Occam’s Razor and Trump

Andrew Sullivan’s post is far better than this one; read his instead:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/andrew-sullivan-the-white-house-mole.html

As far as I can tell:

1.  About 100% of liberal pundits think Trump’s a buffoon

2.  About 100% of moderate pundits think Trump’s a buffoon

3.  About 50% of conservative pundits (and more of the elite ones) think Trump’s a buffoon

4.  Some conservative pundits think Trump’s being unfairly maligned.

I’m not opposed to contrarian positions; I’ve taken them myself (as in my view of the Fed’s role in the Great Recession.)  But monetary policy is a highly specialized field, and popularity contests aren’t of much use when evaluating the truth of propositions related to the liquidity trap, or the many worlds interpretation of QM.

But while most people are not well informed on arcane economic issues, they are hard wired to be pretty good at reading their fellow human beings.  You didn’t need a PhD in psych to notice that Jimmy Carter was more honest than Richard Nixon.

Many of my commenters are ignoring Occam’s Razor, and are making a highly improbable claim.  They seem to think that the small number of conservative pundits who respect Trump are the only ones not blinded by ideology.  Liberals are blinded by bias and moderates are blinded by bias and me and George Will and Jonah Goldberg and all the other right of center people who see Trump for what his is are simply “hallucinating”.  That’s certainly possible; people who hallucinate don’t know they are hallucinating.  But think about what your claim means.  If it’s possible for me to hallucinate and not know it, then it’s equally possible for you to do so.

I’ll go with the simpler explanation; the few pundits who don’t see Trump for what his is are the one’s with a “bias” problem.  After all, did 100% of conservative pundits and 100% of moderate pundit and 50% of liberal pundits think Obama was a buffoon?  I didn’t like the guy’s economic policies, but he seemed no worse than the run of the mill politician in almost any given human attribute, and better in some (like ability to speak).  So I’ll go with the simplest and most logical explanation for why so many pundits think Trump is a buffoon, until I see evidence to the contrary.

One more thing.  Late night talk show hosts latch on to the president’s attributes that everyone can easily recognize.  Gee, I wonder which “obvious” Trump attributes they are latching on to?

I see that Trump’s choice to head the NSC was as impressed with his press conference as I was:

The top pick to be President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, retired Adm. Robert Harward, reportedly declined the offer after seeing Trump air his grievances in a 77-minute press conference on Thursday.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Friday cited a former national security official familiar with Harward’s decision who said Harward asked that several demands be met as a condition of accepting the offer:

“Harward wanted to undo the fairly large changes the president had made to the NSC that had inserted Bannon into the process,” Hayes reported.

Citing his source, Hayes said “The White House did not offer Harward sufficient assurances that he would have such autonomy.” Harward wrote a letter declining the offer.

The White House reportedly sought to negotiate with Harward on the matter, which Harward was initially open to, Hayes said, but that changed a short time later.

“After watching the president’s press conference [Thursday], he decided to stick with his decision to decline the offer,” according to the source cited by Hayes.

And if you are going to spend most of your press conference bashing the press for fake news, you might not want to spew one lie after another.  You might not want to claim that you won the biggest victory since Reagan.  Or claim that you are the least racist person, right before asking a black reporter if she knows the Congressional black caucus, and could she set up a meeting with them.

And if you are concerned about leaks, you might not want to avoid firing Flynn for several weeks after finding out that he lied to Pence, and then fire him only after it was reported by the Washington Post, through a leak. And then lie about it at your press conference.  If you are a White House staff person who sees a “bad hombre” you want gone, would you tell Trump about what he did wrong, or the WaPo?

I know, I know, people like Scott Adams explain how all this seeming stupidity is part of the Master Plan.  Trump knows he didn’t have the biggest victory since Reagan, but claims it because his supporters don’t care about the truth.  We are all missing the point.  And the supporters won’t care when he fails to deliver on Obamacare repeal, jobs, immigration, and all the other issues.  Nothing matters.  It’s all about bluster.  He looks tough.

But I’m sticking with Occam’s Razor.  When someone consistently acts like a buffoon, over and over again, the least implausible explanation is that he actually is a buffoon.

PS.  Another defense is, “Yes, he’s a stupid, mean, vindictive, boorish, dishonest, sexist, bigot, but none of it matters because he’ll pick the right people for the Supreme Court and he will sign tax cuts.  I’m actually slightly more sympathetic to that argument, as I think the power of Presidents is very overrated.  (But notice the Trumpistas who point to the stock market rally were silent when stocks rallied under Obama.)

I predict that things will actually improve over time, as the bad guys like Flynn will gradually get replaced by grown-ups, just as Reagan brought in James Baker at some point and Bush pushed Cheney aside. Trump doesn’t know what he’s doing, and so the power of the “establishment” will gradually grind him down.  But it would have been much simpler if the GOP had nominated a non-buffoon in the first place.  And he’d have an easier time getting competent replacements for people like Flynn if he didn’t scare them off with a press conference where he looked deranged.

PPS.  Look at the bright side, at least Trump hasn’t yet adopted Maoist “Enemies of the People!” rhetoric.  Oh wait . . .

PPPS.  I will actually give credit to Trump on one point, he’s a no excuses kind of guy.  He never said “I’ll do all these things if Paul Ryan agrees to the proposals”; he said he’d definitely accomplish all this stuff.  If Paul Ryan stood in the way, then Paul Ryan would be gone.  No excuses, Trump is a winner.  Of course when he fails his supporters will whine about how the Washington establishment tries to undercut him (partly true), but none of the matters.  Trump ran as a sort of superman.  The bad hombres from Mexico?  Day one, they are gone.  Trump knew the establishment was totally against him from the beginning, and none of it matters—Trump claimed he will perform miracles, and that’s the standard that we should all hold him to.  I know that I will.  It’s more fun that way.

PPPPS.  Trump’s right about one thing—a lot of fake news is being peddled these days.

 

 


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92 Responses to “Occam’s Razor and Trump”

  1. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    19. February 2017 at 07:28

    One advantage Trump has is that he claims many things are terrible when, in reality, they are not. That will make it easier for him to claim he has fixed problems. He can say illegal aliens are no longer killing vast numbers of Americans and supporters can note that illegal aliens are not killing vast numbers of Americans. They can credit him for fixing a problem and ignore the fact that it never was a problem. Or he can point to a declining crime rate, ignoring the fact that it’s been declining for decades.

    A useful line on Trump: malevolence tempered by incompetence.

  2. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    19. February 2017 at 08:50

    A lot of conservatives have shed their libertarian veneer and went full retard. It is amusing to watch. It is almost a welcome distraction from the whole racism thing. It is like trying to explain bourbon to people. Not all conservatives are white supremacists but all white supremacists are conservative.

  3. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    19. February 2017 at 09:06

    Scott is correct in his appeal to parsimony when interpreting Trump’s actions. The same is true when it comes to most Republicans. They were long accused of being fascists and that is exactly what they are.

    Of course this doesn’t apply to people like Will, Frum, Pethokoukis, Mike Murphy, etc. There are many public conservative intellectuals who are no more fascists than liberals. They are honest people that I even often agree with. In fact, it seems Scott and I read many of the same conservatives.

    But, it does apply to perhaps at least a slight majority of Republican voters, and perhaps even a large majority. Rush Limbaugh and many right-wingers of his ilk have long had notable fascists streaks. It’s in the DNA of much of American conservatism.

    Fascism is difficult to fight, because it appeals to the “id” of many, especially in times of distress. It is an evolutionary-based way of projecting dystopian views of small group social dynamics onto the much less understood, abstract dynamics of the modern state and world. The open expressions of fear and anger feel good, when in distress over perceived disorder, just as do the strongman’s promises to restore what they consider order.

    It’s important for non-fascists to understand that we are making the less natural argument. We are appealing for calm by, in part, denying there’s a crisis. We understand that terrorism is a very minor problem for the US in terms of literal physical danger, but the fascists do not. And because of that, they see us as fools and/or traitors who are not only selling their concept of American culture for elitist richer personal experiences and mutual social approbation, but trading away their very physical security and national sovereignty for ideals they don’t understand or want to understand.

    Liberals are not always innocent. We need only look to Venezuela to see liberal ignorance, arrogance, and authoritarianism run amok. But that is not the problem in the US right now. The problem is fascism.

  4. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    19. February 2017 at 09:09

    I see fascism as a sort of socio-political autoimmune disorder.

  5. Gravatar of Dan W. Dan W.
    19. February 2017 at 10:46

    So far Trump has ordered deregulation of many industries and he unsuccessful sought to restrict immigration from 7 nations previously identified by the Obama administration to be security risks.

    Business confidence is up and expectations for economic growth are up. All good, right? But no. Some people have their feelings hurt and so tending to those emotional wounds is the thing of greatest importance!

    At least the whiners and hand wringers should take heart. If Trump is as incompetent and clownish as you believe then it is unlikely he will succeed at being a Fascist.

  6. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    19. February 2017 at 12:03

    I wonder sometimes if our host has a limited IQ. I confess I scored 120 on a UK IQ test a while ago (would have scored higher, but they had some Brit pop culture references I didn’t know); what is Sumner’s IQ? Probably a respectable 95 (and falling).

    “Andrew Sullivan’s post is far better than this one” – that’s true of most of what Sumner posts. For example, nobody gets why he keeps harping about ‘no such thing as bubbles’ if he believes in money non-neutrality and sudden drops in asset prices affecting something. But still Sumner drones on.

    As for Trump’s lies, Tyler Cowen–who discovered Sumner (everybody makes mistakes)–had a much better reason in his Bloomberg column for why Trump lies: it’s a loyalty test to his followers. If you’re a Trump supporter, you’ll not question your leader even when the leader says day is night and night is day. If you do question, you signal you’re not a Trump supporter and therefore you’re out of the club. Common in the USSR with Stalin and throughout history, as Cowen observed.

  7. Gravatar of Travis Allison Travis Allison
    19. February 2017 at 12:55

    Perhaps part of the reason why Trump lies so much is that there is some research that shows active debunking of a lie reinforces the lie.

    http://www.salon.com/2017/02/15/can-journalists-debunk-trumps-lies-without-amplifying-them-its-challenging-but-not-impossible/

    And here is Scott Adams on Trump’s Reagan comment:

    https://twitter.com/ScottAdamsSays/status/832661546996101120

  8. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    19. February 2017 at 13:23

    Trump is certainly more a buffoon than Barry O, I’ve never disputed that. Do you think I care? He’s certainly not the genius Scott Adams says he is (though Adams is half-right; Trump does use various rhetorical strategies to help himself win). But I do not at all think he’s worse in his policy stances than the standard politician, whether Republican or Democrat; in fact, I think he’s much better. Condemning Trump for not being perfect is a complete non-sequitur to me, especially when that condemnation coming from someone who didn’t even endorse anyone in the primary. If you think Trump is bad, find someone better. And, no, Pence is obviously not better.

    Obama was actually worse than the standard-issue politician in the ability to speak off-the-cuff (worse than Trump), but I didn’t care at all about that.

    The press really are enemies of the people; nobody sane should dispute that.

  9. Gravatar of grey enlightenment grey enlightenment
    19. February 2017 at 13:37

    respect your insights even though politically we disagree. What part of Obama’s economic policy did you not like (too much stimulus or not enough?)

    *(But notice the Trumpistas who point to the stock market rally were silent when stocks rallied under Obama.)*

    But the media and many on the ‘left’ predicted the market and economy would crash if Trump won, which it obv. didn’t. The market surge could be interpreted as a ‘vote of confidence’ for Trump. The strong post-2009 bull market is probably more to do with factors outside of Obama’s control, such as strong profits & earnings growth.

    Many Trump supporters, like yourself, are tired of BS, sensationalism, hype, and fake news from the media.

  10. Gravatar of grey enlightenment grey enlightenment
    19. February 2017 at 13:40

    I wonder sometimes if our host has a limited IQ. I confess I scored 120 on a UK IQ test a while ago (would have scored higher, but they had some Brit pop culture references I didn’t know); what is Sumner’s IQ? Probably a respectable 95 (and falling).

    lol an IQ test that asks about a pop culture reference probably isn’t reputable

  11. Gravatar of the original Gordon the original Gordon
    19. February 2017 at 14:10

    Scott isn’t condemning Trump because he is “not perfect”; Scott is condemning Trump for publicly displaying that he has no grasp of basic facts. Of course, as Ray helpfully tells us, this might not be the sign of a buffoon, but rather of a Stalin.

    Market’s up, though, so what could go wrong either way?

  12. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. February 2017 at 14:45

    Scott, You said:

    “Rush Limbaugh and many right-wingers of his ilk have long had notable fascists streaks.”

    Actually, back in the 1990s he was slightly libertarian. Don’t know what happened to him, but today he seems to be aiming his stuff at a much dumber audience. He was actually kind of witty back when Clinton was President.

    Dan, You said:

    “If Trump is as incompetent and clownish as you believe then it is unlikely he will succeed at being a Fascist.”

    I’ve been saying that all along, glad you are finally catching on.

    Travis, A few months ago several commenters said I had to read Scott Adams, who had this brilliant take on Trump. So I read him. I better stop there.

    Grey, Obama made no attempt to reduce the role of government in the economy.

    Gordon, You said:

    “Scott isn’t condemning Trump because he is “not perfect””

    Not quite, I am claiming that he is a perfect villain. If you made a list of 100 human attributes, Trump would be on the wrong side of them all. He has no virtues. He has no redeeming qualities. That doesn’t mean that some of his executive decisions might not help the economy, I’m just saying he is a perfectly awful person. How is that not obvious to people?

    I agree about the stock market—when did conservatives start judging presidents based on the stock market? I wonder if they’ve looked at the track record of Democratic vs. Republican presidents over the past 100 years.

  13. Gravatar of Bonnie Bonnie
    19. February 2017 at 15:07

    I wonder how many lies Obama told that slipped through the cracks of Sumner’s notice – about bankers, about Republicans, about ObamaCare, about Iraq, about ISIS (you know, the JV team), about fiscal stimulus… Those are just off the top of my head. He had an issue with the press early on too, as Holder was threatening them.

    Perhaps you didn’t notice those lies. But I did. I didn’t lose my sensibility over it because it is standard fare in politics. Politicians over promise and under deliver, and minimize their negligence and failures. What a shocker. In fact, it is so shocking that we should all go nuts about it and write 100 blog posts each about politicians lying.

  14. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    19. February 2017 at 15:20

    I agree with Bonnie and Harding here. Nothing new, nothing shocking.


    but they had some Brit pop culture references I didn’t know

    Oh Ray, your fake IQ test stories are embarrassing.


    but rather of a Stalin.

    That’s an interesting comparison. I bet people like Hitler, Stalin or even Reagan didn’t know many basic facts either and especially the first two did live in their own very special paranoid reality but no one really called them out back then while Trump gets called out 24 hours a day. That might be the real difference here. So Trump is actually progress.

  15. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    19. February 2017 at 15:27


    I am claiming that he is a perfect villain.

    Ah, that might be one reason why I got some sympathies for him. It’s like watching a movie: You just have to appreciate a perfect villain. I doubt that he’s perfect though. He’s a bit too clumsy for my taste. He really needs to work on that.

  16. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    19. February 2017 at 15:49

    Scott, do you even know what Occam’s razor is? Occam’s razor is NOT a popularity contest. I don’t see how your post is an example of Occam’s razor. Don’t be foolish.

    I wonder what you would have written during the times of Giordano Bruno? I assume this:

    100% of the experts say Giordano Bruno is a buffoon.
    100% of popes say Giordano Bruno buffoon.
    Giordano Bruno says he is not a buffoon.

    Conclusion: Burn the witch!

    You can burn the witch of course (and you did) but this has NOTHING to do with Occam’s razor.

  17. Gravatar of Travis allison Travis allison
    19. February 2017 at 15:51

    Scott, it’s irrelevant, but I loathe trump i am not a big fan of adams. I just wonder whether trump actually doesn’t mind lying because the lies get repeated and a large enough proportion of people are influenced by them, even if they read debunking material. If that’s the case then we are in trouble.

  18. Gravatar of Bob O’Brien Bob O'Brien
    19. February 2017 at 15:56

    I watched Trump’s recent press conference and his speech in Florida on CSPAN. Honestly, I agree with most of what he said. Yes, he exaggerates everything and sometimes his facts are wrong. But the media does publish many stories that are pure speculation with no fact checking and that often turn out to be bogus. The press has been doing this for years, including some folks at Fox (CSPAN is really the only news source I trust today.) I actually appreciated the fact that the president called out the press on this.

    Changing the subject, I wonder if the congress and the president are heading in the right direction when it comes to the proposed changes in the tax laws. This seems to me to be the most important policy change in the works. I think the new policy appears to be a good change but how about some
    feedback on this from the economics experts who write and read this blog. (Forgive me if this has been covered in previous posts and I missed it.)

  19. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    19. February 2017 at 16:44

    Christian List,

    Hitler did get called out by the press until he shut it down. Hence “Luegenpresse”. And even the judiciary in Nazi Germany held out for a while, refusing to convict several of the Nazis’ favorite villains for the burning of the Reichstag for example. Eventually to be supplemented by Volksgerichtshoefe. As Scott noted before, Herr Hitler did not become “Hitler” in a single day. I’d agree though that today and in the US, this would be a lot harder to achieve for various reasons, massive media diversity for once, republicanism and rule of law much better grounded etc. Still, Trump / Bannon / Miller would love to get an opportunity such as a Reichstag fire to get emergency powers.

    Scott Freelander,

    “I see fascism as a sort of socio-political autoimmune disorder.” Bingo, but not just fascism. That’s my model for the ENTIRE antiterrorism paranoia, world wide but especially in the US, since 9/11. The cure is MUCH worse than the disease and attacks the healthy body parts.

  20. Gravatar of Grant Schaumburg Grant Schaumburg
    19. February 2017 at 18:18

    While we are on the topic of lies, how about, “Welcome to a new blog on the endlessly perplexing problem of monetary policy.”

    You were much more interesting on topics in your field.

  21. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. February 2017 at 18:57

    Everyone, There are millions of Americans who don’t think that professional wrestling is fake. I met one when I was young.

    Bonnie, Some people can see that Trump is completely abnormal for a politician, completely out of the mainstream. And some people can’t see it. If you can’t see it, then I can’t help you. Sorry.

    And yes, I’m well aware that all politicians lie, in varying amounts. I didn’t focus on Obama because he was a normal president, like Bush, Clinton etc. I don’t focus on dog bites man stories, I focus on man bites dog stories.

    Christian, You said:

    “Scott, do you even know what Occam’s razor is? Occam’s razor is NOT a popularity contest.”

    I never said it was. Try reading my post again, and again, and again, until you get it.

    Travis, Maybe.

    Bob, You said:

    “Honestly, I agree with most of what he said.”

    You agree that there was a terrorist attack in Sweden last night? Has there ever been a previous President who made a complete fool of himself ever single day of the year, day after day after day after day?

    But I’m not surprised you agree with him, lots of people do. I just can’t imagine what they are seeing. The guy sounds like an idiot every time he opens his mouth.

    You said:

    “I actually appreciated the fact that the president called out the press on this.”

    Suppose you decided that YOU were the politician who was going to make a big issue of FAKE NEWS. Don’t you think you might want to spend like 5 minutes getting prepared, so you didn’t invent one ridiculous complete phony claim after another, right in the speech where you are castigating the press?

    Let me ask the question this way. You are in church, watching the minister criticized drug use. Every two minutes he stops his sermon to snort a line of cocaine. Would your response be “Yes, the minister snorts a lot of coke, but I agree with him that drug use is bad”? Or would you say “He’s a complete hypocrite”

    If a politician wanted to make an issue of FAKE NEWS it ought to be one that doesn’t create fake news himself every single day of the year.

    I’ve done many posts on the proposed tax reform, but readers seem uninterested.

    Grant, I still do more monetary posts than almost any other blogger, mostly at Econlog. Skip the Trump garbage if you don’t like it. (I agree that it’s garbage.)

  22. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    19. February 2017 at 19:05

    Scott,

    “Skip the Trump garbage if you don’t like it. (I agree that it’s garbage.)”

    I respectfully disagree. The 2008 crisis was the then-most important world historical event and you were right in focusing on it then. Trump is at the very least a seminal US and world shaking political event in 2017 and you are equally right in posting on it. It is important, all the more so in that one must push back against the unacceptable. One must push as much as possible against all the lies and attempts at normalization of Trump. As Scott Alexander pointed out, even the actual Nazis were vulnerable to pushback. So, it is important, even if it’s a grind.

  23. Gravatar of TheNumeraire TheNumeraire
    19. February 2017 at 20:24

    Stocks did not rally after Obama’s election or during the first month of his presidency, quite the opposite.

    The performance of the market after Obama’s first 30 days was among the worst in history;
    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-president-trumps-stock-market-performance-in-his-first-30-days-ranks-2017-02-17

    Think back to all the horrible policies and legislation put forth in Obama’s first month on the job; the stimulus package (mostly consisted of welfare cheques disguised as Making Work Pay tax credits), the authorization of the second tranche of TARP funds, the Geithner Plan. The market drifted lower after each of these failed gov’t solutions. In fact, the market didn’t bottom until March 10, when Bernanke delivered a speech criticizing the pro-cyclicality of financial regulation with respect to financial market conditions and urged regulators to relax or remove these procyclical effects and accounting rules (the bank stock index was up over 15 percent that day).

    Knowing these facts, I don’t see why Trump supporters and/or die-hard conservatives would have to give credit to Obama for the stock market rally — a multiyear rally that only carried onward after the world’s central bankers abandoned interest rate targeting orthodoxy in favor of unconventional monetary policy.

  24. Gravatar of Major-Freedom Major-Freedom
    19. February 2017 at 21:33

    PPPPS. Trump’s right about one thing—a lot of fake news is being peddled these days.

    Sumner is again spreading fake news:

    https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/833435244451753984

  25. Gravatar of SilasLock SilasLock
    19. February 2017 at 21:40

    Hey Scott, I’m trying to do some analysis of US economic trends and can’t seem to find any data for NGDP. Any good sources you can recommend? A dataset that reaches further back in time would be preferable.

    Thanks!

    P.S. On a side note, great post! I’ve never really understood how anyone finds the Scott Adams “master plan” narrative convincing.

  26. Gravatar of Bob O’Brien Bob O'Brien
    19. February 2017 at 22:34

    Here is what Trump said about Sweden:

    “You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden. Who would believe this? Sweden,” Trump said. “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like they never thought possible,”

    Trump did not use the word terrorism. It seems like when Trump exaggerates, his opponents come back with even more exaggerations, (i.e. “problems” becomes “terrorism”)!

  27. Gravatar of Daniel Daniel
    20. February 2017 at 02:30

    Only a life-long virgin would use “sexist” as an insult.

  28. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    20. February 2017 at 05:12

    Food for thought:

    Amazon.com has a $600 million contract to provide “secure” cloud services for …the CIA.

    Bezos owns Amazon. Bezos owns the Washington Post.

    Trump is a fat target, and often deserves criticism….but if Scott Sumner has Trump Derangement Syndrome, then the WaPO has mass monomania and psychosis.

    https://www.thenation.com/article/amazon-washington-post-and-600-million-cia-contract/

    The lefties used to be outraged at the obvious conflict of interest that a Bezos-CIA contract creates.

    Leftie or rightie, I think it is a conflict of interest. No one cares anymore, and the media does not investigate the media. If you are a reporter, you want to make enemies of Bezos? With the friends he has?

    Then…

    Trump plans a review of national security agencies and has talked about streamlining same:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/15/us/politics/trump-intelligence-agencies-stephen-feinberg.html?_r=0

    and…

    “New Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump is “being really dumb” by taking on the intelligence community and its assessments on Russia’s cyber activities.

    “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.”

    –30–

    Oh that’s nice. Cut the CIA budget and they will gut you.

    In 2013, the WaPo reported there are 107,000 intelligence agency employees.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/national/black-budget/

    In 2010, after a two-year investigation, and before the Bezos-CIA contract, the WaPo reported the US intelligence services were “A Hidden World Growing Beyond Control”

    http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/articles/a-hidden-world-growing-beyond-control/

    “Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who was asked last year to review the method for tracking the Defense Department’s most sensitive programs. Vines, who once commanded 145,000 troops in Iraq and is familiar with complex problems, was stunned by what he discovered.

    “I’m not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities,” he said in an interview. “The complexity of this system defies description.”

    —30—

    Trump is a wacko. But it may take a wacko to take on the national intelligence agencies. Trump is probably the wrong guy to do the job, lacking the perseverance such an undertaking would require. Too bad.

    But the word to the wise: There is a lot of motion behind the scenes. Trump is a democratically elected President. But is our own intelligence community undermining him?

    And the media, which should at least be airing the issue of a national security streamlining, let alone the threats to domestic freedom such a unorganized colossus presents?

    They are bashing Trump. Because, you know, he is Trump and Trump-like, and says dumb Trump things, and constantly.

  29. Gravatar of AMT AMT
    20. February 2017 at 05:17

    Sumner, I just have to say that you have “lost credibility” with me, because clearly your post was far better than the cited article.

    Seriously though, I appreciate your intelligent humor and commentary on Trump.
    If he does have any somewhat positive trait, I think you could argue confidence. But, he is SO confident that he can never accept the possibility of being wrong and changing course on major policies, let alone even acknowledge he misspoke. “what’s happening last night in Sweden,” he apparently meant generally, rather than last night when he learned about it. But he would never admit this was his mistake, rather YOUR flawed misinterpretation, of course.

    But I agree we must hold him to the standard HE asserts: Pope-like infallibility. (Since all criticism = fake news) If he cannot admit even a tiny mistake, why should we forgive him for them?

  30. Gravatar of d d
    20. February 2017 at 05:54

    hm, maybe what we have is the confirmation bias syndrome

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/27/why-facts-dont-change-our-minds?mbid=rss

    it explains why when shown facts some will never change their opinion. but double down on it.

  31. Gravatar of d d
    20. February 2017 at 05:59

    so what exactly was happening ‘last night Sweden’? the swedes dont seem to know of any particular problem or issue on the night in question.

    so what was it?

  32. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    20. February 2017 at 06:33

    mbka, I don’t think Trump will end up being important, but only if we make sure that he’s not important. So good point.

    Numeraire, Your argument makes no sense at all. You say the stock market has been soaring for 8 years for reasons completely unrelated to the president, (likely) and then suddenly on January 20th it’s rising because of Trump? That doesn’t even pass the laugh test.

    Silas, The St. Louis “Fred” has it.

    Bob, The lengths people go to defend Trump really makes me laugh. What happened last night in Sweden? I hate to tell you this, but Sweden’s doing better than the US.

    Daniel, Good to see the Neanderthal community represented here.

    Ben, That makes sense. Everyone knows the CIA had Kennedy killed, so I imagine they are trying to take out Trump right now.

    AMT, Thanks.

    d, Good point about confirmation bias. And only Bob O’Brien knows what happened last night in Sweden.

  33. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 07:26

    Numeraire also fails to note that the economy was in free fall when Obama was elected and the recovery began in March of 2009, within a month of passage of his stimulus plan. That’s not to say the stimlus plan was responsible, but pointing to simple correlation, the argument that Obama saved us from a deeper recession and financial crisis is better than the one you’re making for Trump, the latter of whom’s done little so far. Likely, neither is true.

  34. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    20. February 2017 at 07:39

    Related: You know you’re in trouble when Robert Mugabe’s sticking up for you…
    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-39027611

  35. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    20. February 2017 at 07:43

    It’s bizarre for a guy that had valiantly fought very mistaken expert consensus to now use consensus as a litmus test.

  36. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    20. February 2017 at 07:49

    Come to think to it, it’s even sillier considering what the market, or business surveys, think about Trump administration.

  37. Gravatar of Bob O’Brien Bob O'Brien
    20. February 2017 at 07:50

    Regarding:

    ” What happened last night in Sweden? ”

    Yes, Trump made the mistake of using the words “last night”. What he was commenting on was a report on Fox News about migrants not assimilating in Sweden. It seems to me this may turn into a real problem some day in Sweden.

  38. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 07:55

    There’s no question Trump is operating inefficiently. I’m seeing one story after another about Pence, Mattis, and other administration officials, along with members of Congress, calling and visiting US allies to assure them we’re on their side. These are totally unnecessary distractions, because Trump cannot only not stay on message, but cannot help, but create multiple messes each day that Republicans feel the need to clean up. In the process, Trump is likely eroding at least his own credibility at home and abroad and if he’s not done so already, risks Americans and most foreign governments passing a final judgment on him and tuning him out, and waiting for him to leave office.

    I point out that one criteria for diagnosing a mental disorder is continued maladaptive behavior in the face of negative consequences. Trump is out of control, and when not lying on a constant basis, he’s making impulsive, poorly thought out statements that cause great confusion and concern. Importantly, increasingly, his lying appears irrational, as his lies aren’t credible. They’re often prima facie absurdly obvious.

    Again, I think he’s mentally ill. He has some form of dementia, and obviously narcissistic personality disorder, and these problems interact.

    With all due respect to Allen Frances, patient reporting of distress due to narcissism isn’t required to diagnosis NPD. It would be like requiring a patient with symptoms due to neurosyphilis to report distress before the diagnosis can be made. No, someone with the bacteria that causes neurosyphilis and who tests negative for other known causes of neurological impairment are diagnosed with neurosyphilis.

  39. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    20. February 2017 at 08:17

    @Christian List – forget Sumner, he’s a butt of jokes, for comedy only; the only reason I post here is for humor. He’s like the famous tech guy Linus Trovald, also somebody who likes to insult everybody, and that’s what makes him so ‘loveable’. If it wasn’t for Sumner’s numerous errors, and the fact he lets me post here, I wouldn’t be here. Think of Brad DeLong type certainty and error but no moderation of comments (unlike DeLong).

    Sumner: “Many of my commenters are ignoring Occam’s Razor, and are making a highly ***improbable*** claim” (emphasis added, then Sumner goes on to say in terms of probability and group opinions, Occam’s Razor should be used, exactly what is not Occam’s Razor, as C. List says. Probability in opinion is not the proper use of Occam’s Razor; Google “Groupthink”).

  40. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    20. February 2017 at 08:30

    @Scott Freelander

    Trump’s strategy with respect to Europe is exactly the right one. You have to have credible threats to get what you want. Europeans want us to continue paying for their defense and we don’t want to. Just talking will never accomplish anything. We shouldn’t care more about European security than Europeans themselves.

  41. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 08:42

    Krzys,

    Show me you’ve actually analyzed the situation and tell me how much money the US stands to save by having every NATO member spend at least 2% of GDP on defense. Then, justify the priority given to all states meeting this requirement. Let’s start there, though that’s only the beginning of this conversation.

  42. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 08:48

    Meanwhile, someone tell me how the fight against ISIS benefits from Mattis having to reassure Iraq that we don’t want to steal their oil.

    https://news.google.com/news/amp?caurl=http%3A%2F%2Famp.usatoday.com%2Fstory%2F98146072%2F#pt0-403004

    Does Trump know or care that the Iraqi army is helping to defeat ISIS, storming western Mosul?

  43. Gravatar of Cornflour Cornflour
    20. February 2017 at 09:00

    I don’t usually read the Trump posts, but–for no good reason–this one became an exception. By the way, I think that the title of the blog should be changed. Maybe call it “Love NGDPT, hate DJT, find the equilibrium.”

    At any rate, I’m a little surprised that no one has suggested adding a fifth possibility to Scott Sumner’s list: conservative pundits who think that Trump’s a buffoon, but who also think that he’s been unfairly maligned. This view is also common among people who aren’t pundits. I guess they must all be fascists.

  44. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    20. February 2017 at 09:01

    “If you made a list of 100 human attributes, Trump would be on the wrong side of them all.”

    Not all. He’s not bloodthirsty and he’s not an ideologue. That’s why I see him ending up enduring Nixon or Berlusconi’s fates and not starting a nuclear war.

  45. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    20. February 2017 at 09:05

    @ Scott Freelander

    Don’t quite follow how my knowledge of the security situation in Europe invalidate the basic fact that Europeans are not paying for their own defense and security.

    Either way, the savings could run easily north of $100B a year, possibly more considering that in many Eu states military spending is thinly disguised social one. They buy very little capability for their money. Bundeswehr has become a total joke. They have to train with wooden sticks. In general, we saw the full display of European capability in Libya. Leading European military powers couldn’t even suppress air defenses of a third-world country on their own. Pathetic.

  46. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 09:30

    Krzys,

    You don’t see how your own ignorance of the security situation in Europe invalidates your point about distribution of the costs of the security situation in Europe. That’s about the answer I expected. People know little or nothing about a situation, but feel perfectly justified in commenting about it.

    Let’s take your figure of $100 billion. That’s a bit over half a percent of US GDP and roughly equal to the entire Russian defense budget. In exchange for this disproportionate US spending, we have the largest influence over the European balance of power, the previous breakdowns of which led to the most destructive wars in human history, with serious repercussions for the US. The US provides the logistical backbone for NATO in Europe, which is why we had to get involved in the bombing of Kosovo in the 90s.

    Keeping in mind that Europe, the US, and China have the world’s largest economies, and that diplomatic influence in one region is often fungible with respect to influence in other regions, how much should we be willing to risk the status quo to save a half a penny of each dollar spent each year? Further, how intelligent is it to make reckless public statements as to our commitment to NATO, rather than addressing them privately? Further, why not offer the more intelligent choices we offered in the past, such as some substitution of tactical nuclear weapons for conventional forces for states that under-invest in defense? They then have the choice of saving us all some money by being willing to become a nuclear battlefield in the case of successful Russian incursion.

    How is the Trump approach optimal?

  47. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    20. February 2017 at 09:37

    ‘What happened last night in Sweden? I hate to tell you this, but Sweden’s doing better than the US.’

    Trump was referring to a documentary he’d seen that detailed the major uptick in violence in some Swedish cities. Sweden has accepted almost 200,000 thousand refugees from the Middle East in the last five years. Among other crimes, the incidence of rape is now higher than it had been.

    This not exactly a secret, as it’s been covered extensively in the news media in Europe.

  48. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    20. February 2017 at 09:40

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/world/759946/Swedish-violence-crime-police-urgent-plea-malm-Rosengard

    ‘Officers in the city of Malmö have struggled to cope with a surge of serious crimes including dozens of attempted murders, beatings, rapes and other offences – and have now been forced to admit: “We cannot do it on our own”.

    ‘Malmö police chief Stefan Sinteus called for locals to come forward with testimonies testimonies in a bid to help police catch suspects.’

  49. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    20. February 2017 at 09:42

    @ Scott

    You do not need to know details about Europe, to know that they are not paying. That part is very simple.

    Yes, our hegemony provides trust and peace in Europe. However, that’s all the more reason Europeans should be paying for it. $100B is a fifth of our military budget. We could definitely use the money to rebuild our capacity and invest into future capability. This money is urgently needed.

    Addressing the issues privately has worked a treat so far. Unless there is a real threat, nothing will change. Trump is exactly right to send Mattis to Europe to threaten them. They are too rich to free ride on us anymore.

    As to tactical nuclear substitution, it has no credibility since we would never use those unless Russians used theirs first, but they would only do it if they cannot advance their interests with conventional means.

  50. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 10:10

    Krzys,

    You don’t have to know the details to know we pay more, but you do have to know the detailed context to understand why we pay more, what we get for the money, how costly it is in real termz versus alternatives, etc., and your comments address none of that. In other words, you ignore reality except for the distribution of financial costs.

    More importantly, you’re missing the point. Europe doesn’t need US help in keeping the Russians within their borders in Europe. Their economy is at least 10 times the size of that of Russia. NATO was founded, not only “to keep the Russians out”, but also “to keep the Germans down”. Meaning, it is also an alliance to keep peace within western Europe, as is part of the function of the EU, another institution Trump has undermined.

    As students of international relations history have long noted, horrible wars used to begin, in part, due to relative weakness in central Europe, before German unification. After Bismarck, the destabilizing influence was a strengthening central Europe, largely due to rising German power and ambitions. In less than a century, there were then three major wars between Germany and France, two of them world wars.

    This total lack of understanding of economics (relative economic costs, especially opportunity costs), international relations, and history mean American voters have no basis for supporting effective foreign policy.

    And you’re flat wrong about the reluctance to use tactical nuclear weapons in defending Europe. Let’s hope your assumption they wouldn’t be used is correct if the Russians are breaking through defensive positions.

  51. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 10:14

    I should’ve said hope your assumptions about the use of tactical nukes isn’t correct. The idea that we wouldn’t use tactical nukes on foreign soil to prevent a NATO defeat is absurd.

  52. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    20. February 2017 at 10:14

    Here’s an interview with the Kurdish-Swedish economist Tino Sanandaji from 2015;

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sweden-brink-interview-dr-tino-sanandaji-erico-matias-tavares

    ———–quote———-
    If you look at GDP and population growth figures projected by the government, we are seeing something that I had never seen before: projected negative GDP per capita growth rates in a period of economic cycle recovery . The only reason for that is immigration; Sweden is bringing in a lot of people who consume but do not produce much.

    Lastly, even a sophisticated Keynesian would admit that the question really is demand per capita, not just absolute demand. The good economists adjust for the population size. It’s only the political hacks who don’t have a good argument to defend immigration who look at the absolute figures.

    Before historically when we had low 0.5% population growth GDP per capita and total GDP growth were similar numbers. Now with the high population growth we have of more than 2% per year, we need more than 4% GDP growth in total to achieve that historical per capita growth of around 2% per capita.

    ….

    Just the initial cost for those asylum seekers is 1.5% of our GDP, significantly higher than our defense budget at around 1%. And that does not count the net costs associated with housing, health, welfare spending and so forth that arise later.

    But much more meaningful than the defense budget is the UNHCR budget for the 60 million refugees displaced around the world. And just those initial costs that Sweden spent in 2015 were twice the UN’s funding! The left likes to talk about the privileged 1%, but the 0.3% of refugees that made it to Sweden got twice as much resources as the 99.7% displaced around the world.
    —————-endquote————-

  53. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 10:17

    Which political hacks want to undermine the security of Europe? I thought that was Trump.

  54. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    20. February 2017 at 10:17

    @ Scott

    Europe does need our protection to keep Russians out right now. European military capability is basically nill. You should read the german press about how pathetic the Bundeswehr has become. I already mentioned what happened with Libya.

    Yes, our hegemony plays the dual role of keeping russians out and germans down. But this is precisely the argument for Europeans to pay for the security we provide.

    As Mattis told them last week: We cannot care more about the security of your children than you do.

    They need to pay and nothing will happen unless they are explicitly threatened. Some feelings might get hurt? Tough s**t. The free ride is over.

  55. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    20. February 2017 at 10:21

    More from the Sanandaji interview;

    ————quote———–
    ET: Apparently the latest strategy is to house thousands of migrants in a docked luxury cruise ships.

    TS: They are doing that, and you couldn’t make this stuff up. The waste of resources compared to dealing with the problem at the source is staggering.

    Another mind blowing number – and you might think it is impossible but I have all the official figures to back this up – is the cost to house all these unaccompanied minors we have coming in, mostly from Afghanistan. By any indication most are not even minors, but in Sweden you get special treatment if you qualify as such. And their age claim is seldom challenged by the authorities so they usually get asylum even if they are much older than a minor.

    ….

    ET: There is a huge number of male migrants that went to Sweden last year, vastly more than women. We read that the demographic imbalance in Sweden is now even worse than China. Is this correct?

    TS: Maybe in some age group, but not in overall terms of course. Some 92% of those unaccompanied migrants were male last year…

    ET: … Wait a minute, 92% of them are male?

    TS: Yes, there is definitely something strange going on. More than half of the world’s refugees are women. In World War II, when Sweden took refugees from Finland, they were children and 90% were below the age of 10. But now almost all of them are late teenagers – supposedly; we know many are older for a fact. When other countries age test it turns out that the majority are not children. And when there are crimes committed and the age is investigated, often we get these absurd reports where some of these guys are older than 30 and yet the government puts them with other real minors in schools or housing, and this is creating a lot of anger now. The media created this taboo where because they are officially supposed to be children we can’t question it, and you are fascist if you do. Yet most people can see that many are adults.

    Now I’m not moralizing this. If you have an open door policy and you are incentivizing Afghans to take advantage of the system, can you really blame them? But it is an idiocy to equate anyone who questions the claim of being a minor with being a fascist.

    You know, it’s really funny that the tale about the emperor having no clothes is a Scandinavian tale. Everybody can see many are not children, but then the political and media consensus will fire or at the very least censor the people who point out this plainly obvious fact. Because how can you question children running from war, using circular reasoning that anyone who claims to be a child escaping war is one and cannot be questioned. You know, a self-reported 70% are not even coming from Afghanistan but safer countries like Iran, seeking a better life.
    ————endquote———–

  56. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 10:30

    What’s funny about people like Patrick Sullivan is that he doesn’t see the internal contradiction in the quote he offers. Supposedly, there are “political hacks” who are willing to lie about the security threat Muslim immigration presents for Europe.

    Exactly who are these “hacks”? Give me names. Is it the leaders in the EU, who complain about statements that undermine EU and NATO unity, or various liberals, conservatives, and moderates also concerned about European cohesion?

    Meanwhile, we have Trump openly questioning the value of NATO and saying he doesn’t care if the EU breaks up, while members of his administration and his own party in Congress scramble to call and visit European leaders to try to reassure them the US is committed to European security and unity.

    This is why I almost never address Trump supporters. They are often as ridiculous as he is.

  57. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    20. February 2017 at 10:31

    I see that the Sanandaji interview is actually from a year ago, February 2016. It concludes with something that sounds…well, Trumpian;

    ————quote———–
    Given all the immigration we have taken in recent years there’s a strong argument to have somewhat of a pause to absorb all the problems that have been created. In the long run if Sweden regulates immigration and returns to reality and sanity, then it will not become a failed state.

    Anyhow, in the short run you will continue to see shocking headlines from Sweden. The recent inflow has overloaded the system to a point where we are experiencing a crime wave. And absurd things are happening, things nobody has almost seen before: mass assaults on women by large gangs of men, lots of fighting with knifes or scolding water, murders, acid thrown in faces of women, rapes, abuse of minors, rapes of young boys… Headline after headline of horrific stuff.

    Swedes always like to say that “we don’t want it like the United States”; I joked it’s almost becoming too late for that, now the best Sweden can hope for is “we don’t want it like the Game of Thrones”. The inability of the European leadership to deal with the crisis is at once surreal and fascinating, almost like witnessing a Donald Duck version of the fall of the Roman Empire in real time.
    —————-endquote————–

    Funny that I knew about this, but the combined resources of ABC, NBC, CNN etc. didn’t.

  58. Gravatar of moqui moqui
    20. February 2017 at 10:33

    Trump is a buffon, or
    Trump is being unfairly maligned.

    I happen to think that, at the moment, both are true. The difference is that the former is a permanent trait, the latter is a temporary state.

  59. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    20. February 2017 at 10:58

    Might it not be worthwhile for 95% of pundits to try to understand the chasm between them and something like half of the American people?

    The media showed itself to be pretty toothless last fall. Their status is being lowered pretty significantly. Humbling stuff.

  60. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    20. February 2017 at 11:13

    ‘Supposedly, there are “political hacks” who are willing to lie about the security threat Muslim immigration presents for Europe.

    ‘Exactly who are these “hacks”? Give me names. ‘

    All you would have had to do to to have an answer, is to have read the material in the links I provided. Some of the names are, Angela Merkel, the Swedish Prime Minister, Francoise Hollande (so unpopular he isn’t even bothering to run for re-election in France–where Marine LePen leads in the polls);

    ———quote——
    The control of the elite over this issue broke down last winter. They dug in their heels and the Prime Minister even said that there was no upper limit to the number of people we would take in. At the same time popular opinion turned against them and parts of the system simply stopped functioning – housing for refugees, runaway deficits and so forth.

    And then they backtracked. Sweden has abandoned its open door policy – officially and unofficially. What we have now is a state of shock and chaos and we don’t know what to do. I actually think that the big inflow is over. Even the social democratic government is now saying that if immigration goes up again they will tighten the borders even more.
    ———–endquote———-

    Don’t ever change by informing yourself of facts–facts which Donald Trump is obviously aware of–you wouldn’t be as much fun if you ever did.

  61. Gravatar of Benny Lava Benny Lava
    20. February 2017 at 11:19

    “Actually, back in the 1990s he was slightly libertarian.”

    I remember that NAFTA was the only thing about the Clinton administration he (Rush) liked. The good old days. I haven’t heard much from him lately but I’m sure he is out for Trump like all the other good little conservatards.

  62. Gravatar of Mi hael Rulle Mi hael Rulle
    20. February 2017 at 11:39

    You are baiting and trollong. Congratulations,I am taking your bait. To quote you, you are a moron when you discuss politics. The press does not think Trump isa buffoon. If they did,they would not be chasing him around the country to cover him. He thinks they are buffoons,and this drives them crazy. They would be laughing at him rather than, like Tom Friedman, comparing his election to 9/11 and Pearl Harbor. He is mocking them.

    But worse,you mock a guy who is against islamic terrorism. There was no “last night” in Sweden,but there has been a last year through out Europe. Why is the right nationaist movement rising in Europe? Europe is being torn assunder by open borders from the south, Sweden included. You care more about Trump aesthetics than real events.Trump will end up being like every other president when all is said and done. Successful or forgetful.

    Obama never inspired you to write about politics. Leftist violence in the street never inspires you to write. Only Trump. Why is that?

  63. Gravatar of A Definite Beta Guy A Definite Beta Guy
    20. February 2017 at 11:51

    Fearing a rise in Germany akin to the late 1800s or early 1900s is absolutely ridiculous. There’s been no violence or serious threat of violence in Northwest Europe for decades (prior to that there are territorial wars stretching from Louis XIV to Locarno).

    There is also no appetite for Anschluss 2.0, and Germany will not dispute the Oder-Neisse line. East Prussia doesn’t exist anymore.

    Combined, NATO should be able to defeat Russia even without the US, but you might as well say that Britain and France could have defeated Germany combined in the 30s. Russia can eat away at the European Establishment for the next several decades until France and Britain just stop caring about Eastern European frontiers and Germany has to make a decision to go-it-alone.

    To say that the US isn’t still the backbone of European security is ridiculous. The US pulled heavy tanks out of Germany because we thought it was pacified: the US tanks have returned. We are prepositioning forces REFORGER style in various Eastern European nations. We’re conducting military parades along the Russian border.

    Those guys aren’t there for show, they are there to fight. They are there to fight because we largely doubt that French and British and German troops will show up in force or in time, over some dispute in Estonia.

  64. Gravatar of Krzys Krzys
    20. February 2017 at 12:34

    Beta guy,

    We do not doubt if Europeans would show up to fight in Eastern Europe. It’s guaranteed they wouldn’t since they have no capability to actually fight.France and UK couldn’t suppress Libya’s air defenses. Libya’s! They ran out of ammunition midway through the operation. European military capability is a joke. Those guys are just pathetic.

  65. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 12:38

    Patrick Sullivan,

    LOL Yes, I’m sure you both care and know more about European security than Merkel Hollande, and the Swedish Prime Minister Lofven, the latter of ,which you couldn’t even name.

    The numbers of terrorist attacks and violent crime committed by Muslim immigrants are way up in percentage terms in recent years in some cases, but from extremely low bases. Such incidents still number in the hundreds, altogether, among a population larger than that of the US.

    And this is what Trump fascists want to focus on. It is clear evidence of some combination of a lack of basic logical thinking, innumeracy, or just dishonesty.

  66. Gravatar of Liberal Roman Liberal Roman
    20. February 2017 at 12:44

    I think the situation we are in is best compared to Iran right now. Where the Ayatollah Khamenei (Trump) gets up there and says a bunch of crazy things to the people. But then sane and relatively moderate leaders like President Rouhani (Pence/Mattis/Tillerson) actually run the country. The Aytollah has veto power and sometimes steps in but for the most part is a symbolic head of government who goes on TV sometimes and says “Death to America” because as he once said, he has to say it.

    The Pence/Mattis/Tillerson triad is what is keeping me comfortable.

  67. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 12:46

    Yes, I was wondering why Scott chose to address Trumpistas at all, or even read them. Now I understand it is purely for the comedy.

    Fascists are like people with OCD. We all shake our heads as they wash their hands hundreds of times/day, or repeatedly stop their cars to make sure they didn’t run anyone over.

    Terrorism has never been a major threat to the developed world in terms of direct death and destruction, period. It is only a political threat and that is only due to extremely poorly informed voting populations and cultural and religious bigotry.

  68. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 12:49

    Liberal Roman,

    Better to remove Trump and just let Pence take over. I can’t stand him, but he won’t ruin the country. He’s tremendously brighter, more informed, and apparently saner than Trump. He seems to at least understand some basics of foreign policy and is not a total basketcase.

  69. Gravatar of TheNumeraire TheNumeraire
    20. February 2017 at 13:10

    Freelander, you counterargument is nonsense. The economy did return to positive GDP until Q3 2009, after the market bottom in March.

    Further to the point, so what if the economy was in freefall when Obama took over. If he had proposed and authorized the type of policies that would have led to recovery, the market would have recognized it and discounted it immediately(at the very least if would have stopped plummeting). The economy was in freefall in 1933 but that didn’t stop the market from signalling that FDR had proposed and implemented policies that would aid recovery.

  70. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    20. February 2017 at 13:37

    TheNumeraire,

    I am using this source of data:

    https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/fredgraph.png?g=cMcE

    What are you using?

    Besides, there’s much more uncertainty about a proposed fiscal stimulus program than a proposed monetary stimulus program, and there can be uncertainty even after a fiscal stimulus plan passes. Fiscal stimulus plans have to get through Congress and even then there’s uncertainty about the amount that can be spent quickly in shovel-ready projects, for example. Also, estimates about multipliers can vary widely and vary by circumstances. Then, there is the issue of the size of the stimulus, relative to the demand shortfall, so I disagree with you entirely.

    More importantly, my point is that correlation is not causation, and the case for the ARRA changing the fortunes of the US economy in early 2009 is stronger than the one you make for Trump’s expected policies leading to a small pickup in NGDP.

    Further, the “nominal” in NGDP is the operative word, as inflation has been responsible for some of the gains we’ve seen, as well as maybe expectations for slightly higher interest rates due to Trump’s proposed higher deficit spending. Also, you have to look at the breakdown of gains for the stock market, in terms of sectors. How much of the gains in major indexes is due to large cap bank stock that are expected to benefit from deregulation? Up until about a month ago, most of the gains in the S&P 500 came from large cap banks and related stocks, with inferior goods related stocks outperforming and luxury goods related stocks underperforming.

    Then, there’s the issue of interpreting movements in liquid asset market prices in terms of real and expected NGDP growth, and at most, the pickup is very, very modest.

  71. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    20. February 2017 at 17:38

    Scott Sumner:

    Well, you know Trump will be out of office someday and gone, perhaps in just four years, and I suppose possibly less.

    The $70 billion (minimum) national security intelligence apparatus will still be here, indeed is probably permanent and heavily financed, and able to wiretap or hack anything, or worse.

    So which is a threat to your freedom?

  72. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    20. February 2017 at 17:38

    Scott,

    So… multiple choice question.

    A. Trump voters didn’t know he was a buffoon?

    B. Trump voters knew he was a buffoon and voted for him anyway or because of it.

    C. Trump is not a buffoon?

  73. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    20. February 2017 at 18:08

    dtoh: It’s obviously some of A and some of B. I would say mostly B. But there are some Trump voters who don’t realize he’s a buffoon. These people aren’t very bright. Even E. Harding knows he’s a buffoon.

    Scott Adams is the rare example of a bright person who doesn’t realize Trump is a buffoon. I think it’s because he can’t get his mind around the fact that so many voters are so stupid, that they actually want the buffoon in there. He thinks it has to be a Jedi mind trick on otherwise sane, intelligent people. Nope, people are morons.

  74. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    20. February 2017 at 18:46

    Scott Freelander,

    “Fascists are like people with OCD. ” Hilarious, exactly what I am thinking when I see Patrick Sullivan quote half the internet.

    I really appreciate your well-argued exhibition of how the world actually works. As opposed to how the hysterical median voter thinks it works.

    Behind the whole argument there is the case for representative democracy, and a strong case against direct democracy. There really needs to be an elite running “the country”. In truth of course, no one should run the actual country, “the country” is just a stand-in for “the state apparatus”. This is another fine distinction fascists fail to make. There is no “we”, the country is not a goal-oriented organization whose members all should think and act the same to pursue one and the same goal. But there is such a thing as a state apparatus, which is a large corporation controlled by the public at large. And this organization ought to be run by a professional elite, as a matter of course. “The people” have no business second guessing it, or micromanaging it. The get to vote the executive board in and out, that’s all. In case of trouble, there is always the courts and other checks and balances. But rule by professionals it ought to be, not by retards. So the whole thundering against “the elites” is just absurd.

    There is another long-forgotten republican argument to make. No democratic majority, all the more so a tiny majority of 1-2 percent (Brexit) or Trump’s complete lack thereof (!), justifies radical policy changes that run roughshod with the rest of the people who did not vote for this. For reasons of expediency, in a republic there are only a small number of things the majority is explicitly prohibited of doing. These are set in the constitution and the bill of rights. Human decency normally is enough to get modern governments to also tread carefully beyond that, and to attempt to govern for all, not just for their voters. And it is here that Trump has another abysmal fail. This man does not understand that he is being hired to govern for ALL Americans, not just for his core constituency. And that’s because he lacks basic human decency. That and any understanding of what a republic is supposed to be like, or representative government, or the separation of powers. Sadly, most voters seem to be similarly confused.

  75. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    20. February 2017 at 19:02

    Krzys, You said:

    “It’s bizarre for a guy that had valiantly fought very mistaken expert consensus to now use consensus as a litmus test.”

    It’s bizarre that so many Trump voters lack even basic reading comprehension.

    Ray, You said:

    “the only reason I post here is for humor.”

    What a coincidence, that’s the only reason we let you post here.

    You said:

    “Probability in opinion is not the proper use of Occam’s Razor”

    How true. And see my reply to Krzys.

    Patrick, You said:

    “Trump was referring to a documentary he’d seen”

    Given that Trump gets his information from Fox News, which is aimed at people with a 4th grade education, I’m not surprised he sounds foolish on so many points.

    Have you watched Fox News recently? It’s become a joke. And that’s where Trump learns about Sweden

    Scott, The thing I find most amusing about the Trump defenders is that they are constantly harping on the “fake news”, but every single time Trump creates more fake news (which is almost every day), they defend him. Is fake news a problem, or not?

    Brian, You said:

    “Might it not be worthwhile for 95% of pundits to try to understand the chasm between them and something like half of the American people?”

    Actually, I think it would far more useful for the “half” (actually less) of the Americans who like Trump to better understand the point of view of the pundits.

    I think I do understand the point of view of many Trump supporters, just as I think I do understand why professional wrestling is popular. People are gullible. I often hear people being interviewed on why they like Trump, and they say things like “He tells it like it is.” Don’t you think those people would benefit from knowing that Trump lies almost every time he opens his mouth?

    M. Rulle, You’ll have to do better than that if you want a response. At least do me the favor of reading my previous responses before repeating what other people are asking.

    Everyone, As far as all you commenters quaking in your boots about Russia, a country that was unable to even subdue Chechnya for many years, the countries of Western Europe spend at least 4 times as much on their military, have vastly larger populations, GDP, etc., etc. The real concern is that NATO loses credibility and Russia believes it can take pieces of Estonia, etc. Wars start due to miscalculations.

    Instead of pressuring the other NATO members to spend more, how about the US spend less? Our spending is bigger than the next 10 largest militaries COMBINED.

    Liberal Roman, There is some truth in that, but we’ll need more time to figure out who runs domestic policy.

    Ben, The “apparatus” is a far bigger threat than Trump, in the long run. Too bad we don’t have a competent president who can do something about it. Instead we elected someone who thought Obama was too soft, and that even more surveillance of Americans is needed. Remember when he criticized Apple’s encryption during the campaign? Does that make you happy?

    dtoh, Some of A and some of B, and C is so ridiculous it’s not even worth discussing, unless you want to claim Trump won the biggest victory since Reagan. Is that your claim?

    His buffoonery is no longer even debatable.

  76. Gravatar of Krzysztof Wolyniec Krzysztof Wolyniec
    20. February 2017 at 19:54

    Scott,

    You seem to be assuming that pundits have any expertise in anything. They are just entertainers. You confuse erudition with knowledge. Their consensus has no probative value whatsoever.

    How do we know if anybody has any expertise? Expertise is the ability to form better conditional expectations than chance/popular opinion. Is there any evidence that those people have any expertise?

  77. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    21. February 2017 at 00:10

    Scott,

    So you and the majority of pundits are smarter than the A voters. Not necessarily disagreeing. I’m just checking your view of the facts.

    What in your opinion makes Trump a buffoon. It’s not a very precise term.

    Also does the fact that you said “Our spending is bigger than the next 10 largest militaries COMBINED” make you a buffoon?

  78. Gravatar of A Definite Beta Guy A Definite Beta Guy
    21. February 2017 at 06:53

    Everyone, As far as all you commenters quaking in your boots about Russia, a country that was unable to even subdue Chechnya for many years, the countries of Western Europe spend at least 4 times as much on their military, have vastly larger populations, GDP, etc., etc. The real concern is that NATO loses credibility and Russia believes it can take pieces of Estonia, etc. Wars start due to miscalculations.

    I doubt Russians will steam-roll to Paris anytime soon. The open question is whether a Western European coalition will actually march in defense of Estonia’s frontier of Russia.

    If they won’t, the US certainly shouldn’t. We were there to stop Soviet domination of the entire continent. We certainly aren’t there to safeguard Estonian independence, especially since Estonia was sovereign Soviet territory when NATO was formed.

    US defense spending is not ridiculous given the mission parameters given to the armed services. Russia and China do not maintain permanent armies on the other side of the planet, nor are they engaged in permanent drone wars on the other side of the planet.

  79. Gravatar of J Mann J Mann
    21. February 2017 at 07:17

    FWIW, I think that Trump is both a buffoon and unfairly maligned.

    I think there’s a slim chance that he’ll end up doing some net good, but generally his strategy is just to bull at stuff 100%, Teddy Roosevelt style.

  80. Gravatar of Brian Donohue Brian Donohue
    21. February 2017 at 09:01

    Listen to you. “Hey rubes, time you figured out how your betters in the media arrived at their worldview and get with the program.”

    The media is broken, unhinged, laughable.

    I don’t even like Trump. Voted for Hillary. But apparently, the intersection of Hillary voters and people able to keep their shit together over Trump is just me.

  81. Gravatar of Becky Hargrove Becky Hargrove
    21. February 2017 at 10:58

    Brian has a point. Trump is not an anomaly in the scheme of things right now, and much of the media is losing precious time that could be used in far more constructive ways.

  82. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    21. February 2017 at 11:07

    ‘Given that Trump gets his information from Fox News, which is aimed at people with a 4th grade education, I’m not surprised he sounds foolish on so many points.

    ‘Have you watched Fox News recently? It’s become a joke. And that’s where Trump learns about Sweden’

    Is Fox News–which provided an accurate picture of what has happened in Sweden (the political establishment there has had to bow to the revolt by the Swedish electorate; i.e. the immigration policy has been changed) that Trump picked up on–as big a joke as CBS, NBC, CNN which couldn’t figure out what Trump was getting at?

    As I provided the evidence for your perusal, what do you have to say about that? How about the argument from the Phd in economics, Sanandaji, which sounds a lot like Trump? He’s right there in Sweden, an eye witness.

  83. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    21. February 2017 at 11:47

    Btw, Sanandaji’s new book on immigration is a best seller in Sweden, but public libraries there are refusing to carry it on their shelves, for political reasons (that’s for you, Scott Freelander);

    http://www.friatider.se/biblioteken-vill-tysta-tino-sanandaji-och-nya-tider

  84. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    21. February 2017 at 11:53

    And at about the very time Trump was mentioning Sweden, Stockholm was experiencing rioting by immigrant males;

    http://www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/opptoyer-i-stockholm-politiet-skjot-for-a-treffe–nbspdet-ser-ut-som-en-krigssone-her/67274529

    ‘Rinkeby is a known problem area in Stockholm. It was here NRK journalist Anders Magnus was peppered with stone last spring, and here the police never go in the evenings without reinforcements from other patrols.’

    What Trump said.

  85. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    21. February 2017 at 12:05

    Another joke news report?

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/20/trump-may-have-been-unclear-but-sweden-experiencing-migrant-crime-wave.html

    ————–quote———–
    [Swedish] Police investigator Peter Springare isn’t likely to be among those mocking President Trump for his remarks about refugees in Sweden.

    Trump’s comments during a Florida campaign rally on Saturday – which some took as a misstatement about a supposed terror attack – dovetail with what Springare has been seeing during a typical week in Orebro, Sweden. Five rapes, three assaults, a pair of extortions, blackmail, an attempted murder, violence against police and a robbery made up Springare’s caseload for a five-day period earlier this month, according to a Feb. 3 Facebook post he wrote. The suspects were all from Muslim-majority countries – Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Turkey – save for one Swedish man nabbed in a drug-related case.

    “Mohammed, Mahmod, Ali, again and again,” Springare wrote of those arrested.

    Springare, who was briefly investigated for possible hate crime incitement based on his post, managed to elucidate what Trump only hinted at during a Florida campaign speech – somewhat opaquely.
    ———–endquote———–

  86. Gravatar of Patrick R. Sullivan Patrick R. Sullivan
    21. February 2017 at 12:10

    From the same Fox News report;

    ————quote———–
    Last month, the police chief for the southern Swedish city of Malmo issued a desperate plea for help curtailing a plague of attempted murders, beatings and rapes. About 32 percent of Malmo’s occupants are migrants, although it is not clear what role migrants play in the crime wave.

    “We cannot do it on our own,” Chief Stefan Sinteus wrote in an open letter about the “upward spiral of violence.”

    And Sinteus is not merely dealing with typical crimes that any modern city would witness.

    Malmo had 52 hand grenade attacks in 2016 alone, a jump from 48 attacks in 2015, according to figures provided by the Swedish Police Authority.

    Nationwide, the terror threat level is at “elevated” and police believe at least 300 Swedish nationals have travelled to Syria and Iraq for jihadi training. On Feb. 11, a Swedish man and a Danish man were arrested in Turkey, suspected of plotting to carry out attacks in Europe. Tofik Saleh, a 38-year-old Swedish citizen of Iraqi origin, had been training with ISIS since 2014, officials said.

    On the same day Springare posted his screed, a Swedish court turned over to Belgium evidence – seized in Malmo – in connection with the 2016 Brussels terror attacks, prosecutors said.
    ————endquote———

    I’m thinking of instituting a Walter Duranty Award, in honor of the famed NY Times reporter who couldn’t find evidence of famine in the USSR in the 1930s.

  87. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    21. February 2017 at 14:55

    mbka,

    I agree.

  88. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    21. February 2017 at 18:04

    BTW, now Trump has assembled the best national security team of all time—according to John McCain!

    Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the following statement today on President Trump’s selection of Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster for national security advisor:

    “Lt. General H.R. McMaster is an outstanding choice for national security advisor. I have had the honor of knowing him for many years, and he is a man of genuine intellect, character, and ability. He knows how to succeed. I give President Trump great credit for this decision, as well as his national security cabinet choices. I could not imagine a better, more capable national security team than the one we have right now.”

    —30—

    Well, I have to say Scott Sumner is probably correct that Trump will be completely unable or disinclined to rein in “national security” spending, and taxpayers will continue to cough up about $3,000 per resident in perpetuity to feed the monster.

    By McCain;s lights, no one has ever assembled a better national security team than Trump.

    I guess this means the “Trump as a Russian stooge” days are over.

    At this point, I would vote for The Three Stooges to sit in the Oval Office.

    But will Trump be worse than George Bush jr.? I doubt it.

  89. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    22. February 2017 at 18:43

    dtoh, You asked:

    “What in your opinion makes Trump a buffoon.”

    Everything. He acts like an idiot, and the words that come out of his mouth are either nonsensical or wrong or childish insults. At the recent press conference he made a fool of himself, after promising during the campaign that he’d act so “presidential” that we’d be bored. I’m still waiting for that presidential act.

    Patrick, It’s not much of a defense to say Trump lied about Sweden, but other things happened in Sweden at other times. That’s sort of beside the point, isn’t it?

    Trump doesn’t seem to be able to separate fact from fiction; that’s not a good attribute for a President. Especially for one that won the biggest landslide since Reagan. :)

  90. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    23. February 2017 at 19:57

    Scott,
    And calling someone a buffoon is not a childish insult?

  91. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    24. February 2017 at 10:51

    dtoh, Not in the case of Trump.

  92. Gravatar of Major-Freedom Major-Freedom
    26. February 2017 at 23:50

    The way Sumner prattles on and on about Trump, I am convinced it is all out of an acute case of envy. While to more emotionally mature people Trump being more wealthy, more popular, more influential, and more intelligent has little to no effect on how they go about their own lives, with Sumner these characteristics seem to severely affect his psychology, to the point of self-destruction.

    Trump did not lie about Sweden by the way. Members of the media did. They accused him of saying there was a terrorist attack the day before. But he never said that. He even tweeted the day later to say he was referring to a story about Sweden that he saw on Fox news the night before.

    You have really nothing Sumner. Calling Trump an “idiot”, and “making a fool of himself” at a press conference (it was actually a really good press conference if you judge it on the merits of information and entertainment). Act presidential? You mean like a droning Obama or Johnson like robot who bores people to no end and never speaks down to Earth?

    There are ideas and acts of Trump that can be legitimately criticized, and thankfully there are good writers out there who do that service for us, but the way you criticize him is like the way a loser teenage high schooler yammers on about the popular kids at school.

    Don’t be a loser teenager Sumner. Use your brain and stop letting your amygdala overpower your ability to reason.

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