Archive

March 9th, 2016

The stark contrast between the job market and the election, and why it matters

    Allow me to pose a study of stark contrasts: today's politics and today's job market.

    To say the former is "a mess" only betrays my lack of eloquence combined with the fact that this is a family newspaper. I believe I can say, without partisan challenge, that what's going on in the Republican presidential campaign is an embarrassment to the United States.

    As for the job market, good things are happening. The underlying trend of job gains is over 200,000 per month, a strong enough clip to nudge the jobless rate even lower than its current eight-year low of 4.9 percent. Although wage growth fell back a bit last month, the tight job market is providing workers with a bit more bargaining power. At 2.2 percent, average hourly wage growth is beating (very low) inflation, meaning paychecks have more buying power.

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Economic policymakers at sea on inflation

    Here is a thought experiment that illuminates the challenges facing macroeconomic policymakers in the United States and the rest of the industrial world.

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CNN commentator: Media will share blame when Trump 'institutes internment camps'

    As Donald Trump added to his delegate total on Saturday with primary and caucus victories in Louisiana and Kentucky, CNN commentator Sally Kohn offered a grim forecast of a Trump presidency - and suggested the media will be culpable.

    "There is a fine line between covering a candidate and amplifying a candidate," Kohn, a progressive activist, said during the cable channel's coverage of Saturday voting. "And I'm sorry, but, yes, Donald Trump may be the Republican front-runner, I still think we're giving him way too much attention in proportion to the other candidates who also had victories to celebrate tonight. I'm worried. When he institutes internment camps and suspends habeas [corpus], we'll all look back and feel pretty bad."

    Shortly after making those remarks on the air, Kohn took to Twitter to remind critics - who were quick to dismiss her hypothetical - that Trump previously cited the World War II-era internment of Japanese Americans as a precedent for his plan to ban all Muslims from entering the United States.

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Hidden Gold in College Applications

    If the gatekeepers at Davidson College had judged the teenager by her ACT score, she probably wouldn’t have gotten in. It was 25 out of a possible 36, and more than three-quarters of the students at Davidson, a liberal-arts school in North Carolina with about 1,800 undergraduates and an acceptance rate of just over 20 percent, do better than that.

    Her grades at a small charter school in the Boston area didn’t carry the day. I was allowed to look at her application, with her name redacted, and what I saw was an impressive but unexceptional mix of A’s and B-pluses, along with an impressive but unexceptional array of extracurricular activities much like any ambitious high school senior’s.

    I had to read deeper, as the admissions officers at Davidson had done, to understand why they felt so strongly about her, and to feel that way myself. I had to notice details embedded in her letters of recommendation and mentioned fleetingly in bits of personal information that she’d provided.

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'Helicopter money' might be closer than you think

    Central bankers, it may soon be time to don your flying suits and start your engines. There's a growing suspicion that quantitative easing and zero/negative interest rates have lost any power they might have had to kickstart the economy. So Milton Friedman's famous "helicopter money" is back on the radar as a potential solution to what ails global growth.

    With governments still unwilling to flex their fiscal muscles to boost the world economy, Friedman's idea -- easy to articulate, devilishly hard to envisage in practice -- is very much in vogue. Here's how he described it in "The Optimum Quantity of Money," a collection of papers published in 1969:

    "Let us suppose now that one day a helicopter flies over this community and drops an additional $1,000 in bills from the sky, which is, of course, hastily collected by members of the community."

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Donald the Dangerous

    Is there any scarier nightmare than President Donald Trump in a tense international crisis, indignant and impatient, with his sweaty finger on the nuclear trigger?

    “Trump is a danger to our national security,” John B. Bellinger III, legal adviser to the State Department under President George W. Bush, bluntly warned.

    Most of the discussion about Trump focuses on domestic policy. But checks and balances mean that there are limits to what a president can achieve domestically, while the Constitution gives a commander in chief a much freer hand abroad.

    That’s what horrifies America-watchers overseas. Der Spiegel, the German magazine, has called Trump the most dangerous man in the world. Even the leader of a Swedish nationalist party that started as a neo-Nazi white supremacist group has disavowed Trump. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, reflected the views of many Britons when she tweeted that Trump is worse than Voldemort.

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Chickens, Home to Roost

    Here’s why the Trump campaign is wicked fun:

    I watched Donald Trump in New York for decades, as a bachelor swanning, a party fixture mingling, a master of bling and bluster.

    I went with him on his art-filled plane in 1999 as he dipped his toe in the presidential pool and saw him shyly approach his first political rope line, even as he bragged that other candidates didn’t draw as many cameras or have a supermodel by their side.

    So I can assure you of two things. No one is more shocked at how far, how fast, Trump has come than Trump.

    Watching him morph into a pol in real time and wriggle away from the junior-varsity GOP chuckleheads trying to tackle him is hypnotic. He’s like the blond alien in the 1995 movie “Species,” who mutates from ova to adult in months, regenerating and reconfiguring at warp speed to escape the establishment, kill everyone in sight and eliminate the human race.

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Why tackling bans are a wrongheaded solution

    Last weekend, Liverpool played Manchester City in an English soccer cup final. About 18 minutes into the game two Liverpool players banged heads going for the same ball. About six minutes later one of them, Mamadou Sakho, fell over like a drunken baby giraffe when defending his goalmouth, and was immediately led off the pitch by the Liverpool doctor. The player was furious, hurling a water bottle away in anger and then sitting in the stands hidden beneath a jacket, apparently in tears. Arguably, the defender's exit cost his team (and mine) the game and lost them the trophy. But it was still the correct thing to do.

    The debate about how to curb head injuries in sport, particularly in American football and rugby, is important. But the conclusion that seems to be gaining popularity in those two sports -- protect players by banning as much as tackling as is possible -- feels misguided at best and downright dangerous at worst.

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An illegal abortion killed my grandmother

    The assistant district attorney pressed the police officer for details. Did he ask my grandmother Maria Consolazio whether she knew she was going to die?

    "I did," Officer Arthur O'Neill answered. "She said she didn't know."

    Reuben Wilson, the assistant D.A., further questioned: Had he asked her if she had any hope of recovery? O'Neill did - she didn't know.

    This testimony in State of New York v. Regina Michele was heard in the New York City 6th District Court of Brooklyn on Nov. 10, 1921. Michele, accused of providing an abortion, denied knowing or ever seeing my grandmother. The case was dismissed.

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What Trump voters are afraid of

    This is shaping up to be a seminal year in American politics. What was unthinkable six months ago is emerging as a strong possibility today: Donald Trump may be on his way to becoming the Republican nominee for president of the United States.

    His ascension is causing the party establishment - congressional leaders, high-toned conservative commentators and deep-pocketed right-wing money moguls - to go, as Sen. Lindsey O. Graham, R-South Carolina, put it: "bat-expletive crazy." Except he didn't say "expletive."

    Their meltdown, however, is secondary to Trump's elevation to GOP front-runner and likely party standard-bearer in November.

    But for goodness' sake, please note that it is not Trump who is placing the crown on his own head.

    Republican voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia and Vermont, and those in primaries and caucuses yet to come, are making Trump the heart of the "party of Lincoln."

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