Death of the Middle Class – Literally

 

“Sickness and early death in the white working class could be rooted in poor job prospects for less-educated young people as they first enter the labor market, a situation that compounds over time through family dysfunction, social isolation, addiction, obesity and other pathologies.”

I was stunned when I read this article and others describing a study that was conducted in 2015 by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, two celebrated economists, and then updated in a study just released. Our middle class is dying.

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Schumer’s Filibuster Threat Means Gorsuch Is Headed to SCOTUS

 

Over at FoxNews, Sai Prakash and I argue that the Democrats’s filibuster effort of Gorsuch is a sign of victory — for Gorsuch. Do we have it right?

Contrary to media reports Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s promise to invoke a filibuster signals the success, not the failure, of Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination. If Democratic Senators had made any progress in attacking Gorsuch’s qualifications, record, or judicial philosophy, they could persuade their Republican colleagues to reject Gorsuch. With 48 Senators in their caucus, Democrats would only need persuade three Republicans to join them.

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The Work of Judy Kudlow

 

You’re going to have to listen to the podcast we just recorded to learn exactly how the matter came up–it had something to do with a conversation about defunding the National Endowment for the Arts–but James Lileks and guest host Larry Kudlow got going on the counter-revolution now taking place, here and there, among artists intent on rediscovering lost values such as mastery of technique and the celebration of, well, you know, beauty. One of the leading revolutionaries? Larry’s wife, Judith Pond Kudlow. Larry was too modest on her behalf to make much of this, but I’m happy to do some raving about Judy myself. Devoting herself to form, composition, color, light, and the sheer glory of paint skillfully applied to canvas: in her studio in the South Bronx, Judy is pursuing subversive activities.

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The “New Normal” Is Here to Stay (Unless We Do Something About It)

 

Real GDP during the Obama recovery has only been half that of the Reagan recovery. Blame Obamanomics? One problem with this theory — or even the idea that the hangover from the financial crisis bears all the blame — is that the economy’s troubles preceded both the Obama presidency and the Great Recession. So there’s a timing issue, one explored in the new paper “The disappointing recovery of output after 2009” by John Fernald of the San Francisco Fed, Stanford’s Robert Hall, Harvard’s James Stock, and Princeton’s Mark Watson.

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Friday’s the Big Day for AHCA

 

This is a preview from Friday morning’s Daily Shot newsletter. Subscribe here free of charge.

The House of Representatives was supposed to vote Thursday on the AHCA, the Republican replacement bill for Obamacare. So what happened? Did it pass? As you can probably tell from our header, the vote was postponed. This gave Republicans more time to negotiate changes to the bill.

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We’re Against Emotionalism, Except When We’re Not

 

Conservatives have rightly taken pride in Neil Gorsuch’s calm and cerebral performance at his Senate confirmation hearings. Many commentators, along with Republican senators, have mocked Democrats for presuming to evaluate Gorsuch based on the outcomes of his cases. Did he “side with the little guy” or with big corporations? The correct answer, conservatives have correctly chided, is that justice is supposed to be blind. A good judge makes determinations based upon the facts and the law without regard to whether he personally prefers one party to another and without some social justice agenda to equalize the fortunes of little guys versus big guys. It’s not little versus big, sympathetic versus unsympathetic in a courtroom, but facts and law.

It’s a shame then, that so many conservatives are disregarding the virtues they laud in Gorsuch – prudence, careful weighing of facts, refusal to be swayed by emotional appeals – when it comes to a disturbing story of a rape in Maryland.

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Pat Buchanan: Politics Can’t Fix This. It’s Going to Take A St. Paul

 

At the prompting of a Facebook friend, I just took a look at this interview with Pat Buchanan, which we recorded in March of 2012 to mark the 2011 publication of his book, Suicide of a Superpower. You know what? In the Age of Trump, it seems fresh and relevant and provocative all over again. If you have a few moments today — or perhaps you could bookmark this for the weekend — take a look.

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There Is Right. And There Is Wrong

 

Tomi Lahren — who jumped on the scene with one well-timed rant at One America News Network, then transitioned to a show on The Blaze where her almost always angry, screaming style generates millions of views per video — seemed almost calm when, appearing on “The View,” she made the startling suggestion that because she believes in limited government she is also pro-choice. The video:

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David Keene on the Future of Conservatism

 

We caught up with the remarkable David Keene, founder of the American Conservative Union (which organizes CPAC). Just a few highlights of Mr. Keene’s incredible life: He served as political and/or campaign advisor to Vice President Spiro Agnew, and Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and as campaign advisor to Bob Dole and Mitt Romney (second run). He also served as President of the National Rifle Association. Currently Mr. Keene is the Opinion Editor at The Washington Times. David shares his wealth of knowledge and wisdom on where conservatism is heading.

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America’s Worst Economic Problem Might Be Getting Better

 

The American Growth Machine is badly malfunctioning, at least as diagnosed by official government statistics. US productivity growth — the engine of long-term economic growth — has averaged just 0.5% since 2010 vs. 2.3% over the previous six decades. Productivity growth in 2016 fell to 0.2%, notes IHS Markit, the ninth weakest reading in the postwar era. (And that’s post World War II, not post-Iraq War.) Moreover, when stalled productivity growth meets slowing labor force growth, you get an economy capable only of uninspiring 1-2% growth at best. And growth that slow, especially when combined with greater income inequality, may feel like no growth at all to most Americans. The Great Stagnation.

All terrible news, unless of course the official numbers are wrong. Some economists think current statistical methods badly understate the value of new products, especially in the tech economy, and miss welfare gains from free goods like Facebook and Wikipedia. If they are right, overall economic growth and living standards are growing faster than we think. Then again, some economists think the official numbers are capturing a real downshift. The technopessimists argue today’s innovations aren’t as transformative as past ones. Combustion engine beats smartphone.

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The Republican Health Care Muddle

 

The Republican Party is facing resistance from both the left and the right as it tries to undo key provisions of the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010. Even if the current GOP bill, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA), bites the dust, some changes will surely have to be made, so the only question is which ones and why. President Trump’s demands for the bill are unhelpful: “Affordable coverage for everyone; lower deductibles and health care costs; better care; and zero cuts to Medicaid.” No responsible reforms can meet these populist expectations.

The only way to move the debate forward is to consider the first principles of health care economics. Any sensible health care reform has to simultaneously (1) reduce costs, (2) ensure better access, and (3) provide higher quality care. There is an obvious tension among these goals. The best way to raise quality, for example, is to invest more resources in health care, which could raise costs and reduce access. It looks as though no one government program could meet all three goals at once.

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Sacrificing Border Security for Politics

 

The US Customs and Border Protection, part of Homeland Security, has been a source of crime and corruption for years. New hires and contractors are not properly screened for employment, and now that President Donald Trump has requested an additional 5,000 border officers, tripling the size of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, our borders will be at greater risk than ever. Instead of Congress taking steps to improve screening for new hires, they are taking steps in the opposite direction. How has this happened?

In 2010, Andrew Becker reported on a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee hearing on corruption of federal law enforcement officers:

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5 Reasons the Fed Should Not Raise Interest Rates

 

I will admit a current bias against monetary tightening and the idea that the US economy is at full employment (though maybe such a state is only a long nine iron away). And although I am not a “high pressure economy” person, I would take any rate hikes very, very gradually. And if a voting member of the FOMC, I probably would have stayed the course at this week’s Fed meeting. Much like Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, who explains his dissent — with plenty of chart goodness — in a Medium blog post.

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Book Review: What Next

 

“What Next” by Daniel HannanOn June 23rd, 2016, the people of the United Kingdom, against the advice of most politicians, big business, organised labour, corporate media, academia, and their self-styled “betters”, narrowly voted to re-assert their sovereignty and reclaim the independence of their proud nation, slowly being dissolved in an “ever closer union” with the anti-democratic, protectionist, corrupt, bankrupt, and increasingly authoritarian European Union (EU). The day of the referendum, bookmakers gave odds which implied less than a 20% chance of a Leave vote, and yet the morning after the common sense and perception of right and wrong of the British people, which had caused them to prevail in the face of wars, economic and social crises, and a changing international environment re-asserted itself, and caused them to say, “No more, thank you. We prefer our thousand year tradition of self-rule to being dictated to by unelected foreign oligarchic technocrats.”

The author, Conservative Member of the European Parliament for South East England since 1999, has been one of the most vociferous and eloquent partisans of Britain’s reclaiming its independence and campaigners for a Leave vote in the referendum; the vote was a personal triumph for him. In the introduction, he writes, “After forty-three years, we have pushed the door ajar. A rectangle of light dazzles us and, as our eyes adjust, we see a summer meadow. Swallows swoop against the blue sky. We hear the gurgling of a little brook. Now to stride into the sunlight.” What next, indeed?

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Does Trumponomics Deserve Credit for Rising Optimism?

 
President Donald Trump’s overview of the budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2018 on its release by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Washington, March 16, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts.

As I have been writing, fears of a stagnationary New Normal seem to have receded, at least for now. Just ask the booming stock market, right? Also ask the suits. “Leaders of the largest US companies are becoming more optimistic about sales growth, hiring and capital investment, causing a measure of chief-executive sentiment to increase by the most in seven years,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

The simplistic, US-centric explantion is that the Trump fiscal and regulatory agenda deserve a good bit of the credit. But I find that explanation curious given the deep uncertainty about, for instance, the state of tax reform and infrastructure spending. Not to mention Trump trade policy. Also, things are looking bright beyond America’s shores. From the Economist:

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Unprecedented?

 

The reason I’m whispering is I’m not supposed to have my iPhone in the high security unit. And, please excuse any typos because messaging in this odd-fitting jacket is difficult.

I wanted to let you know my good friend, fellow Mensa, Nobel Prize-winning, and long-time shrink, Dr. Sarah Bellum, sent two large men to invite me to stay for a while in the Thomas Eagleton wing of this fine facility. She thought my reaction to MSNBC (Mostly Sleazy Nasty But Corrupt) analyst Rachel Maddog’s breathless revelation that Big D paid $38 million in federal taxes in 2005 was over the top.

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More Conservative Than Thou

 

In our ideologically scrambled age, it’s getting very hard to tell who’s who.

Political conservatives have been opposed to “socialized” medicine pretty much forever. Republicans who agreed with this philosophically paid a heavy political price as Democrats rolled out the “Mediscare” tactic every election season.

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Judge Rules Against Travel Ban – Will It Survive?

 

I think the Hawaii district judge’s opinion will likely not survive on appeal, either to the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court. It stretches beyond the current law in two areas.

First, it finds the state of Hawaii has the right to sue because its tourism industry will suffer and its university will see fewer visiting students and scholars. If that is true, then any state will be able to challenge any change in federal policy that might affect the number of people, goods, or services that enter or leave the United States. That has little support in Supreme Court case law, which stresses that judges should not recognize such broad theories that would allow anyone to challenge every federal policy in court.

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Where Does the GOP Agenda Stand Now?

 

The headline on my new The Week piece, “Donald Trump’s failing presidency” is definitive whereas the actual analysis is inquisitive. There is certainly a long way to go in his first term. And big-time policymaking is never a series of uninterrupted successes. It’s often darkest before the dawn.

But there are some worrisome signs. I mean, if a presidency were on the wrong track, trouble with its two biggest initiatives would be a powerful indication. And there are clear problems with healthcare and taxes. As I write:

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Pathway to a Balanced Budget Begins with a Fixed Debt Limit that Provides Flexibility

 

According to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (Public Law 114-74), the current suspension of the debt ceiling expires at the end of the day Wednesday, March 15. Following this date, the US Treasury can avoid defaulting on the federal debt only by using “extraordinary measures.” Indeed, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin sent a letter to Speaker Ryan on March 8, stating that the Treasury will start using these measures on March 16. He also asked Congress address the matter in a way that avoids jeopardizing the full faith and credit of the US government. These measures (i.e., accounting steps) will most likely allow the federal government to make it to early fall before it runs up against a hard ceiling on the debt.

Suspension or No Suspension?

The first question facing Congress on the debt ceiling is whether to set a new debt ceiling or simply to extend the current suspension. What should Congress do? Without hesitation, I recommend that Congress set a new ceiling that aligns with the state of the art balance budget amendment that is being proposed by the States.

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Trump Firing US Attorneys Is a Good Thing

 

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has asked for the resignations of 46 US attorneys who were appointed by President Obama. Yes, they are being fired.

Some people are upset with AG Sessions, and President Donald Trump, for the “abruptness” of the firings. I’m not upset; it’s a good start. And only a start:

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Here’s to Future Days

 

Now for something completely different. Young Phoenix Legg started his “career” reporting on American politics during the presidential debates of 2016. He’s covered rallies, protests, and conventions, doggedly chasing down interviews and showing more maturity and integrity per pound than any reporter on the network news. We were so impressed that we set aside time to get his story where he shares his thoughts on the current state of political media. Phoenix has a blog worth checking out where he takes on social justice warriors, protesters, and “ignorant folks who say hateful things.” Bravo to Phoenix and his Father Matt.

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