In “Donald Trump and the Tainted Presidency” Mr. Blow says a hostile foreign power got its way. Prof. Krugman, in “Deficits Matter Again,” explains why the Trump-Putin economy isn’t like Obama’s. Here’s Mr. Blow:
The more we learn about Russia’s hacking and the release of its electronic loot during our presidential election, the more it becomes clear that Donald Trump’s victory and his imminent presidency are already tainted beyond redemption.
While Russian hacks “were not involved in vote tallying,” the publishing of pilfered emails and promulgation of fake news altered the zeitgeist, poisoned the political environment and shifted public opinion, all of which redounded to Trump’s benefit.
Donald Trump is as much Russia’s appointment as our elected executive. The legacy of his political ascendance will be written in Cyrillic and affixed with an asterisk.
Do not let this be buried in the pundits’ blathering: A hostile foreign power stole confidential correspondence from American citizens — this is no different than physically breaking into an American office and carting off boxes of written letters — and funneled that stolen material to a willing conspirator, Julian Assange. The foreign power then had its desired result achieved on our Election Day.
This was an act of war and our presidency was the spoil.
This is not to say that some of what was revealed about the Democrats in the hacked emails wasn’t disturbing. It was, although most of the emails simply showed the unappetizing process by which the sausage is made. What made the leaks feel fishy was the absolute asymmetry of the targeting — it was Democratic only.
Putin helped to defeat a woman, Hillary Clinton, who promised to be a staunch adversary and helped elevate in her stead a Troglodytic lout who somehow believes that the snake that coils itself around you is just giving you a hug, and who sounded so pro-Vladimir Putin that he did everything but blow kisses at the Kremlin.
On Friday, intelligence officials released a damning report on the Russian hacking that read: “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”
On the same day, Trump was briefed on the hacking by intelligence officials, after which he released an incredulous statement claiming “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
(Ironically, that also happened to be the same day that a joint session of Congress performed its perfunctory duty of counting the Electoral College votes and verifying Trump’s victory.)
No sir, Mr. Trump, as is your wont, your assertions stretch well beyond your proof. An impact that cannot be measured is not the same as an impact that does not exist. The question isn’t “if” but “how much”; not the existence of impact but the degree to which that impact was dispositive.
The intelligence community did not say that the Russian hacking had “no effect on the outcome of the election,” but rather stated quite clearly: “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The U.S. Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze U.S. political processes or U.S. public opinion.”
You twist the truth like a string of yarn caught in a fan. But eventually, you and every citizen of this country must face the fact that you were not only elected but also installed, that your victory will be forever tangled up in the yellow tape of an international crime scene.
No wonder then that you have systematically sought to denigrate all inquiry into this act of cyber warfare that the intelligence report called “unprecedented.” You have scorned our intelligence agencies — you tweet “intelligence” in quotes the same way that we should eventually use quotes around the word “president” when it precedes your name — and you have continued your assault on the press.
On Friday, Trump told my colleague Michael Shear that the focus on the hacking amounted to “a political witch hunt.” Wrong again. It’s a truth hunt. Furthermore, the only person subjected to a witch hunt in this election was named Hillary.
Yes, as you repeatedly exclaimed before the votes were cast, the election was rigged, not by widespread voter fraud, as you falsely suggested, but rather by widespread dissemination of fraudulently obtained information. It is no coincidence that WikiLeaks began to release John Podesta’s emails just an hour after Trump’s disgusting “grab them by the [expletive]” Access Hollywood tape surfaced.
Mr. Trump, your victory is tainted; your legitimacy is rightly in question. The American people cast their ballots in the fog of fake news and under influence of stolen property weaponized as a tool of propaganda.
Some may hesitate to say that the American presidency was stolen, but it is irrefutable that the integrity of our democratic process was injured when the sanctity of what we considered uncorrupted self-determination was assaulted.
Donald Trump is Vladimir Putin’s American “president” — clearly his preference and possibly his product.
And now here’s Prof. Krugman:
Not long ago prominent Republicans like Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, liked to warn in apocalyptic terms about the dangers of budget deficits, declaring that a Greek-style crisis was just around the corner. But now, suddenly, those very same politicians are perfectly happy with the prospect of deficits swollen by tax cuts; the budget resolution they’re considering would, according to their own estimates, add $9 trillion in debt over the next decade. Hey, no problem.
This sudden turnaround comes as a huge shock to absolutely nobody — at least nobody with any sense. All that posturing about the deficit was obvious flimflam, whose purpose was to hobble a Democratic president, and it was completely predictable that the pretense of being fiscally responsible would be dropped as soon as the G.O.P. regained the White House.
What wasn’t quite so predictable, however, was that Republicans would stop pretending to care about deficits at almost precisely the moment that deficits were starting to matter again.
Those apocalyptic warnings are still foolish: America, which borrows in its own currency and therefore can’t run out of cash, isn’t at all like Greece. But running big deficits is no longer harmless, let alone desirable.
The way it was: Eight years ago, with the economy in free fall, I wrote that we had entered an era of “depression economics,” in which the usual rules of economic policy no longer applied, in which virtue was vice and prudence was folly. In particular, deficit spending was essential to support the economy, and attempts to balance the budget would be destructive.
This diagnosis — shared by most professional economists — didn’t come out of thin air; it was based on well-established macroeconomic principles. Furthermore, the predictions that came out of those principles held up very well. In the depressed economy that prevailed for years after the financial crisis, government borrowing didn’t drive up interest rates, money creation by the Fed didn’t cause inflation, and nations that tried to slash budget deficits experienced severe recessions.
But these predictions were always conditional, applying only to an economy far from full employment. That was the kind of economy President Obama inherited; but the Trump-Putin administration will, instead, come into power at a time when full employment has been more or less restored.
How do we know that we’re close to full employment? The low official unemployment rate is just one indicator. What I find more compelling are two facts: Wages are finally rising reasonably fast, showing that workers have bargaining power again, and the rate at which workers are quitting their jobs, an indication of how confident they are of finding new jobs, is back to pre-crisis levels.
What changes once we’re close to full employment? Basically, government borrowing once again competes with the private sector for a limited amount of money. This means that deficit spending no longer provides much if any economic boost, because it drives up interest rates and “crowds out” private investment.
Now, government borrowing can still be justified if it serves an important purpose: Interest rates are still very low, and borrowing at those low rates to invest in much-needed infrastructure is still a very good idea, both because it would raise productivity and because it would provide a bit of insurance against future downturns. But while candidate Trump talked about increasing public investment, there’s no sign at all that congressional Republicans are going to make such investment a priority.
No, they’re going to blow up the deficit mainly by cutting taxes on the wealthy. And that won’t do anything significant to boost the economy or create jobs. In fact, by crowding out investment it will somewhat reduce long-term economic growth. Meanwhile, it will make the rich richer, even as cuts in social spending make the poor poorer and undermine security for the middle class. But that, of course, is the intention.
Again, none of this implies an economic catastrophe. If such a catastrophe does come, it will be thanks to other policies, like a rollback of financial regulation, or from outside events like a crisis in China or Europe. And because stuff does happen, and a lot depends on how the U.S. government responds when it does, we should be concerned that the incoming administration only seems to take economic advice from people who have consistently been wrong about, well, everything.
But back to deficits: the crucial point is not that Republicans were hypocritical. It is, instead, that their hypocrisy made us poorer. They screamed about the evils of debt at a time when bigger deficits would have done a lot of good, and are about to blow up deficits at a time when they will do harm.