• No Need to Worry About Goldman Sachs During the Pandemic

    Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images via ZUMA

    You may have lost your job thanks to COVID-19. Or maybe you’ve drained your savings. That’s a shame, but I have some good news to take the sting out of your misfortune: Wall Street is still doing fine. Goldman Sachs earned nearly $4 billion in its most recent quarter:

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s third-quarter profit nearly doubled, the latest confirmation that, even in a pandemic and a recession, Wall Street can still make money….Worries that the coronavirus would rival 2008 as a threat to the U.S. financial system have subsided for now. Banks’ trading fees have surged. Bond investors’ appetite has allowed companies that borrowed billions from banks in emergency loans this spring to pay them back. Big corporate bankruptcies have leveled off.

    ….Goldman has had a relatively easy crisis so far. Efforts by the Federal Reserve to support markets have allowed the firm to move loans off its books and reap fees by buying and selling securities.

    In fairness to the Fed, they may have helped Goldman but they’ve also tried to help the rest of us by appealing to Congress to pass a coronavirus aid/stimulus package. Congress hasn’t done it yet, but that’s only because Republican dedication to screwing the working class outweighs even its own sense of self-preservation.

  • Biden’s Tax Plan Does Exactly What Biden Says It Does

    Joe Biden has promised that his tax plan won’t raise taxes for anyone making less than $400,000. The conservative American Enterprise Institute decided to take a look at that and see if it was true. It is:

    In 2021, everyone under $400,000 pays lower taxes, while the top 1 percent pays about $100,000 more in taxes. By 2030, every income group pays slightly higher taxes (about $50 per year at the median) while the top 1 percent pays $134,000 more.

    The effect of all this on economic growth is essentially zero. AEI estimates that Biden’s plan would produce a minuscule reduction in GDP over its first decade and a minuscule increase in GDP during its second decade.

    In other words, Biden has told the truth about his tax plan. How refreshing and unusual in the Trump era.

  • Coronavirus Growth in Western Countries: October 13 Update

    Here’s the coronavirus death toll through October 13. The raw data from Johns Hopkins is here.

    With the caveat that it’s still too early to say anything definitive, it’s feels worth pointing out that the jury is still out on the Swedish experiment. Their overall death rate was high during the first surge of the coronavirus, but as other countries are starting to see a second surge Sweden has stayed consistently at near zero for more than two months now. Germany remains the role model to emulate, but it’s possible that the Swedish approach still has something to teach us. However, it will be several more months before we can say anything for sure.

  • Bill Barr Buries Report That Exonerates Obama

    Shane T. Mccoy via ZUMA

    In the pantheon of Republican pseudo-scandals, “unmasking” has always been one of the dumbest. National security officials routinely ask the intelligence community to “unmask” names that have been redacted in raw reports so they can get a better idea of who’s doing what to whom, and the Obama administration did this just like every other administration. Republicans, however, have insisted for years that Susan Rice and others used unmasking requests as cover for a campaign against Michael Flynn, and naturally they demanded an investigation. Just as naturally, Bill Barr gave them what they wanted.

    Sadly for Republicans, the investigation turned up nothing. That’s not surprising, and neither is this:

    Bash’s team was focused not just on unmasking, but also on whether Obama-era officials provided information to reporters, according to people familiar with the probe, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation. But the findings ultimately turned over to Barr fell short of what Trump and others might have hoped, and the attorney general’s office elected not to release them publicly, the people familiar with the matter said. The Washington Post was unable to review the full results of what Bash found.

    The investigation basically exonerated the Obama team and probably would have hurt Donald Trump’s reelection, so Barr decided to keep it under wraps. This is how the Justice Department works these days: it’s a PR shop for Donald Trump, not an independent agency serving the best interests of the American public. Hopefully that will change in a few months.

  • Congratulations, NBA

    Avishek Das/SOPA Images via ZUMA

    Apropos of nothing in particular, I want to congratulate the NBA. They were the first pro sports league to shut down over the coronavirus pandemic, which was instrumental in helping to shock people into believing it was real. Then, when they restarted play, they put together a complex and wearying “bubble” in Florida that successfully prevented even a single player from becoming infected. And through it all, they allowed their players to use the second half of the season to fight for social justice both on the court and off.

    I don’t know what their motivations were for all of these things. Maybe they were righteous, maybe they weren’t—though NBA commissioner Adam Silver has certainly said all the right things. But it doesn’t really matter. One way or another, they ended up doing the right thing and setting an example for everyone else to try to follow. They deserve kudos for figuring how to do the right thing on the fly, under trying circumstances.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    A couple of months ago I put up a picture of Saddleback, a pair of mountains that form the backdrop for most of my part of Orange County. However, it was a panoramic view that didn’t give a good sense of the way that Saddleback sort of looms over everything around here, and I promised to put up a better picture eventually. Well, today’s the day, with this photo taken at a fairly normal focal length and showing Saddleback with some office buildings in front of it. This is the more common view of Saddleback, though it’s usually a little hazier than it is in this picture.

    September 29, 2020 — Irvine, California
  • It’s Time to Pass a Coronavirus Bill. Let’s Get On With It.

    I am very much in favor of compromising with Republicans and passing a coronavirus aid package. The strongest pushback I’ve gotten over this has been from fellow liberals who argue that it might help Donald Trump. It also might help a few Republican senators who are on the edge of defeat. If winning control of the presidency and flipping the Senate are the top items on the progressive agenda right now, then anything that endangers it, no matter how important, needs to be put off. It’s just too risky.

    This is all true. I accept it. Except for one thing: it’s our last chance to help people who have been devastated by the coronavirus shutdowns and are likely to be even more devastated when the winter surge gets going. If Joe Biden wins the election, as seems likely, Republicans will steadfastly refuse to pass anything. Period. Nobody will ever get any assistance of any kind.

    This is a perennial liberal weakness, but there you have it: I can’t abide the thought of making people suffer over political gamesmanship. This probably means I’m willing to settle for a bit less than the most hard-nosed negotiation would produce, but in a case like this that doesn’t bother me. Time is running short, and holding out over the gain or loss of an additional 10 percent in the HEROES Act—or a few minor regulations about how the money is spent—is just too dicey for me to accept.

    Nobody will thank us for this. Most voters will never even realize that liberals are responsible for there being any assistance at all. If anything, it will probably help Republicans slightly. That’s a bitter pill to swallow, but this is the business we’ve chosen. Let’s get on with it.