We Landed on the Moon, Trump’s Twitter Fallout, Contempt from Congress, and McAleenan Testimony

Will and Brian begin by discussing the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Brian sees great value in space and exploration as a means to advance scientific knowledge and understanding. Even more importantly, he finds that interest in STEM can help motivate children to pursue careers that will continue to move the world forward. Will also sees value in space exploration but wants to remind everyone of the political push behind many early endeavors. Moreover, he also posits the good that could be done with the same budget money today to help citizens across the United States.

Next, they move to a lengthy discussion around Trump’s Tweets aimed at the Squad and fallout surrounding it. Brian argues the tweets are explicitly racist and problematic for democratic governance in the country. Will, on the other hand, believes that while the intention was clear, the message itself was not as direct as many are claiming. Both believe the move was quite strategic. Will posits that Trump used this to move the news media off of other areas while also forcing Speaker Pelosi to defend the Squad, consequently positioning the left as being more extreme than they currently are in reality. Both agree that this issue will continue to be discussed but will not lead to any noticeable shifts in public opinion and pushes for impeachment are wasted efforts today.

Will and Brian then discuss the contempt charges brought against Attorney General Barr and Secretary Ross by the House over the citizenship Census question. Will points out that the entire debate is not about the actual question, since it has existed in some format for decades, but instead about how the information could and would be used. Brian believe the contempt charges are largely political theater but still send an important message regarding the current state of Congressional relations with the President.

Lastly, they briefly discuss the testimony of Secretary McAleenan regarding border conditions today. Will begins by saying that Mike Pence’s comments on the conditions got his attention more than anything else in the news recently given his political leanings and honest assessment. Moreover, Will worries that presidential candidates are using the border as a photo opp which undermines the plight of the individuals currently held there. Brian is concerned both with the conditions and the way that Americans are responding. Both wonder if McAleenan was suggesting to the House that this could all be solved if they were willing to more actively take other measures to curb immigration.

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Kristin & Mike Take a Test

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Now for something a little different and fun – Mike and Kristin take a test! Before they take the Pew Research Center’s Political Typology Quiz, Kristin responds to a question from listener Martin about why she plans to vote for President Trump in 2020.

After that, Mike and Kristin get right down to business and take the test, which consists of choosing between a series of two statements on a variety of issues. They discuss the binary nature of the test and both feel that it’s important to choose the statement that is closer to their beliefs. They run into trouble with a few questions and the phrasing, but have a great time discussing each and challenging each other’s positions along the way.

To hear the results, where each host fell on the ideology scale, and to take the test right along with them, be sure to tune in until the end!

Epstein / Acosta, Border Crossings Down, British Ambassador Resigns, Emoluments Suit Dismissed, Democratic Tensions

Mike and Kristin kick things off by discussing the latest twists and turns in the Jeffrey Epstein case, new sex trafficking charges, and his former friendships with high-powered political types. They agree on the reprehensible nature of the charges and discuss the idea that money can “get you out of trouble”. Both say that there is obvious disparity between rich evil-doers and regular folks who do evil. Also, they get into the resignation of Labor Secretary Alex Acosta.

Next up is the fact that Mexico seems to be stepping up their efforts at the border, as per their deal made with the U.S. government last month. Both Mike and Kristin raise the point that while this is promising, it will take time to see more data. If there seems to be a trend towards fewer border crossings, this might be a jumping off point for discussion once again.

Then, the British Ambassador to the U.S. has resigned due to leaked memos he’d sent previously to London, which contained disparaging remarks about Trump. Trump went on the offense and, after some barbs traded, Ambassador Darroch stepped down. Both Mike and Kristin agreed that stepping down was the right thing to do. Kristin made a point about this being symptomatic of our increasingly polarized atmosphere, and Mike emphasized that this is nothing new in the Trump Era.

An Appeals Court ordered the dismissal of the Emoluments Clause case against Trump, citing that the Attorneys General who brought the case lacked standing. This ruling made sense to both Kristin and Mike. Mike hopes that this is actively pursued, perhaps by Congress. Kristin mentioned that she feels this is mostly politically motivated, another “proxy battle” between Left and Right.

Finally, the big, headline-making battle within the Democrat Party was on everyone’s minds! Kristin was curious to see what Mike had to say, citing that it brought back memories of the Tea Party infighting within the GOP and that many prominent Democrats had taken to blasting the more progressive congressional freshmen for making wild claims against Pelosi and company. Mike found that he was more intrigued by this story than he thought he would be, and sided with Pelosi, though he said that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and company may have valid points buried in the back-and-forth.

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Tyler Cowen’s Love Letter to Big Business

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Mike welcomes George Mason University economist Tyler Cowen back to the show to discuss his latest book, Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero. As you may know, Tyler is a very busy guy – in addition to his academic position, he runs the Marginal Revolution blog  and Conversations with Tyler podcast. He’s also regular contributor at Bloomberg Opinion and has written multiple books, including two Mike previously spoke with him about on the show: Stubborn Attachments and The Complacent Class.

Topics Mike & Tyler discuss include:

  • fraud in the business world
  • if big business is more honest than people in non-business settings
  • why top CEos may actually be underpaid
  • work vs leisure
  • monopolies, with a focus on Facebook, Google, and Amazon
  • problems with the finance industry
  • crony capitalism
  • how much political influence big business really has
  • why we personalize big business, and why we shouldn’t

follow Tyler Cowen on Twitter

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Trump’s Potential Executive Orders on the Census Citizenship Question and Drug Prices, The Border Patrol Facebook Group, School Busing

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Trey and Mike open the show outlining the latest developments on the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Trey focuses on the larger picture that an executive order circumventing a court order would mean for presidential power. Mike considers the actual immediate policy implication and sees it unlikely that an executive order is feasible.

Next, they turn Trump’s push for lower drug prices. Mike argues that President Trump is looking for a win for 2020. Drug prices are an easy potential win, but it certainly isn’t a free market position. Trey agrees that President Trump generally is not a free market individual, but sees this as normal Trumpian policy. The pair also address President Trump’s tweet on using an executive order to lower drug prices.

After that they turn to the controversy surrounding a private Facebook group titled “10-15” for current and former border patrol agents. Trey sees the issue as one where the nexus of public and private speech of blended. Social media creates the ability to know more about people than we ever dreamed possible — even things some of us thought were not as mainstream as they are. Mike argues that the investigation should move forward, but that human nature might suggest being faced with an insurmountable problem we can at least, intellectually, understand the frustration of border patrol agents.

They close the show by returning to what, until recently, seemed a 1970s era policy question: school busing. Trey asks if this is really just an issue of whether or not former Vice-President Biden is “woke” or not. Mike makes the liberal argument against busing and challenges policy makers to address residential segregation.

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Superdelegates, Democratic Strategy, Biden’s Troubled Past, Out of Touch Politics Guys, and Media Bias

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In this episode, Mike & Jay respond to listeners on:

  • whether changes to the Democrats’ superdelegate rules will have a big impact on who their 2020 nominee will be
  • what Democrats can do to win back the Midwest
  • if Joe Biden is out of touch and past his prime
  • if the Politics Guys are out of touch and past their primes
  • story selection bias in the mainstream media

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Democrats Debate, Gerrymandering, Census Citizenship Question, Administrative Authority, Border Crisis Funding

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Jay and Mike open the show with a discussion of the first two Democratic presidential debates. Instead of looking at the debates in terms of ‘winners and losers’ they step back and talk about the nature of the debate format and the sort of qualities it rewards and punishes. Mike lets loose on his general disgust with these multi-person debates, and while Jay isn’t quite as impassioned he agrees that they’re far more spectacle than substance.

Next, they look at a trio of major end-of-term Supreme Court decisions, starting with gerrymandering. Jay feels that the majority got it right and that gerrymandering, while a potential danger to democracy, isn’t something that the Court can fix. Mike disagrees but feels it’s a tough question and understands why some may not be able to accept the social science view of how much partisan gerrymandering is too much.

After that they turn to the Court’s decision on the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to the Census. Mike thinks that Chief Justice Roberts and the Court’s four liberals got it exactly right – while the administration can add a citizenship question, they have to provide a reasonable explanation for why they’re doing so, as opposed to the after-the-fact rationale the administration provided. Jay is somewhat disappointed with the outcome, but joins Mike in his respect for Chief Justice Roberts.

The final Supreme Court ruling they examine received less coverage than the others, but is on a topic – administrative discretion – that’s near and dear to both Mike and Jay’s hearts. Jay feels that the Court’s ruling to keep in place a narrowed doctrine of deference to administrative agencies’ interpretations of their own rules is reasonable, though he argues that the narrowing of that deference is part of a larger project to restrain the administrative state – something he’s very much in favor of. Mike agrees with the outcome and argues that the four dissenters seem to want to replace agency discretion with judicial discretion, which he views as unacceptable judicial activism.

They close the show with a look at the humanitarian crisis on the Mexican border. Mike & Jay agree that the system is currently overwhelmed, and that Congress did the right thing in putting aside at least some partisan differences and approving some desperately needed emergency funding.

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Helena Rosenblatt on the Lost History of Liberalism

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Mike talks with Helena Rosenblatt, a professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, about her latest book, The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century.

Topics Mike & Helena discuss include:

  • the meaning of liberalism in ancient Greece and Rome
  • liberalism as an aristocratic virtue
  • the connection between liberalism and education
  • the Catholic Church as an historical opponent of liberalism
  • classical, ‘laissez faire’ liberalism
  • progressive Republicans, Wilsonian Democrats, and 20th century American liberalism
  • how mid-twentieth century totalitarianism affected liberalism
  • the key challenges to modern liberalism

Helena Rosenblatt on Twitter

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Trump in 2020, Hicks before the House, Gallagher Trial, and the Actions of Iran

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Will and Brian begin with a discussion about Trump’s official re-election announcement. Both agree that Trump has better odds than the average pundit gives him to keep his position, but they differ slightly on why he could win. Will argues that the base will be enough to see him through while Brian posits that Democrats could likely unseat him if they spent less time debating one another and instead focused on a concentrated campaign against Trump. Ultimately, Brian argues that his base sees him as Teflon Don and that his control of the media is underacknowleged by political opponents. Will argues that with the economy doing well and no actual military conflict, Trump should be able to keep America great.

Next, they turn to Hope Hicks’ testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Neither Will nor Brian are surprised that Hicks has not been willing to discuss what Democrats want to hear about, but they both acknowledge Democrats will keep trying to find information to help make a case that Trump has obstructed justice. Brian sees this as essential to preserving democracy as we understand it in America while Will believes Democrats are costing themselves time and resources by focusing on an already galvanized issue rather than going after the president on policy grounds. In the end, they both wonder what utility Democrats will ultimately gain from this and what could be accomplished if efforts were devoted to other areas.

They then turn to discussing the Eddie Gallagher trial currently underway. Both believe this is an issue that merits an investigation, but they differ on culpability. Brian finds the alleged actions reprehensible while Will believe Gallagher needed greater support prior to being sent back into a combat zone. While neither excuses his alleged behavior, Will finds the testimony of a medic to raise serious questions. Both believe this is reasonable doubt, but Will points to the immunity granted to the medic as a potential sign that the government was looking to muddy the waters and avoid President Trump having to ultimately pardon Gallagher for his crime. Brian agrees and adds that if we want to improve our image abroad, avoiding allegations of incidents like this would be a great first step.

Lastly, Will and Brian conclude with a discussion of recent activities in Iran, focusing on the Revolutionary Guard’s decision to shoot down an American drone this week. Will is perplexed by the response to last week’s cargo ship bombing allegations and the announcement this week that it must have been a mistake to shoot down the drone. Brian is concerned about maintaining territorial sovereignty while also protecting national interests. Both agree that a war with Iran would not be a useful endeavor given the lack of an endgame.

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David Rose on Why Culture Matters Most

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Mike talks with University of Missouri St. Louis economist David Rose about his book Why Culture Matters Most. Topics they discuss include:

  • why democratic capitalism is the only reliable way to achieve mass flourishing
  • the relationship between culture, trust, institutions, and mass flourishing
  • small group vs large group trust
  • the role of religion in building a high-trust society
  • why trust in the system has been in such steep decline
  • how limited government helps to maintain trust in the system
  • what we can do to increase trust and strengthen our democratic institutions

Panel on Capitalism & Poverty (YouTube)

Listener support helps make The Politics Guys possible. If you’re interested in supporting the show, go to patreon.com/politicsguys or politicsguys.com/support.