Cambridge can send David Cameron a thank-you note for its rock bottom borrowing costs
Can you afford not to borrow right now? If you're a big, AAA-rated institution like the University of Cambridge, the answer is probably no -- which is why it's issuing a bond for the first time in its 800-year history. Hey, these guys know historically low interest rates when they see them.
Just how low is historically low? Well, interest rates have had nowhere to go but up for years now, and might still for years more. The chart below, courtesy of the Guardian, puts today's near-zero interest rates in historical context, going all the way back to when the Bank of England was created in 1694. Notice the flat line at the far right, just barely above the x-axis.
Anybody and everybody who can tap capital markets should be locking in these rates. Cambridge has, to the tune of a 40-year, £350 million ($560 million) bond. Because, research facilities! As if they need a reason when money is free.
There's another institution that should be taking notes -- the British government. As Matt Yglesias of Slate points out, it's both hilarious and irrelevant that the British government has a lower credit rating than Cambridge. The government borrows for basically nothing in a currency it controls. It can't default on its debts, though it can inflate them away. Now, inflation risk is a real risk for investors, but it's no less a risk for investors who buy Cambridge's bonds, since the university also borrows in sterling. In other words, the British government should worry about what markets, and not credit rating agencies, think about their creditworthiness.
Right now, the market's message is to spend, spend, spend. Investors would still rather pay the government to hold their money than risk it in stocks. There are no free lunches in economics, but this comes awfully close. Brad DeLong and Larry Summers think borrowing money to put people back to work might actually pay for itself right now, since it keeps our capital stock from falling too low and the unemployed from becoming unemployable. In other words, the future cost of more debt might be less than the future cost of more stagnation.
More stagnation is what Britain has now. They can thank the Conservative-led coalition for that. David Cameron tried to preempt a debt crisis, but it's only worsened their growth crisis. His mistake has been to worry about rising interest rates, when he should worry about interest rates not rising. Huh? There are two reasons interest rates might rise: default risk and inflation risk. Britain doesn't have to worry about the former, and shouldn't worry about the latter. They should actually welcome it. More inflation would be a sign of more growth right now. Interest rates would climb, but for the good reason that investors are regaining their animal spirits. The Cameron government has missed this. They think the point is to keep rates low, lest they turn into Greece. In this they have succeeded -- the keeping rates low bit. Premature austerity has killed growth, which has killed confidence, which has helped keep rates down. Rinse and repeat.
It's terrible for Britain, but great for Cambridge, now that they're breaking their 800-year debt-free streak. I can think of at least one former professor would be happy his alma mater hasn't forgotten that the slump is not the right time for austerity.
The GOP planned a dynastic restoration in 2016. Instead, it triggered an internal class war. Can the party reconcile the demands of its donors with the interests of its rank and file?
The angriest and most pessimistic people in America aren’t the hipster protesters who flitted in and out of Occupy Wall Street. They aren’t the hashtavists of #BlackLivesMatter. They aren’t the remnants of the American labor movement or the savvy young dreamers who confront politicians with their American accents and un-American legal status.
The angriest and most pessimistic people in America are the people we used to call Middle Americans. Middle-class and middle-aged; not rich and not poor; people who are irked when asked to press 1 for English, and who wonder how white male became an accusation rather than a description.
You can measure their pessimism in polls that ask about their expectations for their lives—and for those of their children. On both counts, whites without a college degree express the bleakest view. You can see the effects of their despair in the new statistics describing horrifying rates of suicide and substance-abuse fatality among this same group, in middle age.
“For the most part, I was in the moment, doing what I do every day.”
Last Friday, at 10:30 a.m., ob-gyn Rebekah McCurdy was seeing patients in her office when she got the call. Hello, said the voice on the line. It’s us. We’re thinking of doing a C-section, and we’re ready to put her under anesthesia. Weird, thought McCurdy. She wasn’t covering deliveries that morning, and in any case, she didn’t have any C-sections scheduled. “Who is this?” she said.
“It’s the zoo,” said the voice. “It’s for Kira.”
McCurdy dropped everything and ran to her car. A few hours later, she was delivering a baby gorilla into the world.
Philadelphia Zoo has a long history of raising great apes: In 1928, it became the first American zoo to successfully breed both chimpanzees and orangutans. In 2009, when it restarted its breeding program in a newly built primate house, vets contacted Stuart Weiner, a director at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and a specialist in high-risk obstetrics. They wanted someone on standby in case any of the pregnancies became complicated.
Normally, a bill this unpopular wouldn’t stand a chance. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s health-care bill seems designed to let reluctant senators amend it, and claim victory.
The United States has never had a Senate leader as ruthless, as willing to bend, distort and break the rules, traditions and precedents of the Senate as Mitch McConnell. And the Senate has probably never had a majority leader as effective at accomplishing his goals as Mitch McConnell—making even Lyndon Johnson look like a neophyte in comparison.
That is why no one should believe that the McConnell-crafted health-policy bill is dead, despite the growing opposition and the fact that the overwhelming majority of health-policy analysts and health providers say the bill is a walking disaster. It eviscerates Medicaid—a program widely misunderstood as simply insurance for poor people, but which uses most of its money for long-term care for the elderly, and basic protection for the disabled and mentally ill populations. The overall Medicaid cuts, while spread over a longer time frame, are more severe than the draconian House bill.
How leaders lose mental capacities—most notably for reading other people—that were essential to their rise
If power were a prescription drug, it would come with a long list of known side effects. It can intoxicate. It can corrupt. It can even make Henry Kissinger believe that he’s sexually magnetic. But can it cause brain damage?
When various lawmakers lit into John Stumpf at a congressional hearing last fall, each seemed to find a fresh way to flay the now-former CEO of Wells Fargo for failing to stop some 5,000 employees from setting up phony accounts for customers. But it was Stumpf’s performance that stood out. Here was a man who had risen to the top of the world’s most valuable bank, yet he seemed utterly unable to read a room. Although he apologized, he didn’t appear chastened or remorseful. Nor did he seem defiant or smug or even insincere. He looked disoriented, like a jet-lagged space traveler just arrived from Planet Stumpf, where deference to him is a natural law and 5,000 a commendably small number. Even the most direct barbs—“You have got to be kidding me” (Sean Duffy of Wisconsin); “I can’t believe some of what I’m hearing here” (Gregory Meeks of New York)—failed to shake him awake.
Mounting evidence that Trump’s election was aided by Russian interference presents a challenge to the American system of government—with lasting consequences for democracy.
Day by day, revelation after revelation, the legitimacy of the Trump presidency is seeping away. The question of what to do about this loss is becoming ever more urgent and frightening.
The already thick cloud of discredit over the Trump presidency thickened deeper Friday, June 23. The Washington Post reported that the CIA told President Obama last year that Vladimir Putin had personally and specifically instructed his intelligence agencies to intervene in the U.S. presidential election to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.
Whether the Trump campaign knowingly coordinated its activities with the Russians remains uncertain. The Trump campaign may have been a wholly passive and unwitting beneficiary. Yes, it’s curious that the Russians allegedly directed their resources to the Rust Belt states also targeted by the Trump campaign. But it’s conceivable they were all just reading the same polls on FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics.
If the party cares about winning, it needs to learn how to appeal to the white working class.
The strategy was simple. A demographic wave—long-building, still-building—would carry the party to victory, and liberalism to generational advantage. The wave was inevitable, unstoppable. It would not crest for many years, and in the meantime, there would be losses—losses in the midterms and in special elections; in statehouses and in districts and counties and municipalities outside major cities. Losses in places and elections where the white vote was especially strong.
But the presidency could offset these losses. Every four years the wave would swell, receding again thereafter but coming back in the next presidential cycle, higher, higher. The strategy was simple. The presidency was everything.
Rufus Edmisten reflects on his time working on the Senate Watergate Committee.
When Rufus Edmisten was 31 years old, he delivered a subpoena to the president of the United States asking for tape recordings from the Oval Office. It was July 23, 1973, and “it had to be the hottest day in the world,” he told me last week, 44 years later.
Edmisten had recently been appointed deputy chief counsel on the Senate’s newly formed Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, also known as the Watergate Committee. Its chairman, North Carolina Democrat Sam Ervin, was leading an investigation into the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters, which had occurred the year before in the midst of President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign.
It would take another year of firings, cover-ups, and claims of executive privilege, but the committee’s evidence-gathering would ultimately lead to the indictment of 40 administration officials and the first-ever resignation of an American president.
New documents show how when given the opportunity, the Democratic Party was as ruthless as their GOP counterparts in trying to redistrict their rivals out of existence.
In spring 2011, the six Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegations tasked Eric Hawkins with two key jobs: Draw new district lines that get us re-elected easily for another five terms, while also taking direct aim at the state’s last two Republicans.
Behind closed doors, Democratic insiders and high-ranking aides referred to it as “the 7-1 map.” Hawkins—an analyst at a Beltway data firm called NCEC Services—not only made it happen, but imagined an 8-0 map that might have shut Republicans out of power altogether. That, however, would have required spreading Democratic voters a little too thin and made some incumbents slightly less safe; these congressmen were partisans, sure, but they were also reluctant to risk their own seats.
The most popular news channel in the Arab world sits uneasily at the center of the Qatar crisis.
Earlier this month, managers at Al Jazeera, the most popular news channel in the Arab world, summoned nervous journalists into a glass-paneled conference room in the network’s headquarters in Doha. A coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia had just imposed an embargo on Qatar, closing its airspace and expelling thousands of Qatari citizens. One of the conditions for lifting the blockade, according to a list leaked on Thursday, was reportedly the closure of Al Jazeera. The network’s leadership wanted to reassure its staff that their jobs were safe. “We’re not planning any changes right now,” journalists were told, according to two participants in the meeting. That left quite a bit unsaid. (I resigned from Al Jazeera English in mid-2013 after working there for nearly four years.)
As politicians purposefully polarize their own society for political profit, the result is rage and violence.
On June 14, a Turkish court sentenced Enis Berberoglu to 25 years in prison for spying. The decision sent shockwaves through Turkey, even after a year during which the government arrested, detained, or purged more than 200,000 people in the aftermath of last summer’s attempted coup d’etat. Berberoglu is neither a supporter of the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of orchestrating the military intervention, nor is he a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a terrorist organization that has been waging a war on the country for three decades. He is a journalist and legislator from the Republican People’s Party, which represents a decidedly secular and nationalist constituency.