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March 27, 2014

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."

Erickson contends that: "[Yglesias] tries to explain the National Debt and out of the gate begins with a lie. He claims the national debt is $5 trillion less than the U.S. Treasury says it is."

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

March 22, 2019

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report is here, and pretty much no one knows what's in it.

The Justice Department announced Friday that Mueller had finished his investigation into potential ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian election interference. And within minutes, even the most unexpected lawmakers started calling for Attorney General William Barr to release it to the public.

First up came a wave of Democratic voices. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a joint call for public report, while 2020 candidates chimed in with some variation on the theme. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also surprisingly called for a public release, saying it was needed to "put an end to the speculation and innuendo that has loomed over the administration."

Those calls reflected a 420-0 House vote last week on a non-binding resolution to make the report public. Heck, even Trump said Tuesday that he wouldn't mind if Congress saw what Mueller had to say. But there's still one major holdout: Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). In his Friday statement, Graham reflected Barr's language in simply calling for "as much transparency as possible, consistent with the law." Graham also blocked the House's popular resolution from a vote in the Senate earlier this week.

Grassley did pointedly note Friday that he was in Graham's committee position just last year — perhaps something he's regretting giving up right about now. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 22, 2019

A senior Justice Department official said Friday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller will not recommend any further indictments, ABC News reports.

Mueller, whose inquiry into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian election interference was completed late Friday afternoon, had issued indictments for more than three dozen individuals over the nearly two-year investigation, including for former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

While the lack of new indictments may come as a disappointment to those who saw Mueller's report as a potentially crippling blow to the Trump administration, it is still unclear what the completed report contains — and NBC News notes that evidence uncovered by the special counsel's probe could be used in other investigations, like in the Southern District of New York. But the spectacle of former Trump associates being led into court as a result of Mueller's investigation appears to have come to an end. Jacob Lambert

March 22, 2019

Although Special Counsel Robert Mueller missed his chance to deliver his report to Attorney General William Barr on the Ides of March, he picked another significant date to finish the long-awaited conclusion.

On March 22, 1973, a conversation between former President Richard Nixon and his former attorney general, John Mitchell, was recorded — a conversation that was later used to indict Mitchell on charges of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury for his role in the attempted cover-up of the Watergate scandal of 1972. In this recording, Nixon can be heard instructing Mitchell to "stonewall" the ongoing Watergate trial and "save the plan."

Comparisons between Presidents Nixon and Trump have been endlessly drawn since Trump assumed office in 2017, which makes this historical coincidence particularly noticeable. But we won't know if a conspiracy on the scale of Nixon's has occurred in the Trump White House unless the conclusions of Mueller report are made public — which could happen as soon as this weekend.

Read the full transcript of the Nixon tape in question here, or listen to all of the tapes played during the Watergate trial here, courtesy of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Shivani Ishwar

March 22, 2019

News that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had submitted his final report to the Justice Department on Friday fueled speculation that President Trump could be in for a very rough weekend, but several pundits weren't so sure.

While Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) warned that the Democratic-controlled House has "subpoena power" and promised "the American people will see every word, every comma, every period" of the report on whether the Trump campaign was involved with Russian election interference, but CNN analyst Jeffrey Toobin thought eager viewers should cool their jets.

While Attorney General William Barr wrote that he could brief Congress on the report's conclusions "as soon as this weekend," Toobin said that if he does share the findings, "it's going to take a while," not come within days. Several agencies will have to weigh in on whether aspects of the report can be declassified, said Toobin, though he acknowledged the process was going quicker than he expected.

Toobin also asserted that Mueller was "never told no" during his investigation, something ABC News' Terry Moran agreed with, saying Mueller had "free reign" and still opted not to bring any more charges against Trump campaign officials. However, Moran said "it's possible that we will learn a conclusion, the broad conclusion, very quickly," suggesting no further indictments and a completed investigation will speak for themselves, forming a de facto "no collusion" conclusion. Summer Meza

March 22, 2019

The White House heard the news approximately 30 seconds before the rest of the world.

Right around 5 p.m. EST Friday, the Department of Justice announced Special Counsel Robert Mueller had finished his investigation into potential ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian election interference. The White House reportedly heard the news only a few minutes before the announcement — and this reaction from President Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani seems to prove it.

As speculation mounted throughout the day that Mueller had finished his report, Giuliani delightfully told The Washington Post that all this hype was "like waiting for a baby." He also added that Trump's team was "not expecting" further indictments from the report. Yet as the first report surfaced confirming the rumors were true, Giuliani appeared shocked, telling The Hill "I can't believe they'd put out a report at 5 o'clock on a Friday — but they've surprised me before." He and fellow Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow then issued a full statement.

The White House also followed up the news with a statement of its own, confirming that the White House did not get to look at Mueller's report before its completion.

Meanwhile, officials who've talked with Trump tell ABC News that he's just "glad it's over." Kathryn Krawczyk

March 22, 2019

We knew this day would come.

Supernatural stars Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins announced on Friday via Instagram that the show will come to an end after its 15th season. From their red eyes, it was clear the three actors had been crying over the news — which they had just broken to the crew before taking to social media.

"Well, it's official. One more round for the Winchester brothers," Padalecki wrote in his instagram caption. "Though nothing ever really ends in Supernatural ... does it?"

The series is currently in its 14th season and recently celebrated its 300th episode in November, reports E! News. Supernatural was renewed for a 15th season at the beginning of the year with no hint of the show ending soon, but after 20 episodes in the next season, it'll all be over.

"For us it has been an experience of a lifetime," said executive producers Robert Singer and Andrew Dabb in a joint statement. "It is now most important to us to give these characters that we love the send off they deserve."

Saying goodbye is never an easy task. But with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, is it really goodbye? Amari Pollard

Amari Pollard

March 22, 2019

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finished his report, but hardly anyone knows what's in it.

The Department of Justice announced Friday afternoon that Mueller had finished his investigation into potential ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian election interference. Attorney General William Barr similarly told the House and Senate Judiciary committees he had received the report Friday — and said he might tell them what's in it "as soon as this weekend."

In a letter to the committees on Friday, Barr said that Mueller faced "no such instances" where he was blocked from taking an action he wanted to pursue. There had been concerns that President Trump would not submit to in-person questioning by Mueller, but if this was something Mueller attempted, it was seemingly not blocked.

"Only a few people" have seen the report so far, a Department of Justice official told CNN's Shimon Prokupecz after its conclusion. Barr has refused to commit to releasing the whole report to the public or even to Congress, but he said in his Friday letter that he may have Mueller's "principle conclusions" ready for the judiciary committee "as soon as this weekend." Barr continued to say that he would "consult with" Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein "to determine what other information can be released to Congress and the public," and added that he "remain[s] committed to as much transparency as possible."

Read Barr's whole letter to Congress below. Kathryn Krawczyk

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