Blogs

Republican Tax Plans Will Be Great for the Ri—zzzzz

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 7:34 PM EST

Our good friends at the Tax Policy Center have now analyzed—if that's the right word—the tax plans of Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio. You can get all the details at their site, but if you just want the bottom line, you've come to the right place.

The chart on the left shows who benefits the most from each tax plan. Unsurprisingly, they're all about the same: middle income taxpayers would see their take-home pay go up 3 or 4 percent, while the rich would see it go up a whopping 10-17 percent. On the deficit side of things, everyone's a budget buster. Rubio and Bush would pile up the red ink by $7 trillion or so (over ten years) while Trump would clock in at about $9 trillion. That compares to a current national debt of $14 trillion.

No one will care, of course, and no one will even bother questioning any of them about this. After all, we already know they'll just declare that their tax cuts will supercharge the economy and pay for themselves. They can say it in their sleep. Then Trump will say something stupid, or Rubio will break his tooth on a Twix bar, and we'll move on.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

God Is Testing Marco Rubio

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 5:29 PM EST

Oh come on. Even Marco Rubio doesn't deserve this. Maybe it's time to ease up on the poor guy.

Here's What Bernie Sanders Actually Did in the Civil Rights Movement

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 4:49 PM EST

Civil rights icon John Lewis told reporters that he never encountered Bernie Sanders when the Vermont senator was working with Lewis' Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s. Because he made his remarks at a press conference announcing the Congressional Black Caucus PAC's endorsement of Sanders' opponent, Hillary Clinton, Lewis' comments can be seen as a mild dig at Sanders. (In the same breath he said he had met Bill and Hillary Clinton.)

But it's also undoubtedly true.

The Georgia congressman was a titan of the civil rights movement. A participant in the Freedom Rides organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), he went on to lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and still bears the scars he received at Selma. Sanders' involvement was, by comparison, brief and localized, his sacrifices limited to one arrest for protesting and a bad GPA from neglecting his studies. But Sanders was, in his own right, an active participant in the movement during his three years at the University of Chicago.

Although Sanders did attend the 1963 March on Washington, at which Lewis spoke, most of his work was in and around Hyde Park, where he became involved with the campus chapter of CORE shortly after transferring from Brooklyn College in 1961. During Sanders' first year in Chicago, a group of apartment-hunting white and black students had discovered that off-campus buildings owned by the university were refusing to rent to black students, in violation of the school's policies. CORE organized a 15-day sit-in at the administration building, which Sanders helped lead. (James Farmer, who co-founded CORE and had been a Freedom Rider with Lewis, came to the University of Chicago that winter to praise the activists' work.) The protest ended when George Beadle, the university's president, agreed to form a commission to study the school's housing policies.

Sanders was one of two students from CORE appointed to the commission, which included the neighborhood's alderman and state representative, in addition to members of the administration. But not long afterward, Sanders blew up at the administration, accusing Beadle of reneging on his promise and refusing to answer questions from students on its integration plan. In an open letter in the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, Sanders vented about the double-cross:

Chicago Maroon

That spring, with Sanders as its chairman, the university chapter of CORE merged with the university chapter of SNCC. Sanders announced plans to take the fight to the city of Chicago, and in the fall of 1962 he followed through, organizing picketers at a Howard Johnson in Cicero. Sanders told the Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper, that he wanted to keep the pressure on the restaurant chain after the arrest of 12 CORE demonstrators in North Carolina for trying to eat at a Howard Johnson there:

Chicago Maroon

Sanders left his leadership role at the organization not long afterward; his grades suffered so much from his activism that a dean asked him to take some time off from school. (He didn't take much interest in his studies, anyway.) But he continued his activism with CORE and SNCC. In August of 1963, not long after returning to Chicago from the March on Washington, Sanders was charged with resisting arrest after protesting segregation at a school on the city's South Side. He was later fined $25, according to the Chicago Tribune:

Chicago Tribune

Clinton and Sanders Just Weighed In on an Old Battle in the Fight for Reproductive Rights

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 4:13 PM EST

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have repeatedly emphasized the importance of protecting women's reproductive rights, but mostly they've focused on domestic policy. Now, looking overseas, they say the United States should change the regulation of foreign aid for abortions.

The 1973 Helms amendment blocks the use of foreign aid for women who were raped in conflict zones or developing countries and seeking an abortion. The amendment states, "No foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortions as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions." The Hyde amendment, which was passed three years after the Helms amendment, prohibits federal funding from being used for elective abortions—abortions that are not because of incest, rape, or life endangerment.

According to the Huffington Post, Clinton promised to change the Helms amendment and create an exception for rape, incest, and protecting the life of the mother. Sanders said he would use executive action to repeal the Helms amendment altogether.

"Sen. Sanders is opposed to the Helms amendment," Arianna Jones, his deputy communications director, told the Huffington Post. "As president, he will sign an executive order to allow for U.S. foreign aid to pay for abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is at risk. He will also work with Congress to permanently repeal both the Hyde and Helms amendments."

Clinton was asked about the Helms amendment during her Iowa campaign, where she said she thinks rape is being used increasingly as a war weapon.

"I do think we have to take a look at this for conflict zones," Clinton said at the town hall, responding to a question from an audience member. "And if the United States government, because of very strong feelings against it, maintains our prohibition, then we are going to have to work through nonprofit groups and work with other countries to...provide the support and medical care that a lot of these women need."

A Clinton campaign spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Huffington Post that Clinton would "fix" the Helms amendment: "The systematic use of rape as a tool of war is a tactic of vicious militias and insurgent and terrorist groups around the world. She saw first-hand as Secretary of State the suffering of survivors of sexual violence in armed conflict during her visit to Goma in 2009. She believes we should help women who have been raped in conflict get the care that they need."

 

 

 

 

No One Wants to Take Orders From Marco Rubio

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 3:17 PM EST

When the "establishment" is trying to figure out who they support in a presidential primary, I figure one of the key issues is: "Can I imagine myself taking orders from this person?"

OK, not "orders," precisely. But you know what I mean. The president is the party leader, and one of the whole points of being part of the establishment is that you're the kind of person who accepts the leadership of your president. This explains, for example, why the establishment is horrified about Donald Trump. They can't imagine taking orders from a politically ignorant jackass like him. And they hate Ted Cruz's guts, so they can't abide the idea of taking orders from him either.

But what about Marco Rubio? Everyone's been wondering lately why the establishment didn't rally around Rubio earlier, since he seemed like sort of an obvious choice. My guess is that it's not because they hate Rubio, or because they think he's a buffoon. But they do think he's a nervous and overly ambitious young man who's a bit of an empty suit. If he's the nominee, they'll suck it up and support him. But the idea of taking orders from this pipsqueak sticks in their craw.

They're in quite the pickle, aren't they?

Here's a Chart That Puts the Bernie Bro Phenomenon In a Whole New Light

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 2:12 PM EST

Why do millennials love Bernie Sanders? Here's a weirdly intriguing possibility: because they don't have enough daughters. According to Michael Tesler, millennial parents with sons overwhelmingly support Sanders. But millennial parents with daughters overwhelmingly support Hillary Clinton. (There's a similar effect among older voters, but it's very small.) And although Tesler doesn't say this, presumably single millennials are big Bernie fans too.

Is this kind of eerie, or is it totally predictable? I could make a case either way. But even if it's predictable, the size of the effect is eye-popping. Make of it what you will.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Do Strict Photo ID Laws Massively Depress Minority Turnout?

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 1:04 PM EST

Josh Marshall is highlighting yet again a new study that demonstrates a large effect of strict photo ID laws on minority turnout. So why haven't I? Because I honestly can't makes heads or tails of it. Here are the authors:

In the general elections, the model predicts Latino turnout was 10.3 points lower in states with photo ID than in states without strict photo ID regulations, all else equal. For multi-racial Americans, turnout was 12.8 points lower under strict photo ID laws. These effects were almost as large in primary elections. Here, a strict photo ID law could be expected to depress Latino turnout by 6.3 points and Black turnout by 1.6 points.

Do you notice something missing? They mention Latinos and multi-racial voters in general elections, but not blacks. Why not? Apparently because of this:

Their regression suggests that black turnout was up in states with strict photo ID laws. For some reason, though, the result isn't statistically significant, so they ignore it. Conversely, their result for primaries shows black turnout down. But even though it's a weaker result, it is statistically significant, so they report it.

And there are other things that make no sense. Not only do the authors report numbers for depressed turnout that are far larger than anyone has gotten before, but they suggest that photo ID laws cause black turnout to rise while mixed-race turnout declines. That's pretty hard to fathom.

There are other problems. Their charts are incomprehensible. They rely on data collected over the internet. And the results in this paper are precisely the opposite of what one of the authors reported just a year ago in a paper using the same methodology: namely that strict photo ID laws do depress overall turnout, but don't depress minority turnout any more than white turnout ("there is little evidence that racial minorities are less likely than Whites to vote when states institute voter identification requirements").

Beyond that, the authors have applied so many controls that it's hard to tell if there's any real data left by the time they're done. Check this out:

We also control for individual demographic characteristics...age...education level...family income...nativity...gender, marital status...having children, being a union member, owning a home, being unemployed, and religion...and whether the respondent was registered to vote in the pre-election survey...We also have to incorporate other state level electoral laws...early voting...all-mail elections...no excuse absentee voting...the limit on the number of days before the election that residents can register to vote....Finally, to help identify the independent effect of ID laws, our analysis has to include the electoral context surrounding each particular election...political competitiveness of each state...the presence of different electoral contests...whether the Senatorial and Gubernatorial contests are open seats or not, whether the Senatorial and Gubernatorial contests are uncontested or not, and finally the region (South or not).

Holy hell! I wonder how they decided on these controls rather than others? They don't say.

It's quite possible that the analysis in this study is too sophisticated for me to understand. I'm hardly a statistical guru. In fact, I can't even tell precisely what their regressions are measuring. The numbers in the table don't seem to bear any relationship to the results reported in the text. So maybe I just have no idea how to read this stuff.

But for now, I'd take this with a huge grain of salt until someone with the right chops weighs in on it. I don't doubt that strict photo ID laws depress turnout among minorities, but I doubt very much the effect is as big as this study suggests.

Civil Rights Hero John Lewis Slams Bernie Sanders

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 1:00 PM EST

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the progressive icon who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the civil rights movement, on Thursday dismissed Sen. Bernie Sanders' participation in that movement.

When a reporter asked Lewis to comment on Sanders' involvement in the movement—Sanders as a college student at the University of Chicago was active in civil rights work—the congressman brusquely interrupted him. "Well, to be very frank, I'm going to cut you off, but I never saw him, I never met him," Lewis said. "I'm a chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee for three years, from 1963 to 1966. I was involved in the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the March on Washington, the march from Selma to Montgomery, and directed their voter education project for six years. But I met Hillary Clinton. I met President Clinton."

The preeminent civil rights hero's pooh-poohing of Sanders came at a press conference where the Congressional Black Caucus PAC announced its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. The PAC is somewhat separate from the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which is a group of 46 African American members of the House. (All its members are Democratic but one.) But the PAC is chaired by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), a CBC member, and its 20-person board is made up of seven CBC members and several lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants. Some media accounts are depicting this endorsement as the action of the CBC. But Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and a CBC member, sent out an accusatory tweet shortly before the endorsement, complaining, "Cong'l Black Caucus (CBC) has NOT endorsed in presidential. Separate CBCPAC endorsed withOUT input from CBC membership, including me." Ellison is one of two House members who have officially backed Sanders.

The CBC PAC endorsement of Clinton was hosted at the Capitol Hill headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, which raises questions about the DNC's supposed impartiality in the Clinton-Sanders race. An official at the Democratic National Committee says that the party had nothing to do with the CBC PAC's event, which was held at DNC headquarters on Capitol Hill. "Members of Congress who are dues paying members of the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] can reserve the space," he told Mother Jones in an email.

As Mother Jones reported previously, Sanders was involved in the campus chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), another civil rights group:

During his junior year, Sanders, by then president of the university's CORE chapter, led a picket of a Howard Johnson's restaurant in Chicago, part of a coordinated nationwide protest against the motel and restaurant chain's racially discriminatory policies. Sanders eventually resigned his post at CORE, citing a heavy workload, and took some time off from school.

Under Sanders' leadership, the CORE group at University of Chicago joined forces with SNCC's campus chapter, held sit-ins to protest segregation in university-owned apartment buildings, and raised money for voter registration efforts focused on African Americans.

The CBC PAC endorsement comes at a key time in the Democratic primary contest, as Clinton and Sanders head toward the next primary in South Carolina on February 27. The Democratic electorate in that state has a high percentage of African Americans, and a crucial question for both campaigns is whether Sanders can find support with black voters or whether Clinton will maintain her commanding lead in the polls among this group. Political observers have pointed to South Carolina as the state where Clinton has a shot at arresting Sanders' post-New Hampshire momentum due to her standing with black voters. With the fight on for black voters, endorsements from the African American community are important for each campaign—and Lewis' comments won't help Sanders.

Watch Lewis' remarks:

This post has been updated to include comment from the DNC.

Get Your Memes Right: The 1994 Crime Bill Didn't Create Mass Incarceration

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 11:53 AM EST

German Lopez points out today that the 1994 crime bill wasn't responsible for mass incarceration:

States preside over the great bulk of the US justice system. So it's actually state policies that fueled mass incarceration....Federal criminal justice policy, including much of the 1994 crime law, focuses almost entirely on the federal system, particularly federal prisons....In the US, federal prisons house only about 13 percent of the overall prison population.

That's true. And there's one other thing to add to that: by 1995, when the crime bill took effect, state and federal policies had long since been committed to mass incarceration. Between 1978 and 1995 the prison population had already increased by more than 250 percent. Between 1995 and its peak in 2009, it increased only another 40 percent—and even that was due almost entirely to policies already in place.

Depending on your reading of history, mass incarceration was either (a) a reasonable response to a huge crime wave, (b) a defensible idea that got way out of hand, or (c) a racist scourge that destroyed the black community. In fact, there's a good case that it was all three of these things: there really was a big surge in crime in the 70s and 80s that created a growing pool of violent offenders; even the defenders of mass incarceration mostly agree that it had already gone too far by the early 90s; and it's difficult to believe that it ever would have gone as far as it did if it weren't for the contemporary media-political inspired hysteria over black "predators" flooding our neighborhoods.

That said, whatever else the 1994 crime bill did, it didn't create the carceral state or even give it much of a boost. That had happened many years before.

The NSA's Credibility Takes Another Hit

| Thu Feb. 11, 2016 10:44 AM EST

Henry Farrell passes along the news that the NSA is merging two of its major divisions into a single directorate:

The NSA has traditionally had two big responsibilities. The first — spying and surveillance — gets the lion's share of public attention (and, it would appear, resources). Yet the second responsibility — protecting U.S. networks from external attack — is also very important....Protecting private U.S. networks and computers from intrusion means creating secure cryptographic standards that make it a lot harder for outsiders to break in. The problem is that other networks in other countries are likely to start using the same standards. This means that the better that the NSA does at securing U.S. computers and networks against foreign intrusion, the harder it is going to be for the NSA to break into foreign computers and networks that use the same standards. If, alternatively, it cheats by promoting weak standards, the security of U.S. networks will be weakened, but it will also be easier for the NSA to break into foreign ones.

As Farrell points out, the Snowden leaks showed that the NSA did cheat: they deliberately tried to introduce weaknesses into crypto standards so they'd be able to break into foreign networks. This makes their merger of offense and defense a big problem:

When the NSA had visibly separate organizational structures, with separate budget lines for offense (attacking other people's systems) and defense (defending one's own systems), it helped reassure outside observers a little that the defense perspective has its internal advocates within the organization, even if those advocates often lost. In a combined structure, that is no longer the case. Outsiders will find it harder to adjudicate whether the organization is prepared to prioritize defense over offense (at least some of the time).

And that has consequences....It may make it less likely that businesses will trust the NSA with information about vulnerabilities....It may further erode the dominance of U.S. security standards (and U.S. firms) in world markets. It will surely make the cryptographic community more skeptical of cooperating with the NSA. Because the NSA is the kind of organization it is, it has great difficulty in communicating its true intentions and getting others to believe them, even when it wants to. Split organizational structures (which are costly because they go along with budget lines, factional fighting and so on) are one of the very few ways that it can credibly communicate its priorities to outsiders, and reassure them, if it wants to reassure them, that it is interested in protecting networks as well as subverting them.

To be honest, I'm surprised the crypto community—especially overseas—is willing to cooperate with the NSA at all, given what we now know. They are plainly pretty obsessed with sneaking backdoors into both crypto standards and network devices. If the Snowden leaks didn't destroy their credibility on this subject forever, I'm not sure what would.

In any case, this is some boring bureaucratic news that might have some real-world consequences. You'll probably never hear about it again, so I figured it might be worth hearing about it at least once.