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Inherited bank liability, my beef with Ron DeSantis, and George Packer's theory of history
I don’t want to say that I favor the world becoming embroiled in bank failures and financial crises, but it does kind of make me feel young again. Beyond that, I think a lot of prominent politics Substacks have taken on a fair amount of unhedged culture war risk. Part of Slow Boring’s business model is that we’re able to discuss bank regulation and competition policy and welfare state design alongside the cultural controversies of the Trump era. This mailbag’s got a little bit of everything.
But first some positivity: Seniors are getting cheaper prescription drugs, we’re seeing important breakthroughs in donkey science (okay, maybe not so important… but interesting) and maybe on superconducting. I know there is some anxiety over a Chinese diplomatic achievement, but I have to think a Saudi-Iranian rapprochement is good for the world. Ratings for the Oscars went up 12% and a good movie that a lot of people actually saw won — good news for culture!
Shoshanna O’Keefe: Sorry if you've already covered this — I bet you have. But, as a contrarian, what are your arguments *in favor of* daylight savings?
I will say my most contrarian view of all is that I don’t personally have any strong preference about the time. Nothing is stopping you or anyone else from changing when you go to bed or when you set your alarm clock, and I honestly don’t care whether it’s light out or night.
But the strongest objective case for DST that I’m aware of is it reduces crime because light deters crime and people who commit crimes are not generally early risers.
Joe Byrnes: Am I right to sense that the media feels completely comfortably lying about whatever bullshit DeSantis is up to? For instance, with the recent AP course on black history getting pulled back and modified, I listed to a very long NPR piece about how DeSantis doesn't want students to learn that Black people exist and that slavery was bad. That's an absolutely insane take that was treated as straight reporting. I get that he sucks but shouldn't it be the voters job to decide? I feel journalists shouldn't exaggerate so much to make him look bad.
I try to tune out most media coverage of Ron DeSantis because it’s overwhelmingly focused on things that I don’t think are interesting or important — I know there was a controversy about AP tests but I sincerely didn’t read any of the stories and have no idea what the facts are.
What I do hear frequently (and think is correct) is that a lot of people on the left are afraid of DeSantis, and I personally am one of the people who is afraid of DeSantis. During his career as a House member, he voted multiple times to privatize Medicare while cutting benefits, voiced support for privatizing Social Security, and backed huge across-the-board cuts in government spending on programs for poor people. He voted for the 2018 bank deregulation that contributed to the Silicon Valley Bank fiasco, and he voted for a much more radical bank deregulation bill that mercifully didn’t pass the Senate. He voted to roll back the Affordable Care Act’s regulatory protections for people with pre-existing conditions and to eliminate the ACA marketplaces that make it possible for us to run Slow Boring. He voted for savage cuts to Medicaid and has followed through on those anti-Medicaid views as governor of Florida. This all seems genuinely very bad and also makes me understand why rich plutocrats who hate the welfare state love DeSantis — not only is he a fanatical Paul Ryan-style believer in shredding the social safety net, but unlike Ryan, he’s very skilled at baiting the media into obsessively covering basically insignificant disputes instead of his ideas about what to do with the government’s biggest programs. In that way he reminds me of George W. Bush, a much more skilled politician (and much less of an asshole) than Trump, who nonetheless on a practical level managed to enact more bad policies.
To give a sort of zoomed-out take, I think one big problem in American life is that partisanship is deeply stigmatized, but that doesn’t stop people from being partisan.
So there’s an unwillingness to just say “look, Ron DeSantis is a guy who joined the Republican Party at a young age and has dedicated his entire life to trying to advance core Republican Party policy goals, and to me, a Democrat, that is terrible.” So instead, people get hyper-focused on the controversy of the day.
The RNC likes to pretend to be upset that Joe Biden spends too much weekend time in Delaware, when obviously their actual objection is that he favors legal abortion and redistributive taxation, whereas Republicans think abortion should be illegal and rich people are overtaxed. That’s the problem with DeSantis! I look forward to him laying out his views on more issues of federal public policy, and at that point I’ll probably disagree with him. But it’s not a school board election.
Nelson Barnes: I have read that you believe more nuclear power plants would be good. Aren't you concerned about the nuclear waste that is piling up?
I’m not. Particulate air pollution kills tens of thousands of Americans per year, a bit more than a thousand per year die of cold exposure, and several hundred overheat to death per year. Nuclear waste, by contrast, is responsible for zero deaths per year. Increasing the volume of zero-emission energy would be very good.
Adam K: There’s been a lot of chatter from various folks on CNBC and on the right that the government allowing JPMorgan Chase to be sued (and pay hundreds of millions of dollars) for the sins of WaMu and Bear Stearns has discouraged banks today from volunteering to take over large failing banks.
Chase bought both of those banks on the brink of collapse *at the prompting of the federal government*, and it does seem like the risk of being sued would be pretty discouraging for banks reviewing options today! What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Or is there some missing element here.
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