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  • Monday Edition: Gaslighting America

Monday Edition: Gaslighting America

Plus: Colleges have a protest problem.

1. The Gaslighting of America

Thursday night’s debate has made the media's earlier dismissal of concerns about President Biden's mental fitness look awful. (Ink Stained Wretches)

Two of Biden’s responses stand out in particular. First, on fixing the debt:

For example, we have a thousand trillionaires in America – I mean, billionaires in America. And what’s happening? They’re in a situation where they, in fact, pay 8.2 percent in taxes. If they just paid 24 percent or 25 percent, either one of those numbers, they’d raised $500 million – billion dollars, I should say, in a 10-year period.

We’d be able to right – wipe out his debt. We’d be able to help make sure that – all those things we need to do, childcare, elder care, making sure that we continue to strengthen our healthcare system, making sure that we’re able to make every single solitary person eligible for what I’ve been able to do with the COVID – excuse me, with dealing with everything we have to do with.

Look, if – we finally beat Medicare.

The second on abortion access:

Look, there’s so many young women who have been – including a young woman who just was murdered and he went to the funeral. The idea that she was murdered by – by – by an immigrant coming in and (inaudible) talk about that.

But here’s the deal, there’s a lot of young women who are being raped by their – by their in-laws, by their – by their spouses, brothers and sisters, by – just – it’s just – it’s just ridiculous. And they can do nothing about it. And they try to arrest them when they cross state lines.

How the media has covered questions about Biden’s age over the past year:

MSNBC host Joe Scarborough in March: “[Biden is] far beyond cogent. He is better than he has ever been intellectually, analytically. He is the best ever.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre in November: “I would put the president’s stamina, the president’s wisdom, ability to get this done on behalf of the American people, against anyone. Anyone, on any day of the week.”

New York Times reporter Katie Glueck a week before the debate: “Mr. Biden’s allies hope that next week’s debate will offer Americans a fuller picture of his capabilities — and a reminder of Mr. Trump’s penchant for falsehoods and outrageous statements. The videos of Mr. Biden that Republicans are pushing may also have the unintended effect of lowering expectations for his debate performance.”

How Biden’s team is currently spinning his debate performance:

  • After the debate, sources from the Biden campaign told reporters he’d been “suffering from a cold.”

  • Biden aides told Axios that between the hours of 10am and 4pm the president is “dependably engaged” but tends to fade outside of those times.

  • A post-debate email to supporters from the Biden-Harris campaign: “Yes, the debate started rough, but voters saw what a threat Donald Trump is to the country. It was more than just lying -- though he did plenty of that.”

A brutal assessment by Derek Thompson, a progressive journalist and staff writer at The Atlantic: “There’s nothing in reality for the Biden folks to point at right now: not the swing state polls, not the debate, nothing. only path forward is to attack the reality based community within the party that is reacting to real life events. humiliating.”

Contrast that with how the right wing has been covering it, with a prime example from the Washington Free Beacon’s home page that’s been that way for at least a couple years:

Bubba’s Two Cents

The New York Times getting a neuroscientist to tell the public that they should believe “experts” over what their own eyes are telling them is a wonderful parallel for what’s been happening in America for years now. But Trump’s 2016 win should have taught those at elite institutions that they can’t impose their view of the world on the public by brute force media consensus anymore. In fact, that just makes people trust you less.

Reporting — without constantly trying to minimize and mitigate — that the president’s mental faculties had worryingly declined would have been honest. But it also would have been politically damaging to Biden and (let’s not kid ourselves here) that’s a major consideration for the mainstream press when it comes to how it frames its coverage (as it is with conservative media and Trump). The funny thing is, even if it would’ve hurt the president, a world where the national reporting on Biden’s mental fitness is more accurate might be less disastrous for Democrats than the situation they currently find themselves in.

2. Less Sexy, But Very Important News

The Supreme Court struck down Chevron deference last week, and, yes, you should care. (WSJ)

What the heck is it? The Chevron doctrine, established by SCOTUS in 1984, said judges should defer to government agencies when it came to interpreting unclear laws.

  • Critics of Chevron argued that, in practice, it led to an expansion of the power of federal agencies and bureaucrats.

  • From the AP: “Federal rules impact virtually every aspect of everyday life, from the food we eat and the cars we drive to the air we breathe and homes we live in.”

Wall Street Journal reporter Jan Wolfe outlines the specific impact overturning Chevron is likely to have:

  • It will be harder for the Biden administration to bring back net neutrality, which prevents internet providers from playing favorites for sites or apps.

  • The Federal Trade Commission may face difficulties in enforcing its ban on noncompete agreements, with courts potentially limiting its regulatory authority.

  • The Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to reduce power plant emissions could be hindered, increasing the likelihood of legal battles against their regulations.

What attorney Daniel Jarcho told the Journal: “The court’s decision will unquestionably lead to more litigation challenging federal agency actions, and more losses for federal agencies.”

Bubba’s Two Cents

I agree with the WSJ Editorial Board’s response on the ruling: “the progressive impulse to defer to the rule of experts is one reason Americans are so frustrated with government.” We’ve seen what a bloated administrative state has done to healthcare and education in America. Striking a blow against this status quo is a positive development, in my book.

3. Universities Have a Protest Problem

With confidence in higher education already falling, a new study shows recent pro-Palestine campus protests have further damaged colleges’ reputations. (Inside Higher Ed)

Chart: SimpsonScarborough

A SimpsonScarborough survey:

  • 27% of undergraduate prospects report a decreased interest in attending college due to the protests, with 22% of parents saying they’re less interested in their children attending college due to the protests.

  • 37% of UG prospects and 28% of parents report a decreased trust in higher education due to the protests.

  • Protests have damaged schools’ reputations with nearly half of prospective undergraduate students.

A recent analysis by the Washington Monthly found campus protests are much more likely to take place at elite schools full of comparatively wealthy students.

Chart: Washington Monthly

A number of polls have shown the conflict between Israel and Palestine ranks low on the list of young voters’ concerns.

Bubba’s Two Cents

There’s not much to say about this other than it reflects a broader phenomenon seen in the Democratic Party and other left-leaning institutions — a relatively small, privileged fringe is holding the party captive and driving away normal people with extreme ideas.

4. More Bad News for Dems

Democrats and President Biden have appealed to voters by claiming Donald Trump is a unique threat to democracy, but the latest polling shows that might be a misguided strategy. (CBS News)

Biden in January: “Democracy is on the ballot. Your freedom is on the ballot.”

A new CBS News/YouGov poll:

Chart: CBS News

Related: Independents view Biden as the bigger threat to democracy, according to a NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from May.

Earlier this month, Axios reported that top Democratic operatives are losing faith in Biden’s reelection strategy, which focuses on Trump’s behavior and democracy.

It doesn’t get much better: CBS News’ post-debate poll found that voters are souring on Biden in other worrying ways.

  • 72% of voters believe the president lacks the cognitive health to be president, up from 65% before the debate.

  • 86% of voters cite Biden's age as their top concern.

  • 63% of voters in February 2024 thought Biden shouldn't run; this rose to 72% after the debate.

  • 42% of Democrats believe Biden shouldn't run, with 86% citing his age.

5. The Good & Bad of Milei’s Argentina in Two Charts

On the one hand, Argentine President Javier Milei has overseen some remarkable positive developments since taking office, on the other, there are still grave challenges ahead. (The Economist)

Inflation has fallen to 4.2% month-on-month, the lowest since January 2022, after Milei devalued the peso by over 50%.

  • Argentina has experienced fiscal surpluses for five consecutive months, a first since 2008, despite a severe recession and public protests.

Chart: The Economist

However, construction activity dropped by 37% year-on-year in April, and then there’s the country’s overvalued peso problem.

Chart: The Economist

The Economist:

Complicating the recovery is the overvalued peso, which is making the country unjustifiably expensive in dollar terms. The official exchange rate is currently set by the government, which also imposes capital controls. Almost all of the devaluation in December has been eroded (see chart 2). It involved initially devaluing the peso by over 50% and then by 2% each month. But monthly inflation has been greater than the crawling peg. The result is that the real effective exchange rate is rising.

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