Tariff Advocate Accused of Writing Fiction

Peter Navarro talks status of NAFTA negotiations

The Story:

Peter Navarro, an economist with the titles “Assistant to the President” and “Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy” in the White House, has been one of the very few figures with any academic credibility willing to support this administration’s “trade wars.” Recent revelations about the inclusion of a fictional source in his writings on the subject will surely harm that credibility.

Background:

President Donald J. Trump’s controversial tariffs, and the trade wars they have set off, have received very little by way of academic defense. The opinion of most scholars of world trade is that tariffs have very little to recommend them, and that if they get out of hand (as with the infamous Smoot-Hawley tariff law of 1930) they can prove catastrophic.

An investigation conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education has found that there is no such person as “Ron Vara.” Vara is a supposed source for information that Dr. Navarro has drawn upon in six books, with ominous titles such as Death by China. (That particular title comes from a book Navarro co-authored with Greg Autry.)

The Thing to Know:

Upon being confronted by CHE, Autry admitted that “Vara” was not real. But he defended “Vara’s” presence in that book, and Navarro’s other work, as “a little bit of fun.”  It should be understood that inventing imaginary characters, acknowledged as such nowhere in the text, is of course not proper procedure, much less “fun,” in academic (non-fiction) publishing.

Latest Candidates’ Debate Turns to Antitrust Law

Andrew Yang argues why universal income isn't a 'handout'

The Story:

On Tuesday, October 15, the leading twelve candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States met on a stage in Westerville, Ohio for a fourth round of DNC sponsored debate. One unusual feature of this debate, compared to other such events in recent campaigns in the United States, was the amount of attention paid to issues of antitrust law and enforcement, arising in the context of Big Tech.

Warren v. Yang:

Elizabeth Warren, who is by many accounts the new front-runner in this political campaign, believes that antitrust laws should be used to break up the large tech companies, especially Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon.

The other candidates on the stage all had, at the least, reservations about that idea. One candidate, Andrew Yang, was the founder of an academic test prep company in 2005. His company was acquired by Kaplan, one of the giants in that field, much to Yang’s enrichment, in 2009. Perhaps due to that experience, Yang does not believe business consolidation is necessarily a bad thing.

The Thing to Know:

Regarding Big Tech, Yang suggested, instead of an antitrust remedy, a new understanding of private property in information: “Our data is our property, How many of you remember getting your data checks in the mail?”

 

Appropriations Committee Chair to Retire, Part II

Rep. Nita Lowey (D - NY)

The Story:

Last week, Nita Lowey announced she would not run for re-election next year. This puts in play the seat in the US House of Representatives for the 18th district in New York. Within hours of that announcement, New York Democratic Party politicos were discussing the relative merits of several potential candidates for that seat, including at least one quite famous name, Chelsea Clinton.

Background:

Chelsea Clinton, who lived in the White House as the daughter (and only child) of President Bill Clinton (1993-2001), worked as a special correspondent for NBC News from 2011 to 2014, during the period when her mother, Hillary Rodham Clinton, was Secretary of State.

Clinton is married to investment banker Marc Mezvinsky. The couple live in New York City (the Flatiron District of Manhattan).

There are other important potential candidates for the Lowey seat: perhaps most formidably, Mondaire Jones, a former staffer in the Obama administration, who would be the first openly gay black man in Congress if elected.

The Thing to Know:

Although the 18th is a Democratic district, it is not a “slam dunk” for a Democratic candidate. It is a suburban district with a fair amount of conservative and moderate sentiment, and with the incumbent retiring, there will surely be Republican interest as well.

Appropriations Committee Chair to Retire, Part I

Rep. Nita Lowey (D - NY)

The Story:

Nita Lowey (D – NY), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has announced she will not be running for re-election to Congress in 2020. This puts in play the seat for her district, New York’s 17th Congressional, as well as the chair of that important committee, to be reassigned when the next Congress is organized. Today’s post will speak to Lowey’s role as a committee chair, tomorrow’s post to her role as representative for the 17th.

Background:

The 17th district is north of New York City. It straddles the Hudson River,  encompassing all of Rockland County to the west and parts of Westchester County to the east of the Hudson, including the city of White Plains.

Lowey has been in Congress for thirty years. Her seniority helped her receive the plum appointment of chairing the Appropriations Committee, which is one of the most powerful committees in the House, with a central role in the budgeting process.

If the Democratic Party remains in control of the House in January 2021, there is likely to be lively intraparty discussion about the next chair.  Likely candidates include Rosa DeLauro (D – CT), Marcy Kaptur (D – Ohio), Sanford Bishop (D – GA), and David Price (D – NC).

The Thing to Know:

Maneuvering for the post has already begun. In a statement, DeLauro has said explicitly, “I will be running for Chair … in the next Congress.” Price has been less definitive, but says he looks forward to “talking with colleagues” about how to fill the “major gaps” that Lowey’s retirement will create.

 

A Kennedy Challenges a Party Elder

The Story:

Joseph Kennedy III, the grandson of Sen. Robert Kennedy and the grandnephew of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, announced recently that he is a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the seat in the US Senate now held by another member of that party, Sen. Edward Markey. The nomination will likely be decided by a primary on September 15, 2020.

Background:

Ed Markey is 73 years old and has been either in the House of Representatives or the Senate continuously since 1977. This makes him the second longest-serving member of Congress from New England.

Joseph Kennedy turned 39 on October 4. There is certainly a generational aspect to this challenge, just as in other parts of the country younger Democrats are challenging party elders for other seats. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will turn 30 on October 19, notoriously won her seat in the House, representing New York’s 14th district, by knocking off a party elder, Joe Crowley, at the conclusion of Crowley’s tenth term in that seat in 2018.

The Thing to Know:

Whichever candidate gets the Democratic Party’s place on the November ballot will be heavily favored to win the general election as well. The Republican Party is weak in Massachusetts. The last time Markey ran against a Republican opponent he won handily, 55% to 45%.

The Newly Normal Impeachment Process

It's Been 44 Years Since Richard Nixon Resigned In Disgrace | Morning Joe | MSNBC

The Story:

The impeachment of a US President was once a very rare event. A child born in 1870 might have lived to be a century old and that lifespan would not have overlapped with a single serious impeachment/removal effort regarding any President of any party. But there have now been three occasions in the last half century in which the House of Representatives has geared up the impeachment machinery: 1974, 1998, and now in 2019. The extraordinary has been normalized.

Reluctance Overcome:

This time around the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was for months reluctant to put the impeachment machinery in gear. She evidently feared that doing so would interfere with other items of business more dear to her heart, such as the drafting of a law that would limit or lower the price of some prescription drugs.

But as of this writing Pelosi is completely on board with impeachment, and there may be a vote by the full House on the articles of impeachment by Thanksgiving.

The Thing to Know:

The House brings charges (its vote to do so is the act of impeachment proper) and the Senate then treats the “articles” of impeachment as counts of an indictment and it puts the President on trial on those counts. Chief Justice Roberts would preside over the trial. In the event of a 2/3 vote finding the President guilty, (that is, 67 votes “yes”), President Donald Trump will be removed from office.

Senator Sanders Cancels Campaign Events

The Story:

Senator Bernie Sanders (I – Vt), one of the leading candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President, underwent surgery on Tuesday, October 1. Doctors inserted stents to resolve a blockage in an artery.

Cancellations:

Sanders had complained of chest pains during a campaign appearance in Las Vegas, Nevada. (The Democrat Party will hold a potentially critical caucus in Nevada on February 22 next year.) Due to the pains, the Senator was admitted to a local hospital for examination, and the stent procedure followed.

The procedure is a common one: stents are implanted more than 600,000 times per year in the United States.

Doctors have confirmed that the chest pains were a heart attack. The Sanders campaign has announced the cancellation of all previously planned “events and appearances until further notice” and promised continuing updates.

The Thing to Know:

There exists a sharp generational divide within the Democratic Party, and even if Sanders (age 78) returns to the campaign trail with speed and evidence of vitality this news is bound to raise the profile of that divide.  It will allow younger candidates such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg (37) to stress their youth and health in contrasts to the older tier, which along with Sanders includes Vice President Biden (76) and Senator Warren (70).

Darrell Issa Wants to Return to the House of Representatives

Darrell Issa on Loretta Lynch hearing

The Story:

Darrell Issa, a California Republican who chaired the House Oversight Committee 2011-2015, and who declined to run for re-election in 2018, may have become bored with retirement quickly. He is now seeking his party’s nomination for next years election for California’s 50th Congressional District.

Background:

The 50th district consists of the central and northeastern portion of San Diego County along with a part of adjacent Riverside County.

This represents a move for Issa. His old district was the 49th, the northern and western (coastal) portion of San Diego County.

Should Issa be elected from the 50th, the district will not change hands in terms of party. It is now represented by Duncan D. Hunter, also a Republican. Hunter, though, is the object of a criminal investigation over misuse of campaign funds, and many Republicans are concerned that this seat will be a Democratic pick-up unless they find a strong replacement — hence the interest in importing Issa.

The Thing to Know:

Issa in Congress was a prominent opponent of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and then an advocate of its repeal. A campaign in which he became the Republican nominee for the 50th District in 2020 would likely focus on that point.

North Carolina Governor’s Race 2020

The Story:

North Carolina will have a chance to elect a Governor in 2020. It will either re-elect or turn out the incumbent, Roy Cooper (D). Cooper acquired a certain degree of national notoriety in 2007, as state Attorney General, when he stepped in to take responsibility away from the prosecutor handling rape charges against the Duke Lacrosse team. Cooper then declared the team members the victims of a “tragic rush to accuse.” He dismissed the case.

Background:

Cooper also accomplished something rare in 2016 — he became the first challenger to defeat an incumbent governor in that state since before the Civil War. One natural question: was Cooper’s win over his precursor, Pat McCrory, unique? Or did he inaugurate an era of defeatable incumbents in the Tar Heel State, an era of which he could also be the first victim?

The Thing to Know: 

The state’s Lieutenant Governor, Dan Forest, is the most likely Republican nominee to run against Cooper next fall. Forest was also Lieutenant Governor under McCrory but won reelection to his post in 2016 despite McCrory’s loss.  It is generally expected that a Cooper/Forest campaign will be hard fought and close.

 

Insanity, Execution, and the US Supreme Court

The Story:

The US Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments again on the first Monday in October. This year that falls on October 7.  Some fascinating and politically sensitive cases sit on the docket for the forthcoming session, including a controversy over the constitutional status of the insanity defense, which the Justices will hear on that first day back from their break.

Background:

The 14th amendment to the US Constitution provides that “no state shall … deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

The Supreme Court has long held that the due process requirement is most stringent for the first of those threats, a proposed deprivation of life: that is, there is a “super due process” required for application of the death penalty.

In a matter that the Court will hear Monday, lawyers for a death row inmate will argue that a Kansas law abolishing the insanity defense in a capital matter deprived their client of this necessary super due process of law, and they will ask that his sentence be overturned.

The Thing to Know: 

The Supreme Court’s capital-punishment jurisprudence has always been unpredictable, and the addition of two Donald Trump nominees to the bench over the last two years has not by any means made this case a ‘slam dunk’ for Kansas.