Archive

May 28th, 2016

What you need to know about the next recession (starring Donald Trump)

    How should we respond to the next recession? That was the topic of an event held by the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, where I spoke Monday in Washington with White House budget director Sean Donovan. I argued a number of points that address current concerns.

    First, I argued that the possible election of "Demagogue Donald" dwarfs congressional dysfunction as a threat to American prosperity. Beyond lunatic and incoherent budget and trade policies, Donald Trump would for the first time make political risk of the kind usually discussed in the context of Argentina, China or Russia relevant to the United States. How else to interpret threats to renegotiate debt, prosecute insubordinate publications and rip up treaties? Creeping fascism as an issue dwarfs macroeconomic policy!

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Trumping on Eggshells

    I recently asked a good friend where her boss stood on Donald Trump.

    This wasn’t an idle question. Her boss gives big money to Republican candidates. He’s both power broker and weather vane. And she talks politics with him all the time.

    But she has no idea about him and Trump. She hasn’t inquired, because she doesn’t want to know. She’s fond of her boss. She respects him. But what if he’s made peace with a candidate who called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States, mocked a disabled journalist, belittled John McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war, praised Vladimir Putin’s thuggish leadership style, complimented the Chinese government on its brutal handling of the uprising in Tiananmen Square, made misogynistic remarks galore and boasted during a debate about the size of his penis?

    She can’t go there.

    I understand.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

What tax tricks doesn't Trump want us to see?

    A generation after Ronald Reagan denounced the "welfare queen," the Grand Old Party is evidently on the verge of nominating its first welfare king.

    Four years ago last week, the party's 2012 presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, famously wrote off the 47 percent of Americans who don't pay federal income taxes. Romney, secretly recorded at a fundraiser, said the 47 percent "who are dependent upon government" won't vote for him because "I'll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

    Now, just one presidential cycle later, Republicans have settled on a presumptive nominee who is himself among the 47 percent of non-taxpayers. Trump has been refusing to release his tax returns, and we have a pretty good idea why: He has been feeding at the public trough.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Trump's Republican coalition of the unwilling

    Oh, how the mighty are falling in line, if not in love. The most stalwart Donald Trump deniers among establishment Republicans are clambering to get on board. Support is a depreciating asset: Wait until the train leaves the station at the Cleveland convention and you'll get little for swallowing your pride, abandoning your conscience and stifling your fears.

    A corollary of that is that the higher-placed the opponent, the more valuable the capitulation. That's why South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham getting with the program over the weekend is so important. It's part of bringing a divided party back together. Without that, it is hard to win. What should worry Hillary Clinton are new polls showing that Trump is within three points of her. More worrying for her is the speed at which the Republicans are coming together: In an NBC-WSJ poll, Trump is winning among Republicans over Clinton 86 percent to 6 percent, up from 72 percent to 13 percent a month ago.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Trump would crush winners of the U.S. economy

    Donald Trump says it all the time: "We don't win anymore." If you got all your economic news from the presumed Republican nominee, you'd think U.S. businesses hadn't added any new jobs or accomplished anything worthwhile since sometime in the Johnson administration. Americans nowadays, he keeps suggesting, are total losers.

    While Trump's rhetoric denigrates the achievements of U.S. companies and their millions of employees, his specific proposals are worse. They reveal a vision of the good economy as static, uninnovative and controlled from the White House. President Trump's America is, despite the rhetoric, an economy with no place for winners.

    Start with the candidate's pettiest proposal: his not-so-veiled threat to unleash antitrust regulators against Amazon to punish CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, for the newspaper's negative coverage of his campaign. To serve his personal agenda, Trump would rewrite U.S. antitrust doctrine. Forget protecting consumers from cartels; he would instead protect businesses from competition. And he would side with foreign governments against an American winner.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

May 27th

Donald Trump and other crises of democracy

    David Runciman is professor of politics at Cambridge University. His books include "The Confidence Trap," a brief, lively history of crises faced by democratic nations, and how those nations handled the challenges. The rise of Donald Trump, and continuing turmoil throughout Europe, have raised anew questions about democracy's vulnerabilities and resilience. Over the course of several days in late April and early May, I interviewed Runciman, via e-mail, about the current perils.

    Wilkinson: The democratic "confidence trap" that you describe is more an attitude than a philosophy, a prevailing sense of, "Oh well, this particular problem looks quite serious but we always muddle through, so why panic?"

    We only have two real political parties in the U.S., and one is about to nominate Donald Trump for president. Is this a confidence trap -- a case of Republican voters assuming that democracy can bear more strain than it can reasonably be expected to carry?

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Transhumanists are searching for a dystopian future

    For its proponents, transhumanism - the idea of using technology to redesign humans beyond our biology - is just common sense. Who doesn't want to live a healthier, happier and wealthier life? And wouldn't it be great to live such an "enhanced" life indefinitely?

    For nearly as long as we have written record, humans have rebelled at the limits of the human condition, but with the development of modern science and technology we have become increasingly able to overcome what once seemed like absolute limits.

    Advances in fields such as genetics, synthetic biology, neuropsychology, robotics, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology are putting us on the verge of even more radical breakthroughs, allowing us to imagine that we can ultimately rebuild completely the flawed human product that evolution has bequeathed us.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

The Clarence Thomas dissent that broke my heart

    As law professors go, I'm pretty sympathetic to Clarence Thomas's constitutional jurisprudence. It's not that I agree with him, which I almost never do. But I think he genuinely tries to apply originalism using historical methods. And when it comes to the law of race, where again I disagree with Thomas, I respect his effort to give voice to a distinctive form of conservative black nationalism that insists on color blindness because it's better for blacks.

    What's more, I respect what I've seen of Thomas personally. I've never forgotten seeing him greet by name the members of the maintenance staff at the Supreme Court who polish the miles of brass on the court's many staircases. Once I asked him about it, and he said he sometimes felt he had more in common with them than with the other justices. I didn't think it was a line then, and I don't think so now.

    But today I confess to feeling a bit upset about Thomas's solo dissent in Foster v. Chatman on Monday, a decision that reversed the capital conviction of a black man from Georgia because the prosecution used its peremptory challenges to strike all the black members of the jury pool.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Technology won't undermine human dignity. Fear of change will.

    "What ideas, if embraced, would pose the greatest threat to the welfare of humanity?" When the editors of Foreign Policy magazine posed this question to a group of prominent policy intellectuals in 2004, neoconservative thinker Francis Fukuyama chose transhumanism as the world's most dangerous idea.

    In his response to the question, Fukuyama described transhumanism as "a strange liberation movement" that wants "nothing less than to liberate the human race from its biological constraints." He isn't alone in his alarm. This year, from the left of the political spectrum, Marcy Darnovsky from the Center for Genetics and Society warned that with the development of new effective gene-editing techniques "we could see the emergence of genetic haves and have-nots, with new forms of inequality and discrimination."

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!

Soon we'll use science to make people more moral

    Sometimes, people do terrible things because they have a tragic misunderstanding of what it means to be good. Sometimes we do regrettable things because we aren't strong enough to be as good as we would like. Fortunately, emerging neuroscience suggests that we will soon be able to both fix those with broken moral compasses and tune up our own internal morality.

    Social neuroscience is revealing that much of our capacity for virtue is set at birth. Qualities like self-control, empathy, deliberation and fairness are substantially genetically and neurologically determined. For instance, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and the likelihood of ending up in the criminal justice system have all been linked to the genes that regulate the neurochemical dopamine. Self-control has been linked to having a larger, more active and better-connected prefrontal cortex, which is able to control the more impulsive parts of the brain.

Full text and e-editions are available to premium subscribers only. To subscribe to the digital edition, please visit subscription page. If you are already a subscriber, please login to the site.

We'd be happy to set up login information for a free week of the Liberal Opinion Week website for you. Please email liberal@iowaconnect.com with your request. Thanks for your interest in the Liberal!