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Aug 16 2019

Pondering the Pundits

Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: From Trump Boom to Trump Gloom

The smart money thinks Trumponomics is a flop.

Last year, after an earlier stock market swoon brought on by headlines about the U.S.-China trade conflict, I laid out three rules for thinking about such events. First, the stock market is not the economy. Second, the stock market is not the economy. Third, the stock market is not the economy.

But maybe I should add a fourth rule: The bond market sorta kinda is the economy.

An old economists’ joke says that the stock market predicted nine of the last five recessions. Well, an “inverted yield curve” — when interest rates on short-term bonds are higher than on long-term bonds — predicted six of the last six recessions. And a plunge in long-term yields, which are now less than half what they were last fall, has inverted the yield curve once again, with the short-versus-long spread down to roughly where it was in early 2007, on the eve of a disastrous financial crisis and the worst recession since the 1930s.

Neither I nor anyone else is predicting a replay of the 2008 crisis. It’s not even clear whether we’re heading for recession. But the bond market is telling us that the smart money has become very gloomy about the economy’s prospects. Why? The Federal Reserve basically controls short-term rates, but not long-term rates; low long-term yields mean that investors expect a weak economy, which will force the Fed into repeated rate cuts.

So what accounts for this wave of gloom? Much though not all of it is a vote of no confidence in Donald Trump’s economic policies.

Eugene Robinson: If Trump retires to Mar-a-Lago, he better know how to swim

Someday, in the not-so-distant future, sea-level rise could claim Mar-a-Lago. Perhaps President Trump — by then no doubt disgraced, shunned and all but forgotten — would still be around to see his beloved Florida resort wiped out by a “Chinese hoax.”

Of all the wrongheaded policies Trump and his Republican Party insist on pursuing, their stubborn denial of climate change is the most baffling — and the most obviously self-destructive. Everything is personal with Trump. Can’t anybody get it through his head that his own coastal properties are urgently threatened? And that he is going out of his way to hasten their demise?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday that July 2019 was the hottest month on planet Earth since record-keeping began in the 1880s. Wherever you live, think back to all the punishing heat waves you’ve experienced. Globally, July was worse.

Michelle Goldberg: With Trump as President, the World Is Spiraling Into Chaos

Trump torched America’s foreign policy infrastructure. The results are becoming clear.

In a world spiraling towards chaos, we can begin to see the fruits of Donald Trump’s erratic, amoral and incompetent foreign policy, his systematic undermining of alliances and hollowing out of America’s diplomatic and national security architecture. Over the last two and a half years, Trump has been playing Jenga with the world order, pulling out once piece after another. For a while, things more or less held up. But now the whole structure is teetering.

To be sure, most of these crises have causes other than Trump. Even competent American administrations can’t dictate policy to other countries, particularly powerful ones like India and China. But in one flashpoint after another, the Trump administration has either failed to act appropriately, or acted in ways that have made things worse. “Almost everything they do is the wrong move,” said Susan Thornton, who until last year was the acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, America’s top diplomat for Asia.

Consider Trump’s role in the Kashmir crisis. In July, during a White House visit by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, Trump offered to mediate India and Pakistan’s long-running conflict over Kashmir, even suggesting that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked him to do so. Modi’s government quickly denied this, and Trump’s words reportedly alarmed India, which has long resisted outside involvement in Kashmir. Two weeks later, India sent troops to lock Kashmir down, then stripped it of its autonomy.

Americans have grown used to ignoring Trump’s casual lies and verbal incontinence, but people in other countries have not.

 

Catherine Rampell: Trump has a dream team for mismanaging a recession

President Trump inherited a good economy, and for roughly 2½ years managed (mostly) not to mess it up. As with his business empire, he also somehow convinced much of the public that this windfall was due to his personal talents rather than luck.

But right now his luck — and ours — might be running out.

Bond markets are flashing warning signs. Stock prices are whipsawing. Some troubling economic data are rolling in, both here and abroad. All this suggests that the risk of a U.S. recession is rising.

Trump seems to be worried about getting blamed for what is coming. For months, he’s been setting up the Federal Reserve as a scapegoat — including for market swings caused by his own foolish trade wars. When stocks go up, Trump claims full credit; when they go down, it’s the Fed’s fault. Personal responsibility and all that.

My view on what he (and the rest of us) should be fixed on is slightly different. If indeed we have a downturn, Trump might or might not be the cause; the exact triggers of recession are often hard to pinpoint. But you know what would unequivocally be his fault, rather than fickle fortune?

A badly mismanaged recession. Which seems inevitable if indeed recession strikes.

Paul Waldman: Donald Trump is terrified, and he wants you to be, too

President Trump is gripped by fear.

That is the message coming through from his public statements, his recent policy decisions, and reporting from inside the White House that paints a picture of a president increasingly rattled and irrational, striking out wildly as he searches for an argument that will frighten Americans enough to reelect him.

Let’s take a tour around the news today:

  • Trump told his fervid supporters at a rally Thursday that if he is not reelected, the economy will crash. “You have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k)’s down the tubes. Everything is going to be down the tubes. So whether you love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me.”
  • Amid growing signs of a coming economic downturn, he is reportedly experiencing a combination of denial and rage. “Trump has a somewhat conspiratorial view, telling some confidants that he distrusts statistics he sees reported in the news media and that he suspects many economists and other forecasters are presenting biased data to thwart his reelection,” The Post reports. But he has also “told aides and allies that [Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell] would be a scapegoat if the economy goes south.”
  • Trump is increasingly using the powers of the presidency against his perceived enemies: “The president has grounded a military jet set for use by the Democratic House speaker, yanked a security clearance from a former CIA director critical of him, threatened to withhold disaster aid from states led by Democrats, pushed to reopen a criminal investigation targeting Hillary Clinton and publicly called for federal action to punish technology and media companies he views as biased against him.”
  • When he learned that Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) were planning a visit to Israel, Trump pressured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bar them from the country — yes, a U.S. president pushing a foreign government to refuse entry to U.S. public officials. Netanyahu initially relented, then after near-universal international condemnation, announced that Tlaib would be allowed to visit her elderly grandmother on the West Bank.
  • In the most bizarre bit of news, Trump reportedly has expressed interest in buying Greenland, a suggestion that should make us wonder whether he has gone completely off the deep end. His own staff seems to be wondering too: “The presidential request has bewildered aides, some of whom continue to believe it isn’t serious, but Trump has mentioned it for weeks.” Perhaps if they stall him for a while, he won’t order them to blow up the moon and build him a time machine.

In all this, it’s the economic news that really has Trump sweating. As any sensible observer understands, presidents get more credit than they deserve when the economy does well and more blame than they deserve when it does poorly, because most of what happens in a country with about 330 million people and more than $20 trillion of economic activity is out of their control.