URLs du Jour


  • The Proverbialist reveals that he is not a fan of folly in Proverbs 15:21:

    21 Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
        but whoever has understanding keeps a straight course.

    Unlike the Proverbialist, I am kind of a folly fan, so my feelings are understandably hurt here.

  • On the other hand, I am no fan of certain kinds of folly, specifically what the WSJ editorial board calls Trump’s Tariff Folly.

    Donald Trump made the biggest policy blunder of his Presidency Thursday by announcing that next week he’ll impose tariffs of 25% on imported steel and 10% on aluminum. This tax increase will punish American workers, invite retaliation that will harm U.S. exports, divide his political coalition at home, anger allies abroad, and undermine his tax and regulatory reforms. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.7% on the news, as investors absorbed the self-inflicted folly.

    "Other than that, though, it's fine!" Said nobody, ever.

  • Jonah Goldberg's G-File this week reveals that the tariffs aren't just folly. They are, in fact, A Conspiracy against the People.

    The funny thing is that this move toward protection is celebrated or condemned as a fulfillment of Trump’s “populist” agenda. I get that we label protectionism “populist” these days — though I’m old enough to remember when protectionism was a technocratic cause. But populism is supposed to mean putting the interests of “the people” first. (The problem with populism is that populists never mean all the people; they only mean their people.) And this move isn’t in the interests of most people. How is it “populist” to punish over 300 million consumers and the 6.5 million workers in steel-consuming industries for the benefit of 140,000 workers in the steel-producing industry? Trump says trade wars are “good” — but when other nations retaliate, farmers, truckers, manufacturers, and Americans in general will pay the price.

    This isn’t populism in any literal meaning of the word; it’s elitism of the rankest sort. The president is abusing a law beyond its intended purpose to heap favor on a specific industry, while telling Americans that they aren’t paying enough for cars, aluminum cans, and countless other goods. Despite the fact that the U.S. steel industry already provides 70 percent of the steel used in America. This is literally conspiracy against the public.

    I just finished Steven Pinker's new book, Enlightenment Now, which is (unfortunately) plagued by tedious political fumbles, not least of which is identifying Trump with "authoritarian populism". As Jonah notes, that's far from an accurate characterization.

  • And Matt Welch at Reason also comments: Trump's Impulsive Trade War Is Lousy Economics and Worrisome Politics.

    It is not new for a modern U.S. president to impose protectionist tariffs. Barack Obama did it with Chinese tires, costing American consumers an estimated $1.1 billion in return for preserving 1,200 jobs in the domestic tire industry. And as Steve Chapman has noted in these pages, "When George W. Bush imposed duties on foreign steel, experts concluded, he destroyed some 200,000 jobs in other sectors—exceeding the total employment of the American steel industry."

    Trump's moves, coming on the heels of his recent tariffs on Chinese solar panels and imported washing machines, threaten to be far more ruinous, "the most significant set of U.S. import restrictions in nearly half a century," Edward Alden concluded over at the Council on Foreign Relations. That's in part due to the centrality of protectionism to both Trump's presidential campaign and his lifelong economic worldview. He really, truly believes that "trade wars are good, and easy to win," and that his commitment to this belief is part of why he won the presidency. That's a potent combination.

    There's an amusing Robert Reich video making the rounds that claims Donald Trump is some sort of Ayn Rand hero. As I commented to one of my Facebook friends: I wish. In fact, given Rand's explicit advocacy of free trade, Trump has shown himself to be more like Wesley Mouch than Howard Roark.

  • Two years ago on Pun Salad, I noted an interesting article on fake news in The Hill: Fake NYT article shows Warren endorsing Sanders. In the middle of the primary campaign:

    An imitation New York Times article is making the rounds on social media, duping readers into believing Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has backed Bernie Sanders’s Democratic presidential campaign ahead of Super Tuesday.

    The imitation article was produced using Clone Zone, a site that still exists and "lets you create your own version of popular websites", mimicking their look-n-feel, while dropping in your own content.

    The Hill went on to note the NYT's concern: "As of late Monday evening, the imitation story had 50,000 shares, 15,000 of them on Facebook, the Times added."

    As near as I can tell, nobody claimed, then or now, that this was Russians. What it was, was a lot of American gullibility.