Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en It Looks Like We're Stuck With Low Inflation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Back in August</a> I agreed with Brad DeLong that 4 percent inflation would be a good thing right now, but I was skeptical that the Fed could engineer this given current conditions. So I asked him what it would take. Today, I apparently made it to the <a href="" target="_blank">top of the question pile:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I think the answer is: We don't know whether it is in fact possible for a central bank today to hit a 4%/year average inflation target via conventional ordinary quantitative <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Inflation_Target.jpg" style="margin: 20px 30px 15px 30px;">easing. It might well require other tools. For example:</p> <ol><li>Miles Kimball's negative interest rates.</li> <li>Helicopter drops--that is, allowing everyone with a Social Security number to incorporate as a bank, join the Federal Reserve system, and borrow at the discount window, with the loan discharged by the individual's death.</li> <li>The Federal Reserve as infrastructure bank--an extra $500 billion/year of quantitative easing buying not government or mortgage bonds but directly-financing public investments.</li> <li>Extraordinary quantitative easing--buying not the close substitutes for money that are government bonds but rather the not-so-close substitutes that are equities.</li> </ol><p>I say: If we could win the argument about what the goal is, we could then begin the discussion about what policies would be needed to get us there.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's pretty discouraging. Of these, #2 and #3 are almost certainly illegal, and undesirable in any case. I may not like what Congress is doing, but disbursing money is certainly under their purview&mdash;and should be. I don't want the Fed mailing out checks or contracting for new roads and bridges.</p> <p>I don't know if #4 is illegal. Probably not. But I'm not crazy about this either. The Fed shouldn't be in the business of directly propping up the stock market, and certainly shouldn't be in the business of directly propping up specific stocks.</p> <p>So that leaves only #1. This one is perfectly OK, and a few European countries have adopted negative rates recently. But there's probably a limit to how negative these rates can be. Individuals could avoid negative rates by deciding to hold physical cash, which pays zero percent, but banks and corporations almost certainly couldn't. I'm not sure how long it's sustainable to essentially have two different interest rates like that.</p> <p>This is why DeLong mentions "Miles Kimball's" negative interest rates. Kimball's version depends on making the e-dollar into the unit of account, and this would allow negative rates of any level for any period of time. However, it would also require many years to make this transition. It's not an option in the short term.</p> <p>So if I'm reading DeLong right, it's not clear that the Fed could engineer 4 percent inflation <em>at all</em> right now. Maybe Scott Sumner has a bright idea about how we could do this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 13 Oct 2015 00:16:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 286696 at I'd Give Obama's Syria Policy a B+ <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>"I don&rsquo;t have a lot of good things to say about the Obama administration&rsquo;s Syria policy," <a href="" target="_blank">says Dan Drezner.</a> He links to <a href="" target="_blank">Adam Elkus,</a> who calls Obama's Syria strategy "semi-competent." <a href="" target="_blank">At the BBC,</a> Tara McKelvey writes about Robert Ford, former US ambassador to Syria, who was close to the Syrian opposition and wanted to arm them when the Assad regime started to crumble. "People in the intelligence community said the time to arm the rebels was 2012," she writes. The problem is that officials in Washington were unsure that Ford really knew the opposition well <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_syria_civil_war.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">enough. "Most of the rebels, he said, weren't 'ideologically pure', not in the way US officials wanted. 'In wars like that, there is no black and white,' he said."</p> <p>I'll agree on a few counts of the indictment against Obama. Now that the mission to arm the rebels has failed, he says he was never really for it in the first place. That's cringeworthy. The buck stops with him, and once he approved the plan, hesitantly or not, it was his plan. He should take responsibility for its failure. You can also probably make a case that we should have done more to arm the Kurds, who have shown considerable competence fighting both ISIS and Assad.</p> <p>But those are relative nits, and I'd be curious to hear more from Drezner about this. He basically agrees that arming rebels hasn't worked well in the Middle East, and there's little chance it would have worked well in Syria. "There is a strong and bipartisan 21st-century record of U.S. administrations applying military force in the Middle East with the most noble of intentions," he says, "and then making the extant situation much, much worse." He also agrees that Obama's big-picture view of Syria is correct. "The president has determined that Syria is not a core American interest and therefore does not warrant greater investments of American resources. It&rsquo;s a cold, calculating, semi-competent strategy. But it has the virtue of being better than the suggested hawkish alternatives." He agrees that those "hawkish alternatives" are basically nuts.</p> <p>So why exactly is Obama's record in Syria "semi-competent"? Why does Drezner not have much good to say about it? My only serious criticism is that Obama did too much: he never should have talked about red lines and he never should have agreed to arm and train the opposition at all. But given the real-world pressures on him, it's impressive that he's managed to restrict American intervention as much as he has. I doubt anyone else could have done better.</p> <p>There is something genuinely baffling about American hawks who have presided over failure after failure but are always certain that next time will be different. But why? If anything, Syria is <em>more</em> tangled and chaotic than Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, or any of the other Middle Eastern countries we've gotten involved in since 2001. What kind of dreamy naivete&mdash;or willful blindness&mdash;does it take to think that we could intervene successfully there?</p> <p>Anyway, that's my question. Given the real world constraints, and grading on a real-world curve, what has Obama done wrong in Syria?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 12 Oct 2015 17:48:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 286686 at Another Long, Hot Summer of Catcalling Is Coming to a Close <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hannah Giorgis writes about the endless struggle with <a href="" target="_blank">catcalling in New York City:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>After another summer spent shrugging off men&rsquo;s loud assessments of my body any time I left my apartment, I am exhausted. And as the streets thin out and the weather cools to a temperature less accommodating of men who consider catcalling a leisure sport, I am increasingly able to pause and feel the depth of my own fatigue.</p> <p>....Every outing involves dozens of split-second decisions. The short, loose dress or the long, form-fitting one? The almost-empty subway car or the crowded one? The shorter route or the more well-lit one?....My mind can only make so many daily calculations before it slips into what social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister calls &ldquo;decision fatigue.&rdquo; Processing each of these useless equations takes a biological toll on my brain, leaving it more inclined, as the day wears on, to look for shortcuts.</p> </blockquote> <p>Read the whole thing. Or, if you'd prefer a video dramatization of what it's like, check out the YouTube below.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="" style="margin: 20px 0px 5px 65px;" width="500"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 12 Oct 2015 14:03:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 286676 at Report: John Boehner Is the Guy Who's Kept the Hillary Email Scandal Alive <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Back when the Benghazi committee started up, Rep. Trey Gowdy swore that it was nothing more than an impartial search for the truth about a raid that cost four American lives. So how is that coming along? <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em> reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Now, 17 months later &mdash; longer than the Watergate investigation lasted &mdash; interviews with current and former committee staff members as well as internal committee documents reviewed by <em>The New York Times</em> show the extent to which <strong>the focus of the committee&rsquo;s work has shifted from the circumstances surrounding the Benghazi attack to the politically charged issue of Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.</strong></p> <p>....The committee has <strong>conducted only one of a dozen interviews</strong> that Mr. Gowdy said in February that he planned to hold with prominent intelligence, Defense Department and White House officials, and it has held none of the nine public hearings &mdash; with titles such as &ldquo;Why Were We in Libya?&rdquo; &mdash; that internal documents show have been proposed.</p> <p>At the same time, the committee has <strong>added at least 18 current and former State Department officials to its roster of witnesses,</strong> including three speechwriters and an <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boehner_clinton.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">information technology specialist who maintained Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s private email server.</p> </blockquote> <p>From the standpoint of a genuine Benghazi investigation, Hillary Clinton's email issues wouldn't matter. All the committee would care about is getting a look at the emails from her private server&mdash;which is now happening. For some reason, though, they care deeply about investigating that email server to death, even though it has nothing to do with the Benghazi attacks. Why is that?</p> <p>A friend of mine has tried to persuade me that Gowdy is probably playing things straight. I've argued that I don't believe it. He's a true believer, and he cares a lot more about taking down Democrats than he does about Benghazi itself, which he probably knows perfectly well has already been investigated to death. So which of us is right? This tidbit sheds a bit of light on things:</p> <blockquote> <p>[Gowdy] said that at one point this spring he told John A. Boehner, the House speaker, that he feared the task of investigating the email issue would distract from his committee&rsquo;s work....<strong>[and] pressed Mr. Boehner to have another House committee examine the matter of Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s emails,</strong> but that Mr. Boehner had rejected the request.</p> <p>....Senior Republican officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing confidential conversations, said that <strong>Mr. Boehner had long been suspicious of the administration&rsquo;s handling of the attacks and that Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s emails gave him a way to keep the issue alive and to cause political problems for her campaign.</strong> But he thought that the task was too delicate to entrust to others and that it should remain with Mr. Gowdy, the former prosecutor.</p> </blockquote> <p>If this is true, my friend is halfway right: Gowdy never really wanted to get distracted with politically motivated attacks on Hillary Clinton. But John Boehner did, and he figured Gowdy was the best man for the job.</p> <p>I'm not quite sure what this says about Gowdy, but it's certainly clear that Boehner thought that manipulating the media into nonstop reporting on Hillary's email server was a great idea. He also figured the media would take the bait. And they did.</p> <p>So Gowdy gets, oh, let's say a C+. He tried to do the right thing, but caved in pretty quickly. Boehner gets a D. He was all about taking down Hillary Clinton from the get-go. The media gets an F. Boehner at least has the excuse of being a senior Republican leader, and attacking Democrats comes with the territory. But the media is not supposed to be so gullible that they believe everything Republicans say about Democratic leaders. In the case of Hillary Clinton, though, that rule seems to have been suspended. Again.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 12 Oct 2015 05:04:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 286671 at Benghazi Staffers Spent Their Days Designing Personalized "Tiffany Glocks" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Who said this?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>He described to CNN an office environment in which employees spent their days Web surfing and sometimes drinking at work. He said staffers joined a &ldquo;gun buying club&rdquo; for &ldquo;chrome-plated, monogrammed, Tiffany-style Glock 9-millimeters,&rdquo; and some would spend hours at a time at work designing the personalized weapons.</p> </blockquote> <p>Answer: Maj. Bradley Podliska, a former member of the House Benghazi committee, who claims he was fired for refusing to spend his time focused solely on Hillary Clinton instead of actually investigating Benghazi. I don't know yet if I believe him, but the whole Tiffany Glock thing sounds way too weird to have been made up.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 11 Oct 2015 05:31:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 286661 at Was the "California Stop" Really Invented in California? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_california_stop.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">On my way home from lunch today I saw the billboard on the right. Seems like it should be "California Alto" or something, shouldn't it? I guess "California Stop" is one of those things that's famous enough that it's always rendered in its native language.</p> <p>But I'm curious: where did "California Stop" come from, anyway? I won't claim that I have a ton of experience driving all over the country, but I've driven in plenty of places both east and west, and it seems to me that people are pretty casual about stop signs everywhere. Sure enough, on a message board that posted a question about this, various folks said that in their neck of the woods it was called a:</p> <ul><li>St. Louis Stop</li> <li>New York Stop</li> <li>Hollywood Stop</li> <li>New Orleans Stop</li> </ul><p>This suggests that it really is common everywhere, but it's equally common to think it's unique to your own city/state/region. But if that's the case, why is it so common to call it a California Stop? Did we do it first? Is it related to California pioneering the right-on-red rule? Anybody know what the deal is?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 11 Oct 2015 00:15:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 286656 at Have You Ever Thought About the Republican Party? I Mean, Really Thought About It? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As much as we've talked about it, I wonder if we've really gotten our heads around the fact that Paul Ryan is literally being begged to be the leader of the Republican Party. He is Literally. Being. Begged. To be the leader of one of America's two major parties! And he doesn't want it, no how, no way. Because he knows there's a substantial faction of his party that's insane. And who would know better?</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boehner_ryan_stoners.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I feel like this is one of those things that maybe you can only truly comprehend after a couple of blunts:</p> <blockquote> <p>Boehner: Dude, have you ever thought about the Republican Party? I mean, <em>really</em> thought about it?</p> <p>Ryan: I know. <em>I know.</em> It's, like, insane, man. (Giggles, coughs.) This is good stuff. Medical, right?</p> <p>Boehner: That's it! Totally insane. I mean, completely batshit fucked up.</p> <p>Ryan: But awesome. Insane but <em>still awesome</em>. I mean, seriously, it's our only defense against, like, total socialism.</p> <p>Boehner: Oh man, you been reading <em>Atlas Shrugged</em> again? You're bumming me out, dude.</p> </blockquote> <p>And while we're on the subject, I have another idea. As thousands of people have pointed out, nothing in the Constitution says the Speaker has to be a member of Congress. This has spawned a whole cottage industry of jokes. Donald Trump! Bibi Netanyahu! Rush Limbaugh! But I have another idea: does it have to be one person? Here's the relevant text:</p> <blockquote> <p>The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers....</p> </blockquote> <p>Sure, "Speaker" is singular in that sentence, but "Speaker and other Officers" suggests that maybe leadership of the House could be shared. How about a triumvirate, like Rome in its glory days? Ryan could be one, some tea party nutcase could be another, and the third could be, um, Mia Love, who's a black woman and the daughter of immigrants. I'm not sure how they'd make decisions, but I guess they'd figure out something. Maybe rock paper scissors.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 10 Oct 2015 17:08:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 286651 at Donald Trump Has Big Plans to Reform the NIH <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few days ago Donald Trump called into Michael Savage's radio show. Savage suggested that if Trump wins, he would like to be appointed head of the National Institutes of Health. <a href="" target="_blank">Trump responded:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Well, you know you'd get common sense if that were the case, that I can tell you, <strong>because I hear so much about the NIH,</strong> and it's terrible.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is appalling on several levels, but the part that made me laugh is in bold. It's such vintage Trump. Can you just picture this? People practically mobbing Trump in the streets to complain about the NIH? Hell, I'd be willing to bet a week's salary that Trump had never even heard of the NIH until Savage mentioned it.</p> <p>Then again, maybe I'm just easily amused these days.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 10 Oct 2015 15:30:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 286646 at Friday Cat Blogging - 9 October 2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hmmm. What happened here? There is no documentary record, so perhaps if Hopper hides no one will connect her with it. Worth a try! Meanwhile, Hilbert hangs around absentmindedly, not realizing that his sister is doing her best to pin the rap entirely on him. That's family values, folks.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2015_10_09.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 18:55:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 286631 at The "Gig Economy" Is Mostly Just Silicon Valley Hype <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>How big is the "gig economy"? An Uber driver is the archetypal gig worker, but more generally it refers to anyone who works independently on a contingent basis. This means, for example, that an old school freelance writer qualifies.</p> <p>Still, it's tech that's driving the gig hype, and if the hype is true then the number of gig workers should be going up. Lydia DePillis takes a look at this today and <a href="" target="_blank">recommends two sources:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Freelancers Union, which advocates for self-employed people of all kinds, recently came up with the 53 million number Warner mentioned. MBO Partners, which provides tools for businesses that use contractors, put it at 30.2 million. But for lawmaking purposes, <strong>it's probably a good idea to get your information from a source that doesn't have a commercial interest in the numbers it's putting out.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>True enough, but let's start with these folks. <a href="" target="_blank">The Freelancers Union</a> reports that in 2015 the gig economy "held steady" at 34 percent of the workforce. <a href="" target="_blank">MBO Partners</a> reports that it "held firm" at 30 million. They additionally report that it's increased 12 percent in the past five years, which is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gig_economy.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">not especially impressive considering that total employment has increased 9 percent over the same period.</p> <p>The government does not track this directly, and I assume that these two sources are generally motivated to be cheerleaders for the gig economy, which means their numbers are about as optimistic as possible. If that's true, it looks as though the gig economy is almost entirely smoke and mirrors. After all, if it were a big phenomenon it would be getting bigger every year as technology became an ever more important part of our lives. And yet, both sources agree that 2015, when the economy was doing fairly well, showed no growth at all in the gig economy. What's more, as <a href="" target="_blank">Jordan Weissmann</a> and others have pointed out, what little government data we have isn't really consistent with the idea that the gig economy is growing.</p> <p>So be wary of the hype. Maybe the gig economy will be a big thing in the future. Maybe the tech portion is growing, but the growth is hidden by a decline in traditional freelancing. Maybe. For now, though, it appears to be mostly just another example of the reality distortion hype that Silicon Valley is so good at.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 18:22:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 286626 at Here's Why Sea World in San Diego Can't Breed Killer Whales Any Longer <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sea_world_map.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">You may have seen the news that Sea World in San Diego will <a href="" target="_blank">no longer be allowed to breed killer whales:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>After an all-day meeting that drew hundreds of supporters and critics of the park, the California Coastal Commission moved to ban captive whale breeding and drastically restrict the movement of whales in and out of the park.</p> </blockquote> <p>The California Coastal Commission? Why do they have any say over Sea World's orca breeding? One of the charmingly idiosyncratic aspects of governance in California is that the Coastal Commission regulates all construction done within about 1000 yards of the coastline. As you can see, Sea World is well within that boundary, and it so happens that they wanted to build a bigger tank for their killer whales. But they could only do this if the Coastal Commission approved it.</p> <p>Still confused? Well, the initiative that created the Coastal Commission didn't really put any boundaries on the commission's power. They can pretty much cut any deal they want, which is why they're so furiously hated by every gazillionaire who lives near the coast. In this case, their deal was this: you can build the bigger tank, but only if you stop breeding whales and don't bring any new ones in. And that was that.</p> <p>This has been today's California Explainer for all you poor folks who are forced to live in less desirable parts of the country and don't understand our tribal customs. You're welcome.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 17:37:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 286611 at Ben Carson Is Wrong About Hitler and Guns <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">More guns, fewer holocausts?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ben Carson said Thursday that Adolf Hitler&rsquo;s mass murder of Jews "would have been greatly diminished&rdquo; if German citizens had not been disarmed by the Nazi regime&hellip;"But just clarify, if there had been no gun control laws in Europe at that time, would 6 million Jews have been slaughtered?" Blitzer asked.</p> <p>"I think the likelihood of Hitler being able to accomplish his goals would have been greatly diminished if the people had been armed," Carson said&hellip;"I&rsquo;m telling you that there is a reason that these dictatorial people take the guns first."</p> </blockquote> <p>This got me curious: <em>Did</em> Hitler take away everyone's guns? As you can imagine, I know zilch about the history of gun control in Germany, so I surfed <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hitler_nuremburg.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">over to Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, for a quick refresher course. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what they say:</a></p> <ul><li>In 1919, the Treaty of Versaille disarmed Germany. "Fearing inability to hold the state together during the depression, the German government adopted a sweeping series of gun confiscation legislation." This was long before Hitler came to power.</li> <li>In 1928 this legislation was relaxed. "Germans could possess firearms, but they were required to have [] permits&hellip;Furthermore, the law restricted ownership of firearms to '&hellip;persons whose trustworthiness is not in question and who can show a need for a permit.'" Again, this was before Hitler came to power.</li> <li>In 1938, Hitler relaxed the law further. Rifles and shotguns were completely deregulated, permits were extended to three years, and the age at which guns could be purchased was lowered to 18.</li> </ul><p>Now, Hitler <em>did</em> effectively ban Jews from owning guns in 1938. However, this is highly unlikely to have affected the fate of the Jews even slightly. The Nazis were considerably better armed and organized, and if Jews had taken to shooting them it would have accomplished nothing except giving Joseph Goebbels some terrific propaganda opportunities. The 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is a good example of this: Jews fought back, and the result was a few dead Germans and 13,000 dead Jews.</p> <p>The bottom line is familiar to anyone with even a passing knowledge of history: Hitler was popular. He didn't need to take away anyone's guns. Whatever you think about gun control, using Hitler to defend your position is a bad idea.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 16:16:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 286601 at Hillary Clinton Wants to Cut Mega-Banks Down to Size <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Bring back Glass-Steagall! This is a popular cry among lefty populists, but it's probably not a very good idea on the merits. Glass-Steagall is a New Deal law that split up commercial banks and investment banks, and it was repealed in 1999. Ten years later Wall Street went up in smoke. But commercial banks and investment banks both had problems, and so did combined banks. The repeal of Glass-Steagall really had nothing to do with it.</p> <p>On the other hand, the repeal of Glass-Steagall did allow banks to get bigger, and that increased size <em>was</em> a problem. When small banks go bust, we just clean up the mess and get on with things. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_big_banks.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">When gigantic banks go bust, Wall Street goes up in smoke.</p> <p>So rather than turning back the clock and reinstating Glass-Steagall, a better idea is to address bank size directly. The Fed approved one approach to this a couple of months ago by requiring the very biggest banks to hold <a href="" target="_blank">larger capital reserves than smaller banks:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As well as making the big banks safer, <strong>the rules may also persuade them to get smaller.</strong> Capital is an economically expensive funding source for a bank. As regulators demand that large banks have more capital, their overall expenses rise. In turn, the banks may decide to pare down their less profitable businesses and shrink over time. Previous regulatory initiatives that increased capital already seem to have had that effect, and the Fed may want to see that continue.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hillary Clinton wants to go even further by directly taxing big banks, and taxing them even more if their capital structure is relatively risky. <a href="" target="_blank">Matt Yglesias runs down her plan for us:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Clinton doesn't spell out precise numbers for her fee, perhaps recognizing that in the real world this would all be subject to negotiation in Congress anyway. But the key pillars are:</p> <blockquote> <ul><li>The fee would be assessed on banks with more than $50 billion in assets (34 banks fit the bill as of today, though two of them are very close to the line) as well as on a handful of other institutions that the government has already flagged for extra regulatory scrutiny.</li> <li>The fee rate would be higher on short-term debt than on long-term debt.</li> <li>The fee rate would be higher on banks with more debt in their financing structure.</li> <li>FDIC-insured bank deposits would be exempt from the fee.</li> </ul></blockquote> <p>The upshot of all this would be to <strong>nudge the banking system toward institutions becoming either smaller or else more boring,</strong> because risky activity would be more profitable in a smaller institution than in a larger one. The result would be to push risk out of the kinds of institutions whose failure would be catastrophic, without impeding banks' ability to become big per se.</p> </blockquote> <p>So wonky. So boring. But, as Yglesias says, also a pretty good idea. That's often the case with well-thought-out plans.</p> <p>In any case, the Fed plan affects the eight biggest banks in the country. Hillary's plan would affect 34 banks. And of course, the eight mega-banks would have to abide by the Fed's higher capital requirements <em>and</em> Hillary's tax.</p> <p>All of these plans, by the way, are roundabout methods of reducing the amount of leverage that big banks can engage in. As a purist, I'd prefer to just pass rules that directly regulate leverage levels. But that's easier said than done, and higher capital requirements are a close substitute. Hillary's plan is even more indirect, but it also reduces risk by nudging banks to get smaller. Lots of leverage is still bad, but a smaller bank that goes bust is less catastrophic than a bigger one that goes bust.</p> <p>More details are <a href="" target="_blank">here,</a> part of the Clinton campaign's <a href="" target="_blank">rather startling array of detailed policy statements.</a> It's enough to make you think she might be a wee bit more serious than anyone on the Republican side.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 15:24:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 286596 at All Those Annoying Drug Ads on TV Might Be Paying Off <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Good news! According to a new study, the placebo response is getting stronger, and if this continues perhaps all our pain woes will soon be treatable with sugar pills. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_placebo_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">But this is happening only in the United States for some reason. <a href="" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One possible explanation is that <strong>direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs</strong> &mdash; allowed only in the United States and New Zealand &mdash; has increased people&rsquo;s expectations of the benefits of drugs, creating stronger placebo effects. But Mogil&rsquo;s results hint at another factor. "Our data suggest that the longer a trial is and the bigger a trial is, the bigger the placebo is going to be," he says.</p> <p><strong>Longer, bigger US trials probably cost more, and the glamour and gloss of their presentation might indirectly enhance patients&rsquo; expectations,</strong> Mogil speculates. Some larger US trials also use contract research organizations that can employ nurses who are dedicated to the trial patients, he adds &mdash; giving patients a very different experience compared to those who take part in a small trial run by an academic lab, for instance, where research nurses may have many other responsibilities.</p> </blockquote> <p>So good old glamor and gloss&mdash;American specialties, for sure&mdash;could be making anything in the shape of a pill more effective. On the other hand, the paper itself <a href=";issue=00000&amp;article=99737&amp;type=abstract" target="_blank">suggests a more prosaic possibility:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Our study results are of course potentially influenced by trends in study quality and/or publication bias....In the past, small studies were conducted. If they had a large placebo response, they did not show a positive treatment advantage and therefore they were not published. In contemporary U.S. studies, trials are typically large enough to detect positive treatment advantage despite large placebo responses, and therefore reported placebo responses appear to have increased.</p> </blockquote> <p>So it's possible this is all an artifact of publication bias. In the past, studies with null results for the target drug (i.e., large placebo responses) never saw the light of day. Then pharma companies got smart, and started running larger trials that would show statistically significant results no matter what. So all the studies got published, even those with large placebo responses.</p> <p>You may decide which to believe. I recommend believing the glitz and glamor explanation, since glitz and glamor are bound to get ever glitzier and more glamorous over time, and are thus likely to improve your pain more. And really, who cares <em>why</em> your pain gets better? If it's better drugs, fine. If it's because pharma companies are spending lots of money on marketing, fine. Just make it go away, please.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 14:48:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 286586 at Donald Trump's Base Is Pretty Old, But Not All That Conservative <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Someone asked me the other day where Donald Trump's support comes from. I realized I didn't really know, so I figured I should check it out. According to David Brady and Douglas Rivers, a pair of political scientists at Stanford, recent YouGov polls <a href="" target="_blank">break it down like this:</a></p> <ul><li>Not particularly ideological....20 percent of Trump's supporters describe themselves as &ldquo;liberal&rdquo; or &ldquo;moderate,&rdquo; with 65 percent saying they are &ldquo;conservative&rdquo; and only 13 percent labeling themselves as &ldquo;very conservative.&rdquo;</li> <li>A bit older, less educated, and less affluent than the average Republican.</li> <li>Slightly over half are women.</li> <li>About half are between 45-64 years of age, 34 percent over 65, and less than 2 percent younger than 30.</li> <li>One half of his voters have a high school education or less, compared to 19 percent with a college or post-graduate degree.</li> <li>Slightly over a third of his supporters earn less than $50,000 per year, while 11 percent earn over $100,000 per year.</li> </ul><p>The only two of these that are noteworthy are the first one, which shows that Trump's appeal spans ideological boundaries, and the fourth one, which shows that his support comes almost exclusively from the middle-aged and the elderly. Aside from that, he appears to be a fairly standard issue Republican.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Oct 2015 13:25:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 286581 at Don't Do It, Paul! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">REPORT:</a> John Boehner is personally asking Paul Ryan to step up and be Speaker. They have spoken twice today by phone....Boehner told Ryan he is the only person who can unite GOP at this crisis moment. Ryan undecided but listening, per source.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_young_guns_gone.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 140px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 23:29:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 286566 at Oops. Putin's Cruise Missiles Still Need a Little Work. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I guess Vladimir Putin's cruise missiles <a href="" target="_blank">aren't quite as awesome as he thought:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Cruise missiles fired by Russia from warships in the Caspian Sea at targets in Syria crashed in a rural area of Iran, senior United States officials said on Thursday.</p> </blockquote> <p>Bummer, dude. Can we now have at least one day where we don't have to hear about how Russia's crappy military is going to upend everything in the Middle East and send the US scurrying for cover?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 19:02:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286536 at Put Frances Perkins on the Ten-Dollar Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Wonkblog informs me that the Treasury Department really, really wants me to vote on which woman should replace Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill. OK. So how do I do that?</p> <p>Apparently I can use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to submit my vote with the hashtag #TheNew10. So that takes care of all the people who are on social media. What about everyone else? Well, the Treasury still wants to hear from you! That's not immediately obvious, mind you, but it turns out that if you <a href="" target="_blank">click here,</a> provide your name and your email address, and then answer a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_frances_perkins_ten_dollar_bill.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">question to prove you're a human, you can tell them your thoughts.</p> <p>FWIW, my choice is Frances Perkins. I feel like it's a good idea to keep up the tradition of having people on our currency who have been in government service (mostly presidents, but also cabinet members like Hamilton or key members of the constitutional convention like Benjamin Franklin). It also, for obvious reasons, ought to be somebody whose fame was gained at least 50 years ago. Perkins fits all those requirements. She was the first woman to serve in the cabinet, and more than that, her fame doesn't come merely from being first. She was also an unusually effective Secretary of Labor during a period when the labor movement was a tremendous and growing power in American politics. Add to that her authorship of the Social Security Act and her key role in a wide variety of other New Deal legislation, and she's not just the most influential Secretary of Labor of all time, but arguably one of the four or five most influential cabinet members ever.</p> <p>Sadly, the whole New Deal thing will probably make her too politicized to win. She's my choice, but my <em>prediction</em> is Rosa Parks. We'll find out next year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 18:46:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 286521 at Kevin McCarthy: "I'm Not the Guy" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>North Carolina Rep. Walter Jones (R) sent a letter to the No. 4 House Republican saying any candidate for leadership who has committed any "misdeeds" since joining Congress should "withdraw" from the contest.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Thursday abruptly dropped out of the race to replace John Boehner for speaker, a stunning move that further complicates an already chaotic House leadership contest....Said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.), a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus: &ldquo;I was shocked just like everyone else&hellip;he said something to the effect of I&rsquo;m not the guy.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Ummm....WTF? I will put off further comment until I pick up my jaw from the floor.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> From no less a conservative icon than Erick Erickson, <a href="" target="_blank">we get this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There&rsquo;s a guy out in America who has emails for a massive number of members of Congress and the email addresses of highly influential conservatives outside Congress.</p> <p>A few days ago, he emailed out to 91 people, including these members of Congress, an email with a series of links to stories <strong>alleging a relationship between Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) of North Carolina.</strong> It is worth nothing that the two deny a relationship.</p> <p><strong>But the email began circulating pretty heavily. Conservatives were buzzing about it.</strong> The first line pointed to the current scandal about Denny Hastert and concluded suggesting that if the rumor about McCarthy and his personal life were true, he was a national security risk.</p> </blockquote> <p>Okey dokey.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 17:14:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 286506 at We Get It: Paul Krugman Has Been Right All Along <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_krugman_tired.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here is Paul Krugman just in the past month:</p> <ul><li>It&rsquo;s now seven years since I warned....</li> <li>Who could have predicted such a thing? Well, me....</li> <li>Many of us warned from the beginning that the multiplier was probably much larger....</li> <li>Those of us who took our Hicks seriously calling the big stuff &mdash; the effects of monetary and fiscal policy &mdash; right, and those who went with their gut getting it all wrong....</li> <li>As I&rsquo;ve been trying to point out....</li> <li>As I&rsquo;ve written many times....</li> <li>Attacks on Keynesians in general, and on me in particular....</li> <li>Here&rsquo;s what I wrote three years ago....</li> </ul><p>And that's not even counting his print columns, which I didn't have the patience to plow through. I'm a pretty big fan of Krugman, but even for me this stuff has long since gotten old. Maybe it's time to go cold turkey on the whole "I was right" meme and just concentrate on the economics.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 15:46:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 286491 at Quote of the Day: Japanese Mathematician Discovers Marvelous Brain-Altering Proof <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Davide Castelvecchi,</a> writing about an impenetrable 500-page mathematical proof that might change the field forever if it's verified:</p> <blockquote> <p>But so far, the few who have understood the work have struggled to explain it to anyone else. <strong>&ldquo;Everybody who I'm aware of who's come close to this stuff is quite reasonable, but afterwards they become incapable of communicating it,&rdquo;</strong> says one mathematician who did not want his name to be mentioned. The situation, he says, reminds him of the Monty Python skit about a writer who jots down the world's funniest joke. Anyone who reads it dies from laughing and can never relate it to anyone else.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently Shinichi Mochizuki essentially invented a whole new branch of arithmetic geometry in order to complete his proof of the <em>abc</em> conjecture. So you have to learn a whole new field of math and <em>then</em> work your way laboriously through the actual proof. There are, according to Castelvecchi, something like four or five people in the whole world capable of doing this. Good luck, guys!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 15:10:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 286476 at Image vs. Reality, Vladimir Putin Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>LA Times</em> writes today about <a href="" target="_blank">Russia's intervention in Syria:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The outcome of Vladimir Putin's bold military gamble in Syria is far from clear, but in the short term, one loser seems certain: President Obama.</p> <p>....The White House has been poised for weeks to quietly shift more U.S. military support to seasoned Kurdish militias and other rebel fighters in northern Syria. But at this point, <strong>any change in policy will appear to be in response to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_putin_chin.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Putin's muscular moves,</strong> not a new initiative to help solve the multi-sided conflict.</p> </blockquote> <p>Putin is "bold" and "muscular." Obama is a "loser." Well, this piece is labeled as analysis, so I guess that's fair enough. But I hope that future articles continue to report the reality&mdash;that Obama has been planning for a while to shift his strategy in Syria&mdash;rather than merely parroting the tired judgment that he "appears" to be responding to the muscular Putin. In any case, let's continue:</p> <blockquote> <p>Middle Eastern allies who have chafed at Washington's reluctance to plunge into the 4-year-old civil war have been <strong>impressed by how the Russian president has come to an ally's defense,</strong> even if they don't like his goals or his ally, Arab officials say.</p> </blockquote> <p>Seriously? Sure, many of our Arab allies have been urging us for a long time to be more militantly anti-Assad. But are they really impressed by Putin's actions? He's allowed his "ally" Assad to twist in the wind with no apparent concern at all since 2011, and then after four years he finally enters the conflict in a small way&mdash;mainly because he was about to lose Assad for good. So far, he's launched a few air sorties and some cruise missiles. Are our Arab allies really that easily impressed? Onward:</p> <blockquote> <p>From the White House's perspective, the problem is not only that Russia is propping up a leader who they insist must step down as a part of a political deal to end the bloodletting. It is also that <strong>Putin's moves seem aimed at emphasizing American hesitation and signaling a lack of respect for the former Cold War foe.</strong></p> <p>....Over the last week, Moscow has seemed indifferent to the risk of a confrontation with Washington as Russian forces repeatedly attacked Syrian rebels armed by the CIA and allied spy services.</p> </blockquote> <p>Once again, Putin is the Donald Trump of world leaders: lots of showmanship and media attention for a very small price. It's impressive in a way. But the simple fact remains: Putin hasn't really done very much, and the fact that his Syria offensive seems aimed mostly at tweaking Obama is a show of childishness not strength. On Wednesday he even boasted that Russia's cruise missiles "hit all the targets," something the US hardly needs to bother with since everyone already knows we have plenty of cruise missiles that have a long history of hitting their targets.</p> <p>Finally, we end with this:</p> <blockquote> <p>Putin's gamble may accomplish several of his goals: <strong>increasing Russian influence in the Middle East and on the world stage, building his image at home, and shifting Western attention from his intervention in Ukraine.</strong></p> <p>But many analysts believe that neither Putin nor anyone else can wrest military victory from the bitter cauldron in Syria. And many expect Obama, who has made that argument since the conflict began in 2011, to continue to move cautiously. Obama "has been pretty good about resisting pressure to get in deeper," said Kupchan. "I don't think he's going to react to Putin's gambit by upping the ante."</p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe we should have started with that? Putin is essentially engaged in a PR campaign. Obama isn't taking the bait because he knows perfectly well it's a fool's errand. I hope everyone in Washington keeps that firmly in mind as Putin continues his Trump-esque rampage across the media landscape.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 14:31:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 286471 at Quote of the Day: "The Republican Party Left Me" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From former Fed chairman Ben Bernanke,</a> in his new memoir, <em>The Courage To Act</em>:</p> <blockquote> <p>[I] lost patience with Republicans&rsquo; susceptibility to the know-nothing-ism of the far right. <strong>I didn&rsquo;t leave the Republican Party. I felt that the party left me.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is, of course, a deliberate echo of Ronald Reagan's famous line about the Democratic Party leaving him. And it's hard to blame Bernanke. The know-nothing wing of the Republican Party rebelled against the TARP rescue package at the height of the economic meltdown. They howled that low interest rates would lead to imminent hyperinflation. They resolutely refused to consider fiscal stimulus despite Bernanke's repeated pleas (see helpful illustration below from 2011). They wanted to audit the Fed. They wanted to end the Fed. They wanted to put us back on the gold standard. When Bernanke told them that spending cuts would lead to higher unemployment, Rep. Kevin McCarthy refused to believe him. Now he's about to become Speaker of the House.</p> <p>Bernanke was no leftist, he was just a mainstream economist&mdash;and a cautious one. It didn't matter. Republicans didn't want to hear anything that interfered with their hard-money frenzy, even from one of their own. So they abandoned him.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_bernanke_congressometer_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 04:17:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 286456 at Ben Carson Apparently Doesn't Know What the Debt Limit Is <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_carson_laughing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Ladies and gentlemen, <a href="" target="_blank">Dr. Ben Carson:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> As you know, Treasury Secretary Lew has come out in the last couple of days and said, "We're gonna run out of money, we're gonna run out of borrowing authority, on the fifth of November." Should the Congress then and the president not raise the debt limit?<strong> Should we default on our debt?</strong></p> <p><em>Carson:</em> Let me put it this way: if I were the president, I would not sign an increased budget. Absolutely would not do it. They would have to find a place to cut.</p> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> <strong>To be clear, it's increasing the debt limit, not the budget,</strong> but I want to make sure I understand you. You'd let the United States default rather than raise the debt limit.</p> <p><em>Carson:</em> No, I would provide the kind of leadership that says, "Get on the stick guys, and stop messing around, and cut where you need to cut, because we're not raising any spending limits, period."</p> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> <strong>I'm gonna try one more time, sir.</strong> This is debt that's already obligated. Would you not favor increasing the debt limit to pay the debts already incurred?</p> <p><em>Carson:</em> What I'm saying is what we have to do is restructure the way that we create debt. I mean if we continue along this, where does it stop? It never stops. You're always gonna ask the same question every year. And we're just gonna keep going down that pathway. That's one of the things I think that the people are tired of.</p> <p><em>Ryssdal:</em> <strong>I'm really trying not to be circular here, Dr. Carson, but if you're not gonna raise the debt limit and you're not gonna give specifics on what you're gonna cut,</strong> then how are we going to know what you are going to do as president of the United States?</p> </blockquote> <p>It sure <em>sounds</em> as if Carson doesn't know what the debt limit is, doesn't it? Kai Ryssdal tries manfully to get a straight answer out of him, and after the fourth try Carson rambles into a long disquisition on the infinite-time-horizon fiscal gap, at which point Ryssdal finally gives up. I guess I don't blame him.</p> <p>On the other hand, I'll give Carson credit for something Ryssdal doesn't: telling him what he'd cut in order to balance the budget. Carson is pretty clear about this: he would cut the government across the board by 3-4 percent via the simple expedient of keeping spending flat for everything. In real terms, this gets you to Carson's 3-4 percent decrease. He says he'd do this for three or four years, and boom! Balanced budget.</p> <p>Ryssdal badgers Carson about this, but doesn't ask the obvious follow-ups: You'd cut Social Security 3-4 percent each year? Medicare? Defense? Veterans? If the answer is no&mdash;as it probably would be&mdash;<em>then</em> you ask Carson how he's going to balance the budget with just the stuff that's left over.</p> <p>In any case, it's pretty scary that a guy this ignorant of the basics of governance is doing so well in the Republican primary. Not surprising, maybe, but still scary.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Oct 2015 00:35:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 286451 at Hillary Clinton Announces Opposition to TPP, But Her Reasons Are Pretty Weak <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton, who was once a fan of the TPP trade deal, announced today that she's now opposed to it. That's fine. But her reasons seem <a href="" target="_blank">less than compelling:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In her statement, Clinton said she is "continuing to learn about the details of the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, including looking hard at what&rsquo;s in there to crack down on currency manipulation, which kills American jobs, and to make sure we&rsquo;re not putting the interests of drug companies ahead of patients and consumers."</p> <p>She had said months ago that the currency provision would be a key test for her.</p> </blockquote> <p>The pharmaceutical provisions are indeed a point of considerable controversy, but the final draft of the agreement <em>weakens</em> them compared to what the US was asking for back when Hillary was involved. As for currency manipulation, TPP doesn't address that at all.</p> <p>So one provision she mentions has been improved, and the other does no harm because it's not addressed. If the deal looked OK a year ago, it should still look OK today. Likewise, if it looks bad today, it should have looked bad a year ago. So what really changed? Bernie Sanders, most likely. Just as the Republican side of things has been buffeted by the Trump Effect, the Democratic race has been been influenced by the Bernie Effect&mdash;which is just what he wanted, since I don't think he entered the race because he truly believed he had a chance to become president. He just wanted to move the conversation to the left, and he's succeeded at that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Oct 2015 22:12:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 286431 at