The conclusion part is that 1) they don’t feel decision-making includes them, 2) they don’t feel they’re getting a return on their tax dollars, and 3) they feel they get dismissed and disrespected.
But what I really liked is this part of the interview with the author:
… I really resist this characterization of Trump supporters as ignorant.
There’s just more and more of a recognition that politics for people is not — and this is going to sound awful, but — it’s not about facts and policies. It’s so much about identities, people forming ideas about the kind of person they are and the kind of people others are.
Food isn’t about Nutrition Clothes aren’t about Comfort Bedrooms aren’t about Sleep Marriage isn’t about Romance Talk isn’t about Info Laughter isn’t about Jokes Charity isn’t about Helping Church isn’t about God Art isn’t about Insight Medicine isn’t about Health Consulting isn’t about Advice School isn’t about Learning Research isn’t about Progress Politics isn’t about Policy
Of course, that’s almost a direct quote. So what to add? Perhaps:
Voting Isn’t About Facts
The thing is, now that I think about it, this may apply even more strongly to Clinton’s supporters.
The news this week is that President-Elect Donald Trump has convinced executives at Carrier to not move a production facility from Indiana to Mexico.
The backstory to this is that the business had bottom line reasons for wanting to move to Mexico, and government officials (with the explicit backing of the currently powerless Trump) bought them off with tax dollars.*
Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
If that seems like a micro-offense, please recognize that those were different times.
P.S. A couple of days after posting this, Tim Worstall posted a similar quote:
Populism: the unpardonable sin of offering the populace what they appear to want rather than what they ought to.
Hat tip to Greg Mankiw for noting Summers’ turn of phrase, and to Don Boudreaux for repeating this Mencken quote many times through the years.
* On the negative side, in the short-run, we’re all investors in Carrier whether we want to be or not. In the long-run, this may solidify the dangerous precedent of corporate executives holding out for government handouts. On the positive side, it’s still early … perhaps Trump will just do this once to establish credibility that obviates it’s future need.
Cross-posted from SUU Macroblog, which is required reading for my macroeconomics classes.
I’m the bumble in our home — hanging frames is my job.
And what a pain in the butt. It can be really hard to get them on the hook, and a disaster if you fail.
I can’t wait to try this.
This is from LifeHacker. I love that site, but I have to admit it’s gone from lots of great ideas to fewer as it exhausts the world’s supply of shortcuts. But this is the best one I’ve seen in ages.
FWIW: I like this so much I went and tried it myself. It works fantastically with plain nails, but it isn’t that great with a picture hook. And it does you no good at all if you have one of those teethy things on the back of the frame, instead of a wire.
Macroeconomics is generally not an experimental science. It’s observational.
One of the advantages of an experimental science is that you can control causes to isolate their effects. You can come up with different stories about what the causes are, but in principal you can confirm whether those stories are supported by the data. In some sense, you can go “fishing”.
In an observational science, you have to get your story about causality straight first. By that I mean what effects you expect to see and what you should not see. Then you can go and check your data.
Unfortunately, we’re bombarded with GDP data, but not with stories about the causality that generates it. This leaves a lot of room for getting things wrong.
Which brings us to Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Commerce: Wilbur Ross. Here’s his theory (taken from a Wall Street Journal editorial entitled “Trump’s Money Men”):
… Mr. Ross wrote, “It’s Econ 101 that GDP equals the sum of domestic economic activity plus ‘net exports,’ i.e., exports minus imports. Therefore, when we run massive and chronic trade deficits, it weakens our economy.”
Who taught him that? Imports are subtracted in GDP calculations to avoid overstating domestic production, not because they make us poorer. …
The causality Ross presumes is pretty clear: “… trade deficits … weaken…”
This is weird: GDP (and trade deficits) are something we measure after they occur. They’re a description of what did happen, not an explanation of how it happened.
It’s more correct to say that a trade deficit might be a symptom of a weak economy, rather than a cause.
Ross is making a ridiculous logical mistake here, but one that is all too common in thinking about macroeconomics.
First off, GDP is what we count up after production and consumption happen. And as we’re counting, perhaps we divvy it up into different bins, including (gross) exports and (gross) imports.
This is analogous to going to one of those old-fashioned machines where you put in a quarter and it dumps out a handful of, say, Skittles. That’s your macroeconomy.
Then you count up your Skittles. That’s your measure of your economy’s GDP.
Then you divide up the Skittles by color, and call the yellow ones exports. And then you announce that if you’d gotten more yellow Skittles you would have gotten more Skittles in total.
A child might make that mistake. An adult should not.
Secondly, there are interconnections within GDP besides Y = C + I + G + X. Let me introduce 4 alternative variables:
DP►DC, this is Domestic Production that goes into Domestic Consumption
DP►FC, this is Domestic Production that goes into Foreign Consumption
DC◄DP, this is Domestic Consumption that comes from Domestic Production
DC◄FP, this is Domestic Consumption that comes from Foreign Production
My notation is a little bit weird: do not think of the the ► as a >, or the ◄ as a <. But there is a method to my madness.
Note that DP►DC and DC◄DP have to end up with the same number (although you might make a measurement error here or there).
The cool thing about this is that we can think of these new variables in this way. Remember the fable about getting a mule to move with a carrot and a stick? The stick is work, and the carrot is your reward:
DP►DC, means that your carrot and stick are balanced
DP►FC, means that you’re all stick
DC◄FP, means that you’re all carrot
Now let’s think about some naive policy ideas.
Let’s export more! So we’re going to make DP►FC bigger. This means we have to both work more here, and somehow get foreigners to buy stuff they weren’t before. Maybe we could advertise to make the latter happen. But there’s only two ways to handle the former part: actually work harder (by using more stick), or divert some of our work by making DP►DC smaller to make DP►FC larger. Except that we can’t make DP►DC smaller without making DC◄DP smaller. If you think about it, this amounts to giving away our carrots. So there you have it: a proposal to increase exports either means more stick or less carrots.
Let’s import less! You can probably see where this is going. This means making DC◄FP smaller. One way to do that would be to make DC◄DP larger. That way we could keep the number of carrots the same, but just get less of them from foreigners. But again, it gets weird: we’re getting the same number of carrots, but because DC◄DP = DP►DC, we have to work harder. So there you have (part of) it: you get more imports with more stick and no extra carrots. You can work out on your own that you could also get less carrots with the same amount of stick.
I understand that these examples are not easy. But that’s the point: trade policy is not something that most people think about very clearly … including people we put in charge.
Cross-posted from SUU Macroblog, which is required reading for my macroeconomics classes.
What? You didn’t know he was a king? What do you call someone that ruled since 1959 without reasonable elections until they chose to retire, then abdicates in favor of a younger family member (i.e., King Raúl)? Oh, and there’s a son-in-law in the mix to succeed him; we’ll call him Prince Alberto. Oh, and somehow he’s worth a fortune, just like a king.
I’m going to pull rank here. King Fidel took over a country. The way to measure a country is with GDP. So, if you’re not getting information from a macroeconomist about Cuba and Fidel … you pretty much shouldn’t bother.
The thing is, it appears to be a huge mission of many people in the developed world to present Fidel as something that he was not, and this mostly begins with ignoring the GDP data.
From a macroeconomic perspective, Fidel is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in human history.
Data is not hard to come by on this. For all its faults, there is no competition for assessing economic conditions at the individual level than real GDP per capita. More on that later.
In the U.S., we are somewhat unsure of how we feel about Obama because the economy has struggled to grow real GDP at 2.0 to 2.5% per year. Even Obama’s supporters will typically admit that the economy doesn’t feel that great because we need to take away 1.5% to 2.0% population growth from the U.S. figure. Yet, from 1959 to 1999 Cuba’s real GDP per capita grew at 0.3% per year. Even in rather weak times, the U.S. has pulled away from Cuba.
One of the tightest arguments we make in science is to compare matched pairs. Try to find the closest analog, and then compare their differences with the passage of time. This is how we know North Korea is so bad — because it used to be comparable to South Korea. The same goes for the old West and East Germany. For Cuba, the closest analog is Puerto Rico. Both were Spanish colonies for 400 years. Both were occupied and dominated by the U.S. for the next 60 years. And Puerto Rico has quadrupled its real per capita GDP since 1959. The data on all this is solid, accepted, and widely used.
Fair enough. But supporters extoll the availability of free and effective healthcare and education in Cuba.
Let’s be very clear about this. If you don’t start with real GDP per capita, it’s easier to find claims about healthcare and education to be more convincing. But, if you do start with weak real GDP performance, then it should be clear that any claim that healthcare and educaton have gotten better in Cuba must be accompanied by a statement that everything else is even worse than we thought. Have you ever heard a statement like that? I didn’t think so.
Oh, and it’s very easy to find articles detailing how Cuba’s healthcare and education systems in 1959 were … already pretty good by international standards. Go ahead, dig into that on your own. Cuba only looks good on these counts if you forget the “compared to what” aspect.
Montana has no sales tax. It doesn’t even require the car to be physically present to get the plates.
So, if you’re typical, you buy your $20K car in, say, California, and don’t think too much about the almost $2K you pay in sales tax.
But if you’re rich, you buy your $1,000K car in California, travel up to Montana, get the plates, and avoid the $100K in sales tax. I’d say that’s worth the trip.
I don’t know where I first heard of this technique, but it was in my head when I got my first job and car.
I was living in New York. It was 1989, and sales tax was about 8%. I was in graduate school, and I had 2 older cars dying slow painful deaths on my hands.
When I got the offer for my first real job (at the University of Alabama – thanks James Cover), one of the first things I did was drive down the road to buy a new car. It cost $14K. I had 30 days to plate the car.
I called the DMV in Tuscaloosa, and worked a plan out with a lovely older woman who managed the office.
Then I flew down to Alabama to find a place to live. While there, I plated the car that was sitting in the parking lot at my apartment building back in the Buffalo suburbs.
My recollection is now 27 years old, but I think the sales tax on cars in Alabama was 2% at the time. So I saved almost two months worth of rent.
The only condition was that I had to take up residence in Alabama within some rather long period like 90 days, which was no problem at all. I still tell people that New York was merely a good place to be from.
P.S. Amusing personal story. My late father-in-law was … hmmm … not popular with his family. He was not dialed in that I was getting a job, had a job, or was moving away … or that his daughter was going with me. He claimed that the first he found out about this was seeing the new car with Alabama plates in his driveway. Psyche!
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