Blow and Krugman

In “A Trump-Sanders Coalition? Nah.” Mr. Blow says there is little evidence of common interests between supporters of the senator and the businessman.  Prof. Krugman considers “The Diabetic Economy” and discusses chronic weakness in Europe and what it means.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

Donald Trump has gone from blaming Bernie Sanders’s supporters for disruptions at his rallies to making overtures to them — saying Sanders has been “treated terribly by the Democrats,” saying that he would harvest attacks on Hillary Clinton from Sanders’s speeches, and even urging Sanders to run as an independent.

And, to take it further, CNN reported Friday that “Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said the campaign is ready to bring into the fold anyone in the ‘feel the Bern’ movement who is not inclined to support Clinton in the general election.”

The network quoted Lewandowski as saying:

“You have two candidates in Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders which have reignited a group of people who have been disenfranchised and disappointed with the way Washington, D.C., and career politicians have run the country … Bernie Sanders has large crowds — not as large as Mr. Trump’s, but large crowds — and so there is a level of excitement there for people about his messaging and we will bring those people in.”

This is a fascinating political ploy, but rife with folly.

First, it is important to acknowledge that both movements are born of the same populist source: white working- and middle-class voters’ fear, anger, anxiety and disappointment over what they see as a broken political system, beholden to moneyed interests and oblivious to their pain, suffering and rage.

According to a Pew Research Center report published on March 31, Trump’s supporters are more likely than supporters of his Republican opponents to say that life in the United States has gotten worse for people like them compared with 50 years ago, and Sanders’s supporters were more likely than Clinton’s supporters to say the same. But still, there was a 40-point gap between the percentage of Trump and Sanders supporters agreeing with that sentiment.

This is a largely white American lament. A majority of white voters believe that things have gotten worse, while a majority of black voters and a plurality of Hispanic voters believe that things have gotten better for people like them in the last 50 years. It is these more optimistic minorities who have formed the bedrock of Clinton’s support and pushed her within striking distance of securing the nomination.

Furthermore, the Pew report found that Trump’s and Sanders’s supporters were the most likely on their respective sides of the ideological divide to be angry at the government; believe that the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests; and are more isolationist, believing that America’s involvement in global problems makes those problems worse.

And lastly, there is an implicit, or even explicit, critique of President Obama present in both camps, which seem to see him as a disappointment: either as feckless or fainthearted, either because he went too far or not far enough, either because he was not tough enough with our international adversaries or not tough enough with his congressional opponents.

This view of the Obama presidency as, at best, a disappointment, or at worst, a failure, is a pernicious and unsupportable lie that did quite a bit to sour minorities on Sanders and to rally opposition to Trump.

Obama wasn’t perfect. He didn’t accomplish all that he thought he would or could. He made mistakes. But, all told, he was true to the deliberative, center-left pragmatist that he has always been.

Indeed, according to PolitiFact, Obama has kept twice as many promises as he has broken.

He was never a superhero, but some of the hurt feelings come from him allowing people to believe that he was. As Obama wrote in the prologue to “The Audacity of Hope”: “I serve as a blank screen on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” The thing is, he did not become what some people projected. He remained himself.

That said, these Trump and Sanders supporters are looking at the dragon from different vantage points and seeing fundamentally different dangers.

Trump’s supporters seem to see a country in decline, a government that is out of control and incompetent, an influx of immigrants that represent an existential threat and a culture that is hamstrung by political correctness.

Conversely, Sanders’s supporters see a democracy slipping into oligarchy, a country that has utterly failed to keep pace with its global peers on social structure issues — economic equality, taxation, health care and education — and has gone completely off the rails on many others, like criminal justice and mass incarceration.

These are not crowds that are likely to lie down together. Indeed, I would imagine that Trump’s brand of xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, misogyny and fascism would not go down easily with the faction of left progressives that swell the ranks of Sanders’s supporters.

Indeed, The Washington Post reported in March:

“Polling shows little evidence that Trump has a shot to win large pockets of Sanders voters in November, should Clinton maintain her lead and win the Democratic nomination. Among Democratic-leaning voters who … prefer Sanders to win the party nod, only 13 percent have a favorable view of Trump, compared to 86 unfavorable, according to a Washington Post-ABC News national poll earlier this month.”

If these numbers are correct, any substantial Trump-Sanders coalition is a nonstarter.

It’s no surprise that The Real Estate Tycoon is trying to peel off Sanders supporters.  He’s looking at a loss of catastrophic proportions in November…  Here’s Prof. Krugman, writing from Lisbon:

Things are terrible here in Portugal, but not quite as terrible as they were a couple of years ago. The same thing can be said about the European economy as a whole. That is, I guess, the good news.

The bad news is that eight years after what was supposed to be a temporary financial crisis, economic weakness just goes on and on, with no end in sight. And that’s something that should worry everyone, in Europe and beyond.

First, the positives: the euro area — the group of 19 countries that have adopted a common currency — posted decent growth in the first quarter. In fact, for once it was better than growth in the U.S.

Europe’s economy is, finally, slightly bigger than it was before the financial crisis, and unemployment has come down from more than 12 percent in 2013 to a bit over 10 percent.

But it’s telling that this is what passes for good news. We complain, rightly, about the slow pace of U.S. recovery — but our economy is already 10 percent bigger than it was pre-crisis, while our unemployment rate is back under 5 percent.

And there is, as I said, no end in sight to Europe’s chronic underperformance. Look at what financial markets are saying.

When long-term interest rates on safe assets are very low, that’s an indication that investors don’t see a strong recovery on the horizon. Well, German five-year bonds currently yield minus 0.3 percent; in fact, yields are negative out to eight years.

How should we think about these incredibly low interest rates? Recently Narayana Kocherlakota, the former president of the Minneapolis Fed, offered a brilliant analogy. Responding to critics of easy money who denounce low rates as “artificial” — because economies shouldn’t need to keep rates this low — he suggested that we compare low interest rates to the insulin injections that diabetics must take.

Such injections aren’t part of a normal lifestyle, and may have bad side effects, but they’re necessary to manage the symptoms of a chronic disease.

In the case of Europe, the chronic disease is persistent weakness in spending, which gives the continent’s economy a persistent deflationary bias even when, like now, it’s having a relatively good few months. The insulin of cheap money helps fight that weakness, even if it doesn’t provide a cure.

But while monetary injections have helped to contain Europe’s woes — one shudders to think of how badly things might have gone without the leadership of Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank — they haven’t produced anything that looks like a cure. In particular, despite the bank’s efforts, underlying inflation in Europe seems stuck far below the official target of 2 percent.

Meanwhile, unemployment in much of Europe, very much including my current location, is still at levels that are inflicting huge human, social and political damage.

It’s notable that in Spain, which these days is being touted as a success story, youth unemployment is still an incredible 45 percent.

And there’s nothing in reserve to deal with a fresh shock. Suppose that Greece blows up again, or the British public votes to leave the European Union, or China’s economy goes off a cliff, or whatever. What could or would European policy makers do to offset the blow? Nobody seems to have any idea.

The thing is, it’s not hard to see what Europe should be doing to help cure its chronic disease. The case for more public spending, especially in Germany — but also in France, which is in much better fiscal shape than its own leaders seem to realize — is overwhelming.

There are large unmet needs for infrastructure and investors are essentially begging governments to take their money. Did I mention that the real 10-year interest rate, the rate on bonds that are protected from inflation, is minus 0.8 percent?

And there’s good reason to believe that spending more in Europe’s core would have big benefits for peripheral nations, too.

But doing the right thing seems to be politically out of the question. Far from showing any willingness to change course, German politicians are sniping constantly at the central bank, the only major European institution that seems to have a clue about what is going on.

Put it this way: Visiting Europe can make an American feel good about his own country.

Yes, one of our two major parties is poised to nominate a dangerous blowhard for president — but it has been obvious for a while that the G.O.P. was in the process of going mad, and the odds are that he won’t actually end up in the White House.

Meanwhile, the overall economic and political situation in America gives ample grounds for hope, which is in very short supply over here.

I’d love to see Europe emerge from its funk. The world needs more vibrant democracies! But at the moment it’s hard to see any positive signs.


One Response to “Blow and Krugman”

  1. Maria Kontominas Says:

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