Imagine an alternate reality where the first term of President Barack Obama coincided with one of the greatest periods of government austerity in recent memory. Imagine total government spending under his watch had the steepest annual decline in three decades. Imagine total government employees fell by the fastest rate in more than 60 years. Imagine that in his last two years, federal spending and federal employment grew by the slowest annual rate since the 1950s.
Now open your eyes. Welcome to Austerity USA. Total government employment -- that's federal, state, and local -- has indeed fallen by the sharpest annual rate since the 1940s. It's now at 2006 levels and declining.
Total government spending has fallen by the sharpest rate since the 1970s. It is now at 2008 levels and declining.
Meanwhile in Washington, federal spending (which has grown every year since then 1960s) is increasing at its slowest pace in half a century, and federal employment is in true decline. Eighteen months removed from the start of the Census, it's shrinking at its fastest rate since the mid-1950s.
Obama's tenure has coincided with a recession that shrunk total government in two ways. First, the economics of the Great Recession devastated state and local government tax revenue, requiring rounds of cuts that resulted in decreased overall government spending and employment. Second, the politics of the Great Recession destroyed the case for stimulus in the aftermath of the Recovery Act, and Washington's attempts to fill the revenue holes in total government were blocked when we voted scores of fiscal conservatives into Congress in 2010. The upshot is that in the last 12 months, President Obama has presided over one of the most remarkable periods of total government austerity in the last 50 years.
Some of this austerity was given to us. Some of this austerity we chose.
As the Recovery Act, which was passed partly to offset state and local
cuts, wound down, state and local government demand fell "through
the floor," said Adam Hersh, an economist with the Center for American Progress.
"The real collapse of spending has been at the level of state and local public services and investments," Hersh said. "Even as the economy grew 4.2% since the start of the Obama administration, state and local spending contracted 5.2%." Here's the graph he shared with The Atlantic. The plunging green line tracks change in nondefense state and local spending since Obama took office.
What's the matter with shrinking government? Nothing at all, you might say. State and local governments are expensive and inefficient, and those workers might be put to better use making things rather than regulating things. Fair enough. But with interest rates now at historical lows, it's a little surprising that we're choosing this moment to not borrow more money from eager investors to spare total government from its own sharp knives and make downpayments on things we know we need, like roads and broadband. President Obama isn't fully responsible for this era of premature and self-inflicted austerity. He's the president of the United States, not the states, themselves. But, for better or worse, it's his record now. Who would have guessed?
The class divide is already toxic, and is fast becoming unbridgeable. You’re probably part of the problem.
1. The Aristocracy Is Dead …
For about a week every year in my childhood, I was a member of one of America’s fading aristocracies. Sometimes around Christmas, more often on the Fourth of July, my family would take up residence at one of my grandparents’ country clubs in Chicago, Palm Beach, or Asheville, North Carolina. The breakfast buffets were magnificent, and Grandfather was a jovial host, always ready with a familiar story, rarely missing an opportunity for gentle instruction on proper club etiquette. At the age of 11 or 12, I gathered from him, between his puffs of cigar smoke, that we owed our weeks of plenty to Great-Grandfather, Colonel Robert W. Stewart, a Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt who made his fortune as the chairman of Standard Oil of Indiana in the 1920s. I was also given to understand that, for reasons traceable to some ancient and incomprehensible dispute, the Rockefellers were the mortal enemies of our clan.
Despite what the president says, the question is answered.
Trump aides colluded with foreign governments.
This is a simple, straightforward statement, and by this point, it ought to be an uncontroversial one. There’s ample evidence on many fronts, from legal documents to reliable reporting. This doesn’t mean that a crime was committed, because, as Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others have pointed out, collusion is not a crime per se. But it does mean that attempts to dismiss the Russia investigation as a witch hunt that lacks any evidence are not merely disingenuous—they’re simply wrong.
What do we mean by collusion? As the Columbia Journalism Review explored last year, there are a range of meanings, but a clean synthesis would be a secret compact or conspiracy with an illegal or deceitful aim. The examples of such cooperation, between Trump aides and agents of foreign governments, abound. So far, three people have pleaded guilty to lying to federal agents about it. The unresolved question, at this stage of the investigation, is not whether such cooperation was attempted; it’s how successful it proved, how large an impact it actually had, who was involved, and whether they broke any laws.
Since Kilauea volcano began its most recent eruptive activity on Hawaii's Big Island three weeks ago, the situation has evolved and worsened.
Since the Kilauea volcano began its most recent eruptive activity on Hawaii's Big Island three weeks ago, the situation has evolved and worsened. More than 40 structures have been destroyed and one resident was badly injured when he was struck in the leg by a molten hunk of rock thrown from one of the erupting fissures. The Associated Press reported that some fissures were merging and producing faster and more fluid lava, which began flowing in glowing rivers toward the Pacific Ocean. Over the weekend at least two of the lava flows reached the shore, sending up billowing plumes of steam, and generating “laze,” or lava haze, a dangerous mix of hydrochloric acid, steam, and volcanic glass particles. Geologists continue to urge caution and patience during this event, saying that Kilauea remains volatile with no predictable end in sight for the current eruptions.
From trade deals to gun control and immigration to military deployments, the president has a consistent pattern: Talk a big game, then back down.
President Trump’s May 8 announcement that he was withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal should not have come as a surprise. He’d spent years railing against the plan—“the worst deal ever,” he dubbed it—and had promised to rip it up. And yet up to the moment when the president made the final call, there was still some suspense about what he would say.
This was not merely wishful thinking by the deal’s backers, though it was partly that. It was not only that members of Trump’s team, most notably Defense Secretary James Mattis, had voiced support for the deal. It wasn’t even just that Trump relishes taking the press (and even his own advisers) by surprise.
No, the other big reason that no one could be sure was that Trump almost always folds. Faced with a tough decision, the president has consistently blinked, giving in to his opponents. Trump has mocked former Secretary of State John Kerry for his supposedly poor negotiation powers, argued that multiple past international agreements suffered from weak-kneed diplomacy, and criticized British Prime Minister Theresa May, a close U.S. ally, for her conduct of the discussion on the U.K.’s departure from the European Union.
Anything-but-the-guns mentality has reared explanations that even fellow Republicans find unnerving.
In the wake of mass shootings in America, Republicans and Democrats migrate to their respective marks as though urged on by a stage director. They read from their respective scripts, Democrats amping up their calls for gun control and Republicans stressing the need for more effective mental health care.
Friday’s mass shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, in which a teenager murdered 10 people at Santa Fe High School, appeared to represent a break in that script. Conservative pundits and lawmakers alike have floated several different reasons behind the shooting, from trench coats to the school’s excess of doors to ADHD medication. The array of diagnoses suggests a couple of things: one, that Republicans remain steadfastly unwilling to consider the merits of gun control, even as the number of mass shootings steadily climbs; and two, that as many Americans demand a more immediate response to gun violence from Washington, Republicans feel pressured to reach for new causes, however incongruous they may seem.
Electronic mail as we know it is drowning in spam, forged phishing mails, and other scams and hacks. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
One week ago, a group of European security researchers warned that two obscure encryption schemes for email were deeply broken. Those schemes, called OpenPGP and S/MIME, are not the kinds of technologies you’re using but don’t know it. They are not part of the invisible and vital internet infrastructure we all rely on.
This isn’t that kind of story.
The exploit, called Efail by the researchers who released it, showed that encrypted (and therefore private and secure) email is not only hard to do, but might be impossible in any practical way, because of what email is at its core. But contained in the story of why these standards failed is the story of why email itself is the main way we get hacked, robbed, and violated online. The story of email is also the story of how we lost so much of our privacy, and how we might regain it.
I’m a 40-year-old single woman. Never married, no children, and I’ve been struggling for years to get over my ex. He was my first love and we met when I was in my early 20s. It was a very immature relationship that culminated in me breaking up with him finally (for about the third or fourth time), mostly because of a growing fear that I knew I would want kids and was worried that I was wasting my time with someone who wasn’t willing to work on a future with me.
This was more than 10 years ago, and although my ex and I have occasionally stayed in touch, been intimate, and reconnected after a few years of separation, we have not been able to have a healthy relationship. I’ve tried to be honest about my wanting a different type of relationship with him, but he doesn’t seem to want that. I have tried moving on by ignoring my feelings for him, ignoring him when he has reached out to me, and repeatedly reminding myself that ours is not the kind of relationship that I want. But it all feels like a lie.
To mourn Philip Roth is also to mourn a particular kind of literary celebrity.
If you Google the phrase literary lion, here is one of the first definitions that will be returned to you for the effort: “Noun: a noted author who has reached celebrity status.” And, then: “Examples: Philip Roth is a literary lion.”
With that, once again, Dictionary.com cuts to the chase. Literary lion is, fittingly, being used a lot today, along with “towering” and “preeminent” and “incomparable,” as the world comes to terms with the melancholy fact that Philip Roth is no longer in it. The obituaries’ soaring language is often accompanied, as per the mandates of internet protocol, by searing URLs—“philip-roth-dead,” The New York Timesreports of the novelist who, elsewhere, has been “borne aloft by an extraordinary second wind”—and there is a certain aptness to the collision: Philip Roth, literary lion, had little patience for lionizing. Embracing that quintessential writerly mandate, “Write what you know,” he wrote about Newark. He wrote about glove factories. He wrote about fathers. He wrote about sons. He wrote about Jewishness, and lust, and one very unfortunate piece of organ meat. He wrote about America. And he wrote about the body—specifically, through the translucent veneer of fiction, his own: its appetites, its indignities, its absurdities, its inevitabilities.
The party is torn over a reform bill that just passed the House with the president’s support: Should it back modest changes to the criminal-justice system or hold out for more?
Many Democrats believed that a years-long bipartisan push to overhaul the federal criminal-justice systemdied with the election of Donald Trump. The president had proudly anointed himself the “law-and-order candidate” in 2016 and appointed as his attorney general Jeff Sessions, the Senate’s leading conservative critic of reducing mandatory-minimum sentences, improving federal prison conditions, and easing the transition back into society for those incarcerated.
But Trump is now backing a component of that effort—prison reform—and the sudden viability of the issue is dividing Democrats, who are torn over whether to accept a modest step toward reducing rates of recidivism or hold out for a more comprehensive solution that’s unlikely to pass while Trump is in office. The House on Tuesday eveningpassed bipartisan legislation known as the First Step Act that would authorize $250 million in new funding for prisoner-reentry programs, ban the shackling of pregnant inmates, and expedite early release for elderly inmates and those who earn “good time” credits during their sentences.