... but the beatings will continue until bond yields improve!
Let's try a thought experiment. Imagine you walked into the bank, told them you were going to be taking pay cuts for the next few years, and then asked for a loan. You'd be laughed out of the office or else pay an interest rate so high that "usurious" wouldn't do it justice. The logic is simple: If you're in debt and your income is shrinking, it's mighty hard to pay back what you already owe.
It's not any different when it comes to countries that can't print their own money. That brings us to Spain.
The following charts (courtesy of Reuters) show overall and youth unemployment across the euro zone. Spain tops both measures, with truly depression-level joblessness.
Nearly a quarter of Spain's population is unemployed. Half of its youth are out of work. And it's only going to get worse. Spain is supposed to trim its deficit by some 5.5 percent of GDP over the next two years. That's not a recipe for growth. Just ask the IMF, which downgraded its projections for Spain's economy back in January.
What matters for a nation is its GDP. That's a country's equivalent of personal income. If Spain's GDP is set to fall for the foreseeable future -- and it is -- then who would want to lend to Spain? The markets gave their answer -- practically nobody! -- and ECB was forced to fill the void by giving Eurobanks free money to then invest in sovereign debt. Yields came down. European policymakers declared "Mission Accomplished."
But now the free money is gone. It's unsurprising that Spanish borrowing costs are surging again.
Unsurprising to everybody who isn't a Eurocrat, that is. Consider this mind-boggling quote from the chairman of the euro zone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker:
I invite financial markets to behave in a rational way. Spain is on track.
On track? For national bankruptcy, yes. But for recovery, absolutely not. Juncker's quote betrays a fundamental misreading of what is making markets anxious. He thinks markets shouldn't worry because Spain is going to follow through on its budget cuts. But markets are worried that Spain is going to follow through on its budget cuts. Austerity would almost certainly shrink the economy and make the country's unconscionable unemployment even worse.
If you're persuaded by my opening analogy, you can see why lenders are so concerned about growth. It's why they don't actually like austerity. But just today, the Bundesbank -- Germany's national central bank, and the real power behind the ECB -- came out and told countries not to worry about growth. Telling a country in a debt crisis like Spain not to worry about growth is like telling man in debt to not worry about finding a job. The most polite way to characterize this advice is "delusional."
To crib from Keynes, Europe's policymakers have blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the workings of which they do not understand. They're not evil. But they're almost certainly wrong. Rather than consider the possibility that the economy might work differently than they think, they have settled on a simple message: The beatings will continue. Unfortunately, morale will continue to not improve. Eventually, you have to think leaders in Europe's beat-up countries will begin to wonder if life might be better outside the euro zone. Hopefully, the ECB will come to its senses first.
As regulators and chaos circle the company following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook's leader has gone absent without leave.
Some time, about 10 days ago, Facebook was notified that there were major stories planned in The Guardian, The New York Times, and on British television about Cambridge Analytica. These stories would allege that the company built its initial models of American voters with data ferried out of Facebook by an app built by a Cambridge psychology researcher. And that when informed that this data existed, the company’s response was, at best, pro forma.
The stories came out last Friday and Facebook’s shares have been in free fall since the markets opened this week. There are massive open questions about this data and the effectiveness of the techniques that Cambridge Analytica has claimed to use. Of course, Russian connections are being floated.
A wedding is no longer the first step into adulthood that it once was, but, often, the last.
The decline of marriage is upon us. Or, at least, that’s what the zeitgeist would have us believe. In 2010, when Time magazine and the Pew Research Center famously asked Americans whether they thought marriage was becoming obsolete, 39 percent said yes. That was up from 28 percent when Time asked the question in 1978. Also, since 2010, the Census Bureau has reported that married couples have made up less than half of all households; in 1950 they made up 78 percent. Data such as these have led to much collective handwringing about the fate of the embattled institution.
But there is one statistical tidbit that flies in the face of this conventional wisdom: A clear majority of same-sex couples who are living together are now married. Same-sex marriage was illegal in every state until Massachusetts legalized it in 2004, and it did not become legal nationwide until the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. Two years after that decision, 61 percent of same-sex couples who were sharing a household were married, according to a set of surveys by Gallup. That’s a high take-up rate: Just because same-sex couples are able to marry doesn’t mean that they have to; and yet large numbers have seized the opportunity. (That’s compared with 89 percent of different-sex couples.)
They’re both blamed for predisposing their members to violent acts, but they’ve sparked radically different public-policy responses.
When I thought about locking up with a crew in 1996, I wanted to see a full initiation first, not parts I stumbled upon over the years. My friend Cliff and I arrived at a park not close from my home in Jamaica, Queens. Leaves danced with the wind around our feet, wafting an eerie feeling in my 14-year-old black body. The grounds of the initiation beckoned: a high-rise chain link fence, enclosing two basketball courts.
Through the daylighted chain, I watched scowls and punches and stomps engulf the uninitiated teen—a stoppage, then an awkward transition into hugs, handshakes, and smiles. The striking contrast shot at my core of authenticity, the insincerity of the punch-hug, of the stomp-smile, murdering my thoughts of joining a crew.
A report that the president had senior White House staff sign non-disclosure agreements is the latest reminder of how much he conceals from public view.
Donald Trump has little regard for the privacy of the masses. During the 2016 campaign, he bought access to psychological profiles of millions of voters created by scraping and studying their Facebook accounts without most of them having granted permission. He signed a bill repealing FCC rules that limited the ability of Internet service providers to sell data on our browsing habits. Like his predecessor, he presides over surveillance agencies that collect metadata on the private communications of hundreds of millions of Americans whether they like it or not. And his administration pays a private corporation for access to billions of photographs that reveal where and when particular cars drove on public roads and highways.
How evangelicals, once culturally confident, became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditionally religious president in living memory
One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics—really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history—is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians. This was a higher level of support than either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, an outspoken evangelical himself, ever received.
Trump’s background and beliefs could hardly be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership. Trump’s past political stances (he once supported the right to partial-birth abortion), his character (he has bragged about sexually assaulting women), and even his language (he introduced the words pussy and shithole into presidential discourse) would more naturally lead religious conservatives toward exorcism than alliance. This is a man who has cruelly publicized his infidelities, made disturbing sexual comments about his elder daughter, and boasted about the size of his penis on the debate stage. His lawyer reportedly arranged a $130,000 payment to a porn star to dissuade her from disclosing an alleged affair. Yet religious conservatives who once blanched at PG-13 public standards now yawn at such NC-17 maneuvers. We are a long way from The Book of Virtues.
So much of raising children is unimaginable until it happens, an abstract future materialized awkwardly into an actual child covered in dirt. Amid constant unpredictability, one small unsung comfort for parents is the chance to revisit books from childhood, to share with your own children the stories you knew and loved.
Recently I came across my old copies of Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books, a series about magic cures for children’s foibles that amazed me as a child. But when I read them to my own children, I was stunned to discover that these silly books are actually horror stories—though for reasons no child could ever comprehend.
Fifteen years after the U.S. invasion, there’s no satisfying answer to the question: What were we doing in Iraq anyway?
One morning in October 2003, I was shaken out of bed by an explosion. I was in Baghdad, leading a platoon of Army Rangers as part of a special operations task force that was hunting down the famous “deck of cards”—the last of the Ba’ath Regime loyalists, and Saddam himself.
Because we did all of our work at night, I had only been sleeping for a few hours. When I first felt the explosion, I rolled out of bed, grabbed my M4 carbine, and ran out of the house we were living in on the southern tip of Baghdad’s so-called Green Zone. Improbably, my giant grizzly bear of a platoon sergeant remained asleep, snoring away in the cot next to mine.
When I got outside, I was initially blinded by the sunlight, but eventually I could see the al-Rashid Hotel, where visiting dignitaries often stayed, smoking in the distance. It had been struck by some kind of rocket. The only other person awake, meanwhile, was one of my Rangers, who was on the porch of our house with a cup of coffee in one hand and a Marlboro Red in the other. He looked me up and down. I was wearing my underwear, flip-flops, and carrying my carbine in one hand and my body armor in the other.
Contrary to the longings of NeverTrumpers, there’s no groundswell of support among the GOP rank and file for a challenger to the president.
Last Friday in New Hampshire, Jeff Flake—the outgoing Republican senator from Arizona who has denounced President Donald Trump as a threat to American democracy—got a standing ovation in Manchester, New Hampshire. John Kasich, another potential challenger to Trump in the 2020 GOP primary, will visit the Granite State next month. “The unusual flurry of activity,” notedTheWashington Post, “is stoking speculation about whether a sitting president could face a serious challenge from within his own party for the first time in a quarter-century.”
The focus on New Hampshire makes sense. It was in New Hampshire that Eugene McCarthy won 42 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 1968 against Lyndon Johnson. It was in New Hampshire that Pat Buchanan won 37 percent in 1992 against George H.W. Bush. Iowa, which traditionally holds its caucuses eight days before New Hampshire’s primary, is almost certainly too conservative to embrace a comparative moderate like Flake or Kasich. In 2016, Kasich came in eighth in the state. So is South Carolina, which in recent cycles has directly followed New Hampshire, and where Kasich came in fifth.
If the consulting firm’s “psychometric” modeling was really the key to winning campaigns, why would it even flirt with sketchier skullduggery?
One can be forgiven for not being quite sure what to think about Channel 4’s expose on Cambridge Analytica, the political-consulting firm linked to Donald Trump and others. On Monday, the British news channel released a story based on hidden-camera videos they took during meetings with CA higher-ups, in which the officials discuss a range of skullduggery, including bribes and sexual entrapment.
That story followed paired scoops in The New York Timesand the British Observer, which focused on how CA’s much-hyped system of targeting voters was premised on data that, according to a whistleblower, was obtained surreptitiously through Facebook. As the Times put it, CA had made big promises about what it could do, “but it did not have the data to make its new products work.” Instead, it allegedly obtained extensive data from a researcher who had gotten it from Facebook on the premise that the information was for academic purposes. The revelation has placed Facebook in a deeply uncomfortable position, especially since the company knew about the misuse of the data but did not acknowledge it. Facebook and CA are now under new regulatory scrutiny in both the U.S. and Britain.