Saturday, July 6, 2024

Weekend Q&A with Matthew Yglesias (warning: politics)

From here

Is your main worry about a second Trump term his personality? Near as I can tell, MY seems to have come around to some more traditional GOP ideas: a stricter immigration system with deportations fully on the table, a more stringent justice system generally, and a quicker approach to the break with the entitlement state that is going to happen anyhow?

I have significant concerns about Trump’s personality, but setting that all aside, I think that Donald Trump’s stated policy ideas are terrible, as evidenced by the fact that Tim G is not even stating them correctly.

  1. I am glad that the Biden administration is moving to crack down on asylum abuses, but I support an increase in legal immigration, while Trump wants to cut legal immigration.
  2. I support deficit reduction (almost certainly including entitlement reform), while Trump supports a massive increase in the budget deficit.
  3. I care a lot about the interests of poor Americans, while Trump wants to raise their taxes.
  4. To me, the intersection between points (2) and (3) is really hideously evil — it’s one thing to promote some economic sacrifice of poor people’s interests in pursuit of fiscal prudence, but to raise taxes on poor people while snatching away poor people’s social safety net while also increasing the budget deficit is so cartoonish that I’ve never met a Trump supporter who can articulate why it’s a good idea.

Broadly speaking, I would say that rather than having “come around to some more traditional GOP ideas,” I’ve just stuck with what I think of as traditional Democratic Party ideas. If my ideal point is roughly the Obama 2012 platform, then I think Biden 2024 is a bit to the left of that, while Trump 2024 is way to the right.

That said, I do also think that there is a rich guy demographic that likes the idea of making the poor suffer for their personal financial benefit and which is therefore unimpressed by this case for Biden. Those people, I think, are making an error by neglecting the downside risk to their interests of electing someone who might succeed in turning the whole federal government into a shakedown/extortion racket and gut the rule of law that’s been the foundation of American prosperity. Even there, though, I wouldn’t call this a question of Trump’s “personality.” In his stated political views, he frequently expresses admiration for various foreign thugs and strongmen. I think he has a considered zero-sum worldview in which he wants to be the top dog, and I think that’s bad.

There hasn't been a year where GDP has grown more than the deficit since 2007! 17 years, 3 presidents and no end in sight. You're recommendation in the past was to use deficit spending to boost the economy. This was done under Trump and now Biden. What is your recommendation now on how we move past the point of needing stimulus to generate positive economic growth?

This isn’t true. The deficit shrank as a share of GDP in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2021, and 2022. It’s true that I advocated deficit spending to boost the economy when unemployment was high and inflation and interest rates were low. Now the situation is reversed, and we need deficit reduction, as I’ve been saying repeatedly. In terms of plausible political mechanisms, a bipartisan fiscal commission is probably the best path forward, though I wrote my personal favorite ideas here.

I will just repeat, though, that not only did the deficit grow faster than the economy during every year of Donald Trump’s presidency, he is running on proposals that would cause the deficit to explode. Biden’s deficit reduction proposals are not entirely aligned with my preferences, but his budget submissions do reduce the deficit. 

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