Good Friday Morning! It’s like groundhog day in the government, another threatening government shutdown on a Thursday evening. And another looming culture fight over patriotism with the new military parades debate. I’ll go into that, some thoughts on the recent market volatility, and some thoughts on modern punditry. Links follow.
In some exciting news, I’ll be expanding out to a second column at the Conservative Institute. I’ll have Monday and Friday columns there with topics of my choosing. I’ll post the columns here for everyone’s benefit. Because the new column has to be in by Thursday evening, I may have to shift when I publish this back a day. We’ll see. If you get this a day late next week, that’s why.
New this week at the Conservative Institute
You no doubt heard a lot about the Nunes memo, its release, and what that meant for the Trump administration. I break down one of the critical claims and go through why the memo doesn’t mean what its supporters are saying, but why there is something to be concerned about in it. Full transparency is the only option.
Of Government Shutdowns and Military Parades
I can’t say for sure whether or not the government shutdown will happen again, as this is going to press, Sen. Rand Paul is holding up a procedural vote on the matter. I tend to think this will get worked out, but I’ve been wrong on Congress in the past. What I do know, is that government shutdowns and fights over military parades are perfect foils for Trump.
Let’s examine. The last significant cultural fight Trump picked was with the NFL, Colin Kaepernick, and players kneeling in protest. At the time, Trump remarks on kneelers was an off-the-cuff comment at a campaign rally that sparked a national debate. The NFL endured a massive firestorm that, depending on how you read it, may have contributed to a rating decline (I’m more of the opinion the catch rules need an overhaul).
But regardless, the sights of kneeling and “unpatriotic” players, fans, and spectators gave Trump an unexpected foil to combat in a war of cultural words. He made himself appear more patriotic compared to his enemies.
The government shutdown taught him a lesson too: shutting down the government is a disastrous strategy for the minority party that causes it. He wholly enjoyed the positive press he received from Democrats inability to message or coordinate.
A military parade and possibility of another government shutdown gives Trump a repeat of 2017 storylines, but on more stable ground. Regardless the merits of the parade, what it offers him is the chance to celebrate the military and dare Democrats to oppose it. And given the #Resistence is drawn to a conflict with him like a moth to the flame, they’ll inevitably take on an “anti-military” stance.
Another government shutdown would further bury Democrats under negative press, just like the first shutdown. That’s why Trump was practically giddy this week, saying he’d “love” to see another shutdown. He knows Democrats can’t win that press battle and will only sink their 2018 midterm chances if they embrace it.
In 2017, Trump meandered into political fights. In 2018, he’s setting the stage for them. This strategy is closer to what you’d expect with a person who knows TV news well. And so far, it looks like everyone will play their parts.
Market volatility returns…
You’ve no doubt seen the big stories this past week of the Dow Jones Industrial Average losing thousands of points. The point drop is significant, but not the main story here. When it comes to rising and falling, always watch the percentage drop. That tells you more than the overall number. And the critical figure here is 10%, that’s how much the S&P 500 (a broader measure than the Dow) has lost. That means the markets are experiencing a correction:
The S&P 500 fell officially into correction territory on Thursday, down more than 10 percent from its record reached in January.
If this is just a run-of-the-mill correction, then we are looking at another four months of pain, history shows. If the losses deepen into a bear market (down 20 percent), then it could be 22 months before we revisit these highs, history shows.
“The average bull market ‘correction’ is 13 percent over four months and takes just four months to recover,” Goldman Sachs Chief Global Equity Strategist Peter Oppenheimer said in a Jan. 29 report.
But the pain lasts nearly two years on average if the S&P falls at least 20 percent from its record high — past 2,298 — into bear market territory, the report said. The average decline in a bear market is 30 percent, according to Goldman.
The downturn started after the Labor Department reported good news:
The moment the walls started coming off for the market happened about 8:30 a.m. ET last Friday morning.
That was when the Labor Department reported that average hourly earnings had increased more than expected in January, to a pace that now stood at 2.9 percent over the past year.
While that may have been a good-news moment for workers who had suffered through a decade of nearly flat paychecks, the market didn’t take it well. Investors instead found themselves confronted by their worst fears, namely that wage pressures were building that in turn would stoke wider inflation through the economy.
The practical implications would be that the Federal Reserve would have to hike interest rates faster than the market had been anticipating. Given that the stock gains over the past nearly nine years have been fed by low rates, the signal was foreboding.
The ultimate question is: If this is a correction, can it lead to a broader bear market, and furthermore to an economy-wide recession? The answer there, no one knows. Even though Jim Cramer assures us, he does know…
What I will point out, is that right now, you can’t point to an obvious weak point in the economy causing a downturn. It’s good data causing people to sell stocks, not bad. There are sectors, like retail, where you might see ripple effects of higher interest rates, but we haven’t seen anything like in 2007/2008 where there are signs of a systemic failure. Cracks could show up later on, but they aren’t right now.
Corrections happen from time to time in the market. They don’t mean much when it comes to economic health. If the financial data and underlying economy start looking pale, that’s when you start looking for signs of the next recession. Right now: there’s nothing visible.
The modern problem of punditry in America
One of the frustrating aspects of contemporary political opinion is the utter lack of ideas. Everyone is attacking other people, not the ideas supporting people or institutions.
On the right, you’re either anti-Trump or anti-anti-Trump. Meaning, all your political beliefs are summed up by your stance against Trump, or against those who are against the President.
On the left, its hashtag resistance or bust. The more vocal or extreme your opposition to Trump, the more you get heard. Everything Trump does is the next literally Nazis moment.
Interestingly enough, there’s a cash incentive here. The resistance movement is feeding off both the hatred of Trump and the Democratic Party to enrich itself. Democrats are struggling to get funding for their party while outside groups are getting fat.
The problem here is that there’s no debates or discussions on ideas or the issues in the world. Trump’s tweets are perfect for the cable news format because people can attack him or each other to huge ratings, while nothing real gets addressed.
And it’s not like there isn’t anything to talk about; political ideology in America is mostly lost in the 21st Century, with no real path forward.
Conservatives haven’t solved the problem of what they’re either trying to conserve or protect in a post-Cold War world. Modern conservativism didn’t exist before 1945. The Cold War and ideological battle between liberalism, free markets, and communism fused modern conservatism as a response to centralized big government liberalism in America and Marxism abroad.
Since the collapse of the USSR and communism, nothing is uniting the various strands of conservativism together, producing the highly fractured Republican Party we have today, where white union workers collide with corporatists, libertarians, classical liberalism, traditionalists, and the religious right.
Modern liberalism is getting pulled farther left by progressive, socialist, and tech-utopians. Notably, these are all further left with each successive generation. The progressives are trying to resuscitate dreams of early 20th century progressives, who ardently believed they could tweak society and culture to become magically utopian.
Socialists and communists have the same dreams of their dead predecessors. But the defense of “perfect communism/socialism/Marxism hasn’t been tried” rings hollow to any student of history that recognizes the successes and failures of imperfect capitalism versus any of the above.
Finally, we’ve entered an era of the Silicon-Valley techno-utopians who believe all the data, algorithms, and AI can eventually perfect society. And while their optimism is energizing and hopeful, it’s hard to see how these hopes and dreams won’t get dashed on the rocks of reality, like what happened with their industrial age ancestors.
So while all these groups and forces are pulling and moving political ideas across America, the most our cable television news programs can offer is political sports cheering and booing. People paid to shill for their politician, group, or online magazine.
There’s plenty to talk about too. What’s the future of conservatism in a post-Cold War world? What will society do when the utopian visions of progressivism and technologists inevitably fail? Why is our world so susceptible to concepts like communism that have murdered millions?
And it’s not that we have to discuss these points every night, but it would be nice to have people cognizant of this moment in time. Criticizing Trump or his supporters or haters is fine, but it’s not the only thing happening in the world.
The lack of intellectual voices capable of describing and providing a distinct answer to these issues is apparent. The void of these views is a choice. It’s a sign of intellectual decline that must be reversed, as Charles Krauthammer said in 2009, decline is a choice:
The question of whether America is in decline cannot be answered yes or no. There is no yes or no. Both answers are wrong, because the assumption that somehow there exists some predetermined inevitable trajectory, the result of uncontrollable external forces, is wrong. Nothing is inevitable. Nothing is written. For America today, decline is not a condition. Decline is a choice. Two decades into the unipolar world that came about with the fall of the Soviet Union, America is in the position of deciding whether to abdicate or retain its dominance. Decline–or continued ascendancy–is in our hands.
I only wish out intellectual class could see past simple cable television views.
Links of the week
Cash for Coalition Against Trump Going Into Consultants’ Pockets Instead: As Trump ran for president, the group raised money promising to stop him—while dedicating more than 90 percent of its expenditures to paying its own members. – Lachlan Markay & Sam Stein, The Daily Beast
Second Amendment law lessons: Look beyond the courts for freedom – Glenn Reynolds
Reports: White House Knew Of Domestic Abuse Allegations Against Porter Months Ago – Allahpundit, HotAir.com
Daniel Hannan: Put out more flags – Daniel Hannan, The Washington Examiner
Chuck Schumer 2014: You Know What We Should Have? A Military Parade – Allahpundit, HotAir.com
Anti-Orthodox Is The New Anti-Semitism – Eli Steinberg, Forward Magazine
History Warns: Uphill Battle for the GOP in 2018 – Jay Cost, National Review
‘Times’ Op-Ed Accuses Jewish Billionaires of Agitating for War Against Iran: Lawrence Wilkerson is a running sewer of conspiratorial insanity about Jews and Israel. Why is he being published in the paper of record? – Liel Leibovitz, Tablet Magazine
‘Emotional support animals’ help explain how America is losing its mind – Josh Barro, Business Insider
Satire piece of the week
LOS ANGELES, CA—Local woman and self-described feminist Ruby Alexis decided to temporarily shelve her firmly held belief that gender is nothing but a social construct while her boyfriend changed her car’s flat tire on the side of the road, sources confirmed Tuesday.
The automotive mishap occurred during her morning commute, and pulling off the highway, she immediately called her boyfriend and asked him to leave his place of employment to come and change the tire out for her vehicle’s spare. “I don’t know how to do this stuff—c’mon, you’re the boyyy,” the staunch progressive reportedly reasoned during the phone call.
Alexis’s boyfriend agreed to come to her rescue, enabling her brief bout of patriarchal, socially regressive sexism.
Thanks for reading!