We Can Always Use Some Bitter, Cynical, Gallows Humor, So Here’s A Kudlow Post

Larry Kudlow is the pure distilled essence of a Trump appointment, the type specimen of the breed, and the perfect expression of the state of Republican “thinking” on not just economics, but any matter in which actual knowledge and a respect for empiricism might help.

Via Wikipedia, we find he is barely educated, at best, in the fields in which he now works:

Kudlow graduated from University of Rochester in Rochester, New York with a degree in history in 1969. Known as “Kuddles” to friends, he was a star on the tennis team and a member of the left-wing Students for a Democratic Society at Rochester.

In 1971, Kudlow attended Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he studied politics and economics. He left before completing his master’s degree.

I’ll admit that Kuddles is kinda cute, but an unfinished masters degree in a policy school is not one you’d usually associate with economics acumen.

He went on to a stellar business career, managing to get fired repeatedly for substance abuse on the job, including a claimed $10,000/month cocaine habit that got him canned from Bear Stearns in 1994. (It’s interesting to note that a frantic effort is underway today to diminish such inconvenient truths on Kudlow’s Wikipedia page.)

Fortunately for Kuddles, he cleans up well, dresses nicely, and can tok gud. So he was able to revive his career as a TV gasbag, with a series of appearances and then shows on CNBC, the network that figured out the markets could be covered like sports teams.

Unfortunately — for the rest of us, if not for the ever-failing-up Kudlow — he’s been wrong about almost every key economic call since Methuselah was in diapers.  He is a Laffer disciple, a supply-sider whose faith that there is no tax that is too low, no plutocrat whose needs must not be served, is impervious to any test of reality.

Consider this:

In 1993, when Bill Clinton proposed an increase in the top tax rate from 31 percent to 39.6 percent, Kudlow wrote, “There is no question that President Clinton’s across-the-board tax increases … will throw a wet blanket over the recovery and depress the economy’s long-run potential to grow.” This was wrong. Instead, a boom ensued. Rather than question his analysis, Kudlow switched to crediting the results to the great tax-cutter, Ronald Reagan. “The politician most responsible for laying the groundwork for this prosperous era is not Bill Clinton, but Ronald Reagan,” he argued in February, 2000.

And this:

Kudlow firmly denied that the United States would enter a recession in 2007, or that it was in the midst of a recession in early to mid-2008. In December 2007, he wrote: “The recession debate is over. It’s not gonna happen. Time to move on. At a bare minimum, we are looking at Goldilocks 2.0. (And that’s a minimum). The Bush boom is alive and well. It’s finishing up its sixth splendid year with many more years to come”. In May 2008 he wrote: “President George W. Bush may turn out to be the top economic forecaster in the country” in his “‘R’ is for ‘Right'”.

And this:

When Obama took office, Kudlow was detecting an “inflationary bubble.” That was wrong. He warned in 2009 that the administration “is waging war on investors. He’s waging war against businesses. He’s waging war against bondholders. These are very bad things.” That was also wrong, and when the recovery proceeded, by 2011, he credited the Bush tax cuts for the recovery. (Kudlow, April 2011: “March unemployment rate drop proof lower taxes work.”) By 2012, Kudlow found new grounds to test out his theories: Kansas, where he advisedRepublican governor Sam Brownback to implement a sweeping tax-cut plan that would produce faster growth. This was wrong. Alas, Brownback’s program has proven a comprehensive failure, falling short of all its promises and leaving the state in fiscal turmoil.

The reviews are coming in. Via the BBC:

David Stockman, Mr Kudlow’s former boss during the Reagan administration, told the Washington Post in 2016 that Mr Kudlow’s prediction that tax cuts would lead to growth was “dead wrong”. Instead, he said the cuts led to budget deficits.

More recently, he has warned that Mr Kudlow would not be able to rein in the president.

“As much as I love him … Larry’s voice is exactly the wrong voice that Donald Trump ought to be hearing as we go forward,” he told CNBC.

Liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has been sharply critical, noting that Mr Kudlow missed signs of the housing bubble and recession.

“At least he’s reliable — that is, he’s reliably wrong about everything,” Mr Krugman tweeted.

Indeed in December 2007 – just as the recession was beginning – Mr Kudlow wrote in the National Review: “There’s no recession coming. The pessimistas were wrong. It’s not going to happen.”

It is interesting that Kudlow himself doesn’t seem to disagree with his predecessor on the issue that got Cohn out. From a quick take bylined by him, Laffer and Stephen Moore (another stellar, always-wrong econ public intellectual) here he is on Trump’s tariff announcement:

Tariffs are really tax hikes. Since so many of the things American consumers buy today are made of steel or aluminum, a 25 percent tariff on these commodities may get passed on to consumers at the cash register. This is a regressive tax on low-income families.

I wonder how that squares with the new job. ETA: I know how it squares. It’s already been forgotten. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

But that’s just SOP in the circles in which Kudlow travels:  intellectual rigor doesn’t actually matter.  He’s under no obligation to be consistent in any of his pronouncements, and he certainly doesn’t have to be right about anything as long as he provides cover for the true Republican (n.b.: not just Trumpian) policy goal: the transfer of more and more of our society’s wealth to those who are already wealthy — and hence, in the GOP/Rand/Sociopath view of the world, those who are virtuous enough to deserve such riches.

For all of you who’ve wondered why the US can’t be more like Kansas — we may now we get to find out.

Image: Thomas Shields Clarke, A Fool’s Fool,  c. 1887.

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: “Treasonous”

He’s just a tummler at heart, a white-bread Rodney Dangerfield, working the Suburban Racist circuit. Getting the reliable cheers by promoting time-worn tropes of Us vs. Them — honor and patriotism be damned. Kudos to Tammy Duckworth for her response, as reported in the Washington Post:

“We don’t live in a dictatorship or monarchy. I swore an oath — in the military and in the Senate — to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap,” Duckworth (D-Ill.) wrote in a tweet. She used a nickname she has given Trump, who has said he was granted a medical deferment during the Vietnam War after he was diagnosed with bone spurs in his feet.

Duckworth, who lost her legs in 2004 while serving in Iraq as an Army helicopter pilot, then shared this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, lifted from an opinion piece the former president wrote during World War I: “To announce that there must be no criticism of the president or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”…

In a Senate floor speech last month, Duckworth called Trump a “five-deferment draft dodger” who had no business accusing Democrats — such as herself — of not caring for the military.

“Does he even know that there are service members who are in harm’s way right now, watching him, looking for their commander in chief to show leadership, rather than to try to deflect blame?” Duckworth said…

Can’t Get There From Here

Thanking Illinois for safeguarding my biometrics is not something I ever expected to do, and yet

The state is one of two in the country where the Google Arts and Culture app’s selfie feature — which matches users’ uploaded selfies with portraits or faces in works of art — is not available. Google won’t say why, but it’s likely because Illinois has one of the nation’s strictest laws on the use of biometrics, which include facial, fingerprint, and iris scans.


 Good on ya, Lincolnland!

So in lieu of an art selfie, I will post a face-match I noticed myself a few years ago. I swear, I didn’t used to look like Michael Stipe, and he didn’t look like me. Somehow, in the intervening years, we converged. Maybe white guys lose all distinguishing facial characteristics as they age? (I’ll let you know.)

That’s me in the corner.

And you, you are not me.

Fables of the Reconstruction, R.E.M.’s third
album, got a lot of airplay in Chicago when I was living there in the 1980s, and my relationship with the band thereafter ran this way:
  • This song is okay, but a little limp. Not much here.
  • Why is this song still in my head after a couple of days?
  • Wait, this is a really good song!
  • Buy album

This cycle took me up through Document, their fifth album, after which I lost interest. You hardly needed to buy a record to hear R.E.M. anyway; they were all over the radio. I remember Stipe’s impenetrable lyrics angered me as a young songwriter. Now I like them. It’s funny how one’s tastes migrate over time. Young people get peevish over stupid shit. R.E.M. officially broke up in 2011. Reflecting on them now, I have to say I really miss their autumnal, Byrdsian guitars and madrigal-like vocal interplay.  Nothing stays the same, though. Including not resembling Michael Stipe.

It’s hard to pick a favorite out of so many good songs. My band Constant Velocity, in an early incarnation that included a fiddle player, covered “Fall on Me” on the radio valiantly but badly live on the radio in Champaign back in the ’90s. Cuyahoga and Don’t Go Back to Rockville are hard to argue with. R.E.M.’s cover of Wire’s Strange is a very interesting departure from the chord jangling folk-rock for which they were celebrated. A nice, straight ahead riff-rocker which brings something different (Fats Domino? Jerry Lee Lewis?) to the original. It’s great when a band bridles against its own type-casting and pulls it off.

I have a Chicago cousin who now lives in Georgia. A real Italian Beef in the land of grits and hominy. It seems very middle class where he lives. Indistinguishable from the endless suburbs of Chicago. I don’t know what the situation is really like down there locally but I have read that Georgia is a candidate to turn blue eventually. I’m sure the very knowledgeable commenters who live down there (looking at you raven) know the local angle. But let’s work to help that process along.
Here is the fund that’s split between all eventual
Democratic nominees in House districts currently held by Republicans.Goal Thermometer

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s Anti-Marijuana Mandate Unites All Parties

Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent — all agree: Sessions’ motives are the worst. And apart from all the (poor, powerless, mostly not-white) people he’s going to hurt, the Republican “brand” will suffer because of his regressive obsession with “the demon weed”.

I’m proud that so many Democratic legislators are stepping up…

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Ignorance Is Strength

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were told today not to use seven words in official documents they prepare for next year’s budget. The words are








Instead of “science-based” or ­“evidence-based,” the suggested phrase is “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” but in other cases, no substitute was suggested.

No names were given of people responsible for this dictum.

Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden words at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget

but, from the wording, it looks like it was a Party operative another official who gave the order. Or somebody told the senior CDC officials that that would be required.

“Transgender” and “fetus” are particularly problematic. The preference to replace “fetus” is probably “unborn baby.” I don’t want to imagine what they would prefer for “transgender.” Or, I guess, programs involving those nonexistent categories can just be struck. I’m sure the CDC budget will be decreased in any case.


Update: cthulu informs us that Kevin Drum has supplied substitutes. Here they are 

“Southern Heritage” Open Thread: Roy Moore’s Rebel Yawps

If your social media this morning seems to include an awful lot of rude / despairing comments about Alabama, there are reasons. The resentful Confederate revanchists let their filters take the night off, and the results were… pretty much what you’d expect, all crammed together at one busy rally. Buzzfeed reports, “Roy Moore’s Last And Weirdest Campaign Event“:

Roy Moore’s closing argument was an airing of grievances.

In his first appearance on the campaign trail in nearly a week, the Senate candidate in Alabama complained bitterly about how he’s been treated by the media, by supporters of his Democratic opponent, and by establishment Republicans. And, facing allegations of sexual misconduct that could cost him Tuesday’s special election here, he lashed out again at his accusers.

“I want you to understand this,” said Moore, who’s been accused of making sexual advances on a minor, sexually assaulting a 16-year-old, and pursuing romantic relationships with other teens. “The Washington Post put out this terrible, disgusting article, saying I had done something. I want you to understand something. They said these women … had not come forward for nearly 40 years, but they waited until 30 days before this general election to come forward.”…

The Election Eve rally inside a special events barn in southeast Alabama featured a lineup of right-wing speakers, headlined by Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert and Steve Bannon, the Breitbart executive chairman and former chief strategist for President Donald Trump. But Kayla Moore’s comments — and her husband’s outrage — stood out most. Polls are all over the place in the race’s closing days, but the accusations against Moore helped turned what should have been an easy win for Republicans into a battle with Democrat Doug Jones. Moore’s frustration was evident.

At one point, he alluded to Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican who doesn’t support him and who went on CNN on Sunday to say the “Republican Party can do better.” Moore didn’t mention Shelby’s name, only that he was among the senators opposed to his candidacy. The National Republican Senatorial Committee stopped funding Moore after the accusations…

Remember, Shakedown Shelby’s gonna have to work with this gomer, should Doug Jones not eke out a well-deserved win. To quote that book Moore fans wave around (but don’t read), They have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind… “

Will tuck the universally croggled observers’ tweets below the fold, so don’t say I never spared you anything…
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Uncivil Liberties Open Thread: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III Feeling Pretty Good About His Chances

I piously hope that Mr. Mueller’s investigators are taking notes at the Federalist Society, because the Malevolent Leprechaun spelled out why he’s going to all that trouble playing Blanche DuBois in front of unsympathetic Democrats…

Sessions had a bounce in his step Friday as he took aim at “judicial activism” of judges legislating from the bench and took a moment to tick through the changes he’s made to return Justice Department to the “rule of law” in a wide-ranging speech at Federalist Society’s national convention.

“Elections really do have consequences,” Sessions said with a smile…

Despite the fact that four of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominees have received a rare “not-qualified” rating by the American Bar Association and come under fire for controversial blog postings, Sessions said Trump has been appointing “extremely well-qualified” lawyers who will be “neutral umpires, calling balls and strikes.”…

“I get frustrated, too,” Sessions said, but vowed his “department will not make decisions based on politics” and will not confirm investigations to get a few “cheap headlines.”…

(Mike Luckovich via GoComics.com)

Per the Washington Post:

Sessions has been under fire in recent weeks for his shifting account of his and other Trump campaign aides’ dealings with Russia. On Tuesday, he spent more than five hours before the House Judiciary Committee answering questions about the matter.

Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s former ambassador to the United States, is a key figure because Sessions had long ago denied having any communications with Russians, only to have The Washington Post reveal he had twice met with Kislyak during the campaign.
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