratic states that depend upon building big leads in their major cities.  In Wisconsin's largest metropolitan area Clinton did much worse that Obama and Trump did worse than Romney in the 2012 election.  Clinton would have won Wisconsin if Obama voters had turned out for her. It didn't help her campaign that Clinton invested her resources in battleground states that were thought to be more competitive.

There was a similar story in Wayne County which is home to Michigan's largest city Detroit.  Trump did a bit better than Romney did in 2012 but Clinton would have won Michigan if she had done as well as Obama did in 2012 in the Detroit area.

This story was discussed at a meeting of progressive donors who have been supporters of Democratic candidates.  The focus was on ideology.  The Clinton campaign did not produce the messages that were needed to produce the turnout that would have won these elections.

The Simple Explantion For Trump's Victory

There are lots of reasons for the surprising election result. This article provides one good reason for the result. The electorate believed that Clinton was better qualified for the presidency than Trump but it was clear that Trump was regarded as the change agent in the election.  That was pretty clear from the primary campaigns.  Trump ran his campaign against the GOP establishment by presenting himself as the only Republican who was a change agent. That enabled him to defeat many better qualified candidates who were favored by the Republican leadership.  Clinton was opposed by Bernie Sanders who did a much better in the primaries than anyone expected.  He was the change agent in the Democratic campaign.  Exit interviews from the presidential election indicated that 40% of the electorate said their top priority was to elect a change agent.  Trump won 83% of their votes.  Clinton's campaign chose to attack Trump's fitness for the job.  Ordinarily that is a good strategy.  It seemed like a great strategy after so much negative information about Trump surfaced in the presidential election.  It did not work this time.

We should not forget, however, that Clinton would have won the election if she had won Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  They were very close races that Trump won by one one tenth of 1%.  Moreover, third party candidates may have helped to create that slim margin for Trump.  If all of Jill Stein's votes had gone to Clinton she would have won Wisconsin and Michigan. She was running on a very liberal ticket; those who voted for her would not have gone to Trump.  If Stein's votes in Pennsylvania had gone to Clinton, along with 20% more of the other third party candidates votes, Clinton would have won Pennsylvania as well.

What Does It Mean To Be Progressive?

This editorial in the Washington Post takes a first pass at defining progressivism.  It encourages others to engage in a discussion about the meaning of progressivism.  However, much of the editorial was about shaping the discussion that might follow.  For example, it was critical of efforts by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to make our country more progressive.  It argued that middle class Americans might get more benefits from their programs than impoverished Americans.  This focuses the inequality discussion into a battle within the lower half of the income distribution for a limited amount of social welfare spending.  It makes the point that programs like Social Security and Medicare are no longer affordable so it is makes no sense to even talk about increasing the payouts from those programs.  It admits that the top 1% of our income distribution has received the lion's share of the growth in personal income, but it avoids any discussion of raising their taxes so that we can afford to pay for social welfare programs.  Conservatives will love the way in which they have shaped the discussion about progressivism.  The battle over government resources is a battle between the middle class and more deserving citizens in poverty and raising taxes on the well off is excluded from the discussion.  Moreover, it is not critical of efforts by Republicans to reduce the tax burden of of the super rich.  Tax cuts for the rich shift the tax burden to less advantaged citizens.

The editorial takes a similar stance in its defense of globalization.  It argues that trade has been very good for the poor in many parts of the world.  It has raised the standard of living in many developing countries by unprecedented amounts in any period of human history.  That is true, but it avoids any real discussion of the distribution of benefits from trade in developed countries.  Most of those benefits have gone to the executives of multi-national corporations, their shareholders, and to bankers who facilitate international trade and currency movements.

To summarize, the Post editorial has shaped the discussion about progressivism into a very conservative direction.  The discussion is about income redistribution.  That is, how we divide a limited amount of available resources between the middle class and those in who are in even greater need of government help.  It makes no effort to deal with the maldistribution of income by market forces.  The market system has been modified over the last three decades to increase the incomes of those at the top of the distribution and to reduce their share of the tax load.  We can have no real discussion of progressivism without addressing the changes that have occurred in the market system.

The Post editorial correctly points out that economic growth makes it easier to improve the lives of our citizens.  It implies that progressive ideas may impede growth.  In other words, a more progressive tax system and a more progressive market system may kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.   Ronald Reagan, and supply side economics, is alive and well in the Post.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Will Trump's Economic Plan Make America Great?

Larry Summers supports the use of fiscal policy to stimulate economic growth.  However, he points out that it must be done right or we will do more harm that it will do good.  Donald Trump will invest in infrastructure and he will increase defense spending.  He will also cut taxes.  That will produce budget deficits which stimulate growth.  Summers argues the Trump's infrastructure investment plan puts too much emphasis on the private sector's use of tax credits.  He also points out that eliminating the inheritance tax, and cutting taxes primarily for the wealthy, will not stimulate growth.  It will cause them to save rather than to increase their spending.  Summers is also skeptical of Trump's trade policies.  The value of the peso and other currencies have fallen in response to Trump's election.  That will make their exports less expensive to Americans and it will make our exports more expensive.  Populists usually make outrageous promises to win elections.  Summers hopes that Trump will avoid the mistakes that most populist governments have made after winning elections.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

How Can We Explain Trump's Victory?

There will be lots of efforts to explain Trump's triumph in the election.  What we do know is that his presidency will achieve what Republican's have failed to achieve by selling its ideology to the American people.  Trump won the election by using identity politics to his advantage.  His base was less interested in policies than it was in preserving their identity in a society that has been rapidly moving away from them.  Now that Trump has a Republican Congress to work with he will implement the ideological policies are fundamental to the Republican Party.  We will get a more regressive tax plan, less government regulation and increased military spending.  That will produce budget deficits that only worry Republicans when Democrats are in office.  The deficits will then become the excuse for reducing spending on social welfare programs.

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but she lost three Democratic states, by a thin margin, that cost her the election.  Thirteen million votes were cast in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Trump's margin for victory in those critical states was only one tenth of 1%.  She would be our president if she had won those states.  Her loss by a razor thin margin had little to do with policies. It was all about identity politics.  Clinton failed to sell inclusiveness to voters in those states who were more enthusiastic about Trump's appeals to white identity.  There were other factors in play that are well described by a leader of Obama's successful campaign.  Democratic turnout was lower than it was in Obama's election and third party candidates may have captured more Clinton votes than Trump votes.

Trump Will Appoint Climate Change Skeptic To Shape EPA

The election is barely over but The Donald signaled that he would roll back Obama's effort to reduce carbon emissions.  He appointed a rabid climate change denialist, who is also a libertarian with strong beliefs about reducing the role of government in the economy, to alter the focus of the Environmental Protection Agency.  He is a friend of the coal industry which opposes the Obama's plan to reduce the role of coal in energy production.  If Donald Trump has his way, the health of our planet may be one of the most damaging legacies that he will leave to our children.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Hisory Of American Populism

Populism has a long history in the US and it is flourishing in Europe today.  It has taken on many forms in the US in response unique situations in our history.  It is more powerful during economic downturns since more people are exposed to hardship in bad times.  Donald Trump won the US election by employing populist messages that were enthusiastically received by his base.  Bernie Sanders also employed populist themes in his primary campaign that were well received by many Democrats.  Populism is not necessarily bad.  Many positive reforms in the US have been in response to populist concerns.  However, some forms of populism have been exploited by politicians who are more concerned about winning elections than they are about reforms that promote social welfare.  The disparity between Donald Trump's campaign promises, and the economic policies that he announced during his campaign, raises serious questions about his use of common populist themes that have been effective in winning elections.  This article in Foreign Affairs describes the use and misuse of populism during our history.

Bernie Sanders used a common form of populism that raises concerns about income inequality and economic hierarchy.  He made a case for the use of government programs that would redistribute income from those at the top of the hierarchy to those in the lower rungs of the hierarchy.  He favors a form of social democracy that is more common in Europe than it is in the US.  Donald Trump's populism was much broader than Bernie Sanders' populism.  He appealed to a form of racial nationalism and ethnicity along with  fears about foreigners that were more common earlier in our history.  That allowed him to defeat Hillary Clinton in many counties that had voted for President Obama in recent elections.  President Obama used a message about change in which we could believe.  He told Americans that "Yes We Can" make important changes.  Hillary Clinton failed to sell herself as change agent.  Trump's theme song of "Making America Great Again" worked better than Clinton's argument that we were already great because we were an inclusive society.  That message did less well than Trump's form of white nationalism and the exclusion of foreign influences in America.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The US Election From The Perspective Of The Financial Times

Donald Trump's victory was a major surprise.  The Financial Times offers many perspectives on how it happened and the implications.

America Put A Novice In Charge Of Our Nation: Can Trump Prevent Recession?

This is a short answer to questions about Trump's economic plan and its impact on the US economy.  Most economists would agree with its major premises.  If Trump follows his economic plan a recession is very likely.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

David Brooks Makes The Case For A Third Political Party

David Brooks has been a consistent advocate for the Republican Party.  In his last article before the election he abandons the Republican Party.  It is now a Populist Party headed by Donald Trump.  Furthermore, the Sanders' wing of the Democratic Party also promotes a form of populism.  He makes a case for a third political party that can occupy the political center.  He understands the obstacles to a third political party but he can no longer find a home in either of our major political parties.  One might argue that the third political party that he describes seems much like the Democratic Party.  In any case, he acknowledges that his bond with the Republican Party has been severed.  Donald Trump has made it impossible for him to ignore the transformation that has been underway ever since Ricard Nixon adopted the "Southern Strategy" and pursued the "Moral Majority" in order to win elections.  Its exploitation of racism, cultural and religious issues to divide our society has worked all too well.  It is no longer represents the ideals that David Brooks can support. It is now defined by the segment of the electorate that it has captured.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Day After The Election

This election has forced us to look at the underside of our nation and of our democracy.  The hurricane will hit on November 8.  The harm will be unimaginable if we elect an ignorant sociopath as our president.  This NYT editorial reminds us of the many problems we will still face if we avoid the worse case scenario of a Trump presidency.  Trump has exploited the real concerns of many Americans who believe that they have been ignored by our leaders.  However, that is only part of the story.  The great majority of well educated and economically advantaged Republicans will vote for Donald Trump.  They place party loyalty above the national interest.  That includes most of their political leaders who opposed Trump for good reasons.  Their opposition to Trump gave way along with his rise in the polls.  They will make it difficult for Hillary Clinton to take any steps that might be good for the majority of Americans, including those who would have been abandoned by President Trump soon after he won the election with their votes.  The far right media that helped to create Donald Trump will not disappear after the election.  They will continue to misinform the public and make efforts to delegitimize President Clinton just as they did with President Obama.  Hopefully, we can avoid the worse case scenario in which the right wing media provide the propaganda for President Trump. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Will Donald Trump Make America Great Again?

Almost half of our voters believe that Donald Trump's policies will "Make America Great Again".  Economists have a very different view about Trump's economic policies.  They believe that his policies would make America much poorer.  The following quote from 17 Nobel Laureates expresses the views of most economists quite succinctly:

Donald Trump…offers an incoherent economic agenda. His reckless threats to start trade wars with several of our largest trading partners, his plan to deport millions of immigrants, his trillions of dollars of unfunded tax cuts, his casual suggestion that the United States could threaten default on its debt in order to renegotiate with our creditors as if Treasuries were a junk bond—each of these proposals could jeopardize the foundations of American prosperity and the global economy.

The disparity between the views of economists and the general public is described in this article which also summarized a letter signed by 370 economists who were highly critical of Trump's economic policies.  It attempts to explain why Trump's supporters believe that his policies will "Make America Great Again" even when most economists believe that they would be chaotic.  It explores some of the factors that might explain the distance between the views of views of economists and the general public on economic policies.  However, that is not the real problem that Trump has made visible in this election cycle.  His success raises fundamental questions about democracy which are more general than the impotence of economists versus Trump's propaganda.  I have listed just a couple of examples below which are disturbing.

Donald Trump has been extensively criticized in the press for lying about almost everything.  Some journalists have even stated that Trump makes no distinction between between truth and falsehood; he easily changes his mind about any issue because nothing is true or false.  Only his most recent claim is true and that can easily be modified as circumstances change.  Unfortunately, the efforts made by journalists to hold Trump accountable for any position that he has taken has had little impact on his supporters.  In a recent poll Trump got a higher score on truthfulness than Hillary Clinton.  Of course, Hillary Clinton is not a paragon of virtue.  Like most politicians she does not always tell the truth.  However, there is a vast difference between Trump who has no regard for the truth and Clinton who shades the truth on occasion. Several conservative newspapers, which have always endorsed Republicans for the presidency, have endorsed Clinton, because among other things, she is more honest than Trump.  That has had no impact on Trump's supporters. Some have cancelled their subscriptions and some have even threatened violence.

Most of Trump's supporters also reject the the conclusions of climate scientists about the relationship between global warming and human behavior.  They make no distinction between the evidence provided by scientists and the claims made by science deniers.  Climate scientists share that distinction with economists and other scientists who make an effort to support their conclusions with facts.  We live in a world where far too many voters have little regard for facts.  They prefer to select facts that support their views and they reject facts which raise questions about their positions.

My final point on this topic is the democratization of information has been harmful to democracy.  Most of our information used to come from sources which made an effort to support any positions that they took with reliable information.  It wasn't perfect but it was much better than in is today when there are so many sources of information that have little regard for reliable facts.  They make up the facts to confirm the biases of their audience.  Propaganda has replaced responsible journalism which they criticize by referring to it as "mainstream media".  Only the propagandists tell the truth.