2016 elections, Bernie Sanders, climate change, cyber-security, Democratic Party, Donald Trump, Following Up, hacking, Hillary Clinton, Immigration, Institute for Supply Management, ISM, Katherine Archuleta, manufacturing, Obama, Office of Personnel Management, Open Borders, OPM, Populism
For some reason, Hillary Clinton’s campaign website isn’t technologically up to speed enough to have posted a transcript of the “economic vision” speech she delivered this morning. So instead of analyzing it, I’ll try something a little different on RealityChek – a “Following Up” offering covering multiple subjects.
The first starts off with an apology. In last week’s piece on how Donald Trump could (but probably won’t) help generate long-term change in American politics, I wrote that his president candidacy nonetheless seemed more likely candidate than Democrat-Socialist Bernie Sanders’ to foster badly needed ideological realignment. My stated reason was that the big obstacle to Trump efforts along these lines is his personality, whereas the big obstacle to the Vermont Senator playing such a role is his ideology.
But then when I discussed in detail Sanders’ prospects as a change agent, I wrote that “he seems to be a more plausible candidate to help create an enduring populist alternative to the two major parties.” And my stated reasons included the ideological flexibility he’s displayed on issues like gun control! So what gives? In a word, I messed up. So let me try to clarify.
I still believe that Trump’s “superstar CEO” nature and consequent unwillingness to take advice from anything but Yes-men will prevent him from trying to turn his presidential campaign into a lasting movement once the former runs its course. Nor do I see any reason to change my mind despite some new comments from him suggesting the possibility of running as an independent in the fall campaign and continuing his political work beyond the current election cycle.
I also remain impressed with Sanders’ pragmatism and willingness to reach across the aisle for both legislative support and also counsel. But I don’t believe that he’ll display the same traits on the immigration and climate change issues I focused on. Re the former, he seems to be too personally invested to moderate much. Re the latter, I don’t believe he’ll want to buck the overwhelming tide I see in the Democratic party for ever more Open Borders.
Hence my conclusion – that a Trump personality change relevant to creating a new, bipartisan American populism is a better bet than a similar Sanders ideological change. But that doesn’t mean I view such a Trump transformation as even close to likely. And I do apologize for the confusion I might have created.
Second, my post on how unqualified Katherine Archuleta was to head the mega-hacked federal Office of Personnel Management left out the strongest evidence for that argument: She wasn’t only a veteran Democratic political operative (with zero background in technology). She was also a senior official in President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. In other words, in an age of mounting cyber-threats, the president treated the government’s main personnel agency like a cushy ambassadorship to some Caribbean island mini-state. And he still hasn’t caught much heck from the Mainstream Media for this dangerously cavalier decision.
Third, one of my longtime bugaboos is how seriously economic journalists and even economists themselves take the monthly reports on domestic American manufacturing’s health by the Institute for Supply Management (ISM). In particular, I’ve shown that neither ISM’s headline readings, nor its sub-readings on production and manufacturing orders, correlate well at all with the more reliable output and orders data put out by the federal government.
Imagine, therefore, how pleased I was to discover that, a few years ago, a Commerce Department economist came to pretty much the same conclusions. According to this study, the ISM surveys don’t even do an especially good job at what’s supposed to be their strong suit – not precisely gauging the state of manufacturing in any given month, but presenting evidence of approaching changes in its fortunes and the broader business cycle. As author Daniel Bachman demonstrated exhaustively, “While more information about the state of the economy is always better, analysts of the business cycle should realize that the ISM surveys do not supercede or fully anticipate more comprehensive official data.”
Finally, one house-keeping point: an overdue thank you to the growing ranks of RealityChek followers. Your interest is greatly appreciated – and I hope you’ll spread the word!