Days of Fear, Years of Obstruction

What the crisis called for, then, were policies to boost spending, to offset the effects of the housing bust. But the normal response, cutting interest rates, wasn’t available, because rates were already near zero. What we needed, instead, was fiscal stimulus: increased government outlays and tax cuts for lower- and middle-income families, who would be likely to spend them.

And we did indeed get substantial stimulus. But it wasn’t big enough, and even more important, it faded out much too fast. By 2013, with unemployment still above 7 percent, government at all levels was providing barely more economic support than it had in 2007, when the housing boom was still running strong.

.. But the most important reason the great slump went on so long was scorched-earth Republican opposition to anything and everything that might have helped offset the fallout from the housing bust.

When I say “scorched earth,” I’m not being hyperbolic. Let’s not forget that in the summer of 2011 Republicans in Congress threatened to provoke a new financial crisis by refusing to raise the debt limit. Their goal was to blackmail President Barack Obama into cutting spending at a time when unemployment was still 9 percent and U.S. real borrowing costs were close to zero.

.. The very same politicians who piously declared that America couldn’t afford to spend money supporting jobs in the face of a deep, prolonged slump just rammed through a huge, deficit-explodingtax cut for corporations and the wealthy even though the economy is currently near full employment. No, they haven’t abandoned their commitment to fiscal responsibility; they never cared about deficits in the first place.

.. So if you want to understand why the great slump that began in 2008 went on so long, blighting so many American lives, the answer is politics. Specifically, policy failed because cynical, bad-faith Republicans were willing to sacrifice millions of jobs rather than let anything good happen to the economy while a Democrat sat in the White House.

Maggie Haberman: Why I Needed to Pull Back From Twitter

 complained to a close friend that I hated being on Twitter. It was distorting discourse, I said. I couldn’t turn off the noise. She asked what was the worst that could happen if I stepped away from it.

There was nothing I could think of. And so just after 6 p.m. last Sunday, I did.

.. After nearly nine years and 187,000 tweets, I have used Twitter enough to know that it no longer works well for me. I will re-engage eventually, but in a different way.

.. Twitter has stopped being a place where I could learn things I didn’t know, glean information that was free from errors about a breaking news story or engage in a discussion and be reasonably confident that people’s criticisms were in good faith.

.. The viciousness, toxic partisan anger, intellectual dishonesty, motive-questioning and sexism are at all-time highs, with no end in sight.

.. It is a place where people who are understandably upset about any number of things go to feed their anger, where the underbelly of free speech is at its most bilious.

.. Twitter is now an anger video game for many users. It is the only platform on which people feel free to say things they’d never say to someone’s face.

.. During the 2012 campaign, the first during which Twitter was widely used by journalists and campaign aides, I became something of a scold to younger reporters who I thought misused the medium.

.. Pictures of themselves at events, inside jokes and conversation fragments were all there for the world to see. They should treat their feeds like news platforms, I huffed

.. But Twitter has a staccato allure for those of us who need frequent inputs and have grown accustomed to them in the Trump era, with news cycles that last roughly three hours.

.. Many pointed out errors, but most did it respectfully, and I was appreciative.

.. But the medium has changed. Everyone I follow on the site seems to be tweeting more frequently, so I had to check in more frequently. No matter the time of day or night, I felt like I had to plug back into the Matrix, only to be overwhelmed by the amount of content.

.. instead of engaging in thoughtful debates, I found myself spending an increasing amount of time explaining an errant word or a poorly phrased tweet, and coming off defensive as I did it.

.. On Twitter, everything is shrunk down to the same size, making it harder to discern what is a big deal and what is not.

.. Tone often overshadows the actual news. All outrages appear equal. And that makes it harder for significant events — like Mr. Trump’s extraordinarily pliant performance with President Vladimir Putin of Russia — to break through.

.. More significant is the way Mr. Trump has tried to turn everyone around him, including the journalists who cover him, into part of his story.

And people on Twitter have started to react to me in that same way, treating me as if I am a protagonist in the president’s narrative.

.. He creates the impression that the media is almost as powerful as he is in his incessantpersonalized attacks on reporters on Twitter.

.. Twitter is a useful and important platform. It’s a good aggregator for breaking news.

.. The downside is that everyone is treated as equally expert on various topics.

 

For Trump, Failure Is the Only Option

that they raise it to 4 percent of G.D.P., much higher than the bloated military spending in his own budget. He then claimed, falsely, to have won major concessions, and graciously declared that it is “presently unnecessary” to consider quitting the alliance.

Was there anything our allies could have done that would have mollified him? The answer, surely, is no. For Trump, disrupting NATO doesn’t seem to be a means to an end; it’s an end in itself.

.. While Trump rants about other countries’ unfair trade practices — a complaint that has some validity for China, although virtually none for Canada or the European Union — he hasn’t made any coherent demands. That is, he has given no indication what any of the countries hit by his tariffs could do to satisfy him, leaving them with no option except retaliation.

.. So he isn’t acting like someone threatening a trade war to win concessions; he’s acting like someone who just wants a trade war. Sure enough, he’s reportedly threatening to pull out of the World Trade Organization, the same way he’s suggesting that the U.S. might pull out of NATO.

.. Whatever claims Trump makes about other countries’ misbehavior, whatever demands he makes on a particular day, they’re all in evident bad faith. Mr. Art of the Deal doesn’t want any deals. He just wants to tear things down.

.. The institutions Trump is trying to destroy were all created under U.S. leadership in the aftermath of World War II. Those were years of epic statesmanship — the years of the Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan, in which America showed its true greatness. For having won the war, we chose not to behave like a conqueror, but instead to build the foundations of lasting peace.

Thus the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, signed in 1947 — at a time of overwhelming U.S. economic dominance — didn’t seek a privileged position for American products, but instead created rules of the game to promote prosperity around the world. Similarly, NATO, created in 1949 — at a time of overwhelming U.S. military dominance — didn’t seek to lock in our hegemony. Instead, it created a system of mutual responsibility that encouraged our allies, including our defeated former enemies, to see themselves as equals in preserving our mutual security.

.. anything that weakens the Western alliance helps Vladimir Putin; if Trump isn’t literally a Russian agent, he certainly behaves like one on every possible occasion.

.. Trump obviously dislikes anything that smacks of rule of law applying equally to the weak and the strong. At home, he pardons criminal bigots while ripping children away from their parents. In international relations, he consistently praises brutal strongmen while heaping scorn on democratic leaders.
..

He may complain that other countries are cheating and taking advantage of America, that they’re imposing unfair tariffs or failing to pay their share of defense costs. But as I said, those claims are made in bad faith — they’re excuses, not real grievances. He doesn’t want to fix these institutions. He wants to destroy them.

.. Alternatively, you might have thought that big business, which is deeply invested, literally, in the existing world order would protest effectively. So far, however, it has been utterly ineffectual. And while talk of trade war sometimes causes the stock market to wobble, as far as I can tell, investors still aren’t taking this seriously: They imagine that Trump will bluster and tweet for a while, then accept some cosmetic policy changes and call it a win.

But that kind of benign outcome looks increasingly unlikely, because Trump won’t take yes for an answer. He doesn’t want negotiations with our allies and trading partners to succeed; he wants them to fail. And by the time everyone realizes this, the damage may be irreversible.

Trump attacks Mueller ‘witch hunt’ as WH source calls investigation ‘out of control’

President Trump reacted angrily Monday to news that federal agents had raided the office and home of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen — calling the action “disgraceful” and describing special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as “an attack on our country.”

.. “It’s a disgraceful situation. It’s a total witch hunt,” said Trump, who claimed that he had “given over a million pages in documents to the special counsel. They continue to just go forward … and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. Actually it’s much more than that. You could say right after I won the [2016 Republican] nomination it started.”

Trump also accused Mueller’s investigators of being “the most biased group of people [with] the biggest conflicts of interest” and said Attorney General Jeff Sessions “made a terrible mistake for the country” when he recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation last year.

A source close to the White House told Fox News’ John Roberts that the raid showed that the Mueller investigation “is out of control” and was a “demonstration of bad faith” on the part of the special counsel.

.. Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, said Monday’s raid was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and was based at least partly on a referral from Mueller.

.. A source close to the Trump legal team told Fox News’ Catherine Herridge that the raid on Cohen was “aggressive” and designed to “squeeze the president.” The source, who has knowledge of talks between Mueller and the president’s legal team, added that the raid “puts a fork in” the prospect of Trump agreeing to be interviewed by the special counsel.

.. Under Justice Department regulations, Mueller is required to consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein when his investigators uncover new evidence that may fall outside his original mandate. Rosenstein then would determine whether to allow Mueller to proceed or to assign the matter to another U.S. attorney or another part of the Justice Department.

.. “Why don’t I just fire Mueller?” asked Trump, repeating a reporter’s question to him Monday night. “Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens, but I think it’s really a sad situation when you look at what happened.

“And many people have said, ‘You should fire him.'” Trump added. “… So we’ll see what happens … this is a pure and simple witch hunt.”