CNN reports that the business community is shocked at the idea that Donald Trump might impose import tariffs when he takes office:

Two sources who represent business interests in Washington tell CNN that the man in line to be White House chief of staff, Reince Preibus, has told key Washington players that one idea being debated internally is a 5% tariff on imports…Priebus, the sources said, was warned such a move could start trade wars, anger allies, and also hurt the new administration's effort to boost the rate of economic growth right out of the gate.

One of the sources said he viewed the idea as a trial balloon when first raised, and considered it dead on arrival given the strong reaction in the business community—and the known opposition to such protectionist ideas among the GOP congressional leadership. But this source voiced new alarm Tuesday after being told by allies within the Trump transition that defending new tariffs was part of the confirmation "murder board" practice of Wilbur Ross, the President-elect's choice for commerce secretary.

You know, I mostly feel kind of sorry for all the working-class folks who voted for Trump because they fell for his con. But you know who I don't feel sorry for? The business community, which largely supported Trump because they thought they were too smart to be conned. He won't really impose tariffs. He won't really take revenge on companies that move jobs overseas. He won't really crack down on all those illegal immigrants we give our dirtiest jobs to.

They just wanted their tax cuts and their pet regulatory changes. They didn't care about all that racist, nativist, protectionist blather. It was just for show, anyway, wasn't it? Ha ha ha. Right?

Well, Paul Ryan may save them in the end. We won't know for a while. But these are rich, educated folks. They knew who Trump was. They knew he was spectacularly unqualified. They knew he was thin-skinned. They knew he was unstable. They knew he was egotistical. They knew he was vengeful. They knew he was dangerous. But they supported him anyway because they wanted their tax cuts. If they eventually find themselves on the business end of Trumponomics, I'm just going to lie back and snicker at them.

The November edition of the panel survey done by the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics is out. Dan Hopkins tells us that it shows something interesting. A lot of people really did switch to Donald Trump at the last minute:

While no one moved from Trump to Clinton, 0.9 percent of our respondents moved from Clinton to Trump....Trump also outpaced Clinton among people who were previously undecided or third-party backers, with 3.1 percent of respondents moving from those categories to Trump while just 2.3 percent did the same for Clinton. Clinton also saw 3.1 percent of her October supporters defecting to third-party candidates or becoming undecided. Trump lost just 1.7 percent.

Let's add this up:

  • Trump gained 0.9 + 3.1 - 1.7 = +2.3 percent
  • Clinton gained -0.9 + 2.3 - 3.1 = -1.7 percent

The October poll ended on the 24th. FBI Director James Comey released his infamous letter on the 28th. The November poll then showed Hillary Clinton with a net loss of 4 percent compared to Trump. This compares to net movement of only a few tenths of a point in the final days of the 2012 election.

I wonder if there's any relationship there?

Tyler Cowen says that UCI professor Peter Navarro is "one of the most versatile and productive American economists of the last few decades." Matt Yglesias says Navarro is an idiot. Who's right?

I think there's a category error here. Back in September, Navarro co-authored a paper about Donald Trump's trade policy. Roughly speaking, Navarro relied on the following accounting identity:

GDP = Consumption + Investment + Government Spending + Trade Balance

So if our trade balance goes up from -$500 billion to $0, Navarro said, GDP will go up $500 billion and the government will collect a lot of extra taxes. Hooray! But as Yglesias points out, this is comic-book-level nonsense.1 Let me offer an analogy:

Corporate profits = Revenue + Investment Income - Labor Costs - Other Costs

So if I cut labor costs in half, corporate profits will go up. Right? I think you can see that this is unlikely. If you fired half your workers, you probably could no longer produce anything and your company would go bust. If you cut everyone's wages in half, you'd suffer a steady exodus of your best people and probably end up far less profitable. If you replaced half your workers with machines, profits might indeed go up, but not by the amount of payroll you save. You'd have to account for the capital cost of the machines—which would probably reduce investment income—and the cost of maintenance—which would increase other costs. Bottom line: depending on how you do this, lots of different things could happen.

In the case of GDP, it's true that everything in the formula has to add up, since this formula defines what GDP is. But if the trade balance goes up, there are several obvious possibilities. Consumption might go down. Investment might go down. Government spending might go down. In fact, once all the dust has settled, overall GDP might ultimately go down, stay the same, or go up. The real answer is that you'd need to model out an actual plan and figure out where it reaches equilibrium. Navarro knows this perfectly well.

So what is Navarro? Brilliant economist or idiot? Neither one. He's someone who used to be a versatile and productive economist and is now a China-obsessed fanatic2 willing to say anything for the chance of a job in the Trump administration. He hasn't lost 50 IQ points, he's merely become so fixated on the dangers of Chinese trade that he no longer cares about economics. He cares only about saying things that might build support for his preferred policies, regardless of whether they're true.

In other words, he's now just another dime-a-dozen political hack. Trump will keep him around as long as his PhD is useful and then toss him aside.

1No offense meant to comic books.

2Three of his five most recent books are: The Coming China Wars, Death by China: Confronting the Dragon, and Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World.

Bill O'Reilly is suddenly a big defender of the Electoral College:

Abolishing the Electoral College, that is the subject of tonight’s Talking Points Memo. After Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, the left in America is demanding that the Electoral College system put into place in 1787 be scrapped. But there’s a hidden reason for this.

....Talking Points believes this is all about race. The left sees white privilege in America as an oppressive force that must be done away with. Therefore white working class voters must be marginalized and what better way to do that than center the voting power in the cities....White men have largely abandoned the Democrats, and the left believes it’s because of racism that they want to punish minorities, keep them down. So that’s what’s really going on when you hear about the Electoral College and how unfair it allegedly is.

It's a funny thing. Conservatives tell us endlessly that the best way to build a colorblind society is to be colorblind. No more special favors, no more affirmative action, no more quotas. But whenever someone suggests a change that happens to disadvantage white people even slightly, suddenly they see color everywhere.

Of course, O'Reilly is right that race is relevant to the Electoral College. The American presidential voting system was designed by the framers both to give more influence to smaller states and to give more influence to states with lots of slaves. It was pretty explicitly racist. Defending it on the grounds of its benevolence toward the "white establishment" seems like it ought to be a bridge too far even for the likes of O'Reilly.

In any case, Democrats have now lost two presidential contests in the 21st century in which they won the popular vote. You really don't have to look much further to understand why liberals are a little gun-shy of the Electoral College these days.

Over at National Review, Tim Alberta ponders "Conservatism in the Era of Trump." It's not a pretty picture. There's no one more conservative than the House Freedom Caucus, but they've already started to cave in to Trumpism:

Consider Trump's stated intention to seek a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure package soon after taking office. At a conservative forum one week after the election, [Raul] Labrador told reporters that any such bill "has to be paid for" with spending cuts or revenues from elsewhere…But their thinking has shifted in the weeks since. According to several members, there has been informal talk of accepting a bill that's only 50 percent paid for, with the rest of the borrowing being offset down the road by "economic growth." It's an arrangement Republicans would never have endorsed under a President Hillary Clinton, and a slippery slope to go down with Trump.

This is in addition to the tax cuts for the rich, which won't be paid for at all. But why is the HFC already bending its adamantine principles against increasing the deficit? What are they afraid of? Rachael Bade tells us:

Since the election, numerous congressional Republicans have refused to publicly weigh in on any Trump proposal at odds with Republican orthodoxy, from his border wall to his massive infrastructure package. The most common reason, stated repeatedly but always privately: They're afraid of being attacked by Breitbart or other big-name Trump supporters.

"Nobody wants to go first," said Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who received nasty phone calls, letters and tweets after he penned an August op-ed in The New York Times, calling on Trump to release his tax returns. "People are naturally reticent to be the first out of the block for fear of Sean Hannity, for fear of Breitbart, for fear of local folks."

ZOMG! Phone calls, letters, and tweets, oh my! Who would have guessed that militant conservatives were so spineless? Here's some news: I don't get many phone calls, but I get lots of nasty emails and tweets too. So does everyone who comments on or practices politics. That's America these days.

People often comment about how easily groups like Nazis and fascists came to power. This is how. But hell, at least in Germany and Italy people were cowed by real threats of real violence. It's not especially heroic, but it's understandable. In America, we're heading down that path because people are afraid of unpleasant tweets.

Over at Vox, Sean Illing interviews Justin Gest, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. Gest says that the white working class doesn't fit neatly into either party: Republicans don't like their protectionism and Democrats don't like their nativism. This feeds their sense of marginalization:

White working-class people were left, not necessarily dismissed, but they've received a lot of lip service from both political parties over the years who were never truly prepared to go all in on the things they most cared about. But perhaps even more importantly, neither party did much to symbolically represent white working-class people in terms of the candidates they selected and the language they used.

....Politics is all about perceptions, and perceptions are so much more important than reality in terms of predicting voting behavior....If we're trying to understand the political behavior of white working-class people, their sense of marginality and beleaguerment is real, and in their minds it's meaningful — and that's what matters in terms of our efforts to make sense of it.

In other words, you can tell them all day long that other people have it even worse, but that doesn't make things any better. In the entire history of the world, it's unlikely that this approach has ever made anyone feel any better.

But this raises a question that's poked at me for years. Let's just agree that the way we talk is important. Liberals certainly agree that it's important when it comes to marginalized groups like women, blacks, Muslims, and so forth. They want dignity and respect, and you can't use language that demeans them if you're trying to win their votes.

Fine. But at some point you also need some substance. Eric Holder fought back against the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Democrats passed—and Obama signed—the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Hillary Clinton supported an increase in the number of Syrian refugees we accepted even though it was politically dangerous.

So if liberals want to appeal to the white working class, they need some substantive policies to go along with a change in attitude. But what would those be? This is where I keep coming up short.

  • Stop negotiating trade deals? OK, but we all know that this won't really accomplish much—and has plenty of downsides.
  • Bring back the manufacturing jobs? There's almost unanimous agreement that there's no way to do this.
  • Increase unemployment benefits and other forms of social welfare? That's not what they want. They want good jobs.
  • Childcare and maternity leave benefits? See above. Besides, Democrats already support this. Republicans are the roadblock.
  • Offer retraining and relocation benefits? I recommend you keep your distance when you suggest this. Most struggling working class folks (a) don't want this and (b) have heard it a million times and don't believe it.
  • Move lots of government agencies out of Washington DC and into the heartland? Maybe, but the overall impact would be small and would mostly provide middle-class service jobs anyway.
  • Bring unions back? That would be great, but Republicans will never let it happen.
  • Get tough on immigration? Rhetorically this worked pretty well for Trump, but the truth is that the white working class in the upper Midwest hasn't actually lost many jobs to Mexican immigrants—maybe none at all. In the end, I doubt that Trump will reduce illegal immigration much, and even if he does it won't have more than a minuscule impact on the white working class in Wisconsin.
  • Tax cuts? There aren't a lot of taxes to cut for families at working-class income levels. Besides, from a purely political standpoint, Democrats will never out-tax-cut Republicans.

Maybe there's some genuinely great idea that I haven't heard of. If so, I'm all ears. Beyond that, the only real possibilities seem to be some mix of moving rightward on social issues and paying less attention to the concerns of people of color. Those are nonstarters, I hope.

So what's the answer? These guys want us to bring back the 50s, and that's not possible. Are we supposed to adopt a campaign of pure gasbaggery, like Trump, with no actual substance to go along with it? Or are there truly some simple, concrete, and highly effective policies we could adopt to help out the white working class?

According to the Wall Street Journal, millennials are living in their parents' basements at record rates:

Almost 40% of young Americans were living with their parents, siblings or other relatives in 2015, the largest percentage since 1940, according to an analysis of census data by real estate tracker Trulia.

Despite a rebounding economy and recent job growth, the share of those between the ages of 18 and 34 doubling up with parents or other family members has been rising since 2005. Back then, before the start of the last recession, roughly one out of three were living with family.

Hmmm. "Rising since 2005." I'll assume that's technically true, but take a look at the chart that accompanies the Journal piece. The number of young adults living with their parents rose in the 70s. And the 80s. And the aughts. And the teens. Basically, it's been on an upward trend for nearly half a century. That seems more noteworthy to me than the fact that it failed to blip slightly downward after the Great Recession ended.

Part of the reason, of course, is that people have been getting married and settling down later in life. According to the OECD, the average age at first marriage has increased nearly five years just since 1990, and ranges between 30 and 35 around the world:

The United States is still at the low end of the world average.

A couple of recent conversations about Hillary Clinton's email server have prompted me to think that I should write about it one more time. Maybe for the last time. You might wonder why. After all, the damage is done, it's in the past, and no cares anymore. But I continue to think there's a lesson here that we haven't all come to grips with yet.

Here it is: As near as I can tell, Hillary Clinton did nothing wrong. Period. No shilly-shallying, no caveats. It's true that the optics were sometimes bad, and the whole affair showed off Clinton's political instincts at their worst. But that's it. Both legally and ethically, she did nothing wrong. And liberals should have been willing to say so.

But a lot of them weren't. Both in print and on TV, our defense of Clinton was often tepid and full of qualifications. I noticed the same thing after the Benghazi attack. Conservatives went on the attack literally within a few hours. Some liberals fought back, but an awful lot either said nothing or else mounted half-hearted defenses. Why? Were they worried about looking like hacks even though the plain truth was all they needed to defend? Were they worried that some future revelation might make them look stupid? I'm not sure. But I don't think anyone will argue when I say that this kind of attitude doesn't work well in contemporary America.

So here's a timeline of the email server affair. FAIR WARNING: It's not a complete timeline. Google has plenty of those for you. It's a timeline that highlights a few very specific things that I think even a lot of liberals never quite understood. Let's start:

March 2009: Two months after being confirmed as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton makes the fateful decision to host her unclassified email on a private server.

THIS IS IMPORTANT. Everybody at the State Department has an unclassified email account. In the aughts, most used state.gov alone, but lots of people also used Gmail or another commercial email service. These accounts are used routinely for day-to-day business, but only for unclassified material. There is an entirely different system for classified communications. The only way that Clinton's email account differed from a state.gov account is that it was hosted on a private server.

September 12, 2012: The American consulate in Benghazi is attacked. Even though Clinton is literally faultless in this,1 conservatives begin a four-year campaign of investigations, subpoenas, and conspiracy theories that are plainly little more than partisan attacks designed to smear Clinton.

February 2013: Clinton steps down as secretary of state.

September 2013: The National Archives updates its regulations on the handling of email and other public records.

October 2014: After yet another records request in the Benghazi affair, the State Department asks all former secretaries of state for any official records in their possession.

December 2014: After removing her personal emails, Clinton delivers all her official emails to the State Department. Her staff asks Clinton what they should do with the personal emails, and she tells them she no longer needs them. The hosting company in Colorado, Platte River Networks, is instructed to delete Clinton's existing email archives and to thenceforth preserve new emails for 60 days before deleting them.

March 2015: The New York Times reveals that Clinton's emails were hosted on a private server. The Benghazi zealots immediately subpoena her email server.

March 2015: A Platte River tech discovers that he never deleted the email archives. At this point, even though Clinton's staff has notified him not to make any changes (due to the subpoena), he deletes the old archive.

THIS IS IMPORTANT. It is now six years since Clinton began her tenure at the State Department and two years since she left. In that entire time, there was never any concern over the possibility that Clinton sent or received classified material over unclassified channels. In fact, I don't think there has ever been any official concern about any secretary of state sending classified information over unclassified channels.

March 2015: Republicans in Congress ask the inspectors general of both the State Department and the intelligence community to review Clinton's email practices. Their letter states, "We are concerned that diplomatically sensitive, and possibly classified, information may have been transmitted and stored in an insecure manner."

July 2015: The IC inspector general tells Congress that it found classified information in a small sample of Clinton's email that it reviewed. Both inspectors general ask the Justice Department to review all of Clinton's email for a "potential compromise of classified information." This is the start of the FBI investigation.

THIS IS IMPORTANT: Although the referral came from both IGs, the underlying issue is an ancient feud between the State Department and the CIA. The CIA basically wants to classify everything. The State Department, which has to work in the real world, takes the pragmatic view that classified information sometimes has to be discussed over unclassified channels. It just has to done carefully and circuitously.

July 2016: After a full year, the FBI finally concludes its investigation. Normally, FBI officials merely turn over their recommendations to prosecutors at the Justice Department, but this time FBI Director James Comey decides to host a detailed press conference about the investigation. He says Clinton did nothing illegal, a conclusion that he later describes as "not even a close call." However, he also declares that Clinton was "extremely careless" with her email.

August 2016: The FBI releases its interview notes, which make it clear that Comey exaggerated wildly in his press conference. Clinton's archives contained only three trivial emails that were marked classified. A couple of thousand more emails were retroactively classified. Should they have been? The CIA says yes. Clinton says no: They were carefully worded discussions between professionals who knew perfectly well how to conduct conversations like this. Comments from other State Department officials back up Clinton's view. There was, it turns out, little evidence that anyone was careless, let alone "extremely careless," but since the emails are now classified, no one will ever know for sure.2

October 2016: Two weeks before Election Day, Comey writes a letter announcing that the FBI has discovered records of emails between Clinton and her aide, Huma Abedin, on the computer of Abedin's estranged husband, Anthony Weiner. There is nothing unexpected about this. All of Clinton's aides probably have copies of emails from her, and as we now know, the FBI had no reason to think Abedin's emails were anything they hadn't already seen. But Comey declines to say any of this in his letter and the press goes nuts.

November 6, 2016: Comey announces that the investigation is over and none of the Abedin emails were relevant.

November 8, 2016: Donald Trump is elected president of the United States.

So here's what we've got. Clinton used a private server for her unclassified emails. However, that doesn't provide any reason to think she was any more careless about discussing classified information than any other secretary of state. Nevertheless, Republicans used the excuse of the Benghazi investigation to demand an inspector general's audit of her emails. The intelligence community, naturally, concluded that Clinton's archives contained thousands of discussions of classified programs. They would most likely conclude the same thing if they audited the email account of any ranking State Department official. It's just a fact of life that State and CIA disagree about this stuff.

Comey certainly knew this, and he also knew that Clinton had done nothing out of the ordinary. However, in an attempt to appease congressional Republicans, who were sure to go ballistic when their hopes of putting Clinton in the dock failed yet again, he held a press conference where he called her actions "extremely careless." Then, three months later, with absolutely no justification, he announced that more emails had been discovered—and he announced it in the most damaging possible way.

This is the meat of the whole affair. The rest is chaff. Did Clinton violate the Federal Records Act by holding her email on a private server? Was she trying to evade FOIA requests? Did she lie about wanting to use one email device? Did she violate agency regulations because she used an outside mail account for all her communications, rather than just part of them, as others have routinely done? Etc. etc. We can argue about this stuff forever and we'll never know the answer. If you hate Clinton, you'll insist that these are major felonies that should have landed her in a Supermax for life. But if you don't hate Clinton in the first place, none of these will strike you as anything more than minor infractions at best and ungrounded speculation at worst. Plus there's this: No one ever came close to investigating any of this, let alone trying to bring charges. Among the folks who know the most about these things, there was never so much as a hint that there was anything illegal among all the sensational accusations.3

The bottom line is simple: There was never any real reason for either the IG investigations or the FBI investigation. And in the end, the FBI found nothing out of the ordinary—just the usual State-CIA squabbling. Nevertheless, under pressure from Republicans, Comey spent a full year on the investigation; reported its conclusions in the most damaging possible way; and then did it again two weeks before the election. Because of this, Clinton lost about 2 percent of the vote, and the presidency.

Liberals should have defended her with gusto from the start. There was never anything here and no evidence that Clinton did anything seriously wrong. And yet we didn't. Many liberals just steered clear of the whole thing. Others—including me sometimes—felt like every defense had to contain a series of caveats acknowledging that, yes, the private server was a bad idea, harumph harumph. And some others didn't even go that far. The result was that in the public eye, both liberals and conservatives were more or less agreeing that there was a lot of smoke here. So smoke there was. And now Donald Trump is a month away from being president.

1I mean literally. She was not responsible for the fact that the Benghazi consulate had too few guards. She was not responsible for Chris Stevens taking a big risk that he was well aware of. She was not responsible for the nearby CIA compound. She did not lie about the attacks afterward. Susan Rice did not lie about them afterward. There was no "stand-down" order. Etc. There were lessons to be learned from the attack, but nothing that points to negligence on Clinton's part.

2As long as we're on the subject, I've long had another beef with Comey's presentation. He said it was "possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account," but he based that on literally nothing. There was no evidence of any successful hack. None. There was no more possibility of Clinton being hacked than anyone else who did the kinds of things she did.

3The only thing the FBI investigated was whether national security had been compromised. Neither the FBI nor anyone else ever investigated anything else.

Here's a story I'd kind of like to believe:

Actor Tom Arnold is making waves with recent claims that he has outtakes from "The Apprentice" that feature President-elect Donald Trump using inflammatory language...."When the people sent it to me, it was funny," Arnold said, explaining that hundreds of people have seen the footage that was sent around years ago as a Christmas video.

"He wasn't going to be president of the United States. It was him sitting in that chair using the N-word, using the C-word, calling his son [intellectually disabled]," Arnold said.

...."If that had gotten released, it absolutely would have finished him," [Dori] Monson told Arnold. Arnold disagreed. "I think if the people that like him saw him saying the N-word, matter-of-factly saying this stuff, I think they would have liked him more for being politically incorrect," said Arnold.

Arnold says that the folks who originally made the video got cold feet when they were asked to release it during the campaign: "They were scared of his people. They're scared they'll never work again," said Arnold. "There's a $5-million confidentiality agreement."

OK, sure, but if it was sent around as a Christmas video and hundreds of people have seen it, it's hard to believe that one of those hundreds didn't quietly leak it. This is Hollywood, after all, and I think we can assume that 90 percent of the folks on the distribution list were Hillary supporters. And surely at least a few dozen happened to keep their copy lying around.

So call me skeptical. But on the off chance it's for real, let's get it out there! Surely there's some Democratic billionaire who will promise to make good on any settlement if Trump sues.

Earlier today Matt Yglesias put up a map from the Census Bureau showing median incomes by county. He used it to make the point that the Midwest "Rust Belt" isn't actually all that poor. I don't have any complementary point to make, but I thought the map was interesting to look at. I've recolored it so that the poorest counties are shown in hot pink, which makes them easier to see.