Companies and households aren't "doing fine" for a recovery, but they're doing better than normal.
Gaffes come in two varieties. There's the inconvenient truth and the less convenient untruth. Both are damaging, as far as these things go, but President Obama's statement rather remarkably combined the two -- call it Schrödinger's gaffe -- when he commented that the private sector is "doing fine".
Remember the private sector? People buying things, selling things, and investing in things? So, that's the engine of our unbelievable American system. Unfortunately, it's not doing too well -- unless you compare it to the public sector. That's doing even worse. State and local cuts have led to the biggest decrease in overall government spending since the 1950s. And now the federal government is getting in on the austerity act too. With the stimulus fading out, it currently employs fewer people than it did back when the recovery began.
How's that for socialism?
This undercover austerity is what precipitated President Obama's much-hyped gaffe that the private sector is "doing fine." The gist was that the private sector isn't doing that badly, and that the big problem is the government hurting rather than helping the recovery. And that's true! Or, at least true-ish. As Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Institute points out, private sector real GDP growth since the end of the Great Recession has been better than average.
That's right. The private sector is growing faster than it normally does.
But that's a low bar we're stepping over. As Josh Barro notes, we expect the economy to grow faster after a recession -- particularly a deep recession. If it didn't, we'd never recover. What we really want to know is how this recovery compares to other recoveries. The answer: Not well.
Take a look at the depressing picture. The chart below compare average real private GDP growth during the first eight quarters of each recovery since 1950. The only recovery worse than our current one was the previous one.
It's been a long time since we've had a recovery worthy of the name.
Something has happened the past 20 years. We've gone back to the future. Back before the Federal Reserve existed, recessions came when bubbles burst. Recoveries were long, slow affairs. Then the Fed came along. In the postwar period, recessions came when the Fed raised rates to cool an overheating economy. Recovery came -- and came fast -- when the Fed lowered rates. Until 1991.
Now burst bubbles are back with a vengeance. So are jobless recoveries. Actually, we might call them GDP-less recoveries too. You don't need to resort to hand-waving about regulatory uncertainty or the fiscal cliff to explain our tepid growth. It's the new normal. Consider the chart below, which takes our first chart and adjusts for population.
The post-2009 private sector recovery matches the post-1991 private sector recovery. And both outclass the really anemic post-2001 private sector recovery.
Lehman Brothers didn't break the private sector. It's been broken for a long time -- at least when it comes to recoveries.
For decades, the candidate has willfully inflicted pain and humiliation.
Donald J. Trump has a cruel streak. He willfully causes pain and distress to others. And he repeats this public behavior so frequently that it’s fair to call it a character trait. Any single example would be off-putting but forgivable. Being shown many examples across many years should make any decent person recoil in disgust.
Judge for yourself if these examples qualify.
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In national politics, harsh attacks are to be expected. I certainly don’t fault Trump for calling Hillary Clinton dishonest, or wrongheaded, or possessed of bad judgment, even if it’s a jarring departure from the glowing compliments that he used to pay her.
But even in a realm where the harshest critiques are part of the civic process, Trump crossed a line this week when he declared his intention to invite Gennifer Flowers to today’s presidential debate. What kind of man invites a husband’s former mistress to an event to taunt his wife? Trump managed to launch an attack that couldn’t be less relevant to his opponent’s qualifications or more personally cruel. His campaign and his running-mate later said that it was all a big joke. No matter. Whether in earnest or in jest, Trump showed his tendency to humiliate others.
In a unique, home-spun experiment, researchers found that centripetal force could help people pass kidney stones—before they become a serious health-care cost.
East Lansing, Michigan, becomes a ghost town during spring break. Families head south, often to the theme parks in Orlando. A week later, the Midwesterners return sunburned and bereft of disposable income, and, urological surgeon David Wartinger noticed, some also come home with fewer kidney stones.
Wartinger is a professor emeritus at Michigan State, where he has dealt for decades with the scourge of kidney stones, which affect around one in 10 people at some point in life. Most are small, and they pass through us without issue. But many linger in our kidneys and grow, sending hundreds of thousands of people to emergency rooms and costing around $3.8 billion every year in treatment and extraction. The pain of passing a larger stone is often compared to child birth.
Who will win the debates? Trump’s approach was an important part of his strength in the primaries. But will it work when he faces Clinton onstage?
The most famous story about modern presidential campaigning now has a quaint old-world tone. It’s about the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in the first debate of their 1960 campaign, which was also the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States.
The story is that Kennedy looked great, which is true, and Nixon looked terrible, which is also true—and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. As Theodore H. White described it in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960, which has set the model for campaign coverage ever since, “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heard Kennedy and Nixon talking, over the radio, thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the two men on television were much more likely to think that Kennedy—handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won.
His campaign announced endorsements from 88 retired generals and admirals. That’s nice, but 500 backed Mitt Romney in 2012.
Donald Trump’s campaign on Tuesday morning released a letter announcing the endorsement of the Republican nominee by “88 retired U.S. Generals and Admirals.”
Seems impressive, right? Eighty-eight generals and admirals sounds like a lot of military leaders, all rallying around the tough-talking, law-and-order candidate pledging to restore greatness to America’s armed forces.
Well, it’s actually not.
Compare Trump’s haul of 88 to the 500 retired generals and admirals who took out a full-page ad in support of Mitt Romney on the eve of the 2012 presidential election. Romney had some big names, too. The group of 500 included Army General Hugh Shelton, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bill Clinton, as well as a former commandant of the Marine Corps and an Air Force chief of staff. In total, five ex-members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff backed Romney over President Obama. There are nearly 900 active general and flag officers in the military and thousands of retirees.
Communal living is hardly a departure from tradition—it's a return to how humans have been making their homes for thousands of years.
For most of human history, people were hunter-gatherers. They lived in large camps, depending on one another for food, childcare, and everything else—all without walls, doors, or picket fences. In comparison, the number of people living in most households in today’s developed countries is quite small. According to the Census Bureau, fewer than three people lived in the average American household in 2010. The members of most American households can be counted on one hand, or even, increasingly, one finger: Single-person households only made up about 13 percent of all American households in 1960. Now, that figure is about 28 percent.
Belonging to a relatively small household has become the norm even though it can make daily life more difficult in many ways. Privacy may be nice, but cooking and doing chores become much less time-consuming when shared with an additional person, or even several people. Water, electric, and internet bills also become more bearable when divided among multiple residents. There are social downsides to living alone, too. Many elderly people, young professionals, stay-at-home parents, and single people routinely spend long stretches of time at home alone, no matter how lonely they may feel; more distressingly, many single parents face the catch-22 of working and paying for childcare. Living in smaller numbers can be a drain on money, time, and feelings of community, and the rise of the two-parent dual-earning household only compounds the problems of being time-poor.
A new study of pregnant women finds nausea and vomiting are associated with a reduced risk of miscarriage.
People are always saying the wrong thing to pregnant women.
Expectant mothers hear everything from the obnoxious (“You’re huge!”) to the outright bizarre (“If you eat that Sriracha, your baby will come out bald”).
Then there are the well-meaning—yet utterly unhelpful—superstitions and platitudes: “I can tell from how you’re carrying that it’s a girl.” (No, you can’t.) “At least the terrible sleep you’re getting now is great preparation for all those sleepless nights you’re going to have with baby!” (Bone-splitting exhaustion is not something you need to practice ahead of time.) “But morning sickness means your baby is healthy!”
Actually, there might be something to that last one.
Pregnant women have long been told that feeling miserable every single day for several months may indicate that a developing baby is doing well—especially in the first trimester, when nausea and vomiting are most common. Now, there’s more science to support the idea.
There's no good evidence that the invasive policing strategy brought down crime. The real question is what made crime rates climb in the first place. This post is part of a debate series on “Is Stop and Frisk Worth It?," an article featured in the current issue of The Atlantic magazine.
When former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly was asked what would happen if stop-and-frisk were curtailed, his response was characteristic of his tenure: “No question about it,” he said “violent crime will go up.” When homicides rose in Chicago, Chicagoans clamored for NYPD-style stop-and-frisk. The same premise is repeated by proponents of stop-and-frisk throughout Daniel Bergner’s illuminating Atlantic article: if you want to reduce crime, you have to be willing to suffer more aggressive policing tactics.
In reality, there’s no good reason to assume that these strategies work to reduce crime. David Greenberg has conducted the most comprehensive analysis of the relationship between the NYPD’s practice of stop-and-frisk and crime levels to date, and he finds “no evidence that misdemeanor arrests reduced levels of homicide, robbery, or aggravated assaults.”
The Donald J. Trump Foundation reportedly used $258,000, most of it other people’s money, to settle legal disputes for the Republican nominee.
For people at certain income levels, finding creative ways to avoid taxes is practically a leisure sport. Donald Trump, golf and casino magnate that he is, would never miss out on a leisure sport, would be?
In a new article, The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold, who’s already collected a series of scoops on the Donald J. Trump Foundation, reports that Trump sometimes had people who owed him money pay his foundation instead—to the tune of at least $2.3 million. That’s legal, provided that the person who would have received the income still pays taxes on the money, which is where things get unclear. A Trump adviser initially denied that Trump had ever directed fees to his foundation, but when presented with evidence that he had a $400,000 fee for appearing on a Comedy Central roast (nice work if you can get it) sent to the foundation, the adviser said Trump had paid taxes on it. But he refused to say whether Trump had paid taxes on the rest of the $2.3 million.
Senator Ted Cruz, an ally turned extremely bitter enemy of the Republican nominee, has decided to endorse him after all.
Someday, they’ll write an opera about the relationship between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. But for now, we’ll have to make do with the news that the Texas senator, one of the most notable holdouts in the Republican Party, has decide to endorse the GOP presidential nominee.
“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” he wrote on Facebook. “I’ve made this decision for two reasons. First, last year, I promised to support the Republican nominee. And I intend to keep my word. Second, even though I have had areas of significant disagreement with our nominee, by any measure Hillary Clinton is wholly unacceptable—that’s why I have always been #NeverHillary.”