Bad Faith, Pathos and G.O.P. Economics

As 2018 draws to an end, we’re seeing many articles about the state of the economy. What I’d like to do, however, is talk about something different — the state of economics, at least as it relates to the political situation. And that state is not good: The bad faith that dominates conservative politics at […]

The Ghost of Trump Chaos Future

Two years ago, after the shock of Donald Trump’s election, financial markets briefly freaked out, then quickly recovered. In effect, they decided that while Trump was manifestly unqualified for the job, temperamentally and intellectually, it wouldn’t matter. He might talk the populist talk, but he’d walk the plutocratic walk. He might be erratic and uninformed, […]

The Case for a Mixed Economy

ImageThere are private activities that could plausibly be made public, like utilities, which in some cases are publicly owned already.CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times A mind is a terrible thing to lose, especially if the mind in question is president of the United States. But I feel like taking a break from that […]

Hard-Money Men, Suddenly Going Soft

I have a confession to make: I have been insufficiently cynical about modern conservative economics. Longtime readers may find this hard to believe. After all, I declared Paul Ryan a “flimflam man” back when all the cool kids were gushing about his courage and honesty, giving him awards for fiscal responsibility. (Events have settled the […]

Conservatism’s Monstrous Endgame

The midterm elections were, to an important extent, a referendum on the Affordable Care Act; health care, not Donald Trump, dominated Democratic campaigning. And voters delivered a clear verdict: They want Obamacare’s achievements, the way it expanded coverage to roughly 20 million people who would otherwise have been uninsured, to be sustained. But on Friday, […]

Manhood, Moola, McConnell and Trumpism

After Tuesday’s testy exchange between Donald Trump and Democratic leaders, it seems quite possible that the tweeter in chief will shut down the government in an attempt to get funding for a wall on the Mexican border. What’s remarkable about this prospect is that the wall is an utterly stupid idea. Even if you’re bitterly […]

The G.O.P. Goes Full Authoritarian

Donald Trump, it turns out, may have been the best thing that could have happened to American democracy. No, I haven’t lost my mind. Individual-1 is clearly a wannabe dictator who has contempt for the rule of law, not to mention being corrupt and probably in the pocket of foreign powers. But he’s also lazy, […]

The Art of the Imaginary Deal

Are we going to have a full-blown trade war with China, and maybe the rest of the world? Nobody knows — because it all depends on the whims of one man. And Tariff Man is ignorant, volatile and delusional. Why do I say that it’s all about one man? After all, after the 2016 U.S. […]

Climate Denial Was the Crucible for Trumpism

Many observers seem baffled by Republican fealty to Donald Trump — the party’s willingness to back him on all fronts, even after severe defeats in the midterm elections. What kind of party would show such support for a leader who is not only evidently corrupt and seemingly in the pocket of foreign dictators, but also […]

Brexit, Borders, and the Bank of England (Wonkish)

A few days ago the Bank of England released a report on the possible macroeconomic impact of Brexit. The most pessimistic scenarios were eye-poppingly bad — see Figure 1 — showing a worse slump than the one that followed the 2008 financial crisis. Not surprisingly, Brexit opponents seized on the report, while supporters accused the […]

When MAGA Fantasy Meets Rust Belt Reality

Let’s face it: Make America Great Again was a brilliant political slogan. Why? Because it could mean different things to different people. For many supporters of Donald Trump, MAGA was basically a promise to return to the good old days of raw racism and sexism. And Trump is delivering on that promise. But for at […]

The Depravity of Climate-Change Denial

The Trump administration is, it goes without saying, deeply anti-science. In fact, it’s anti-objective reality. But its control of the government remains limited; it didn’t extend far enough to prevent the release of the latest National Climate Assessment, which details current and expected future impacts of global warming on the United States. True, the report […]

How Democrats Can Deliver on Health Care

“Democrats need to have a positive agenda, not just be against Donald Trump.” How many times did you hear pundits say something like that during the midterm campaigns? In fact, you’re still hearing it from people like Seth Moulton, who’s leading the (apparently failing) effort to block Nancy Pelosi from returning as House speaker. What […]

The New Economy and the Trump Rump

A little over a year ago, Amazon invited cities and states to offer bids for a proposed second headquarters. This set off a mad scramble over who would gain the dubious privilege of paying large subsidies in return for worsened traffic congestion and higher housing prices. (Answer: New York and greater D.C.) But not everyone […]

Why Was Trump’s Tax Cut a Fizzle?

Last week’s blue wave means that Donald Trump will go into the 2020 election with only one major legislative achievement: a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy. Still, that tax cut was supposed to accomplish big things. Republicans thought it would give them a big electoral boost, and they predicted dramatic economic gains. […]

The Tax Cut and the Balance of Payments (Wonkish)

Now that Democrats have taken the House, it seems likely that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will turn out to have been the only major piece of legislation enacted under Donald Trump. There might conceivably be an infrastructure bill, but don’t get your hopes up: Trump’s people seem dead set against straightforward public spending, […]

Truth and Virtue in the Age of Trump

Remember when freedom was just another word for nothing left to lose? These days it’s just another word for giving lots of money to Donald Trump. What with the midterm elections — and the baseless Republican cries of voting fraud — I don’t know how many people heard about Trump’s decision to award the Presidential […]

What the Hell Happened to Brazil? (Wonkish)

I think I can now take some time off from the U.S. political crisis to talk about events elsewhere. So, as the headline says, what the hell happened to Brazil? I’m actually not talking about the recent election, in which Brazil’s voters chose someone who appears to be an actual fascist. I’m as horrified as […]

Real America Versus Senate America

Everyone is delivering post-mortems on Tuesday’s elections, so for what it’s worth, here’s mine: Despite some bitter disappointments and lost ground in the Senate, Democrats won a huge victory. They broke the Republican monopoly on federal power, and that’s a very big deal for an administration that has engaged in blatant corruption and abuse of […]

Last Exit Off the Road to Autocracy

Whatever happens in the midterms, the aftermath will be ugly. But the elections are nonetheless a fork in the road. If we take one path, it will offer at least a chance for political redemption, for recovering America’s democratic values. If we take the other, we’ll be on the road to autocracy, with no obvious […]

The Perversion of Fiscal Policy (Slightly Wonkish)

As many people have pointed out, the Trump tax represented a total break with the normal principles of fiscal policy. Historically, we’ve tended to run big deficits when the economy is weak, smaller deficits or surpluses when it’s strong. But now the deficit is soaring even in the face of low unemployment. This is irresponsible, […]

A Party Defined by Its Lies

During my first year as an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, I wasn’t allowed to use the word “lie.” That first year coincided with the 2000 election, and George W. Bush was, in fact, being systematically dishonest about his economic proposals — saying false things about who would benefit from his tax cut […]

The Great Center-Right Delusion

What’s driving American politics off a cliff? Racial hatred and the cynicism of politicians willing to exploit it play a central role. But there are other factors. And an opinion piece by Hertel-Fernandez, Mildenberger, and Stokes in today’s Times (which is actually social science, not opinion!) seems to confirm something I already suspected: misunderstanding of […]

Hate Is on the Ballot Next Week

In America 2018, whataboutism is the last refuge of scoundrels, and bothsidesism is the last refuge of cowards. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a wave of hate crimes. Just in the past few days, bombs were mailed to a number of prominent Democrats, plus CNN. Then, a gunman massacred 11 […]

Are the Danes Melancholy? Are the Swedes Sad?

The recent report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers on the evils of socialism has drawn a great deal of ridicule, and rightly so. It boils down to something along the lines of “You want Medicare for All? But what about the terrible things that happened under Mao Zedong?” That’s barely a caricature. […]

Health Care, Hatred and Lies

Until recently, it looked as if the midterm elections might be defined largely by an argument about health care. Over the past few days, however, the headlines have been dominated instead by hatred — hysteria over a caravan of migrants a thousand miles from the U.S. border, and now the attempted assassination of multiple prominent […]

Arms and the Very Bad Men

A few days ago, Pat Robertson, the evangelical leader, urged America not to get too worked up about the torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi, because we shouldn’t endanger “$100 billion in arms sales.” I guess he was invoking the little-known 11th Commandment, which says, “On the other hand, thou shalt excuse stuff like killing […]

Notes on Global Convergence (Wonkish and Off-Point)

For readers obsessed with the Trumpification of America and the looming election, I’m with you — I try not to check FiveThirtyEight more than five times a day, but it’s hard. If you can’t bear to think about anything else, don’t read this; rest assured that this blog post isn’t coming at the expense of […]

The Trump Tax Scam, Phase II

When the Trump tax cut was on the verge of being enacted, I called it “the biggest tax scam in history,” and made a prediction: deficits would soar, and when they did, Republicans would once again pretend to care about debt and demand cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Sure enough, the deficit is […]