I bookmarked this a couple of days ago, but haven't gotten around to posting about it yet. Here is Nina Burleigh on how President Bush "lost" 22 million emails:

....Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server—its was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails.

....Most troubling, researchers found a suspicious pattern in the White House email system blackouts, including periods when there were no emails available from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

....In 2003, a whistleblower told the National Security Archive [a private watchdog group] that the George W. Bush White House was no longer saving its emails. The Archive...refiled their original lawsuit. The plaintiffs soon discovered that Bush aides had simply shut down the Clinton automatic email archive, and they identified the start date of the lost emails as January 1, 2003.

....In court in May 2008, administration lawyers contended that the White House had lost three months’ worth of email backups from the initial days of the Iraq War. Bush aides thus evaded a court-ordered deadline to describe the contents of digital backup believed to contain emails deleted in 2003 between March—when the U.S. invaded Iraq—and September....Eventually, the Bush White House admitted it had lost 22 million emails, not 5 million. Then, in December 2009—well into Barack Obama’s administration—the White House said it found 22 million emails, dated between 2003 and 2005, that it claimed had been mislabeled.

This did not go unreported at the time. But it didn't get much reporting, despite the fact that there's far clearer evidence here of deliberate stonewalling and lawbreaking than anything that even the fever swamps suggest about Hillary Clinton's emails.

So why is it that Clinton's emails have gotten coverage of such titanic proportions? Partly because Republicans have pushed the story hard. Partly because the rolling disclosure of Clinton's emails have rekindled interest on a regular basis. And partly because it fits into the well-known narrative of Hillary Clinton as evasive and duplicitous. In the LA Times today, Mark Barabak describes this syndrome perfectly:

For Hillary Clinton, the most politically damaging aspect of her recent health scare is not any new revelation but the reemergence of an old pattern. The image of her buckling at the knees Sunday pushed doubts about her personal well-being from the crazy realm of conspiracy mongering squarely into the mainstream of serious discussion.

Making things much worse, though, was her campaign’s handling of the episode — the delays, the half-explanations, the grudging trickle of information — which played to some deep concerns going back to Clinton’s White House days and controversies over openness and candor.

Far and away the biggest impediment standing between Clinton and the White House is the fact that a great many voters, including some with every intention of voting for the former first lady and secretary of State, simply do not trust her.

I don't blame Barabak for writing this. It's annoying, but it's also true: Clinton's handing of her pneumonia really does feed into the narrative of her as secretive and only grudgingly honest. This narrative may or may not be fair, but it's there—and Clinton knows it perfectly well. This is what makes it so frustrating for her supporters that she scored such an own goal over this. If she had announced the pneumonia diagnosis on Friday, the universal response would have been sympathy. It's rotten luck to pick up a bug like this in the middle of a campaign. Instead, she's opened herself up to yet another round of criticism.

In the end, there's very little to gripe about in either of these recent Clinton stories. She made a dumb mistake using a private server and a single email account while she was Secretary of State, but in the end there's little evidence of any actual wrongdoing. Likewise, she was dumb to withhold news of her pneumonia. But obviously there's no wrongdoing here at all, just a misplaced sense of privacy that simply doesn't exist for presidential candidates.

The Census Bureau dropped a second report today, their annual look at the health insurance rate. This is less interesting than the income and poverty report since we already know a lot about the level of health insurance coverage from other sources. Still, the Census provides high-quality data, so it's worth taking a look at. Unsurprisingly, the number of uninsured was down:

In 2015, 9.1 percent of people (or 29.0 million) were uninsured for the entire calendar year. This was a decrease of 1.3 percentage points from 2014, when 10.4 percent (or 33.0 million) were uninsured for the entire calendar year.

(Note that this number includes the entire population, including the elderly. This is why it's lower than the CDC numbers I've reported before, which include only people under age 65.)

Say what you will about Obamacare, but it's been astonishingly effective at doing what it set out to do. The Census estimates that 18 million more people have health insurance today than in 2013.

But there's more here than just raw numbers. Obamacare has done better in some states than others, because too many states continue to hold out against Medicaid expansion:

In places like California and New York, the uninsured rate is below 8 percent. But in places like Texas and Florida, which would cut off their collective big toes before they'd allow an Obama program to help their poor, the uninsured rate is 12 percent or higher. The next chart tells the story:

Medicare expansion states have lower rates of uninsurance and bigger drops in uninsurance since Obamacare started up. The non-expansion states could help their own residents with the stroke of a pen, but most of them continue to refuse. It gives spite a whole a new meaning.

The latest estimate of poverty from the Census Bureau is similar to their estimate of income: the good news is that poverty dropped substantially in 2015, but the bad news is that we still have a ways to go before we reach pre-recession levels. Among working-age adults, poverty levels fell from 13.5 percent to 12.4 percent, a decline of nearly a tenth. However, the poverty rate among working-age adults was around 10-11 percent from 1990-2007:

The report claims that new estimates of poverty using the SPM, which should be more accurate than the old measure, are also available, but the URLs they provide lead nowhere. I guess they're a little behind. Presumably this stuff will be available shortly.

I've got good news and bad news for you today. First the good news:

Median household income was $56,516 in 2015, a 5.2 percent increase from the 2014 median in real terms....

And now, continuing directly, the bad news:

....but 1.6 percent lower than the median in 2007, the year before the most recent recession, and 2.4 percent lower than the median household income peak that occurred in 1999.

This comes from the latest Census report on income and poverty. It shows that income really is making a strong recovery as the labor market tightens. But it also shows that we still have a ways to go before we make up for the losses of the Great Recession.

The LA Times has two front-page stories related to Hillary Clinton's pneumonia. Ditto for the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post has three. But the New York Times is flooding the zone! Huzzah for the Gray Lady!

Among free-market fans, Chile's privatized pension plan has long been held up as a model for us to follow. The problem, as the Financial Times notes today, is that it's performed pretty dismally. Daniel Gross suggests that it was all well-intentioned, but for some reason just didn't work out:

There's one thing Gross and I agree about: net returns of 3 percent during the booming market of the past 35 years is indeed a disaster. It's the "just turned out" part that deserves closer scrutiny. Sadly, I can't read Spanish and therefore can't inspect the primary source for this debacle, but there's no way that management fees indistinguishable from highway robbery just happened to happen. This may not be corruption in the sense of fund managers embezzling trillions of pesos for hookers and blow, but it's certainly corruption in the more refined sense of deliberately allowing the financial sector to enrich itself at the expense of workers who are required to give them their money.

Why is this becoming a big issue now? Because for its first 35 years, when it was being hailed as a free-market miracle, not many people were actually retiring. Now they are, and it turns out their pensions are pretty paltry. If net returns had been closer to the 8 percent retirees deserved, their pensions would be three times higher. Fees like this are basically legalized theft.

This is not some obscure detail of pension investing, either. Management fees are one of the most crucial aspects of long-term fund management and everyone knows it. Normally, you'll hear arguments about whether fees of 1 percent are larcenous compared to, say, fees of half a percent. But fees big enough to reduce returns from 8 percent to 3 percent? That's no accident. It's the predictable result of an unregulated free market working on behalf of unsophisticated investors. Everyone involved in this knew exactly what they were doing.

The Clinton Foundation has raised billions of dollars for worthy causes, and after a year of tenacious investigation it appears that it never influenced anything at the State Department while Hillary Clinton was there. Doug Band asked for a few favors here and there, but apparently he never got anything more than a better seat at a luncheon—and it's not clear he even got that.

So let's talk instead about the Trump Foundation. It's a paltry operation that has spent only a few million dollars since the turn of the century. Donald Trump himself has contributed nothing to it over the past eight years. However, he has used Foundation money to buy himself items at charity auctions—including a six-foot painting of himself. And on the seamy side, Trump sure seems to have used Foundation money to try to bribe the attorney general of Florida.

So what is the Trump Foundation? That's hard to say, but it appears to be nothing except a way for Trump to appear philanthropic by giving away other people's money under his own name. As a way of hiding the fact that he's astonishingly miserly about his personal donations to charity, it seems to be a great idea. But why does anyone else play along with this? David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post asked:

[Trump's] biggest donors have not wanted to say why they gave their own money, when Trump was giving none of his.

“I don’t have time for this. Thank you,” said Richard Ebers, a ticket broker in New York City who has given the Trump Foundation $1.9 million since 2011.

“No. No. No. I’m not going to comment on anything. I’m not answering any of your questions,” said John Stark, the chief executive of a carpet company that has donated $64,000 over the years.

Vince and Linda McMahon declined to comment.

So did NBCUniversal, which donated $500,000 in 2012. Its gift more than covered the “personal” donations that Trump offered at dramatic moments on “The Celebrity Apprentice” — then paid for out of the Trump Foundation.

....The Trump Foundation said it had received a $100,000 donation from the Clancy Law Firm, whose offices are in a Trump-owned building on Wall Street. “That’s incorrect,” said Donna Clancy, the firm’s founder, when The Post called. “I’m not answering any questions.”

Jeez. What kind of hold does Trump have over these folks? They give him money but act like kids with their hands in the cookie jar when anyone asks them about it. Even the ones who didn't give him money act that way. What does it all mean? People are usually proud of donating money to a charitable foundation, aren't they?

And how is it that a billionaire can be so hellbent on never giving a cent of his own money to charity? Trump's behavior is so pathological that this year, even after promising a $1 million donation to vets on live TV, he did his best to quietly renege on it. He finally ponied up, but only after Fahrenthold basically badgered him into it by methodically proving that he hadn't given anyone a dime.

Of course, Trump could prove that all of us are just partisan shills by simply releasing his tax returns and demonstrating that he has too donated to charity. He doesn't even have to release the whole thing. All we need is Schedule A for the past few years.

But we'll never see it. I wonder why?

Donald Trump went on CNBC this morning and burbled some Trumpisms about the economy, among them his opinion that Fed chair Janet Yellen should be ashamed of herself for keeping interest rates low in an obviously partisan attempt to help Barack Obama. Matt Yglesias comments:

Versions of this kind of theory are pretty common in business circles, since business circles feature a lot of affluent white men who are generally ill-disposed toward the Democratic Party, but it doesn’t make any sense. After all, the way low interest rates are allegedly helping Obama is by improving economic conditions. But improving economic conditions is what the Fed is supposed to do. Why would they be ashamed?

More technically, the Fed has two mandates: keep employment high and price levels stable. If inflation were high, that might call for higher interest rates to cool down the economy, but in fact inflation is very low. Likewise, if the economy were at full employment, that might permit higher interest rates. But although employment has improved considerably over the past few years, no one thinks we're at full employment yet. In other words, the Fed simply has no reason to raise interest rates.

But when conservatives talk about this, they don't usually talk about the Fed's legal mandates. Rather, they think the Fed is keeping interest rates "artificially" low, which will have ominous effects any day now. But is that true? What is the market telling us about the natural rate of interest right now? Well, the real rate of interest on AAA corporate bonds bounces around a bit, but at the moment yields are running about 1 percent. In Europe, corporate bonds yields are now negative. John Williams of the San Francisco Fed estimates that the natural rate of interest in the US is currently running at about 0.5 percent. The market is telling us that the natural rate of interest at the moment is very, very low.

So pay no attention to the burbling. The market is telling us that interest rates should be low, and the Fed's legal mandates are also telling us that interest rates should be low. Janet Yellen is doing just fine.

Just a quick note for everyone disturbed by basically everything that's happened over the past month or so. It's true that the polls have tightened a bit, but that's not the real story. Here's the latest from Pollster:

The real story is that we've had a Republican convention, a Democratic convention, and tons of news about email, foundations, pneumonia, Russia, bribery attempts, and more—and we're pretty much at the same place we were three months ago. On June 1st, Clinton led by 5.5 points. Today she leads by 4.9 points.

Obviously this could change, and neither side can afford complacency. But the big picture is pretty simple: Trump has been stuck at a maximum of 40-42 percent for the entire past year. It appears that there's a limit to how much support you can gin up with nothing but bluster and appeals to white resentment.

If you want to understand the relationship between Hillary Clinton and the press, yesterday pretty much gave it to you in a nutshell. The basic facts are these:

  • On Friday Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia.
  • On Sunday morning she left a 9/11 memorial early, with her staff claiming she was "overheated."
  • Later on Sunday Clinton's doctor released a note revealing the pneumonia.

The press is rightfully annoyed. She's a presidential candidate, and she should have disclosed the pneumonia diagnosis as soon as she got it. Those aren't the rules for ordinary people, but they are the rules for presidential candidates, and once again Clinton is trying to slide by them.

So why did Clinton's people try to hide her condition? That's pretty easy: After months of baseless health speculation by Donald Trump's rumor machine, she figured the press would go full National Enquirer over this. She didn't trust them to handle it in a normal, level-headed way.

So that's that. There's a gulf of distrust between Clinton and the media that appears unbridgeable. Clinton doesn't trust the press to treat her fairly, so she adopts a hyper-guarded attitude toward everything she does. The press doesn't trust her to honestly disclose anything, so they adopt a hyper-skeptical attitude toward everything she says. Rinse and repeat.

I guess this could change. But not anytime soon.