LMAO

The Trump campaign apparently just sent out the following email:

Seems fine right? Only, uh, Trump hasn't given his speech yet. Oops?

Crime Is Down and People Feel Safer

Donald Trump is apparently planning to deliver a hair-raising speech tonight focused on the "crime and violence that today afflicts our nation." According to Trump, homicides are up, Washington DC is a killing zone, police shootings have skyrocketed, and illegal immigrants are "roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens."

Whew. Just to prepare you for all this, here's a chart you've seen many times before showing the rate of violent crime since its peak in 1993:

We don't have official numbers for 2015 yet, and they might show a small uptick. That's the nature of these things. But it's pretty obvious that America is a considerably safer place than it's been in decades.

But as the redoubtable Paul Manafort says, what about how people feel? Do they feel safe? That's a hard question to answer, but Gallup asks it every year. Here's the latest. I've included Excel's trendline just to make it clear which direction this is going:

Bottom line: crime is way down and people feel safer than ever. Try not let Donald scare you too much tonight.

"Friends, delegates and fellow Americans: I humbly and gratefully accept."

Donald Trump is set to give his much-hyped speech accepting the Republican nomination for president tonight at the RNC in Cleveland. But—oops!—it looks like Politico got their hands on a draft of the speech a bit early

Per Politico

I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.

The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.

It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation.

I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.

Go read the whole thing.

A couple of days ago I mentioned that even if Obamacare premiums increase a fair amount next year, they'll still be way below original projections. An analysis today in Health Affairs confirms this and adds more meat to the story:

Jon Gabel and Stephen Smith of NORC at the University of Chicago conducted the most thorough analyses of how much premiums in the individual market increased between 2009 and 2013....They imply that ACA marketplace premiums for the [second-lowest-cost silver] plan in 2014 came in a remarkable 21 percent lower than average individual market premiums the year prior, or 32 percent lower when accounting for the new plans’ higher actuarial value, even without incorporating likely utilization increases in response to the additional coverage.

....That the ACA might have caused premiums to drop so precipitously when its marketplaces took effect may seem surprising at first — it was to us....However, the premium reductions make more sense upon deeper analysis.

First, even though sicker people were charged higher premiums in the pre-ACA world (and some were denied coverage altogether), many still purchased insurance, but likely at significantly higher rates....Moreover, by creating large premium subsidies and imposing the individual mandate, the ACA may have caused a greater influx of relatively healthy enrollees into the individual market in 2014 and beyond.

....Second, the ACA creates a price-competitive and transparent market structure, where consumers can compare similar health insurance products.

....Third, selling costs are likely to be lower in the ACA marketplaces because of the prohibition on medical underwriting and limited variation in the policies and policy riders that can be offered.

Competition is good. It's what caused the lower prices to begin with, as insurers lowballed their premiums in order to build market share. And it's what keeps prices low as insurers continue to compete on the relatively level playing field of Obamacare.

But competition is tough on the companies doing the competing. Sometimes it causes them to exit a market. Sometimes individual regions can end up with no providers. It's rare, but not impossible. And of course, competition is only possible if there are enough competitors. That's why the Obama administration is opposing the merger of two big insurers—which would leave us with only three big, nationwide health insurance providers. As Adam Smith pointed out a couple of centuries ago, sellers don't like competition. They'd rather merge or collude so they can charge the highest possible prices. But competition is what's made Obamacare work, and maintaining competition is a key part of keeping costs low in the future. Anyone who believes in the free market should want more competition, not less.

Mark Cuban, former Trump supporter, on what he thinks of the guy now:

There's that guy who'll walk into the bar and say anything to get laid That's Donald Trump right now to a T. But it's all of us who are going to get fucked.

Cuban also wonders why none of Trump's business partners are speaking at the convention. "They’re not coming forward to speak. They’re not coming forward to give him money." No they aren't, are they?

As near as I can tell, no one who does business with Trump wants to repeat the experience. Nor does he have any genuine personal friends. He's cordial only as long as you're useful to him. In other words, he's basically a low-grade sociopath. He just doesn't care about people except as markers in whatever game he happens to be playing at the moment.

Donald Trump Has Some Numbers

Last night the New York Times promised to release a transcript of its interview with Donald Trump, and sometime during the night they did. It's here. You'll be unsurprised to learn that Trump wasn't misquoted at all, as his campaign chairman alleged. Once again, Paul Manafort baldly lied to the press. He is truly a man after Trump's own heart.

Here's my favorite bit:

David, I have statisticians, and I know, like if I went to Pennsylvania, I say, “Give me the statistics on what is going on with respect to manufacturing.” Numbers — 45, 55, 65, I have states that are so bad. New England. Look at New England, what happened. Nafta has been a disaster for this country.

Trump has statisticians! They give him statistics! And numbers! For example, 45, 55, and 65. Those are great numbers. The best numbers. They are Trump's numbers.

The New York Times has yet another interview with Donald Trump, foreign policy genius. Let's listen in:

He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.

For example, asked about Russia’s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

Vladimir Putin will be delighted to hear this. Next:

Reiterating his threat to pull back United States troops deployed around the world, he said, “We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion,” citing what he called America’s trade losses. “That doesn’t sound very smart to me.”

Mr. Trump repeatedly defined American global interests almost purely in economic terms. Its roles as a peacekeeper, as a provider of a nuclear deterrent against adversaries like North Korea, as an advocate of human rights and as a guarantor of allies’ borders were each quickly reduced to questions of economic benefit to the United States.

Lots of politicians say American can no longer be policeman of the world. Trump actually believes it. Next:

Mr. Trump said he was convinced that he could persuade Mr. Erdogan to put more effort into fighting the Islamic State. But the Obama administration has run up, daily, against the reality that the Kurds — among the most effective forces the United States is supporting against the Islamic State — are being attacked by Turkey, which fears they will create a breakaway nation.

Asked how he would solve that problem, Mr. Trump paused, then said: “Meetings.”

Meetings. Right. And finally this:

When asked what he hoped people would take away from the convention, Mr. Trump said, “The fact that I’m very well liked.”

How very Willy Lomanesque. Trump's campaign manager immediately stepped in to say the Times had botched its quotes and Trump didn't really say this stuff about NATO. The Times has promised a transcript of the interview. I think Jonathan Bernstein has the right call on this:

How Has Indiana Fared Under Mike Pence?

Has Mike Pence been good for Indiana? It probably doesn't matter much, but I was curious anyway. For example, did he really enact the biggest income tax cut in the state's history? It turns out the answer is yes: he enacted a cut from 3.4 percent to 3.23 percent. That may not sound all that gigantic, but it turns out the only previous income tax cut in state history was 0.1 percent. So Pence's cut is the biggest!

What about other economic trends? Are there more Hoosiers at work than at any time before, as Paul Ryan said while he was praising Pence? Sure. But thanks to population growth, that's true almost everywhere. A better question is how employment compares to the nation at large. Answer: the unemployment rate since Pence took office in January 2013 has dropped from about 8 percent to about 5 percent. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's about the same as the rest of the country.

Is it true, as Pence said, that there are fewer state employees today than when he took office? I suppose there are multiple ways of counting this, but FRED tells us that the number of state employees has gone up from 116,000 to 117,000 since Pence took office. That's pretty slow growth, but it's not negative growth. Unless there's been a big cut in state employees in the first half of 2016, I'm not sure why Pence would say this.

And how about the state economy in general? There are lots of ways of looking at this, but the simplest is probably state GDP. Regrettably, we only have that through the beginning of 2015. Still, if you take a look at GDP growth during Pence's first two years in office, Indiana looks about the same as the entire country. There's nothing to be ashamed of, but nothing much to write home about either.

Pence has cut taxes and cut spending, and so far he's managed to avoid the disastrous experience of Kansas. Overall things seem to be OK in Indiana. But did Pence's conservative policies produce an economic miracle? Not by any measure I can see.

The weirdness factor was turned up to 11 today. Here are my five favorite moments:

  • After spending all of Tuesday insisting that Melania Trump plagiarized nothing, the campaign admits she did and blames it on her speechwriter.
  • The teleprompter goes out on Michelle Van Etten, who ends up giving perhaps the worst speech ever at a national convention. Before that, she was busily hawking Youngevity, a pyramid scheme that sells pseudoscience vitamin supplements. This may also have been a first for a national convention.
  • Not satisfied with merely locking her up, Trump advisor Al Baldasaro says Hillary Clinton should be shot for treason. The Secret Service investigates. Trump is forced to release a statement saying he "does not agree" that Hillary should be shot.
  • Ted Cruz declines to endorse Trump in his speech. "Don't stay home in November," he says to cheers, but then with a smirk tells them not to vote for Trump, but to "vote your conscience." When everyone finally catches on to what's going on, they begin booing and chanting "We want Trump." The Trump family sits through the entire speech with stony expressions on their faces. After it's all over, Heidi Cruz is escorted out by security while Trump supporters heckle her.
  • Instead of just letting this go, Newt Gingrich insists on putting it in the spotlight a second time by claiming fancifully that when Cruz said "vote your conscience," he really meant "vote for Trump." Nice try, Newt.

On the bright side, they finally got their scheduling in order tonight, filling the entire primetime hour with marquee speakers. It's the first time this week.

The Trump campaign is working on a few "tweaks" to his tax plan:

An updated version of Donald Trump’s tax cut will be about one-third the size of the previous $10 trillion version, two campaign advisers said on Wednesday.

One-third! Down from $10 trillion to $3 trillion. I guess when you're as fabulously wealthy as Donald Trump, $7 trillion hardly seems worth fussing over.

We've known all along that Trump's "policy" proposals were mostly meaningless, but this is sure a brazen confirmation. I can't wait for his new wall proposal: "We've tweaked it from 2,000 miles to 600 miles, and that's already built. Mr. Trump gets things done!"