ESSENTIAL #1: “U.S. NEW-HOME SALES ROSE 3.7% IN DECEMBER” JOSH BOAK, ASSOCIATED PRESS
From the article: “Sales of new U.S. homes climbed in December to their highest pace in seven months, a sign that lower mortgage rates are helping the real estate market.
The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new-home sales rose 3.7 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 621,000. November’s sales were revised down to 599,000 from an annual rate of 657,000.
For all of 2018, new-home sales rose 1.5 percent. Purchases began to dip in June as higher mortgage rates worsened affordability, but mortgage rates have fallen since peaking in early November and that appears to be supporting a sales rebound.”
ESSENTIAL #2: “DISPUTED N.S.A. PHONE PROGRAM IS SHUT DOWN, AIDE SAYS” CHARLIE SAVAGE, THE NEW YORK TIMES
From the article: “The National Security Agency has quietly shut down a system that analyzes logs of Americans’ domestic calls and texts, according to a senior Republican congressional aide, halting a program that has touched off disputes about privacy and the rule of law since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The agency has not used the system in months, and the Trump administration might not ask Congress to renew its legal authority, which is set to expire at the end of the year, according to the aide, Luke Murry, the House minority leader’s national security adviser.”
ESSENTIAL #3: “A MANIFESTO FOR A NEW AMERICAN CENTER” DAMON LINKER, THE WEEK
From the article: “Politicians and pundits tend to define a centrist as someone who embraces relatively libertarian positions on both economics and social and identity issues. But note that these positions come together in the lower right quadrant of the chart — and that this quadrant has by far the fewest voters. The center, as typically defined, really is the empty set.
But there is another center in American politics — one that is the diametric opposite, in ideological terms, of the libertarian one on which we tend to fixate. This other center is filled with large numbers of voters who most likely feel under-represented by the two parties. Instead of combining a Republican position on economic issues with a Democratic position on social and identity issues, this other center does the reverse, combining a Republican position on social and identity issues with a Democratic one on economics.”
From the article: “Progressives who believe that replicating the government policies of Scandinavian societies in the United States will necessarily replicate Scandinavian outcomes ignore the role that prior Scandinavian social conditions have played in shaping those societies, which were not constructed ex nihiloby acts of parliaments. The Scandinavian countries have long been relatively homogeneous — their linguistic barriers tend to socially exclude outsiders and newcomers — with very high levels of trust and other social capital and long, deep traditions of social cooperation and relative egalitarianism. And it’s not just Scandinavia: As I often point out, the most important thing about Switzerland isn’t its localism, direct democracy, or business-friendly tax and regulatory environment — it’s the fact that it is full of Swiss people. Replicating Swedish social-welfare policies in Pennsylvania is unlikely to end up with Philadelphia being a lot like Stockholm.”