Downward Trend in Initial Jobless Claims Is Flattening Out

Downward Trend in Initial Jobless Claims Is Flattening Out

01/11/2018Ryan McMaken

CNBC reports that "US jobless claims increase for fourth straight week":

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week, hitting their highest level in more than three months, likely as a cold snap kept some workers at home.

The news story uses the seasonally-adjusted numbers, which I'm not crazy about. There's always an easy way to incorporate seasonal issues: simply make year-over-year comparisons. 

If we do this — using the non-seasonally-adjusted data, we find that there is indeed some slow creeping upward in YOY numbers. But note that the YOY changes still mostly remain in negative territory: 

weekly.png

Last week (January 6), the YOY change in initial claims was still down 2 percent, although the change was flat at zero percent the week before that (December 30). 

As the graph suggests, the downward trend has lessened, and we're seeing more and more YOY changes clustering around zero in recent weeks. 

monthly.png

A similar trend emerges if we look at monthly totals. December 2017's initial claims were down 5.6 percent compared to December of 2016. That, however, is one of the smaller YOY declines we've seen in recent years. With the monthly data, also, we see a slowing in the downward trend. Initial claims even went up last September, compared to September of 2016, rising 7 percent. But most monthly comparisons continue to show downward movement in total claims. 

This flattening out will probably continue as the current expansion continues, although by itself, this data does not suggest any sort of turning point in the current economic trend. 

For greater context, here's are the monthly numbers over a ten-year period:

monthly jobless.png
When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

The Net Worth of Americans Still Hasn't Recovered from the Last Recession

01/09/2018Ryan McMaken

Axios is reporting today on commentary from Deutsche Bank economist Torsten Slok in which Slok concludes that Americans now have a smaller net worth than they did in 1989: 

A greater share of Americans have more debt than money in the bank than at any point since 1962, according to Deutsche Bank economist Torsten Slok. And, in a note to clients yesterday, Slok said that, despite record stock market wealth and home price levels just shy of housing-bubble highs, Americans are poorer than at any point in nearly a quarter century.

Why it matters: The data suggest that the third-longest economic expansion in history, and the lowest jobless rate in 17 years, has benefitted an exceedingly thin slice of the American public.

Here's the graph that goes with the story: 

axios.PNG

Unfortunately, no link is given to the client note. 

If you're like me, though, you always like a context for research like this, and aren't content with a quick blurb. 

So, to add some background to this, I managed to find a working paper from the NBER, titled "Household Wealth Trends in the United States, 1962-2013: What Happened Over the Great Recession?" which goes into a little more detail on these calculations. 

The Deutsche Bank data appears to be continuing Wolff's research from this older NBER report, which stopped with 2013 data. 

In it, we do indeed see that median household net worth as of 2013 was lower than at any other time shown since 1962: 

networth.png

As the report notes, household wealth plummeted during the Great Recession, and as of 2013, at least, had not recovered. Slok's update suggest that net worth has increased since then. It looks like median household net worth increased from about $63,000 to about $78,000 between 2013 and 2016. That's good, but it's still well below where it was in both 2001 and 2007. 

But why do households appear to be largely spinning their wheels on household net worth?

For decades, net worth in the United States has been closely connected to housing prices. The homeownership rate reached 69 percent in 2004, and those homeowners saw their net worths expand as home prices expanded in the same period. 

In recent years, home prices have gone up considerably. So why has net worth not done the same? 

According the the NBERreport:

Asset prices [including home prices] plunged between 2007 and 2010 but then rebounded from 2010 to 2013. The most telling finding is that median wealth plummeted by 44 percent over years 2007 to 2010, almost double the drop in housing prices... Relative indebtedness expanded, particularly for the middle class, though the proximate causes were declining net worth and income rather than an increase in absolute indebtedness. The sharp fall in median net worth and the rise in overall wealth inequality over these years are traceable primarily to the high leverage of middle class families and the high share of homes in their portfolio. The racial and ethnic disparity in wealth also widened considerably. Households under age 45 saw their relative and absolute wealth declined sharply. Rather remarkably, there was virtually no change in median wealth from 2010 to 2013 despite the rebound in asset prices. The proximate cause was the high dissavings of the middle class, though their debt continued to fall. 

So, the situation did indeed stabilize as home prices rebounded, but Americans were also neglecting to save any money in other forms. In part, they stopped saving in order to pay off debts, which were substantial:

The stagnation of median wealth from 2010 to 2013 can be traced to the depletion of assets. In particular, the middle class was using up its assets to pay down its debt, which decreased by 8.2 percent over these years. This shows up, in particular, in reduced asset ownership rates. The homeownership rate fell from 68.0 to 66.7 percent, that of pension accounts from 45.8 to 44.4 percent, that of unincorporated businesses from 8.2 to 6.6 percent, and that of stocks and financial securities from 15.3 to 14.2 percent. However, the reduction in assets was greater than the reduction of debt. 

So, we end up with a picture in which Americans did see their asset values increase, which did help net worth. But at the same time, owner asset rates among many Americans actually declined, and at a faster rate than debt declined. 

This is a fairly grim picture, and does paint a good picture for the standard of living Americans will enjoy once their prime earning years pass us by. 

All too often, economic indicators rely on current earnings, and current spending. Net worth, however, gives us a glimpse into the future. If net worth is declining or stagnant, than future retirees will eventually spend down their savings more quickly, and then have to cut back their standard of living to pay for basic necessities. 

Moreover, if the current trend continues, Americans will begin the next recession from a far lower level of net worth than they started the 2007-2009 recession with. That is, we'll begin the next recession with our net worth not even having recovered from the last one. That's not a great place to start. 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

Minimum Wage Laws: More Losses at Red Robin

01/09/2018Mark Thornton

The Red Robin chain of 570 restaurants has decided to eliminate busboys due to rising labor costs. Its business is mostly in western states several of which have raised the local minimum wage rate. Previously they eliminated the job of "expediter" who prepared plates in the kitchen due to rising labor costs. Clearly the labor force is losing jobs due to the increases in the minimum wage. However, also notice that the cook and wait staff are going to take on new responsibilities in terms of preparing plates and cleaning tables. This means that customers are also losing in terms of time, quality of service, cleanliness, and the visual appeal of their meals.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

Bovard: Cliven Bundy-FBI debacle: Another example of why the feds need to be leashed

01/05/2018James Bovard

Writes James Bovard in USA Today:

The Justice Department was caught in another high-profile travesty last month that continues to reverberate through the western states. On Dec. 20, federal judge Gloria Navarro declared a mistrial in the case against Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and others after prosecutors were caught withholding massive amounts of evidence undermining federal charges. This is the latest in a long series of federal law enforcement debacles that have spurred vast distrust of Washington.

Bundy, a 71-year old Nevadan rancher, and his sons and supporters were involved in an armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) beginning in 2014 stemming from decades of unpaid cattle grazing fees and restrictions. The Bundys have long claimed the feds were on a vendetta against them, and 3,300 pages of documents the Justice Department wrongfully concealed from their lawyers provides smoking guns that buttress their case.

A whistleblowing memo by BLM chief investigator Larry Wooten charges that BLM chose "the most intrusive, oppressive, large scale and militaristic trespass cattle (seizure) possible'' against Bundy. He also cited a "widespread pattern of bad judgment, lack of discipline, incredible bias, unprofessionalism and misconduct, as well as likely policy, ethical and legal violations" by BLM officials in the case. BLM agents even "bragged about roughing up Dave Bundy, grinding his face into the ground and Dave Bundy having little bits of gravel stuck in his face'' while he was videotaping federal agents. Wooten also stated that anti-Mormon prejudice pervaded BLM's crackdown.

The feds charged the Bundys with conspiracy in large part because the ranchers summoned militia to defend them after they claimed that FBI snipers had surrounded their ranch. Justice Department lawyers scoffed at this claim in prior trials involving the standoff but newly-released documents confirm that snipers were in place prior to the Bundy’s call for help.

The feds also belatedly turned over multiple threat assessments which revealed that the Bundys were not violent or dangerous, including an FBI analysis that concluded that BLM  was "trying to provoke a conflict" with the Bundys. As an analysis in the left-leaning Intercept observed, federal missteps in this case “fueled longstanding perceptions among the right-wing groups and militias that the federal government is an underhanded institution that will stop at nothing to crush the little guy and cover up its own misdeeds.”

Read the rest of the article at USA Today.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

Sessions to Renew War on Cannabis

01/04/2018Mark Thornton

According to multiple sources, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is going to revoke the Obama-era Cole Memo, which directed federal law enforcement to respect states' marijuana legalization laws. Once revoked, federal prosecutors in states where marijuana has been legalized will independently decide how to enforce federal marijuana policy in their states. This could create chaos in the fast-growing cannabis business which has been creating large numbers of jobs and burgeoning tax revenues for state and local governments.

It is unclear how Mr. Sessions thinks that such a move would benefit Sessions or help him carry out his job, other than repealing an Obama-era rule might get him back into the graces of President Trump.

The only other option is that Session is supposed to help address the Opioid Crisis. He thinks that cannabis has somehow contributed to the crisis ala the Gateway Theory of drugs, which assumes that cannabis smokers will turn into heroin addicts. The Gateway Theory has long been debunked for many reasons. In fact, cannabis and cannabis legalization has actually reduced the crisis somewhat. Cannabis is now being successfully used to treat opioid addiction. In states that have legalized cannabis, the number of opioid overdose deaths have actually decreased.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how people react to a new crackdown on cannabis in states that have successfully repealed federal law and enjoy very positive results.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

Poor Logic from Forbes and Paul Tudor Jones

01/03/2018Hunter Lewis

As the Austrian School has pointed out, the ultimate source of human poverty and failure lies in poor logic.

Here is an example from Forbes Magazine and a leading hedge fund investor who is also a major charitable donor genuinely devoted to helping humanity and the planet.

The editor of Forbes, Randall Lane, quotes Paul Tudor Jones, as follows

There is no bigger threat to our democracy than wealth disparity. It is a story normally reserved for monarchies, dictatorships and plutocracies….We got into this pickle because over the past 40 years the corporate focus on profits took on manic proportions relative to other stakeholders such as employees, communities and the planet.

There are several things wrong with this logic. In the first place, a focus on profits is not at odds with a focus on employees, customers, communities, or the planet. Profit, properly defined, is the net present value of all future profits, that is, what you should be able to realize by selling that profit stream today. To maximize profit, therefore, one must take a long term view and seek to provide exemplary service over many, many years to employees, customers, communities, and the planet. What Paul Tudor Jones is describing is not profit maximization, but rather short term profit taking, which will actually reduce the net present value of all future profits. As Henry Hazlitt pointed out in Economics in One Lesson, real capitalism focuses on the long run, not just the short run, and considers all consumers, not just some.

The problem of course is that we have never had the benefit of real capitalism. Thanks to the interventions of government into the economy, and especially into the pricing system, we get crony capitalism instead. This is bound to happen in a monarchy or dictatorship. But, contra Mr. Jones,  it is no less likely to happen in an American style democracy, as American history has shown. So long as government influences, manipulates, or controls prices, powerful special interests will strive to use the power of government to gain monopolies or other advantages. There are, however, certain periods in which government ( and in particular central bank) policy puts crony capitalism on steroids, with a resultant sharp increase in economic inequality,  and that is what we are seeing today.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

What's a Rare Luxury Today will Be Owned by the Average Man Tomorrow

01/02/2018Ryan McMaken

In 2015, the federal government (namely, the FCC) implemented new monopolistic regulations which it called "net neutrality." In 2017, the FCC then repealed some of these regulations. In the weeks and months preceding the repeal, various billionaires and other leftists hysterically predicted that the end of net neutrality would usher in a dystopia in which only the super rich could access the internet. 

What they were really opposing, of course, was a return to the internet's status quo of 2015. And we all know what a living nighmare that was! 

In reality, of course, internet access has grown continually over the past two decades in the absence of net neutrality, and has now become commonplace. Like most technologies, public access to this "luxury" has only grown over time. 

This is how markets work, as Ludwig von Mises pointed out: 

Thirty-five years ago there were no automobiles; twenty years ago the possession of such a vehicle was the sign of a particularly luxurious mode of living; today in the United States even the worker has his Ford. This is the course of economic history. The luxury of today is the necessity of tomorrow. Every advance first comes into being as the luxury of a few rich people, only to become, after a time, the indispensable necessity taken for granted by everyone. Luxury consumption provides industry with the stimulus to discover and introduce new, things. It is one of the dynamic factors in our economy. To it we owe the progressive innovations by which the standard of living of all strata of the population has been gradually raised.

In a recent column for Forbes, John Tamny takes note of this reality, examining how the left's alarmism over net neutrality has no basis in the actual experience of the marketplace:

In 2006 Ford Motor Company discontinued its Ford Taurus. At the time Saturday Night Live’s comedy writers described the Taurus (this is a slight paraphrase) as “the car for people who’ve given up." Eventually Ford brought back the automobile associated with average. Interesting there is that a $31,000 2018 Taurus has 4-wheel ABS, dual front side mounted airbags, front and rear head airbags, dusk-sensing headlights, a blind spot warning accident avoidance system, rear parking sensors and a rear-backup camera (to avoid dings), and a heated steering wheel. Electric seats are a given.

Back in 2006, only the higher-end suites at the Four Seasons in Austin, TX (the city's most luxurious hotel) had flat-screen televisions. The regular rooms still had the box-shaped version. But by 2015 flat-screen tvs were standard not just in rooms at the Four Seasons, but also in most any Motel 6.

Air travel? Those rich enough to fly used to travel with flip flops, but only in their bags. They dressed up for what was a rare luxury. Nowadays people walk on to planes in flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and other garments associated with highly casual dress. Flying is what we all do now.

All of this is a reminder of what readers of this column know well: “luxury” is an ephemeral concept. Today’s obscure bauble of the superrich is tomorrow’s common good. In a growing economy prices are falling all the time. They are because investment is the driver of growth, and investment is all about producing more for less.

What's also crucial when it comes to falling prices is the “venture buyer.” And while the truth about “venture buyers” may cause the heads of the overly sensitive to explode, venture buyers are rich. Often wildly rich. So rich that they can spend enormous sums on goods and services that aren’t broadly used, or understood. These buyers are crucial to progress because they can uniquely test the products put on the market by entrepreneurs and businesses. If they prove useful, great. If they’re duds, the rich are out substantial sums. That’s ok. Figure that they’re superrich.

Still, the goods and services deemed worthy by venture buyers act as a signal to the entrepreneurs and businesses, and the signal is clear: the innovators capable of mass-producing what superrich venture buyers uniquely enjoy will similarly become superrich themselves. There. It’s been said. Great wealth, the kind of wealth that causes inequality to soar, is frequently a function of entrepreneurs democratizing access to the goods and services formerly enjoyed by the rich alone.

There is no reason whatsoever to believe that access to the internet is going to diminish in the absence of a 2-year-old regulation that has been recently repealed. Experience suggests exactly the opposite.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

Murphy on Bitcoin and the Regression Theorem

01/02/2018Tho Bishop

Based on how frequently the subject came up with friends and families during the holidays, I have a feeling that the topic of cryptocurrencies will not be going away in 2018. 

One question I see frequently raised in online Austrian circles is how Bitcoin and other crypto fit with Mises's regression thereom, and so I wanted to share a great blog post by Bob Murphy in 2014 on this topic to help clarify the subject for any interested readers:

It was necessary for Mises to come up with his regression theorem–which traced the purchasing power of money back to the time at which it was valued as a mere commodity in direct barter–in order to ensure that his application of subjective value theory didn’t set up an infinite regress. Since Mises was ultimately explaining today’s purchasing power of money by reference to observations of its purchasing power yesterday, it seemed that he was merely pushing back the problem one step, but not really explaining the value of money in a logically complete way. Yet Mises pointed out that it was not an infinite regress; once we reached the historical point at which the money good was used in direct exchange, then standard price theory took over and the regress stopped.

So, what relevance does this have to Bitcoin? The short answer: none whatsoever. There is no question that people today have a way of estimating the purchasing power of Bitcoin; they can look up the spot price online. If we object that the current price is largely dependent on yesterday’s price, then we start back with the regress. And where do we stop? In early 2009 when the first Bitcoin transactions were negotiated, including a pizza that sold for 10,000 BTC.

If Austrian economists want to say, “But those people had no basis for saying whether that pizza should have been 100 BTC or 1 million BTC!!” OK fair enough. But they did decide, somehow; those initial transactions provided a frame of reference that guided subsequent transactions involving bitcoins. If you want to argue that this odd origin means that subjective value theory can’t be applied to Bitcoin, OK, then so much the worse for subjective value theory.

People right now are exchanging bitcoins against “real” goods and services, and the sellers intend to use at least some of the acquired bitcoins to obtain other “real” goods and services down the road. There is no question that Bitcoin is currently a medium of exchange, though I would not christen it a money yet.

Some people concede that Bitcoin could exist temporarily, but that it would by its very nature be in a bubble with a fundamental value of zero. OK, but by the same token then, the US dollar has been in the same situation for 43 years, and the only reason this is in peril is that the authorities have been printing more dollars with reckless abandon (something that can’t happen under Bitcoin). So when people say, “Bitcoin will never last as money,” are they conceding that yes it might be the world’s reserve currency for a half century?

In conclusion, Ludwig von Mises’ regression theorem has nothing to say about the empirical question of whether Bitcoin will move beyond a medium of exchange and become a true money. If you think that subjective value theory somehow “proves” that a digital currency can never get off the ground because nobody would have any experience with which to evaluate it, then you are simply wrong; it happened in 2009.

 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

Economic Value and the Post Office

12/31/2017Peter G. Klein

Paul Waldman tries to defend the US Postal Services in this Twitter rant, but all he does is show the need for better economics education. He lists a bunch of things the post office does and deems it a "fricking marvel." Well, nobody disputes that the post office does home pickup and delivery, charges prices independent of distance, and provides services in small towns and low-income areas. The economic question is whether the post office should do these things -- or, more precisely, whether the value (to consumers) of the goods and services produced exceeds the opportunity cost of the resources used to produce them. That, as the Austrian economists have emphasized more vigorously than any other thinkers and writers, can only be determined on the market, in a system of private property and free prices.

Waldman has made the common error, which I've written about often in the context of government-funded science and technology, of confusing economic value and technological or engineering value. The former relates to economic well-being, the latter to the technical aspect of doing X, Y, or Z. The fact that something is produced or performed does not tell us whether the production or performance is valuable. When government is paying the bills (not to mention owning the property and, often, outlawing competition), there is no way to know.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

Raico on Churchill

12/28/2017Tho Bishop

Inspired by the recent interest in the film Darkest Hour and Netflix's The Crown, our friend C Jay Engel at Austrolibertarian was inspired to share the late great Ralph Raico's thoughts on Winston Churchill.

From his essay Rethinking Churchill

When, in a very few years, the pundits start to pontificate on the great question: “Who was the Man of the Century?” there is little doubt that they will reach virtually instant consensus. Inevitably, the answer will be: Winston Churchill. Indeed, Professor Harry Jaffa has already informed us that Churchill was not only the Man of the Twentieth Century, but the Man of Many Centuries.

In a way, Churchill as Man of the Century will be appropriate. This has been the century of the State — of the rise and hypertrophic growth of the welfare-warfare state — and Churchill was from first to last a Man of the State, of the welfare state and of the warfare state. War, of course, was his lifelong passion; and, as an admiring historian has written: “Among his other claims to fame, Winston Churchill ranks as one of the founders of the welfare state.” Thus, while Churchill never had a principle he did not in the end betray, this does not mean that there was no slant to his actions, no systematic bias. There was, and that bias was towards lowering the barriers to state power.

[…]

Yet, in truth, Churchill never cared a great deal about domestic affairs, even welfarism, except as a means of attaining and keeping office. What he loved was power, and the opportunities power provided to live a life of drama and struggle and endless war.

There is a way of looking at Winston Churchill that is very tempting: that he was a deeply flawed creature, who was summoned at a critical moment to do battle with a uniquely appalling evil, and whose very flaws contributed to a glorious victory — in a way, like Merlin, in C.S. Lewis’s great Christian novel, That Hideous Strength. Such a judgment would, I believe, be superficial. A candid examination of his career, I suggest, yields a different conclusion: that, when all is said and done, Winston Churchill was a Man of Blood and a politico without principle, whose apotheosis serves to corrupt every standard of honesty and morality in politics and history.

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

Max Boot Discovers His White Privilege

12/28/2017Ryan McMaken

Back in the wake of 9/11, it was harder to find a more pro-war member of the conservative establishment than Max Boot. Boot has now spent abour two decades advocating for non-stop global war in pursuit of an American empire than he he wholeheartedly endorses. 

Nor am I putting words in his mouth. Boot, after all, wrote an article in 2001 called “The Case for American Empire.” He has been an unabashed proponent of bombing and starving foreigners in pursuit of nation-building and "spreading democracy." He's a vociferous defender of torture. American taxpayers, of course, get to pay for it all, both in terms of tax dollars, and in the ongoing shredding of the Bill of Rights which Boot supports. Most of the interventions Boot supports have done little more than make the world safe of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups that have sprung up in the wake of Boot's favored regime changes. And don't expect a mea culpa on any of that any time soon. 

Those who have paid with their lives, however, have been mostly foreigners, most of them with brown skin. 

But now Max Boot has miraculously discovered his "white privilege" as he reveals in a recent article for Foreign Policy. 

Anyone who knows Boot's history of lusting for the blood of non-white innocents in foreign lands will have a hard time reading his tweet on the matter in a non-sarcastic voice. And yet, he is apparently trying to be serious when he says "my consciousness has been raised":

boot1.PNG

But why the sudden change of heart?

Well according to hard-left journalist Cailtin Johnstone (who is currently one of the most interesting leftists writing right now), Boot is cozying up the left because he needs the left as an ally against Trump. 

It turns out that in spite of Trump's posturing, people who actually voted for Trump — and possibly Trump himself — are not nearly are pro-war as Boot would like. The answer? Pander to the left. 

Johnstone writes

This spectacularly evil man [i.e., Boot], who wrote an essay titled “The Case for American Empire” just weeks after 9/11 in which he called in plain English for America to “unambiguously to embrace its imperial role,” is now seeing his latest essay shared eagerly by Democrats everywhere enthusiastically exclaiming “Look! See? This conservative gets it!”

I’m seeing some progressives arguing that Boot’s sudden public recognition of his white male privilege is intrinsically worthy of praise and acceptance, and that the proper response is to applaud him for it, not spit in his face. These people are wrong. Max Boot did not have some personal epiphany about race and gender dynamics which he felt like sharing in Foreign Policy magazine (the obvious place everyone goes for publication of their enlightening insights into privilege and inequality); Max Boot is courting Democrats because his war-hungry ideology is being increasingly rejected by Republicans.

If you want to see why neocons are courting Democrats with increasing desperation, check out the response to Boot’s latest essay by Fox’s Tucker Carlson, who has come to align with the popular anti-interventionist sentiments of Trump’s base, or Carlson’s debate with Boot on his show back in July...

boot2.PNG

Meanwhile what have Democrats been doing? Supporting escalations with Russia based on accusations with no evidence that are reported as fact by the mainstream media in the exact sort of manic, violent, fact-free climate we saw in the lead up to the Iraq invasion (an invasion that Max Boot says nobody needs to repent for). Resistance hero Keith Olbermann says he owes George W Bush and John McCain an apology for the times he disagreed with them, and MSNBC’s Joy Reid openly admitted that she prefers people like Boot as allies instead of actual leftists and progressives...

Reid’s comments are typical of the way the cult of anti-Trumpism has mainstream Democrats swooning over Bush-era neocons like they’re the Kennedys reincarnated instead of a bunch of child-butchering war profiteers. Just check out the top comments under this “Gosh I’m so woke all of a sudden!” tweet by neocon psychopath Bill Kristol:

boot3.PNG

In reality, nothing Trump has done in his administration so far is anywhere remotely close to as evil as the invasion of Iraq. The fact that hatred of the sitting president has Democrats so desperate they’re not only forgiving the crimes of vestigial Bush neocons but also helping them in their agenda to sabotage any movements toward detente with Russia shows just how brutally efficient the psychological manipulations of the establishment propaganda machine have become.

If Johnstone is right, this is actually good news. Yes, it's true that leftists have a habit of overstating things the right wing does. The left is often claiming that conservatives are about to slash tax rates to near-zero levels, or "de-regulate" the economy, or mandate prayer in schools, and so on. None of these things ever come even close to happening, of course. So, this may be yet another case of a leftist misreading the magnitude of a movement on the right. 

On the other hand, Johnstone is right that its the Hillary Clinton wing of the DC establishment that seems most bent on world war with the Russians who have about 7,000 nuclear warheads. It's the left which has launched the new McCarthyism in which anyone who disagrees with the media narrative on Russia is "Putin's agent." Foreign policy hysteria, is at least as much a thing of the left right now, as of the right. 

So, maybe Johnstone is onto something. She does miss that domestic policy has always taken a backseat to aggressive foreign policy for people like Kristol and Boot. She misses that neo-conservatives have long actually leaned left in their views on social policy. So, the sudden embrace of the "white privilege" narrative by Boot isn't as hard to believe as Johnstone might think. It is hard, however, to read the comments of Boot and Kristol as anything other than pandering in an era when Kristol, et al, fear that maybe, just maybe, Trump won't give them all the wars they want. Trump is obviously good for lots of "tough talk," but then again that was also true for Ronald Reagan who never perpetrated anything like the bloodbaths caused by his successors Bush I and Bush II. Maybe that's what Boot is most afraid of. 

When commenting, please post a concise, civil, and informative comment. Full comment policy here.

Shield icon power-market-v2