Why Republicans Are Having Gas Pains

Paul Krugman


By Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

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Until just the other day, Republicans and conservative media loved, just loved talking about the price of gasoline. Indeed, “Remember how cheap gas used to be under Trump?” became a sort of all-purpose answer to everything. Is there now overwhelming evidence that the former president conspired in a violent attempt to overthrow the 2020 election? “Real America doesn’t care about the January 6th Committee. Gas is over $5 a gallon!” declared Representative Jim Jordan.

But now gas prices are falling. They’re down more than 50 cents a gallon at the pump; wholesale prices, whose changes normally show up later in retail prices, are down even more, suggesting that prices will keep falling for at least the next few weeks. And there’s a palpable sense of panic on Fox News, which has been reduced to whining about how the White House is taking a “victory lap.”

Actually, from what I can see, Biden administration officials are being remarkably restrained in pointing out the good news (which is probably a result of a slowing global economy). The larger point, however, is that Republican politicians’ focus on gas prices is profoundly stupid. And if it’s coming back to bite them, that’s just poetic justice.

Why is focusing on gas prices stupid? Let me count the ways.

First, while presidential policy can have big effects on many things, the cost of filling your gas tank isn’t one of them. For the most part, gasoline prices reflect the price of crude oil — and crude prices are set on world markets, which is one reason inflation has soared around the world, not just in the United States. Government spending in the Biden administration’s early months may have contributed to overall U.S. inflation — we can argue about how much — but has hardly anything to do with gas prices.

Second, while gas was indeed cheap in 2020, it was cheap for a very bad reason: Global demand for oil was depressed because the world economy was reeling from the effects of the Covid-19


Third, even before the pandemic struck, gas prices were unsustainably low.

Little-known fact: Prices at the pump plunged during President Barack Obama’s second term, falling from about $3.70 a gallon in mid-2014 — around $4.50 in 2022 dollars — to $2.23 on the eve of the 2016 election. News reports at the time marveled at Obama’s diffidence about claiming credit.

What happened? Mostly a boom in fracking, which increased U.S. oil production so much that it drove prices down around the world. As it turned out, however, that production boom didn’t make financial sense. Energy companies borrowed huge sums to invest in new drilling but never generated enough revenue to justify the cost. The fracking industry lost hundreds of billions even before the pandemic struck.

So high gas prices weren’t President Biden’s fault, and given the disappearance of the forces that used to keep gas cheap, it’s hard to think of any policy — short of creating a global depression — that would bring prices down to $2 a gallon, or even $3 a gallon. Not that Republicans are offering any real policy proposals anyway.

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But the G.O.P. nonetheless went for the cheap shot of trying to make the midterm elections largely about prices at the pump. And this focus on gas is now giving the party a bellyache, as gas prices come down.

It is, after all, hard to spend month after month insisting that Biden deserves all the blame for rising gas prices, then deny him any credit when they come down. The usual suspects are, of course, trying, but it’s not likely to go well.

Some right-wing commentators are trying to pivot to a longer view, pointing out that gas prices are still much higher than they were in 2020. This happens to be true. But so much of their messaging has depended on voter amnesia — on their supporters not remembering what was really going on in 2020 — that I have my doubts about how effective this line will be.

More broadly, many Wall Street analysts expect to see a sharp drop in inflation over the next few months, reflecting multiple factors, from falling used car prices to declining shipping costs, not just gas prices. Market expectations of near-term inflation have come way down.

If the analysts and the markets are right, we’re probably headed for a period in which inflation headlines are better than the true state of affairs; it’s not clear whether underlying inflation has come down much, if at all. But that’s not an argument Republicans, who have done all they can to dumb down the inflation debate, are well placed to make.

This has obvious implications for the midterm elections. Republicans have been counting on inflation to give them a huge victory, despite having offered no explanation of what they’d do about it. But if you look at the generic ballot — which probably doesn’t yet reflect falling gas prices — rather than Biden’s approval rating, the midterms look surprisingly competitive.

Maybe real Americans do care about violent attacks on democracy, overturning Roe v. Wade and so on after all.

If we continue to get good news on inflation, November may look very different from what everyone has been expecting.

China warns of ‘forceful measures’ if U.S. House Speaker Pelosi visits Taiwan

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 14, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

As if the world were not complicated enough right now, this is an issue that is not going to go away. Taiwan was below the radar until the new, more aggressive and powerful Chinese president emerged.


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BEIJING, July 19 (Reuters) – China’s government on Tuesday warned that it would take “forceful measures” if U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, after the Financial Times said she would go to the Chinese-claimed island next month.

Pelosi and her delegation will also visit Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore, and spend time in Hawaii at the headquarters of U.S. Indo-Pacific command, the London paper added, citing people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said it has “not received relevant information” about any visit.

Asked about the report, Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, said, “We do not confirm or deny international travel in advance due to longstanding security protocols.”

The Democratic leader’s visit to Taiwan had been postponed from April, after she tested positive for COVID-19. At the time, China said such a visit would severely affect Chinese-U.S. relations. 

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said any visit by Pelosi would “seriously undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

“If the U.S. side obstinately clings to this course, China will definitely take resolute and forceful measures to firmly defend its national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said. “The United States must be fully responsible for all the consequences caused by this.”

Taiwan faces mounting pressure from China, which considers the democratically governed island its own territory. The issue is a constant irritant in ties between Beijing and Washington.

Taiwan, however, has been heartened by continued support offered by U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration, which has repeatedly spoken of its “rock-solid” commitment to the island.

Pelosi, a long-time critic of China, held an online meeting with Taiwanese Vice President William Lai in January as he wrapped up a visit to the United States and Honduras. read more

The White House had expressed concern about the Pelosi trip, the Financial Times said, citing three people familiar with the situation.

There were divisions in the Democratic U.S. administration over whether Pelosi should visit Taiwan, the FT quoted two sources as saying.

Some officials believed it had been easier to justify a visit in April, as that was just after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it added.

A spokesperson for the U.S. National Security Council would not comment on “travel that the Speaker’s office itself has not announced,” and reiterated that the United States remains committed to its One China policy.

Separately, the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Benfold conducted a routine Taiwan Strait transit on Tuesday, “through international waters in accordance with international law.”

“The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” it said in a statement.

The United States has been carrying out such voyages through the stretch of water separating Taiwan and China about once a month. This has angered Beijing, which views them as a sign of support for the island.

This month, China sent fighters across the Taiwan Strait’s median line, an actionTaiwan described as a provocation. The incident came during a visit to Taipei by Senator Rick Scott, a Republican member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee. read more

On Monday, China asked the United States to immediately cancel a potential sale of military technical assistance to Taiwan worth an estimated $108 million.



Curriculum Vitae   JULY, 2022


53 Winterberry Circle

Cross River, NY 10518

Home Telephone (914) 763-1888

Date of Birth  June 10, 1949

Place of Birth  Wilmington, Delaware USA


Graduate: Cornell University Ph.D. 1977 (Government)

The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies M.A. 1973 (International Studies)

Undergraduate: Vanderbilt University B.A. 1971 (Political Science)


“Assessing the Trump Administration”, Political Science Forum, University of Oslo, June, 2021


Fulbright Senior Lecturer, Riga Latvia  Jan. 26-June 29, 2006 at the University of Latvia

Fulbright Senior Lectureship, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan, 1985-86.

Summer Fellowship Winner and Honorary Member, International Studies Association, 1975


Professor Emeritus Political Science and History, Mercy College, 2012-present

PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, 1987-2012, MERCY COLLEGE, Dobbs Ferry, New York 10522 (Associate Professor September 1983 -August,1987; Assistant Professor, September 1978 August 1983 ); substantial responsibility for new course development and building political science curriculum; student internships and advising; Model UN Director 1986-2011





VISITING ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, BARUCH COLLEGE / CUNY 1/77-8/78 (includes summer semesters 1977 and 1978); extensive responsibility for curriculum development and graduate student advising, thesis supervision.




RESEARCH INTERN, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, 1971-1972 (extensive archival work).


International Relations

Comparative Politics (esp. Third World, but also Northeast Europe)

Foreign Policy (esp. US/Third World, but also Northeast Europe)

Public Administration / American Government


  • I have taught 112 distance/online learning courses in history /political science since 1994
  • I have developed an American History website for Mercy College http://faculty.mercy.edu/fshiels 

DISSERTATION TITLE: “The American Experience in Okinawa: A Case Study for Foreign Policy and Decision-Making Theory,”  Cornell Univ. 1977


Charles F. Olson Grant for Historical Research, 2002 ($10,000)

Faculty Development Grants at Mercy College, 1984-2004 totaling $18,500

Peace Studies Program (Cornell/Ford) Research Grants, 1975 and 1976.

Cornell University China-Japan Program Grant, 1976.

Cornell Center for International Studies Grant, 1975.



International Studies Association

FOREIGN LANGUAGES: French; basic Spanish and basic Japanese and Latvian

CURRENTLY: (2014) working on book on the future of progressive politics in the U.S., and a blog

https://progressivefutureusa.com/ , am studying and writing poetry at the Hudson Valley Writers’ Center in Sleepy Hollow, NY… I have recently published poetry in the NEW VERSE NEWS and SiXFOLD, DEEP SOUTH REVIEW, and won the Spokane Washington state first prize in the Amy Woodward Fisher World Poetry Contest 2018 for metered verse

RECENTLY (2013)- I assisted Prof. Beerd Beukenhorst of the University of Amsterdam, edit his Book WHOSE VIETNAM?, a foreign policy study and conducted a seminar at that University in Janauary of 2014 on my own research on civilian casualties in American foreign wars


  1.  “The Elephant and the Fox: U.S. Latvian Bi-Lateral Relations”, 2007 article and paper presentation
  2. “ Globalization and Country to Country Aid Projects”, 2008 article and paper presentation, Turiiba, Univ., Riga, March, 2008
  3.  “The Helsinki-Tallinn Connection: A Case Study in International Mentoring of Baltic States Entering the European Union” project/article being worked on presently

 General Publications /Paper Presentation-PAPER PRESENTATION – June 2019 University of Oslo, Norway senior faculty Address (6/19/2019) on The Current State of American National Politics

SEMINARS-  Tallinn Estonia, Jan. 2013, Estonia Technical University and Oslo Norway, Oslo University, Public Administration discussing the Obama foreign policy and issues in US/ EU relations

PAPER PRESENTATION: “Why We Bomb: The American Calculus of Foreign Civilian Lives,” at Lincoln College, Oxford University, Oxford, UK, 3/2010             

 ARTICLE: “Whose Dead?: The Killing of Iraqis and Afghanis to Save American Lives”, 2004-2006 research and submission of article this year for possible publication in The American Prospect, a progressive-mainstream magazine

ARTICLE/PAPER for PRESENTATION: “Why We Bomb: Strategic and Legal Questions about Civilian Deaths in American Wars”, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, November 1, 2006


ARTICLE: “Whose Dead?: The Killing of Iraqis and Afghanis to Save American Lives”, 2004-2006 research and submission of article this year for possible publication in The American Prospect, a progressive-mainstream magazine

ARTICLE/PAPER for PRESENTATION: “Why We Bomb: Strategic and Legal Questions about Civilian Deaths in American Wars”, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, November 1, 2006

BOOK REVIEW, for Houghton- Mifflin, of James Q. Wilson’s, American Government, the edition, 2006 (one of the best selling American government texts and the one used at Mercy College)

BOOK REVIEW, for Pacific Historical Review, of Nicholas Sarantakes’ Keystone: The American Occupation of Okinawa and U.S./Japanese Relations, May, 2002.

ARTICLE, “Presidential Houses Seen Through the Eyes of Children,” in Presidential Forum, Indianapolis, Spring 1996

BOOK CHAPTER, “Misperception at the Top” in H. Wiberg and Paul Smoker, Inadvertent Nuclear War, Pergamon, 1993, [refereed]

BOOK CHAPTER, “The American Interlude in Okinawa: 1945-72,” in George DeVos and Koji Taira (eds.), Okinawa: Challenge and Adaptation at Japan’s Periphery, U. Hawaii Press, forthcoming

BOOK, Preventable Disasters: Why Governments Fail, ( Rowman and Littlefield, 1991)

ARTICLE, “Iran: The Unheard Revolution,” in Kyushu University Review of Law and Politics, April, 1986 [refereed]

BOOK, Ethnic Separatism and World Politics, University Press of America, 1983

BOOK, Tokyo and Washington: Dilemmas of a Mature Alliance

Lexington Books (D.C. Heath) November, 1980

BOOK, America, Okinawa, and Japan, (Univ. Press of America) 1980

BOOK, The New American Foreign Policy: A Primer for the

1980’s, (edited reader) Collegium Book Publishers, 1979

ARTICLE, “American Rule in Okinawa,” in December 1978 Ryudai Law Review (Ryukyu National University, Japan) [refereed]

Study of Civilian Casualties in U.S. military interventions funded in part by Charles Olson Grant (more information available on request)


Discussant, panel “Distance Learning Applications in History: USA and Turkey” at the Conference on Computers and History, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY, June, 1999.

Symposium Paper, “Misperception, Multipolarization and History in Fast Forward,” Presented at the Conference on the Consequences of the dissolution of the Soviet Union for the Inadvertent Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, held in Parnu, Estonia, April 16-20, 1993. Proceedings published by the Estonian Academy of Sciences in 1993.

Panel Paper, “Okinawa’s American Interlude: 19451972,” INTERNATIONAL NORTH AFRICAN AND ASIAN STUDIES (ICANAS) CONFERENCE, Toronto, August, 1991

Symposium Paper,”Preventing the Ultimate Disaster: Misperception at the Top,” CONFERENCE ON ACCIDENTAL NUCLEAR WAR, University of Copenhagen Centre for Research on Peace and Conflict, Copenhagen, June, 1990.

Panel Paper, “Nuclear Disaster Prevention in Theory and Practice,” INTERNATIONAL STUDIES ASSOCIATION MEETING, London, March 1989

Panel Paper, “Iran: The Unheard Revolution,” AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION CONVENTION, Chicago, September, 1987


CONVENTION, Boston, 11/86

Panel Paper, “Ethnic Diversity and Third World Democracy,” NEPSA, Boston, November 1984

Chaired Panel, “Ethnic Separatism and World Politics,” NEPSA, Philadelphia, November 1983

Chaired Panel, “New Directions in American Foreign Policy” and Presented Paper “Preventable Disasters” NORTHEAST POLITICAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION CONVENTION, Newark, November, 1981

Panel Paper, ” Rationality Revisited: Bureaucratic Politics Assessed” NY STATE POLITICAL SCIENCE ASSOCIATION, New York, 2/79

Chaired Panel, “Comparative Foreign Policy,” INTERNATIONAL 


Nato to put 300,000 troops on high alert in response to Russia threat

Alliance’s leader says this week’s summit will agree its most significant transformation in a generation

Jens Stoltenberg speaks during the press conference to preview the Nato summit in Madrid on Monday
Jens Stoltenberg speaks during the press conference to preview the Nato summit in Madrid on Monday. Photograph: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images

Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editorMon 27 Jun 2022 11.05 EDT

Nato’s secretary general has said this week’s Madrid summit will agree the alliance’s most significant transformation for a generation, putting 300,000 troops at high readiness in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance’s forces in the Baltic states and five other frontline countries would be increased “up to brigade levels” – doubled or trebled to between 3,000 and 5,000 troops.

That would amount to “the biggest overhaul of our collective defence and deterrence since the cold war,” Stoltenberg said before the meeting of the 30-country alliance, which runs from Tuesday to Thursday this week.

The rapid-reaction Nato Response Force currently numbers up to 40,000, and the proposed change amounts to a broad revision in response to Russian militarisation. Under the plans, Nato will also move stocks of munitions and other supplies farther east, a transition due to be completed in 2023.

The Norwegian secretary general conceded he could not make any promises about the progress of applications by Sweden and Finland to join Nato, because objections raised by Turkey to their membership remained unresolved.

Stoltenberg said Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had agreed to meet the Swedish prime minister, Magdalena Andersson, and Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, on Tuesday in Madrid to try to resolve the issue.

But he played down hopes of a breakthrough at the meeting on the margins of the Nato event. “It’s too early to say what kind of progress you can make by the summit,” he told a press conference.

Turkey has said it will block the applications of Sweden and Finland unless it receives satisfactory assurances that the Nordic countries are willing to address what it regards as support for Kurdish groups it designates as terrorist organisations.

Later on Monday, Andersson said still she hoped a last-minute deal could be reached, after a day of contacts between officials of the three countries in Brussels.

“My strong hope is that this dialogue can be successfully concluded in the near future, ideally before the summit,” Andersson said, emphasising that Sweden “condemns terrorism in all its forms” and that the insurgent Kurdish Workers’ party (PKK) was recognised as a terror group in Sweden.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, will address the summit on Wednesday morning, where he is expected to follow on from a plea made on Monday at the G7 meeting in Germany for western countries to provide arms so the war does not “drag on over winter”.

Stoltenberg said Nato would agree “a strengthened, comprehensive assistance package” for Kyiv, including immediate help to “secure communications, anti-drone systems and fuel” and longer-term assistance in transitioning from Soviet standard arms and equipment to their western equivalents.

But while the state of the war is likely to dominate the summit, Nato itself will only offer non-lethal aid because its members do not want the alliance to enter into fully fledged war with Russia. Arms supplies are instead made by member states.

Nato maintains eight battle groups across eastern Europe, aimed at acting as an initial frontline defence in the event of a Russian invasion. Four are in the Baltic states and Poland, and these were supplemented by the creation of four more in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia after the attack on Ukraine.

Germany said this month it would contribute a brigade of troops to defend Lithuania, where the country leads a 1,000-member battle group, although it emerged that the bulk of the extra 3,500 Berlin intends to contribute would be based on its own soil, ready to move farther east if needed.

Stoltenberg said he expected other Nato members to make similar announcements to defend the countries for which they are responsible. Extra troop numbers would be made up by “pre-assigned forces in their home country” who would regularly exercise in the countries to which they had been linked, he added.

Britain contributes about 1,700 troops to a multinational battle group it leads in Estonia. The defence secretary, Ben Wallace, said nearly a fortnight ago that it was highly likely the UK would assign hundreds more troops in support of Estonia.

But Stoltenberg said there would not be a one-size-fits-all model, suggesting that not every battle group would be increased to the size of a full brigade. Canada leads the battle group in Latvia, where it contributes 700 troops, while the US is responsible for Poland.

Nato released figures showing that defence spending among its 30 members was expected to increase by 1.2% in real terms in 2022, the slowest growth rate in eight successive years of growth.

Nine countries are projected to exceed the 2% of GDP target, led by Greece on 3.76% and the US on 3.47% with Britain sixth on 2.12%, down marginally on the two previous years. France spends 1.9% and Germany 1.44%.

I write from Ukraine, where I’ve spent much of the past six months, reporting on the build-up to the conflict and the grim reality of war. It has been the most intense time of my 30-year career. In December I visited the trenches outside Donetsk with the Ukrainian army; in January I went to Mariupol and drove along the coast to Crimea; on 24 February I was with other colleagues in the Ukrainian capital as the first Russian bombs fell.

This is the biggest war in Europe since 1945. It is, for Ukrainians, an existential struggle against a new but familiar Russian imperialism. Our team of reporters and editors intend to cover this war for as long as it lasts, however expensive that may prove to be. We are committed to telling the human stories of those caught up in war, as well as the international dimension. But we can’t do this without the support of Guardian readers. It is your passion, engagement and financial contributions which underpin our independent journalism and make it possible for us to report from places like Ukraine.

If you are able to help with a monthly or single contribution it will boost our resources and enhance our ability to report the truth about what is happening in this terrible conflict.

Thank you.

Luke Harding

Foreign correspondent

Luke Harding head photograph

Visualising the fastest-growing refugee crises around the world

BREAKINGMacron, Scholz and Draghi meet with Zelenskyy in KyivBREAKINGWar-related food crisis to heighten record levels of displacement: UNBREAKINGSeverodonetsk fighters ignore Moscow’s calls to surrenderClick to pause breaking news tickerClose Breaking News Ticker

Visualising the fastest-growing refugee crises around the world

By Al Jazeera Staff

Published On 16 Jun 202216 Jun 2022

More than 100 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict, climate change and persecution, according to a newly released global trends report by UNHCR.

The UN has warned that the ongoing food crisis following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could force even more to flee their homes.

To put that in context, if the number of forcibly displaced people was a country, it would be the 15th-most populated country in the world.

INTERACTIVE 100 million forcefully displaced people as a country 15th

GOP on the Wrong Side of Public Outrage

Site logo imageDiane Ravitch’s blogRobert Kuttner: GOP on the Wrong Side of Public OutragedianeravitchMay 29

Robert Kuttner of The American Prospect is one of my favorite thinkers, and I am glad to share his latest with you. Republicans like to say, as Texas Governor Greg Abbott did, that this is not the time to “politicize” the issue of gun control, in the midst of a massacre of students and their teachers. But, if this is not the right time, when is? This horrific event was not an accident, it was the result of Republican policies that put the rights of gun owners over the right to life. Republicans have used politics to put the lives of children, teachers, grocery shoppers, and other citizens at risk.

Now is the time to say so. Republicans on the Wrong Side of Public Outrage
Their opposition to gun laws and assault on women’s health should be center-stage issues. Here’s the bizarre thing about mass gun violence that takes the lives of schoolchildren and the likely reversal of Roe v. Wade: Public opinion is not with the right. It is overwhelmingly in favor of banning civilian purchase of assault weapons. It is overwhelmingly in favor of keeping Roe. And yet a party that espouses these and other extreme views is on the verge of taking over the country. If we let it.

What can prevent this grim fate is resolute leadership that stands with most Americans—and also hangs this lunacy around the necks of Republicans and makes them squirm. In his first statement on the mass murder, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott noted that the shooter was dead. You can imagine how much comfort that offers parents.Other Republicans have offered reassurance by pointing out that the killer acted alone. No, he did not. He had multiple Republican accomplices who keep blocking gun control and valorizing guns with open-carry laws.They also like to term the Texas shooting a “tragedy.” No, it was not. It was preventable homicide of children.
Political allies of abortion zealots who worry about the alleged rights of the unborn need to look to the rights of living children.President Biden was at his best in his statement on the Texas school shooting. He called out both the gun lobby and the gun manufacturers. He ridiculed gun nuts who conflate hunting rifles with assault weapons.When we passed the assault weapons ban, mass shootings went down. When the law expired, mass shootings tripled. The idea that an 18-year-old kid can walk into a gun store and buy two assault weapons is just wrong. What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone? Deer aren’t running through the forest with Kevlar vests on, for God’s sake. It’s just sick.

Biden’s expression of appalled sympathy was from the heart. “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away,” he said. Biden has been there.Maybe the president’s first statement on the shooting was not the time to call out the Republicans who resist even the mildest gun legislation. But this is no time to temporize for fear of rural voters or pro-gun Democrats. The vast majority of citizens are sick of this carnage.Biden needs to follow up by sending Congress legislation that goes beyond poll-tested “commonsense” measures like background checks and the extension of existing regulations to gun shows. We need to ban all military weapons, and to identify the wall-to-wall opposition with Republicans, and dare them to block it.Biden is facing political headwinds on inflation and supply shortages. But on gun control and women’s health, public opinion is with him, and Republicans look like fools. There is nothing shameful about maximizing the partisan advantage. In a democracy, that’s what leadership is all about.~ ROBERT KUTTNER



Spreading the Wealth

François Bourguignon

Fiscal instruments can reduce inequality, but some yield short-term results while others bear fruit over the long term

After years of quasi-neglect, economic inequality has taken center stage in the policy debate worldwide. In advanced economies, the apparent impact of globalization and technological change and the cost of counteracting these forces is raising concern. In developing economies, where inequality is higher, the issue is whether it poses a major obstacle to raising growth and reducing poverty. In both cases, the redistribution of income might achieve not only greater equality but also faster growth and, for developing economies, faster poverty reduction.

In countries where growth is satisfactory but benefits the poor much less than the non-poor, there obviously is a strong case for shifting resources from those at the top of the income scale to those at the bottom. Giving poor children access to better education and paying for it by taxing the affluent is one way to reduce inequality while also fostering future growth and poverty reduction. Redistributive policies could also help narrow the gap between rich and poor in countries with high inequality, where social and political tensions or the rise of populist regimes might prove bad for growth in the long run.

Knowing that a more equal distribution of resources may be good for development is one thing; having the right instruments to implement it is another. These instruments—from progressive taxation, cash transfers, and investment in human capital to regulation and inclusive growth strategies—do exist. But they are vastly underused in developing economies.

Straight income redistribution

Taxation and income transfers to the poorest segment of society are the most direct way to keep inequality in check and reduce poverty in the short term. These instruments are particularly appropriate when the benefits of growth fail to reach the poor. But most of the time they are too small to really make a difference. On average, taxes on personal income and cash benefits to the poor are almost 10 times lower, as a proportion of GDP, than in advanced economies.

The success of conditional cash transfer programs has demonstrated that it is possible to transfer cash efficiently to poor people in developing economies. These cash transfer programs give money to households on the condition that they comply with certain pre-defined requirements, such as up-to-date vaccinations or regular school attendance by children. The spread of such initiatives as Mexico’s Prospera (previously Progresa), or Brazil’s Bolsa Família from Latin America to other developing regions—as well as the results of several pilots in poorer sub-Saharan African countries—shows the progress made in the last 15 years or so in the field of redistribution. New methods of means testing and cash distribution have made it possible (see “Reaching Poor People” in the December 2017 F&D).

Such programs should continue to improve in the future, thanks to advances in information technology, particularly the use of mobile money. But their current impact on poverty and inequality is limited. Their main weakness is their size, which amounts to 0.5 percent of GDP at most in middle-income countries. In poorer countries, they are still at the pilot stage.

Expanding those programs requires more resources. A higher and more effective income tax in the upper part of the income scale could help raise the necessary funds. In this respect, the generalized use of bank accounts, credit cards, and debit cards by higher-income people in most countries should make it easier to monitor personal incomes and reduce tax evasion. Political economy issues aside, this should lead developing economies’ governments to place more emphasis on direct taxation than they presently do.

Developing economies tend to rely relatively more than advanced economies on the indirect taxation of domestic and imported goods and services. Indirect taxes are said to be regressive because they tax consumption rather than income, and wealthier people save a higher proportion of their income. But in addition, indirect taxation in developing economies may even increase poverty depending on the structure of tax rates and the consumption basket of households at various rungs of the income scale (Higgins and Lustig 2016). In any case, lowering taxes on goods such as food that weigh more in the budget of poor people achieves relatively little redistribution because wealthier people also consume these goods, perhaps as a lower proportion of their budget but possibly in larger quantity. The same argument applies to subsidies for purchases of basic goods like bread or fuel. Income transfers are preferable to subsidies because they cost less and are better targeted to the truly needy, as evidenced by the pilot experiments on the replacement of food subsidies by “direct benefit transfers” in some Indian states (Muralidharan, Niehaus, and Sukhtankar 2017).

There is therefore a strong case for the expansion of redistribution in developing economies when growth is satisfactory but poverty reduction is slow. There are political obstacles to doing so, however, as well as challenges related to the country’s administrative capacity. Political opposition may well remain, but modern information technology is likely to improve administrative capacity.

Increasing opportunities

Income redistribution will lower poverty by reducing inequality, if done properly. But it may not accelerate growth in any major way, except perhaps by reducing social tensions arising from inequality and allowing poor people to devote more resources to human and physical asset accumulation. Directly investing in opportunities for poor people is essential. Transfers to the poor should not consist merely of cash; they should also boost people’s capacity to generate income, today and in the future. Education and training as well as access to health care, micro-credit, water, energy, and transportation are powerful instruments. Social assistance is critical to prevent people from falling into poverty traps when adverse shocks hit. Programs such as India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee, in which the state acts as the employer of last resort, do precisely that.

Conditional cash transfers have been shown to motivate families to send their children to school, improve their nutrition, and monitor their health. But facilities to meet this additional demand must be made available and must be financed. The same is true of other programs focusing on improving opportunities for the poor. Financing these programs through progressive taxation while providing cash transfer incentives to poor households thus reduces inequality and poverty in the short term and helps these households generate more income over the medium and long term.

Is such a strategy of static and dynamic income equalization immune to the efficiency cost of redistribution? In other words, do these taxes and transfers take away the incentives for people to work, save, and become entrepreneurs? Given the limited scope of redistribution in developing economies, it is unlikely that it would have much effect on economic incentives. Substantial income tax progressivity may indeed be achieved with marginal tax rates much below those in advanced economies, where redistribution is not considered to be an obstacle to growth (Lindert 2004). Also, replacing distortionary indirect taxes or subsidies with income transfers should improve efficiency. Moreover, conditional cash transfers appear to have no significant negative effect on labor supply; they may even encourage entrepreneurship (Bianchi and Boba 2013).

Strategies that promote greater equality and stronger growth rely on raising resources in a progressive way and spending them on programs that benefit the poorest segment of the population in this generation or the next one. Other policies that do not rely on redistribution may achieve the same goals. Before contemplating redistribution, however, governments ought to consider enhancing the pro-poor nature or inclusiveness of their growth strategies, in particular through fostering employment for unskilled workers.

Other policies besides straight redistribution are also available. Minimum wage laws—although controversial in advanced economies because of their potentially negative effects on employment when the minimum is set too high—generate more equality in the distribution of earnings. In developing economies, such policies may actually increase labor productivity by improving the physical condition of workers, as predicted by the efficiency wage theory. Part of the drop in inequality observed in Brazil at the turn of the century just as growth was accelerating has been partly attributed to the significant increase in the minimum wage (Komatsu and Filho 2016).

Anti-discrimination laws can also promote equality and foster growth by improving work and training incentives for minority groups. And anti-corruption strategies, by reducing rent seeking, are probably the best candidates for both enhancing growth and income equality, even if the inequality arising from corruption is often difficult to observe.

Governments can draw on an array of policies to foster growth by reducing inequality and ensuring that growth reduces poverty. The policies they adopt will depend on the relative importance of these two objectives and the time horizon over which they can be expected to deliver results. Pure income redistribution policies generate less future growth than those policies that expand the economic opportunities of poor people—but they reduce poverty immediately. They also alleviate social tensions and may thus free growth constraints in the case of excessive inequality. On the other hand, policies that enhance opportunities for the poor do less to reduce inequality today, essentially through taxation, but result in faster growth, less poverty, and greater equality tomorrow.

It is up to governments to choose their preferred policy combination. The choice is difficult because some parties will necessarily lose in the short run and might not make up for this loss anytime soon. Yet instruments are available today that would benefit all in the long run, through faster growth, more rapid poverty reduction, and less inequality. It would be a serious mistake not to make use of them.

FRANÇOIS BOURGUIGNON is a professor emeritus at the Paris School of Economics. He was the World Bank’s chief economist from 2003 to 2007.


Bianchi, M., and M. Boba, 2013, “Liquidity, Risk, and Occupational Choices.” Review of Economic Studies, 80 (2): 491–511.

Higgins, Sean, and Nora Lustig. 2016. “Can a Poverty-Reducing and Progressive Tax and Transfer System Hurt the Poor?” Journal of Development Economics 122: 63-75.

Komatsu, B. Kawaoka, and N. Menezes Filho. 2016. “Does the Rise of the Minimum Wage Explain the Fall of Wage Inequality in Brazil?” Policy Paper 16, INSPER, São Paulo.

Lindert, P. 2004. Growing Public. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.

Muralidharan, K., Paul Niehaus, and Sandip Sukhtankar. 2017. “Direct Benefit Transfers in Food: Results from One Year of Process Monitoring in Union Territories.” UC San Diego.


Russia falters in Ukraine but unlikely to give up assault

Russia falters in Ukraine but unlikely to give up assault



Associated Press/Rodrigo AbdUkrainian army soldiers take part in a military sweep to search for possible remnants of Russian troops after their withdrawal from villages in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Friday, April 1, 2022. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

The Biden administration is framing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as a “strategic blunder” as Moscow’s assault enters its second month.

U.S. officials say Putin’s top aides are shielding the Russian leader from Moscow’s military losses, even as Russian forces shift some of their resources away from Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv.

Some analysts believe the shift is a tacit acknowledgement that Russia cannot take and hold Kyiv as Putin had hoped.

But the administration is carefully stopping short of predicting an all-out Russian defeat.

Leaders in the U.S. and Ukraine are warning Russia is likely repositioning forces that have moved away from Kyiv to other areas of Ukraine, likely to focus its military might on taking full control of the eastern Donbas region. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a speech delivered after midnight on Friday in Kyiv, echoed the view of Russia’s military faltering, but warned against declaring victory. 

“The expulsion of the occupiers continues. But we must also realize that for the Russian military, this is part of their tactics,” he said in a video message.

“We know that they are moving away from the areas where we are beating them to focus on others that are very important, on those where it can be difficult for us,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Russian officials continue efforts to advance peace talks in Istanbul, though the discussions have yet to yield any breakthroughs.

Oleksiy Goncharenko, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, told The Hill by phone from Kyiv he is not optimistic about the talks but that “we need to try, and we are trying to find some solutions, that is the situation.”

He called for more military and humanitarian assistance and warned that Russia’s war is likely to continue for months. 

“In reality, certainly nobody knows, but what I am telling people, please be ready for a long war,” he said. “It’s better to be prepared for [the] worst, and if it will finish quicker, we will be happy. But better to be prepared for the worst, that it can last for months and months.”  

The U.S. and allies are working to maintain deliveries of key weapons and military assistance to Ukraine, ratcheting up sanctions on Russia, and executing contingency plans to offset impacts on the American and allied economies. 

The administration declassified new intelligence saying Putin is being misled by his advisers over the failures in Ukraine. It paints a portrait of a leader increasingly isolated and lashing out in desperation.

President Biden told reporters offhand on Thursday that Putin may have put advisers under “house arrest,” a remark White House press secretary Jen Psaki said was based on public reports. 

“This war is not going how President Putin had planned,” Psaki said. “This intention of winning a quick war, defeating the Ukrainians quickly is not how it has played out.” 

Retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the U.S. Army Europe, told The Hill that Russia had failed in its original plan and is shifting strategy. 

“They no longer have the ability to conduct sustained land operations towards Odessa, towards Kyiv, anywhere towards west,” Hodges said. 

“They’re going back to where they have most of their advantages, and I think they are going to try to continue grinding Mariupol and try to solidify what they have,” he added.

At the same time, Hodges argued that the U.S. needs to give the Ukrainians everything they need to push the Russians back to the territory they were in before the full invasion on Feb. 24 — meaning better air defense capability. Without it, the war could grind on much longer, he said. 

“I think it’s up to us how much longer this goes on,” he said. 

Goncharenko echoed that the country needs air defenses.

“That is our priority, number one, to defend our skies,” he said, calling for delivery of Soviet-era fighter jets from Poland and for countries in Eastern Europe to provide the Russian-made S300 missile defense system. 

“Our officers and crew know what to do with them,” he added.

The U.S. announced $1 billion in additional military assistance to Ukraine in recent weeks, including Switchblade drones, which act as a discreet, remote-controlled missile. 

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters this week that about half a dozen shipments had already arrived in Ukraine that included Javelin anti-tank missile systems and Stinger air defense systems. 

Psaki said Friday that more than $350 million in U.S. assistance to Ukraine has been delivered in the past few weeks. She also confirmed the U.S. is supplying the Ukrainians with equipment to protect against any Russian chemical or biological attacks. 

But even as Russian forces retreat from Kyiv and reposition, Putin is not signaling defeat.

The Russian president reportedly ordered up 135,000 military conscripts, is preparing to send hundreds of Syrian mercenaries to Ukraine and has threatened to cut off Russian gas deliveries to Europe if not paid in rubles. 

Ukrainians are digging in, fortifying the territories under their control and retaking cities and towns where Russians are leaving.

“I think Ukrainians can hold on for a very long time — but that of course is not the same thing as the Ukrainians being able to successfully counterattack on a very large scale,” said Anatol Lieven, senior research fellow on Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. “The Ukrainians have proved they sometimes can, but we’re not sure.”

Lieven added that it’s clear Putin’s army has suffered great losses in the war so far but that any exit from the conflict is likely to rely on the Russian leader looking to portray some element of victory. 

“Once the Russians have taken, if they can, what Putin regards as politically essential, I think there is a pretty strong incentive for Russia to stop and seek a peace deal,” he said.  

Russian negotiators have said very little publicly about Moscow’s position in the peace talks, while the Ukrainians have offered key concessions and areas of negotiation — including status as a neutral state, albeit with international security guarantees.

While Ukrainians have called for Russian troops to pull back to their positions before the invasion — that includes their occupation of the eastern territories of the Donbas and the Crimean Peninsula — they have offered the final status of those territories to be part of discussions. 

“I do see Zelensky quietly preparing the population for concessions,” said Vladislav Davidzon, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council who has traveled between Ukraine and Europe over the past month and is at the border with Poland. 

“At this point it’s going to be very difficult for him to get certain things agreed upon by the population and certain things he’s not in control of — so it will be an odd situation where Ukrainians will have to get the population on board and have to press the West to step down on certain sanctions.” 

Gabrielle Rifkind, director of the Oxford Process, an organization focused on peacemaking efforts at the leadership level, said the international community needs to be vigilant in encouraging difficult compromises between Putin and the Ukrainians. Native American tribe reacquires hundreds of acres in VirginiaDemocrats fractured on response to end of Title 42

“To resolve conflict, you have to engage with all parties. And not only do you have to engage. You have to imagine how they’re thinking. … You have to write their victory speeches,” she said in remarks during a panel discussion hosted by the Quincy Institute on Tuesday.

But Davidzon echoed the view that the war is likely to drag out, with more devastation.

“It is going to be a protracted conflict, and the Russians, in order to not have a total defeat from their standpoint, there’s going to be a very dirty, long-term fight over the Donbas,” he said. “I’m very sorry about that. But the state is going to survive and Kyiv is going to stand.” TAGS BIDEN JEN PSAKI JOE BIDEN RUSSIA RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR RUSSIAN INVASION RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE UKRAINE UKRAINE INVASION UKRAINE WAR VLADIMIR PUTIN VOLODYMYR ZELENSKY

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Switzerland says it will freeze Russian assets, setting aside a tradition of neutrality.

. The SWISS? Yes!– blogger caption

Feb. 28, 2022, 10:26 a.m. ET2 hours ago2 hours ago

Nick Cumming-Bruce

President Ignazio Cassis of Switzerland addressing a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, in Geneva, on Monday.
President Ignazio Cassis of Switzerland addressing a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, in Geneva, on Monday.
President Ignazio Cassis of Switzerland addressing a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, in Geneva, on Monday.Credit…Pool photo by Fabrice Coffrini

GENEVA — Switzerland, a favorite destination for Russian oligarchs and their money, announced on Monday that it would freeze Russian financial assets in the country, setting aside a deeply rooted tradition of neutrality to join the European Union and a growing number of nations seeking to penalize Russia for the invasion of Ukraine.

After a meeting with the Swiss Federal Council, Switzerland’s president, Ignazio Cassis, said that the country would immediately freeze the assets of Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, Prime Minister Mikhail V. Mishustin and Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, as well as all 367 individuals sanctioned last week by the European Union.

Switzerland said it was departing from its usual policy of neutrality because of “the unprecedented military attack by Russia on a sovereign European state,” but expressed a willingness to help mediate in the conflict. It also joined European neighbors in closing its airspace to Russian aircraft, except for humanitarian or diplomatic purposes. But said it would evaluate whether to join in subsequent E.U. sanctions on a case-by-case basis.

Mr. Lavrov, who was scheduled to be in Geneva on Tuesday to address the United Nations Human Rights Council, will no longer make the trip because of the flight ban, Russia’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva said on Twitter.

Swiss national bank data showed that Russian companies and individuals held assets worth more than $11 billion in Swiss banks in 2020. As a hub for the global commodities trade, Switzerland also hosts numerous companies that trade Russian oil and other commodities.

The decision came amid mounting condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which saw thousands of antiwar protesters march in Bern, Switzerland’s capital, over the weekend. Demonstrators chanted for an end to “Putin’s war” and criticized the government’s initially cautious response to the crisis.

Switzerland cherishes a reputation for neutrality that has established Geneva as a home to the United Nations and a host to peace talks in numerous conflicts, including the wars in Korea and Vietnam. Recently, Geneva was the venue for last year’s summit between President Biden and Mr. Putin.

Mr. Cassis expressed concern that the Alpine nation’s credibility as a neutral diplomatic intermediary would suffer if it automatically followed suit with E.U. sanctions. Initially, Switzerland said last week that it would enforce travel bans against Russians on the E.U. sanctions list and stop Swiss banks from accepting new Russian money — but stopped short of cutting off the individuals’ access to their bank accounts.

Since then, images of bloodied Ukrainian civilians and apartments damaged by shelling have fueled popular anger against Russia, Switzerland has adopted a tougher tone as well. Mr. Cassis told the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday that Russia’s attack on Ukraine was a flagrant violation of international law.

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“There has been no provocation which could have justified such an intervention,” he said.

Nick Cumming-Bruce reports from Geneva, covering the United Nations, human rights and international humanitarian organizations. Previously he was the Southeast Asia reporter for The Guardian for 20 years and the Bangkok bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal Asia. 

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