Archive

October 23rd, 2016

WikiHillary for President

    Thank God for WikiLeaks.

    I confess, I was starting to wonder about what the real Hillary Clinton — the one you never get to see behind closed doors — really stood for. But now that, thanks to WikiLeaks, I’ve had a chance to peruse her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banks, I am more convinced than ever she can be the president America needs today.

    Seriously, those speeches are great! They show someone with a vision, a pragmatic approach to getting things done and a healthy instinct for balancing the need to strengthen our social safety nets with unleashing America’s business class to create the growth required to sustain social programs.

    So thank you, Vladimir Putin, for revealing how Hillary really hopes to govern. I just wish more of that Hillary were campaigning right now and building a mandate for what she really believes.

    WikiHillary? I’m with her.

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Donald Trump is threatening to take our democracy down with him. He'll fail miserably at that, too.

    The two biggest moments of Wednesday night's debate also work neatly in tandem to suggest how the ending to this whole ugly campaign might surprise us all. The first was Donald Trump's repeated refusal to say he will accept the legitimacy of the outcome, which is properly being denounced as an outrageous effort to undermine our democracy.

    The second key moment was Trump's suggestion that Hillary Clinton is "such a nasty woman." This seemingly helpless slide into low-grade pettiness, in response to the most cursory of efforts to needle him over his taxes, hints at another way this could all turn out.

    Trump is trying to go out in a blaze of frightful demagoguery that threatens to take our democracy down with him. Indeed, he appears to be laying the groundwork to question the outcome's legitimacy long after the election is over as a way to keep his followers engaged. But, should things continue as they are, Trump may end up furiously tweeting about the election's "rigged" outcome at 3:00 a.m. as a sidelined, shriveled, increasingly buffoonish figure, a failed demagogue who is beneath the attention even of late-night TV comics.

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Clinton can afford some Trump-like fiscal craziness

    Hillary Clinton often boasts, as she did in Wednesday night's debate, that her policies wouldn't add a penny to the national debt. She says that's because she offsets every new spending proposal and tax break with a budget cut or tax increase.

    Her fiscal rectitude contrasts with Donald Trump's fiscal craziness. He ignores accounting niceties to slash taxes and protect entitlement programs. In doing so, he would add at least $4 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.

    Here's a heretical thought: Clinton could be a little crazier. She could even steal a page from Trump and propose more deficit spending to rev up the economy in her first few years in office, if she wins.

    This somewhat surprising recommendation draws from a new economic model that mimics the effects of tax cuts on behavior. The model, unveiled this week by the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School with an assist from the Tax Policy Center, seeks to explain how much individuals and corporations work, save, invest and spend when taxes go up or down.

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When presidential candidates (and their defenders) start throwing around big GDP numbers, ignore them

    Last week I participated in a wide-ranging interview with Mark Halperin sponsored by Bloomberg News on various economic issues in this election cycle. I'd like to focus on the discussion we had about presidents and economic growth rates.

    Our discussion followed one Halperin had with a top Trump economic adviser, Peter Navarro, who claimed Trump's economic agenda would lift the growth rate of real GDP from its current trend of about 2 percent to 3.5 percent. To give you some context, that would constitute a huge jump. At 2 percent, real GDP doubles about every 35 years; at 3.5 percent, that window shrinks to about 20 years.

    It would also constitute as close to an impossibility as one can get in economics. Trump's jump to 3.5 percent is pure snake oil. The best I can say about it is that it's half-a-percent less oily than Jeb Bush's claim that he could get to 4 percent, which led Mike Huckabee to outdo him with a 6 percent claim.

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A lesson for Donald Trump on putting America first

    In the third and last presidential debate on Wednesday night, Donald Trump again refused to say whether he would concede to Hillary Clinton if he was the loser of the Nov. 8 election.

    Americans must now contend with a candidate who casts doubts on the democratic process before the votes have been counted, and who suggests that the election is rigged, without offering any evidence to back up his claim.

    This is unprecedented. By contrast, consider the behavior of past presidential candidates who lost elections but who actually had reason to complain about the outcome, if not contest it. Their example tells us much about the conventions and expectations that, until now, have ensured the stability of the U.S. political system.

    Take, for example, Andrew Jackson. He had genuine grounds for believing that the outcome had been rigged and the democratic process subverted when he first ran for president in 1824. And yet Jackson, a man who typically settled disputes with dueling pistols, nonetheless graciously stepped aside when it became clear that protest would damage the nation's political institutions.

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What Donald Trump is doing to discredit the media is very, very dangerous

    If there's one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on in this election, it's that the media suck.

    Just 1 in 3 people told Gallup they have "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of trust in the media to report the news accurately, the lowest that number has been since Gallup began asking the question in 1997. Republicans led the way - going from 41 percent to 14 percent on trusting the media in the past 19 years - but the numbers among independents (30 percent trust media to be fair) and Democrats (51 percent) have dipped as well.

    "You deserve it!" you will say. "Journalism is dead!" you will say. (Trust me: You say these things to me every day!)

    And, there is truth in that. Including the coverage of the war in Iraq to the swing, a miss on Donald Trump's potential as a candidate and yesterday's news that journalists have overwhelmingly donated to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, reporters have not exactly covered themselves in glory. That very much includes me - most recently for missing the Trump train early.

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When Fans Throw Post-Election Dung, How Will Trump Respond?

    So now the big crybaby says he's losing because his opponent is crooked and the referees are blind. It's straight out of the WWE "Wrestlemania" playbook. As I've said before, it's not for nothing that Donald J. Trump was inducted into the professional wrestling Hall of Fame.

    It's all there: the boasting, the strutting, the racialized taunts, and the simulated mayhem naive observers sometimes mistake for real. But it's all make-believe, and deep down nearly all WWE fans know it. I expect most Trump supporters do, too. Having failed miserably in his televised debates with Hillary Clinton -- if he hadn't been so outclassed, it'd be tempting to say he choked -- Trump now claims that the entire U.S. political system is corrupt.

    "The election is being rigged by corrupt people pushing completely false allegations and outright lies in an effort to elect her president," the GOP candidate whined. "We can't let them get away with this, folks ... Remember this, it's a rigged election ... It's a rigged election ... It's a rigged election."

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We don't need more housing projects

    The current system of low-income housing assistance is fertile ground for reform. The majority of housing assistance recipients are served by project-based programs whose cost is enormously excessive for the housing provided. But one major change would allow us to serve many more poor households without increasing public spending.

    To serve the interests of taxpayers who want to help low-income families, Congress should shift the budget for low-income housing assistance away from supporting housing projects and toward helping tenants pay their rent. It should also eliminate subsidies for the construction of new housing projects. Phasing out housing projects to shore up the housing voucher program would ultimately free up the resources to provide housing assistance to millions of additional people .

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Progressives aren't a threat to American Catholicism. Donald Trump is.

    "A good Catholic," Pope Francis says, "meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern." It seems like a straightforward proposition put forth by the universal leader of the Catholic Church, a sentiment that has been communicated in some way or another by his recent predecessors.

    But this past week, meddling in politics has become a "scandal" for some of my fellow Catholics, who've tried to spin a 2011 private email conversation between friends into something far more nefarious. In the alleged stolen email threads, John Podesta - who now chairs Hillary Clinton's campaign - and some of his progressive colleagues have a candid conversation about the internal workings of the Catholic Church.

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Trump doesn't hate all media - he just has terrible taste

    "Consider the source" is a good rule in life, and even more so in the realm of news.

    In recent days, Donald Trump stood in front of riled-up crowds and argued that both candidates should undergo drug tests before the final presidential debate Wednesday. Why? Because Hillary Clinton, he claimed, is taking performance-enhancing substances.

    "I don't know what's going on with her, but at the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end it was like take me down," he said. "She could barely reach her car."

    He provided no evidence for any of this. In fact, he seemed to be purposely mixing up Clinton's debate performance with her recent bout with pneumonia. (In a much-viewed video, her knees buckled as she departed early from a 9/11 commemoration in New York.)

    But here's how Roger Stone, Trump's ally and longtime dirty-trickster, described Clinton's second debate behavior, in a recent interview with Alex Jones, the syndicated radio host and proprietor of InfoWars, a website that thrives on far-right conspiracy theories:

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