Monday Edition: A New Trump?

Plus: Free markets have done a lot of good for the environment.

1. A New Trump?

Disciplined, restrained, relatively moderate — you could make an argument these three words apply to Donald Trump these days, at least based off of a handful of recent items in the news. (ABC News)

ABC News reporter Lalee Ibssa:

Feeling confident after last week's debate, former President Donald Trump is uncharacteristically staying out of the public eye while questions swirl about President Joe Biden's mental fitness and status of his reelection campaign.

What a Trump team source told ABC News: “We're trying something new and shutting up.”

Signs of a more moderate Trump: Over the weekend, Trump distanced himself from Project 2025, a Heritage Foundation group that’s laid out a controversial plan for staffing government with staunch conservatives, cracking down on abortion and criminalizing porn, among other goals.

Related: Earlier this year, Trump took great pains to moderate his messaging on abortion after polls showed Republicans might be vulnerable on the issue.

Also: In a recent interview with The New York Times, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon said Trump is more moderate than the broader “MAGA” movement.


I think [MAGA is] farther right on radical cuts of spending, No. 1. I think we’re much more hard-core on things like Ukraine. President Trump is a peacemaker. He wants to go in and negotiate and figure something out as a dealmaker.

I think 75 percent of our movement would want an immediate, total shutdown — not one more penny in Ukraine, and massive investigations about where the money went. On the southern border and mass deportations, I don’t think President Trump’s close to where we are. They all got to go home.

Jeffrey Tucker, president of the Brownstone Institute, a libertarian think tank:

Steven Bannon says that Trump is a moderate as compared with the cause that fuels his movement. I've said this for ten years, namely that the establishment should be grateful for him. He is far more willing to play ball rather than tear up the game.

How Trump’s perceived by his critics: The June edition of New Republic magazine features Trump in the style of a 1932 poster for Adolf Hitler’s campaign.

The New Republic

Bubba’s Two Cents

Trump's rhetoric is often more radical than his actual policies. Despite the antics, his presidency largely followed typical Republican governance. The huge, glaring exception is, of course, Jan. 6.

2. Capitalism and the Environment

Should we trust that free markets will do enough to stop climate change, or do we need to get the government involved? (Financial Times)

Financial Times chief economics commentator Martin Wolf:

Until recently, I still hoped we could be lucky: market forces (plus massive investment by China) might drive the world towards renewables fast enough. This no longer seems plausible, because the pace of the switch to renewables needs to be vastly accelerated (quite apart from the many other needed investments).

In his book, The Price is Wrong: Why Capitalism Won’t Save the Planet, Brett Christophers argues that the falling price of electricity generated by renewables does not make these an attractive investment for investors: it is profits, not marginal costs, that matter. If Christophers is right, some combination of heavy carbon taxes, long-term subsidies and changes in the design of electricity markets will be needed.

Counterpoint from West Virginia University economics professor Chris Freiman: “Market economies are doing an excellent job of reducing emissions actually.”

An Our World in Data analysis: A number of countries have managed to increase their average incomes while simultaneously reducing their CO2 emissions, suggesting capitalism can co-exist with fighting climate change.

Free market advocates, like Cato Institute senior fellow Marian Tupy, have argued that alternatives to capitalism don’t have great records when it comes to the environment.


To compensate for the inefficiency of central planning, which emanated from the lack of a market-based price mechanism, socialist economies generally ignored environmental damage and other negative externalities. … Perhaps the best example of socialist disregard for the environment can be seen in data for China.

Emissions during Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward (1958-1962) were, compared to the United States, stratospheric. They declined afterwards, but remained very high until the late 1970s, when China abandoned socialism. Since China started liberalising its economy (by introducing the price mechanism and property rights), its emissions drastically declined.

Bubba’s Two Cents

It’s become trendy on parts of the left and right to have this sort of reflexive hostility toward capitalism and free markets. My thinking on this stuff is that while no system is perfect, free markets have a pretty good track record of making life better for people. It’s not that I think capitalism is beyond criticism, but many of the arguments against it completely ignore how poorly the alternatives have fared.

3. Checking In on Grocery Prices

The supermarket is one of the places where inflation is hardest to ignore. (CBS News)

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

On the one hand: Grocery inflation has slowed, with prices falling for four consecutive months as of May, according to the Department of Labor.

  • Last week, President Biden reiterated his plan to ease the pain of grocery costs by cracking down on “price gouging,” calling on chains like Target, Walmart and Aldi to lower prices, and expanding food benefits to low-income families.

On the other hand: Grocery prices are still up about 20% since before the pandemic.

Prices: Now vs. Then

(CBS News analysis of selected items based on Bureau of Labor data)

A dozen eggs - 98% increase:

  • 2019: $1.36

  • 2024: $2.70

Frozen orange juice - 71% increase:

  • 2019: $2.45

  • 2024: $4.19

A loaf of bread - 53% increase:

  • 2019: $1.29

  • 2024: $1.97

Cookies - 53% increase:

  • 2019: $3.35

  • 2024: $5.12

Yogurt (8 ounces) - 49% increase:

  • 2019: $1.11

  • 2024: $1.66

The vibes: 80% of Americans report notable increases in grocery costs since the pandemic began, according to a recent Intuit Credit Karma survey.

  • 28% of consumers say they’ve sacrificed other necessities like rent or bills to afford groceries.

4. Youth and the American Dream

Whether you believe the American dream — success achieved through hard work and perseverance — is still possible likely comes down to how old you are. (Pew Research Center)

A new Pew Research Center survey: About half of Americans (53%) believe the American dream is still possible.

  • 41% say the American dream was once possible but isn’t anymore.

Zoom in: But there’s a big gulf on the issue between older and younger generations.

  • 68% of those 65+ and 61% of those 50-64 believe in the American dream.

  • Only 42% of adults under 50 think the American dream is still achievable.

The narrative: One common belief is that young people are more pessimistic because they face tougher economic conditions than their older counterparts.

NYU professor Scott Galloway during an MSNBC appearance earlier this year:

[Young people] look up, they see wealth — exceptional wealth — across my generation and people in certain industries, and they are really struggling. …Young people have every reason to be enraged and every issue they see, they look up, they get angry and they see someone doing better than them. And then every day it is speedballed in their face that they are failing, that they are not doing as well as everyone around them.

The reality: Some data contradicts claims from people like Galloway.

  • The average 25-year-old Gen Z-er in America has an annual household income of over $40,000, which (adjusted for inflation) is more than 50% higher than baby boomers at the same age.

  • Gen Z homeownership rates are higher than those of millennials at the same age.

  • In the average American workplace, full-time Gen Z-ers are about to outnumber full-time baby boomers.

Bubba’s Two Cents

Notice the language Galloway, who is nearly 60, uses to make his case: young people are “enraged,” they see people “doing better than them” and it’s drilled into their heads that they’re “failing.” It’s not that you can’t make an argument that there are tradeoffs between the economic conditions of yesterday and today, especially with caveats like the costs of healthcare, tuition, and housing, but a lot of the doomsaying seems rooted in self-consciousness. Relatedly, Gen Zers were brought up in the social media age and are more prone to anxiety than any other generation.

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