A Conversation with Two Mayors About Trump and Cities

The Brookings Institution’s Amy Liu spoke with Scott Smith, a Republican from Mesa, Arizona, and Michael Nutter, a Democrat from Philadelphia to discuss “some key policy priorities of the next administration, including immigration, trade, and infrastructure” and “how a federal-local partnership might be improved in the years to come.”

Most interesting: on infrastructure, both decried the reliance on “short-term” stimulus. Mayor Nutter called for the federal government “to adopt, like every other government in the United States of America, a full capital plan that is five or six years in length.”

Don’t Ignore the Lame Duck

Vox: “What happens in Congress in the time President Obama has left — during what’s known as the ‘lame-duck session’ — will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of Americans.”

“At stake is the safety of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the pensions of thousands of laid-off coal miners throughout Appalachia, the biggest health reform package since Obamacare, and the paychecks of all US troops — and that’s during what’s considered a relatively uneventful lull in the legislative chambers.”

“Perhaps just as importantly, the next seven weeks are when Democrats will lay the groundwork for the much bigger and more critical struggle against the soon-to-be empowered GOP. Where congressional Democrats decide to fight now — and who emerges as leading advocates of the opposition — will shape how they’ll try to stop the Republican Party in the next session.”

Want to Rev Up the Economy? Don’t Worry About the Trade Deficit 

N. Gregory Mankiw: “In recent years, American imports have exceeded exports by about $500 billion a year. Mr. Navarro and Mr. Ross argue that if better policies eliminated this ‘trade deficit drag,’ gross domestic product would be higher and more people would be employed.”

“But a fuller look at the macroeconomic effects of trade deficits suggests that things aren’t so simple.”

“…many of the policies proposed by Mr. Trump will increase the trade deficit rather than reduce it. He has proposed scaling back both burdensome business regulations and taxes on corporate and other business income. His tax cuts and infrastructure spending will most likely increase the government’s budget deficit, which tends to increase interest rates. These changes should attract even more international capital into the United States, leading to an even stronger dollar and larger trade deficits.”

“Rather than reflecting the failure of American economic policy, the trade deficit may be better viewed as a sign of success. The relative vibrancy and safety of the American economy is why so many investors around the world want to move their assets here. (And similarly, it is why so many workers want to immigrate here.)”

More Central Americans Are Giving up on the U.S. And Looking Instead to a Mexican Dream

Los Angeles Times: “The number of migrants seeking to stay in Mexico pales in comparison to the droves heading to the U.S. — more than 400,000 people were apprehended at the U.S. southern border in the fiscal year that ended in September, most of them from Central America.”

“But the burden on Mexico and other countries is likely to increase if President-elect Donald Trump makes good on his promises to beef up border security and deport up to 3 million people living in the U.S. illegally.”

“Asylum applications in Mexico nearly tripled over three years, hitting 3,424 in 2015. Asylum requests this year are poised to be twice that, human rights advocates say, with most filed by Hondurans and Salvadorans.”

“Even with its long-running drug war and a sliding peso, Mexico boasts a degree of safety and economic stability not seen in Honduras and El Salvador, which are among the poorest and most dangerous nations in the world.”

Is Our Economic Future Behind Us?

Joel Mokyr: “With the global economy yet to recover from the 2008 economic crisis, concern about the future – especially of the advanced economies – is intensifying. My Northwestern University colleague Robert J. Gordon captures the sentiment of many economists, arguing in his recent book The Rise and Fall of American Growth that the enormous productivity-enhancing innovations of the last century and a half cannot be equaled. If true, advanced economies should expect slow growth and stagnation in the coming years. But will the future really be so bleak?”

“Probably not… My optimism is based not on some generalized faith in the future, but on the way science (or ‘propositional knowledge’) and technology (‘prescriptive knowledge’) support each other. Just as scientific breakthroughs can facilitate technological innovation, technological advances enable scientific discovery, which drives more technological change. In other words, there is a positive feedback loop between scientific and technological progress.”

Donald Trump Is Betting That Policy Expertise Doesn’t Matter

Neil Irwin: “…with his appointments so far — to the list add the commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross and the education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos — Mr. Trump seems to be betting that nuts-and-bolts experience running government agencies and wrestling with the hard technical details of public policy just don’t matter.”

“But usually you expect an appointee in that outsider mold to then appoint a deputy who ‘knows the building,’ or has a clear understanding of how to exercise the levers of power in the aforementioned sclerotic bureaucracy.”

“With the Commerce Department, the Trump team is going in the other direction, nominating Todd Ricketts to be deputy secretary of commerce. Mr. Ricketts’s family owns the Chicago Cubs; the Trump transition’s news release announcing the appointment cites the Ricketts’ success in building the Cubs into a World Series winner.”

“Public policy is really complicated. If this hiring pattern continues, more unconventional appointees may struggle, especially early on, to get up to speed on things like which assistant secretary handles what and the laborious process of developing regulations.”

Republican Anti-Union Efforts Made a Difference on Election Day 

Alex Rowell and David Madland: “As election results rolled in the night of November 8, it became clearer and clearer that the Democratic ‘firewall’ in the Midwest might not hold. While the Democratic presidential nominee had consistently won the popular votes in Wisconsin and Michigan since 1988 and 1992, respectively, Republican nominee Donald Trump would finish the night by narrowly winning both states. There are several reasons for these Democratic losses, but one major contributor is clear: successful Republican efforts to damage unions.”

“These attacks on unions do not just lower workers’ wages and help business interests. They also change the way the political process works, especially for people with lower incomes and less education.”

Americans Don’t Sleep Enough, and It’s Costing Us $411 Billion Every Year

Washington Post: “Lack of sleep exacts an economic toll of more than half a trillion dollars per year in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and Japan alone. The lack of sleep in these countries and across the globe affects work, business and, as a result, the world’s economy.”

“Using a large employer-employee dataset and data on sleep duration from the five countries, we were able to quantify the predicted economic effects from lack of sleep. Out of the five countries, Japan had the largest GDP loss as a result of lack of sleep (2.92 percent), closely followed by the United States (2.28 percent) and the United Kingdom (1.86 percent). Canada and Germany had the smallest GDP loss as a result of lack of sleep (1.35 and 1.56 percent, respectively).”

“While these percentage figures may seem small, they equate to net losses of hundreds of billions of dollar per year, $411 billion per year from the U.S. economy alone.”

How China Views Trump

Keyu Jin: “Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the US presidential election has shaken the world… But one country has remained largely unmoved: China.”

“…prudence flows through China’s Confucian veins. Rather than jumping to conclusions about future US policies, much less taking premature action, China’s leaders have remained neutral in their response to Trump’s victory. They seem confident that, though the bilateral relationship will change somewhat, it will not be fundamentally transformed. It will still be neither very good nor very bad.”

“Some in the West might think that the rhetoric alone would be enough to incense China’s leaders. But the truth is that the Chinese are far more offended by national leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama, as President Barack Obama did in June. And, as past US elections have made clear, rhetoric may well bear little relation to reality. That is all the more true when the rhetoric in question includes promises that would harm everyone involved, as Trump’s proposed tariffs would.”

Household Incomes Can Fall Even When Everyone’s Getting Richer 

R Street: “One of the politically hottest statistics right now is median household income, especially its slow growth. But there is a big problem with understanding what this statistic means, since it mixes up two different things: the changing composition of households and changes in incomes. If the makeup of households is altering dramatically, as it has in recent decades, median household income may be a quite misleading number.”

“For example, it is mathematically possible for everyone’s income to be rising, while the median household income is falling. How is that possible? The paradox is caused by counting by households, when the relationship between individuals and households keeps shifting.”

Could Ecstasy Help Fight PTSD?

Gizmodo: “Ecstasy isn’t only for ravers—a small series of clinical trials have demonstrated taking MDMA can be an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration granted permission for large-scale, Phase 3 clinical trials for MDMA, which is the next step in the process to get it approved as a prescription drug.”

“A 2012 study conducted in Charleston treated veterans, victims of sexual assault, police officers and firefighters who had struggled with PTSD symptoms for an average of 17 years. None of the patients responded to traditional PTSD treatments. ‘After three doses of MDMA administered under a psychiatrist’s guidance, the patients reported a 56 percent decrease of severity of symptoms on average,’ The New York Times reported.”

Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It’s Too Much Like TV

Hossein Derakhshan: “If I say that social media aided Donald Trump’s election, you might think of fake news on Facebook. But even if Facebook fixes the algorithms that elevate phony stories, there’s something else going on: social media represents the ultimate ascendance of television over other media.”

“I’ve been warning about this since November 2014, when I was freed from six years of incarceration in Tehran, a punishment I received for my online activism in Iran. Before I went to prison, I blogged frequently on what I now call the open Web: it was decentralized, text-centered, and abundant with hyperlinks to source material and rich background. It nurtured varying opinions. It was related to the world of books.”

“Then for six years I got disconnected; when I left prison and came back online, I was confronted by a brave new world. Facebook and Twitter had replaced blogging and had made the Internet like TV: centralized and image-centered, with content embedded in pictures, without links.”

The New Workplace Is Agile, and Nonstop. Can You Keep Up? 

“Whether you like it or not, your boss may want you to start acting more like a programmer,” Quentin Hardy writes for The New York Times.

“No doubt, Silicon Valley has changed how we work, for better or worse. Our smartphones keep us connected to the office all the time while internet searches bring the world’s information to our fingertips. But people may not realize that it is the subtler aspects of how tech companies operate that often have a more lasting effect on other industries.”

“The ‘agile’ part of this increasingly popular management concept is simple: Rather than try to do giant projects that take months or even years, create small teams that do a bit at a time. This way, small problems don’t balloon into enormous ones hidden inside a huge bureaucracy. And progress can be measured in small steps — one little project at a time.”