Thursday, September 7, 2017

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

This seems like a case of counting your chickens before they hatch.  

Donald Trump has been making a lot of hay (farming metaphor #2) over the fact that the Q2 GDP growth was recently revised up to 3.0% (from 2.6%). He, and sycophants like Sean Hannity, go on and on and on about how Obama was the only president never to reach a GDP increase of that level.  

Of course, he’s trying to make an apples and oranges comparison here (fruit metaphor, so kinda farming-related). What Trump is referring to is the fact that, during the Obama years, GDP growth never rose above 2.9%. This is true. Growth for a full calendar never reached 3% under Obama. But that hasn’t happened under Trump either. Not yet. If it ever does.  

But that’s talking about annual GDP growth. What Trump has presided over is 3% GDP growth in a single quarter. Obama did the same in eight different quarters during his two terms. In fact, in Q3 2015 GDP grew by 4.6%, a much bigger number than 3.0%.  

Trump may well see the kind of growth numbers he’s been promising – though somehow lately it seems he’s forgotten how during the campaign he swore he’d conjure up a GDP growth of FOUR percent, not a measly three percent.  

Anyway, seems to me that excessive crowing (barnyard fowl metaphor) about one discrete quarter of 3% growth involves a risk of backfiring. What goes up can come down. 

After the unemployment rate for May was announced (4.3%), Trump bragged about how it was the lowest jobless rate in 16 years and was unexpectedly robust. (Keep in mind that while Obama was president, Trump claimed such statistics were “fake”.) The next month, the rate ticked back up to 4.4%.  What comes down can also go up. 

Rushing to take credit for good outcomes you have dubious influence over can come back to bite you on the ass (the tender body part, not the farmer’s beast of burden), if those outcomes start to sour further down the road.  On the other hand, if that happens maybe you can just start shoveling more horseshit – which, as we all know, is one chore Farmer Don excels at.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Harvey, Irma and the GOP

Irma has now developed into a category 5 hurricane and is almost certainly going to hit somewhere in the US. Hopefully, it will weaken before it gets there and won't be as devastating as Harvey was for Houston. Still, it's a worrisome weather event, which brings to mind a couple of things.  
Republicans basically have one of three approaches to climate change.  
1. It's not real. Trump himself said it was a Chinese hoax. Ergo, no need to reduce carbon emissions.  
2. It's real, but it's not man-made. In other words, we puny humans can't do anything about it. Again, no need to reduce carbon emissions.  
3. It's real, and it may be (partly) caused by human activity, but trying to reduce carbon emissions would hurt the American economy. It's better to mitigate the effects of climate change. Be re-active, not pro-active. Don't worry if it breaks -- just pay for it later.  
If increase levels of carbon start to cause more extreme weather and rising sea levels, so the GOP would say, it's better for the economy to build things like sea walls (make the hurricanes pay for it!) to protect coastal cities.  
Now, with Harvey and maybe with Irma we may start to see what that third approach looks like in practice.  
The recovery from Harvey is estimated to cost taxpayers at least $150 billion, beyond the human costs, which are heartbreaking in themselves. That's not even talking about the cost of building "mitigation" infrastructure against future storms and rising sea levels (though that could be a good works program -- put the 4% of unemployed Americans to work!).  
In any case, this hurricane season may unfortunately give Republicans a chance to put their money where their mouth is regarding climate change.  
I'm sure they'll be happy to spend the money.