API & Docs
API & Docs
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Barack Obama's rebuke of Donald Trump's America – the key remarks Barack Obama has delivered a sharp rebuke of Donald Trump’s America, attacking his successor by name for the first time in impassioned remarks that denounced “the politics of fear and resentment”. Here are the key quotes from the former president’s first major speech since leaving the White House: On Donald Trump: In the end, the threat to our democracy doesn’t just come from Donald Trump or the current batch of Republicans in Congress or the Koch brothers and their lobbyists, or too much compromise from Democrats, or Russian hacking. The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism – a cynicism that’s led too many people to turn away from politics and stay home on election day. On the politics of division: Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us or don’t sound like us or don’t pray like we do, that’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time. They promise to fight for the little guy even as they cater to the wealthiest and the most powerful. They promise to clean up corruption and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability. And they appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all. On the answer to Trump: The antidote to a government controlled by a powerful fear, a government that divides, is a government by the organized, energized, inclusive many. That’s what this moment’s about. That has to be the answer. You cannot sit back and wait for a savior. You can’t opt out because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate. This is not a rock concert, this is not Coachella. You don’t need a messiah. All we need are decent, honest, hardworking people who are accountable and who have America’s best interests at heart. On racists: It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say we don’t target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray. We are Americans. We’re supposed to stand up to bullies. Not follow them. We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination. And we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up, clearly and unequivocally, to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad. On the freedom of the press: It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say that we don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories we don’t like. I complained plenty about Fox News but you never heard me threaten to shut them down, or call them enemies of the people. On Republicans and Congress: This Congress has championed the unwinding of campaign finance laws to give billionaires outsized influence over our politics, systemically attacked voting rights to make it harder for the young people, the minorities, and the poor to vote. Handed out tax cuts without regard to deficits. Slashed the safety net wherever it could. Cast dozens of votes to take away health insurance from ordinary Americans. Embraced wild conspiracy theories, like those surrounding Benghazi, or my birth certificate. Rejected science, rejected facts on things like climate change. On Democrats: We won’t win people over by calling them names, or dismissing entire chunks of the country as racist, or sexist, or homophobic. When I say bring people together, I mean all of our people. You know, this whole notion that has sprung up recently – about Democrats need to choose between trying to appeal to the white working class voters, or voters of color, and women and LGBT Americans – that’s nonsense. I got votes from every demographic. We won by reaching out to everybody and competing everywhere and by fighting for every vote. On common ground: And that common ground exists. Maybe it’s not fashionable to say that right now. It’s hard to see it with all the nonsense in Washington; it’s hard to hear it with all the noise. But common ground exists. I have seen it. I have lived it. I know there are white people who care deeply about black people being treated unfairly. I have talked to them and loved them. And I know there are black people who care deeply about the struggles of white rural America. On women and politics: We need more women in charge. But we’ve got first-time candidates, we’ve got veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, record numbers of women – Americans who previously maybe didn’t have an interest in politics as a career, but laced up their shoes and rolled up their sleeves and grabbed a clipboard because they too believe this time’s different; this moment’s too important to sit out. On the power of voting: The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism. To all the young people who are here today, there are now more eligible voters in your generation than in any other, which means your generation now has more power than anybody to change things. If you want it, you can make sure America gets out of its current funk. Don’t tweet – vote You’ve got to vote. If you support the MeToo movement, you’re outraged by stories of sexual harassment and assault inspired by the women who shared them, you’ve got to do more than retweet a hashtag. You’ve got to vote.
There’s no doubt that the U.S. economy is in a boom. The Conference Board is reporting the highest levels of job satisfaction in more than a decade. This is probably because of a tight labor market — the ratio between the unemployment level and the number of job vacancies is at its lowest level in a half-century: Number of unemployed to job opening is at a nearly five-decade low Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nick Bunker at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth A broader measure, the prime-age employment-to-population ratio, is back to 2006 levels. Meanwhile, real gross domestic product growth for the second quarter was just revised up to 4.2 percent. Corporate profits are rising strongly. And investment as a percentage of the economy is at about the level of the mid-2000s boom: Investment as a share of gross domestic product Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Wages are still lagging. But all other indicators show the U.S. economy performing as strongly as at any time since the mid-2000s — and possibly even since the late 1990s. Which raises an interesting question: Why is this boom happening? That’s an almost impossible question to answer. Fundamentally, economists don’t know why booms happen. It’s possible that there’s not even such a thing as a “boom” at all — that this is just how the economy works under normal circumstances, when there isn’t a recession or crisis to throw it off its game. But it is possible to identify some factors that might — with the emphasis on “might” — be contributing to the strength of this economic expansion. The first is low interest rates. The Federal Reserve kept short-term rates at or near zero for almost a decade after the financial crisis, suppressing long-term rates in the process. That in turn lowered borrowing rates for corporations and mortgage borrowers, which tends to juice investment. Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Standard macroeconomic theories hold that low rates increase aggregate demand. Those theories also say that when interest rates are low, fiscal deficits provide an added boost to demand, and deficits have been rising as a result of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts: Federal surplus or deficit as a share of gross domestic product Source: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis These are what are known as demand-side explanations. Typically, it’s believed that goosing aggregate demand with fiscal and monetary policy will eventually lead to rising inflation. So far, it has risen very slightly but is far from alarming: Personal consumption expenditure core price index (excludes food and fuel) Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis via Bloomberg A third demand-side explanation is what John Maynard Keynes called animal spirits, and what modern-day economists call sentiment — potentially random fluctuations in the optimism and confidence of businesspeople and consumers. There is evidence to support this explanation — small business confidence is at record highs, and consumer confidence also is very strong: Consumer sentiment index Source: University of Michigan A final demand-side explanation is that the current boom is simply the tail end of the long recovery from the Great Recession — consumers and businesses might finally be purchasing the houses and cars that they waited to buy when the recovery was still in doubt. Housing, traditionally the most important piece of business-cycle investment and consumption, is still looking weak, with housing starts below their 50-year average. But business investment might be experiencing the positive effects of stored-up demand. There is also another category of potential explanations, known as supply-side factors. These are things that increase the long-term productive capacity of the economy. One such possibility is that Trump’s tax cuts removed distortions that held back business investment, and that fast growth — and the attendant low unemployment — is the result of the economy’s rapid shift to a higher level of efficiency. A second supply-side explanation is that the boom is being driven by technology. Information technology advances such as machine learning and cloud computing might be driving the investment boom — perhaps also spurring companies to invest in intangible assets such as brands and workers’ skills. Evidence says that this sort of technology-driven boom is rare, but it’s at least theoretically possible. Of course, the boom could be due to none of these factors — or to causes that economists haven’t even identified yet. But as of now, these are the prime suspects. And although it’s very difficult to know, it matters how important each of these factors is, because that gives some insight into how the boom might end — and how it might be prolonged. A demand-side boom probably will end of its own accord. If loose monetary and/or fiscal policy is driving up demand, then it will likely eventually cause inflation to accelerate, prompting a clampdown by the Fed. If animal spirits are responsible, it could lead to over-borrowing and an eventual debt crisis and crash — indeed, corporate debt is looking worrisome, as levels of risky debt rise and credit spreads narrow. A supply-side boom, in contrast, is likely to moderate rather than crash. Any positive effect of tax cuts will eventually dissipate as the economy settles at its new steady state. A technological boom could peter out after a few years, or could even accelerate if new discoveries build on each other. If I were forced to pick one leading explanation for the boom, I would go with animal spirits. Exuberant business sentiment and the build-up of risky corporate debt seem indicative of good times that won’t last. Hopefully that guess will prove wrong. To contact the author of this story: Noah Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Greiff at email@example.com
It is 9:00AM in our New York City office, and one of us (Jordan) stops by the fifth-floor kitchen to pick up a free piece of fruit — a healthy perk that Weight Watchers offers its employees. When he arrives, he faces a familiar sight: the bananas are already gone and only the oranges remain. When other hopefuls approach and find the bananas missing, they do not take a free orange. They just walk away. What is wrong with these people? Is there a subculture of orange haters lurking at Weight Watchers?