Donald Trump abandons his followers

June 13th, 2017

NY Times columnist David Leonhardt writes that Donald Trump “cares more about ‘winning’ than any coherent philosophy”, so is quickly abandoning promises he made during the campaign.

The biggest priority for today’s Congressional Republicans is shrinking the size of government so they can cut taxes for the wealthy.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, managed to win the presidency on an agenda that promised robust government programs in health care, retirement and other areas.

Something was going to have to give, and it’s long been clear that the something would be Trump’s campaign promises. Trump doesn’t actually care much about the working class and has quickly abandoned his earlier commitments.

David Leonhardt, “Opinion Today“, New York Times daily email, 12 June 2017.

deaths of despair in the USA

June 11th, 2017

After a century of decreases, the overall death rate for American adults aged 25-44 years rose 8.2 percent between 2010 and 2015. The disturbing trend seems to have continued in 2016.

The opioid epidemic that has ravaged life expectancy among economically stressed white Americans is taking a rising toll among blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans, driving up the overall rate of death among Americans in the prime of their lives.

Since the beginning of this decade, death rates have risen among people between the ages of 25 and 44 in virtually every racial and ethnic group and almost all states, according to a Washington Post analysis. ….

The [death] rate is adjusted for the nation’s changing age profile, and every five-year age group [25-29, 30-34, etc.] … showed an increase in mortality.

Preliminary data from the first half of 2016 suggests that the trend is continuing ….

One clear distinction remains: education level. The only 25-44 group whose death rate is not climbing is people with four-year college degrees. ….

The jump in death rates has been driven in large measure by drug overdoses and alcohol abuse ….

Joel Achenbach and Dan Keating, “Drug crisis is pushing up death rates for almost all groups of Americans“, Washington Post, 9 June 2017.

See also this earlier TdJ blog.

Jeffrey Sachs on Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord

June 11th, 2017

Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs provides his opinion on Trump’s decision to leave the Paris agreement on climate change. There is nothing unexpected in the column, but the points he makes are concise and well drafted, easy to read and to share. Read the rest of this entry »

Amazon battles Walmart

June 10th, 2017

The competition is different than you might expect, folks. There is a strong focus on finance, in addition to ecommerce.

The dominant US ecommerce company [Amazon] has been dabbling in lending for nearly six years, and has made $3bn in loans to some of the small businesses that sell through its online platform.

Now Amazon is substantially expanding its offer of instant loans and considering whether to provide other bank-like services. ….

The Seattle-based juggernaut also this week stepped up its battle with the world’s largest retailer, Walmart. Targeting the lower income customers that have long been Walmart’s bread and butter, Amazon said it would offer substantial discounts on its Prime membership programme to US shoppers who are on public assistance. ….

Over the short term, both initiatives sound like great news for consumers and small businesses. Amazon’s move into banking has already created new borrowing opportunities for businesses that had struggled to get bank loans. And its offer to low-income customers will give them more equal access to the benefits of the digital economy.

Brooke Masters, “Amazon’s quiet domination merits greater scrutiny“, Financial Times, 10 June 2017 (gated paywall).

Walmart Financial Services provides credit cards and other bank-like services, including cash transfers to Mexico and other countries, in addition to transfers within the United States and Canada.

Bernie Sanders on Republicans and Donald Trump

June 9th, 2017

FT columnist Simon Kuper has tea in Dublin with Mr Sanders. The interview will appear in tomorrow’s weekend edition of the Financial Times. The paper is printed on pink paper, if you search for it in a newsstand.

If you are a subscriber, you can read the article online, at the link below. Alternatively, free registration allows you to download three free columns each month. This should be one of them. Read the rest of this entry »

UBI in poor countries

June 7th, 2017

This is a great column. Mr Sandu does not mention it, but a universal pension is also good for poor countries (and wealthy countries as well). A universal pension, after all, is a universal basic income (UBI) limited to older folks and younger persons with disabilities.

[T]he debate in rich countries tends, naturally enough, to focus on the affordability and desirability of UBI in rich countries. But there is much to learn — for rich countries, too — about whether UBI would make sense in poorer ones. The answer is, perhaps paradoxically, that there is a good case for low-income countries to leapfrog the rich world in welfare policy.

John McArthur asks how many poor countries could afford to pay a UBI large enough to eradicate extreme poverty. The answer is stunning: 66 countries could do this at a cost of no more than 1 per cent of their national income. Doing so would lift 185m people out of extreme poverty, a quarter of the global total. A further 25 countries could do the same at a cost of between 1 and 5 five per cent of national income, eradicating extreme poverty for another 150m people. ….

UBI is the new frontier in welfare reform. At the moment it looks more likely to be conquered by the developing world, while countries known as advanced economies look on from behind.

Martin Sandbu, “Leapfrogging to universal basic income“, Free Lunch, Financial Times, 7 June 2017 (unfortunately gated by a paywall).

Mr Sandbu cites “How many countries could end extreme poverty tomorrow?“, 1 June 2017, a blog by John W. McArthur, senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution.

Martin Wolf on US withdrawal from the Paris accord

June 6th, 2017

Martin Wolf’s Wednesday column this week contains uncharacteristically harsh language, describing the US as a “rogue superpower”.

Mr Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement on climate change was frightening and inexplicable. But who can control him? The US constitution in my opinion gives too much power to the leader of a supposedly democratic country. Last week’s decision to renounce participation in the Paris accord was not a decision of “the United States”. It was the decision of Donald Trump. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump accepts existence of global warming

June 4th, 2017

It is difficult to keep up with Donald Trump’s changing views. President Trump no longer believes that global warming is a hoax invented by and for the Chinese. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, told CNN that Donald Trump now “believes the climate is changing and he believes pollutants are part of the equation”. Moreover, he knows “the US has to be responsible for it”.

Why, then, does Trump want to leave the Paris climate agreement? Apparently because he finds its conditions too onerous. This is strange, since each participating country sets its own goals, and meeting them is voluntary. There are no penalties for non-compliance. Read the rest of this entry »

Nicaraguan views on climate change

June 4th, 2017

Donald Trump is increasing to three the number of countries that are not signatories to the Paris climate change accord. One of the three is Nicaragua. The reason for Nicaraguan opposition to the proposal might surprise you. Read the rest of this entry »

Trump’s speech on the Paris climate agreement

June 3rd, 2017

If you were shocked by Donald Trump’s speech announcing the immediate withdrawal of the US from the Paris climate agreement, you should read this piece by David Roberts. Here is the introduction.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump gave a speech announcing that the US would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

It is a remarkable address, in its own way, in that virtually every passage contains something false or misleading. The sheer density of bullshit is almost admirable, from a performance art perspective. Trump even managed to get in some howlers that had nothing to do with climate change. He started by citing an act of terrorism in Manila that wasn’t terrorism. He said, “our tax bill is moving along in Congress,” but there’s no tax bill. And so forth.

A proper fact-check would run longer than the speech itself. To keep this quick, I’ve selected the top five deceptions.

A note: I’m not calling these “lies,” because that implies Trump knows they are false. It is far from clear that Trump understands anything about any of the issues at stake, or is even capable of forming stable beliefs as such ….

David Roberts, “The 5 biggest deceptions in Trump’s Paris climate speech“,, 2 June 2017.

Seattle-based David Roberts is a staff writer for Grist Magazine, an online environmental publication.

Click on the link above for the full article. It is concise, and worth reading. The errors in Trump’s speech are so many, so gross, and so obvious, that it is hard to believe that this man is leader of the most important, most powerful nation in the world.