The Politics Trump Makes: Is Trump, like Carter, a disjunctive President?

Fascinating way of thinking about "kinds of presidencies". The whole article is worth reading, for more details of the theory and the history.

Journalists and pundits often fixate on a President’s personality and psychology, as if the office were born anew with each election. They ignore the structural factors that shape the Presidency...
Every President also inherits a political situation in which certain ideologies and interests dominate. That situation, or regime, shapes a President’s exercise of power, forcing some to do less, empowering others to do more. Richard Nixon was not a New Deal Democrat, but he was constrained by the political common sense of his time to govern like one, just as Bill Clinton had to bow to the hegemony of Reaganism...
In Skowronek’s account, FDR ran against the Republicans’ sclerotic Gilded Age regime. The combination of the President’s opposition and the regime’s weakness enabled FDR to launch a radical transformation of American politics. Presidents like FDR—Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, and Reagan—are “reconstructive” leaders. They are revolutionaries and founders, creating the terms and conditions of politics for decades to come.
Lyndon Johnson was elected to deepen and extend a still vital New Deal regime, making his role one of “articulation,” which is also a potent position. (George W. Bush was another articulation President.) Nixon, by contrast, was elected to oppose the New Deal regime, but the regime was not ready for overthrow. This put him in a position of weakness: unable to overthrow the regime, he pushed and prodded where he could (shoring up opposition to desegregation via the Southern Strategy) and placated and pandered when he had to (instituting wage and price controls, creating the EPA). Presidents like Nixon engage in a politics of “preemption.” Andrew Johnson was a preemptive President, as were Clinton and Obama. Preemptive Presidents tend to get impeached.
At the end of each regime—after it has completed its three-quarter orbit of reconstruction, articulation, and preemption—comes the politics of “disjunction.” Jimmy Carter is the most recent case; before him, there was Herbert Hoover and Franklin Pierce. Disjunctive Presidents are affiliated with a tottering regime. They sense its weaknesses, and in a desperate bid to save the regime try to transform its basic premises and commitments. Unlike reconstructive Presidents, these figures are too indebted to the regime to break with it. But the regime is too dissonant and fragmented to offer the resources these Presidents need to transform it. They find themselves in the most perilous position of all—hated by all, loved by none—and their administrations often occasion a new round of reconstruction. John Adams gives way to Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams to Andrew Jackson, Carter to Reagan.
We remember Carter as an extraordinarily hapless President, but for a time he was remarkably effective at scrambling the political map. (Both Tip O’Neill and Robert Byrd marveled at his success.) Delivering on his promise to abandon old ways of doing things, Carter deregulated the banking and transportation industries. He distanced the Democratic Party from its Cold War liberalism by negotiating a nuclear arms treaty with the Soviet Union, recognizing China, and criticizing anticommunist dictatorships. But he also signaled his fidelity to traditional liberal ideals by creating a Department of Education and Department of Energy, pursuing aggressive conservation policies, and pressing for a consumer protection agency, a subtle but supple nod to the consumer republic of the late New Deal.
For all the innovations of his presidency and the considerable power he wielded, Carter found himself undone, not just by the crises with which his name is associated today—oil, inflation, and hostage-taking—but also by the very innovations he pursued and the power he exercised. Standing atop a party increasingly divided over the New Deal—one faction, based in organized labor, demanded the old regime’s extension; another, based in the professional classes and younger voters, thrilled to the new currents of the free market and deregulation—Carter made no one happy. In the fading shadow of the New Deal, his meager liberalism seemed both too much to the right and too little to the left. His reconstructive achievements—particularly toward the end of his Presidency, when he elevated Paul Volcker to the Fed, slashed social spending, and increased the military budget—became the signs of his disjunction. Like Herbert Hoover a half-century before him, he was the last man standing, the poor schmuck who came into office to nudge his party away from its commitment to a weak regime, only to be deserted by his party and tarred by his opponents as that regime’s most orthodox defender.

Presidential priorities

This is why Trump's trips (and the uncommon practices of sticking us taxpayers with the bill for his adult children's security details and his wife's staying in NY) are important: budgets require tradeoffs, and while he's spending way more money on himself and his family than any recent president, he's cutting all kinds of services for everyone else. Where are his priorities?

Paying for Legal Services or Keeping Melania Trump in NYC: Choices for Taxpayers

We all know about the need to make trade-offs in budgeting, most of us have to do it on a regular basis in our daily lives. But what about the trade-offs for the federal government? Arguably there is no need for trade-offs right now. Both interest rates and inflation are at low levels, so it is not obvious that there is any problem with larger deficits, but folks in both parties are fixated on the need to run low budget deficits or even to have balanced budgets, so these politics dictate the need for trade-offs.

In this context, it is worth making some comparisons as the Republicans seem prepared to slash a number of relatively low cost programs that have received considerable visibility. At the top of this list would be federal funding for Legal Services, a program that has provided legal assistance to low income people for decades. This program provides lawyers for people facing foreclosures or evictions, for people who need help with a divorce or will, or for many other situations that would typically require the assistance of a lawyer. The appropriation last year came to $375 million, or 0.011 percent of the federal budget.


It is interesting to compare the spending of these programs that face cuts or may be eliminated altogether with spending of security for President Trump and his family. In the past, presidents have generally tried to limit their own travel and that of their families so as not to create large security bills for the country. Apparently, this is not a concern of President Trump.

Unlike past presidents, he has requested Secret Service protection for his adult children. Given their travel habits running President Trump’s business, this is likely to be a considerable expense for the government. For example, the Washington Post reported that one trip to Uruguay by Eric Trump to open a hotel there cost the government almost $100,000 in security expenses. In addition, Trump’s decision to take his weekends at his golf club in Florida, rather the White House or Camp David, costs us more than $3 million a shot. And the decision by Melania Trump to stay in New York with her son is apparently costing taxpayers close to $2 million a day.

People may want to ask where they get the most money for their tax dollars.

Why Are Shootings Deadlier In Some Cities Than Others?

Shootings are a better measure of gun violence than murders are. There is a lot of randomness in what happens once a bullet leaves a gun — whether someone lives or dies depends heavily on luck. Focusing just on murder leaves out all the people who could have died. And it ignores the life-changing injuries and emotional trauma that often accompany nonfatal shootings.5
But gun violence researchers are often forced to focus on murders rather than shootings for one simple reason: better data. Cities are not required by the FBI to track shootings specifically, and many cities choose not to count them.6 Some big cities that had high murder rates in 2016 — such as St. Louis and Memphis, Tennessee — do not collect shooting victim data. And even cities that do collect and release data on shootings often leave out key details; many, for example, don’t distinguish publicly between fatal and nonfatal shootings.
The uneven data collection leaves a major gap in our understanding of gun violence. Looking at shootings, it turns out, shows that the cities with the worst murder rates do not inherently have the highest rates of gun violence victimization, as measured by shooting victims per capita. Murder rates, therefore, may better serve as a measure of how lethal shootings in a city are than as a measure of that city’s overall level of gun violence.
It appears, then, that shootings in Baltimore and New Orleans tend to be more deadly than those in Chicago, contributing to the former two having consistently higher murder rates than Chicago. What isn’t clear is why. Answering this question would provide tremendous insight into the mechanics of gun violence in U.S. cities and could help cities devise strategies for lowering their murder rates. But the question is hard to answer without more complete, more detailed data.

Security and the Internet of Things

An excellent (long) overview of the problems we're facing by computerizing the world while continuing to ignore the security of the devices we buy and install. I highly recommend reading the whole thing.

Last year, on October 21, your digital video recorder ­- or at least a DVR like yours ­- knocked Twitter off the internet. Someone used your DVR, along with millions of insecure webcams, routers, and other connected devices, to launch an attack that started a chain reaction, resulting in Twitter, Reddit, Netflix, and many sites going off the internet. You probably didn't realize that your DVR had that kind of power. But it does.
All computers are hackable. This has as much to do with the computer market as it does with the technologies. We prefer our software full of features and inexpensive, at the expense of security and reliability. That your computer can affect the security of Twitter is a market failure. The industry is filled with market failures that, until now, have been largely ignorable. As computers continue to permeate our homes, cars, businesses, these market failures will no longer be tolerable. Our only solution will be regulation, and that regulation will be foisted on us by a government desperate to "do something" in the face of disaster.
In this article I want to outline the problems, both technical and political, and point to some regulatory solutions. Regulation might be a dirty word in today's political climate, but security is the exception to our small-government bias. And as the threats posed by computers become greater and more catastrophic, regulation will be inevitable. So now's the time to start thinking about it.
We also need to reverse the trend to connect everything to the internet. And if we risk harm and even death, we need to think twice about what we connect and what we deliberately leave uncomputerized.
If we get this wrong, the computer industry will look like the pharmaceutical industry, or the aircraft industry. But if we get this right, we can maintain the innovative environment of the internet that has given us so much.
The market can't fix this because neither the buyer nor the seller cares. The owners of the webcams and DVRs used in the denial-of-service attacks don't care. Their devices were cheap to buy, they still work, and they don't know any of the victims of the attacks. The sellers of those devices don't care: They're now selling newer and better models, and the original buyers only cared about price and features. There is no market solution, because the insecurity is what economists call an externality: It's an effect of the purchasing decision that affects other people. Think of it kind of like invisible pollution.
Security is an arms race between attacker and defender. Technology perturbs that arms race by changing the balance between attacker and defender. Understanding how this arms race has unfolded on the internet is essential to understanding why the world-size robot we're building is so insecure, and how we might secure it. To that end, I have five truisms, born from what we've already learned about computer and internet security. They will soon affect the security arms race everywhere...

Do voter identification laws suppress minority voting? Yes. We did the research.

Scholars have been able to show that racial and ethnic minorities have less access to photo IDs, and extensive analysis reveals almost no evidence of voter fraud of the type ostensibly prevented by these laws. But determining just how many Americans are prevented from actually voting is another question altogether. The key question is not whether there could be worrisome effects from these laws, but whether clear-cut shifts in electoral participation and outcomes have actually occurred. Do voter identification laws skew the electorate in favor of one set of interests over others?
Because these laws are so new, it has been almost impossible to assess their consequences. Most of the existing studies have looked at the effects of not-so-strict ID laws or have assessed the consequences of strict ID laws in only one state or one election. The results have been mixed.
In our new study we are able to offer a more definitive assessment for several reasons.
First and most important, we have data from the nation’s most recent elections (2006-2014) and can single out and test the effect of the strict voter ID laws in multiple elections and multiple states. (We define states with “strict voter ID laws” as states where residents cannot vote without presenting valid identification during or after the voting process.)
Second, we have validated voting data so we know whether each of our respondents actually voted. Third, we have a huge sample — over a third of a million Americans from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study — which means that we can analyze the participation of racial and ethnic minorities in all states both before and after strict ID laws are implemented.
When we compare overall turnout in states with strict ID laws to turnout in states without these laws, we find no significant difference. That pattern matches with most existing studies. But when we dig deeper and look specifically at racial and ethnic minority turnout, we see a significant drop in minority participation when and where these laws are implemented.
Hispanics are affected the most: Turnout is 7.1 percentage points lower in general elections and 5.3 points lower in primaries in strict ID states than it is in other states. Strict ID laws mean lower African American, Asian American and multiracial American turnout as well. White turnout is largely unaffected.

The Opioid Epidemic and the Face of Long-Term Unemployment

...a must-read story at Bloomberg, This Is the New Face of American Unemployment. It seeks to give a better picture of long-term un and underemployment through five profiles, each chosen to illustrate a widely-reported impediment: low mobility, criminal records, disability, labor shortage, and “mature workers”.
However, when you read the stories carefully, they actually depict two overarching problems: discrimination and the far-ranging impact of the opioid epidemic.
And separately, the story has buried in it a factoid that indicts the performance of our ruling classes: “Nearly half of U.S. children now have at least one parent with a criminal record.”
The most gripping story is the first, that of Tyler Moore of Mingo, West Virginia, who is meant to stand as the poster child of “low mobility”. But the reason it would be better if he could get out of Mingo is that the town and area are collapsing due to the closure of coal mines, which had been the anchors of the economy.
And it isn’t that Moore is not willing to go, even though he would prefer to remain near his aging father. It’s that the only thing that has kept him alive is family and community safety nets.
Even though the story doesn’t dwell on it, it is not hard to discern that Mingo is awash in drugs and despair...
The bigger point is that neoliberalism treats individuals as able to make their own way, when people are products of their families and communities. And we have entire sections of the country being laid waste by the combination of economic distress, poor education, weak social safety nets, and despair. And regulatory neglect made a bad situation vastly worse. This damage greatly compounded by Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, targeting less well educated doctors in areas with a lot of manual workers who would suffer from accidents and long-term orthopedic pain. On top of that, Purdue sold what was an alleged longer-term formulation, and when patients would report pain when the dose ran out after 8 hours, the MDs would be told to increase the dosage...
The key is that the ravaging of swathes of rural America wasn’t simply the result of economic misfortune. Sustained looting in the form of being targeted by a predatory opioid producer made a bad situation vastly worse. And the coastal elites call the victims deplorables when that label fits much more properly on the Sacklers and the experts that helped them perfect their lucrative strip-mining of working class communities.

Republicans Want Retirement Plans That Keep Wall Street Rich

Several states, most notably Illinois and California, are in the process of opening up their public retirement plans to workers in the private sector to allow people to save without giving so much money to the financial industry. Under this plan, workers in private firms would have the option to contribute to a state-managed system. 
This would have the advantage of keeping the same plan even as someone changed jobs and the fees would be far lower. Instead of fees of 1.0-1.5 percent, workers would likely be seeing fees in the range of 0.2-0.3 percent. Did I mention this was voluntary? 
Okay, so we’re talking about giving workers the option to save for their own retirement in individual accounts. If the Republican Party stood for anything other than giving money to rich people, this would be it. 
But the Republicans are up in arms against making it easier for workers to save. Paul Ryan and his gang are planning to deny states the right to offer such plans...
They argue, incredibly, that workers need safeguards with their savings and that the government must have oversight over employers sending checks to the state system.
This one is too stupid even for Washington politics. Everyone knows that there is nothing the Republicans in Congress hate more than government regulations that protect workers. This is why they were so anxious to repeal the fiduciary rule requiring financial advisers to act in the interest of their clients. This is why they want to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
The story here is about as simple as it gets. Republicans’ buddies in the financial industry will lose a lot of money if workers can put their money in these state-sponsored retirement systems instead of having to rely on their rip-off outfits. The Republicans are rigging the system to transfer tens of billions of dollars a year from ordinary workers to their rich friends.  The only principle here is giving more money to the rich.