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
Phil Collins officially un-retired last year, and proved it with a return to the stage in August, a two-song set to kick off the U.S. Open. He is promoting a new memoir, Not Dead Yet, going on tour next summer, and on Tuesday's Tonight Show, he played one of his darkest and arguably his best song, "In the Air Tonight," from his 1981 album, Face Value. Due to nerve damage, Collins can't play the drums himself anymore — his son Nicholas will play on tour — but Jimmy Fallon's house band The Roots backed Collins on Tuesday's show. Collins and his voice have both aged a bit in the 35 years since he first released the song, but the drum fill at the 3:25 mark — Questlove's dramatic entry in the song — is as good as ever, and there are a few tasteful new additions to the instrumentation. Peter Weber
Following South Africa and Burundi, Gambia said Tuesday it will leave the International Criminal Court.
When announcing its exit, the Gambian government called the ICC the "international Caucasian court" and said it is just targeting countries in Africa. The primary mission of the ICC is "to help put an end to impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole, and thus to contribute to the prevention of such crimes." It is based in The Hague, and the chief prosecutor is Gambian Fatou Bensouda.
Of the six ICC cases that are underway or close to starting, only Africans have been charged, but there are preliminary ICC investigations opened in other areas of the world, The Associated Press reports. Under the late Nelson Mandela, South Africa supported the ICC, but the country recently told the U.N. secretary-general it is leaving the court. Burundi did the same last week, when the president signed legislation to exit from the ICC. Catherine Garcia
Samantha Bee talks with female world leaders to learn what nonsense President Hillary Clinton can expect
The United States appears on the verge of electing its first female president, and not everyone's cool with that, Samantha Bee said on Monday's Full Frontal. She illustrated that point with a series of clips of people talking about Hillary Clinton, from Fox News talking heads to people at Donald Trump rallies saying really gross things. "To learn more about the downside of lady leaders," Bee said, she went to meet with former secretary of state, current Clinton supporter, "and fellow nasty woman" Madeleine Albright.
"So, does playing into her woman-ness help Hillary, or does reminding people that she's a woman hurt her chances of winning the election?" Bee asked Albright, after they settled in at a mythical U.N. ladies' lounge. "I think it's very hard to tell, frankly," Albright said, but Trump making disparaging comments on Clinton's voice or looks sort of feeds the beast. "Does this pulsing cancer of misogyny go away, or does it just embolden people, like the racists during Obama's presidency?" Bee asked. "I think that you might ask some of the women heads of state what's happened in their countries," Albright said, reasonably.
"Women heads of state — I forgot other countries have those," Bee said, but she found several who would go on camera with her: Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, President Hilda Heine of the Marshall Islands, and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic. Based on their experiences, a President Hillary could expect a little added indignity in her first few months in office, but nothing worse than she has experienced during the campaign. Still, she should be grateful she doesn't have any celebrity doppelgängers, and it looks like she would get the most respect from her nation if her nation were the Marshall Islands. Watch below. Peter Weber
The Cleveland Indians took Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night in Cleveland, beating the Chicago Cubs 6-0 thanks largely to catcher Roberto Perez's bat and starting pitcher Corey Kluber's arm. Kluber faced off against Cubs ace Jon Lester, but while Lester had a rough start, allowing two runs in the first inning thanks to a series of walks and a hit by pitch, Kluber pitched six scoreless innings to earn the win. Perez hit a solo homer in the fourth off Lester, then drove in three more runs with a second homer in the bottom of the eighth.
The Cubs and Indians have a combined 176-year championship drought; the Indians last won the World Series in 1948, and the Cubs in 1908. They meet again for Game 2 on Wednesday night, also in Cleveland. Peter Weber
Megyn Kelly tells Newt Gingrich to work on his 'anger issues' after he says Kelly is 'fascinated by sex'
A testy exchange between Newt Gingrich and Megyn Kelly descended into chaos Tuesday night, ending with Kelly suggesting the former Speaker of the House work on his "anger issues."
On Tuesday night's Kelly File, Gingrich, a Donald Trump surrogate, started his segment by declaring that the media is showing bias against the Republican nominee, and he doesn't trust any of the polls. When Kelly began discussing allegations of sexual misconduct made against Trump, she started her sentence by saying, "If Trump is a sexual predator...." Gingrich jumped in: "He's not a sexual predator! You can't defend that statement!" Kelly said she was not taking a position, and Gingrich was not mollified: "I'm sick and tired of people like you using language that's inflammatory. That's not true."
Kelly told Gingrich neither one of them know if the allegations are true, and his "defensiveness on this might speak volumes." Gingrich then went on the attack, telling Kelly that if "you go back through the tapes of your show recently, you are fascinated by sex. You don't care about public policy." Kelly scoffed at Gingrich, and said the only thing she is fascinated by is the "protection of women and understanding what we're getting in the Oval Office, and I think the American voters would like to know."
That opened up a whole new path for Gingrich, who launched into a tirade against Bill Clinton and demanded that Kelly say the words "Bill Clinton sexual predator." Kelly warned Gingrich that he shouldn't summarily dismiss any of the women who have accused Trump of sexual misconduct, and said The Kelly File has reported on Bill Clinton and the accusations made against him. Clearly irritated, Kelly had the last word: "We're going to leave it at that, and you can take your anger issues and spend some time working on them." Watch the fiery back-and-forth below. Catherine Garcia
Donald Trump has a message for Vice President Joe Biden: You. Me. Behind the barn. Be there.
Last week during a Hillary Clinton rally in Pennsylvania, Biden said he was often asked by reporters if he wished he were the one debating Trump. "No," he said. "I wish we were in high school. I could take him behind the gym. That's what I wish." During a rally Tuesday night in Tallahassee, Trump mangled Biden's dream — "did you see Biden wants to take me to the back of the barn?" he asked the crowd — but agreed that he would be down to brawl. "I'd love that," he said. "Oh, some things in life you could really love doing." (It should be noted that Trump is 70 and the vice president is 73.) Trump also called Biden "Mr. Tough Guy when he's standing behind a microphone by himself."
As outrage over current and retired National Guard soldiers being told they must pay back re-enlistment bonuses they received erroneously continues to grow, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced he has put a top Pentagon official in charge of fixing the problem.
Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Times revealed that in the mid-2000s, at the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, soldiers in California were told if they re-enlisted, they would receive bonuses of more than $15,000. An audit found that many of these soldiers were not eligible for the bonuses or overpaid, and a former official was sentenced in 2012 to 30 months in federal prison after being convicted of submitting more than $15 million in false claims to the Department of Defense. The audit was finally completed last month, and the Pentagon told the affected soldiers if they didn't pay the money back immediately, they could face interest charges, wage garnishments, and tax liens. Many told the Times they were struggling to come up with the money, with some talking about selling their homes.
During a press conference in Paris on Tuesday, Carter said he was aware of the issue, and while it has "complexities to it," he has asked Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work to resolve the matter. Any person who "volunteers to serve in the armed forces of the United States deserves our gratitude and respect," Carter said. "Period." Catherine Garcia