Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico 5 Years Later

Now seems a useful time to re-assess some of the pronouncements made in the wake of the tragic disaster that struck Puerto Rico in September 2017. First, fatalities of Americans (contra Mr. Trump’s seeming assertion these were not American) were much higher than some commentators claimed. Second, arguments that economic policies undertaken in 2016 and 2017 (i.e., the austerity measures associated with PROMESA) caused more deaths than Hurricane Maria are incorrect. Finally, the economic challenges that existed before the hurricane struck — including insufficient tax revenues — remain, even as the economy has rebounded.

The Impact on Excess Mortality

First, let’s recall that some commentators argued in the wake of the Hurricane that no more than 200-400 deaths occurred. Even after being tutored in terms of what the data meant, some continued to provide unrealistically low estimates.

From Sandberg, et al. (July 2019) in Epidemiology:

Now compare against shoot-from-the-hip comments on Econbrowser, such as this from Steven Kopits on 5/31/2018:

Excess deaths in PR through year end, those recorded by the Statistics Office, numbered only 654. Most of these occurred in the last ten days of September and the whole of October. While the power outages there were exacerbated by the state ownership of PR’s utility, a large portion of the excess deaths would likely have occurred regardless, given the terrain and the strength of the hurricane. Thus, perhaps 300-400 of the excess deaths would have occurred regardless of steps anyone could have made to fix the power supply. The remainder can be attributed essentially to the state ownership of the power utility.

I would note that excess deaths fell by half in December. Thus, the data suggests that the hurricane accelerated the deaths of ill and dying people, rather than killing them outright. I would expect the excess deaths at a year horizon (through, say, Oct. 1, 2018) to total perhaps 200-400. Still a notable number, but certainly not 4,600. [emphasis added-MDC]

Mr. Kopits’ updated (6/4) analysis concludes, even with updated data:

Thus, the year-end excess death toll of 1,400 may be treated as a firm number in practice.

I think “firm” is an adjective to be avoided in these situations. Here is a graph presenting selected estimates, from this April 2019 post, which includes some of the earlier estimates.

Figure 1: Cumulative excess deaths from September 2017, for simple time dummies OLS model (blue), OLS model adjusting for population (green), and Quantile Regression model adjusting for population (red), Milken Institute point estimate (black square) and 95% confidence interval (gray +), Santos-Lozada, Howard letter (chartreuse triangle), Cruz-Cano and Mead (pink squares), Kopits (teal triangle). Not pictured: Kopits estimate of 300-400 for October 2018. Source: author’s calculations, Milken Institute (2018)Santos-Lozada and Howard (2018)Cruz-Cano and Mead (2019), and Kopits (2018).

Austerity Killed More than the Hurricane?

What about arguments that austerity measures associated with PROMESA caused more excess mortality than the hurricane [extensive argument here] . In order to assess this argument, first consider mortality data through February 2018.

Figure 2: Mortality per month (blue). Gray denotes in-sample period; orange shading denotes Hurricane Maria and post-hurricane period; dashed line at PROMESA legislation. Source: Santos-Lozada and Howard, 2017, June release of Vital Statistics data.

Second, now consider constructing the counterfactual not incorporating austerity measures both before and after PROMESA implementation (legislation passed as of in July 2016, control in effect as of October 2016). I accomplish this by estimating two equations: (1) a simple averaging over the 2010-2015 period, and (2) a log-log OLS regression specification incorporating population estimates (as well as a dummy for October 2014). 2016 seems an appropriate break point for austerity given Brad Setser’s discussion of Puerto Rican finances. These specifications are discussed in this post. I show in Figure 3 the implied excess mortality figures.

Figure 3: Excess mortality per month calculated using averages 2010-15 (blue), and population adjusted using 2010-15 sample (red), population is cubic interpolation from IMF World Economic Outlook database data. Gray denotes in-sample period; orange shading denotes Hurricane Maria and post-hurricane period; dashed line at PROMESA legislation. Source: Santos-Lozada and Howard, 2017, June release of Vital Statistics data, IMF WEO April 2018 database, and author’s calculations.

Notice in neither case are most of the pre-Maria deviations statistically significant at the 10% msl. In other words, one could not typically reject the null hypothesis of no austerity-induced excess mortality, pre-Maria.

Third, it’s instructive to consider excess mortality from 2016M01-2017M08, and how it compares to excess mortality to that 2017M09-2018M02. If one assumes zero population change from 2016-17, then one gets the estimate of cumulative deaths (“avg. ’10-’16”) in red line, which indicates minimal impact of austerity.

Figure 4: Cumulative excess mortality per month using population adjustment specification (blue) using cubic interpolation of IMF World Economic Outlook database data, and using 2010-15 average (red). Orange shading denotes Hurricane Maria and post-hurricane period; dashed line at PROMESA legislation. Source: Santos-Lozada and Howard, 2017, June release of Vital Statistics data, IMF WEO April 2018 database, and author’s calculations.

However, the more realistic assessment relies upon adjusting the counterfactual for population. This leads to the blue line, labeled “log-log”), seemingly verifying the proposition that excess deaths began before the hurricane made landfall. However, interestingly, neither approach directly contradicts the point that most of the excess mortality since 2016M01 is due to the impact of Hurricane Maria.

I conclude that using statistical analysis, the inference that excess deaths due to pre- and post-Maria austerity exceed that of the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is extremely fragile.

Buttressing this view, I also find that, using electricity grid outage data reported in Shermeyer (2018), excess mortality as calculated using a population adjustment matches very closely outage data, derived either from PERPA (the public utility) or from Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (NPP VIIRS).

Figure 5: Excess mortality per month using population adjustment specification (black) using cubic interpolation of IMF World Economic Outlook database data, and electricity outages as proportion of total, from PREPA (pink) and from VIIRS as reported in Shermeyer (2018). Orange shading denotes Hurricane Maria and post-hurricane period; dashed line at PROMESA legislation. Source: Santos-Lozada and Howard, 2017, June release of Vital Statistics data, IMF WEO April 2018 database, personal communication from Jacob Shermeyer, and author’s calculations.

A regression over the 2007M04-2018M02 period, the slope coefficient on outage is 826 using Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) data, and 950 using VIIRS data, both statistically significant using HAC robust errors, with adjusted R2 = 0.83 and 0.72, respectively. That means 639-690 excess mortality attributable to power outages (and correlates) in October, for instance. (The excess mortality could be due directly to electricity outages, or due to communication outages and water service breakdowns correlated with the electricity outages.)

Exactly how bad was the Federal response to Maria in Puerto Rico?

Skipping the optics of paper towels, several reports (e.g., DHS OIG) have document exactly how poorly FEMA performed. In addition, academic analyses have documented the differential response that occurred in the same period — that is much larger responses to hurricane landfalls in Texas and Florida.

The economic outlook

After the catastrophic disaster response failure, the Puerto Rican economy recovered to pre-hurricane levels, only to be laid low by the Covid pandemic. Figure 6 below shows GDP and the Economic Activity Index.

Figure 6: GDP in mn Ch2012$ (blue bar, left log scale), and Economic Activity Index (EDB-EAI) s.a. (blue, right log scale). NBER defined peak-to-trough recession dates shaded gray. Source:  BEA, Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico, and NBER.

The broadest measure of activity — GDP — is only reported up through 2020, while the Economic Activity Index –based on employment, electricity generation, gasoline consumption and cement sales — which extends to August 2022 only measures part of the economy. As shown, while there is a rebound, in (measured) economic activity, it’s tailed off in recent months. This pattern shows up in civilian employment (although not in series from the establishment series).

Figure 7: Puerto Rico nonfarm payroll employment (blue), private nonfarm payroll employment (tan), civilian employment (green), all in 000’s, s.a.. NBER defined peak-to-trough recession dates shaded gray. Source:  BLS, and NBER.

Federal assistance associated with the pandemic is ending. This fiscal drag adds to the central long term challenges of an uncompetitive economy (in part due to shipping and other transportation regulations) and a large government debt mired in restructuring (see CRS). See also Gregory Makoff and Brad Setser’s 2017 economic analysis.

Some of these challenges are intractable, while other could be relatively easily remedied. For instance, waiving the Jones Act for Puerto Rico would in some estimates lower prices by $1 billion, which is substantial for an economy measured at about $103 billion in 2020.

35 thoughts on “Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico 5 Years Later

  1. pgl

    contra Mr. Trump’s seeming assertion these were not American

    Well – there were not WHITE Americans -remember Hispanics do not count in MAGA land. Thanks for the excellent analysis plus the reminder that Princeton Steve was and always has been one arrogant clown.

  2. pgl

    Trump has gone from letting Puerto Ricans needlessly die to full QAnon:

    Author Kurt Eichenwald added that “this week, Trump posted QAnon memes, played QAnon theme music at his rally, and stood by as the crowd raises their fingers in the QAnon salute. This is the GOP’s supposed leader. Every Republican needs to be asked about it – and don’t let them walk away. ‘Do you support QAnon?’” “He has gone full QAnon, and that cult knows it. Trump has always been mentally ill, but this is a whole new level. He has gone completely insane,” he tweeted.

  3. Macroduck

    There are currently three big storms (that I know of) dumping or about to dump over a foot of rain within a 24 hour period – in Japan, Alaska and Puerto Rico. The scientific consensus is that these big storms will be more frequent in the future than in the historical past. We are getting a look at a natural experiment of sorts, an experiment in sustainability, that will tell a good bit about life in a changed climate. Those “not American” residents of Puerto Rico may need to move to the mainland if life on the island simply won’t work.

    We’ll get to see how Japan, with its infrastructure and geography, and coastal Alaska likewise, handle their storms and the aftermath, as we are seeing already in Pakhistan. Relocation will be part of human adaptation to climate change (sorry, butterflies and birds, fish and lizards, crustaceans and cetaceans), and relocation away from flood zones is likely to be heavy as flooding becomes more common and more violent.

    1. rjs

      don’t know if you all have discussed it here, but Chuck Schumer was so anxious to get anything passed that he gave Joe Manchin 80 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico, an area larger than Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia combined, for gas and oil drilling, as part of the Manchin Climate Act:

      Administration awards Gulf of Mexico drilling leases to oil giants – The Washington Post – The leases from a 2021 sale were given to oil and gas companies as part of a deal with Sen. Manchin over climate legislation

      The Biden administration on Wednesday reinstated $190 million worth of leases to companies bidding to explore for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico, despite widespread concerns about accelerating climate change.

      The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management granted the 307 oil and gas leases as part of a compromise that won support last month from Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) for the Inflation Reduction Act and its roughly $369 billion in climate-related spending and tax credits.

      The Lease Sale 257, which had been held in November 2021, had been invalidated by a federal judge in February.

      On Wednesday, the Biden administration sought to stress that the sale would “protect biologically sensitive resources, mitigate potential adverse effects on protected species and avoid potential ocean user conflicts.”

      Gulf of Mexico federal offshore oil production accounts for 15 percent of total U.S. crude oil production and federal offshore natural gas production in the Gulf accounts for 5 percent of total U.S. output, according to the Energy Information Administration. And the gulf was the scene of the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, a rig that was operating on behalf of BP.

      Chevron submitted the highest sum of winning bids at $47 million. Other major successful bidders included Anadarko, BP, Shell and Exxon Mobil.

      The Inflation Reduction Act specifies how the administration should deal with lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. It instructs the administration to hold another lease sale for oil and gas alone. Subsequently, the bill says, there will be sales of oil and gas leases coordinated with lease sales of renewable energy from wind turbines.

      Democrats have been divided over oil and gas lease sales with President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) all supporting them as part of the compromise with Manchin.

      that doesn’t include the side deal on fast tracking the Mountain Valley Pipeline and other oil & gas infrastructure between Manchin and the Democratic leadership, which is being attached to a must pass continuing resolution to fund the government…

      so not only will big storms be more frequent in the future than in the historical past, but your grandchildren might well get to see wildfires consume the savannas of Antarctica..

      1. baffling

        as i have said before, you need to be pragmatic. in order to reduce fossil fuel usage in the future, then you need to have renewables built today. this gave us billions in incentives for the green environment. those will pay dividends down the road. you would rather we don’t have those wind turbines built? what kind of gift are you waiting for?

        at this time, we still must engage moderate republicans such as manchin. that is how we get the renewables on the grid. i do not like that manchin held the climate hostage in order to include dirty energy sources. and i can still take as much action as possible to keep those leases from turning into reality. but i need more renewable investment right now. please offer of a better deal that could have been passed while including moderate republicans such as manchin, and others? only when you hold the majority can you get a better deal. elections matter.

        1. rjs

          sorry, my friend, i regret to inform you that i don’t have a pragmatic bone in my body….if it were on me to decide, the entire "Inflation Reduction Act", replete with its add-ons for dirty special interests even before Manchin got his, should have never been passed…as i wrote to a dozen friends the week it was contrived:

          believe it or not, the Democrats have come up with a reconciliation bill that Manchin could agree on, that now poses a chance that some of the so-called green initiatives in the original Build Back Better budget might get passed….all they had to give him was Alaska and an area in the Gulf of Mexico larger than the size of Georgia and Florida combined for oil & gas well drilling, and they get to spread the green largesse among their constituencies before the midterms…it’s over 700 pages, so i’m sure there’s more, but i can only see one part of the bill that might actually reduce emissions up front – fines for oil and gas companies that emit more than 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent of methane annually starting in 2025 – and i haven’t even figured out how many companies that might effect…the rest of it is in the form of tax credits, financing, and grants, mostly for companies involved in the manufacture of green equipment or infrastructure; for instance, there’ll be grants for Ford and GM to finance the conversion of their factories that now produce vehicles that run on gasoline to produce vehicles that run on coal and natural gas…i imagine they’ll be a day off in the future when most of those vehicles might be running on renewables, but until then all the inputs into the manufacturing process and the related build-out of the infrastructure will have a pretty big carbon footprint…

          sadly, i later discovered that the fines for methane emissions part of the bill was full of carveouts and loopholes, with one of them big enough to drive the six train Cheniere LNG export plant at Sabine Pass  – probably our largest emitter – through… the one part of the bill i thought might be effective was completely gutted before it passed…

          as i later wrote in response to a recent New York Times article titled Clean Energy Projects Surge After Climate Bill Passage, which documented spending for battery factories, solar panel manufacturing and lithium mining  “all these projects will increase greenhouse gas emissions” ….& it will be years before any of them contribute to any reduction…”

          so count me among those who believes that one doesn’t start a journey with two steps backward before even taking that first step forward…

          1. baffling

            I count you as one who does not even start the journey. probably one who is not even interested in the journey you portray.

      2. rjs

        just another piece of Manchin’s Green New Deal you might have missed..

        Cook Inlet Lease Sale Going Ahead Under New Law | Rigzone

        The Department of the Interior has announced that the Proposed Notice of Sale for Lease Sale 258 in Cook Inlet, Alaska, will be going ahead under the Inflation Reduction Act.

        As a result of the new Act, Congress directed that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to hold the Lease Sale 258 by December 31, 2022.

        BOEM will propose to offer up to 224 blocks toward the northern part of the Cook Inlet Planning Area, from roughly Kalgin Island in the north to Augustine Island in the south, in water depths ranging from 33 to 260 feet.

        BOEM released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Lease Sale 258 in October 2021, and a final EIS and Record of Decision will be published later this fall. A Final Notice of Sale will be published at least 30 days before the date of the sale.

        As the Department implements the IRA, it will conduct robust environmental reviews and strong engagement with local, state, and Tribal governments, stakeholders, community leaders, and the American public.

        This is the second Lease Sale that came into focus recently. Namely, BOEM accepted 307 highest valid bids from Lease Sale 257 in the Gulf of Mexico last week. The lease sale was held in November 2021, but a federal judge invalidated the results in February of this year.

        Initially, the court rejected a plan to lease millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for offshore oil drilling, saying the Biden administration did not adequately consider the lease sale’s effect on greenhouse gas emissions, violating a bedrock environmental law.

        Now, a new judgment sent the proposed lease sale back to the Interior Department to decide the next steps. The judgment meant that it was up to the Interior to decide whether to go forward with the sale after a revised review, scrap it, or take other steps.

        Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 257, the eighth offshore sale held under the 2017-2022 National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program, offered approximately 15,148 unleased blocks located from three to 231 miles offshore, in the Gulf’s Western, Central and Eastern Planning Areas in water depths ranging from nine to more than 11,115 feet.

        It generated $191,688,984 in high bids for 308 tracts covering 1.7 million acres in federal Gulf of Mexico waters. A total of 33 companies participated in the lease sale, submitting $198,511,834 in total bids.

        Although 308 tracts were initially awarded in the sale for a total of almost $192 million to energy companies including Shell, BP, Chevron, and Exxon, BOEM said in its latest statement that it accepted 307 highest bids worth $189,888,271.

  4. Macroduck

    Johnny (JohnH) has taken to repeating politicians’ canned talking points as evidence that China and Russia are locked in a torrid romance, never to be sundered by the tawdry concerns of real life. Johnny’s naive quote:

    XI told Putin, “In the face of the colossal changes of our time on a global scale, unprecedented in recent history, we are ready to team up with our Russian colleagues to set an example of a responsible world power and to play a leading role in putting a rapidly changing world on the track of sustainable and positive development,”

    Funny thing. China has agreed to help Uzbekistan and Kyrgystan build a rail line that goes around Russia and may end up running to Turkey, allowing expanded trade with Europe. But not with Russia. Johnny thinks words matter more than deeds. Silly Johnny.

    1. pgl

      China, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have signed a long-anticipated agreement to push ahead with the construction of a railroad linking their countries that will, if completed, establish a shorter route to Europe, bypassing sanctions-hit Russia. The three governments signed the agreement on September 14 on the sidelines of a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Uzbekistan.

      This might tempt Putin to invade Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and commit even more war crimes that will also get Johnny boy all excited. Yea – he is that disgusting.

    2. pgl

      Johnny even made the brazenly dishonest and incredibly stupid comment that the US might be planning to invade Kyrgyzstan. I guess this moron has never looked at a map. He certainly knows nothing about the history or culture of this land.

      1. JohnH

        pgl makes the usual misrepresentation. No said anything about the US invading Kazakhstan…but many suspect it was behind the failed color revolution last January. And Xi specifically warned of such attempts

        pgl just loves to misrepresent what others say.

          1. pgl

            September 18, 2022 at 8:04 am
            The Kazakh government is actually indebted to Russia for its help stifling the January color revolution.

            Maybe Xi was actually referring to the US threat to the Kazakh government?’

            Johnny denies he wrote this? Seriously – this level of dishonesty has been a constant theme of his dating back to when he polluted Mark Thoma’s blog.

        1. pgl

          Oh that would have been the other JohnH – Putin’s new pet poodle. You say so much BS you can’t even keep up with it.

    3. JohnH

      Poor, pathetic MacroDucky, Ducky, Ducky. China already has a rail line to Europe via Russia. Nowhere is it suggested that China will reduce its use.

      In fact, If the Belt & Road Initiative develops as planned, there will be enough shipping to justify several routes…something that the US, envious of China’s rise, will do its best to thwart.

      1. pgl

        “China already has a rail line to Europe via Russia. Nowhere is it suggested that China will reduce its use.”

        Someone does not even get the basics. Yea – you are incredibly dumb.

      2. pgl

        “something that the US, envious of China’s rise”

        There used to be this troll over at Economist View who whined nonstop that we were letting China’s development occur at other nation’s expense. I see you totally disagree with that incredibly dumb and racist person!

      3. Macroduck

        Johnny, I didn’t say China needed a rail connection. I said China has agreed to help two former Soviet states to build a rail connection. You are either so eager to find fault that you didn’t bother to understand what I’d written before responding, or you did understand, but chose to misrepresent what I wrote.

        Care to tell us which it was?

  5. pgl

    Lindsey Graham on the true Republican agenda with respect to the abortion issue:

    To those who suggest that being pro-life is losing politics, I reject that,” Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” Graham introduced a Senate bill on Tuesday that would ban abortion in most cases at 15 weeks of pregnancy; a companion bill has been proposed in the House by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). Some of Graham’s fellow Republicans expressed confusion and hesitancy about the bill this week, and many conservatives have argued abortion restrictions should instead be left to individual states. Supporters of legal abortion have said Graham’s legislation demonstrates that the real aim of Republicans is to restrict and ultimately ban abortion even in states that have enshrined it in their constitutions. “There are those in the party that think life begins at the candlelight dinner the night before,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi quipped.

    In other words, once a man buys a lady dinner, she immediately becomes nothing more than a baby machine. MAGA!

  6. pgl

    Putin’s war crimes are rivaling Hitler’s:

    Torture chambers have been found in areas of Ukraine liberated from Russia in the latest evidence of President Vladimir Putin ’s troops committing sickening war crimes. The grim discoveries came after around 450 graves were identified in Izyum, one of more than 20 towns retaken in a lightning counter-offensive by Kyiv that is routing Kremlin forces. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “More than 10 torture chambers have already been found in the Kharkiv region, in cities and towns. “Torture was a widespread practice in the occupied territories. “That’s what the Nazis did – this is what the Russians do. They will answer in the same way – both on the battlefield and in courtrooms.”

    Do not expect Putin’s pet poodle JohnH to criticize these horrific war crimes. I bet JohnH gets all excited seeing innocent Ukrainians endure these atrocities.

  7. joseph

    It was revealed this week that Trump had proposed to Denmark trading Puerto Rico for Greenland. He literally wanted to sell off American citizens.

    I’m sure he did not know that 90% of Greenland’s inhabitants are Inuit, not the blonde Scandinavians that he is so fond of.

    Also amusing, but not in a funny way, was when Trump commented “I love maps. Look at the size of this. It’s massive.” Of course he was looking a a Mercator projection that showed Greenland as the size of all of North America. (Actual size is less than one-tenth.)

    1. pgl

      Actual size is less than one-tenth

      Stormy Daniels had a similar comment about Trump’s …. well you know what I am referring to!

  8. ltr

    January 4, 2018

    United States and Puerto Rico Employment-Population Ratios, * 1992-2021

    * Employment age 16 and over

    [ The Puerto Rican employment-population ratio is so low that I have been unable to understand the level. Lower than South Africa, which has been harmed since Apartheid ended by a failure to allow land reform. ]

  9. JohnH

    Here’s a French take on what happened at the SCO Summit of Asian leaders (including Iran) in Samarkand: “ Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping called for a shake-up of the world order as they met with Asian leaders Friday for a summit challenging Western influence..”

    Conspicuously, the “indispensable nation” was not invited…evidently it’s not so indispensable after all. And pgl and MacroDuckyDuckyDucky are freaking out, misrepresenting whatever they couLd to insinuate discord and downplay the importance of the event.

    Haven’t heard about the summit? It’s no surprise. The NY Times, except for one article on page A6, chose to ignore the summit of major world leaders altogether. Shielding the public from important news is certainly one way to deal with the inconvenient reality that the US may no longer be king of the mountain.

    1. Macroduck

      Poor, sad Johnny,

      Are you so unable to master facts and logic that you have to resort to drivel? All you seem to be able to do is mischaracterize the views and feelings of people who disagree with you. Well, people who disagree with your ideological masters, anyhow.

      If you were any good at this deceptive form of argumentation, what you do would make sense, however dispicable the effort. But you aren’t good at it. You sound like an angry kid who vaguely understands that people argue over stuff, but hasn’t figured out how it’s done.

      There is no question that both China and Russia want more influence in the world, and that they want the U.S. to have less. Nobody thinks otherwise. Congratulations on linking to an article pointing out one of the most widely agreed-upon, mundane facts of geopolitics.

      The point I have made, and that you seem intent on ignoring, is that China has Russia on a leash. Xi calls the shots, and Putin plays along because he has no choice. Xi refers to Russia as a “major power” not because it’s true – Russia is getting its backside kicked in Ukraine – but rather because it isn’t true. Xi is sugar-coating Russia’s loss of face and place as a costless diplomatic gesture, meanwhile telling Putin what he may and may not do in former Soviet states and satellites.

      Instead of answering this point, you pretend I’m – well, you pretend I’m like you, making baseless emotional statements. I’m describing the state of affairs between China, Russia and their neighbors. You’re trying to distract attention from that state of affairs by spouting emotional nonsense.

    2. Barkley Rosser


      Oh yes, our most morally disgusting commentator trying to sell Putin troll bs.

      Actually was unable to access your link, sorry, but no big deal.

      Bottom line of the Shanghai summit was massive embarrassment for your pal Putin, nauseating war criminal with the cemetery in Izyum going to add on to the Bucha horrors. Do you really like supporting horrific war crimes, JohnH? How many of these will you have to answer for on your death bed when you have to answer for you utter disregard for morality in world affairs?

      The WaPo headline out of the Shanghai conference was that Indian leader Modi tole Putin to his face that “This is not the era for warfare.” Xi was more discreet about his lack of enthusiasm for Putin’s increasingly disastrous loser “special military operation.” Sorry, boy, you are completely out of it, and heading to the dark side of aferlife, which does seem to exist for about 10 percent of humanity. Looks like you are part of that set of moral losers, JohnH. Probably too late to save yourself, really.

      1. pgl

        I was able to access this link which included:

        The SCO — which also includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — was set up in 2001 as a political, economic and security organisation to rival Western institutions. In a sign that the bloc is far from fully united, clashes escalated along the borders of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan on Friday, with both sides accusing the other of responsibility and of using heavy weapons.

        Yea – Johnny boy forgot to mention this. He after all has become a blatant liar.

  10. Ivan

    At least some of them have paper towels. If not for Trump how could they have cleaned off their kitchen tables?

  11. AndrewG

    This is a great post. It shows how casually low-balling and high-balling your estimates (as needed) can really help make a BS argument sound very plausible if no one numerate is watching.

    Unfortunately for *this* BS argument, someone numerate was in fact watching.

  12. James

    Thank you Menzie – for documenting this – IMO – the Trump admin had so much criminality and corruption and overthrowing of democracy on the surface that it is difficult to see how much harm they caused in several ways – An example that the GOP is covering up with their cries of hearings on Fauci (a career health official doing his job) is the Trump admin failed response to pandemic – leading to 400,000+ excess deaths

    By the way – I believe that our current inflation was caused by supply chain/demand issues associated with pandemic but also Trump admin/GOP – tax cuts for rich people and keeping interest rates artificially low during a time when economy was growing. Should not Fed have raised rates then? Also why does the Fed always keep rates low when the GOP is cutting taxes? Shouldn’t they do a better job of balancing monetary policy and fiscal policy?

    I find it interesting that for past 50 years – Dems have cut deficits and been the party of responsible economic governance – but GOP jumps in with tax cuts and speculative bubbles (housing with Bush, MagicCoins with Trump) – and – in popular understanding – the GOP gets tagged as being “good for business”

    Thanks – I hope the new semester is going well – interesting for me to walk around downtown Madison on Saturday and see the huge crowds for sporting events and Farmers’ market. Judging by the loud shouting coming from once-again packed taverns – the pandemic has ended for most. Also in local economic news – the east side of the isthmus – that I walk down has been almost completely transformed in the past five years from warehouses/older houses to hotels, commercial development.

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