FutureOfCapitalism Gets Results

August 18, 2017 at 3:52 pm

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At 10:24 p.m. on August 15, we posted here about President Trump's manufacturing council: "The other council members could join in the mass resignations, or Trump could just fire the rest of them and shut the council down. Either approach would be an improvement over the status quo."

At 1:14 pm on August 16, Mr. Trump tweeted: "Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both. Thank you all!"

That was quick. One wishes it were as easy for the president to dismantle other unnecessary parts of the executive branch.

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The Week That Was

August 18, 2017 at 3:04 pm

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It seems strange to me that a mere 500 knuckleheads in Charlottesville — in a country of 320 million — were able to set and dominate the national media agenda for an entire week.

People blame the president for failing to denounce them as rapidly and unequivocally as the press demanded, or for being a moving target on the issue, which then transformed it from being a story about 500 knuckleheads to being a story about the president of the United States. I suppose there is some truth to that. And it's also true that a counterprotester was killed, apparently by one of the neo-Nazis or white supremacists, which added to the newsworthiness of the story.

Even so, it seems to me as if the press played precisely into the hands of the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and neo-Confederates. Rather than treating them as a marginal, fringe phenomenon, they gave them tens of billions of dollars worth of free publicity. You basically couldn't pick up a newspaper, turn on the radio, or watch cable television this past week without hearing again and again about these people. To me it seemed disproportionate to their actual influence.

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Manufacturing Council Resignations Are A Good Start

August 15, 2017 at 10:24 pm

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At least five corporate executives have reportedly quit President Trump's "American Manufacturing Council" in response to what they and a lot of other people view as the president's mishandling of a violent white supremacist, neo-Nazi, or neo-Confederate rally and counterprotest in Virginia over the weekend.

That's a good start, but I won't be completely satisfied until every executive on the council quits and the whole operation is shut down.

That's not because I think Trump is irredeemably tainted by racism. Even if the president were a person of color who is a progressive paragon of racial enlightenment, the Council would still be a lousy idea.

If the president wants advice from business leaders, nothing is stopping him from calling them on the telephone, inviting them to meetings at the White House, or going to visit their factories. Nor is anyone preventing the Secretary of Commerce from taking similar steps.

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Private-Sector Health Care Solution

August 15, 2017 at 2:54 pm

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Big business is finding ways to control its health care costs, even if Congress won't. That's the topic of my column this week, which explores why companies may have an easier time than politicians in tackling health care. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Google Diversity Memo

August 12, 2017 at 10:18 pm

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There's an emerging consensus that the press has done an awful job of covering the story of the Google engineer, James Damore, who was fired for writing a memo critical of the company's diversity efforts.

Here is David Brooks, writing in the August 12 New York Times: "The coverage of the memo has been atrocious....Various reporters and critics apparently decided that Damore opposes all things Enlightened People believe and therefore they don't have to afford him the basic standards of intellectual fairness."

Here is the Boston Globe's technology reporter, Hiawatha Bray, appearing on WBUR radio in Boston on August 10: "By the way, to me one of the most disgraceful things that has come out of this is the press coverage. It has been astonishingly inaccurate... The Washington Post on their Snapchat page actually said that he claimed that women were genetically incapable of becoming engineers. He wrote nothing of the sort."

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The $147,500 One-Year Journalism Master's Degree

August 11, 2017 at 3:23 pm

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Columbia University's new "master of science in data journalism" — which costs "just over $106,000 for tuition and fees -- plus $41,232 in living expenses" — is the topic of a skeptical look from Inside Higher Ed.

The press and politicians like to complain about for-profit colleges saddling students with lots of debt for degrees that don't generate much earning power, but between this Columbia example and Harvard's theater institute, it looks like the Ivy League is seeking a piece of the action in terms of testing what price the market will bear.

Thanks to reader-participant-community member-watchdog-content co-creator N. for sending the tip.

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More on Trump and the Stock Market

August 11, 2017 at 6:31 am

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The San Francisco Chronicle asked for a piece from me about Trump and the stock market after an editor there saw my column from earlier in the week on the topic. The Chronicle piece ran today under the headline "Give Trump his due for stock market surge." You can check it out here.

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Trump and the Stock Market

August 9, 2017 at 11:12 pm

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The Trump Bump in the stock market was the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at the New Boston Post (here), New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Squadron Versus Koch

August 9, 2017 at 11:02 pm

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A New York state senator, Daniel Squadron, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, has an op-ed in the New York Daily News announcing that he is resigning to work with Jeffrey Sachs and Adam Pritzker on some kind of project. The piece includes the following passage:

The last election reflected a growing divide — based on geography, background, opportunity and even truth — that threatens our democracy and our future.

It's not the inevitable consequence of living in a huge country with diverse interests. Rather, this divide has been manufactured for the financial gain of the Koch brothers and very few others. For decades, they have invested in campaigns on the local, state and national levels, as well as think tanks, legislative development, and media outlets, building a unified front to advance their self-serving agenda.

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Tom Friedman Is Right About This

August 9, 2017 at 1:05 pm

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Thomas Friedman makes some reasonable points in his latest New York Times column:

Some things are true even if Donald Trump believes them!...

We can't take in every immigrant who wants to come here; we need, metaphorically speaking, a high wall that assures Americans we can control our border with a big gate that lets as many people in legally as we can effectively absorb as citizens.

• The Muslim world does have a problem with pluralism — gender pluralism, religious pluralism and intellectual pluralism — and suggesting that terrorism has nothing to do with that fact is naïve; countering violent extremism means constructively engaging with Muslim leaders on this issue.

• Americans want a president focused on growing the economic pie, not just redistributing it....

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Sugar Barons

August 9, 2017 at 12:53 pm

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"These Sugar Barons Built and $8 Billion Fortune With Washington's Help" is the headline over a pretty good Bloomberg News article outlining the Fanjul family's business: "it's held up by a quota system that restricts imports to give producers some 85 percent of U.S. sales, and by a federal loan program that, basically, puts a floor under prices." The result is higher prices for consumers.

As is often but not always the case, government interference in the free market winds up helping politically influential very rich people and making them even richer, while hurting the average person buying sugar (or something else) at the supermarket. Journalists have been writing one version or another of this same story about the Fanjul family for years (here is a nearly identical version that appeared in Time magazine in 1998, nearly 20 years ago), and it never seems to change.

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Photo of the Day

August 9, 2017 at 12:34 pm

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On a brief visit to New York City earlier this week, I stopped in at a McDonald's restaurant and encountered a machine that replaces the human being who used to take your order. This is, of course, an entirely predictable consequence of Governor Cuomo and the legislature creating a special minimum wage for fast food workers. That wage, which is being phased in, reached $12 an hour in New York City on December 31, 2016, and is scheduled to climb to $15 on December 31, 2018.

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Lincoln Review

August 3, 2017 at 4:35 pm

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The Lincoln Review podcast had me on to talk about President Trump and immigration. You can listen here or watch below or by clicking here. I think the production values are higher on the audio version. The host is Jeff Semon, who is a Republican cable news commentator in Boston and a former congressional candidate, and the other guest is Mike Stopa, another former Republican congressional candidate. It's (a lot) less formal than television, but it was fun. Your feedback is welcome in the comments.

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Virtually Every Economist

August 3, 2017 at 7:09 am

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An Eduardo Porter column in the New York Times reports:

Virtually every economist contends that paying for current Social Security and Medicare benefits into the future will require not just higher taxes on the rich, but also more money from everyone. There are fewer workers paying taxes for every retiree collecting benefits. The choice is between slashing the retirement package and raising taxes on the young.

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The Tesla Subsidy

August 1, 2017 at 10:59 am

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Bloomberg reports on the new Tesla Model 3, which it notes "has a starting price of $35,000." It notes further that "The U.S. government provides a tax rebate of $7,500 for electric cars. Some states offer additional incentives. In California and New York, for example, a base Model 3 might cost as little as $25,000."

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