Archive

November 24th, 2016

This Election Wasn’t About Trump

    When a political puck named Dick Tuck lost a California senate election in 1966, he famously conceded: “The people have spoken. The bastards.”

    So now that the people have spoken up for Donald Trump, were they saying that they embrace his xenophobic, nativist, far-right policies?

    Not necessarily. Most Trump voters say they went for him because they think he’ll shake up America’s elite establishment, not because he’s a conservative. In fact, majorities of people all over the country voted for very progressive policies and candidates this year.

    For example, all four states that had minimum wage increases on the ballot — that’s Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington — passed them. Plus, a South Dakota proposal to lower its minimum wage was rejected by 71 percent of voters.

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The man who would repeal and replace Dodd-Frank

    Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R, who wants to overhaul financial regulation, is under consideration to be Donald Trump's Treasury secretary. Even if the job goes to someone else (hedge-fund manager Steve Mnuchin appears to be the front-runner), Hensarling's chairmanship of the House Financial Services Committee will give him vast influence over Wall Street next year.

    He and Trump believe the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act has kept banks from lending and the economy from growing, and they want to repeal and replace it, to borrow a favorite Republican phrase. But the congressman's replacement bill, which has several good deregulatory ideas, would go too far by reversing changes that have made the banking system safer.

    Dodd-Frank, one of President Barack Obama's signature achievements, was supposed to ensure that a financial crisis like the one in 2008 never happens again. But even staunch supporters of the law concede that some of Hensarling's deregulatory ideas make sense.

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November 23rd

Fake news is all about false incentives

    In the blame games following the U.S. election, the social networks, especially Facebook, are getting a hard time for allegedly aiding the spread of fake news. The New York Times, Vox, Inc. and many lesser-known websites have all run stories taking issue with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's rejection of the idea that fake stories circulating on social networks affected the election's outcome.

    The issue is far more complicated, though. It's possible that technology has hit the natural limit of what it can meaningfully do to news and that the news industry has reached the boundaries of possible synergy with tech. At the same time, the audience's trust in what they collectively, and incorrectly, describe as "the media" has hit a low point. All three interconnected problems can be fixed, but that would require some old-fashioned inputs such as journalistic skill, along with editorial and entrepreneurial courage.

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Sorry, I Can’t Give Trump a Chance

    As Donald Trump plans his transition into the White House, some have called for “unity.” Let’s “come together,” they say. Let’s “give him a chance.”

    I say no.

    When a man abuses his wife, you don’t tell her to give him a chance. You don’t tell her to try to talk things out with him. Meet him halfway. Hear his side of it. Believe him when he says he loves her and he won’t hit her again.

    Why? Because it won’t work.

    The rules of normal social conduct don’t apply in such a case. Nor do they apply in this one. As I’ve said before, Trump exhibits textbook emotional abuse tactics.

    If you give him a chance, he’ll walk all over you. If you go into any negotiation ready to meet him in the middle, he’ll demand it isn’t enough, that he must get his way entirely. And he’ll strong-arm you to get it.

    We already have evidence that Trump does absolutely everything he can get away with.

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Sexism did not cost Hillary Clinton the election

    To some, it seems an open-and-shut case that a woman faces an insuperable double standard on the road to the White House. "America was never ready for a woman president," one headline declared; Clinton's defeat "is what misogyny looks like," a Guardian columnist lamented; her own running mate, after the loss, described the United States as a nation that "has made it so uniquely difficult for a woman to make it into federal office." No, America is not ready, not now and not in the foreseeable future. After all, Americans twice elected an African-American president, but Hillary Clinton, an inordinately qualified woman, came up short. Only 41 percent of men voted for her. And just look at the sexism and misogyny of this election.

    But Clinton did not lose because of sexism, and future female candidates for president are unlikely to, either.

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Racism probably is getting worse

    President-elect Donald Trump's campaign often targeted blacks, Latinos and Muslims for criticism. Sometimes the rhetoric sounded racist or meant to appeal to the racism of others. Does that mean ethnic and religious prejudices are rising in the U.S.? Let's start with the pessimistic answer.

    Following the election, the number of racial incidents and attacks seems to have risen. The Southern Poverty Law Center recorded over 200 reported incidents of harassment and intimidation for the remainder of the week after Tuesday. Before the election, anti-Semitic tweets were becoming more common and more aggressive.

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Immigrant hopes may now depend on Melania

    House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, said last weekend that there will be no deportation force rounding up undocumented immigrants. President-elect Donald Trump, Ryan's new boss, said he will deport 2 million or 2 million undocumented immigrants. Both may be right.

    Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who called the League of Women Voters "communist" for trying to thwart his voter-suppression efforts, is a key immigration policy adviser to Trump. He told the Los Angeles Times last week. "There is vast potential to increase the level of deportations without adding personnel."

    With a change of policy, each of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. would become instantly vulnerable to deportation. To enact those policies, all Trump has to do is rescind Barack Obama's less aggressive ones. Ryan wouldn't have to lift a legislative finger to realize Kobach's "vast potential."

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I told conservatives to work for Donald Trump. One talk with his team changed my mind.

    I am a national security Never-Trumper who, after the election, made the case that young conservatives should volunteer to serve in the new administration, warily, their undated letters of resignation ready. That advice, I have concluded, was wrong.

    My about-face began with a discreet request to me from a friend in Trumpworld to provide names - unsullied by having signed the two anti-Trump foreign policy letters - of those who might be willing to serve. My friend and I had agreed to disagree a while back about my taking an uncompromising anti-Trump stand; now, he wanted assistance and I willingly complied.

    After an exchange about a senior figure who would not submit a résumé but would listen if contacted, an email exchange ensued that I found astonishing. My friend was seething with anger directed at those of us who had opposed Donald Trump - even those who stood ready to help steer good people to an administration that understandably wanted nothing to do with the likes of me, someone who had been out front in opposing Trump since the beginning.

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I don't know what Trump will do. Here's some of what he can do.

    Even though he lost the popular vote, Donald Trump is the legitimate president-elect, and I share both Hillary Clinton's admonition to keep an open mind and President Obama's wish for Trump's success.

    But this is not the time for amnesia. Trump's campaign may not have featured much in the way of concrete policy, but he and his team did make a number of promises, including a first-100-days agenda, some of which reads like a hit list against progressive priorities.

    The agenda raises two questions. First, can he pull it off? Second, will he choose to do so?

    Since his victory, Trump has made some conciliatory sounds, but we cannot yet know how seriously to take him. He clearly has no reservoir of trust from those who opposed him. Moreover, some of what he's saying, particularly about Obamacare, doesn't make sense.

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How to make drug prices fair for U.S. consumers

    Americans pay far more for branded prescription drugs than people in any other developed nation, exactly the kind of bad deal that President-elect Donald Trump decried repeatedly in his campaign. The U.S. was reminded of this outrage in September when it learned that drug maker Mylan NV has been charging Americans more than $600 for its EpiPen two-pack while selling it for only $69 in Britain.

    Why does this kind of inequality persist? The main reason is that, by law, Medicare and Medicaid cannot use their volume purchasing power to negotiate lower prices, as do health agencies in virtually all other developed nations.

    Were U.S. health agencies to do the same, however, the collective negotiating power of all these nations would beat down prices so much that drug companies would not have the funds to conduct the research and development that produces life-saving drugs and advances in treatment.

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