Not surprisingly, the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority expressed great skepticism at the Biden White House’s debt-relief plan yesterday. What we should note, however, is how the press and opinion-setting conventional wisdom has reacted to that fact. Every reaction I’ve seen sees it as the White House failing, the White House getting its collective knuckles rapped, basically an attempt and a failure. The White House is in a lot of ways complicit in this state of affairs and that traces back to an abiding set of assumptions, ingrained almost beneath the level of conscious thought, that the Court is a legitimate rule-enforcing body which is owed respect and deference and shouldn’t be pulled into the political fray.
That’s a mistake.Read More
In recent days I’ve seen every major paper write a version of the How Did This Tragic Train Derailment Become a New Culture War story. I didn’t need to ask myself whether any of them gave the actual answer, which I think most of us know. How is it that a train derailment caused by a major GOP-donating corporation, in a state run by a Republican governor, caused at least in part by regulations rolled back by Republican President Donald Trump … well, how exactly is that a story about Democrats not caring about people in “flyover country”? The Republican crackpot investigations complex is even now prepping to hold hearings about it.Read More
A friend sent me an article from back in March 2016 which provides some interesting perspective on the current resurgence of Social Security politics and the various Republicans vying to be the “post-Trump” candidate for President while Trump refuses to leave the stage. It also has particular relevance to Ron DeSantis, which we’ll get to in a moment.
But first some context.
The piece is a Times article from March 2016. So it is early in the Trump takeover of the GOP but when it still wasn’t entirely clear he’d be able to pull it off. The subtext of the article is that while many Republicans focused either on the power of Trump’s chaotic personality or the red meat of immigrant bans and xenophobia to explain his success, there was something else in the mix. There was a whole population of people who had closed the door on ever supporting Democrats but were left entirely cold by the GOP’s reflexive focus on tax cuts, free trade and cutting “entitlements.”Read More
I’ve mentioned this many times before. But it’s one of the true privileges of this job to have the asset of this site’s readership as I explore new issues raised in the news. Readers who were only readers for years and now sometimes decades become active participants as the site’s focus shifts to their area of expertise. “20 year reader here,” said one last night, “finally you address a topic I’m an expert in!”
I’ve heard from a range of readers who are top executives and engineers at companies on the forefront of artificial intelligence, computer science academics, people who have some angle of expertise on the topic. I’ve been hearing from more people on the “pro-AI” side of things. But “pro” or “con” doesn’t really do justice to the conversation.Read More
Amidst all the storm and drama I’ve been enjoying learning more about just how the current crop of AI applications (LLMs, or Large Language Models) operate. I don’t want to imply that I understand them at a deep level — my programming career peaked with some piecework programming in Visual Basic that I did in grad school. (Actually, there was also that extremely elegant bubble sort program I wrote in middle school. But I digress …) But it has at least given me some sense of the roots of the limitations that are coming to the fore. Specifically — but not only — the way applications like ChatGPT frequently fabricate false claims clothed in the trappings of facticity. I’m not just claiming this new protein structure exists. I’m citing the specific journal article with the page numbers and date and authors, etc. It’s got to be true!Read More
On Wednesday we did a TPM Inside Briefing with economist and Times columnist Paul Krugman. I already shared with you the portion of the discussion in which we talked about Democrats’ options for extraordinary/heroic measures to avert a U.S. credit default if House Republicans force the issue. But we covered a lot of other important ground directly relevant to the biggest news stories of the day — the financial viability of Social Security (and Medicare) and the sustainability of the aggregate federal debt in particular.
A substantial percentage of the U.S. federal debt (about a quarter of it) has been run up in just the last three years — largely in response to the COVID pandemic crisis. Is the scale of the federal debt sustainable? Does it require drastic action? Krugman’s answer was basically, no. There’s no crisis. Despite what you hear, it’s not unsustainable at all.
On Social Security, same thing. At some point in the future — probably about a dozen years from now — Social Security will need more revenue to cover all the benefits of the people currently in retirement under Social Security. At that point, we’ll have a simple decision on whether to raise taxes to cover those benefits or cut the benefits. It’s not really an economics decision. Both are totally doable in macro-economic terms. It’s really a values and politics question. Which is more important? Preserving the benefits of retirement beneficiaries (and others covered by Social Security) or preventing higher taxes on upper-income earners? You don’t need to be a PhD economist to decide this question.
Critically, does the problem get worse the longer we put off these decisions? Again, no. All the claims to the contrary are a kind of bums’ rush to force one of the answers over the other — cuts as opposed to taxes.
All these questions and answers about debt, Social Security, Medicare, and the debt ceiling were highly clarifying for me. And I suspect they will be for you as well. If you’re a member, join me after the jump for the full TPM Inside Briefing with Paul Krugman.Read More
Artificial Intelligence has jumped to the head of the line as the politico-cultural Rorschach test of the moment ever since OpenAI’s ChatGPT application was released for public use. Views are extreme in both directions. I’m open-minded, cautious but mostly indifferent. But in recent articles I’ve noticed two consistent themes. The various AI engines being rushed to service seem to a) frequently provide incorrect information and b) often demonstrate what in humans we would consider disturbing personality characteristics.Read More