Beat the Press is Dean Baker's commentary on economic reporting. Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR).

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You need not be a fan of Donald Trump to say that trade has had a big impact on manufacturing jobs, you really just need to be someone in the reality-based community. Unfortunately, a lot of people who should, and probably do, know better are insisting that trade is not a big deal. The story is that we lost the jobs due to productivity growth, not trade.

There are three points worth making here. The first is a simple logical one, we have a trade deficit of around $500 billion a year, a bit less than 3.0 percent of GDP. This is basically all due to a deficit in manufactured goods (we have a surplus on services). Does anyone believe that the extra imports associated with the trade deficit are not associated with jobs? Can $500 billion worth of manufactured goods be produced without hiring people? (This matters much more in a context where we face secular stagnation, meaning there is not enough overall demand in the economy.)

The second point is that our trade deficit has not always been this large. Our deficits had been around 1.0 percent of GDP through most of the period from the late 1970s until the East Asian crisis in 1997. Following the crisis, the value of the dollar soared and the trade deficit did also. It eventually peaked at almost 6.0 percent of GDP in 2005–2006. (I should be giving the non-oil deficit, but I'm too lazy to look that up just now.)

Anyhow, this explosion in the trade deficit coincided with a sharp decline in manufacturing employment.

Jobs in Manufacturing

manu empl

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As can be seen, manufacturing employment stayed close to 17.5 million from the early 1970s to 2000. We had plenty of productivity growth over these three decades, but little net change in manufacturing employment, in spite of cyclical ups and downs. It was declining as a share of total employment, which almost doubled over this period. Then, as the trade deficit explodes, we see manufacturing employment plummet. Note that most of the drop is before the Great Recession in 2008. 

The final point is that much of the gains in productivity in the last two decades are illusory. Susan Houseman points out that the bulk of the reported gains in productivity growth are not in industries like autos and steel, but in the computer sector. So a pickup in productivity growth cannot explain the decline in manufacturing employment in most sectors.

I should also add that even the productivity growth we do see is in part due to the trade deficit. When jobs are lost due to import competition, it is generally going to be jobs in the least productive plants. By eliminating low productivity jobs, average productivity will rise even if no plant has actually increased its productivity.

Anyhow, we should not look to combat Donald Trump by following his tendency to ignore reality. Yes, trade has cost manufacturing workers jobs. We can propose different remedies (mine begin with getting the value of the dollar down against other currencies), but let's not deny what is true.

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Steve Rattner had a column on Donald Trump's deal to keep 1,000 jobs at the Carrier air conditioner factory in Indiana in the country. The column argues against imposing tariff barriers that would protect manufacturing workers, but ignores the protectionist barriers that inflate the wages of doctors and other highly paid professionals.

The United States prohibits foreign doctors, even those with top quality health care systems like Germany and Netherlands, from practicing in the United States unless they complete a U.S. residency program. It also prohibits foreign dentists from practicing in the United States unless they graduate from a U.S. dental school. (Since 2011, graduates of Canadian dental schools have also been allowed to practice here.)

As a result of these and other protectionist measures we pay far more for the services provided by these professionals. In the case of doctors, their average pay of more than $250,000 a year (net of malpractice insurance and other expenses) is twice the average of other wealthy countries. This costs the country close to $100 billion a year (@$700 per household) in higher health care costs.

There are enormous potential gains to the economy from removing the protectionist barriers in these high-end professionals. It would also be a huge step toward reducing inequality. Unfortunately, it seems that people like Rattner and other protectionists who write on trade for the NYT are not willing to consider free trade policies.

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This is an important point that would have been worth including in this NYT article on the growing risks in the subprime car loan market. The lack of oversight from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is likely a major reason that bad lending practices persist in this area.

Note: I corrected the title to make it more accurate. The loans themselves are covered by the CFPB, the arrangements and discussions by dealers explaining the terms of the loan are not. Thanks to Robert Salzberg for calling this to my attention.

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The NYT had a major article focused on a Chinese man who makes his living by exposing retailers for selling unauthorized versions of clothes, shoes, and other retail products. His income comes from the government, which rewards people who find unauthorized copies of products being sold in stores. The article repeatedly refers to these items as "counterfeit." This is inaccurate.

While all the items noted in the piece are in principle being sold without the consent of the named manufacturer, many would not qualify as "counterfeits." The difference is that in many cases, the buyer knows that they are not getting a product made by the named manufacturer. They are willing to buy the product anyhow because it comes with a substantial discount. In this case, the product is not actually a counterfeit, since the consumer knows what they are buying.

This is not just a semantic point. If the consumer is being deceived, they are an ally in cracking down on the practice. On the other hand, if consumers willingly buys a product, knowing that it is not actually the named brand, then they will resist efforts to crack down.

Clearly China's law in this area is designed to crack down on both actual counterfeits, in some cases raising serious safety issues, and also unauthorized copies that allow consumers to buy products at large discounts. It would have been helpful to be clear on this distinction so that readers would have a better idea of what is at stake.

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He may not have intended to say that Trump voters were driven by illusions, but that is effectively what he wrote. His column warned Democrats that they have to move right to get more political support:

"...some of the Trumpian (and pre-Trumpian) backlash against liberalism in white working-class communities was associated with welfare programs — disability rolls, food stamps, Medicaid — that seem to effectively underwrite worklessness at a time of social disarray. It would not require Democrats abandoning their commitment to the social safety net to foreground programs more directly linked to work and independence, and to acknowledge the problems of dependence and stagnation associated with no-strings-attached support."

Of course, fans of reality know that the number of people getting disability benefits has fallen somewhat as the economy recovered from the downturn. The combined number of people getting workers compensation or disability has actually been falling since 2000. So if Trump voters are upset about people using disability related programs to avoid working, they have less to complain about under the liberal Obama administration than under President Bush.

There has been an increase in the number of people getting food stamps under President Obama, but it seems unlikely that benefits averaging $125 a month per person are keeping too many people out of work. The same story applies to the Medicaid expansion.

As a practical matter, if the concern is about prime-age workers (ages 25 to 54) not working, then Trump voters should have been angry at the Bush conservatives, not President Obama. The employment-to-population ratio for prime-age workers fell by 4.4 percentage points while President Bush was in the White House. It has risen by 1.2 percentage points since President Obama took office.

So it seems that Trump voters are angry about something that does not exist in the world. Apparently, they have been misinformed by their news sources, including people like Douthat.

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Donald Trump is about to become president and immediately begin violating the constitution. The constitution explicitly prohibits the president from taking payments and gifts from foreign governments. (Can we stop using the term "emolument"? No one has used it for a hundred years. We want to be clear on what the constitution means.)

Donald Trump is right now and will continue to be taking payments and gifts from foreign governments in the form of benefits to his properties, unless he dumps the stuff. This is about as clear a violation of the constitutional provision imaginable, so why on earth do we have Andrew Ross Sorkin approvingly accepting Donald Trump's nonsense claim in his letter to Mr. Trump:

"You understand the conundrum. 'In theory, I don’t have to do anything' to distance yourself from your business holdings, you told journalists at The New York Times last week, 'but I would like to do something — I would like to try and formalize something.'"

This is wrong. Trump absolutely does have to do something. It's not a question of his being a nice guy. This is a constitutional provision. The constitution sets the rules on who can be president and how they conduct themselves. Just as it says the president must be at least 35 years old and must be a native born citizen, it also says the president can't take payments from foreign governments.

Perhaps even more incredible than Sorkin's misrepresentation of the constitution, his plan is just a bad joke.

"Voluntarily agree to hire what is known as a 'corporate monitor,' an independent overseer with unfettered access to your organizations who will provide regular reports to the public about any possible instances of conflicts."

Okay, let's get this one straight. Donald Trump can't keep himself from tweeting out loony claims about massive vote fraud in the middle of the night. He routinely makes personal attacks on his critics without any evidence. This guy is going to defer to a "corporate monitor" in his actions as president.

So when President Erdogan in Turkey gives favorable treatment to Trump's golf courses there, is the corporate monitor going to be able to know if this affects Donald Trump's decision to look the other way as he locks up all his political opponents? If Scotland decides to ban the wind turbines near his resort, will the corporate monitor know if this affects his attitude towards Scottish independence? And, as a practical matter, do we really believe that Trump would be constantly checking in with his corporate monitor anyhow?

Sorkin's proposal is a complete joke. If we give a damn about the constitution, Donald Trump has to sell off his empire and place his assets in a blind trust, just like every other president has done for the last half century. (I explain how he could do this here.) If he chooses not to do this, then Trump is constitutionally unable to be president, just as if he was born in Kenya. It's that simple.

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The NYT had an interesting piece on the hopes that West Virginians placed on the ability of Donald Trump to bring back jobs to the state. However, a comment on the loss of mining jobs under President Obama may have misled readers.

The piece noted:

"Coal has always been boom and bust; its decline began long before Mr. Obama took office. But in West Virginia alone, 12,000 coal industry jobs have been lost during his tenure."

While this is true, the start of the Obama administration was a temporary peak for the coal industry, as the sharp run-up in oil prices in the prior four years had substantially increased the demand for coal as shown in the figure below.

Coal Mining Jobs in West Virginia

west virginia mining

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

While there was a substantial loss of coal mining jobs during the Obama years, mostly due to the availability of low cost natural gas, the most recent employment levels are almost the same as they were in 2000.

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Hey, why should he be left out? He repeats the story about prime age (ages 25–54) men dropping out of the workforce. As noted here before, since 2000 there has been a comparable drop in employment rates for prime-age women. It is important to add in this respect that employment rates for women had been rising before 2000 and were almost universally expected to continue to rise. In other words, there is a simple story where the drop in both men and women's employment rates is due to a weak labor market, but hey that's too easy, let's see if we can blame the workers rather than the folks who make economic policy.

The other point where Samuelson is misleading is in citing the claim that government benefits, like disability payments, are a possible reason that men have been dropping out. While he notes that the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) argued against this by noting that these benefits had not risen rapidly enough to explain the increase in the drop out rate, it also would have been worth noting the rest of the argument. The CEA also pointed out that the United States ranks near the bottom of OECD countries in the generosity of its benefits, but it also ranks near the bottom in labor force participation rates for prime-age workers. In other words, that doesn't sound like a very plausible explanation.

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In Washington, there are two sure ways to get rich: you can work as a corporate lobbyist or you can work with a Peter Peterson-funded organization and whine about government debt. The Peterson Foundation, along with its allies at the Washington Post and other media outlets, have long worked to fan irrational fears about government debt just as Donald Trump and other demagogues have fanned racism and xenophobia. One small positive of a Donald Trump presidency is that it may provide a teachable moment on the meaninglessness of such fears.

The NYT gives us an excellent lead in with this piece on the need to repair locks and dams on inland waterways. The piece tells us of Trump's plan to spend $1 trillion improving the country's infrastructure, then adds:

"To avoid raising taxes or increasing debt, his plan calls for much of the money to come from the private sector, with a proposed tax credit offered in return. ...

"Even with a tax credit, though, companies building roads or locks would want a return on their investment — most likely in the form of toll collection, said Mike Toohey, president of the Waterways Council, an advocacy group for the river shipping industry."

So let's look at how we are avoiding raising the debt in this story. First, the infrastructure is supported through a tax credit rather than direct spending. If we spent $1 trillion directly then this would add $1 trillion to the debt. We will then have to pay the interest on this debt as long as it is outstanding. (Currently, the real interest rate on government debt is nearly zero, since the inflation rate is almost as high as the long-term interest rate.)

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Suppose a candidate proposed ending the U.S. commitment to NATO. Based on this NYT article on Republican plans to privatize Medicare, the headline would probably tell readers that the candidate wanted to "change" U.S. involvement with NATO.

In fact, as readers of the article will discover, Republicans want to replace Medicare's commitment to provide seniors with insurance that covers most of their health care costs with a "a fixed government contribution for each beneficiary." After describing the system in this manner — virtually the textbook definition of "voucher," the article then told readers:

"For nearly six years, Speaker Paul D. Ryan has championed the new approach, denounced by Democrats as 'voucherizing' Medicare."

The use of quotation marks in this sentence is difficult to understand, since there seems little dispute that Speaker Ryan does in fact want to replace Medicare with a voucher, as this article had just explained. What is up for debate is whether it is desirable to replace Medicare with a voucher system, not whether the Republicans want to do it.

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In spite of all the stories about robots taking all the jobs, we still can't find any evidence in the productivity data. Productivity has averaged just 0.6 percent annually over the last six years, the slowest growth on record.

But now the Wall Street Journal alerts us to a new problem. It tells us that small businesses can't find enough workers in low-skilled occupations. If that sounds to you like the direct opposite of the job-killing robots story, then you're way ahead of many of the pundits who get paid big bucks to say smart things about the economy.

If the Wall Street Journal piece is right, then the jobs-killing robots story is wrong. Our economy is continuing to create large numbers of jobs for people with relatively few skills.

Of course, the labor shortage story is also more than a bit misleading. Capitalism prescribes a simple remedy for addressing labor shortages. It's called higher wages. The piece does assure us that higher wages is not the problem, but some arithmetic would be helpful here.

In one case it mentions a roofer who is now paying most of his workers over $20 an hour. While this is a better wage than most workers receive, roofing is a physically demanding and dangerous job. If the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since the late 1960s (as it had in the prior three decades), it would be almost $19 an hour today, so crossing $20 an hour hardly seems like especially high pay in 2016. (It's equal to 0.008 percent of what Goldman Sachs pays its speakers.)

The other area where we are told there are shortages is farmworkers. Here the pay is $11 an hour, but we assured that this is not the problem, the problem is that workers who are U.S. citizens want to be paid in cash so they don't have to pay taxes.

It's certainly possible that many of the business owners who are complaining about a labor shortage would not be able to stay in business if they offered higher wages. But this is the way a market economy works. Businesses that can't afford to pay the prevailing wage go out of business and their workers go into areas where their labor can be more productively employed. This process is the reason that half of the country is no longer working in agriculture.

In short, the story of the job-killing robots seems like a myth that helps to employ highly educated people, while the problem of the labor shortage is one of business owners who don't understand how a market economy works.

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Donald Trump has basically come right out said that he intends to use the presidency to further enrich himself and his family. After refusing to follow long-established precedent and put his assets in a blind trust, he proclaimed, "the president can’t have a conflict of interest."

Of course the president absolutely can have a conflict of interest as speakers of the English language use the expression. If a president owns a large business empire, as does Mr. Trump, there are all sorts of situations where his personal business interests could be in conflict with the country's interests.

For example, he may want favorable treatment from a foreign government for one of his hotels. This may lead him to make concessions to the government in other areas which he would not otherwise do. The same applies to domestic tax policy where he may decide to push tax changes that will help his business interests. There are literally an infinite number of situations where the president can and does have a conflict of interest when he owns a business empire like Mr. Trump.

It is also worth noting that it does not seem as though corruption will be exlcusively a family affair with Mr. Trump. David Dayen has an interesting piece in the Intercept about how Trump may hand billions to his friend and campaign contributor, John Paulson, by reprivatizing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. Trump seems intent on raising political corruption to a new level in his administration. As he is prone to say, it will be yuuge!

Some folks hear about this stuff and think it is just rich people's games that don't affect them. After all, who cares if Trump's hotels are able to pull away business from Hilton or Marriott because he is in the White House? Well, the incredible wealth of Trump and his cronies actually does affect the average worker, although we have to take a small detour to get the full picture.

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The world would be a much better place if the folks who wrote on economic issues at the NYT had at least an intro econ level understanding of economics. But apparently that is too much to expect, so we find Thomas Friedman telling readers:

"The one area where I think Trump is going to have the hardest time delivering on his campaign promises is to create 'millions' of good-paying jobs by incentivizing and pressuring American companies to manufacture more in the U.S. He still talks about America as a manufacturing wasteland when, in fact, manufacturing remains the largest sector of the U.S. economy but employs far fewer workers.

"As the management consultant Warren Bennis famously observed: 'The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.'"

While Trump will not be able to bring back the six million manufacturing jobs we have lost in the last two decades, it is certainly possible that he could bring back 1–2 million manufacturing jobs if he were to get the trade deficit closer to balance. That would be a big deal for lots of workers, especially if the workers who held these jobs were able to form unions to ensure decent wages and benefits.

In terms of the factory of the future, it may well be highly automated, but that is not the factories of today, which still employ more than 12 million workers. Contrary to what Friedman types continually tell people, the automation process is actually moving very slowly as productivity growth in manufacturing and the rest of the economy has slowed to a crawl.

 

Productivity in Manufacturing

Manu ProductivitySource: Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As the chart shows, productivity growth in manufacturing has averaged less than 0.5 percent annually over the last five years. The factory of the future may only have a person and a dog, as in Friedman's story, just as the newspaper of the future may have only a computer program to write columns, but we are not at this future yet and not likely to be there soon. 

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When the initiative to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union was being debated, many people, including many economists, predicted the country would be hit with a severe recession. It didn't happen. The economy seems to be moving along fine, with no recession in sight, although the London real estate market is not looking very good. Of course the UK has not left the European Union yet, or even developed a plan to do so, but it is unlikely that many would want to place much money on that recession bet today.

Apparently, the conservative government has now abandoned its plans for further austerity and a balanced budget. It is expected to spend an additional $187 billion over the next five years (roughly 1.0 percent of GDP) to boost the economy and create jobs. According to the NYT, this spending is a direct response to concerns over the plight of working class people who voted for Brexit in large numbers. 

This outcome is worth noting, because the boost to the economy from additional spending is likely to be larger than any drag on growth as a result of leaving the European Union. This would mean that the net effect of Brexit on growth would be positive. Of course the UK government could have abandoned its austerity path without Brexit, but probably would not have done so. Given the political context, working class voters who wanted to see more jobs and a stronger welfare state likely made the right vote by supporting Brexit. This doesn't excuse the racist sentiments that motivated many Brexit supporters, but it is important to recognize the economic story here.

There is a deeper lesson in this story. The elites that derided Brexit were largely content with austerity policies that needlessly kept workers from getting jobs and also weakened the welfare state. Many were willing to push nonsense economic projections of recession in order to advance their political agenda. In this context, it is not surprising that large numbers of working class people would reject their argument that Brexit would be bad for the UK.

We see a similar situation in the United States where trade policies that are designed to redistribute income upward, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, are foisted on the public by the leadership of both parties. As with Brexit, elite economists are prepared to make absurd predictions of economic disaster if this trade agenda is rejected. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that large portions of the working class are not willing to go along with the elite's agenda.

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Many of us have been raising the issue that Donald Trump is apparently prepared to defy well-established precedent and continue to maintain his business empire even as he serves as president. For the last fifty years presidents have put their assets in a blind trust so that there would not be a question as to whether they were working to fatten their own pockets or for what they considered the good of the country. This also prevents the most blatant forms of bribery by those seeking to curry the president's favor. 

It is hard to see any reason that Donald Trump should not be held to the same rules, as argued by Jeff Hauser at CEPR's Revolving Door Project. But some have made the argument that, given his extensive holdings, it would be almost impossible to sell them off in the two months remaining until he takes office. This means that he could not avoid the problem of making decisions that will have a direct impact on his business interests.

Actually it is not hard to find a way around this problem:

1) Donald Trump arranges to hire three auditors from an independent accounting firm. Each one does an independent assessment of Trump's holdings and assigns it a value.

2) The middle assessment becomes a benchmark. Donald Trump buys an insurance policy that will guarantee him that he will get this amount of money when all assets are sold. If the total take is less than the benchmark, he collects on the insurance policy. Any money received in excess of the benchmark goes to a charity of Trump's choosing (not the Trump Foundation).

3) All the proceeds from the sales are placed in a blind trust.

There you have it, three easy steps that Donald Trump could take if he wanted to end the conflicts of interest he now faces. It doesn't seem likely that he will go this route on his own, the question is whether anyone (i.e. Republicans) will force him.

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The Republicans, including Donald Trump, have repeatedly complained that provisions of Dodd-Frank have cut off small business access to credit. David Greene picked up the charge in an interview with Barney Frank on Morning Edition. He repeatedly asked Frank if the Republican complaints about the law were correct.

While Frank responded by challenging Greene to name the provisions that were responsible for cutting off credit, there actually is a simpler response. Credit to small businesses has not been cut off, or at least if it has, small businesses don't seem to have noticed. The monthly survey of small businesses conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business shows that they feel credit has almost never been more easily available.

In other words, the Republicans have made up a nonsense claim about the economy, and Greene has chosen to re-enforce rather than checking its validity.  

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There are sharp differences between the political parties in many areas, but one principle on which there has been a longstanding agreement is that the presidency should not be used as a marketing platform for the president’s personal business interests. Donald Trump seems determined to break with this principle.

The basic point is simple: when you enter the White House you put your assets into a blind trust. This way when the president makes decisions in various areas of foreign and domestic policy, he or she does not know whether they will personally profit from them. The idea is that we want the president to make decisions based on whether they are good for the country, not whether they will fatten their pocketbook.

Presidents of both parties dating back to Lyndon Johnson followed the practice of putting their assets into a blind trust. Richard Nixon did it, Gerald Ford did it, as did Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Both President Bushes put their assets into a blind trust. And President Reagan put his assets into a blind trust.

None of these presidents had any problem with the idea that they should not be in a position to know whether their actions were directly helping or hurting them financially. Apparently, Donald Trump thinks he is different.

The potential for conflicts is very real and we are seeing it even now in the transition. Last weekend, Donald Trump met with Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan. His daughter Ivanka sat in on the meeting. Japan is now debating whether to allow casino gambling. This is an area where Trump’s business enterprises could have considerable interest, since he has a stake in many casinos around the world.

Did legalized gambling come up at the meeting? Would Donald Trump be inclined to be more favorable towards Abe if they allowed him to open a casino in Japan? Would he not press an issue because he is worried that Abe could retaliate against his casino business?

The same would apply with every other foreign head of state. For example, Turkey has a president, Recep Erdogan, who is looking increasingly like a dictator. In response to a failed coup last summer, he has arrested a number of opposition leaders and purged universities and even high schools of teachers who are thought to be political opponents.

It turns out that Trump has a stake in a number of resorts in Turkey. Will this affect his attitude toward Erdogan?

These are the sorts of issues that will arise all the time with Trump in the White House. And, there are at least as many on the domestic side involving everything from tax reform to education policy.

Every other president was prepared to put aside their personal business interests when they entered the White House. It is a job requirement; it’s as simple as that. Anyone who cares about the integrity of the U.S. government and that the presidency not be used as a platform for personal enrichment should be demanding that Trump follow longstanding precedent by selling off his holdings and have them placed in a blind trust.

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Proving once again that you can get just about anything into the Washington Post as long as it agrees with the party line, Robert Samuelson used his column to tell us that Alan Greenspan agrees with him about Social Security and Medicare being too generous. Before getting into the details, let's first deal with the question as to whether Mr. Greenspan should be viewed as an expert on anything other than his shoe size.

Samuelson tells readers:

"Why should we listen to Greenspan? After all, wasn’t he the guy who brought us the 2008-2009 financial crisis? Well, no. Granted, he made huge errors, but so did many others. If Greenspan had become a professional musician, the financial crisis would still have occurred. And despite the crisis, Greenspan remains a highly original economic thinker."

Basically Samuelson is giving us the "who could have known amnesty" story. Yes, there were a lot of people that should have seen the $8 trillion housing bubble ($12 trillion in today's economy) whose collapse wrecked the economy, but how does that excuse the Fed chair for being completely clueless about the economy? 

We saw an unprecedented nationwide run-up in house prices in the years 1996 to 2006. There was no accompanying increase in rents, which just kept pace with the rate of inflation over this period. Vacancy rates were already hitting record highs as early as 2002. You didn't have to be a genius to see that there was a bubble here. It also should not have been hard to imagine that the U.S. economy would have bubbles since the collapse of the stock bubble (also on Greenspan's watch) had just thrown us into a recession in 2001.

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The NYT ran a major article warning that a Chinese led trade deal, involving a number of countries in East Asia and the Pacific region, was likely to move forward more quickly with the demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is reported as being an ominous outcome that should concern readers.

This is the opposite position that economists generally take toward efforts to reduce trade barriers. In most economic models, when some countries reduce their trade barriers and therefore increase economic growth, it also benefits countries who are not party to these trade deals.

This was the reason that the United States generally supported the process through which European countries came together, first in the common market and then in the European Union. The argument was that a more economically prosperous Europe would be a better customer for U.S. products and also a better competitor. In the latter role, Europe would provide economic gains to U.S. consumers as well by offering better and/or lower cost products.

It is interesting that the NYT and other proponents of the TPP are now prepared to turn standard economic logic on its head in order to push this pact. For those without a stake in promoting the TPP, the greater economic integration of the region should be viewed positively.  

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Hedge fund manager and Trump transition team member Anthony Scaramucci, repeated one of the great lies of the era of Trump on Morning Edition today. He claimed that businesses could not get access to credit and blamed it on the regulations in the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. This is the reason that he and others have given for repealing Dodd-Frank. 

The problem with this story is that it is entirely an invention of the right wing. As I point out earlier this week the National Federation of Independent Businesses has been conducting a monthly survey of small businesses for more than thirty years. One of questions it poses is about credit conditions. In the most recent survey only 2 percent reported that financing was their top business problem. This is near a low point for the survey's history. In other words, they are finding that small businesses are having very little problem getting access to credit.

Larger businesses that can borrow directly through credit markets also have little problem. Many economists, including Fed Chair Janet Yellen, have worried about the collapse of credit spreads, meaning that they are concerned that risky businesses actually are getting credit at too low an interest rate.

In other words, the idea that Dodd-Frank is preventing businesses from getting credit is a complete invention, like Fox's War on Christmas.

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Every economist in the world can quickly explain how a 10 percent tariff on imported steel will lead to corruption. The same logic applies to drug patents, although since they are the equivalent of tariffs many thousand percent (they typically raise the price of protected drugs by factors of ten or even 100 or more), the incentives for corruption are much greater.

This is why every economist in the world should have been nodding their heads saying "I told you so" when they read this NYT article about a kickback scheme between a major drug manufacturer and a mail order pharmacy. Unfortunately, there were no economists mentioned in this piece. And, it is quite possible that most economists support this form of protectionism, in spite of the enormous inefficiency and corruption that results. (Yes this is a major point in my book, Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer.)

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