America First, Unless Vladimir Putin’s in the Room
That Helsinking Feeling
(Bloomberg Opinion) -- Many people expressed shock about President Donald Trump’s performance in a press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin today. But maybe they should have seen it coming.
To be sure, it was pretty surprising that Trump didn’t at least wave in the general direction of the mountain of evidence Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Instead, he gave Putin a pass, said a bunch of confusing stuff about Hillary Clinton’s email server and called Robert Mueller’s investigation “a disaster.” Instead of criticizing Russia for its bad behavior, including naked aggression in Eastern Europe, he retreated to the same “good people on both sides” argument he made in response to white-supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year, points out Eli Lake.
This was the sort of thing Bloomberg LP founder Michael R. Bloomberg expressed worry about ahead of the Trump-Putin summit, which followed a contentious NATO meeting: “Alienating friends who share our values while ignoring a hostile power’s intrusions into U.S. sovereignty is diplomacy at its most incompetent and counterproductive … .” Click here to read the whole thing.
And Tim O’Brien had written that Trump’s motives going into the summit were already suspect, given the many ties between his campaign and Russia and his long history of coddling Putin: “Whatever conversation Trump has with Putin today is going to be tainted regardless of talking points, alas, because Trump has established himself so firmly as a Putin fanboy.”
Some called Trump’s press-conference behavior treasonous. Leonid Bershidsky argues it’s “just sad:” Trump so desperately needs validation that he will even seek it from Vladimir Putin. And while Russia’s President is glad to give Trump warm fuzzies, the relationship can never yield much more, with both sides now appearing hopelessly compromised.
On the plus side, as Eli and Leonid note, though he’d long ago given Putin his dignity, Trump at least gave away nothing concrete.
More Russia reading:
- Trump’s astonishing Helsinki display should worry his supporters. – Bloomberg’s editors
- Helsinki could raise Trump’s vulnerability to a primary challenge. – Jonathan Bernstein
- Trump shouldn’t give Putin the store for raising oil production, which he was planning to do anyway. – Meghan O’Sullivan
- Mueller’s latest Russia indictment had a level of detail that should worry Putin. – Leonid Bershidsky
Sports Are Terrible
In his first column on Trump’s Scottish golf courses, Tim O’Brien wrote the future president’s love for the game may have pushed him into some bad business decisions, including sinking a ton of cash into a money pit of a golf course in Turnberry, Scotland. In his second column, Tim writes about Trump’s other Scottish golf property, in Aberdeen, where he has spent less money but engendered even more ire from his neighbors.
Trump couldn’t have built in Aberdeen without local officials giving him a regulatory pass. Some regret that now – an all-too-familiar outcome for other towns that have bent over backwards to attract sports facilities. Barry Ritholtz argues taxpayers should finally declare their independence from ever again having to subsidize sports stadiums.
Trump probably still loves golf despite his Scottish setbacks. And Croatians probably still love soccer despite losing to France in the World Cup final on Sunday. But the pain of being a sports fan adds up; in fact, it probably outweighs the happiness of the occasional good times, writes Cass Sunstein. (As an Atlanta Braves fan, I can attest this is true.)
More sports disappointment reading:
- How Goldman Sachs’s computers lost the World Cup – Leonid Bershidsky
Reading the Economy’s Vital Signs
The Treasury yield curve – the gap between short- and long-term interest rates – is a strong recession signal. Every time it has inverted in recent decades – meaning when long-term rates are lower than short-term rates – a recession has followed. The yield curve is close to inverting now. There are reasons to not completely freak out about this; but there are many reasons to believe what the yield curve is telling you, warns David Ader.
Dan Moss takes a look at global data and notes growth has quietly peaked. None of this means a recession is imminent; the second-longest U.S. expansion on record could still run for a while. Justin Fox writes the ballooning federal budget deficit is boosting growth for now. That’s good for many reasons, not least of which is that the end of long expansions is when we’ve made the most progress pulling people out of poverty, writes Noah Smith.
One of the growing economic risks is that Trump’s multi-front trade war will keep expanding. One silver lining: That would at least knock down the gasoline prices Trump keeps tweeting about, writes Julian Lee. That’s some bitter medicine, though.
What to Do About Big Tech?
Facebook Inc.’s massive size and repeated missteps have inspired calls to break up the company. Bloomberg's editors argue that would be the wrong response: “As preeminent as Facebook is, breaking it up would do little to stimulate competition, while causing plenty of harm. Far better to remedy its specific abuses, while taking care not to wreck a thriving American company in the process.” Click here to read the whole thing.
The European Union is trying to deal with another tech behemoth – Google parent Alphabet Inc. – by levying big fines for its business practices. But Google doesn’t seem to be changing its practices, writes Alex Webb. It may think it’s too big to care – but Alex warns regulators in fast-growing markets such as India and parts of Africa may take their cues from Europe.
Amazon Shopping Is Sub-Prime
Speaking of tech behemoths: Happy Prime Day, Amazon.com Inc.’s made-up holiday to celebrate its birthday, or something. Sarah Halzack and Shira Ovide write Amazon’s time would be better spent figuring out how to make the Amazon.com shopping experience less terrible: “For certain kinds of purchases, it feels like shopping on Amazon has been shaped too much by technologists with outdated ideas, and not enough by merchants or anyone else in possession of a soul.” Click here to read the whole thing.
This … might not be the best time to take Arconic Inc. private, writes Brooke Sutherland:
Big Pharma’s best days may be behind it, writes Max Nisen:
Without tax cuts, bank profits in the latest quarter might have been non-existent, writes Stephen Gandel:
What game theory says about Trump’s trade strategy. – Mohamed El-Erian
It’s time to put some politicians on the Supreme Court. – Al Hunt
Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell unleashed the power of the corporation in public life – for better or worse. – Justin Fox
California’s tax laws are ruining its housing market. – Virginia Postrel
Here are all the Republicans who endorsed arming toddlers.
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Mark Gongloff is an editor with Bloomberg Opinion. He previously was a managing editor of Fortune.com, ran the Huffington Post's business and technology coverage, and was a columnist, reporter and editor for the Wall Street Journal.
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