John Joseph Cassidy is a British-North American journalist, who is a staff writer at The New Yorker and a contributor to The New York Review of Books, having previously been an editor at The Sunday Times of London and a deputy editor at the New York Post.
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I write about politics, economics, and more. Most recently, I wrote about the Trump Administration's plan to rollback post-2008 regulatory reform on Wall Street: http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/from-drain-the-swamp-to-government-sachs?mbid=social_reddit
That's about it, everybody. I'm signing off now. Thanks again for tuning in.
Does the threat of being called "fake news" ever run through your head while writing an article, or affect the style of writing? And in your opinion, how should the media be handling the President's war on these, so-called, fake news organizations (like CNN)?
Being a columnist, I don't worry much about fake news. I just write what I think, read it through, and put it out there. If there is a fact I am not sure of, I do try to check it, or, at least, point out its source.
Obviously, news organizations have to take the whole fake news thing more seriously, but the main thing is not to let Trump intimidate them. So far, I don't think they have. To the contrary, probably. Which explains why he seems to be getting more and more irate.
What books and individuals influence you?
What would you recommend for individuals to do to improve their knowledge of economics - even for people with degrees in economics?
Any advice for people wanting to make a living studying economics/policy?
Thanks for the AMA
Ah, a bit of respite from Trump and politics! Thanks. When I was a student, I studied history and economics, and as a graduate I specialized in economics, so I read a lot of pretty technical stuff. I do have some interest in economic theory, but the books and articles that really stayed with me were the ones that went beyond individual theories and looked at the big picture. An obvious one is Keynes's "General Theory." On the left, Paul Sweezey's "Theory of Capitalist Development, which was an effort to combine Keynesian short run theory with Marx's long run analysis, is a tour de force that I still go back to. On the right, Milton's Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom," is seminal and still central. All of these books are pretty old. If you want something newer and more up to date, the best textbook I've seen is by my old tutor, David Soskice and his longtime collaborator Wendy Carlin. It's called "Macroeconomics," I think. And if you want a history that covers a lot of ground and also includes the financial crisis and its aftermath, I would immodestly recommend my own book, "How Markets Fail." Hope that's helpful. As for advice, I would just plunge in and take some courses. There are some good online ones now, which are a good way of testing whether you really have a taste for a subject.
The obvious ludicrousness aside, just how different is this administration from earlier administrations? In what way has the paradigm for administration and governance truly changed?
Hi everyone, thanks for tuning in. That's an excellent question, which I haven't thought about the way you formulated it. I've thought quite a bit about how different Trump is from previous presidents, and I don't there is any doubt that he represents something new. In terms of experience, outlook, and temperament, there has never been a president like him before. In terms of the administration as a whole, it's a bit different. If you take away Trump and some of the people immediately surrounding him, such as Steve Bannon and Stephe Miller, this administration could pass for a normal Republican administration. A very conservative one, certainly--Pence, Price, Pruitt, and DeVos are all right wing even by the standards of today's GOP. But you also have generals and business leaders playing a big role, which we've seen in the past. The question is how the two parallel administrations gets along--or, equivalently, how Trump deals with his cabinet .I don't think we know the answer to that yet.
Why hasn't every media organization set up a shadow twitter to immediately respond to when the administration lies? And why isn't the media calling them lies?
I think the mainstream news organizations--NY Times, Washington Post, etc--are responding pretty quickly these days to untruths on the part of the administration. But, you are right, they are not responding directly on Twitter, and I think that is a sound policy, generally speaking. It usually takes more than 140 characters to take apart a claim and show where/how it is wrong. Of course, the news organization can (and do) draw attentions to their pieces, including the fact-checking ones, on Twitter.
The question of when you should label an untruth a lie is a tricky one for a news organization, because lying involves intent, and it is sometimes--not always--hard to read intent. For that reason, the Associated Press and some other news organizations have said they are generally going to avoid using the word "lie." In some cases, however, especially with Trump himself, I think it is justified to call him out for lying, because he makes claims knowing full well they have been discredited. But if I were a news organization, I'd only do that on a case-by-case basis. As a blogger/columnist, who deals in opinion and analysis, I feel like I do have some more leeway.
Is there a method to Trump's madness? Do you think he deliberately does outrageous but meaningless things to distract from policy moves regarding banks and Wall Street?
I think there is certainly a method to some of what Trump does. Quite often when a negative story is dominating the news cycle, he tweets out something outrageous to try and change the subject. At the same time, though, I do not think he is wholly in control of his anger and venting. For example, his attacks over the weekend on the federal judge who halted his travel ban. I don't think that served any purpose other than to make him feel better, unnerve some Republicans, and, quite possibly, damage his administration's chances of winning its appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As for his favors to Wall Street, I don't think he has done much to disguise them. Setting aside the fiduciary duty rule, which is important in itself, the executive order he signed on Friday didn't actually do very much. It was an instruction to the Treasury Department and other agencies to look into how to row back regulation and dismantle the Dodd-Frank Act. He could have issued that order quietly, but he chose to broadcast it. Which, I agree, is pretty amazing given that, on the campaign stump, he said bankers had "gotten away with murder" and depicted Hillary Clinton as a stooge for Goldman Sachs.
most memorable piece you researched and wrote?
I'm going to split this one in two. I think the most memorable reporting I did was a trip to Iraq in May 2003 to find out how the Iraqi oil industry was going immediately after the US-led invasion. I drove from Basra to Baghdad to Kirkuk, and it was amazing to see how the country had collapsed. The oilfields were still littered with munitions, the oil ministry in Baghdad had been looted, and there was already a lot of ethnic tension in the Kirkuk area. Although the insurgency was in its early stages, I was relieved to get over the border to Jordan, and I came home with a clear sense that this wasn't going to end well.
The most memorable piece I've written for the New Yorker, I think, was a long piece about David Kelly, the British expert on weapons of mass destruction, who killed himself in 2003 after being fingered as the source of some news stories that criticized the British government. The reporting wasn't that thrilling. It mainly involved sitting through weeks of testimony at a public inquiry in London. But Kelly's story was tragic, and it somehow encapsulated the whole misconceived, immoral, and screwed up Iraq venture.
Do you have any thoughts on how to explain to certain groups of voters that Trump, his administration, his policies and executive orders, etc. are opposite of their interests? How do you reach people who have their fingers in their ears?
I'm not sure there are many Trump voters reading the New Yorker, but your question is a serious one, especially for the Democratic Party. I think the first thing to do is to acknowledge that although many of Trump's policies--tax cuts for the rich, rollback of financial regulations etc--will hurt working class and middle class people, he did, during the campaign, tap into some legitimate concerns about globalization and trade. I keep going back to the fact that the average hourly wage of non-supervisory workers is lower today, in real terms, than it was in 1973. On top of that, there is now a good deal of empirical evidence that trade with China has taken a pretty heavy toll on manufacturing jobs. So, Trump knew what he was doing when he played the nationalist/protectionist card. The problem, of course, is explaining why his cures won't work, and may well end up harming the victims. If I could do that, I'd give up journalism and run for office! Just joking. But I think the first step is acknowledging that some of the Trump voters have legitimate grievances and trying to speak to them in their language: they aren't all just racist deplorables.
Do you think Trump will be impeached?
I'll make this the last question. My answer is, I don't know. But I will also say this. The way the Trump administration has started out, it is hard to see things going on like this for another four years. The level of passion, vitriol, and chaos that Trump has unleashed is unprecedented.
It seems to me that there a few possibilities. If Trump carries on the way he is going, he will inevitably come into conflict with the Courts, with a majority of the American people, and, eventually, with Congress. The US system of government was designed to prevent the emergence of an authoritarian leader who seeks to rule by himself. Except in wartime--see below--it reacts against efforts to usurp the other two branches of government. So, at some stage, we'd have a constitutional crisis, if we haven't got one already.
Now, Trump could always change course, get rid of Bannon, and embark on a more moderate course--one in which he tries to win over some of the people who didn't vote for him, rather than simply playing to his base. Given the way he's started out, and what appear to be his own authoritarian inclinations, that doesn't seem very likely. But it's still a possibility.
The other possible outcome is the nightmare scenario. After some sort of terrorist attack or military confrontation, Trump seeks to declare a state of emergency, suspending some constitutional freedoms, such as freedom of the press. Or perhaps, he simply gets a compliant Republican Congress to pass an even harsher and more illiberal version of the original Patriot Act--one that brings back torture, CIA black sites, mass surveillance of Americans, and, perhaps, introduces some new limits on the freedom of the press and the freedom to protest. As I say, that is the nightmare scenario. And I hope that's as close as it ever gets to reality.
Why is every news outlet just bashing trump?
Honestly seems like the greatest thing to ever happen to your ratings(or is that the answer in the question)
I don't think it's fair to say every news outlet is bashing Trump. If you watch Fox News or read some of the pro-Trump sites, the coverage has generally been pretty favorable. But even they have had some critical coverage of issues like the travel ban, which has been a fiasco, obviously.
The point you raise about news outlets preaching to their choirs for commercial purposes is a legitimate one, and I think it extends across the political spectrum. One of the things news organizations, especially broadcast news organization, have found in the past decade--not just with Trump--is that the center ground is shrinking, and that shifting to one side is good business. Fox obviously led the way, and MSNBC made a play to be the liberal equivalent. CNN, despite Trump's rants, has played things pretty straight, I think.
In terms of print, I think the people at the Times and the Washington Post have been pretty upfront that they have seen a surge in subscriptions since Trump became president. Not being a fan of the president--I know, you guessed--I think that is a healthy thing. In additions, though, I do think news organizations, and magazines like ours, should get out there into the country and report the opinions of Trump supporters as well as Trump critics. But I don't think that means they should go easy on Trump when he's doing things like attacking federal judges.
What is the biggest short term risk to global stability?
What holds the best chance to improve people's lives in the short term?
I think the two biggest short term risks are China and Trump--or, make that three risks: China, Trump, and China and Trump. The China risk is the same one that has been out there for years: a debt-driven financial blow-up that spills over into other markets. The Trump risk is that he does something that really spooks people and investors. So far, the markets have reacted favorably to his election, because they like tax cuts and deregulation. But I think there's quite a bit of political risk that isn't priced in, especially when it comes to the survival of an open trading system. And of course, there's a danger he could do something nutty, such as spark a military confrontation in the South China Sea. In the interests of maintaining global stability and getting past Trump to another president, the Chinese government might be willing to give a bit of ground. But if Trump backs them into a corner, and brings Chinese nationalism into play, there could be a disaster.
Big fan of you and The New Yorker on the whole, but I wanted to know, what do you view your (and the magazine's) role to be at this point, when so many of your readers are already in agreement with you? Your journalism is fantastic, but I worry that everyone who reads it is just as liberal and Trump-hating as I am, so to some extent it ends up being little more than preaching to the choir.
I touched on this earlier, and it is a concern. Again, I just try and call them as I see them, and then move onto the next piece. But I do think it is important not to just toe a particular party line. For example, I'm not convinced that the Democrats saying upfront that they would filibuster the Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination regardless of how his hearings go is in the best interests of the anti-Trump forces, and I tried to point that out in a post last week.