The show so far, a continuing series

by on March 27, 2017 at 3:17 am in Current Affairs, Uncategorized | Permalink

Hint: Trump is not working with Paul Ryan to disassemble Medicare as we know it.

Those of us who predicted gridlock, stasis, and an excessively weak Trump presidency are so far right.  Hardly anything has gotten through, though we have managed to scare off 40% of the potential foreign applicants for higher education, one of America’s most successful export industries.  Tax reform, which is not an ideological touchstone, won’t be easy, and the Republicans have not reached prior agreement on many of the (numerous) details.  Russia will continue in the headlines.  The weakness of political parties remains an underlying theme.  Overall, it is good that health care reform is off the table for now, because superior alternatives were not likely to result.

Is it good or bad, all things considered, that foreign governments are seeing increasing latitude to ignore Trump’s threats?  And why exactly does Trump dislike Germany so much?

By the way, the end of global QE is rapidly approaching, with U.S., European, and possibly Chinese central banks all tightening at about the same time; maybe that’s the real news!

Addendum: Alex writes to me:

39% of responding institutions reported a decline in international applications, 35% reported an increase, and 26% reported no change in applicant numbers.

1 prior_test2 March 27, 2017 at 3:32 am

‘though we have managed to scare off 40% of the potential foreign applicants for higher education’

Well, let’s not exclude GMU’s growing international reputation from this. A Turkish student at KIT still plans to go to the U.S., but as she noted, she did not want to attend a bad university. When asked what she meant, she replied a friend of hers had attended GMU, and there was no way that she wanted to go to such an inferior school. Of course, she was embarrassed a bit when finding out that I was a GMU alumni, though less so after being told that I agreed with her completely. Basically, this was the first time in a quarter century of living in Germany that anyone has mentioned GMU to me. Thankfully, since I also haven’t worked in the GMU’s PR department for more than a quarter century, it was just funny to hear, as compared to confirmation of something I’ve known for decades, but never would have been allowed to say as a GMU employee, whether for the Foundation or for the PR dept.

2 Rimbaud March 27, 2017 at 4:40 am

alumni is plural

3 Just Another MR Commentor March 27, 2017 at 5:19 am

Cut him some slack he DID go to GMU after all

4 prior_test2 March 27, 2017 at 5:53 am

Thanks – but like some other commenters here, I would like to think I contain multitudes.

5 Thor March 27, 2017 at 11:26 am

Prior, you contain something.

6 prior_test2 March 27, 2017 at 5:56 am

Thanks – but since I have never given the alumni association (would they be plural in a singular form?) any information since graduation, one will just have to forgive my lack of familiarity with something that has played no role in my life for decades.

7 rayward March 27, 2017 at 7:47 am

Alumnus, alumna, alumnae, alumni, it’s enough to confuse anybody. Not to mention sexist (in my day “co-ed” was popular). Anyway, alum (or alums, plural) has become a popular substitute, although alums who studied STEM might object.

8 Barkley Rosser March 27, 2017 at 5:20 am

For what it is worth, Prior_test2, GMU has been steadily improving over time certainly over the last 30 years since you were there. I am not going to argue with your acquaintance, but sorry she had a bad experience.

Anyway, as Tyler cannot really reply to this, and as I am not at Mason, I can point out that whatever one wants to say about the current state of things there, it is almost certainly quite a bit better than it was a few decades ago.

9 So Much For Subtlety March 27, 2017 at 6:02 am

Every day p-a comes here and proves that there was nothing wrong with GMU’s standards.

I am beginning to think he is Tyler’s sock puppet.

10 prior_test2 March 27, 2017 at 6:11 am

Come on, I’m sure that Prof. Cowen knows that alumni is a plural.

11 prior_test2 March 27, 2017 at 6:10 am

‘Anyway, as Tyler cannot really reply to this’

Of course he can – though whether the pretense that he rarely looks at the comments is believed or not is probably one of those ways to determined a reader’s loyalty. And I do know, from even the last few weeks, someone is paying quite a lot of attention to not only ensuring that the comment section does not say contain citations of previous legal proceedings, but comments are also read in a fashion to delete posts entirely, so as to avoid looking foolishly out of date.

‘it is almost certainly quite a bit better than it was a few decades ago’

Oddly (or not), I would disagree – the Mason of 1981 still relied heavily on Til Hazel’s largesse, whereas today’s Mason is much more focused on ensuring that a number of prominent donors get the proper ROI – Prof. Cowen undoubtedly is much more up to date than most at GMU on that subject. (Though at least one 20 million dollar donor remains completely shrouded in secrecy – quite unusual in the context of a publicly funded university selling the name of its law school – )

12 Ray Lopez March 27, 2017 at 5:44 am

LOL prior_test2, you are GMU’s man in Istanbul. Doing a sloppy job, violating your NDA, haha.

Foreigners use Tier 1 schools as signaling rather than to learn anything (some argue, like AlexT, that all schools are like this). Thus Oxford I think about 20 years ago (it may have changed) started having a dual track where they charge foreign students a lot more money, just so they can get some easy degree and go back home, and thus subsidize the native students. Smart tactic. Since GMU is a Tier 3 school, last I checked, though probably Tier 1 or 2 if you count worldwide statistics (southeast Asia is notoriously underschooled, I don’t think India nor any of SE Asia country aside from maybe Singapore has a school in the top 200 universities).

13 Chris S March 27, 2017 at 8:04 am

What is the statute of limitations on a handle ban around here? It is quite the fig leaf and I think you should just go back to the handle you had … prior… (snare snare crash)

14 GoldenEra March 27, 2017 at 3:33 am

The actual statistic- 39% of responding institutions reported a decline in international applications, 35% reported an
increase, and 26% reported no change in applicant numbers.

15 Steven Sailer March 27, 2017 at 3:39 am

“39% of responding institutions reported a decline in international applications, 35% reported an increase, and 26% reported no change in applicant numbers.”


I didn’t realize how intentionally misleading the news media reports on this were.

The write-ups in the press of this report are really disgraceful.

16 tjamesjones March 27, 2017 at 4:12 am

Tyler I think you need to comment here? This 40% figure is just a lie isn’t it?

17 Steven Sailer March 27, 2017 at 5:32 am

The NYT article appears to be intentionally misleading:

“Nearly 40 percent of colleges are reporting overall declines in applications from international students, according to a survey of 250 college and universities, released this week by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. The biggest decline is in applications from the Middle East.”

18 Gabe March 27, 2017 at 6:54 am

NYT is fakenews. And no I don’t like Trump.

19 Steven Sailer March 27, 2017 at 5:32 am
20 Ray Lopez March 27, 2017 at 5:51 am

Do the math, unweighted, the trend is down (sum up the figures on your hand held calculator). Do you think Tyler Cowen, a chess master, makes mistakes? Very unlikely. You’ve not played a chess master have you? I have, and believe me they have 100 eyes. The b.s. two move tactic that you’re planning they saw it five moves ago.

Bonus trivia: Just beat Remi Coulom’s Crazy Bishop freeware at 2175 Elo setting in blitz. LOL that was fun, not even thinking more than 2 moves ahead, moving fast, but from experience I know what a winning attack looks like. BTW that usually does not work in chess, as a lot of people suppose. You do have to calculate most of the time.

21 JWatts March 27, 2017 at 9:51 am

“Do you think Tyler Cowen, a chess master, makes mistakes?”

Everybody makes mistakes. And Tyler admits he was baboozled by the NYT in his later post.

22 Troll me March 27, 2017 at 9:53 am

What about this headline: “40% of people agree with you”.

Are you able to understand that the other 60% is relevant?

The headline was especially bad. But if you look at the counterexample, intent to mislead may not have been present.

23 AR March 27, 2017 at 3:34 am

from a closer reading it looks like 40% of colleges see a dip in foreign applications, not all foreign applications are down 40%

From the article, it is also unclear how much of the dip is due to Trump vs. other factors. It might just be noise.

Separately, It’d be interesting to see an analysis of NKorea’s behavior. It feels like they are using this opportunity to test as many weapons as possible since the parents are not at home.

24 prior_test2 March 27, 2017 at 3:44 am

Well, it isn’t as if the Iranians, after being put on notice, aren’t doing the same –

Though one can only hope that Bannon won’t repeat his failure at making ultimatums to people who could care less about his position as Trump’s favored hatchet man.

25 Captain Obvious March 27, 2017 at 4:00 am

“Overall, it is good that health care reform is off the table for now, because superior alternatives were not likely to result.” I really thought that Tyler didnt like Obamacare, but from this sentence he seems to admit he is not right?

26 dan1111 March 27, 2017 at 4:59 am

One can dislike Obamacare, but also think that, given the current political reality, a fix that really improves things is unlikely to happen.

27 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2017 at 5:28 am

“I really thought that Tyler didnt like Obamacare”
One can sialike Obamacare and dislike even more the option on the table. It seems to be the case with Republican lawmakers for example.

28 Thiago Ribeiro March 27, 2017 at 5:28 am

* dislike

29 Axa March 27, 2017 at 5:09 am

Perhaps a strong USD is more important than Trump? Lots of the clients of US universities come from emerging economies. 20 or 50 pc increase in costs due to exchange rate makes people reassess the objective of getting a graduate degree in the US.

30 Barkley Rosser March 27, 2017 at 5:31 am


Actually dollar has been falling more recently, basically since it became clear that Trump was not going to increase infrastructure spending or cut taxes any time soon due to his apparently total bungling incompetence. Even Fed tightening has not halted the slide, mostly due to them not saying they would raise target fed funds rate four times this year instead of just three, with indeed the apparently coming tightening elsewhere offsetting that.

BTW, I would prefer that Tyler avoid using “tax refom” for what Trump might do. It will just be tax cuts for a bunch of rich people, not anything that really deserves the label “reform.” But, I recognize that the media, including NYT, has accepted using this annoying terminology.

31 Axa March 27, 2017 at 6:52 am

Just checked the numbers of the three most traded EM currencies last year. Indeed, the Mexican Peso and Korean Won bottomed back on early January and are recovering. But the CNY keeps going steadily up since it bottomed 3 years ago. So, no clear trend. The only one that keeps sinking in the Turkish lira, but it’s caused by their own dictator apprentice, not Trump.

32 So Much For Subtlety March 27, 2017 at 5:32 am

So the 40% figure is a lie. The failure over preserving Obamacare is being blow out of proportion – as if it is a problem.

The rest? It looks like hope rather than objective observation to me. Tax reform has not started yet so how can it have failed already? Russia will, no doubt, continue to be in the headlines. Every time there are big protests in Moscow, Putin does something stupid so expect something stupid. Political parties should be weak – one of America’s great advantages over Europe. Are foreign governments ignoring Trump? No signs of it. No more than they ignored the self-absorbed incompetence of Obama. And all fear the end of QE! Which has not happened yet.

We get it. A lot of people don’t like Trump. But let’s not lose perspective here. He has not failed yet. He is not failing at all.

33 The Anti-Gnostic March 27, 2017 at 7:55 am

The Republicans, like a lot of people, were completely unprepared for the prospect of a Trump win. They anticipated at least another four years of Principled Dissent, haggling over marginal tax rates under Queen Hill. They did not think they would actually end up with the levers of power.

Trump clearly has other fish to fry at this point in his term. I’m not sure why the goofball Speaker got it in his head that “now is the time!”

There is a very rapid paradigm shift unfolding among voters. The prospect of socialized medicine no longer frightens people, doubtless after observing that the whole rest of the developed world seems able to provide some level of guaranteed medical coverage for their citizens. We have socialized medicine for the poor, the elderly, Congressmen, soldiers, and other government employees. It is becoming hard to argue that some form of medical coverage for other citizens is simply untenable. This really is low-hanging fruit: the party that gets some comprehensive medical reform and universal coverage passed will be in power for a long time. Next target: the racket known as higher education.

Trump has good instincts, as we already know. He saw a $100 bill lying on the floor that everybody else refused to touch–immigration–and he picked it up and went on to victory, blowing out a lot of cerebral cortexes along the way. I expect he sees the way the wind is blowing on medical care as well.

34 Chris S March 27, 2017 at 8:07 am

It looked to me that Trump really tried to get the bill passed. The fact that he didn’t – does that mean he never intended to and it was all just for show?

Because that bill last week sure wasn’t for socialized medical care.

35 The Anti-Gnostic March 27, 2017 at 8:42 am

Trump plays politics a lot better than most politicians. Ryan was allowed to advance his thoughtless legislation, and Trump can say he gave it the old college try. Trump clearly wanted to bide his time and let the Obamacare train wreck unfold, leaving it securely around the neck of his predecessor. The GOPe will be told they had their shot and blew it, and they better get behind the President’s legislation or explain their obstructionism to the voters.

Everything Trump has done to date is straight out of The Prince. Republican congressmen take the opposite tack–they run from actual power. After all, if things go south the buck will stop with you. It’s easier just to get elected and vote NO and make speeches without having to worry about being blamed for anything.

36 Barkley Rosser March 27, 2017 at 9:30 am

Yes, anti-Knowledge is a good name for you. You are giving waaaay too much credit to Trump for this outcome, although he is certainly going to do his best to make some lemonade out of the resulting lemons, and maybe he will succeed. However, he had promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, and he was clearly for it. It was his ignorance of “how complicated” it is, not to mention a totally botched effort at bullying the Freedom Caucus, that gave him this outcome, not some sneaky move by Ryan.

Oh, and if you think Americans are “observing” what the rest of the world is doing with its health care you are even more deluded. They have no idea. What made people jump was that they suddenly realized that they might get hurt by the proposed Trumpcare. The vast majority of Americans are not remotely informed about what is going on in the rest of the world beyond some dumb slogans about how people in Canada have to wait for surgery.

37 The Anti-Gnostic March 27, 2017 at 9:48 am

Your certitude is amusing in light of how badly so many people in your cognitive class under-estimated Trump and failed to read the zeitgeist.

38 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ March 27, 2017 at 10:05 am

The underestimators of Trump were right. They just didn’t sufficiently underestimate the voters who would stick with him through a cavalcade of failures.

Tyler must be right in his “stasis” link. It is about mood, and the ability to believe in yourself. Tiger blood.

39 The Anti-Gnostic March 27, 2017 at 10:34 am

What “cavalcade of failures?”

40 P Burgos March 27, 2017 at 10:35 am

Why was Breitbart actively campaigning against the bill? Normally when someone who Trump considers an ally commits such an act of betrayal, Trump gets royally pissed, and either vents on Twitter or gets so enraged that everyone he interacts with can see, and hence his anger is leaked to the press. Why didn’t that happen with this bill?

41 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ March 27, 2017 at 10:55 am
42 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ March 27, 2017 at 10:56 am

Sorry, I really thought I closed that tag.

43 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ March 27, 2017 at 10:59 am

P Burgos, it is more fragmentation. Bannon literally commanded the Freedom Caucus to vote for it, as Breitbart opposed it.

(Note: the messy link above works if you click on the “trump scandals” line.)

44 P Burgos March 27, 2017 at 11:42 am

I suspect that the failure of this bill was not an accident or incompetence on the part of Trump and his administrative. If there is anything that Trump takes seriously, it is vengeance and screwing over other people. It sure looks like someone in Trump’s administration realized that this was a perfect opportunity for revenge against Paul Ryan, with Trump indicating that he wants Ryan to step down on Sunday. Trump has defended Medicare, indicated that he thinks single-payer is a good idea, and claimed that he wanted to fix Obamacare with something that covers more people. I find it hard to believe that even Trump is so stupid as to not have seen that Ryan and the Republicans want exactly the opposite of what he promised voters during the campaign. I find the more reasonable explanation to be that Trump wanted this to fail and bring down Ryan with it. Trump himself, during an interview, publicly acknowledged that the bill would hurt his own voters and that it was inconsistent with his campaign promises. Now Trump can continue to claim that Obamacare is terrible, and that he wants to fix it with something better that covers more people, and he can blame Republicans who crossed him for the failure to pass a repeal and replace bill.

45 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ March 27, 2017 at 12:04 pm

With this healthcare debacle we might be back to “Trump Scandals Make His Voters Like Him More.” If I were Trump I would not choose to lose yet more mainstream support in exchange for yet more commitment of a slender base.

I just don’t see this as a win. Desperation move. Francis Fukuyama is on a similar vibe to Tyler (and FWIW me):

46 Barkley Rosser March 27, 2017 at 6:36 pm

Sorry, Anti-Knowledge, but I from a very early time told eveybody that Trump could win. Do not tie me to those idiots who said he could. Unlike you, I am pro-Knowledge and usually right, indeed, way most of the time. Really. Check the record, here or anywhere. I have been wrong, but not pretty rarely.

47 Barkley Rosser March 27, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Ooops, wroing there. “who said he could said.” The “not” left out. So, I am wrong, :-).

48 Hazel Meade March 27, 2017 at 12:05 pm

Well, let’s see Trump try to get NAFTA renegotiation past the House without offering conservatives anything on healthcare reform. Why the heck should Republicans go along with any of his silly agenda unless they’re getting something out of the bargain?
Also, “having the reins of power” is not the same thing as “having a guy with an R next to his name in the White House”, obviously. if Trump doesn’t care to pass legislation that conservatives can support, then how much power do they actually have?

49 Brian Donohue March 28, 2017 at 1:38 pm

That was a good comment, AG.

50 Donald Pretari March 27, 2017 at 8:57 am

I’m still waiting for Trump to propose term limits, the first issue mentioned in his 100 day plan on his campaign website, which it seems nobody read. How’s the 100 plan going, by the way? The funniest moment recently was when Ryan came out telling everyone that Trump helped write the bill just as Trump sources were bemoaning his limited input on the bill. Ryan needs to understand that, whatever happens, Trump must be seen as doing well. Around Trump, everyone needs a sharp sword to continually fall on.

51 anon March 27, 2017 at 9:10 am

We might have got to a gridlock, but I am not sure it is the one expected. As one wag put it, it isn’t usually victory that destroys parties.

As I asked yesterday, which “base” is “base” at this point? A new populist that wants Medicare for all, and complains Democrats and elites would not provide it?

Maybe that’s a bit ahead of the curve.

52 anon March 27, 2017 at 9:31 am

Oops, sorry. One comment got hung up and I assumed a bug. Sorry for the double.

53 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ March 27, 2017 at 9:19 am

We might have got to a gridlock, but I am not sure it is the one expected. As one wag put it, it isn’t usually victory that destroys parties.

As I asked yesterday, which “base” is “base” at this point? A new populist that wants Medicare for all, and complains Democrats and elites would not provide it?

Maybe that’s a bit ahead of the curve.

54 JWatts March 27, 2017 at 11:59 am

I really don’t understand your point. There isn’t enough support for Medicare for all to pass it. There wasn’t, even when the Democrats controlled Congress in 2010. That’s why we got Obamacare, which is kind of a kludge of disparate ideas all thrown together.

Obamacare might have been a reasonable “fix” if it had been self-sustaining, but at this point it looks like the mandated health insurance on the exchanges is imploding. Too many insurance companies have been getting out of the market, and the costs have been going up too rapidly. Now that the IRS (per the Trump Administration) is no longer verifying individual health care insurance, many of the healthy people that were being forced to subsidize the less healthy by the penalty/tax, will drop out of the exchanges. I suspect that will merely hasten the end. But regardless, the end of the exchanges seems destined at this point.

55 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ March 27, 2017 at 12:11 pm

I was really gambling on a risky prediction. If populists started to work with Democrats, what would they do?

The policies that Trump needs to help the white working class can sit well with Dems, maybe better than they sit with the Tea Party.

Or Republicans can fight among themselves until the next election.

56 Ricardo March 28, 2017 at 8:50 am

The problem for Republicans is that the idea of some sort of mechanism that allows people with pre-existing conditions to get affordable health insurance is popular and they don’t have any better or more cost-effective ways of achieving this popular outcome.

57 jorgensen March 27, 2017 at 12:18 pm

It seems to me that the Trump administration has been so incoherent on trade and foreign policy that it’s allies and trading partners have decided to sit back and wait.

58 jorgensen March 27, 2017 at 12:41 pm

‘“free and fair and truly reciprocal trade that begins and ends with the belief that bilateral trade deficits do indeed matter,” [Navarro] said’

“ends” ????

59 A.G.McDowell March 27, 2017 at 1:14 pm

Having read The Art of the Deal, one of my worries about a Trump presidency was that he would set up a situation where not doing things his way would lead to a bad and inefficient outcome, and then Congress – for lack of belief that he would follow through, or through sheer spite – would chose the bad alternative.

I find it very interesting that, at least in presenting his view of the situation, he is now saying that the Democrats will now be 100% responsible for an inevitable collapse of Obamacare, especially as I believe that Trump has no ideological objection to a Trumpcare well to the left of what the Republicans would like. The Democratic party may yet have a chance to decide if it agrees with Chernyshevsky that “worse is better”.

60 aMichael March 27, 2017 at 1:18 pm

The Republicans’ domestic policy track record is what I expected. As long as there’s a hard filibuster, nothing has changed from the previous Congress in terms of the ideological location of the gate keepers in Congress (i.e., median chamber members, the pivotal Senators needed to end filibustersm, and the pivotal members needed from either chamber to override a presidential veto). Thus, we should expect very similar legislative outcomes in this Congress as in recent ones.

My bigger concern has always been the areas in which the president exercises unilateral decision-making (i.e., foreign powers, ending trade agreements, and Supreme Court nominations). So far, Trump has picked a strong Supreme Court nominee, though I wonder what plan B will be if Gorsuch is filibustered, and it looks more and more likely that Democrats will go that route. (One way to get around this is to nominate someone with a less obvious conservative track record, but then you also run the risk of ending with someone who actually isn’t that conservative….)

The issue that worries me is how he’ll respond to some international events, and there’s plenty that can go wrong on these fronts. What I’ve seen of Trump’s decision-making thus far (light on facts, heavy on “gut-feelings”) is not reassuring.

61 Thomas March 27, 2017 at 2:06 pm

Germany has effectively pushed policies resulting in the immiseration of southern Europe, has shirked its defense obligations against the dreaded Russian threat, has trade practices that effectively lock out competition (particularly from North America and Asia), and has embraced immigration policies that have destabilized politics across the continent. Neutral observers would have to say that Germany is the biggest threat facing the world. Trump is in the odd position of seeing this correctly and yet wanting to emulate the trade and (perhaps) the monetary aspects of German policy.

62 Jackson Layers March 28, 2017 at 10:22 am

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