Blow and Krugman

In “The Madness of America” Mr. Blow says violence by either Trump supporters or those opposed to him is self-defeating.  Prof. Krugman, in “A Pause That Distresses,” says after  a disappointing jobs report: Don’t panic, but do worry.  Here’s Mr. Blow:

The candidacy of Donald Trump, the fervor of those who support it, and the fierce opposition of those who don’t is making America mad — both angry and insane, as the dual definitions of the word implies.

One of the most disturbing displays of this madness is the violence that Trump has incited in his supporters, and the violent ways in which opposition forces have responded, like the exchange we saw last week in San Jose.

Both forms of violence are unequivocally wrong, but speak to a base level of hostility that hovers around the man like the stench from rotting flesh.

What is particularly disturbing is to see anti-Trump forces lashing out at Trump’s supporters, seemingly provoked simply by a difference in political position.

This cannot be. It’s self-defeating and narrows the space between the thing you despise and the thing you become.

Listen, I understand how unsettling this man is for many.

I understand that he is elevating and normalizing a particular stance of racism and sexism that many view as a spiritual attack, a kind of psychic violence from which they cannot escape.

Furthermore, the election cycle promises at least five more months of this, until Election Day, and even more if by some tragic twist of fate Trump is actually elected.

And, if elected, the threat could move from the rhetoric to the real, wreaking havoc on millions of lives.

I understand the frightful, mind-numbing, hair-raising disbelief that can descend when one realizes that this is indeed plausible.

Recent polls have only added to this anxiety as some have shown an increasingly tight race between him and Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee; some even have him beating her.

(Now of course, these polls must be taken with a grain of salt. Trump and Clinton are in different phases of the fight: Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee with no remaining opponents and with Republicans coalescing around his candidacy; Clinton is still in a heated contest with Bernie Sanders, who has given no indication of giving up.)

I understand that Trump represents a clear and present danger, and having a passionate response that encompasses rage and fear is reasonable.

It is understandable to want to make one’s displeasure known.

But there is a line one dares not cross, and that is the one of responding to violent rhetoric with violent actions.

As I have said before, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best in his 1967 book “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?,” and he is worthy of quoting here at length:

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

You may feel activated by the cause of righteousness, but violence is most often a poor instrument for its implementation. Indeed, violence corrodes righteousness. It robs it of its essence.

The best way to direct passions is not only with the bullhorn, but also at the ballot box.

In a democracy, the vote is the voice. The best way to reduce the threat Trump poses is to register and motivate people who share your view of the threat.

It is easy to look at the throngs who support and exalt this man and be discouraged, but don’t be. It is easy to look at Republicans like Paul Ryan abandoning their principles and selling their souls to fall in line behind this man and be discouraged, but don’t be. It is easy to see the media fail miserably to counter Trump and his surrogates’ Gish-gallop and be discouraged, but don’t be.

These are the moments in which the nation’s mettle — and ideals — are tested. I have a fundamental belief that although America was born and grew by violence and racial subjugation, that although it has often stumbled and even regressed, that its ultimate bearing is toward the better.

Folks must be reminded that one demagogue cannot lead to a detour or a dismantling. There is an elevated plane of truth that floats a mile above Trump’s trough of putrescence.

Trump and his millions of minions have replaced what they call “political correctness” with “ambient viciousness.”

This won’t “make America great again,” because the “again” they imagine harkens back to America’s darkness. We are the new America — more diverse, more inclusive, more than our ancestors could ever have imagined.

Don’t invalidate that by allowing yourselves to be baited into brutishness.

Now here’s Prof. Krugman:

Friday’s employment report was a major disappointment: only 38,000 jobs added, a big step down from the more than 200,000 a month average since January 2013. Special factors, notably the Verizon strike, explain part of the bad news, and in any case job growth is a noisy series, so you shouldn’t make too much of one month’s data. Still, all the evidence points to slowing growth. It’s not a recession, at least not yet, but it is definitely a pause in the economy’s progress.

Should this pause worry you? Yes. Because if it does turn into a recession, or even if it goes on for a long time, it’s very hard to envision an effective policy response.

First things first: Why is the economy slowing? The usual suspects wasted no time blaming President Obama. But you need to remember that these same people have been warning of imminent disaster ever since Mr. Obama was elected, and have been wrong every step of the way. They predicted soaring interest rates and soaring inflation; neither happened. They declared that the Affordable Care Act would be a huge job-killer; the years after the act went into full effect were marked by the best private-sector job creation since the 1990s.

And despite this disappointing report, we should remember that private job growth under Mr. Obama has vastly exceeded George W. Bush’s record, even if you leave out the economic collapse of 2008.

So what is causing the economy to slow? My guess is that the biggest factor is the recent sharp rise in the dollar, which has made U.S. goods less competitive on world markets. The dollar’s rise, in turn, largely reflected misguided talk by the Federal Reserve about the need to raise interest rates.

In a way, however, it hardly matters why the economy is losing steam. After all, stuff always happens. America has been experiencing major economic downturns at irregular intervals at least since the 1870s, for a variety of reasons. Whatever the cause of a downturn, the economy can recover quickly if policy makers can and do take useful action. For example, both the 1974-5 recession and the 1981-2 recession were followed by rapid, “V-shaped” recoveries, because the Fed drastically loosened monetary policy and slashed interest rates.

But that won’t — in fact, can’t — happen this time. Short-term interest rates, which the Fed more or less controls, are still very low despite the small rate hike last December. We now know that it’s possible for rates to go slightly below zero, but there still isn’t much room for a rate cut.

That said, there are other policies that could easily reverse an economic downturn. And if Hillary Clinton wins the election, the U.S. government will understand perfectly well what the options are. (The likely response of a Trump administration doesn’t bear thinking about. Maybe a series of insult Twitter posts aimed at China and Mexico?) The problem is politics.

For the simplest, most effective answer to a downturn would be fiscal stimulus — preferably government spending on much-needed infrastructure, but maybe also temporary tax cuts for lower- and middle-income households, who would spend the money. Infrastructure spending makes especially good sense given the federal government’s incredibly low borrowing costs: The interest rate on inflation-protected bonds is barely above zero.

But unless the coming election delivers Democratic control of the House, which is unlikely, Republicans would almost surely block anything along those lines. Partly, this would reflect ideology: although right-wing economic predictions have been utterly wrong, there’s little indication that anyone in that camp has learned from the experience. It would also reflect an unwillingness to do anything that might help a Democrat in the White House. Remember, every Republican in the House voted against a stimulus even during the darkest days of the slump, when Mr. Obama was at the peak of his popularity.

If not fiscal stimulus, then what? For much of the past six years the Fed, unable to cut interest rates further, has tried to boost the economy through large-scale purchases of things like long-term government debt and mortgage-backed securities. But it’s unclear how much difference that made — and meanwhile, this policy faced constant attacks and vilification from the right, with claims that it was debasing the dollar and/or illegitimately bailing out a fiscally irresponsible president. We can guess that the Fed will be very reluctant to resume the program, and face accusations that it’s in the pocket of “corrupt Hillary.”

So the evidence of a U.S. slowdown should worry you. I don’t see anything like the 2008 crisis on the horizon (he says with fingers crossed behind his back), but even a smaller negative shock could turn into very bad news, given our political gridlock.



One Response to “Blow and Krugman”

  1. Russian Sage Says:

    Democrats have allowed themselves to be defined by Republicans. The Dems have to renegotiate their social contract with America in terms that don’t rely on race, religion, and ethnicity.

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