By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“Trump to Crash Davos Party of Global Elites” [Bloomberg]. “Previous U.S. officials came to the World Economic Forum to defend international norms, but Trump’s bellicose tweets, protectionist threats and disdain for international agreements promise to make his presence disruptive and all-consuming. Trump’s ‘America First’ agenda will receive an icy reception among world financial and economic titans even as he becomes the most closely watched figure at the Alpine ski resort in Switzerland, said Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group.”
“”U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue will deliver a strong message today on the importance of NAFTA to the U.S. economy and the business community in his annual State of American Business speech, according to advance excerpts” [Politico]. “‘The American economy has taken several big steps forward with regulatory relief and tax reform, and the administration deserves lots of credit. But a wrong move on NAFTA would send us five steps back,’ Donohue will say. ‘The bottom line is growth will be weakened, not strengthened or sustained, if we pull back from trade.'” That’s groaf.
“The 2020 Celebrity Election Will Be Far Crazier Than 2016” [Ian Welsh]. “Remember, Trump won, in the end, because enough people were sick of regular politicians to take a flyer on him. A celebrity with more charisma and brains is entirely viable and will be considered seriously.”
“A Seven-Step Plan for Ending the Opioid Crisis” [Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg]. Medicalized and criminalized laundry list, followed by this: “All of these steps come with a cost, but little effort has been made to quantify it. Local and state agencies bear most of the burden of this crisis, but no one has yet analyzed the extent of the assistance they need. That should be done before coming up with a price tag. . If money is to be spent effectively, it must be attached to a comprehensive plan of attack.” That’s our Democrats!
“‘Haley—‘as ambitious as Lucifer,’ in the characterization of one member of the senior staff—had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent,” Wolff, a journalist and author, writes [Fire and Fury]” [The American Bazaar (KW)].
“Biden Should Make James K. Polk’s One-Term Pledge And ‘Make America Normal Again” [Newsweek]. “[A] Polkian one-term pledge would transform Biden from a party hack hoping to retire a hated Republican president into an inspiring figure who truly put nation above party. One-term Biden could make the honestly argument that, at his age (77 on Election Day), he has no larger ambition except restoring our key national institutions and then handing off a stronger nation to a successor of either party.” An extended riff on the “This is not normal!” trope beloved of liberal Democrats.
“Oprah Winfrey for president? The idea reveals an uncomfortable truth” [Guardian]. “Hillary’s qualifications were considered so unassailable, that to challenge them was considered de facto sexism by many. Yet somehow, within a year of Trump’s inauguration, a not-insignificant segment of Democratic voters (or at least tweeters) have swung from fetishizing ‘qualifications’ to adopting the Republican line on celebrity candidates whole cloth.”
“Oprah 2020? The Democratic unicorn-hunt launches with a little magical thinking” [Salon]. “What’s really going on with the Oprah boomlet, I suspect, is the latest round of a liberal-progressive unicorn hunt, which isn’t all that new in itself but has been amplified by current Trumpian conditions. Please enjoy this CNN article from August 1999 in which Warren Beatty was said to be ‘very seriously’ considering a presidential campaign, running to the left of announced 2000 Democratic candidates Al Gore and Bill Bradley.”
“Winfrey’s delivery wasn’t the soft, enfolding, personal empathy of “Oprah on the couch.” It was “Oprah on a soapbox” — bold and full of vigor. When she raised her volume and used repetition to declare the end of the era when powerful men could abuse women with impunity — “But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up.” — I thought it sounded almost like a campaign speech” [Eugene Robinson, RealClearPolitics]. Yes, Obama used repetition (anaphora) effectively as well. (What did we learn, Palmer? [Bangs head on desk].)
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) January 9, 2018
A Machiavellian theory:
Not going to run herself possibly but generating enthusiam to throw behind another candidate.. just a thought.
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) January 8, 2018
Ohio: “Dennis Kucinich is running for Ohio governor” [CNN]. “His decision to run for governor in 2018 means he joins a large field to succeed two-term Republican Gov. John Kasich. Kucinich’s opponents in the Democratic primary include Richard Cordray, who stepped down late last year as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, precipitating a clash within the Trump administration Ohio is generally considered a purple state, but it swung strongly for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, and Ohio’s 2014 election results showed Kasich won his re-election bid with a strong margin.”
Wisconsin: “Democratic Madison mayor enters Wisconsin governor’s race” [AP]. “Soglin became the ninth top-tier Democrat in a crowded field that will square off in the August primary. The winner will take on Walker as he seeks a third term in November in what will be his first race since his failed presidential run. Soglin, 72, hoped to tap into enthusiasm of the state’s most liberal voters in his base of Madison and in Milwaukee that helped propel Bernie Sanders to victory in the 2016 Democratic primary.”
“The IRS’ election-year quandary: When to boost Americans’ paychecks” [Politico]. “The agency is under pressure to take as little as possible so people will see big increases in their take-home pay ahead of this year’s midterm elections…. There is a history of politicians trying to manipulate withholding, through obscure tables issued by the IRS, with an eye toward providing a short-term boost to the economy. President George H.W. Bush tried it ahead of the 1992 election, and the 1986 tax overhaul attempted, unsuccessfully, to quash refunds altogether.” More money in your pocket!
“Responses to the ‘generic ballot’ poll question suggest a partisan electoral wave is building. But the fight for control of the House isn’t a single national election. It will be fought district by district, and national Democrats face challenges on the ground even with the generic ballot favoring them” [Inside Elections]. “So, some GOP incumbents who won comfortably in the past are at risk this year. I would certainly keep an eye on Trump districts that went for Barack Obama twice.” Exactly the districts the Democrat establishment does not wish to appeal to! (Though they could change their minds and/or people could disintermediate the DNC and donate to those races directly.)
“Are Democrats’ Senate Chances In 2018 Overrated?” [FiveThirtyEight]. “[T]he Senate map is really tough for Democrats, with 26 Democratic seats in play next year (including a newly opened seat in Minnesota after Al Franken announced his intention to retire) as compared to just eight Republican ones. Moreover, five of the Democratic-held seats — the ones in West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Missouri and Indiana — are in states that President Trump won by 18 percentage points or more…. Don’t believe me? Check out the race-by-race ratings put forward by independent groups such as the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. They suggest that Democrats are more likely to lose Senate seats next year than to gain them — and that while there’s a plausible path to a Democratic majority, it’s a fairly unlikely one.” To which we have been drawing attention…..
New Cold War
“Politicizing Steele’s Raw, Unverified ‘Intelligence'” [Andrew McCarthy]. “At the height of the campaign, Obama officials shared dossier claims with Congress and the FISA Court.”
“Democrats punch back on Russia” [Politico]. “Democrats, frustrated by conservative attempts to undercut the investigation into Trump’s ties to Moscow and growing convinced that Republicans aren’t taking electoral security seriously, are increasingly tired of waiting on their colleagues in the majority to act and are taking their concerns public.” If the Democrats took electoral security seriously, they’d be advocating hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public, with Election Day as a national holiday. Of course, they don’t.
On Trump’s live negotiating session:
The amount of bar-lowering we saw for Trump yesterday was remarkable:
— He appeared totally uninformed about DACA and immigration policy.
— He did not appear to be senile.
Somehow on net that’s spun as a win for him.
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) January 10, 2018
“He did not appear to be senile.” Thing is, you may have noticed that there was just an enormous wave of liberal Democrat speculation and pearl-clutching that senile is exactly what Trump is; tame psychologists, Tom Steyer’s squillions, hand-wringing Op-Eds, and all the usual panicked moralizing. So far as I can tell, Trump countered all that effectively with a very simple tactic; Yglesias admits as much. So, you know, “never mind.” Maybe the Democrats should be considering a different approach?
Business as usual (re: “Trump Administration Waives Punishment For Convicted Banks, Including Deutsche — Which Trump Owes Millions“):
Same waivers as was granted under the Obama administration by the Secretary of Labor, a guy named Tom Perez. https://t.co/pFDD7iVez2
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) January 9, 2018
I’m not saying business as usual is a good thing. It stinks. But these waivers stink in the usual way.
“A White House That Can’t Shoot Straight” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “For sometime I have been convinced that, barring a seismic “Black Swan” event, Republican chances of retaining the House and picking up any net seats in the Senate were largely contingent upon both the economy remaining strong and voters, many of whom are unenthusiastic about Trump’s behavior, begrudgingly giving him and his party credit for that improved economy. Yet even with partially mitigating factors such as Republican-friendly congressional district boundaries and a Senate map that could hardly be better for the GOP, this is shaping up to be an ugly election for Republicans.”
“President Trump’s companies sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive shell companies that obscure buyers’ identities, continuing a dramatic shift in his customers’ behavior that began during the election, a USA TODAY review found” [USA Today]. “The trend toward Trump’s real estate buyers obscuring their identities began around the time he won the Republican nomination, midway through 2016, according to USA TODAY’s analysis of every domestic real estate sale by one of his companies.”
“DREAM Act dies in Senate” [Politico]. From 2010: “The DREAM Act would have passed if Democrats had shown unity on the measure.But five Democrats voted against the legislation: Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and both Montana Democrats, Jon Tester and Max Baucus. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin announced his opposition to the DREAM Act Saturday in a statement Saturday but missed the vote. Three Republicans crossed party lines to vote for the bill: Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Utah Sen. Bob Bennett.” And here we are!
Realignment and Legitimacy
UPDATE On the “media men list,” apparently by Katie Roiphe and to be published in Harpers:
If you have a piece in the hopper over at @Harpers, ask your editor if the Roiphe piece is happening. If it is, I will pay you cash for what you’d lose by yanking it. My email is nicole dot cliffe at gmail.
— Nicole Cliffe (@Nicole_Cliffe) January 9, 2018
Lambert here: I suppose if the maintainer(s) and propagators of the list don’t wish to participate in public life — that is, to “do politics” as conventionally understood — that’s their prerogative. Nevertheless, if they wish to create the impression that not only #MeToo but the Women’s March are driven by a secretive cabal working by planting a series of stories with a scoop-hungry press — operational handwriting suggestively similar to RussiaGate, now that I think of it — as opposed to being organic, they are proceeding in exactly the right way. (Do note that as of this writing there’s no question of publishing the names on the list; only the name of the list maintainer.) It would also be interesting to know the connection of the list owner, if any, to the Clinton campaign.
“Helping the Courts Detect Partisan Gerrymanders” [Center for Political Studies]. An algorithmic alternative to the efficiency gap approach currently before the Supreme Court.
“Americans, Not Partisans: Can Priming American National Identity Reduce Affective Polarization?” [Journal of Politics]. ‘Building on the Common Ingroup Identity Model from social psychology, I show that when subjects’ sense of American national identity is heightened, they come to see members of the opposing party as fellow Americans rather than rival partisans.”
Check it: awesome new national DSA interactive map from our comrade in Houston. We have so far to go, but let’s also celebrate how far we’ve come. 🌹🌎 https://t.co/S1DHN5lwBj
— DSA 🌹 (@DemSocialists) January 8, 2018
Not large. But interesting.
Import and Export Prices, December 2017: “Despite a sizable 2.0 percent rise in petroleum, import prices rose only 0.1 percent in December which falls short of Econoday’s low estimate. Import prices excluding petroleum fell 0.2 percent in a disappointing result that will heighten concern over the lack of inflation. December’s export prices are likewise weak” [Econoday]. “[C]onsumer prices haven’t been showing much life at all and today’s report won’t be raising expectations for any traction to appear anytime soon.” She’s dead, Jim. And: “The significant growth in this month’s changes were fuel imports whilst food prices moderated” [Econointersect].
Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, January 2018: “Inflation expectations among businesses did show life in December but eased back” [Bloomberg]. “Today’s results follow disappointingly weak import and export price data released earlier this morning.” A lovely parrot, the Norwegian Blue.
Wholesale Trade, November 2017: “Economic demand is strong and inventories are on the rise” [Econoday]. “The need for inventory build is underscored by the year-on-year rates where sales are far in front at 9.8 percent vs only 4.0 percent for inventories. The stock-to-sales ratio for the sector is on the decline, down to 1.24 in November vs 1.25 and 1.26 in the two prior months.” And: “The improvement this month in the headline data was primarily due to durable goods. Overall, I believe the rolling averages tell the real story – and they improved this month. The current trends are accelerating (improving)” [Ecointersect]. “Inventory levels remain elevated but below recessionary levels.”
NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, December 2017 (yesterday): “Optimism among small business owners cooled in December after November’s surge to 13-year highs” [Econoday]. “Helping to dampen optimism in December were expectations of real sales, down 6 points to 28, plans to increase employment, down 4 points to 20, and earnings trends, which dropped 5 points deeper into negative territory to a minus 15, by far the worst performance among the components. The two rising components, plans to make capital outlays and current job openings, both posted only feeble 1-point gains, albeit achieving high levels of 27 and 31, respectively.” And but: “Down more than expected but remains elevated since the election as per the chart, even as the reality of weak sales and earnings persists” [Mosler Economics].
Consumer Credit: “Things are starting to add up better with this jump in consumer borrowing. With real disposable personal income growth near 0, and spending growing at just over 2.5% through November, it’s now looking like consumers ‘dipped into savings’ by running up their credit card balances which tends to be followed by reductions in spending” [Mosler Economics].
Consumer Credit: [Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis]. “Despite large deleveraging after the recession (particularly among those younger than 60), average mortgage debt remained higher in 2013 than in 1999… Unlike other types of debt, average credit card debt in 2013 was below its 1999 level for most age groups…. Auto debt also rose between 1999 and 2008, but dropped across all age groups after the recession. Auto debt then rebounded in 2013… Student debt, on the other hand, consistently grew from 2005 to 2013 for all age groups.”
Housing: (Via Zillow) “Nationally, 30 percent of working-age adults—aged 23 to 65—live in doubled-up households, up from a low of 21 percent in 2005 and 23 percent in 1990” [Dr. Housing Bubble].
Retail: “Struggling retailer Sears Holdings Corp. said this morning that same-store sales in the first two months (November and December) of its fiscal fourth quarter were down 16% to 17%. The decline no doubt contributed to the company’s decision to seek new and renegotiated financing” [247 Wall Street].
Retail: “Managing brick-and-mortar stores may not be a drag on sales after all. Target Corp. demonstrated the advantage of having both physical stores and online sales during the holiday period, using its retail space to fulfill 70% of its digital order” [Wall Street Journal]. “The results came as Target boosted same-store sales 3.4% during November and December, a turnaround from last year when the retailer was hurt by mismatches in its supply chain and online competition.”
Shipping: “From the perspective of large retailers, [Guy Courtin, Vice President of Retail and Fashion at Infor] pointed out that there is increasing interest from them in regards to how reverse logistics operations impact their overall inventory strategy” [Logistics Management]. “That thesis was further supported by CBRE in its aforementioned research, which noted that the solution to the reverse logistics problem is improved and expanded supply chain networks that create tremendous real estate opportunities as users add additional warehouses and distribution centers to support the reverse flow of inventory.” My jaundiced view: First the malls ate downtown. Then online plus warehouses ate the malls. And nobody can look at the goods they buy, or even speak to a human about them, so of course there are returns. I suppose this is progress. But see above on Target!
Shipping: “Buoyed by increased demand due to an ongoing economic recovery, the truckload market is back to 2014 levels in many ways, with capacity tight and carriers seeing the pendulum swing in terms of rate gains, too. This has also played out in the form of the spot market seeing record highs for rates and volumes” [Logistics Management].
Shipping: “Staying ahead of Mother Nature: interview with John Bosse” [DC Velocity]. Services provided by The Weather Company to truckers; the interview is in essence a sales piece from the CEO. If you want to know how Tesla, et al., should be selling to truckers, this interview shows how. Whether Tesla is doing that, I don’t know.
Shipping: “January will be a record month for containership deliveries, with Alphaliner listing seven so called megamax newbuildings of 19,000 to 21,000 teu due to join the fleet” [Splash 247]. “Even with these deferrals, Alphaliner is predicting total new containership capacity due to be delivered in 2018 to hit 1.5m teu putting severe pressure on many already fragile tradelanes.” Shipowners just can’t help themselves….
Big Ag: “The new U.S. tax law may sow big changes in the country’s agriculture supply chains. A provision inserted into the tax code just before the final measure passed in December gives a critical boost to farm cooperatives over independent dealers…, an action that may reshape parts of the agriculture economy while sharply reducing taxes for many farmers” [Wall Street Journal]. “The new provision allows farmers to deduct up to 20% of their total sales to cooperatives, letting some farmers reduce their taxable income to zero and effectively handing them a bigger tax bill if they sell to separate companies and distributors. Tax experts say that will give cooperatives a significant edge, benefiting co-op giants including American Crystal Sugar Co., Land O’Lakes Inc. and CHS Inc., while stinging agribusinesses like Cargill Inc. and Archer Daniels Midland Co., and smaller private operations.”
The Bezzle: Report from CES: “In the real world, Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) is touting the self-driving (autonomous) car technology it acquired when it purchased Mobileye. The semiconductor giant has settled on a theme of building passenger trust in driverless cars. This may not have been the best time for Intel to put its eggs in the trust basket” [247 Wall Steet].
Manufacturing: “Toyota and Mazda Select Alabama for New Auto Factory” [Bloomberg]. “Alabama edged out North Carolina as the winner in a multistate contest for a prized Toyota Motor Corp. and Mazda Motor Corp. joint car factory worth $1.6 billion, a person familiar with the negotiations said. … The shared factory Toyota and Mazda plan to open in 2021 is the only new auto assembly plant to be announced under President Donald Trump…. It will be Toyota’s 11th assembly plant in the U.S. — its biggest market — and the first since 2011. The automaker already has an engine factory in Huntsville, Ala., and announced a $106 million upgrade to the facility in September.”
Tech: “In fact, a smattering of analysts that have already weighed in on Facebook’s outlook in 2018, and so far it’s very solid” [247 Wall Street]. “Aside from its main platform, Facebook has Instagram, which is wildly popular as a photo sharing service. Instagram has even been moving in on Snap and its platform, securing more users. Facebook is expected to keep expanding into 2018, with its user base already over 2 billion and counting.” People keep telling me to go on Instagram. I dunno….
Gentlemen Prefer Bonds: “Bonds are the topic du jour, especially after the Bank of Japan got everyone a bit worked up yesterday by trimming its government bond purchases. Then this morning, Bloomberg reported China is considering cutting back on its U.S. Treasury holdings” [MarketWatch]. “In our call of the day, [Kit Juckes, global macro strategist at Société Générale] lays out where he thinks the line in the sand for a bond bloodbath lies. ‘I’ll believe the bond market has turned when 10-year TIPS (Treasury inflation-protected securities) yields have broken 1% (and nominal yields have broken 3%),’ he says in a note to clients. ‘That is where yields ran out of steam in the 2013 Taper Tantrum, as the selloff in asset markets (notably in EM), prompted the Fed to soften its tapering stance and change its forward-guidance.'”
Five Horseman: “The Five Fab pause after a week of heavy lifting” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 73 Greed (previous close: 76, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 67 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 10 at 11:28am.
“CHIP funding could run out as soon as this month in some states” [CNN]. “The CHIP program provides health coverage to nine million children from lower-income households that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Its federal authorization ended Oct. 1, and states were then forced to use unspent funds to carry them over while the House and Senate try to agree on a way to continue funding. Congress extended funding on Dec. 21 as part of a temporary spending plan to fund the federal government through Jan. 19. Lawmakers touted that states would have money to last while they worked on a long-term funding solution.”
“The Case for More Medicare” [David Leonhardt, New York Times]. “Yesterday, Paul Starr, the eminent health scholar, published a persuasive essay, through a joint project of The American Prospect and Century Foundation, about the future of health policy. The core of his idea is Midlife Medicare: opening up the highly popular and successful program to Americans starting at age 50, rather than 65.” #MedicareForSomeMore. I like it!
“The Road to Medicare for Everyone” [Jacob Hacker, American Prospect]. Readers may remember Hacker from 2009, where his so-called “public option” proposal was originally Medicare-like, covering 50 million people, and then dwindled away to nothing, after it had served its purpose of sucking all the oxygen away from single payer. The Hackers of this world always appear whenever single payer gets traction.
These Congress Critters need your attention:
Here are the six Senate Democrats not yet signed on as co-sponsors of the #NetNeutrality-saving resolution of disapproval:@SenatorCarper@ChrisCoons@SenDonnelly@SenatorHeitkamp@SenDougJones (to be fair, just got there)@Sen_JoeManchin
I'm sure they'd love to hear from you. https://t.co/9bB53jJxiA
— Craig Aaron (@notaaroncraig) January 10, 2018
“Susan Collins, Angus King back bill to reverse FCC vote against net neutrality” [Bangor Daily News]. Well done. It only takes a majority to pass a CRA in the Senate, so if the Democrats can get it together, Collins puts them over the top.
Imperial Collapse Watch
“The Most Awful Transit Center in America Could Get Unimaginably Worse” [Bloomberg]. “Penn Station is a debacle reaching across time. Its past is a slow-motion disaster of inaction and canceled reforms, its present an ongoing disgrace. And its future could be truly catastrophic, in the form of a tunnel failure that pinches shut one of the most vital economic arteries in America.”
“The Rust Belt isn’t the only region left behind by the economic recovery. The suburbs of the American west are struggling, too” [The Atlantic]. “Suburbs far away from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Phoenix, where people bought homes during the ‘drive til you qualify’ housing boom, were plagued by a high number of foreclosures in the bust. After the homes went through foreclosure, they were purchased by investors and rented out, creating new, low-cost rentals… The problem is not the influx of renters, necessarily, but instead the absentee landlords who don’t keep up homes.” Oddly, or not, the phrase “private equity” does not appear.
News of the Wired
“Gaming disorder” will be recognised as a disease later this year following expert consensus over the addictive risks associated with playing electronic games, the World Health Organization said Friday” [Agence France Presse]. “The disorder will be listed in the 11th edition of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), to be published in June, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.”
“How Reading Rewires Your Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy” [Big Think]. From September, still germane. “Novel reading is a great way to practice being human. Rather than sprints and punches, how about something more primitive and necessary in a society, like empathy?” The neuroscience aspect of this article leaves me cold. But as a humanties major, I find the idea appealing.
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