Eventually, Trump may realize America isn’t a real estate deal

WASHINGTON — In mid-January, after the appearance of some embarrassing material or another (it is hard to keep track), President-elect Trump tweeted:

That charge has made escalation of the Trump/intelligence conflict difficult. What is the next step after the Nazi card?

More recently, President Trump has called leaks from the intelligence community “un-American” and “just like Russia.” It is difficult to imagine a set of attacks more likely to be galling to intelligence professionals, some of whom risk their lives with no prospect of credit: one of the purer forms of patriotism.

Now Trump appears utterly shocked that he does not hold the copyright on counterpunching. And the intelligence community is particularly good at it. During my time in the George W. Bush White House, there were also some damaging intelligence leaks. I have no intention of excusing them. I only point out that it is daunting to argue with people who weaponize information for a living — like challenging a Navy SEAL to a fight.

There is a certain kind of New Yorker who really believes Frank Sinatra: “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” The world of Manhattan real estate must have seemed to Trump like the big leagues. It wasn’t. And the techniques that succeeded in his little world — the taunting, the exaggerations, the bluster, the threats, the bullying — do not translate well in dealing with real professionals. The ones who fight Russian influence.

With less than a month in office, Trump is beginning to see reality’s revenge. His overall strategy seems disturbingly ambitious. Gen. Michael Hayden, who directed both the CIA and the NSA, describes it this way in an interview:

“A systematic effort to invalidate and delegitimize all the institutions, governmental and non-governmental, that create the factual basis for action … so they won’t push back against arbitrary moves.”

That is, well, terrifying. But American institutions, it turns out, are pretty durable, at least so far. The checks have checked. The balances have balanced. In this scenario, it is good news that the Trump administration has been so inept, at least in conflicts with other institutions. We should be thankful that Trump is a figure much smaller than his schemes.

It must have seemed to him tough and bold to attack federal judges and accuse them of placing the nation at risk (by blocking implementation of his immigration executive order). During his presidential campaign, such methods were routine and relatively costless. But declaring war on the judiciary — and I imagine that nearly every judge in America resents it when colleagues are pre-blamed for terrorist murders — is not costless. It creates an atmosphere in which future executive orders and actions will be examined by a coequal branch of government.

It must have seemed to Trump tough and bold to use his inaugural address to viciously attack members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans — not only critiquing their performance but impugning their motives. Surrounded by the political elite, Trump said that the political elite has “reaped the rewards” and “prospered” and “protected itself” and “celebrated” as Americans have suffered.

So far, the reaction to Trump’s attacks on institutions have ranged from muted to supine among congressional Republicans (save for some admirable dissent in the Senate). But on Capitol Hill, Trump is draining, not the swamp, but the reservoir of goodwill. There was a spark of resistance in the forced withdrawal of Andrew Puzder’s nomination for labor secretary.

Eventually, Trump will be down politically — really down in the polls, down in a scandal, down in morale. What GOP leader would take up his defense with genuine enthusiasm? What serious Republican would not, if he or she is honest, after three drinks prefer Mike Pence as president? Probably some. But I suspect not many.

All this represents a fundamental misunderstanding of American populism. In Venezuelan populism, for example, it worked to remove all institutions between the dear leader and the people. In the United States, populists have a more difficult but more constructive task: They must persuade institutions to reform themselves.

This can involve hardball politics (see Franklin Roosevelt). But real and lasting reform comes through the consent of strong institutions — including the cooperation of intelligence services, the agreement of courts and the approval of Congress. American life will not be transformed through bullying.

And why is that? Says Hayden, “We are not Venezuela.”

By Michael Gerson

Possible $0 Tax Bill – That’s Why People Do Commercial Real Estate Development
Donald Trump’s Possible $0 Tax Bill – That’s Why People Do Commercial Real Estate Development

The New York Times NYT +1.33% is speculating that perhaps the reason that Donald Trump hasn’t released his tax returns is because he’s not actually been paying any Federal taxation. David Cay Johnston has been making similar points before now. Others here will tell you more about the tax laws and whether this is possible or even true. But there’s an economic point which is being glossed over in the analysis. An assumption being made which is an incorrect one. That point being that if the NYT’s contention were true then no one would ever do commercial real estate development. Yet we can obviously see that people do commercial real estate development. Thus the contention cannot be true.

Brexit vote could mean US real estate boom as investors look outside London

The US real estate market could get a boost in the coming months, some analysts are predicting, thanks to the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. The news could add further fire to the already overheated property markets in some of the US’s biggest cities.

Uncertainty about UK’s future and its economy could put real estate market on pause, especially in London, and sending international investors in search of another safe-haven property market. Most experts agree the US is likely to see increased demand.

Brexit pains could mean gains for US luxury real estate

American luxury real estate brokers are hoping Brexit will lead to money flowing to high-end properties on this side of the Atlantic.

The post-Brexit vote selloff in equities took a particularly heavy toll on British homebuilder shares. For example, Persimmon (PSMMY) lost a third of its value in Friday’s trading.

After the ‘Brexit’ vote, potential winners and loser in real estate

Foreign buyers could see increased value; no so London based buyers

Even before news of a Brexit made its way around the world, high-end brokerages and developers throughout London were already getting inquiries on behalf of foreign buyers hoping to take advantage of the tumbling pound.

It’s Not EU: Property industry reactions to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union

This, if the Remain campaign bunf was actually accurate, is the end of days. The Great British people have voted to leave the European Union, carving a path for what most economists and informed businessfolk expect to be an extremely rocky couple of years.

Mortgage Rates, The Fed, and Brexit. What Does it All Mean?

Mortgage rates were initially lower this morning as global bond yields continued to plumb record lows. There was widespread coverage in financial news of Germany’s 10yr bond yield dipping into negative territory. That’s important for a few reasons–not in terms of bringing any new information to light, but simply as an opportunity to stop and reflect on the broader interest rate landscape.

We’ve been talking about the implications of European markets on US mortgage rates for quite a while. The level of concern and interest waxes and wanes, but in general, overseas volatility has been an increasingly important consideration for domestic rates markets. Over the past 2 decades especially, as technology makes the global marketplace a “smaller world,” big market movement in Europe ends up pushing US rates higher and lower.

The Overinflated Fear of Being Priced Out of Housing

Rising home prices set off fears that real estate will become even more expensive, making it impossible ever to buy a home in a given city.

It’s easy to understand how such worries spread, but the historical record suggests that these fears are generally exaggerated. Cities with steep price increases today will probably have much smaller upticks in the future. And for the most part, differences in price increases among cities are well explained by short-term variations in employment growth.

Four Not-So-Obvious Things to Consider When Deciding to Buy or Rent

Whether to buy or rent a home is among the biggest financial decisions most of us make. It is basically a complex math problem in which the reward for getting it right can be tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars — and the punishment for getting it wrong similarly enormous.

Fortunately, there are many tools to help you work through the math, including The New York Times’s excellent calculator. But as someone who worked on that calculator and who has spent a lot of time examining the economics of homeownership, I have a confession: There are some dimensions of rent versus buy that are really important but difficult to account for in dollar terms.