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Economists Think Congress Could Create An Economic Disaster This Summer

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Congress has less than a month to hammer out a deal on the next round of stimulus before expanded unemployment benefits expire. State and local governments are starting to feel the pinch of budget shortfalls. And while the U.S. got a piece of (relatively) good news in last week’s jobs report, which featured an unemployment rate 2.2 percentage points lower in June than it had been in May, the economy has been thrown back into chaos in the meantime, with a number of states pulling back on their reopenings amid spiking COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

Our newest survey of economists highlights just how consequential governmental decisions over the next month may be: On average, these economists think that a refusal by Congress to extend unemployment benefits or bail out state and local governments is just as likely to hurt the economy as local economies staying open in spite of COVID-19 spikes — or even closing because of the virus.

In partnership with the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, FiveThirtyEight asked 31 quantitative macroeconomic economists what they thought about a variety of subjects around the coronavirus recession and recovery efforts. The most recent survey was conducted from July 2 through 6, which means the June jobs report was fresh on respondents’ minds — but so was the state of the pandemic, along with challenges ahead for lawmakers.

[Related: How Americans View The Coronavirus Crisis And Trump’s Response]

“There’s a distinct risk that between now and November, Congress’s ability to continue fiscal support will be very limited by election-year politics,” said Jonathan Wright, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins University who has been consulting with us on the design of the survey. “That could be more of a drag on the economy than the local and state shutdowns just because the effect would be so huge.”

With a congressional showdown looming, we asked the experts to estimate the probability that several policy decisions would have the biggest negative impact on U.S. gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2020. Among the five options we presented, the single most important to the economists was a decision by state and local governments to reclose their economies because of COVID-19 outbreaks. But a decision by Congress not to provide funding to state and local governments was close behind. And the weight given to choices made by the federal government — bailing out local governments, extending unemployment insurance and providing ongoing aid for small businesses — added up to be even more important when taken as a whole:

What are the biggest economic risk factors by year’s end?

Average probabilities that each scenario would have the largest negative impact on U.S. GDP in the fourth quarter, according to economists

Local or state response options Avg. Probability
Decision to reverse local economic openings due to COVID-19 spikes 26%
Decision to keep local economies open despite COVID-19 spikes 17
Total 43
Federal response options
Not providing funding for state and local governments* 23%
Ending/reducing expansion of unemployment benefits 20
Ending/cutting back on aid to small businesses 14
Total 57

* Funding to address budget shortfalls associated with COVID-19.

The survey of 31 economists was conducted July 2-6.

Source: FIVETHIRTYEIGHT/IGM COVID-19 ECONOMIC SURVEY

“[State and local governments] are facing severe budget crises and will be laying off workers to balance their budgets,” said Julie Smith, a professor of economics at Lafayette College. That, she said, could lead to longer periods of high unemployment and financial pain for many households. Meanwhile, she added, cutting back or ending the federal unemployment extension would cause many people’s incomes to decline dramatically, leaving them with much less money to spend — which could make a big dent in GDP.

Perhaps for this reason, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the economists’ fourth-quarter real GDP predictions. When we last asked the panel for its forecast, it thought that GDP would be growing by 4.1 percent at the end of the year, a big improvement from the -28.2 percent quarter-over-quarter annualized growth it foresaw for the second quarter of 2020. This time around, the panel is calling for less negative growth (-25.5 percent) in the second quarter and a very similar fourth-quarter growth rate to last time (3.8 percent). But the range around that end-of-year forecast has gotten a lot wider — a sign of just how much things could go wrong. The gap between our consensus forecast’s 10th and 90th percentile predictions for fourth-quarter GDP growth was 10.9 percentage points in the last survey; now that gap is 12.8 percentage points, with almost all of the extra uncertainty coming in the form of downside risk. (The panel’s consensus 10th percentile GDP growth forecast has dropped from -2.0 percent to -3.5 percent.)

[Related: Voters Who Think The Economy Is The Country’s Biggest Problem Are Pretty Trumpy. That Might Not Help Him Much.]

The economists weren’t especially optimistic about the trajectory of the unemployment rate over the course of 2020, either. The consensus prediction was that the unemployment rate in December would be 10.1 percent, which is only 1 percentage point lower than the rate in June — and is still comparable to the unemployment rate at the height of the Great Recession. Stephen Cecchetti, a professor of international finance at the Brandeis International Business School, pointed out that workers are increasingly likely to be losing their jobs permanently, rather than temporarily, which will make it harder for them to get back into the labor force. And he added that it will take time for the economy to adjust to a new reality where working from home is the norm, which could also keep the unemployment rate from falling quickly. Cecchetti was also among the economists who thought that in a worst-case scenario, the unemployment rate could skyrocket again by the end of the year.

“There are a lot of people who haven’t been exposed to the virus,” he said. “It’s not hard to imagine new outbreaks in places like New Jersey or Massachusetts that force us to shut down all over again.”

About half of the economists in the survey also thought the country’s top earners would end the year with an even greater share of the nation’s personal income. In order to get a sense of how much the panel thought the COVID-19 recession would increase income inequality, we asked about a new metric created by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, which found that in 2016, households in the top 10 percent of incomes (adjusted for household size) accounted for 37.6 percent of the country’s personal income. Fifty percent of the respondents thought this number would be significantly higher by the end of 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 47 percent thought it would be about the same. Only one respondent thought it would be lower.

“My best guess is that this pandemic is going to worsen income inequalities,” said Sarah Zubairy, a professor of economics at Texas A&M University. She hypothesized that this was because job loss has been concentrated among lower-wage workers who can’t do their jobs remotely, and who may find themselves ricocheting in and out of the labor force if states have to abruptly pull back their reopening plans.

[Related: The Economy Is A Mess. So Why Isn’t The Stock Market?]

And in another sign that the U.S. has been knocked off course by the virus — and the subsequent leadership response — our survey panel overwhelmingly believes (with 90 percent agreement) that China will beat both America and the European Union on the road back to pre-crisis real GDP levels. In retrospect, according to Wright, this was kind of a “no-brainer” because China’s economic growth so far has been quite swift, and it has tools to enact sweeping fiscal stimulus that aren’t available to less centrally controlled economies like the U.S. or the E.U. But some of this might also be based on the Chinese government’s reputation for — how should we put this? — releasing overly favorable public data. “When all is said and done, if they don’t like the actual data they can fudge the numbers,” Wright said. “Put those three things together, and there’s almost no way they can’t be the first back.”

Wright also pointed to another ominous result in the survey: 19 percent of respondents thought that the 10-year average real U.S. GDP growth rate would be reduced by 1 to 2 percent per year. To be sure, the vast majority (77 percent) of economists thought the 10-year average growth rate would be reduced by less, although only one person thought it would go up. But the responses were still alarming, Wright said, because they indicated a serious degree of pessimism about the speed with which the economy will not just return to where it was at the end of 2019, but also catch up with where it would have been if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t happened.

[Related: In 2008, Everyone Thought The Recession Was Bad. But in 2020, Many Americans’ Views Depend On Their Party.]

However, Allan Timmermann, professor of finance and economics at the University of California, San Diego — who has also been consulting with us on the survey — was encouraged that the majority of respondents didn’t expect more long-term damage to growth. “This is still a large impact in terms of its cumulative effect on the economy,” he wrote in an email. “But it does suggest that most respondents think the economy will bounce back in due course — as opposed to leading us to a ‘lost decade’ scenario (as we have seen in Japan) with growth slowing down by an even larger amount.”

Overall, though, the latest survey responses paint a picture of America’s still-precarious road back to economic health. So much depends on the course of COVID-19 itself and how much the virus forces local economies to shut down again to slow its spread. But a lot is also riding on important policy decisions around the virus, which are still being debated. “I think economists have been surprised so far by the pace of the rebound,” Wright said. “But that hasn’t made them less worried about the weeks or months ahead.”


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TikTok dust up

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This week’s Goodfellows conversation was a bit more contentious than usual. The most interesting part, I think, is our little dust-up over TikTok, following Niall’s Bloomberg commentary.

As in the rest of this series I am the skeptic of jumping in to Cold War II — or at least against lashing out against all things China without an overall strategy. So I pushed hard on my colleagues — Be specific. Just exactly what is the danger you fear about allowing a Chinese social media company to operate in the U.S?

Let us remember TikTok is a private company, not a direct arm of the Chinese Communist Party. It loudly says it keeps data private and locates that data outside China. Certainly, one could and should ask for long lists of assurances on data privacy to be allowed to operate in the US. Yes, under Chinese law, the Chinese government can demand data. And then we’ll see what happens. But let us not confuse the facts on the ground as they are.

But admitting all that, be specific. Exactly what is the danger to US national security if the Chinese Communist Party gets TikToks data that finds Suzie Derkins really likes fluffy cat videos? What is special about Chinese ownership that makes TikTok super-dangerous? 

Judge for yourself, as it is unfair for me to post too many late hits at my colleagues’ responses, but I remain unconvinced. Sure, 40 years from now Suzie might be a Supreme Court nominee and China might release an embarrassing video from her teenage years. But China can archive Reels or twitter or YouTube just as easily.

Many other answers seemed to me to veer off to other issues. Niall thinks TikTok is like crack cocaine, addictive to young and feeble minds, because it has AI algorithms that feed what you want to read. OK, but that has nothing to do with China and national security. Reels will be just as bad. HR is back to countering China’s quest for “economic dominance.” But I guess that means cutting off all Chinese companies, and we’ve had the argument before whether strategic mercantilism or innovation is the right answer there.

The argument broadened to one of general freedom of speech and regulation of the internet. Niall is still worried about all the fake news, and thinks that by regulating internet platforms as publishers all will be well. I notice current publishers are full of fake news too, and that the internet allows much more freedom to respond, and provide a counter-narrative. There is a bottom line, I think, whether one trusts people with freedom of speech and counter-speech, or some hope that some regulatory system, either top-down (which Niall disavows) or through the legal system, being able to sue publishers for wrong stories, will stem fake news and protect people from their feeble-mindedness. It’s a second-best world — I notice all the gatekeepers are just as feeble minded, and trust caveat emptor a lot more, I think, than my colleagues. Facebook’s idea that all postings on covid-19 must conform to current CDC or WHO guidelines, for example, is laughable. The robust and acrimonious debate over policy in the current crisis has been enormously beneficial.

I do think traditional limitations on free speech are allowable, of course. Posting on Facebook “the cops are busy tonight, everybody meet at the Nike store on N. Michigan avenue,” as apparently happened in Chicago last weekend, falls under the crying fire in a crowded theater exemption to free speech.

I won’t prejudice the conversation further. We will surely return to these issues.



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Afranius & Petreius Fear Caesar’s Cavalry & Decide to Retreat: Liveblogging the Fall of the Roman Republic

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Caesar faces Pompeian forces split in two: an army without a leader in Spain, and a leader without an army in Greece. Logistics and diplomacy reverse the situation at Ilerda in northeast Spain, as Caesar gains an advantage in allied cavalry that makes Afranius and Petreius fear their position will soon become logistically untenable. They decide to retreat:

Gaius Julius Caesar: The Civil War http://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/10657/pg10657-images.html: ‘When news of this battle was brought to Caesar at Ilerda, the bridge being completed at the same time, fortune soon took a turn. The enemy, daunted by the courage of our horse, did not scour the country as freely or as boldly as before: but sometimes advancing a small distance from the camp, that they might have a ready retreat, they foraged within narrower bounds…

…at other times, they took a longer circuit to avoid our outposts and parties of horse; or having sustained some loss, or descried our horse at a distance, they fled in the midst of their expedition, leaving their baggage behind them; at length they resolved to leave off foraging for several days, and, contrary to the practice of all nations, to go out at night.

In the meantime the Oscenses and the Calagurritani, who were under the government of the Oscenses, send ambassadors to Caesar, and offer to submit to his orders. They are followed by the Tarraconenses, Jacetani, and Ausetani, and in a few days more by the Illurgavonenses, who dwell near the river Ebro. He requires of them all to assist him with corn, to which they agreed, and having collected all the cattle in the country, they convey them into his camp. One entire cohort of the Illurgavonenses, knowing the design of their state, came over to Caesar, from the place where they were stationed, and carried their colours with them.

A great change is shortly made in the face of affairs. The bridge being finished, five powerful states being joined to Caesar, a way opened for the receiving of corn, and the rumours of the assistance of legions which were said to be on their march, with Pompey at their head, through Mauritania, having died away, several of the more distant states revolt from Afranius, and enter into league with Caesar.

Whilst the spirits of the enemy were dismayed at these things, Caesar, that he might not be always obliged to send his horse a long circuit round by the bridge, having found a convenient place, began to sink several drains, thirty feet deep, by which he might draw off a part of the river Segre, and make a ford over it. When these were almost finished, Afranius and Petreius began to be greatly alarmed, lest they should be altogether cut off from corn and forage, because Caesar was very strong in cavalry.

They therefore resolved to quit their posts, and to transfer the war to Celtiberia.

There was, moreover, a circumstance that confirmed them in this resolution: for of the two adverse parties, that which had stood by Sertorius in the late war, being conquered by Pompey, still trembled at his name and sway, though absent: the other which had remained firm in Pompey’s interest, loved him for the favours which they had received: but Caesar’s name was not known to the barbarians. From these they expected considerable aid, both of horse and foot, and hoped to protract the war till winter, in a friendly country.

Having come to this resolution, they gave orders to collect all the ships in the river Ebro, and to bring them to Octogesa, a town situated on the river Ebro, about twenty miles distant from their camp. At this part of the river, they ordered a bridge to be made of boats fastened together, and transported two legions over the river Segre, and fortified their camp with a rampart, twelve feet high…

 

.#history #livebloggingthefalloftheromanrepublic #politics #2020-08-11
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Foreshadowing from Gaius Sallustius Crispus https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/foreshadowing-from-gaius-sallustius-crispus-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: A strongly unconventional high politician facing the expiration of his term of office. He knows that there is a very high probability that, because of his actions in office, his adversaries will try and convict him of crimes after he lays down his power. Let us start with some foreshadowing from Gaius Sallustius Crispus…


Pompey’s Strategy and Domitius’ Stand https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/burns-pompeys-strategy-and-domitius-standnoted.html: In his The Civil War Gaius Julius Caesar presented “just the facts” in a way that made Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus look like a cowardly and incompetent idiot. The attractive interpretation is that Ahenobarbus was just trying to do the job of defeating Caesar, but had failed to recognize that Pompey was not his ally. Pompey, rather, was somebody whose first goal was to gain the submission of Ahenobarbus and the other Optimates, and only after that submission was gained would he even think about fighting Caesar. Still an idiot, but not an incompetent or a cowardly one: Alfred Burns https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/article-burns-pompey.pdf: ‘In early 49, the alliance confronting Caesar consisted of the old republican senate families who under the leadership of [Lucius] Domitius [Ahenonbarbus] tried to maintain the traditional institutions and of Pompey who clung to his own extra-legal position of semi-dictatorial power. Both parties to the alliance were as mutually distrustful as they were dependent on each other…

Marcus Tullius Cicero’s Take on the First Three Months of -49 https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/marcus-tullius-ciceros-take-on-the-first-three-months-of-49-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: ‘We have a primary source for the start of the Roman Civil Warin addition to Gaius Julius Caesar’s deceptively powerful plain-spoken “just the facts” narrative in his Commentaries on the Civl War—a narrative that is also a clever and sophisticated lawyer’s brief. Our one other primary source: Marcus Tullius Cicero’s letters to his BFF Titus Pomponius Atticus. Caesar, in his The Civil War, makes himself out to be reasonable, rational, decisive, and clever. Cicero, in his Letters to Atticus is a contrast. He lets his hair down. He is writing to someone he trusts to love him without reservation. He is completely unconcerned with making himself appear to be less flawed than he appears. And the impression he leaves is absolutely dreadful: he makes himself out to be erratic, emotional, dithering, and idiotic…

Reflecting on the First Three Months of -49 https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/reflecting-on-the-first-three-months-of-49-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: ‘The key question for the first three months of the year -49 is: what did the factions anticipate would happen in that year? The Optimates seemed to think that they had Caesar cornered: Either he surrendered… and then submitted to trial… or he… was quickly crushed…. Cicero appears to have believed that either the Senate surrendered to Ceesar and let him… put Cataline’s conspiracy into action but legally… and then ruled With the support of his electoral coalition of mountebank ex-debtors and ex-veterans to whom he had given land; or… Pompey… crushed Cesar militarily… follow[ed] up with proscriptions and executions after which he would rule as a second Sulla. What is not at all clear to me is what Pompey thought would happen…. My guess, reading between the lines of Plutarch, is that Pompey found himself allied with the Senate in January-February of -49, but not in command of anything—as shown by Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus’s behavior at Corfinium, attempting to trap Pompey into fighting alongside him in central Italy. And so he retreated to Greece, where he was in undisputed command…


Caesar Offers a Compromise Solution (or So Caesar Says) https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/caesar-offers-a-compromise-solution-or-so-caesar-says-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: The Beginning of Caesar’s Commentaries on the Civil War, in which Caesar says that he had proposed a compromise solution to the political crisis…. ‘The dispatch from Gaius Caesar was delivered to the consuls; but it was only after strong representations from the tribunes that they gave their grudging permission for it to be read in the Senate. Even then, they would not consent to a debate on its contents, but initiated instead a general debate on ‘matters of State’…. Scipio spoke… Pompey, he said, intended to stand by his duty to the State, if the Senate would support him; but if they hesitated and showed weakness, then, should they want his help later, they would ask for it in vain…

The Optimate Faction Rejects Caesar’s Compromise https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/the-optimate-faction-rejects-caesars-compromise-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: Caesar narrates the reasons that the leaders of the Optimate faction—Cato, Lentulus, Scipio, and Pompey—worked hard to set the stage for war, and how the majority of Senators in the timorous middle were robbed of the power to decide freely, and driven reluctantly to vote for Scipio’s motion to rob Caesar of his protections against arrest and trial…

The Optimate Faction Arms for War, & Illegally Usurps Provincial Imperium https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/the-optimate-faction-arms-for-war-illegally-usurps-provincial-imperium-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: Caesar narrates: Whatever norms he may or may not have broken during his consulate—in order to wrest land from the hands of corrupt plutocrats and grant it to the deserving—he says, the Optimate faction does much worse. In the first seven days of the year of the consulate of Lucius Cornelius Lentulus Crus and Gaius Claudius Marcellus Maior, the Optimate faction goes beyond norm-breaking into outright illegality. And to that they add impiety. They illegaly seize power, as they grant themselves proconsular and propraetorial imperium over the provinces, without the constitutionally-required popular confirmation of imperium. They impiously violate the separation of church and state by seizing temple funds for their own use. They thus incur the wrath of the gods. And they incur the enmity of all who believe in constitutional balance, as opposed to armed plutocratic dictatorship…

Caesar Presents His Case to the 13th Legion, & Negotiates Unsucccessfully with Pompey https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/caesar-presents-his-case-to-the-13th-legion-negotiates-unsucccessfully-with-pompey-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-rep.html: Caesar presents his case to the 13th Legion, and wins its enthusiastic support. Caesar and Pompey negotiate, but Pompey refuses to give up his dominant position. He holds imperium over Spain and commanding the ten Spanish garrison legions, while also residing in the suburbs of Rome and thus dominating the discussions of the Senate. Pompey refuses to commit to setting a date for his departure for Spain…

The Optimate Faction Panics and Abandons Rome https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/the-optimate-faction-panics-and-abandons-rome-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: Caesar narrates: The Optimate faction panics at a rumor of Caesar’s approach, and flees from Rome with the looted Treasury reserve. The towns of Italy support Caesar. Even the town of Cingulum rallied to Caesar, even though its founder Titus Labienus, Caesar’s second-in-command in the Gallic War, had deserted Caesar for his earlier allegiance to Pompey. And Pompey’s attempts to reinforce his army by recruiting veterans who had obtained their farms through Caesar’s legislative initiatives did not go well…

Caesar Besieges Domitius in Corfinum https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/caesar-besieges-domitius-in-corfinum-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus began raising troops, and by the start of February -49 had 13000 soldiers in the town of Corfinum. On 09 Feb -49 Domitius decided to stand at Corfinum rather than retreat to the south of Italy. So he wrote to Pompey… urged that the Optimate faction join its military forces together at Corfinum to outnumber and fight Caesar. Pompey disagreed. Why did he decide that he, Pompey, “cannot risk the whole war in a single battle, especially under the circumstances”?…

Caesar Captures Corfinum https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/caesar-captures-corfinum-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus’s deception that Pompey is coming to the Optimates’ aid in Corfinum falls apart, Ahenobarbus tries to flee, Lentulus Spinther begs for his life, Caesar grants clemency to all, and adds the three Optimate and Pompeian legions to his army. Before Corfinum Caesar had had two legions in Italy to the Optimate and Pompeian six. After Corfinum (with the arrival of Legio VIII plus new recruits) Caesar has seven legions in Italy to the Pompeian three. It is now 21 Feb -49: Gaius Julius Caesar: The Civil War: ‘Domitius’s looks, however, belied his words; indeed, his whole demeanour was much more anxious and fearful than usual. When to this was added the fact that, contrary to his usual custom, he spent a lot of time talking to his friends in private, making plans, while avoiding a meeting of the officers or an assembly of the troops, then the truth could not be concealed or misrepresented for long…

Pompey Refuses to Negotiate & Flees to Greece https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/pompey-refuses-to-negotiate-flees-to-greece-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: Pompey flees to the southern Adriatic port of Brundisium. Caesar catches up to him and begs him to negotiate. Pompey refuses and flees to Greece. Caesar decides not to follow, but to turn and first defeat the Pompeian armies in Spain. It is now 18 Mar -49…

Cementing Caesarian Control of the Center of the Empire: Late March -49 https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/cementing-caesarian-control-of-the-center-of-the-empire-late-march-49-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: Caesar, now that the Pompeians and the High Optimates have fled, offers to share power with the dysfunctional Senate but, filibustered and vetoed by Optimate tribunes, he consolidates his hold on the center of the empire and heads for Spain…

Treachery at Massilia: April-May -49 https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/07/treachery-at-massilia-april-may-49-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: The Massiliotes profess neutrality—until Pompeian reinforcements arrive, and then they go back on their word. Pompeians to whom Caesar had shown clemency at Corfinium have again taken up weapons against him: Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus at Massilia, and Vibullius Rufus to command the Pompeian legions in Spain…

Rendezvous in Spain, at Ilerda https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/08/rendezvous-in-spain-at-ilerda-livelogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-repubvlic.html: Caesar’s first probing military moves demonstrate his position is very strong. From a central position in control of the heart of the empire, he moves first to deal with the Pompeian forces in Spain to his west: ‘The First Spanish Campaign: Fabius’s orders were to make haste to seize the passes over the Pyrenees, which at that time were being held by the troops of Pompey’s lieutenant, Lucius Afranius. He ordered the remaining legions, which were wintering farther away, to follow on. Fabius, obeying orders, lost no time in dislodging the guards from the pass and proceeded by forced marches to encounter Afranius’s army…

Caesar Begins His First Spanish Campaign https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/08/caesar-begins-his-first-spanish-campaign-livelogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: A strongly unconventional high politician knows that his adversaries will try and convict him of crimes after he lays down his military command, so he lets the dice fly. His first probing military moves demonstrate his position is very strong. He moves first to deal with the Pompeian forces in Spain to his west. He has his men build a fortified camp close enough to the Pompeian base that the soldiers will inevitably start to fraternize…

Heavy But Inconclusive Skirmishing Between the Military Camps at Ilerda https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/08/heavy-but-inconclusive-skirmishing-between-the-military-camps-at-ilerda-livelogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: ‘From a central position in control of the heart of the empire, Caesar moves first to deal with the Pompeian forces in Spain to his west. Heavy but inconclusive skirmishing follows…

Floods and Supply Lines: Livelogging the Fall of the Roman Republic https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/08/floods-and-suppyl-liner-livelogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: From a central position in control of the heart of the empire, Caesar moves first to deal with the Pompeian forces in Spain to his west: Gaius Julius Caesar: The Civil War: ‘Floods and Supply Lines: The enemy fortified the hill, about which the contest had been, with strong works, and posted a garrison on it. In two days after this transaction, there happened an unexpected misfortune. For so great a storm arose, that it was agreed that there were never seen higher floods in those countries; it swept down the snow from all the mountains, and broke over the banks of the river, and in one day carried away both the bridges which Fabius had built, a circumstance which caused great difficulties…

Caesar Turns the Tables on the Pompeian Skirmishers https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/08/caesar-turns-the-tables-on-the-pompeian-skirmishers-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: ‘Caesar faces Pompeian forces split in two: an army without a leader in Spain, and a leader without an army in Greece. With clever engineering and tactics, he overcomes his logistical difficulties and begins to turn the tables on the Pompeian army in Spain…

The Caesarian Navy Led by Decimus Brutus Wins a Victory at Massilia https://www.bradford-delong.com/2020/08/the-caesarian-navy-led-by-decimus-brutus-wins-a-victory-at-massilia-liveblogging-the-fall-of-the-roman-republic.html: ‘Caesar faces Pompeian forces split in two: an army without a leader in Spain, and a leader without an army in Greece. While Caesar grapples with the leaderless Pompeian army in Spain, Decimus Brutus and Caesar’s navy win an victory over the traitorous Massilians and Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus…



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Dorothy Theresa Sawchak Mankiw

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Above is a picture of my mother as a young woman. I would like to tell you about her.

My mother was born on July 18, 1927, the second child of Nicholas and Catherine Sawchak.

Nicholas and Catherine were immigrants from Ukraine. They came to the United States as teenagers, arriving separately, neither with more than a fourth-grade education. Catherine was from a farming area in western Ukraine. She left because her family wanted her to marry an older man rather than her younger boyfriend, who had been conscripted into the army. Her first job here was as a maid. Nicholas was from Kiev, where he had been trained to be a furrier. In the United States, he worked as a potter, making sinks and toilettes. When Nicholas and Catherine came to the United States, they thought they might return home to Ukraine eventually. But World War I and the Russian Revolution intervened, causing a change of plans. Catherine’s boyfriend died in the war. Nicholas and Catherine met each other, married, and settled in a small row house in Trenton, New Jersey, where they lived the rest of their lives.

Catherine and Nicholas had two children, my uncle Walter and my mother Dorothy. When my mother was born, her parents chose to name her “Dorothy Theresa Sawchak.” But because Catherine spoke with a heavy accent, the clerk preparing the birth certificate did not understand her. So officially, my mother’s middle name was “Tessie” rather than “Theresa.” She never bothered to change it.

Nicholas and Catherine were hardworking and frugal. They saved enough to send Walter to college and medical school. He served as a physician in the army during the Korean war. Once I asked him if he worked at a MASH unit, like in the TV show. He said no, he worked closer to the front. He patched up the wounded soldiers the best he could and then sent them to a MASH unit to recover and receive more treatment. After the war, he became a pathologist in a Trenton-area hospital. He married and had two daughters, my cousins.

My mother attended Trenton High School (the same high school, I learned years later, attended by the economist Robert Solow at about the same time). She danced ballet. She water-skied on the Delaware River. She loved to read and go to the movies.

In part because of limited resources and in part because of the gender bias of the time, my mother was not given the chance to go to college. Years later, her parents would say that not giving her that opportunity was one of their great regrets. Instead, my mother learned to be a hairdresser. She was also pressured to marry the son of some family friends.

The marriage did not work. With my mother pregnant, her new husband started “running around,” my mother’s euphemism for infidelity. They divorced, and she kicked him out of her life. But the marriage did leave her with one blessing—my sister Peg.

My mother continued life as a single mother. Some years later, she met my father, also named Nicholas, through social functions run by local Ukrainian churches. They both loved to dance. He wanted to marry her, but having been burned once, she was reluctant at first. Only when she realized that he had become her best friend did she finally accept.

In 1958, nine months after I was born, Mom, Dad, Peg, and I left Trenton for a newly built split-level house in Cranford, New Jersey. My father was working for Western Electric, an arm of AT&T, first as a draftsman and then as an electrical engineer. He worked there until his retirement. One of his specialties was battery design. When I was growing up, I thought it sounded incredibly boring. Now I realize how important it is.

My mother then stopped working as a hairdresser to become a full-time mom. But she kept all the hairdresser equipment from her shop—chair, mirrors, scissors, razors, and so on—in our basement. She would cut the hair of her friends on a part-time basis. When I was a small boy, she cut my hair as well.

I attended the Brookside School, the public grade school which was a short walk from our house. When I was in the second or third grade, my mother was called in to see the teacher. The class had been given some standardized aptitude test. “Greg did well,” the teacher said. “We were very surprised.”

At that moment, my mother decided the school was not working out for me. I was talkative and inquisitive at home but shy and lackluster at school. I needed a change.

She started looking around for the best school she could find for me. She decided it was The Pingry School, an independent day school about a dozen miles from our house. She had me apply, and I was accepted.

The question then became, how to pay for it? Pingry was expensive, and we did not have a lot of extra money. My mother decided that she needed to return to work.

She started looking for a job, and an extraordinary opportunity presented itself. Union County, where we lived, was opening a public vocational school, and they were looking for teachers. She applied to be the cosmetology teacher and was hired.

There was, however, a glitch. The teachers, even though teaching trades like hairdressing, needed teacher certification. That required a certain number of college courses, and my mother had not taken any. So she got a temporary reprieve from the requirement. While teaching at the vocational school during the day, she started taking college courses at night to earn her certification, all while raising two children.

My mother taught at the vocational school until her retirement. During that time, she also co-authored a couple of books, called Beauty Culture I and II, which were teacher’s guides. From the summary of the first volume: “The syllabus is divided into six sections and includes the following areas of instruction: shop, school, and the cosmetologist; sterilization practices in the beauty salon; scalp and hair applications and shampooing; hair styling; manicuring; and hairpressing and iron curling.” I suppose one might view this project as a harbinger of my career as a textbook author.

When my parents both retired, they were still the best of friends. They traveled together, exploring the world in ways that were impossible when they were younger and poorer. During my third year as an economics professor, I was visiting the LSE for about a month. I encouraged my parents to come over to London for a week or so. They had a grand time. I believe it was the first time they had ever visited Europe. When I was growing up, vacations were usually at the Jersey shore.

My father died a few years later. My mother spent the next three decades living alone. She was then living full-time at the Jersey shore in Brant Beach on Long Beach Island. The house was close to the ocean and large enough to encourage her growing family to come for extended visits. Two children, five grandchildren, four great-grandchildren. The more, the merrier. Nothing made her happier than being surrounded by family.

My mother loved to cook, especially the Ukrainian dishes she learned in her childhood. Holubtsi (stuffed cabbage) was a specialty. Another was kapusta (cabbage) soup. One time, the local newspaper offered to publish her kapusta soup recipe. They did so, but with an error. Every seasoning that was supposed to be measured in teaspoons was printed as tablespoons. The paper later ran a correction but probably to no avail. I am not sure if anyone ever tried the misprinted recipe and, if so, to what end.

During her free time in her later years, my mother read extensively, played FreeCell on her computer, and watched TV. A few years ago, when she was about 90 years old, I was visiting her, and I happened to mention the show “Breaking Bad.” She had not heard of it. She suggested we watch the first episode. And then another. And another. After I left, she binge-watched all five seasons.

As she aged, living alone became harder. When she had trouble going up and down the stairs, an elevator was added to her house. But slowly her balance faltered, and she fell several times. She started having small strokes, and then a more significant one. She moved into a nursing home. Whenever I visited, I brought her new books to read. Her love of reading never diminished.

This is, I am afraid, where the story ends. Last week, Dorothy Theresa Sawchak Mankiw tested positive for Covid-19. Yesterday, she died. I will miss her.



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