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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Those Whom The Gods Wish To Destroy ...

they first make mad. Still true!!!

(Note: this post, and probably several others to follow, are actually about the US dollar and relative currency trends. If you have the patience, at the end it may be worthwhile. Because, when you come down to it, the value of the dollar will be determined by the economy, and right now the economy is determined by politics. Political initiatives are going to determine Real Gross Private Domestic Investment. Which is and has been the problem with this recovery:

The other view - percent change YoY:

The Trump candidacy and presidency will be about trying to fend off the next recession, which pretty much was baked in the US economic cake. )

The amazing thing about Donald Trump's victory is not that it happened - he was a shoo-in, given the failure of the Republican AND Democratic leadership to maintain touch with the voters, a declining economy, and additionally, the Democrats' irresponsibility in nominating a deeply ethically flawed candidate.

Now I can imagine that Democrats don't want to debate out loud whether they could have won this one if they weren't running a crook who had already flouted laws as Secretary of State and appeared to have sold influence as Secretary of State. The natural assumption would be "Yes", but is it true? I don't know the answer. I suspect they wouldn't have, due to the economic issues.

I have been looking for good reporting from a Democratic slant on this election, and this article (from NPR) is about the best. I saw hints in the article that the debate over the bad candidate/bad message question is occurring:
Onyeukwu, like the Democrats in the Mahoning Valley, also thinks the party needs to focus more on the economy. He points out that's how a man named Barack Hussein Obama won Ohio — twice. ...  
"Hillary's not the problem," said Samuel, the labor organizer. "The democratic process is the problem. And, making sure people feel included." Samuel said the Democratic Party doesn't seem to understand its audience. And for Onyeukwu, that audience includes many people of color. So he wants a party that also continues to push for more progressive policies on race.
I'd recommend reading the article. What more progressive policies on race might be, I don't know. Earlier, the observation that an economic focus is not exclusive of social policy was made:
And yet others insist that economics and race are not mutually exclusive choices, that it is possible to focus on both simultaneously. Figuring out that balance is going to be central to the party's survival, as it currently wanders in the political wilderness.
The Dems may be out of political power now, but I think wandering in the wilderness is up to them. 

The problem seems to be more that they are wandering in the urban areas, and have forgotten about the vastness of the flyover territory in the US, demonstrated by the 2016 presidential county map:
Overall Trump won approximately 2,600 counties to Clinton’s 500, or about 84% of the geographic United States. However, Clinton won 88 of of the 100 largest counties (including Washington D.C.).
Oops. The significance of the geographical distribution is that you might shift a few counties back by concentrating on them, but will you get back the Senate? Can you fight back and win the House? If not, the best the Dems could achieve would be a presidential stymie. Voters have voted for that before!

In 2016, surprisingly, they rejected it - or rather, the voters evaded that problem by electing a Republican candidate who is really an old-fashioned Democrat. The electorate is and has been moderate, and so they put Trump in there to defend their interests. They wanted economic growth and protection for the average citizen against vested interests. They wanted JFK. Trump was as close as they could get.

It seems clear to me that the essential political issue for the Democrats is entirely whether they can recover enough of a geographic base in 2018 to become policy players nationally. I write this because money seems to be very important in Democratic campaigns (it was unimportant in Trump's presidential run - he spent way less and won). But Dems have been playing the demographic-segment for so long that they need a media splash to get people to turn out. And - if Dems aren't able to convince donors that they can deliver, donors are not going to cough up in the same way.

Unless Democrats can shift to a bottom-up policy generation for 2018, they will be losers again - the problem with having such a strong but geographically limited base is that unless the interests of that base are general, your congressional leadership is not going to be helping the party regain ground. It's likely to help the party lose ground. That's why they have to develop a DNC that basically polls locals and asks them what they need and where they want to go.

The above doesn't fit well with special-interest politics centered on groups. The Dems already know that, which is why they are going after women. It did not work in 2016. In 2018, perhaps they can leverage it a bit more.

But for this putative DNC-reboot, trying to build a 2018 base capable of electoral success can't be done in isolation - they have to deal with the other players. In my next post, I'll try to list the major players at the table.

I would appreciate your input!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The NYT and Ahistoricism

There is this nice editorial in the NY Times today, to celebrate the peaceful passing of power from the Lightbringer to Hitler 2.0, entitled "What President Trump Doesn't Get About America". You can open it in a private window if you don't have access. Ann Althouse has been going to town thwapping the NYT, btw. We have very different angles of attack, so I'd recommend hers as well.

My instinct, looking at the headline, was "This is going to be rich - because clearly the NYT crew have not understood an awful lot about America, which is why Trump's election came as such a shock to them."

It delivered:
The new president offered a tortured rewrite of American history — ignoring the injustices of the past as well as the nation’s economic resilience and social achievements in recent decades.
One longed, as Mr. Trump spoke, for a special kind of simultaneous translation, one that would convert Trumpian myth into concrete fact. It might have noted, when Mr. Trump sounded like a politician from the 1980s in promising to “get our people off welfare and back to work,” that the number of people receiving federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits fell by more than 70 percent, to 1.2 million, between 1996 and 2016. As Mr. Trump spoke about the disappearance of jobs, it would have noted that the unemployment rate has fallen from 10 percent in 2009, the height of the recession, to less than 5 percent. 
Mr. Trump portrayed the nation’s closed factories as having needlessly hemorrhaged jobs to overseas companies. But even as production jobs fell by about five million since 1987, the country’s manufacturing output has increased by more than 86 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 
Gee, 1987 was a while ago. How about a little more recently??  Generally voters don't go back to three decades ago when voting now.

It turns out that industrial production in 2016 was below the level of 2007. It had briefly, oh so briefly, recovered to just above its pre-recession peak, but that was in 2014. In 2015 industrial production began a new decline, and by the time Election Day 2016 had rolled around, the US had been in an industrial recession for well more than a year.

One might hazard that the "Rust Belt" (that's a hint, NYT people  - that's a clue!!) might have been particularly receptive to Candidate Trump's discussion of the country's decline due to the facts that
A) They were experiencing another industrial recession of the type that preceded the 2007 Late Great Economic Unpleasantness, and
B) The other candidates, including the Oh So Esteemed And Worthy Mrs. Clinton, had all failed to notice this occurrence.
Had Madame Secretary The Most Brilliant Person Ever Former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton The Most Qualified Candidate Ever to Run for President Most Glorious and Esteemed Glass Ceiling Breaker and Not Even Indicted (to give her her full title) seen fit to run a campaign that noticed this minor detail of American life, perhaps the outcome would have been different. But no, instead the puzzling lack of enthusiasm for the Obama Economy Victory Tour that her campaign was pushing was blamed on racism, sexism, and homophobia. (Nothing causes a bitter clinging to homophobia like not just having the local factory shut down, but then having the plant itself demolished so that the property taxes won't be paid.)

Note that when Obama ran in 2012, industrial production was improving AND HE CAMPAIGNED WITH THAT MESSAGE. He took credit for it and said that this recovery was and would be an American priority. This might explain why racism suddenly reared its ugly head in rejecting a white candidate in areas in which four years prior, a black candidate had succeeded.

More economic resilience graphs (NYT crew has all the words, I just have the facts):

That's the difference between the Reagan recovery and the Obama recovery, and those bitter racist homophobic sexist clingers in the Rust Belt live it.

Cause and Consequence (I'm the Jane Austen of economic bloggers):

That's not because of an aging population - that's the 25-54 employment/population ratio. Yes, welfare dependence has skyrocketed. It had to do so.

Which causes consequences:

Skyrocketing public debt in relation to GDP. The trajectory doesn't look better if you look at federal debt held by the public, but what the heck - I am not being polemical here:

Some might call this carnage.

Some might call the news that the US death rate (age-adjusted) is rising "carnage". Some might even wonder why having more of the population covered under the glorious Obamacare social progress results in:
Most of the retreat in life expectancy came from increases in deaths from heart disease, chronic lower respiratory diseases, unintentional injuries, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and suicide, according to the CDC.
A rise in deaths from chronic illness when we supposedly have increased access to healthcare across the population? Wouldn't that mean that the population LOST access to health care? It's almost as if, for no possible reason, the access to rescue medication like the EpiPen and higher-end inhalables like Advair diminished? As if many generic medications now cost 5-10 times what they did five years ago? As if the combination of $6,000 deductibles and a legal monopoly granted to insurance companies somehow reduced access to health care? How could that be, with all the social advances made in our glorious republic?

But don't worry, the NYT is not going to travel that lonesome road by asking a question like that. It's entirely politically incorrect, isn't it? We must be politically correct even if it is killing those bitter clingers in those rural counties.

One suspects that those rural counties felt a tiny surge of hope when President Trump told them in his inaugural address that they would no longer be forgotten. One suspects that a manufacturing resurgence would really help Detroit. But it is politically incorrect to say that out loud, isn't it?

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