Markets & Economy | The New York Times Close Up with Sam Roberts

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♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>I’M SAM ROBERTS OF “THE NEW YORK TIMES.” WELCOME TO “THE NEW YORK TIMES CLOSEUP.” THE DECEMBER JOBS REPORT WAS A BLOWOUT TO THE UPSIDE, BEATING WALL STREET EXPECTATIONS BY FAR. BUT THAT REPORT CAME JUST DAYS AFTER STOCKS WRAPPED UP THE WORST DECEMBER PERFORMANCE SINCE THE DEPTHS OF THE DEPRESSION. WHAT ARE THE EXPERTS EXPECTING IN 2019? WE’LL ASK A PAIR OF “NEW YORK TIMES” JOURNALISTS WHO COVER THE BEAT. LATER ON, I’LL HAVE SOME ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON CODA. BUT WE BEGIN WITH THE POLITICAL SCENE. REPORTERS HAVE ALMOST RUN OUT OF ADJECTIVES TO DESCRIBE THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN LIKE IN POLITICS, THE STANDOFF OVER THE BORDER WALL, THE GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN. LET’S TAKE THE POLITICAL PULSE WITH ELEANOR RANDOLPH, CONTRIBUTING WRITER FOR “THE NEW YORK TIMES.” WELCOME AND THANKS FOR JOINING US AND HAPPY NEW YEAR.>>HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU.>>WE HEARD THE MAYOR’S SPEECH THIS WEEK, HIS ESTATE OF THE CITY SPEECH. WHAT DID WE THINK? THE MAYOR OBVIOUSLY THINKING OF A NATIONAL PLATFORM AS WELL AS HIS NEW YORK CONSTITUENCY. THE GOVERNOR AS WELL. DO THESE PEOPLE HAVE ANY CHANCE WHATSOEVER OF APPEALING, WHETHER THEY ARE TRYING TO OR NOT, TO A NATIONAL CONSTITUENCY?>>I THINK ONE OF THE REASONS YOU HAVE SO MANY DEMOCRATS RUNNING — THE NUMBER IS BETWEEN 20 AND 40.>>IT’S ALMOST AS MANY AS RUNNING FOR PUBLIC ADVOCATE.>>[LAUGHTER] ONE REASON IS THEY THINK, WELL, WHO COULD HAVE EVER PREDICTED THAT DONALD TRUMP WOULD BE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES? WHY NOT ME? IT’S INTERESTING IF YOU LOOK AT NEW YORK, THE POSSIBILITIES ARE DE BLASIO, HE’S GOING AROUND THE COUNTRY TALKING ABOUT HIS HEALTH PLAN AND ALL THIS STUFF HE PLANS TO DO FOR NEW YORK. HE’S GOT A DENT IN HIS ARMOR, BECAUSE HE DOESN’T SEEM TO WORK VERY HARD. I THINK YOU WOULD HAVE TO WORK PRETTY HARD IF YOU WERE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. THEN YOU HAVE CUOMO, WHO SWORE HE’S NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.>>AND WHO DOES WORK HARD.>>HE DOES WORK PROBABLY TOO HARD. SO HE GIVES THIS SPEECH AT ELLIS ISLAND. HE SOUNDED LIKE A GUY RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT. THEN YOU HAVE THE JUNIOR U.S. SENATOR, KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, AND CORY BOOKER OVER IN NEW JERSEY. REALLY, ANYBODY WHO IS SORT OF NOT IN JAIL IS JUST THINKING ABOUT RUNNING.>>AND OF COURSE, MIKE BLOOMBERG.>>OF COURSE MIKE BLOOMBERG. HE IS LOOKING AT THE POSSIBILITY OF NOT ONLY RUNNING AS A DEMOCRAT — HE WAS A DEMOCRAT, THEN HE BECAME A REPUBLICAN TO BE MAYOR, THEN HE DECIDED TO BE INDEPENDENT, NOW HE DECIDED HE’S A DEMOCRAT AGAIN.>>WHAT IS THE TIMETABLE? OBVIOUSLY HE HAS THE GREAT ADVANTAGE OF NOT HAVE TO GO AROUND RAISING MONEY. THE ELECTION IS NOW NEXT YEAR. WHEN DO THEY HAVE TO MAKE ANY SORT OF REAL DECISIONS?>>ELIZABETH WARREN HAS ALREADY SAID SHE’S RUNNING. FOUR YEARS AGO, YOU STARTED SEEING THE FIRST INKLINGS. TRUMP DECIDED HE WAS RUNNING IN 2015. HE LET PEOPLE KNOW THAT HE WAS RUNNING IN 2015. I THINK PROBABLY MARCH, APRIL YOU WILL START SEEING THE FULL FORCE OF THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY FIELD.>>AND OF THESE PEOPLE, THE NEW YORKERS, WHAT IS YOUR GUESS AS TO WHICH OF THEM WILL –>>THERE’S A SENTIMENT OF BEING BITTER COVERING THE ECONOMY. [LAUGHTER] I THOUGHT HILLARY CLINTON WAS GOING TO WIN.>>YOU WERE IN GOOD COMPANY.>>TO ANSWER THAT QUESTION, I DON’T KNOW. WHO KNOWS? I THINK IT WILL BE REALLY INTERESTING TO SEE. I KNOW THE BLOOMBERG PEOPLE I SPOKE TO, OR A PERSON WHO SUPPORTS BLOOMBERG, SAYS THAT WHAT THEY ARE HOPING IS THAT THE LEFT WING, HARRIS, ELIZABETH WARREN, BERNIE SANDERS, WILL DIVIDE UP THE VOTE AND THEN HE CAN COME INTO THE CENTER, BUT WHO KNOWS?>>DOES HE REALLY HAVE A CONSTITUENCY THAT CAN GET HIM ELECTED, OR GET HIM NOMINATED, MORE IMPORTANTLY, IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY?>>THAT IS THE REAL QUESTION. I THINK IF HE GOT NOMINATED, HE MIGHT HAVE A CHANCE. BUT THIS DEMOCRATIC PARTY, EVERYTHING WE HAVE SEEN IS HOW LIBERAL IT HAS BECOME AND HOW IT IS SHIFTING MORE AND MORE TO THE LEFT.>>BUT AS YOU SAY, IF THERE ARE ENOUGH LIBERAL CANDIDATES, THERE MIGHT BE ROOM FOR HIM TO SQUEAK BY AT THE OTHER END.>>I AM GUESSING AT THIS STAGE. [LAUGHTER]>>INDEED. LET’S TALK A MOMENT ABOUT ALBANY. THERE IS A LEGISLATION INSTALLED IN ALBANY, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS LIKELY TO GO THROUGH THIS TIME?>>THEY ARE ALL DEMOCRATS. AS YOU KNOW, DEMOCRATS CAN FIND REASONS TO FIGHT –>>A CIRCLE FIRING SQUAD. [LAUGHTER]>>STILL, THERE ARE SOME INDICATIONS THAT THERE ARE A COUPLE OF THINGS THEY WILL WORK ON. ONE IS THEY WILL CODIFY ROE V. WADE FOR WOMEN IN THE STATE OF NEW YORK. THAT WILL BE AN IMPORTANT ONE FOR MOST WOMEN. THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT CHANGING THE WAY THE ETHICS COMMISSION WORKS. WHAT WILL BE INTERESTING IS TO SEE HOW THE DEMOCRATS — WHAT THEY HAVE ALWAYS DONE IN THE ASSEMBLY IS THEY HAVE HAD THESE FABULOUS BILLS THAT LOOK GREAT, BUT THEY KNEW THEY DIDN’T REALLY HAVE TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT THEM BECAUSE THE REPUBLICANS IN THE SENATE WOULD STOP IT. SO NOW, THE QUESTION IS WHETHER THEY WILL GO BACK AND DO SOME OF THOSE REALLY GOOD CHANGES TO LIKE THE VOTING LAWS, SAME-DAY REGISTRATION, SOME THINGS THAT WOULD MAKE A LOT OF DIFFERENCE.>>WHAT ABOUT CAMPAIGN FINANCING?>>I AM ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE WHO HOPES THEY WILL DO SOMETHING TO CREATE A FLOOR SO MORE PEOPLE COULD RUN. IF YOU ASK MOST ALBANY POLITICIANS WHEN THEY HAVE HAD A FEW DRINKS AT NIGHT, THEY WILL TELL YOU THE LAST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD THEY WANT IS COMPETITION. THE REST OF US WANT COMPETITION. THEY DON’T.>>ONE BIG ISSUE OBVIOUSLY COMING UP, FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE, IS MASS TRANSIT, STRUCTURE OF THE MTA, AND CONGESTION PRICING. WHERE DO YOU SENSE THEY ARE GOING ON THAT?>>I FIND IT SO EXCITING THAT THE GOVERNOR CAME IN AND DECIDED HE WOULD CHANGE THE WAY THE L WAS GOING TO BE RESTORED.>>ASSUMING THAT WORKS.>>BUT WHAT HE DID IS HE SAID, THIS IS MINE, AND THAT’S WHAT I HAVE BEEN ARGUING. YOU’VE HEARD ME FOREVER.>>HE BECAME A STAKEHOLDER.>>HE SAID IT WAS A LITTLE BIT HARD TO CHANGE IT, BUT HE MADE IT CLEAR HE WAS THE ONE WHO COULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE. HE TOLD THE DAILY NEWS THIS PAST WEEK THAT IT SHOULD BE — THE WHOLE AUTHORITY SHOULD BE BLOWN UP.>>OF COURSE, THIS IS AFTER EIGHT YEARS AS GOVERNOR.>>[LAUGHTER] RIGHT. BASICALLY RUNNING THE MTA ALL THAT TIME. THAT’S THE REALLY GOOD NEWS. I’M SO GLAD HE HAS TAKEN IT ABOARD AND SAID, IT’S MINE, I WILL DO IT.>>AND STICK TO IT. THAT IS ELEANOR RANDOLPH OF THE NEW YORK TIMES. UP NEXT, THE ECONOMY SEEMS TO BE SOLID, BUT THE STOCK MARKET HAS BEEN ON A STOMACH-CHURNING ROLLER COASTER RIDE. WHAT’S GOING ON AND WHERE ARE WE HEADING? SOME ANSWERS, COMING UP. ♪>>JOB GROWTH IS STRONG. UNEMPLOYMENT IS HISTORICALLY LOW, WAGES ARE RISING, AND FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN JEROME POWELL HAS SIGNALED A MORE “DOVISH” APPROACH TO RATE HIKES BY THE FED. BUT THE MARKETS HAVE BEEN VOLATILE, TO SAY THE LEAST. SO WHAT HAS INVESTORS ON EDGE? ON THE LIST — THE CHINA TRADE WAR, PRESIDENT TRUMP’S LEGAL TROUBLES AND ERRATIC BEHAVIOR, HIGHER INTEREST RATES, SIGNS OF A GLOBAL ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN, FEARS OF A SLOWDOWN IN THE U.S., AND THE FADING BOOST FROM THE TAX CUTS. AND THAT’S JUST A PARTIAL LIST. SO, IS THE LONG BULL MARKET COMING TO AN END? IS AN ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN OR EVEN A RECESSION IN THE CARDS THIS YEAR? LET’S ASK DAVID ENRICH, FINANCE EDITOR FOR “THE NEW YORK TIMES,” AND HIS “TIMES” COLLEAGUE, PETER EAVIS. WHERE ARE WE GOING AND WHICH OF THESE THINGS ON THAT LITANY OF POTENTIAL PROBLEMS IS LIKELY TO AFFECT US? PETER, WHAT DO YOU THINK?>>I THINK THAT, AS YOU POINTED OUT IN YOUR INTRODUCTION, THAT WAS A BIG THREAT INTO LAST YEAR AND THAT’S THE DIRECTION THE FED WAS GOING. TO QUICKLY WITH INTEREST RATE HIKES, I THINK THEY HAVE TAKEN THAT OFF THE TABLE, BUT PEOPLE ARE STILL CONCERNED ABOUT GLOBAL GROWTH. THERE WERE HORRIBLE ECONOMIC NUMBERS OUT OF EUROPE AND CHINA. INVESTORS ARE JUST WAITING TO SEE WHAT COMES NEXT.>>AND SOME COMPANIES HAVE ISSUED WARNINGS ABOUT THE HEALTH OF THEIR BUSINESSES. DOES THAT SUGGEST THAT INVESTORS MIGHT HAVE BEEN RIGHT ABOUT THE MARKET AT THE END OF LAST YEAR?>>YES. I THINK ESPECIALLY APPLE’S. APPLE’S STOCK WAS TUMBLING BEFORE THEY CAME OUT WITH THE REVENUE WARNING. THEY KIND OF GUESSED RIGHT, BUT THEY MIGHT HAVE OVERREACTED. THERE IS SOME BULLISHNESS CREEPING BACK INTO THE MARKET. STOCKS HAVE BOUNCED 10% FROM THAT CHRISTMAS EVE LOW. EVEN HOW CRAZY IT WAS THE END OF LAST YEAR, BUT SOME CALM HAS COME BACK.>>DAVID, IS THE FED RIGHT OR IS THE PRESIDENT RIGHT?>>I HAVE NO IDEA. [LAUGHTER] MY TRACK RECORD OF MAKING MARKET PREDICTIONS IS VERY, VERY BAD.>>LIKE EVERYONE ELSE.>>WHAT WE HAVE SEEN IN THE PAST TWO YEARS OF THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY IS JUST THIS DISMAL TRACK RECORD OF PEOPLE FORECASTING ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL DOOM, AND THE MARKET FOR A LONG TIME KEPT GOING UP. I REMEMBER THE NIGHT OF THE ELECTION I WAS ON ALL NIGHT DUTY TRYING TO WATCH THE MARKETS. STARTED OFF OVERSEAS, IT WAS — FALLING THROUGH THE FLOOR, THEN IMMEDIATELY ROBOUNDED. PEOPLE KEEP THINKING TRUMP IS GOING TO SCREW SOMETHING UP SO BADLY OR THE ECONOMY WILL — OFF THE CLIFF. THAT WAS A CONCERN IN NOVEMBER AND DECEMBER OF LAST YEAR. I THINK THAT CONCERN LINGERS IN A LOT OF WAYS, — WITH APPLE’S WARNING ABOUT CHINA, THE FED RAISING RATES TOO QUICKLY, A SLOWING ECONOMY IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD. BUT AS WE HAVE SEEN THIS YEAR SO FAR — IT IS EARLY — BUT THE INVESTORS REALLY DO HAVE A KNACK FOR KICKING BAD NEWS OUT OF THEIR SITE.>>WHAT IS DRIVING THE SITUATION? IS THE ECONOMY LEADING WALL STREET OR IS WALL STREET LEADING THE ECONOMY?>>I WOULD PUT IT THIS WAY. WE SHOULD WATCH THE ECONOMY MORE CLOSELY THAN THE STOCK MARKET. YOU COULD GET A BUNCH OF ECONOMIC NUMBERS AND THEY TELL YOU WHAT’S HAPPENING IN THE ECONOMY AND THEY HAVE BEEN PRETTY GOOD FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS. EVEN LONGER THAN THAT, MAYBE EIGHT YEARS IT HAS BEEN A PRETTY STRONG ECONOMY. IT FALTERED IN SOME WAYS. THE MARKET GOES THROUGH THESE FREAK OUTS ABOUT WHETHER IT WILL COME TO AN END, BUT IT DOESN’T. THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH SIDES THAT THE WHEELS HAVE COME OFF THE ECONOMY. I WOULD IGNORE THE STOCK MARKET AND LOOK AT THINGS LIKE JOB NUMBERS AND WAGE GROWTH. THAT IS WHAT THE FED WAS TRYING TO DO. EVERYBODY THOUGHT BECAUSE THE FED WAS REACTING TO A STRONGER ECONOMY, THEY WERE INCREASING RATES TOO FAR, BUT THE FED MAY HAVE BEEN RIGHT. THE FED MIGHT ACTUALLY BE MORE CORRECT ABOUT THE ECONOMY THAN THE STOCK MARKET, BUT WE WILL SEE.>>DOESN’T ALL OF THIS IN A WAY BECOME SELF-FULFILLING?>>EXACTLY. YOU CAN’T REALLY IGNORE THE STOCK MARKET, BECAUSE THERE ARE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE AND COUNTLESS INSTITUTIONS WHOSE FORTUNES ARE INVESTED IN OR CONNECTED TO THE STOCK MARKET. IF THEY ARE AFRAID THE STOCK MARKET MIGHT GO DOWN, THAT LEADS THEM TO PULL BACK ON INVESTMENTS OR WORKERS THEY ARE HIRING, WHICH HAS AN EFFECT ON THE ECONOMY, WHICH IN TURN HAS AN EFFECT ON THE STOCK MARKET. THE RELATIONSHIP IS VERY SYMBIOTIC BETWEEN THE STOCK MARKET AND THE ECONOMY. WHAT WE’VE SEEN THE PAST SEVERAL MONTHS IS THAT INVESTORS NOT JUST IN THE U.S., BUT ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE BRACING FOR TURBULENCE. THE EXPECTATION IS THAT AFTER A NUMBER OF YEARS OF EERIE CALM IN THE MARKET, IT KIND OF WENT UP AT A PRETTY SMOOTH TRAJECTORY, THAT PERIOD IS COMING TO AN END. WE WILL SEE MUCH GREATER CHOPPINESS, GREATER UNCERTAINTY, AND VOLATILITY.>>WHICH KIND OF MEANS THAT ANY RIPPLE CAN CAUSE A MAJOR WAVE ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. WHERE DO YOU THINK THAT IS MOST LIKELY TO COME? LOTS OF THINGS ARE GOING ON. WE’VE GOT CHINA, WE’VE GOT BREXIT, ANY POSSIBLE NUMBER OF ECONOMIC INDICATORS.>>THE PROBLEM IS ANYTHING YOU OR YOU OR I COMES UP WITH IS STUFF THAT IS CONVENTIONAL WISDOM. THAT IS NOT ONLY OBVIOUS TO A LOT OF PEOPLE, BUT IT’S ALSO THINGS THAT HAVE ALREADY BEEN PRICED INTO THE MARKET. INVESTORS ARE ALREADY EXPECTING THAT TO HAPPEN. FOR SOMETHING TO REALLY SHOCK PEOPLE, IT WILL BE SOMETHING UNEXPECTED. WITH THE CAVEAT OF MY TRACK RECORD IS AWFUL, MY PREDICTION IS BIG FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS, BANKS AND HEDGE FUNDS, GETS BROUGHT TO ITS KNEES BY HACKERS. THAT IS WHAT STUNS EVERYONE. SO IS FEAR OF GLOBAL FINANCIAL CHAOS AND THAT WILL LEAD TO A STAMPEDE OUT OF THE MARKET.>>THAT OUGHT TO BE EXPECTED TOO. OK. WHEN?>>NEXT MONTH. I’M KIDDING. IF ANYONE COULD PREDICT THESE THINGS, THEY WOULD MAKE TONS OF MONEY. YOU DON’T SEE MANY PEOPLE MASTERING THE TIMING. IT IS A GUESSING GAME.>>SPEAKING OF GUESSING GAMES, IS THERE ANYTHING IN A THIRD YEAR OF A PRESIDENTIAL CYCLE, IS THERE ANYTHING AFTER A BIG JOBS REPORT, THAT SUGGESTS WHERE THE ECONOMY OR THE MARKET IS GOING AS MUCH AS THOSE INDICATORS?>>I STRUGGLE TO FIND SOMETHING REALLY DISTURBING ABOUT THE UNITED STATES ECONOMY RIGHT NOW. IT’S ONE OF THE BEST TIMES WE HAVE HAD IN YEARS FOR REGULAR WORK. PEOPLE ARE FINALLY GETTING PAY INCREASES ABOVE THE RATE OF INFLATION. INFLATION IS NOT GOING THROUGH THE ROOF. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE WORRIED ABOUT IT. IF THAT CONTINUES, WE ARE IN A PRETTY GOOD PLACE. PEOPLE TALK ABOUT ITS DEBT IN THE CORPORATE SECTOR, LIVING THROUGH REALLY BAD TIMES, AND WRITTEN ABOUT THEM — BEFORE THE RECESSION AS WELL — BUT LIKE DAVID BROUGHT UP, HACKERS WOULD BE SCARY, BUT ACTUALLY I DON’T SEE MUCH LURKING RIGHT NOW. THE SURPRISE MIGHT BE THAT WE GET MUCH WORSE ECONOMIC NUMBERS THAN WE EXPECT OUT OF CHINA OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT CAN STILL CATCH THE MARKET.>>WILL THE STOCK MARKET AND BOND MARKETS SENDING THE SAME SIGNALS IN TERMS OF THE ECONOMY?>>YES. IT’S A COMBINATION OF AT TIMES GLOOMINESS, BUT ALSO ALWAYS VOLATILITY AND TURBULENCE. PEOPLE ARE MUCH MORE ON EDGE, INVESTORS ARE MUCH MORE ON EDGE, AND MUCH MORE SENSITIVE TO ANY HINT OF FINANCIAL SOFTNESS. NOT JUST IN AMERICA, BUT IN THE BIG FOREIGN COUNTRIES AS WELL, WHETHER CHINA, JAPAN, OR GERMANY, WHICH SHOW SIGNS OF SLOWING. THAT TRANSLATES INTO COMPANIES AND BIG DEBT ISSUERS. IT INCREASES THE RISK OF THEM HAVING PROBLEMS, WHICH MAKES IT MORE EXPENSIVE FOR THEM TO ISSUE DEBT. THAT CYCLES THROUGH THE ECONOMY.>>WHAT IS THE PROSPECT OF CHINA IMPROVING BOTH ECONOMICALLY AND IN TERMS OF THE TRADE WAR? IS THAT LIKELY TO BE RESOLVED, AND IN WHOSE FAVOR?>>LOOK, IF THEY ACTUALLY REACH SOME SORT OF AGREEMENT THAT JUST TAKES THE TRADE FIGHT OFF THE TABLE, THAT WOULD BE GOOD FOR CHINA AND GOOD FOR US. WHETHER OR NOT THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A SUBSTANTIVE DEAL THAT OPENS UP CHINA — I DOUBT THAT WILL HAPPEN — BUT IF IT DID, THAT WILL BE BULLISH IN THE LONG RUN FOR THE GLOBAL ECONOMY BECAUSE YOU WOULD HAVE MORE OF AN INVESTMENT THERE. A LOT HAS TO HAPPEN FOR THEM TO DO THAT RIGHT.>>IN THE MORE LIKELY SCENARIO, AND WE’VE SEEN THIS BEFORE WITH TRUMP IS THAT, BASICALLY NOTHING CHANGES FROM THE WAY IT WAS PREVIOUSLY, BUT IT IS ENOUGH TINKERING AROUND THE EDGES THAT TRUMP CAN CLAIM VICTORY. WE SAW THAT WITH THE FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS WITH CANADA AND MEXICO WHERE IT WAS ESSENTIALLY UNCHANGED. IT IS NO LONGER CALLED NAFTA, AND HE COULD SAY, LOOK WHAT I’VE DONE TO PROTECT AMERICAN CAR MANUFACTURERS OR STEEL PRODUCERS. THE CHINESE ARE SAVVY NEGOTIATORS. I WOULD NOT BE SURPRISED IF THEY FIND A GRACEFUL WAY TO LET TRUMP CLAIM A WIN EVEN THOUGH HE’S NOT GETTING ANYTHING.>>IS HE RIGHT ABOUT CHINA?>>WHAT DO YOU MEAN?>>IN TERMS OF TARIFFS?>>HE’S RIGHT IN THE SENSE THAT WE COULD BE IMPOSING HIGHER TARIFFS ON CHINA. THERE IS A REALITY THAT COUNTRIES WITH LOWER COST OF PRODUCTION, WHETHER THEY ARE PAYING WORKERS LESS OR CHEAPER COMMODITY PRICES, DO ENJOY AN ADVANTAGE OVER AMERICAN COMPANIES. ON THE OTHER HAND, AMERICAN CONSUMERS ARE HUGE BENEFICIARIES OF THAT SYSTEM, BECAUSE WE BUY CHEAP STUFF, WHETHER IT’S AN IPHONE OR CLOTHING. THERE ARE TRADE-OFFS. IF WE DO THINGS TO PROTECT AMERICAN MANUFACTURERS, IT IS GOOD FOR AMERICAN MANUFACTURERS AND THEIR WORKERS, BUT WE PAY THE PRICE IN TERMS OF JUST HIGHER PRICE TAGS.>>WE ARE COMING UP TO A REAL DEADLINE ON BREXIT. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO HAPPEN AND HOW WILL THAT AFFECT US?>>THE NEXT BIG VOTE IS NEXT WEEK, I THINK. WHETHER OR NOT PARLIAMENT IS GOING TO PASS THE DEAL — THE WITHDRAWAL DEAL THAT THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT SIGN WITH THE EUROPEAN UNION. THEY’VE GOT THAT. IF PARLIAMENT WAS TO VOTE FOR THAT, BREXIT WOULD BE SMOOTH THING THAT HAPPENS AT THE END OF MARCH. BUT ALL SIGNS ARE THE VOTES ARE NOT THERE, AND THAT OPENS UP THE POSSIBILITY THAT — THE ONE THAT SCARES PEOPLE THE MOST IS THAT BRITAIN JUST LEAVES WITHOUT A DEAL. THAT COULD LEAD TO A SUDDEN RESTRICTIONS ON TRADE, WHICH WOULD ROIL THE MARKETS. THE OTHER POSSIBILITY IS IT CREATES A BUNCH OF POLITICAL EVENTS THAT LEAD TO A NEW ELECTION, WHICH LEADS TO A SECOND REFERENDUM, THE BRITISH PEOPLE MAY DECIDE THEY ACTUALLY WANT TO REMAIN IN THE EUROPEAN UNION. THE UNION MIGHT EXTEND THINGS A LITTLE LONGER. THE REASON IT AFFECTS THE UNITED STATES AND EVERYONE OUTSIDE OF BRITAIN IS THAT IF IT IS REALLY MESSY, I EXPECT IT WILL INJECT VOLATILITY IN THE FINANCIAL MARKETS.>>IN OTHER WORDS, WE DON’T KNOW.>>IT’S BECOMING A PATTERN. [LAUGHTER] WE WILL KNOW IN THE COMING MONTHS.>>INDEED. MY THANKS TO DAVID ENRICH AND PETER EAVIS. COMING UP, SOME FINAL THOUGHTS FROM ME ON THIS WEEK’S EDITION OF CODA. ♪>>IT’S UNCERTAIN WHICH MAYOR DELIVERED THE FIRST STATE OF THE CITY SPEECH. IN 1887, MAYOR ABRAM HEWITT WAS REMINDED THAT HE WAS REQUIRED UNDER THE CITY CHARTER TO, “COMMUNICATE TO THE COMMON COUNCIL AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR A GENERAL STATEMENT OF THE CITY’S CONDITION.” HE DID SO, EVEN THOUGH, AS HE EXPLAINED BEFOREHAND, HE HAD NOTHING TO SAY. THIS WEEK’S PROVED AGAIN THAT THE ANNUAL ADDRESS TYPICALLY REVEALS MORE ABOUT THE STATE OF THE MAYOR THAN THE STATE OF THE CITY. OFTEN, IT’S ENCAPSULATED IN A CATCHPHRASE. LIKE WHEN MIKE BLOOMBERG, AFTER 9/11, SAID WE MUST BE HARD-NOSED, WE MUST BE HARD HEADED, BUT WE CAN’T BE HARD HEARTED. OR, WHEN BILL DE BLASIO FIRST PROMISED ONE NEW YORK, OR “THE FAIREST BIG CITY IN AMERICA,” SUGGESTING A SLEEPING BEAUTY, MIRROR-IMAGE SIZE MATTERS METRIC IN WHICH A SMALL CITY MIGHT BE THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL. THIS YEAR, HE INVOKED ROBIN HOOD. THE MAYORAL PRONOUNCEMENTS, LIKE THE COMPARABLE SPEECHES BY THE PRESIDENT AND THE GOVERNOR, ARE WISH LISTS, OF COURSE. THEY’RE UNSPECIFIC. THEY DON’T USUALLY SAY HOW THE GOALS WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED OR WHO WILL PAY FOR THEM. THE MAYOR SAYS HE’LL GUARANTEE UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE, FOR EXAMPLE. BUT HOW WILL HE PERSUADE WARY UNDOCUMENTED IMMIGRANTS TO SIGN UP FOR COVERAGE INSTEAD OF JUST SHOWING UP IN HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOMS? YES, GLOBAL ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTIES LOOM, BUT, THE MAYOR SAID THIS WEEK, “NEW YORK CITY’S ECONOMY HAS NEVER BEEN STRONGER.” IF ED KOCH CALLED HIMSELF A LIBERAL WITH SANITY, DE BLASIO IS A LIBERAL WITH A BANKROLL. STILL, CITY-FUNDED SPENDING GREW LESS ANNUALLY DURING DE BLASIO’S FIRST TERM THAN IN BLOOMBERG’S THREE TERMS, ACCORDING TO JAMES PARROTT AT THE NEW SCHOOL’S CENTER FOR NEW YORK CITY AFFAIRS. AND WHILE THE MUNICIPAL WORKFORCE HAS PEAKED, CITY WORKERS COMPRISE A SMALLER SHARE OF ALL PAYROLL EMPLOYEES THAN THEY HAVE IN 30 YEARS. THE PROBLEM WITH PLAYING ROBIN HOOD IS THAT EVERYONE HOPES TO BE RICHER AND THE LEGENDARY HERO’S 21ST CENTURY INCARNATION IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER. WHILE TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH ROB THE POOR OF POTENTIAL GOVERNMENT SERVICES, REGRESSIVE TAXES IMPOSED BY GOVERNMENT ROB THE STRUGGLING MIDDLE CLASS. WITH ALL THE REMAKES OF ROBIN HOOD THE FILM, “THE GUARDIAN” RECALLED RECENTLY THAT NONE HAS COME CLOSE TO ERROL FLYNN’S CLASSIC FROM EIGHT DECADES AGO. “YOU’RE A STRANGE MAN,” OLIVIA DE HAVILLAND’S MAID MARIAN SAYS TO FLYNN IN ONE SCENE. “STRANGE?” ROBIN ASKS. “BECAUSE I CAN FEEL FOR BEATEN, HELPLESS PEOPLE?” “NO,” SAYS MARIAN. “YOU’RE STRANGE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.” FOR “THE NEW YORK TIMES” AND CUNY-TV, I’M SAM ROBERTS. ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪

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