Yesterday, a new one-and-a-half-minute economics video from Ezra Klein's newly formed Vox Media hit the internet. In it, Vox Executive Editor Matt Yglesias explained why the current level of the national debt is neither dangerous nor worrying:
He concludes that "debt just isn't a problem right now," because inflation is currently near historic-lows.
The video stirred up some pretty angry responses from people who think that debt is a problem right now. Red State's Erick Erickson claims some of the video is incorrect and calls Yglesias a liar who is spreading "left-wing propaganda."
But Yglesias is pretty clear that he's excluding debt owed from one arm of the government to another, and only including federal debt held by the public. That is completely rational. After all, money the government owes to itself is simply money moved from one side of the government balance sheet to the other. There's nothing dishonest or disingenuous about citing the lower figure that only includes debt held by the public, especially given that Yglesias was clear about this.
Erickson then contends that: "[Yglesias] uses deficit and debt interchangeably."
But the debt is just the sum of the deficit over many years. So there's nothing wrong with treating them as two manifestations of the same thing so long as you understand that one is an annual figure and the other is the total. Yglesias' point is that the reason to worry about deficits is when they lead to elevated inflation and interest rates, something which we are not currently experiencing. This bases the assessment of debt and deficits around the real world consequences of debt and deficits, instead of hand-wringing over the size of the number, which seems to be what Erickson would rather have us do.
Erickson's next point is that: "[Yglesias] claims the U.S. government can never run out of money."
This, of course, is true. The U.S. government is a monetary sovereign that controls its own state-backed fiat money. Does Erickson think this is untrue? Does he think that the U.S. government can run out of paper and electronic dollars? Does Erickson think that the U.S. is back on the gold standard and therefore can run out of money?
Erickson concludes: "This isn't education. It is not explaining. It is left-wing propaganda. It is also sponsored by General Electric. Why is General Electric sponsoring left-wing propaganda?"
Now, to be fair, I'm not sure Yglesias' video will change many minds. It crams in a baffling quantity of information into a relatively short period. Viewers might on first viewing find it more confusing than enlightening, especially given that the mainstream narrative of the terribleness of government debt and deficits has become so deeply ingrained as "common knowledge."
But everything in the video is technically correct. At the very least it has succeeded in sparking a public debate on the issue of the national debt. And it is very definitely not left-wing propaganda, no matter how much Erick Erickson and other debt fearmongers would like it to be. John Aziz
Eliahu Pietruszka spent 70 years thinking every member of his immediate family died during the Holocaust. Two weeks ago, he learned that not only did his younger brother survive, but he had one son, and that son wanted nothing more than to meet his uncle in person.
Pietruszka, 102, was 24 when he fled Poland in 1939. His parents and younger brother Zelig were sent to the Warsaw Ghetto and later died in a concentration camp, but Zelig's twin, Volf, was able to escape. Eliahu and Volf briefly communicated before Volf was sent to a Siberian work camp by the Russians, and Eliahu always assumed his brother died there. Believing his entire family had perished, Eliahu moved to Israel in 1949, married, had children, and became a microbiologist.
Two weeks ago, a Canadian woman working on her family tree sent Eliahu's grandson a note, saying she found online a testimony written by a man named Volf Pietruszka. Yad Vashem, a Holocaust memorial, maintains a database filled with the names of those who perished in the Holocaust, and Volf had filled out a testimony for Eliahu, thinking he had died. Volf had survived the Holocaust, moved to the Ural Mountains, and had one son, Alexandre Pietruszka, now 66.
Eliahu's grandson found an address for Volf, which led to him connecting with Alexandre. Volf died in 2011, and wanting to waste no time, Alexandre packed his bags and flew to Israel to meet his uncle last Thursday. It was an emotional moment for Eliahu, meeting the only link to the family he thought he lost so long ago. "It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother, and that is his son," he told The Associated Press. "After so many years, I have been granted the privilege to meet him." Alexandre said it was "a miracle" that he found his uncle. "I never thought this would happen." Catherine Garcia
U.S. military personnel in Japan ordered to avoid alcohol, confined to base after apparent DWI fatality
On Sunday night, the U.S. military ordered all service members in Okinawa to stay on base or at their off-base residence and banned alcohol consumption by all service members on mainland Japan at all times and in all places, following a fatal crash early Sunday morning. In the crash, an unidentified U.S. Marine and a 61-year-old Japanese man collided in Naha, Okinawa prefecture, killing the Japanese man and leaving the Marine slightly injured. Kazuhiko Miyagi of the Okinawa police told the Voice of America that the Marine's blood alcohol level registered three times the legal limit in a breath test.
Effective immediately, U.S. service members on Okinawa are restricted to base and residences. Alcohol consumption is prohibited. This includes in residences and public locations. Additionally, service members on mainland Japan are prohibited from consuming alcohol, on or off base pic.twitter.com/68XyYFzPHu
— 7th Fleet (@US7thFleet) November 20, 2017
About half of the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan are on Okinawa, and their presence has met with local resistance, especially after U.S. military personnel behave badly off base. Sunday's order mandated training on responsible alcohol consumption, risk management, and other acceptable behaviors not just for military personnel but also U.S. government civilians stationed Japan. Peter Weber
Debra Tate, the sister of victim Sharon Tate, told TMZ that the California prison where Manson had been incarcerated called her to say he died at 8:13 p.m. local time. Last week, he was taken to a hospital in Bakersfield. Manson came to Los Angeles in the 1960s, hoping to become a musician, and soon attracted several followers, dubbed the Manson Family. On August 9, 1969, several of his followers murdered Tate, an actress who was nearly nine months pregnant, and four others at her Los Angeles home; the next evening, they killed husband and wife Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.
Manson hoped their murders would start a race war, and for his role in the slayings, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. He received the death penalty, but after the state ruled it unconstitutional, he was given nine consecutive life sentences. Catherine Garcia
Roy Moore's "claim that the Senate race has become a religious war, and a Christian one at that, has put one group in an awkward position: Christians," say Campbell Robertson and Laurie Goodstein at The New York Times. On Sunday, pastors around Alabama refrained from discussing Moore, the Republican nominee in the Dec. 12 U.S. Senate race, but they've been asked about little else since a growing number of women came forward to say Moore initiated a physical relationship or sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers as young as 14 and he was in his 30s.
"It was a known fact: Roy Moore liked young girls," Faye Gary, a retired police officer in Moore's hometown of Gadsden, Alabama, tells the Times. "It was treated like a joke. That's just the way it was." Now it's out in the open, the allegations "have created a dilemma" for many pastors, Robertson and Goodstein write. "They want to denounce what Mr. Moore was accused of doing, but in many cases they want to do so without denouncing Mr. Moore himself," who's still supported by many in their congregations.
Some religious leaders in Alabama have openly denounced Moore, a Southern Baptist, and called him unfit for office. but most pastors "still endorse Moore, underlining the unwavering support he has received from his conservative Christian base," reports Christopher Harress at Al.com. Pastor David Floyd of Marvyn Parkway Baptist Church in Opelika said he doesn't "believe those women" and called the allegations a Democratic smear.
Pastor Franklin Raddish of the nationwide Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries told AL.com from South Carolina home that the accusations against Moore are part of a "war on men" that has ramped up with the national reckoning about sexual misconduct. "More women are sexual predators than men," he added, dubiously. "Women are chasing young boys up and down the road, but we don't hear about that because it's not PC." Peter Weber
AL.com and its parent company, Alabama Media Group, are standing by their reporting on Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, and has rejected Moore's claim that the website has turned public opinion against him, with the company's attorney writing, "Any damage to Mr. Moore's reputation was self-inflicted and had already occurred long before AL.com's recent reporting."
Since The Washington Post first published the account of a woman who said Moore made sexual advances on her when she was 14, AL.com has done extensive reporting on the matter, interviewing additional women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct and following up on other stories, like Moore being banned from the Gadsden Mall for bothering teenage girls. Trenton Garmon, an attorney for Moore, his wife Kayla, and their Foundation for Moral Law, sent a letter Nov. 14, to Alabama Media Group, accusing AL.com of making "false reports and/or careless reporting" about subjects related to the Moores.
In response, Alabama Media Group's attorney John Thompson sent Garmon a letter Thursday saying the company "rejects" the demand it stop reporting on Moore, writing: "Alabamians — for that matter, all Americans — have a right to know about the individuals who wish to represent them in public office. Like every political candidate, Mr. Moore is subject to scrutiny and analysis by the media and the general public regarding his fitness for public inquiry."
Any lawsuit "would be frivolous and could not be brought in good faith," Thompson said, but if one is filed, "we are confident that litigation would not only demonstrate that AL.com exercised the utmost diligence and employed high journalistic standards in reporting these stories, but would also reveal other important information about your clients." Read Thompson's entire letter at The Washington Post. Catherine Garcia
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team has requested that the Department of Justice hand over documents related to President Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to recuse himself from the investigation of the Trump's campaign and any connections to Russian officials, a person familiar with the matter told ABC News on Sunday.
The special counsel is reportedly looking into whether Trump attempted to obstruct the federal investigation, and the request for documents, delivered within the past month, is the first such request from Mueller's team to the Justice Department. Specifically, ABC News reports, Mueller has asked for communications between DOJ officials and their counterparts at the White House. Catherine Garcia
For two months, surfer Conrad Carr gave up the ocean for land, walking more than 1,000 miles from New York to Florida to help animals affected by hurricanes.
After his friend dared him to walk 1,000 miles, promising to give him $100 for every mile completed, Carr decided to take him up on his offer. Some of his famous friends, including Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, helped spread the word about Carr's journey, and more donations came in for the cause. "The animals don't have a voice, and I saw the Humane Society was right on the front lines," he told USA Today. "You gotta save all those guys struggling out there."
His journey lasted from September to November, and he's happy to have brought awareness to the plight of animals struggling due to hurricanes. "You feel a lot better when you go out there and do something good for someone who can't," he said. Catherine Garcia