The Catch-22 of Leaks

How do I even summarize the last few weeks? Words have failed me, so let me just share a gif:


The White House has been a tire swing on fire. Special prosecutor? Ryan maybe-but-maybe-not joking about Trump being on Putin’s payroll? Flynn and Manafort being completely, hopelessly, utterly screwed? I’m sure within two days these examples will seem quaint developments from a simpler, less chaotic time. The point is not to keep you updated on this dumpster fire. Its to point out something that ties all the developments together.

Everything we know so far is because someone with inside information called a journalist they strictly should not have. Donald Trump—sit down for this—has a point when he says there is a story in why his administration is hemorrhaging information to the press. To use Congress’s favorite word, it is “troubling” that people without authorization are fanning the flames of this scandal with leaks. That’s not how this is supposed to work.

A subtle line was crossed with the leak of the Paul Ryan tape. The transcript reveals that Paul Ryan, at best, actively considered that Trump was on the Russian payroll and thought it funny. At worst, it shows he was willfully complicit. Neither is good. But the leak is taking aim at Ryan’s domestic agenda by undercutting his Speakership. The problem is that Ryan and McConnell have been willfully ignoring the mounting evidence because it endangers their legislative master plan. We are at a precarious moment where a whistle blower has demanded the domestic agenda be put on ice to address a growing international espionage scandal.

The ethics of this, I think, are pretty straightforward. Leakers should only disrupt the domestic agenda if there is a clear and present danger to national security. The events of the past two weeks should have convinced you that the Russia collusion allegations are 1) substantive and 2) worth vetting. Trump likely got an Israeli spy killed and damaged our national security because he bragged to Russian officials about our intelligence. If the allegations of collusion are true—and the leaker may be in a position to know better than us—then Congress dragging its feet is doing real-time damage to our nation.

The Catch-22 is there is no way to be certain if it was ethical without Congress digging deep into this. If it is found that the FBI or the leaker in particular did not have solid reason to believe that there was immediate danger, this is in and of itself a scandal. But with what is public its hard to imagine that there is nothing fishy here.

Therefore, the question of leaks is fundamental. It’s not an either/or, where we should drop the investigation to find the leakers. We should immediately seek to learn why this information was being made public and make the determination if the judgement was sound. Whistle blowers should be judged on what they knew and the judgement of a reasonable person. The only way to know if this is, in the President’s words, a witch hunt is to vet the evidence.

The only way out is through.

Argument of the Week: Health Care and Dying

It’s Monday, but its hard to imagine anyone topping this: “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care”. That’s Representative Rual Labrador.

This statement is baffling. I want to respond with a spluttering, “But of course people die if they can’t access health care!” It’s a new high watermark in “post-facts” discourse. I find myself wondering how a person, let alone a member of Congress, has a sequence of thoughts and arrives at health care and being alive have nothing to do with each other.

A large fraction of the internet has informed me that if people really wanted to live, they’d get a better job. Never mind that if everyone did that, there’d be no one to work those jobs; never mind that its simply not a realistic option for some people; never mind the inherent cruelty of those positions. Those people are at least being honest with me. If you are barista or work a cash register or lost your job because Wall Street gambled too dearly, your life is not worth saving! That barbaric cruelty looks damned upstanding for its honesty next to Representative Labrador’s statement.


I own a Labrador retriever so dumb we must persuade her not to eat goose droppings. It turns out, the people of Idaho sent a dumber Labrador to Congress.

Not the dumbest Labrador in America!

They have an opportunity to correct that mistake November 6th, 2018.

Also, here is a basket of Labrador puppies, not just because they are smarter than a Representative, but because I sense we are going to need them this week.

Everything You See on the Internet Is Not True (Erectile Dysfunction Edition)


Now that I have your attention:


This is…grossly misleading, though partially true. CNN Money says that insurers “have the right to choose what counts as ‘pre-existing'”. They go to give a list from the Kaiser Foundation that has been floating around Facebook of “ailments and conditions [that] were universally used to deny people coverage”. You would be correct in noting that erectile dysfunction is not on that list, but its not because it wasn’t a preexisting condition.

A blog devoted to ED drugs* noted before the pre-existing conditions clause went into effect:

If current proposed health care reform stays in place, in 2014, this won’t matter. But until then, the answer is, it depends. Mostly it depends on what the insurance company considers a preexisting condition and what they will or will not cover. Also, most insurance companies use a certain formula or logarithm to determine eligibility. They may look at your medical history to see what conditions you have been diagnosed with, what you’ve been treated for, what medications you’ve taken, etc. Compounding this is the fact that erectile dysfunction is usually not a standalone issue, but a symptom of another underlying condition, physical or psychological, like diabetes or clinical depression, and that is more likely to be what the insurance company will be looking at as far as preexisting conditions go.

ED and its causes (many of which are on CNN’s list) were preexisting conditions, and ED treatments weren’t and still aren’t covered in many cases anyway. If you have diabetes and that causes ED, they can deny you coverage for your ED medication as a “preexisting condition” as long as their rules are clear, so ED shows up here as an implication. It’s possible to squint and add a bunch of caveats that make this meme “true”, but I think the implication, that ED is usually covered but complications from sexual assault aren’t if you buy insurance after the fact is false.

And there is no reason to cling to this! To find examples of institutional sexism in health care look no further than AHCA! Planned Parenthood defunding is just that. This murky example, largely anchored on a misunderstanding, looks washed out next to PP’s loss of funds.

So please, outraged citizens, direct your rage at the actual problem here: that both ED and treatment for complications from sexual assault will be denied as preexisting conditions if the House GOP has their way.

*I too wondered PDE5guy kept a blog about Viagra and Cialis for years, but, hey! If there is one thing 2017 is teaching us, it is that the world is weirder than we thought.

Why Yes, I’ll Trash Paul Ryan Even More

The great problem before The Speaker of the House was this: His membership wanted a healthcare bill that was more conservative than what would pass the Senate. His challenge was to reach a compromise.

Which was hard and Paul Ryan doesn’t work hard so he didn’t.


Here’s the thing about the version of AHCA that just passed out of the House. The Senate hates it. The first group of people Paul Ryan wrote off in creating the legislation was Senate Democrats; using the reconciliation process they need only 50 votes and the Vice President to pass it. With 52 GOP Senators, 3 defections kills the bill so its a narrow path to walk.

So what did Paul Ryan put in the bill to sweeten the deal for his folks? Well, for starters, it defunds Planned Parenthood, a non-starter for the two pro-choice Republicans. It also added the much vaunted Upton Amendment, which, and I’m only exaggerating a little, offers peanuts to people with preexisting conditions. That may have been good enough in House, but several Senators have said that the issue needs properly dealt with. It also stripped out help for the opioid crisis—I don’t have a clue why that was popular in the House either—and has given Rob Portman cause to signal no. In fact, the theme from the Senate seems to be, “That’s nice, but, uh, we’re writing our own.”

And a big blow to the bill is coming. When Democrats passed Obamacare, they had every amendment scored by the CBO before voting. While they were accused of not reading the bill (and it was literally true), they carefully weighed and studied each part trying to get it to work. Ryan intentionally rammed this bill through before the CBO could comment on it because it is going to tear the bill to shreds. Most policy experts think the amendments made the bill worse from a deficit standpoint, which will make this even more unattractive in the House, and will increase the number of uninsured people. Pelosi claimed on the floor, and I’m not going to contradict her, that the pitch the GOP made was the Senate would fix that. But then they would send it back to the House—presumably with changes to make it less popular among the very people who narrowly passed it in the first place, thus endangering the coalition that now knew how bad it was.

Let’s review. To make the bill palatable, the Speaker put in several provisions that are DOA in the Senate. He did this without checking with the CBO because he knew that would be bad news. On the off chance the Senate does pick it up—and they say they won’t—any changes to make them accept it endanger the coalition that passed it in the first place.

One arrives at the inescapable conclusion: this is a photo op, proof of life for Ryan’s Speakership. As long as this is rotting in committee, Ryan can tell his caucus that they passed something, that its the dastardly Senate’s fault that nothing happened. And his caucus was stupid enough to go along with it in the first place, so who knows, maybe they will buy it. They got a beer and front page pictures with Trump, after all.

But man, this is a garbage legislative gambit that is already failing.

Why Is Eugenics Still Worth Debating???

To hear the press—and especially the conservative press—tell it, Charles Murray is an embattled conservative whose ideas can get no quarter because the liberal elite hate them. His difficulties at speaking events are a product of a campus atmosphere hostile to “free speech”. This is part of a worrying rise in anti-intellectualism on the left.

The problem with all that? Charles Murray’s ideas are garbage.


The Southern Poverty Law Center details Murray as someone who is on the intellectual fringe. The linked piece establishes that Murray relies on, in their words, tainted sources. His theory relies on “dysgenesis”, an idea that was on its last legs when my grandparents were in high school. Essentially, having children with “inferior” races will lead to a breakdown in the welfare system as the pressures created by the “regression” of the gene pool lead to too few people supporting the victims of dysgenesis. There are a bunch of problems with both the assumptions and methodology of his research, not to mention that the logical conclusion of this work is another Holocaust. Make no mistake, the foundation of Murray’s work are uncontroversially pseudo-science.

At this point Murray’s defenders like to trot out a Voltaire quote, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Even taken out of context, Murray’s right to make these assertions is not in question. In context, these are not Voltaire’s words. A historian summarized summarized Voltaire’s position on a controversial book that way. The book faced formal censorship by the government and church culminating in a book burning and, ironically, Voltaire felt the work was unoriginal and not worth all the fuss. As near as I can tell, the Federal Government is not looking to burn to burn Murray’s work, but I admit I did not check.

Indeed, the preoccupation of the much-vaunted Enlightenment folks was with government intrusion. In the American context, we have erected a strong framework opposing Federal and State intervention against most speech; Congress may not pass a law preventing Murray from spreading his pseudo-science. There is a wrinkle when talking about public institutions of higher learning, which after all derive their authority from popular election. Courts have held (in my view, correctly) that institutions have the right to limit who has access to a platform, but must provide a public space for all views. In other words, Murray is not legally entitled to a stage, but he can go stand next to the Evangelists and hawk his outmoded “science”. Can you imagine the chaos if we were all entitled to speak at any public university we chose!

The second broad line of objection is that the best way to defeat ideas is by meeting them head on. I demur a bit to the broad point; suppression by Universities hardly serves the purpose of intellectual foment. But does giving charlatans a stage serve that goal either? Students, even those giving a more clunky objection to Murray than I, are not calling to ban critical engagement with Murray’s work. Giving people the chance to speak in a forum that limits questions, like a speech at a university, works fine if the ideas are prima facie defensible. Who, besides Murray and the literal neo-Nazi outfits who fund him, is asserting that Eugenics still deserves a careful public hearing? What, precisely, is Murray offering that one could not find in a history text?

The best way to critically engage with debunked, half a century old science is not to treat it as a cutting edge theory which deserves to have its contours fleshed out. Murray’s ideas aren’t being dismissed for lack of engagement, but because experts concluded the preponderance of the evidence came down against a generation ago. Murray’s baldly false assertion that “most” experts agree with his premise should be enough to disqualify him from University speaking engagements. It is bad enough that his science is trash, but he is flatly lying about his colleagues’ positions to worm his way onto campus. Courts have a high standard for retrying legal cases, as do academics for intellectual ones and for the same reason: these debates are time consuming. Those interested in retrying Eugenics should have to prove that the field has something new to offer. Murray’s lies reveal that he does not think he can meet that burden.

Ironically, it is those who would shoehorn Murray onto the stage who are showing the most wanton disregard for the goals of the academy. Voltaire and his cohort correctly worried that the whims of popular pressure would bring the force of the state against them. Today, conservative commentators worry that an idea that only lives in the popular imagination is not being forced into the academy.

Is this the current state of conservative intellectualism? That they give quarter to any idea, no matter how plainly indefensible, so long as it opposes the welfare state? I hope not! Conservative ideas like Burkean anti-radicalism, Hayek’s information problem, and Hicks’s marginalism temper my progressive values. I am a better, more well-rounded critic because conservatives have historically offered a vibrant response to the liberals of their time. But rather than looking critically at Murray’s ideas and acknowledging they come up short on the burden of proof, they are openly worried that Murray is not being paid to shill yesterday’s junk science. When liberals pull the tricks Murray does—pulling on outdated methodology or claiming a consensus that does not exist—I use this platform to write them a cease-and-desist letter. I do so because I am genuinely worried that poor discourse hurts our understanding of the world. Can conservatives defending Murray say the same?

Murray’s speech rights are not under siege. As far as I know, there is no credible threat to his right to propound these ideas. What is under siege is his lucrative deception that his ideas are scientifically debatable; they are not.

And so, we should not debate them.

A Venezuelan Inflation Addendum

Sometimes the news dovetails with my blog.

Yesterday, I responded a Benjamin Studebaker piece where he argued, in my view, unpersuasively that the left can organize to overcome some fundamental problems in Europe’s periphery. While much of my response dealt with inflation, for the sake of length, I emphasized the havoc a “Grexit” would cause for government programs. Regrettably, I had to give short shrift to the effect inflation has on labor.

Enter Venezuela! Yesterday, enormous protests erupted against the embattled Maduro government. Under Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, the government began pursuing the kind of communist policies that were, frankly, a throwback in the 1970s. The effects of the price controls and crackdowns have been at turns humorous and horrific. Humorous: The country ran out of toilet paper a few times. Horrific: Caracas has the highest murder rate in the world as gangs try to secure food to sell on the black market. Driving all this is acceleration inflation, which is making everyone poorer. Even if you want to hose the investment class, rapid inflation is deeply anti-labor.


To get some idea why Venezuela’s policies are accidentally anti-labor, one must only look to their minimum wage. In 2016, the Maduro government raised the minimum wage 322%; in US terms, that would take the wage from $7.50 to $23.35. During that same time, however, the price of goods went up by 800%. That means that $7.50 in goods would then cost $58. People making the minimum wage in Venezuela could only buy 40% of what they could at the start of the year even after the wage hikes. That’s equivalent to slashing the minimum wage to $2.90 in the US.

The Maduro government has taken the position that it is because of, “economic war and mafia attacks”. Even if you are inclined to swallow these half truths uncritically, you must wonder why the Maduro government has failed so spectacularly at trade (mismanagement of public companies) and the mafia is thriving (nothing feeds a black market like price controls). And let’s not pull the punch: The government is exaggerating much of the narrative to dodge responsibility.

While my post yesterday focused on the problems inflation causes for government financing and the argument I was responding to looked exclusively at its effects on the investor class, the lesson here is that inflation erodes labor’s standing pretty dramatically. I looked at the minimum wage because that is an unambiguous statistic, but in many ways it is missing the point. Estimating real wages during dramatic inflation is difficult because it is a moving target. We can safely say those who were working above the minimum have almost certainly not seen a raise for awhile and the erosion of the value of their labor is even greater than the government’s actions on the minimum wage.

This isn’t a question of class warfare. Its a question of not cutting off you nose to spite your face.

As in Everything, Trade-Offs in Europe

Benjamin Studebaker has published a piece that is an object lessen in wishful thinking. He posits, in short, that if the left in Europe commits to strategically reforming the EU’s institutions then we can solve the problem in Greece. It lays the blame at the steps of core banks without critically engaging with the fundamental economics that drove the periphery to those banks. It is not so much that he’s wrong that those core banks played a role, but rather that his effort refuses to engage with the steep trade offs imposed by economic realities.

Too Neat a Tale

Consider first his analysis of the vicious cycle of debt Europe finds itself in:

It’s clear that the EU, as constructed, is not working for the countries in the periphery—places like Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. In the 2000’s, these countries became export dumps for the core countries, particularly Germany. German companies used the periphery export markets to get rich, and German banks lent money to the periphery economies to enable them to pay for German goods. This produced a sick feedback loop in which Germany lent money to the periphery so that the periphery could continue to buy German goods so that German companies could continue to generate profit which they then put into the German banks and which the German banks then loaned to the periphery so that it could buy more goods so that German companies could make more profit and so on and so forth.


While I agree there is truth to this story, it is a little too neat. German banks did not lend money to a passive Greek government. Greece fought to enter that lending market and, lest we forget, cooked the books to get access to both the money and a lower interest rate. An account that picks up with German companies benefiting enormously from having a competitive advantage that Greek officials successfully hid from them obscures that Greece removed the safeguards that would have protected their markets. Be careful of telling too neat a tale in the core’s favor, though; the core adhered to the letter, but not the spirit, of those safeguards and I suspect wishful (though, not predatory) thinking was under that. Regardless, that the core bought their dishonest accounting is not equivalent in culpability to the original lie.

And why did Greek officials do this? Studebaker’s account and diagram elides that as well, but it was to expand government spending. I support a robust safety net, so make no mistake: this is not a morality play about how gutting services is justice for the Greek people. But a more careful accounting of the Greek crisis shows that Greek officials were the primary architects of a system they initially benefited from. It also reveals that Greece faces a fundamental tradeoff that a Grexit cannot alleviate, though we’ll see there is a surprising, political case for Grexit. But first, the obvious question:

Why The Euro?

All countries face a pretty simple tradeoff, captured by something called the Phillip’s curve. The Phillip’s curve says that the more countries try to tamp down on inflation, the more unemployment will rise. This makes an intuitive sort of sense, though there is no completely uncontroversial explanation for the finer points of the relationship. Governments which spend more will drive up prices by competing with consumers for goods, but the stimulus will employ people and vice versa. While the quality of the tradeoff is pretty much universal, the quantity tends to change over time and between countries. The difference between the Drachma era and the Euro era is striking:


Joining the Euro’s integrated market lowered the barriers to international debt finance; more people had an easier time bidding on Greek debt. More bidders means a lower price and, in turn, a lower price on debt means lower inflation. This was further compounded by the fact that core banks believed that Greek debt was safer than it was. That same lie suggested that the trade imbalance should not have ballooned the way it did, and the economic history here is that at first it didn’t. It wasn’t until it became clear that Greece cooked the books that their current account collapsed:


There are two stylized fact here:

  1. The benefit of the Drachma is that it protects against deep current account imbalances. The downside is that it makes financing the government much more expensive.
  2. The benefit of the Euro is that it offers cheap financing for government programs, but that debt often returns as GDP-sapping imports.

Again, I’m not placing government debt at the center of this story as a morality play. I’m doing so because government spending and social programs are key to understanding Greek finances and motivations as well as German exporting. The Greek government could have unilaterally reduced imports by cutting social programs; they implicitly did the opposite by entering the European market and increasing their debt load. And this deeply undercuts Studebaker’s thesis.

Before I address that, there is one other thing I need to address that does not fit neatly into this narrative.

Absolution for Whom?

There is a proposal, casually thrown out, that also needs addressed:

Federal institutions can wipe out the debt of the periphery and create new European regulations to ensure nothing like this ever happens again.

Yeah, no, they cannot. From the data here (PDF), European banking equity is about 180 Billion Euros. Greek debt alone is 350 Billion Euros. Doing this by fiat would would bankrupt the banking system and throw Europe back 800 years. It is not an option.

Buying out the debt, just writing off the enormous political undertaking that would be, would have deep, second-order problems. A quick estimate suggests peripheral debt represents about 29% of the GDP of the EU. (Spain and Italy are the bigger problem in nominal terms, but Greece has a much more beleaguered economy because GDP and population are much lower.) For perspective here, government spending in Britain is 40% of the UK’s GDP. If we allow this take 6 years and all countries make a contribution proportional to their GDP, this program would require a tax hike of 12% added to the current tax bill provided there are no negative effects from the tax. Accomplishing this in a single year would require a 75% increase in the tax rate, clearly unfeasible. To keep taxes below 5% for the UK will require at least 15 years and 2% requires more than 36.

Large scale debt forgiveness programs, be they by decree or payment are simply enormous undertakings.

Constrained Goals

With this all in mind, we turn our attention to the political coalition Studebaker proposes. It is a fairy tale as it requires both the core and periphery to shoot themselves in the foot.

Grexit would, admittedly, help Greece maintain austerity but as a pitch for the left to rally around it comes up wanting. The case for it is cynical: if the core is unlikely to reduce the austerity burden, the best way to make austerity less bitter is to dump the Euro. (Under the Drachma, 2% inflation, like we’re seeing now, corresponded to a third the unemployment rate. Some transition costs may apply.) But it requires giving up the goal of expansive services which, frankly, I do not see the left agreeing to that. Contrast Studebaker:

The European Union in its current form is much better for the core countries than for the periphery. It’s especially good for Germany, and it’s especially good for rich Germans. They need the periphery to be in the EU so that it can continue to serve as Germany’s export market. But this is not sustainable–it imposes too much suffering on the poor and working people of the periphery. These people are right to reject this exploitation, and by rejecting it they will put a tremendous amount of pressure on Germany and on the rest of the core to find a political and institutional solution which alleviates their grievances.

The flaw here is that the problem is not “exploitation” in any straightforward sense of the word. Even ignoring the considerable problem of existing debt, the fundamental trade off between financing government services and Greek employment is not, ultimately, a question of German banking. While I have demonstrated that the institution of the Euro has a profound impact on the slope of that trade off, none of the options Studebaker puts on the table overcomes it—nor could they. The periphery, by construction, can only have their cake and eat it too if the core agrees to a catastrophe. Again, Studebaker:

At the same time, by supporting federalism and integration, the left in the core can help develop and prepare the ground for the kind of solutions which can genuinely help the periphery. If the left in the core aids and abets the right, then the response to exits and exit demands from the periphery will simply be disintegration. The left must keep the core countries firmly committed to the European project so that they will not just accept the exit of the periphery and it must build support in the core for the Europe of the future. If the right in the core chooses to support exit and the left chooses to support institutional improvements, the center will have to ally with the left to prevent disintegration. The center must be forced to choose between an end to the euro and the common market and the creation of a new European economic compact in which the center makes concessions to workers and the poor in exchange for continued openness within Europe.

Here again, the economic details of his proposal are at odds with his goals. Asking the core to bear the incredible economic cost of paying down peripheral debt (I presume he would agree bankrupting Europe is not an option?), strikes me as a political non-starter. Germany has a growth rate of 1.2% per year; the steep increases in taxes I estimated above would wipe out any benefits of keeping the Common Market here. This is definitely a case where an honest accounting of the plan by the left should drive the center into the open arms of the populist right. Given the strict choice between the proposal to wipe the debt or let the EU disintegrate, you would be hard pressed to convince me to wipe the debt. We’re talking a major decrease in national wealth to pay for what was, essentially, fraud. Note, this is not an appeal to “mere politics”, but an account of how a majority of informed voters would be expected to reject this. With that in mind:

This will only work if the exit threat in the periphery is genuine. Germany called SYRIZA’s bluff–SYRIZA wasn’t really willing to ditch the Euro and leave the union. It wasn’t willing to reintroduce the drachma and expose rich Greeks to the inflation that would come along with that. The political movements in the periphery must do more than talk about exit, they must be willing to carry it out if necessary. In this way we can partner the integrationist and protectionist lefts together–by pairing a genuine threat of exit in the periphery with a strong push for federalism in the core, we can split the neoliberals off from the right nationalists in the core countries and force them into making concessions. What the left needs is a good cop, bad cop routine, where the British, French, Dutch, and German leftists are the good cops and the Greek, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese leftists are the bad cops.

Insofar as “neoliberal” is a real thing (and it isn’t), I seem to be one. And if there is one thing I have noticed when neoliberals are invoked, it is because “we” have raised the issue that there is some sort of constraint—usually economic. But if “we” really understood the politics or facts or weren’t so blinkered by our corporate allegiances, “we” would support a truer form of progressivism. But I submit that in light of the evidence, SYRIZA let the bluff be called because they were not prepared for a post-Euro Greece. The status quo is not good, but giving up the Euro means giving up on any chance to finance social services for a generation. I would have advised that ship has sailed, but holding out for a better deal with more services as debt stabilizes in Greece is a defensible course for the left.

The Power of Wishful Thinking

This is a mode I see regrettably often on the left. Studebaker has a very clear set of goals here: the ascendance of the left, expansive social services, and an integrated core in Europe. There is nothing wrong with having a set of goals unmoored from what is possible; incidentally, I share this trinity. Despite being a curmudgeon about proof, I support left wing policy goals and economic integration. But too often, I see a set of goals proposed and the argument that a suitable political coalition can erase the trade offs. But, that is profoundly out of touch with reality.

What I find wanting in Studebaker’s analysis, both here and elsewhere, is the gratuitous hand-waving. Even without my detailing of the Phillip’s curve above, his proposal is, at its heart, to create government agencies that get what he wants. (“We need stronger European institutions that can step in and prevent any European state from exploiting any other”.) I understand quite intimately the challenge of blogging is that fleshing out those ideas to a high standard is difficult, but there is a galling hubris in presuming one can make debt equal to nearly a third of the EU’s GDP disappear by giving more power to the EU Parliament. Is the EU going to abolish double entry accounting? The proposal to just waive all that debt is, without hyperbole, not wholly different. The idea that the government might be able to change the Phillip’s curve dramatically is less of a sin only by comparison. Changes at the Central Banks are among the few that can, and even then within a pretty narrow range of options.

The basic lesson of economics is that in everything are trade offs. Government financing only works if interest rates are low; inflating away debt is a terrible way to ensure continuity of government services in a country that is struggling to make ends meet. But, with low interest rates, comes high unemployment precisely because you have to hack back at services to achieve it. This isn’t a failure by SYRZIA and core parties to organize. It’s basic opportunity cost.

And so long as the left is unwilling to admit they have to give things up to reach some of their goals, they will struggle to build potent coalitions with those who take governance seriously.