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The New Republic ... Good morning from Timothy Noah! ... November 11, 2021

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Original article:
Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
The New Republic

Thursday November 11, 2021 ... 11:04 AM

Manchin’s delusions, prisoners’ grim fates, and the fake scourge campus illiberalism

Plus, Dr. Oz dreams of the Senate, and more...

Good morning from Timothy Noah!

The 1970s really are back. No sooner does ABBA reunite than inflation becomes the lead story in today’s New York Times and Washington Post. Can grotesquely wide lapels be far behind? (And yes, this child of the ’70s still reads the print editions. I don’t feel informed unless my fingers turn black.) The Consumer Price Index rose 6.2 percent in October over the previous 12 months, faster than it has in 31 years, and that, the Times says, is “an unwelcome development for the Biden administration.” The biggest hikes were for fuel oil (up 59 percent), motor fuel (up 50 percent), and car rentals (up 39 percent).

Since newspapers love to pepper their economic trend stories with personal anecdotes, here’s mine about the scarcity of rental cars. I spent three goddamned hours at Los Angeles International Airport Saturday trying to retrieve, first, a reserved Hertz rental (“My managers overbook,” the clerk said, “then vanish, leaving me to deal with pissed-off guys like you”) and then an unreserved Avis rental (I signed a contract but gave up waiting on the loading dock after 45 minutes). In the end I took an Uber instead. I mean, who needs a car in L.A.?

It won’t last forever. “Households are sitting on huge savings stockpiles amassed during the pandemic,” the Times reports, “but should theoretically spend those down now that government support programs like expanded unemployment insurance have fully or mostly lapsed.” But: “Supply chain experts have been warning that some of the shortages driving up costs might get worse before they get better, especially headed into the busy holiday shopping season.” Where’s the War on Christmas when you really need it?

“Some economists are also concerned,” The Washington Post reports, “that while wages are climbing, they aren’t growing enough to compensate for the rising cost of living, at least in the short term.” The Post’s economics columnist Catherine Rampell, citing a Bureau of Labor Statistics summary of real earnings, tweeted, “After adjusting for today’s new inflation numbers, average hourly wages fell 1.2 percent from Oct 2020 to Oct 2021. Change in real average hourly earnings combined with a decrease of 0.3 percent in average workweek resulted in a 1.6 percent decrease in real avg weekly earnings.”

The stock market doesn’t seem to mind. The Wall Street Journal reported, at 8:22 a.m., that stock futures tied to the S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent. Stocks had “an eight-day record-setting streak this week, as concerns about inflation reignited.” Inflation shifts investment from bonds to stocks, though in the long run it’s bad for both.

Politico reports that corporate executives are bellyaching that the president isn’t doing anything to fight inflation. More 1970s nostalgia! As Harvard economist Jason Furman explained to me yesterday, presidents and Congress haven’t set inflation policy in a generation. “That’s the Fed’s job,” he said. University of Chicago economist Austan Goolsbee further pointed out that inflation is a global phenomenon right now, even as “fiscal responses have varied a great deal in different countries.” It’s the Covid, stupid.
  • At NewRepublic.com, your faithful correspondent explains to Senator Joe Manchin why the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better bill won’t worsen inflation to any significant degree.
  • New Republic editor Michael Tomasky, in his latest video Tomaskycast, interviews Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher about whether Democrats should panic in light of Terry McAuliffe’s defeat in Virginia’s gubernatorial election and how they can reframe matters for the midterms.
  • Wanda Bertram reveals that, despite assurances from state prison officials that they’ve stepped up compassionate release during the Covid pandemic, in at least 10 states, fewer people were released in 2020 and the start of 2021 than in 2019.
  • And Alex Shephard argues the Democrats should do more to tout how strong the economy is for workers.
See you next week,

Timothy Noah, staff writer

Morning quiz:

Yesterday’s political history question: The Whig Party, of course, was powerful in American politics for about two decades in the early to mid-1800s. How many Whigs became president, either by being elected or (hint, hint) by other means? Bonus question: How many former Whigs later became president under the banner of another party?

Answer: Four Whigs became president, two by getting elected and two by being vice president when the elected Whig president died in office. The elected Whigs were William Henry Harrison, whose presidency lasted one month, and Zachary Taylor, whose presidency lasted 16 months. The unelected Whigs were John Tyler, who succeeded Harrison in 1841, and Millard Fillmore, who succeeded Taylor in 1850. (Tyler, it must be said, was never much of a Whig, and the congressional party expelled him during his presidency.)

The former Whigs who became president under another party banner were Abraham Lincoln, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison. All four were elected as Republicans.

Today’s political history question: Today is Veterans Day, also known as Armistice Day because the First World War ended on this day in 1918. Today’s question: As that war began, a member of the British government told a friend: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.” Who said it, to whom did he say it, what famous poet was the nephew of the person to whom he said it, and what cruelly appropriate physical ailment did the person who said it have that would advance during the war?

Today’s must reads:

No, Senator Manchin, Build Back Better Won’t Create Runaway Inflation
Covid created this inflation spike. Ending Covid will curb it. by Timothy Noah

State Prisons Released More People Before Covid-19 Than During It
Prison officials touted a compassionate response to Covid, but the statistics tell another story. by Wanda Bertram

Have the Founders of the University of Austin Been in a Classroom Lately?
Niall Ferguson, Bari Weiss, and others are creating a new university as an antidote to campus illiberalism. It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. by Aaron R. Hanlon

Dr. Oz Has Peddled Scams for Years. No Wonder He Wants to Run for Senate.
Unfortunately, the televised huckster would be well suited for the campaign trail, if not actually a Senate seat. by Molly Osberg

“It All Burns”: Cornell Belcher on What Happens if the GOP Takes the House
In this Tomaskycast, TNR editor Michael Tomasky talks with Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher about Virginia, race, and whether Democrats can change the dynamic heading into 2022. by Michael Tomasky

Why Are Democrats So Afraid to Brag About the Economy?
Even with very real concerns about inflation and the global supply chain, the economy is in good shape. Democrats shouldn’t be afraid to say so. by Alex Shephard

Only a Death-Row Prisoner Could Make the Supreme Court Skeptical of a Religious Freedom Claim
The high court’s unusually generous predisposition to faith-based claims takes a back seat to Samuel Alito’s determination to end the “guerrilla war on the death penalty.” by Matt Ford

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