Wednesday , September 23 2020
Home / Eric Kramer

Eric Kramer



Articles by Eric Kramer

It’s all on Trump

21 days ago

[unable to retrieve full-text content]The Post Office is Trump’s responsibility.  He appointed the Postmaster General.  If he had asked for more funding, he would have gotten it.  If there is any delay in delivering ballots this November, it’s on Trump. The integrity of the election is on Trump.  He runs the intelligence services and is responsible for preventing foreign […]

Read More »

Is Trump a blip?

28 days ago

Kevin Drum argues that he is:
One of the key questions raised by Donald Trump’s 2016 victory has been whether he represents a new turn in American politics or merely a blip who will be quickly forgotten if he loses in 2020. Over the past four years I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing the evidence about this, and the conclusion I’ve come to is pretty simple: Trump is a blip.
Let’s back up a bit. For a very long time Democrats have believed that demographics were on their side. Republicans are acutely dependent on white voters, and every election cycle the share of white voters declines by a percent or two. Since voters of color largely support Democrats, this would someday make it all but impossible for Republicans to win the presidency.
But when would that

Read More »

The Democratic convention

August 18, 2020

I watched most of the convention, and thought it was well done.  My main concern is that most of the arguments made against Trump – and the election will primarily be about Trump, not Biden – were more persuasive to people who are already solid Biden voters.  If you are still thinking about voting for Trump, hearing that he is divisive, authoritarian, and incompetent is unlikely to change your mind.  You’ve heard those arguments a million times.
What types of arguments will work?  Remind people who voted for Trump that he lied to them about Social Security, health care, and taxes.  People hate being lied to.  They *hate* feeling that politicians are playing them for suckers.  Find a former Trump voter who is willing to say “I voted for Trump because he

Read More »

Progressive politics and the pandemic

August 18, 2020

How will the COVID-19 pandemic and the protests over the police murder of George Floyd and other black people affect the political mood in the United States?  The libertarian-leaning economist Tyler Cowen suggested in March that the COVID-19 pandemic would mark the “death of the progressive left.”  It would erode support for key progressive goals, including redistributive economic policies and aggressive action on climate change.  He asked provocatively what we have heard about climate activist Greta Thunberg recently, and suggested that the pandemic will make protecting the climate “seem like another luxury from safer and more normal times.”
Cowen may be proved right, but progressives and Biden apparently did not get the memo.  Since Cowen wrote Biden has

Read More »

The UI fiscal stimulus

August 11, 2020

Apropos my previous post, a new NBER paper by Casado et al estimates the effect of pandemic unemployment benefits on local spending:
The FPUC supplement to unemployment insurance of $600 ended at the end of July 2020. Prior to its expiration, the average weekly benefit paid was $812, which would fall to $257, implying a decline in the replacement rate of 68%. The replacement rate was roughly 1.25 in the latest data, so the new replacement rate would be roughly .4, all else equal. At the unemployment rate of .077 in the latest data, spending this reduction in benefits would lead to a decline in spending of 44%. If the FPUC supplement is reduced to $200, the replacement rate would fall by 44%. The implied reduction in spending from these benefits would be

Read More »

The rational self-interest theory of politics meets Donald Trump

August 11, 2020

In a semi-rational world, Trump and Senate Republicans would have agreed to a reasonably generous economic relief package along the lines of the HEROES Act approved by the House.  Without an extension of the special pandemic unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments, a humanitarian disaster is inevitable and a macroeconomic disaster a real possibility.  Trump’s executive orders are grossly inadequate to prevent mass homelessness and hunger.  This will quickly become evident.  Layoffs of government workers will mount.  How on earth do Trump and Republican members of Congress think they can avoid electoral accountability for the coming train wreck?  How will Trump explain breaking off talks and rejecting a much more generous aid package,

Read More »

Elites versus the public on renaming army bases

August 8, 2020

According to the Washington Post:

Half of Americans oppose renaming military bases currently named after Confederate generals, while 42 percent support the changes. Once again there is a significant partisan split, with 81 percent of Republicans and 50 percent of independents opposed and 66 percent of Democrats in favor. A majority of Americans ages 50 and older are opposed to any renaming, while a plurality of those under 50 support the change.

Despite the fact that the public leans slightly towards keeping current names, military and political elites (with the notable exception of the President) seem to be fairly unified in favor of renaming.

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told The Wall Street Journal last week that he

Read More »

Democrats, please talk about carbon taxes

August 2, 2020

Or at least think about how you will talk about them in January . . .
It now seems likely that Joe Biden will win the presidency, and there is a reasonable chance that Democrats will capture the Senate as well.  If they do get unified control of the government, climate policy will high on their legislative agenda.  What is unclear is whether their approach will include a carbon tax.  This is troubling, because carbon taxes have very substantial economic and political advantages over other approaches to climate policy.
No doubt many Congressional Democrats understand the arguments for carbon taxes, although some progressives seem to be skeptical of using prices to reduce emissions.  Joe Biden’s climate plan says that “polluters must bear the full cost of

Read More »

More economic wisdom from the Library of Economics and Liberty

July 30, 2020

In a post today at Econlib, David Henderson writes:
Postscript:
There was an unusually high percentage of good comments on my op/ed on the WSJ site. Here’s one I just noticed:
In Michigan, our Governor ordered auto insurance companies to issue rebates – due to folks driving less I guess.
But amazingly, our Governor who is owned by the teachers union, gave no such order  to rebate the portion of property taxes that go toward public schools. Even though there is no way teachers, who stopped in school teaching in March, provided the same level of service.
This needs to change.
Indeed!
This is, in fact, an absurd comment, strictly on economic grounds.  The cost of producing auto insurance has gone down due to the pandemic – people are driving less and having

Read More »

Is McConnell trying to destroy the economy for Biden?

July 20, 2020

Paul Waldman asks the question I’ve been worrying about for a few weeks:
Do Republicans even want to help the American economy through this crisis?
. . .
But McConnell knows what’s happening. He has surely looked around and realized that with the pandemic surging, there is simply no way the economy is going to come roaring back before November. He’s seen the polls showing Trump trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 10 points or more. He knows that the political environment grows less favorable to the GOP by the day. He understands that the odds his party will retain control of the Senate are probably 50-50 at best.
So from where he [McConnell] sits, the best outcome now may be to use the next stimulus package to win some minor ideological

Read More »

Not ageing well . . .

July 18, 2020

A month ago, when the public health community was warning about the dangers of premature opening and our reality show President was turning mask-wearing into a culture war issue, David Henderson and Jonathan Lipow decided to use precious space on the Wall Street Journal op ed page to publish an essay titled “The Data Are In: It’s Time for Major Reopening” (ungated at the link).  They argue that “populationwide lockdowns should end” and even suggest that social distancing has been harmful.  OK, then, I guess there’s no need to second-guess re-opening bars in Florida or Arizona.  And no need to worry about testing and contact tracing, despite the fact that one of the papers they cite to support their position recommends it.  And no need to tear our hair out

Read More »

Trump’s handling of the economy

July 18, 2020

Robert Kuttner on public approval of Trump’s handing of the economy:

As general support for Trump keeps sinking, there is one anomaly. According to this July 15 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, which finds Biden leading Trump by 11 points, fully 54 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the economy.
Really? That would be the corona economy, the worst since the Great Depression, thanks substantially to Trump’s catastrophic policies. How can this possibly be?
I put the question to some leading pollsters and strategists. One person whom I greatly respect told me that in focus groups several people volunteered that they credited Trump personally for the supplemental unemployment checks and one-time $1,200 relief payments because his name was on the

Read More »

Suppose the Democrats win the Presidency and the Senate in 2020 . . .

July 17, 2020

Given the state of the race, people are starting to ask what this would mean for the future of progressive politics in America.
James Kwak is gloomy:
I think the policy solutions are obvious . . .
The problem, of course, is the politics—not just President Trump and the Republicans, but a Democratic Party controlled by its conservative wing, defined primarily by its insistence on fiscal responsibility, and terrified of doing anything that anyone might call socialist . . .
Julia Azari is more open to the possibility of a new political era:
An important feature of these orders are the social movements that energize the parties in power and help to define the issues. These movements tend to start their work creating a new political order well before the

Read More »

Warren’s eviction bill is economically and politically savvy

July 7, 2020

Senator Elizabeth Warren has a new bill out to prevent evictions during the COVID-19 crisis.  The bill imposes a 1 year moratorium on evictions nationwide.  That’s it.
On its face, the bill seems to have two deficiencies.  First, millions of low-income tenants will be unable to repay their past due rent.  To give them a fresh start we will probably need a streamlined process for consumer bankruptcy filings.  Second, a rent moratorium may trigger a financial crisis, as landlords default on their mortgage payments.  To prevent this, an eviction moratorium will need to be accompanied by a bank bailout if banks end up having their capital depleted by mortgage defaults.  Although bank bailouts are unpopular, an eviction moratorium coupled with bankruptcy reform

Read More »

Trump’s recent polling in retrospect

July 3, 2020

The betting markets and statistical models of the 2020 election suggest Trump is either likely or very likely to lose.  I have no reason to doubt this, but it is interesting to look back at the history of his approval ratings.
Trump’s approval trended down throughout his first year in office, with low points in the summer (Charlottesville, Obamacare repeal) and winter (highly unpopular corporate tax cut).  He finished the year with approval around 37 or 38%.  In 2018, his approval rose from the high 30s to the low 40s, with a dip in September to around 40% corresponding to the Mannafort prosecution and Kavanaugh fiasco.  In January 2019 his approval briefly dipped below 40% due to the month long government shutdown.  Since then his approval has bounced

Read More »

An open letter to Professor Boudreaux: why fear progressives and BLM protesters?

June 21, 2020

In a recent post, the blogger/economist Donald Boudreaux expressed deep fear of the people protesting for police reform and of progressive politics generally.  Below is an open letter responding to his post.  It is long (mostly below the fold) but it highlights some of the key issues separating libertarians and classical liberals from progressives and liberal egalitarians.  I hope you’ll take the time to click through!  Comments welcome as always.
Professor Boudreaux:
In a recent post at Cafe Hayek, you state that these are scary times, that you have seldom been as distraught as you are now.  The cause of your unease is what you see as “virtue signaling” and “rabid mobthink” by progressive protesters of police brutality and their supporters.  A puzzling

Read More »

Nonviolence

June 17, 2020

This article by Ezra Klein is excellent.  I can’t do it justice in a blog post, but here is a bit:

This is the often neglected heart of nonviolence: It is a strategic confrontation with other human beings. It takes as self-evident that we must continue to live in fellowship with one another. As such, it puts changing each other’s hearts at the center of political action, and then asks what kind of action is likeliest to bring about that transformation. That its answers are radical and demanding does not make them untrue.
“King thinks human beings are sacred,” says Brandon Terry, a Harvard sociologist and co-author of a volume on King’s political philosophy. “We need, above all else, to avoid preventing them from changing for the better. That’s what the

Read More »

Diversity matters. Integration matters.

June 9, 2020

This article provides powerful evidence of the value of racial diversity and integration.
At the New York Times this past week, it was black reporters who led the newsroom protest over the decision to publish the appalling Op-Ed of Senator Tom Cotton.  Their leadership – based on their different perspective – forced James Bennet to step down as opinion editor.  A similar story unfolded at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The presence of black reporters has influenced coverage of President Trump.
Mr. Lowery’s view that news organizations’ “core value needs to be the truth, not the perception of objectivity,” as he told me, has been winning in a series of battles, many around how to cover race. Heated Twitter criticism helped to retire euphemisms like “racially

Read More »

Initial polling on police accountability and protests

June 8, 2020

Summary of initial polling:
Overwhelming agreement that officers should be fired
Strong agreement with murder charges
Majority agreement that policing is biased against blacks
Majority support for protesters
Concern about violence and looting, support for curfews and use of National Guard, and even military
Trump net 17 point disapproval of handling of situation
My takeaways – 1) there is real hope for progress here if the protests remain largely peaceful and protesters can separate themselves in the mind of the public from violence and looting, and 2) Trump may have badly misread the situation.  See also here.

Read More »

Using insurance to improve policing

June 8, 2020

There are two insurance-related police reform ideas being discussed.
One approach focuses on municipal liability insurance.  Many municipalities do not purchase liability insurance to cover lawsuits against officers, instead choosing to self-insure.  This is potentially a problem because insurers actually play an important role in loss control.  They provide information and services related to procedures, training, the risks posed by individual officers, etc.
The second proposal would require individual police officers to purchase professional liability insurance, in the same way that doctors and other professionals do today:
In response, we propose an innovative, market-based solution – mandatory professional liability insurance for police officers. Much

Read More »

Public opinion and police reform

June 5, 2020

From Cato:

79% of Americans support having outside law enforcement agencies investigate police misconduct, rather than leave it to the department to handle. It may surprise some readers to learn that most jurisdictions in the U.S. allow police departments to investigate and discipline their own officers. Instead, most Americans think having some outside oversight could enhance accountability. Majorities across racial groups support this: 81% of whites, 82% of blacks, and 66% of Latinos support outside investigations of misconduct.
65% of Americans believe racial profiling is commonly used, but nearly the same share oppose it. 63% oppose the practice of police stopping motorists or pedestrians of certain racial or ethnic groups if police believe that these

Read More »

Will confident conservatism end with a bang or a whimper?

June 5, 2020

I highly recommend David Hopkins blog.  Yesterday, he posted a piece on the end of confident conservatism.  It begins like this:
After Richard Nixon’s 1968 election, many conservatives came to believe that their movement naturally represented the political views of most Americans. This conservative faith in the wisdom of the average citizen was cemented by Ronald Reagan’s popularity in the 1980s, which was widely interpreted at the time (and not just by conservatives) as a decisive expression of the nation’s exhaustion with both outdated New Deal economic policies and decadent ’60s-era cultural practices.
Here are the final paragraphs:
The waning confidence of the American right in its own popular standing has produced other manifestations as well. Its

Read More »

There is hope.

June 3, 2020

The barriers facing black people in America today are numerous and daunting:  poor schools, dangerous neighborhoods, lack of income, wealth, and connections, persistent formal and informal discrimination in so many settings.  The list goes on, and it certainly includes many problems with our criminal justice system, from over-criminalization to degrading conditions of imprisonment to oppressive and violent policing.
Of all the problems facing black Americans, problems in the criminal justice system should be among the easiest to address.  This does not mean we can wave a magic wand and make these problems disappear.  But there are many promising ideas for reform; a careful effort to reform policing that would make a real difference.  We can quibble over

Read More »

Ezra Klein is mad at the Democrats over automatic stabilizers

May 29, 2020

The HEROES act passed by House Democrats did not include a formula that would keep expanded unemployment insurance benefits in place until the economy has recovered.  The always thoughtful Ezra Klein is very critical of this omission.  His argument can be boiled down to two points:
If Biden wins the presidency, Republicans will predictably try to destroy Biden politically by refusing to extend economic supports needed to protect families and promote an economic recovery. Automatic stabilizers are critical to protect a possible Biden presidency from Republican sabotage.
Republicans need an economic stimulus package in the run up to the November elections more than Democrats do. This gives Democrats the bargaining power they need to force Republicans to

Read More »

Ezra Klein is mad at the Democrats over automatic stabilizers

May 29, 2020

The HEROES act passed by House Democrats did not include a formula that would keep expanded unemployment insurance benefits in place until the economy has recovered.  The always thoughtful Ezra Klein is very critical of this omission.  His argument can be boiled down to two points:
If Biden wins the presidency, Republicans will predictably try to destroy Biden politically by refusing to extend economic supports needed to protect families and promote an economic recovery. Automatic stabilizers are critical to protect a possible Biden presidency from Republican sabotage.
Republicans need an economic stimulus package in the run up to the November elections more than Democrats do. This gives Democrats the bargaining power they need to force Republicans to

Read More »

COVID-19 progress, take 2

May 25, 2020

In response to the comment on my last post . . . rolling 7 day average death rates with the peak for each country set to 100.

We peaked later than most countries other than Germany, which seems to be making better progress than us.  We may be doing as well (or as badly) as the U.K.  It seems like France and Spain are also outperforming the U.S. on this metric.

Read More »

COVID-19 progress?

May 25, 2020

We seem to be doing comparatively poorly at getting the COVID-19 epidemic under control:

Is this a useful metric for measuring progress?  To what extent does this reflect policy choices?

Read More »

A simple plan to produce billions of N95 masks

May 9, 2020

We desperately need to increase our capacity to test for COVID-19, to trace contacts, and to produce masks and other forms of personal protective equipment.  This will allow us to keep the virus under control and to cautiously re-start economic activity as we await development of a vaccine.  Unfortunately, President Trump has made it clear that he will not lead a mobilization against the virus.  His goal is simply to avoid blame for failures.
Congress cannot force the president to act, and it certainly cannot force him to be competent or honest.  Instead, Congress needs to go around the president.  This is not easy to do, but in the case of personal protective gear there is a simple law Congress can pass to greatly increase supplies.  To illustrate, here

Read More »

Yes, the Democrats can play hardball with McConnell

May 5, 2020

Voters typically hold the President and his party responsible for the state of the country at the time of elections.  This means that Trump and the Republicans have a strong incentive to support an aggressive federal response to the Covid-19 epidemic and the economic collapse.  Under normal rules of political engagement, this should allow the House Democrats to extract concessions from the Republicans in negotiations over the government’s response to the crisis.
So far, however, this has not happened.  Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been a cagey negotiator, pretending to oppose economic relief measures that Republicans clearly need.  This strategy has forced Democrats to negotiate for desperately needed public health policies and

Read More »

Lockdown socialism, the substance

May 1, 2020

Arnold Kling writes (my bold):
Yesterday’s post on lockdown socialism was unusual for me, in that it was not aimed at persuading someone who might disagree. Let me approach the topic by trying to make the best case for the other side.
If I were a lockdown socialist, I would argue as follows.
We want people to engage in less economic activity, because we believe that will save lives.
[details omitted]
Because we want everyone to comply with lockdowns, we have to make sure that they do not suffer privation. Therefore, we have to send checks to every household so that they can afford necessities, we have to make sure that people are not evicted from their homes for failure to pay rent or mortgages, we have to bail out key industries, we have to protect

Read More »