Ladies and gentlemen, your Republican Party:

Do you think Grunwald is exaggerating? Nope. The Wall Street Journal, for example, spent several hundred words acknowledging that Congress's position on the 9/11 bill was embarrassing, "But not nearly as embarrassing as the junior-varsity effort by [the president], who made it easy for Congress to trample him." Somehow, it's always Obama's fault, isn't it?

I've been a mite hard on Bernie Sanders, and a couple of weeks ago I was eager to put it behind me. Sanders was scheduled to do some weekend campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Ohio, but when I went to the tape on Monday I discovered that his rallies had been poorly attended (possibly not his fault) and that his pitch for Clinton was not notably enthusiastic. So I just said nothing.

Today, however, Ed Kilgore tells me that bygones, apparently, are finally bygones:

Now Sanders is back on the trail not just on Clinton’s behalf but by her side, beginning with an appearance in New Hampshire last night. And his message is significantly more focused on her agenda, and not just as an afterthought....They sounded much more like teammates working together than former antagonists forced to combine forces against a common enemy.

Aside from targeted campaigning, a sharpening of the Sanders message for Clinton, which seemed to be developing in New Hampshire, would be helpful just about everywhere. His new rap about the consequences of a Donald Trump victory, which makes sitting out the election a great moral error, is pretty strong. He might want to add in some reminders of the kind of world Libertarians like Gary Johnson want to build, where, yeah, you can smoke weed, but you’re totally on your own in facing life’s vicissitudes.

In any event, it seems the bad feelings and genuine differences of opinion of the 2016 Democratic primaries are finally fading to the point where Bernie Sanders is an indispensable asset for Clinton. If the race stays close, it could matter a lot.

This is good news for Team Clinton, which needs all the help it can get. Only 40 days to go!

Non-rich people tend to spend 100 percent of their income, or close to it. Rich people don't. They spend, say, 50 percent of their income and save the rest. This difference is called the "marginal propensity to consume," and it seems like it might be a problem if income inequality is rising. The problem is that as rich people get a larger share of total income, total consumption goes down. Here's an example:

The question, of course, is how big the MPC effect is. Several years ago I investigated this and concluded that it really wasn't very big. It seems like it should be, but it just wasn't.

Today, however, Larry Summers directs our attention to a new IMF paper that suggests MPC actually does have a big impact. The authors look at two effects. First, as middle-income families fall into lower income groups, they spend less. Second, as a larger share of income goes to the rich, average MPC goes down. Both of these effects reduce total consumption, which in turn acts as a drag on the economy. Here's the relevant chart:

MPC alone reduces consumption by nearly 2 percent, or roughly $200 billion per year. This is still not a gigantic effect, but it's noticeable. And when you add in the direct spending effect of income polarization, it's closer to $400 billion per year. That means we're losing a lot of consumption—which we need—and gaining a lot of capital—which we don't. The world is so awash in capital these days that you can (literally) hardly give it away.

Now, the authors use some novel estimating techniques in their paper, which is why they come up with a stronger effect than previous studies. The folks with PhDs will have to fight over whether they've done their sums correctly. But if they have, it means that increasing income inequality is a lot more than just a matter of unfairness. It's also a real drag on economic growth.

The Trumpian bluster continues apace today:

Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized the media for saying online post-debate polls “don’t mean anything,” as he continues to brag about winning the surveys many consider unscientific and unrepresentative.

At a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the GOP presidential nominee cited online polls from Time magazine and the conservative Drudge Report that showed him leading Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton following Monday night’s presidential debate. “I’m winning all of these polls, hundred of thousand of votes,” Trump said. “I have to sit back and you have to sit back and hear these polls don’t mean anything.”

I love how reporter Lisa Hagen carefully says that "many" think online polls are unscientific. I think the phrase she's searching for is "everyone with a three-digit IQ." These polls are clickbait, nothing more. But it doesn't matter. Clearly Steve Jobs willed his reality distortion field to Trump after he died.

[See update below.]

The overnight polls all say Hillary Clinton won Monday's debate by a wide margin. Common sense confirms this. But how will this affect the race? Ipsos/Reuters released its first post-debate polling today, and the results are on the right.

Clinton gained ground, which is no surprise. But the truly remarkable thing is that the Undecided vote skyrocketed to 20 percent. After the debate, Trump, Gary Johnson, and Jill Stein all lost huge amounts of support, and only a fraction of it went to Clinton. Most of them are simply no longer sure who to vote for. Apparently a lot of Trump supporters saw his performance and had second thoughts, and lots of Johnson/Stein supporters saw Clinton's performance and had second thoughts.

Oddly enough, none of this strangeness showed up in the polling on a two-way race. Nor does Clinton gain any ground in today's PPP poll. So I'm not sure what's really going on.

UPDATE: I'm an idiot. The poll on the right asks people who they think will win, not who they plan to vote for. Sorry about that.

In the actual preference poll, Ipsos/Reuters only did a two-way question, and Clinton lost ground. This is odd considering that in the very same poll voters gave Clinton a big win in the debate and said they were now more favorably disposed toward her. Life is strange.

The Guardian reports that robots designed to interact with adults are "out of fashion" lately because—not to put too fine a point on it—adults are assholes. But what about robots for children?

The 3ft tall iPal has wide eyes, working fingers, pastel trimming, and a touchscreen tablet on its chest. It can sing, dance, and play rock paper scissors. It can talk with children, answer questions like “Why is the sun hot?”, and provide surveillance/video chat for absent parents.

“It’s a robot for children,” said Avatar Mind founder Jiping Wang. “It’s mainly for companion­ship.” The iPal, he boasted, could keep children aged three to eight occupied for “a couple of hours” without adult supervision. It is perfect for the time when children arrive home from school a few hours before their parents get off work, he said.

....Noel Sharkey, a professor emeritus of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield, has been raising concerns about robotic nannies since 2008. When I contacted Sharkey and informed him about the iPal, he responded, “This is awful.”

Now we're talking. Hook 'em while they're young, and they'll love robots for the rest of their lives. And we all know what happens next, right? *cough* Robocop *cough* Skynet *cough*

Anyway, I don't see why this is so terrible. It sure sounds better than planting the kids in front of SpongeBob SquarePants to get them to shut up. With the iPal, at least the little rugrats are interacting. And being surveilled too! This gets them accustomed to their likely future, where every movement will be seen by someone, somewhere.

In any case, it doesn't really matter whether Noel Sharkey likes this or not. It's going to happen, and before long kids and adults alike will be as comfortable with robots as they are with human being. More comfortable, in fact. I foresee a time when "parents" will be brought up on charges of child endangerment if their kids aren't under the constant supervision of cute, tireless robots that subtly instill left-wing values. Welcome to the future.

Donald Trump was on the business end of the most epic butt-kicking in debate history on Monday night:

On the bright side, he crushed Hillary in the Drudge online poll, so there's that.

Gary Johnson makes his pitch:

What would government be like in a Johnson administration? First, we would begin the conversation about the size of government by submitting a real balanced budget. Every government program would have to justify its expenditures, every year. Cuts of up to 20 percent or more would be on the table for all programs, including military spending. Changes to Social Security and Medicare must also be considered.

Cuts of 20 percent or more. Conservatives will hate this because he's including the military. Progressives should hate it because it includes everything else. That means no spending on universal healthcare, climate change, student debt, Wall Street regulation, infrastructure, pre-K, or pretty much anything else. And if you care about helping the poor, you'd better be prepared to care about 20 percent less.

Is all of this an acceptable price to pay for having a president who favors marijuana legalization and a little less military intervention? YMMV, but it sure doesn't seem like it to me.

Here's what Howard Dean tweeted during Monday's debate:

At the time, I paid no attention to this. I figured it was just standard Twitter snark. But, um, apparently not:

This is sure a weird campaign, isn't it? I guess Dean has decided to give Trump a taste of his own medicine. The real source of Trump's sniffles, of course, is that he was suffering from allergies or a cold or something like that, but Trump steadfastly refuses to admit this because it would make him look weak. So Dean has leaped into the vacuum to lob a wild accusation at Trump and force him to respond. This is Trump 101, and I can only assume Dean is having himself a good old time with this.

Needless to say, I strongly disapprove. Dean should be ashamed of himself. Especially when he's dealing with a high-road kind of guy like Donald Trump. Here is Eric Trump on his father's principled unwillingness to bring up Bill Clinton's affairs at the end of the debate:

That was a big moment for me and probably will actually become, my life and this campaign, and probably will be something I’ll always remember. I mean, he really took the high ground where he had the opportunity to go very, very low. And I’m proud of him for doing that. I mean, I’m really proud of him for doing that. And I think people recognize that. I mean, there are a lot of people who came up to me, including many in the media, who said listen, he could’ve just crushed her on that last question. And he would’ve probably hurt a family if he did.

Truly, Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.

Over at 538, Tim Mullaney picks up on a topic I've obsessed about in the past: When you remove politics from the equation, most people seem pretty cheery about the state of the economy. Here's the latest:

Bill Fox sells cars....Like other car dealers, Fox is seeing near-record sales: Somehow, he said, consumers don’t seem as worried about the economy as the pundits say they are. “We’re not seeing [anger] at all,” said Fox, a partner in Auburn-based Fox Dealerships. “The way I account for it is, the public sees economic indicators that are OK, their job’s not threatened, and they may be afraid of the future, but the monthly [car] payment is good.”

....Even as Americans tell political pollsters that they are worried about the economy, they tell a different story in a separate set of surveys that are used by economists and investors to forecast consumer spending behavior. On Tuesday, the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, hit a nine-year high....Even people with only a high-school education — whose economic woes are often cited in media reports explaining Trump’s rise — are about as confident today as they were before the recession began, according to the Michigan survey.

Consumer confidence is now as high as it was throughout the boom years of the aughts, which was good enough to keep Republicans in power until scandals overtook them in 2006 and the economy collapsed in 2008.

No politician—not even most Democrats—wants to say publicly that the economy is in pretty good shape. Why? Because they don't want to appear to be out of touch. After all, even in a good economy, there are still plenty of people who are hurting. But practically every bit of evidence suggests not only that the economy is humming along pretty well, but that voters know it. Donald Trump is doing his best to convince everyone that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but if the September consumer confidence numbers are anything to go by, most of the American public isn't buying it.