Archive

January 27th, 2017

Breaking news: You can't believe what President Trump says

    I've spent the last few days reading accounts of President Donald Trump's inauguration speech, but I'm having a fundamental problem absorbing the analysis because I simply don't believe anything he says.

    I'm not just saying that I don't believe that "carnage" describes the American condition (if it does, we need a new word for Syria), and I say that as someone who's been trying for decades to get policymakers to pay attention to the economic costs of globalization.

    I'm saying I don't believe that he believes it.

    From his speeches to his tweets, Trump does not speak truth. Instead, he speaks in two modes. One, he says what his audience wants to hear, and two, he does his "Art of the Deal" shtick, trying to put perceived enemies and negotiating opponents back on their heels.

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Trump's imaginary 'voter fraud' claims will make it harder for minorities to vote

    President Trump has claimed repeatedly and falsely that voter fraud, rather than voter preference, robbed him of the popular vote last fall. And even though experts have debunked his claims, he's now calling for a major investigation of November's elections.

    The kind of investigation Trump is calling for already happened: In 2002, George W. Bush's administration conducted a comprehensive five-year study and found little to no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Recent examinations have come to similar conclusions, with a 2016 study finding that voter fraud is not a persistent problem.

    So why does Trump continue to make such claims when they have been repeatedly demonstrated to be false, even by members of his own party? Simple: Because claims of voter fraud offer a seemingly legitimate justification for enacting restrictive voting laws that have the effect of making it harder for people to vote, particularly people of color who are statistically likely to vote for Democrats.

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Flynn is creating the most military-heavy National Security Council of the modern era

    President Donald Trump is filling the government's national security leadership with former military officials and businessmen, rejecting the policy and academic types both parties have traditionally relied on. But the militarization of the Trump foreign policy team is even more concentrated on the White House staff led by national security adviser Michael T. Flynn - and it has observers both inside and outside the administration concerned.

    Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, is steadily assembling the most military-heavy National Security Council staff of the modern era. His effort stems from two motivations, according to several transition officials I spoke with. First, he wants people he knows and trusts. More broadly, Flynn believes that the Obama administration's NSC staff had a dearth of real war-fighting experience, resulting in bad policy decisions and poor follow-through, especially when combating terrorist groups abroad.

    "We're going to have people who have looked down a rifle scope," Flynn often said at meetings during the transition, according to one senior transition official.

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January 26th

Big-box stores should go back to the future

    If you'd told me back in 1984 that in 2017 we'd be talking about the collapse of Macy's in particular and department stores in general, I'd have been shocked.

    I really didn't expect them to last this long.

    As a young reporter enjoying an income noticeably above minimum wage for the first time, I finally had enough money to indulge my love of clothes -- not designer duds, but the mid-priced garments stocked by stores like Macy's. But since I was working every day and traveling to visit my long-distance boyfriend (now husband) most weekends, I had little time to shop, especially in big stores.

    Generalizing from my own experience, I concluded that with women entering the labor force in ever-increasing numbers, the days of leisurely housewives roaming department-store aisles were surely over. People would want to shop in small stores with focused inventories, where they could find what they wanted on a quick lunch break, or, like me, they'd order from catalogues.

    Remember them?

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America’s Great Working-Class Colleges

    The heyday of the colleges that serve America’s working class can often feel very long ago. It harks back to the mid-20th century, when City College of New York cost only a few hundred dollars a year and was known as the “Harvard of the proletariat.” Out West, California built an entire university system that was both accessible and excellent.

    More recently, these universities have seemed to struggle, with unprepared students, squeezed budgets and high dropout rates. To some New Yorkers, “City College” is now mostly a byword for nostalgia.

    It should not be.

    Yes, the universities that educate students from modest backgrounds face big challenges, particularly state budget cuts. But many of them are performing much better than their new stereotype suggests. They remain deeply impressive institutions that continue to push many Americans into the middle class and beyond — many more, in fact, than elite colleges that receive far more attention.

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A Cabinet Made for Rich Anglos

    Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate investor who began his run for the presidency and was one of the clowns who campaigned on promises that couldn’t be kept and fear that enveloped his core base, is now President Trump. Hillary Clinton accumulated about three million more votes than Trump, but the Trump campaign focused upon the Electoral College that gave him the presidency.

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Yes, Trump's Cabinet is super rich. That's not why we should be worried.

    Can a president with a private jet and a Cabinet of millionaires and billionaires understand and address the concerns of ordinary Americans?

    In much of the media coverage of President Donald Trump and his Cabinet picks, the assumption seems to be no. The Wall Street Journal ran the headline: "Trump's Wealthy Appointments Contrast With Populist Campaign Tone." Similarly, Politico assessed, "Trump's glittering roster of millionaires and billionaires risks undermining the fundamental basis of his campaign before the Manhattan magnate even takes the oath of office." Critics have accused Trump's selections of being out of touch with the working-class Americans he said he would fight for, or, worse, in the words of The Washington Post's Paul Waldman, "just one more con " plotted against the American people by Trump and his cronies.

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Trump's 'America First' policy will cost some countries much more than others

    Just minutes after Donald Trump took over as president, WhiteHouse.gov was updated with his new priorities. Among them? An "America first" foreign policy.

    Trump has laid out a staunchly nationalist vision for America, a zero-sum world where our needs are the only ones that matter. In his inaugural address Friday morning, there was little talk of international cooperation or building bridges. Instead, Trump offered this vaguely dystopian readout: "For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon."

    No more.

    "From this moment on," Trump said, "it's going to be America First." (A slogan popularized, for what it's worth, by Nazi sympathizers.)

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Trump's 10-point plan to help black America doesn't look like much of a deal

    Get ready, black people. It's time for Donald Trump's "New Deal for Black America."

    With his swearing-in as president on Friday, Trump's 10-point game plan for African Americans is now in play.

    "Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves," Trump said in his inaugural address. "But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities . . . an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."

    Among his pledges: a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, "of which the inner cities will be a major beneficiary."

    There are some catches and caveats, as you might expect from a wheeler-dealer like Trump.

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Trump wants to manage the economy by personally running every business. He can't.

    If the economy is ever going to improve, President Trump is just going to have to do it himself.

    That, at least, seems to be Trump's guiding principle as chief executive of the United States. Previous presidents used their office as a bully pulpit to talk about what should be done, in general macroeconomic terms. Trump, instead, is pursuing the ultimate in ultra-microeconomics; he acts like he wants to walk into the boardrooms of major corporations and tell them how they should be run, how many people they should hire and where. His method: Persuade executives to appease him personally and allow him to take credit for their job creation, in a kind of modern economic version of droit de seigneur. He praises the companies that help his interests and shames the ones whose executives express concerns about his erratic leadership or vague policies on free trade, health care or defense.

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