PG143: VA Shakeup, Census Concerns, Kim Jung Un Takes a Trip, Repeal the 2nd Amendment?, Russia Relations

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Mike welcomes The 45th Podcast’s  Susan Simpson to the show, in Part II of The Politics Guys / The 45th Podcast host exchange. Mike and Susan open with a look at the shakeup at the VA, with Mike questioning the managerial qualifications of Ronny Jackson, President Trump’s choice to take over for David Shulkin at the massive VA. Susan argues that no reasonable person would even want the VA job, and suggests that Jackson’s fawning estimate of the president’s health, along with a desire for power, are what may have made him Trump’s pick.

Next it’s discussion of the recent announcement by the Department of Commerce that the 2020 Census will have a questions about citizenship status. Both Mike and Susan are skeptical of the motives of the Justice Department, which requested the question be added. Mike hesitates to call the move racist, but points out that any likely political advantage from the move will be to the Republicans.

After that, Mike and Susan turn to a discussion of what North Korean leader Kim Jung Un’s recent meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and his upcoming meetings with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in and President Trump, might mean. Mike suggests that President Trump’s tougher stance could be bearing fruit, though he concedes that even a Democratic administration would have almost certainly ratcheted up sanctions in response to the North’s nuclear tests. Susan says there’s no policy here but chaos, and is concerned that President Trump might lead us into an unnecessary armed conflict with North Korea.

Then it’s a look at the March for our Lives and Justice Stevens recent call for repeal of the Second Amendment. Mike and Susan are both big supporters of the March and hope that it leads to significant change. They differ somewhat on Justice Stevens advocacy for a repeal of the Second Amendment. Mike feels it’s a gift to the NRA and not necessary, as even the draconian gun regulations in Washington D.C. – far tougher than what most people are calling for – are possible without touching the Second Amendment. Susan doesn’t entirely disagree, but argues that the Second Amendment can make reasonable gun laws more difficult to pass, and points out that even a repeal wouldn’t make firearms illegal.

After that, they discuss the increasingly strained relations between Russia and the United States in the wake of tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats and closing of consulates. Susan points out that despite this strong U.S. response – which she argues Trump was forced to make – we still haven’t heard the president say anything negative about Vladimir Putin. She argues that’s because Putin almost certainly has damaging information on Trump.

Show Notes

What Susan’s Reading & Listening To:
– Maryland appeals court decision in Adnan Syed case.
Missing and Murdered (podcast)

What Mike’s Listening To:
Philosophize This. Stephen West (podcast)

The 45th Podcast
The 45th on Twitter

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Jacob Hacker on What We’ve Forgotten About Growth & Prosperity

Mike talks with Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker about his work on economic growth, insecurity, and inequality. Dr. Hacker’s books include The Great Risk Shift,Winner-Take-All Politics, and, most recently, American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper.

Mike and Dr. Hacker discuss what we’ve forgotten about shared economic growth, why the United States is lagging in so many areas where it once was a world leader, if we’re too nostalgic for a past that can’t be recreated, the effects technological change and globalization have had on American prosperity, how we can move to a positive-sum economic future, why Donald Trump is an unexpected opportunity for progressives, and lots more.

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PG142: Budget Deal, US vs China, Facebook vs Privacy, PA 18, Bolton In McMaster Out

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This week, Mike and Jay start by looking at the $1.3 trillion dollar, 2,0000+ page budget passed by Congress and very reluctantly signed into law by President Trump. Mike sees it as not half bad, given Republican control of the legislative and executive branches, while Jay tends to agree with House Freedom Caucus concerns about out-of-control spending.

Next is a discussion of the $60 billion in tariffs President Trump announced against China in response to China’s widespread intellectual property theft. Mike is actually somewhat sympathetic to the Trump administration’s approach, feeling that previous attempts to minimize Chinese IP theft have been largely unsuccessful. Jay argues that tariffs are likely to be too blunt of an instrument to effect significant change.

After that, the Guys get into privacy in social media in the wake of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica scandal. Both Mike and Jay agree that a loss of privacy is the price we pay for ‘free’ use of social networks and wonder if this price is too high.

Following that is a look at the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District, where Democrat Connor Lamb won in an extremely conservative district. Mike sees it as a sign of Democratic voter enthusiasm and expects a wave election in November that will give the Democrats control of the House of Representatives. Jay isn’t so sure, and questions whether the Democrats will be able to replicate their success in PA 18 in other races.

To close, Mike and Jay discuss the latest shake-up in the White House, with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster being replaced by John Bolton. Mike thinks that Bolton is too hawkish, too impulsive, and reinforces President Trump’s worst instincts. Jay is more of a fan of Bolton, but agrees that President Trump would benefit from more voices of moderation.

What Jay’s Reading
The Gathering Stormy.  Jonah Goldberg

Truth Isn’t the Problem – We Are.  Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (WSJ – paywall)

What Mike’s Reading
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos.  Jordan Peterson

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Bryan Caplan on The Case Against Education

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Mike welcomes George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan back to the show to talk about his latest book, The Case Against Education: Why the Education System is a Waste of Time and Money.

In this episode, Mike and Dr. Caplan discuss the myths that people believe about the value of a college education, if college teaches people job-relevant skills (mostly no), if it teaches them ‘how to think’ (not as far as we can measure), if it’s an economically smart move for the student (not in as many cases as you might think), and if having a lot of well-educated people benefits society in any measurable way (I bet you can guess the answer at this point).

In spite of the depressing (at least to Mike) and impressive amount of data and analysis Dr. Caplan brings to bear, Mike makes a game attempt to salvage some meaning and value for his life’s work.

Follow Bryan Caplan on Twitter

Bryan Caplan’s previous Politics Guys appearance (where he and Mike discussed The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies)

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PG141: A Line at the White House Exit, Stormy Daniels Sues Trump, and the Student Walkout

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Trey begins by hijacking the show’s opening with an original loop. Jay and Trey then open the show by looking at the big exits from the White House this week including Rex Tillerson and Andrew McCabe. Jay argues that the replacements are capable and Trey worries that the turmoil underlies a deeper problem in management at the White House. Both agree that there is significant turnover.

After that the discussion turns to Stormy Daniels. Jay and Trey deeply disagree over the payoff from the Trump organization to Daniels. Jay calculates, based on past precedent, that Trump having an affair will neither affect his approval nor his reelection chances. Trey believes this might be Trump’s downfall. It is one thing to have an affair, another to clandestinely try to buy off the conversation concerning it.

Finally, Trey and Jay discuss the student walkouts on Wednesday. Both see the reactions from left and right as part of the underlying ideological differences that are separating the two camps. Further, they have slightly different takes on the institutional takeover of the walkout. Finally, they agree that discussions about gun control are separate from feelings on the protest itself.

What Trey’s Reading

Grant by Ron Chernow

What Jay’s Reading

Steven Hawking A Brief History of Time

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‘Collusion’ Investigation, Healthcare, Contempt & Civil Discourse, Chain Migration

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In this ‘Ask The Politics Guys’ episode, Mike and Jay respond to listener comments and questions on:

    • the nature of the Mueller investigation
    • the role of healthcare costs in personal bankruptcy
    • contempt and civil discourse
    • the wisdom of nationwide concealed carry reciprocity
    • why Jay uses the term ‘chain migration’
    • the guys’ thoughts on UK politics
    • the Veterans’ healthcare system as a model for what universal care in the U.S. might be like

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PG140: North Korea Talks, Sessions Sues California, Trump’s Tariffs, Florida vs the NRA

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Mike and Jay open the show with a look at the stunning announcement about talks between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. Both of the guys are hesitant to believe this will lead to anything given North Korea’s track record of stringing U.S. administrations along and breaking agreements. They’re also concerned that by meeting with Kim – the first time any U.S. president has agreed to talks with North Korea’s leader, President Trump may be giving the regime something it’s always wanted and getting little if anything in return.

After that it’s discussion of the suit the Department of Justice has brought against three California laws involving enforcement of federal immigration policy. In a strange twist, Attorney General Sessions is making the typical liberal argument about federal government supremacy while California is responding with traditionally conservative points about the 10th Amendment, going so far as to rely on a conservative icon, former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Both Jay and Mike think that the federal government will end up winning in court (with Jay being more sure of this than Mike) though it’s likely to take several years.

After that, Mike and Jay discuss the tariffs on steel and aluminum that President Trump formally announced this week. They both see this as a truly bad move that will not only hurt far more Americans than it will help, but a step that further erodes America’s standing in the world and does nothing to deal with a truly significant international issue – China’s ongoing, massive intellectual property theft.

Finally, the Guys look at the new gun legislation enacted in Florida in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. They consider whether the NRA’s Second Amendment based lawsuit is likely to succeed (probably not) and discuss whether Florida might be a model for more states and possibly even the U.S. Congress, where not much has happened as of yet.

What Mike’s Reading
For Two Months, I Got My News From Print Newspapers. Here’s What I Learned. Farhad Manjoo

What Jay’s Reading
Parkland kids can protest, but they don’t know what they are talking about. Jonah Goldberg

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What We’ve Learned About Fake News

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Mike talks with Jason Reifler, a Professor of Political Science at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, about his research into fake news. They discuss Dr. Reifler’s recent paper on the topic (‘Selective Exposure to Misinformation: Evidence from the consumption of fake news during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign‘), whether fact checking helps combat fake news, if this is a Trump-specific phenomena or part of a broader and even more disturbing trend, and lots more.

Follow Jason Reifler on Twitter

Episode Links
Craig Silverman

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PG139: Trump’s Tariffs, Gun Policy, A New Cold War?, Hicks Quits

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This week’s show starts with a discussion of the ‘national security’ tariffs President Trump announced he planned to impose on steel and aluminum. Mike and Jay are in agreement that the tariffs are a terrible idea and not at all related to national security. Jay points out that this is an issue where President Trump is getting more support from Democrats from his fellow Republicans, who were generally upset and dismayed at the announcement.

The president further disturbed many in his own party this week by suggesting he was in favor of tougher gun laws than most Congressional Republican are likely to support. Mike makes the point that we’ve seen the president make similar statements on other issues – immigration most notably – and then fall back into GOP orthodoxy in the end. The Guys also look at a variety of other gun policy related developments that took place over the last week.

Next is a discussion of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s bellicose speech about the U.S. threat to global security and new weapons systems Russia has developed to thwart U.S. missile defenses. This comes shortly after NSA and U.S. Cyber Command chief Mike Rogers told the Senate Intelligence Committee that we’re not doing enough to prevent Russian cyberattacks on our election systems.

Finally, it’s a look at what seems to be a West Wing in disarray, following the departure of Hope Hicks as communications director. Mike and Jay agree that the extremely high level of turnover – especially in the communications area – is yet another indication that Donald Trump is an impulsive person who hates being managed and bridles at the necessity of message discipline.

What Jay’s Reading
The Only Good Thing About Donald Trump Is All His Policies.  Joseph Epstein. (WSJ. Unfortunately, it’s behind a paywall and there’s no non-paywall version of this article. But you really should check out Epstein’s wonderful writing, which you can do without having to deal with a paywall at The Weekly Standard.)

What Mike’s Reading
The Fractured Republic. Yuval Levin

Republic, Lost: Version 2.0. Lawrence Lessig

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