42 Comments
May 23, 2021Liked by Noah Smith

Brave and honest self-assessment inherently deserves applause. Two thoughts: (1) long-term trends almost never play out in smooth and linear fashion. Minor setbacks on vaccinations and economic growth are not dispositive. Conversely, the long-term trends toward polarization and gridlock were probably not fundamentally changed in a brief Biden honeymoon. (2) over long periods, optimistic forecasts seem to be more accurate than pessimistic forecasts. Thank goodness.

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May 23, 2021Liked by Noah Smith

"Fortunately, however, American technology will probably bail out our fractured society once again. A recent British study found that the Pfizer vaccine is 88% effective against the fearsome India variant two weeks after the second dose, compared with 93% effectiveness against the now-common British variant."

While I share your positive view on American technology, I have to note that in this case you are talking mostly about German technology. The Pfizer vaccine was developed by German Biotech, Pfizer is more of a manufacturing partner.

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May 23, 2021Liked by Noah Smith

>>>But it seems he’s already watering his investment proposals down in a doomed attempt to win Republican support. Why he’s doing this is beyond me; it seems like a repetition of Obama’s mistakes in 2009,<<<

The most obvious possibility is: Biden wants to be credibly seen as really having tried hard to court GOP support, in order to provide Senate Democrats (especially Manchin) political cover for employing reconciliation. ("C'mon, man, we did everything in our power to try compromising with our Republican colleagues.") I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if Joe Manchin himself told Biden this was necessary. I also wouldn't be the least bit surprised if what gets to Biden's desk has that $500 billion added put back in.

>>>So Biden’s legislative agenda appears to be teetering on the brink of collapse.<<<

I was never under the illusion that major non-reconciliation bills (immigration reform, voting rights, DC statehood, etc) had a snowball's chance of getting enacted, so I'm not really disappointed. But I'm not seeing the "brink of collapse" narrative being reported by the MSM and punditariat with respect to the two reconciliation-friendly bills (although it's entirely possible I've missed this). Democrats have 51 votes, and I expect they'll use them on those two measures. Time will tell.

>>>But especially when it comes to government investment, my sunny outlook has been a bit tempered in the last month.<<<

My outlook is: don't underestimate the Republican Party's intense devotion to the cause of weakening America, and you'll rarely have to engage in "tempering." A half year ago I figured we'd probably have a Democratic president who could only get small ball deals done and acting cabinet heads to serve him because of a GOP Senate majority. Now we've got a fully functioning cabinet, a big relief bill enacted, and a favorable parliamentarian's ruling that probably means several trillion more in helpful spending will be greenlit. Oh, and we've seen an 87% reduction in daily covid deaths since Trump's last week in office. I'm neither a pessimist nor an optimist, but a realist: and reality looks a lot better than it did this time last year.

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I think we are right to be concerned about stagflation. We know the areas a supply-side revolution is most needed: notably healthcare and housing costs. And yet, very little is done to help (in housing, i might argue nothing is done). Yes, bottlenecks will eventually pass in durable goods, but we will still be stuck with these large unproductive sectors becoming an ever-larger portion of the consumption basket. We need federal action on zoning laws asap.

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These are all secondary level symptoms.

Two of the main reasons the USA is slowly decaying:

1. A significant part of the population is either religious fundamentalist or close to it. This is such a taboo in the USA, it's rarely mentioned.

2. Radical left. The short version is that it's like anti-vax just instead of vax it's plenty of other stuff. Just like the religious fundamentalists they lack the ability to think in first principles in order confront complex issues. Instead, the issue is just canceled.

The sad part is that these two feed on each other in a sense.

You're definitely more optimistic than I am.

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The biggest reason for pessimism is the deficit running 5-10% GDP faster than growth, and unfounded entitlement spending. Combined with a FED that can’t raise rates to fight the inflation.

The stagflation of the 70’s happened because of seeds planted in the 60’s. It took years to germinate so if you take the long view, Biden will indeed be a transformative president, to our regret.

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The thing I'm most pessimistic about is politics. If voting reform doesn't happen I'm afraid that it's possible that the GOP, by abusing it's power at the state level, can monopolize power at the level of the Senate, the House and even the electoral college so even if they consistently loose the popular vote they mantain control. I'm afraid that the future of the US might be something like today's Hungary.

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Stephanie Kelton was an adviser to Bernie Sanders in 2016. You would think Biden would have read 'The Deficit Myth' by now...and at least be experimental enough to go full on with Senate 'reconciliation' (a strange term...) to fund a GND which requires millions of workers. Admittedly Krugman and Summers are already bleating about inflation, but that could be nipped in the bud by the necessary level of tax on consumption, with direct compensation payments for low income earners.

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I mean we knew all these constraints going in, his agenda can only be as ambitious as Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema and the Senate Parliamentarian allow it to be.

Not to sound harsh, however I don't know why you're confused by Biden Administration's supposed premature attempt at compromising with the GOP. The veneer of compromise is necessary to appease Joe Manchin who suggested he wouldn't support another party line budget reconciliation bill unless a legitimate attempt at bipartisan compromise was made, his party needs Manchin way more than he needs them so what choice did his party have but to engage in the tedious process of bipartisan negotiations no matter how futile? They won't get Manchin's vote any other way.

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You’re right, Noah. The biggest political obstacle to your — and all of ours— hopes and dreams is “partisanship.” But that’s not going to be mitigated by Biden’s write off of any attempts at bipartisan legislative packages as you suggest. Good gracious, there are plenty of R’s who would support roads and bridges and airports, etc! However that’s not what the Democratic team, under the pressure of their own set of outliers and pressure groups is willing to limit themselves to. It’s the whole gigantic Christmas tree — or nothing — in these deals. So nothing is what gets done.

I would guess that an objective historian fifty or seventy-five years from now could argue that President Obama’s most significant legacy was advancing the polarization of our country that led to the presidency of Donald Trump. Returning to the Washington politics of seven or eight years ago is the wrong road to take.

This country needs, badly, a big bipartisan legislative accomplishment on something. Extremist ambitions from either the left or the right is not helpful.

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The biggest surprise to me is how dedicated Sinema is to not actually accomplishing anything while in the senate. 49 reliable votes is tough, but I think 48 ties Bidens hands on a lot of things. I don't like to doom about things but I don't know if he has any influence on the senate to change that

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Thanks for this post. Hard to read, but just as I thought/think.

My focus has been on the massive nothingburger of a capitol assault prosecution. Half-ish a year with nothing substantive at all. That's your benchmark. I give the good ol' USA a 15% chance to show - something - in the next six mo. Otherwise... New Zealand

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Thanks, Noah. I know Manchin has produced a number of compromise resolutions in order to get republican members on board (at least with Voting Rights; a few others I believe is well). These are not likely to get those 10 votes. Do you think that fact will be enough to convince him bipartisanship is impossible and allow compromises to the filibuster? Or is that more wishful thinking? It's the only way I can see around any of this.

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Noah, I always appreciate hearing from you and generally I find comfort from your thoughts. But I have absolutely no optimism in the future of the country given the state of its democracy and voting rights.

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Both AstraZeneca and Pfizer are highly effective against B.1617.2 after two doses https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1396015144233222144.html?utm_source=subscriptions_mailer&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily

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