• Is Donald Trump Using the Justice Department to Punish CNN?

    Why is the Justice Department suing to prevent AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner? Is it for legitimate antitrust reasons? Michael Hiltzik makes that case here. Or is it because Time Warner owns CNN and Donald Trump hates CNN? Is this just a way for Trump to take revenge on his least favorite news channel? James Hohmann provides seven reasons that might be the case:

    1. In every other area, the Trump administration is bending over backward to boost big business.
    2. The head of the antitrust division has changed his view on the issue to match the president’s.
    3. The administration’s denials are full of lawyerly language that leaves wiggle room.
    4. Trump has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not respect the independence of the Justice Department. Why would he prize the autonomy of the antitrust division any more than he did the FBI?
    5. There are no precedents for this kind of lawsuit succeeding.
    6. The president has made no secret of his deep personal disdain for CNN.
    7. White House officials have previously hinted that Trump might wade into the antitrust process.

    I have no particular ax to grind here. I’d like to see antitrust laws prosecuted more vigorously as a general matter, but I also want to see them applied even-handedly. And I don’t care about CNN one way or the other. However, I’d like to add one more point to Hohmann’s seven. I’m just not sure which way it cuts:

    1. Trump would have to be an idiot to have interfered with this. AT&T’s lawyers are going to demand every scrap of evidence about how this decision was made, and given Trump’s public statements about CNN it’s possible that a judge will let them have it. That probably won’t turn out well.

    This is obviously a good reason for Trump not to have interfered. On the other hand, Trump is an idiot. So I don’t know how to score this one.

    In any case, this could be a pretty entertaining case if AT&T’s lawyers decide to go to the mats. I’d be curious to hear from an expert or two about how likely it is that AT&T could do some serious damage to the Trump administration during discovery.

  • Donald Trump’s Response to Disaster Aid for California: Nothing

    Paul Kitagaki Jr/Sacramento Bee via ZUMA

    A few weeks ago, California requested $7.4 billion in disaster aid following the massive series of wildfires in the northern part of the state that killed 43 people and destroyed nearly 9,000 structures. Actually, let’s back up. That’s not quite accurate. California’s Democratic governor, its two Democratic senators, and its 39 Democratic members of Congress asked for $7.4 billion. With only one exception, California’s Republican delegation boycotted a request for disaster funding for their own state.

    Yesterday the Trump administration responded to California’s request:

    While the request includes anemic supplemental funding for states ravaged by hurricanes, it contains no funding whatsoever for rebuilding the communities in California devastated by the recent wildfires…. “For the Administration to not request even a single additional penny to help rebuild the communities devastated by the worst fires in California’s history is mind-boggling,” [said the two congressmen who led the disaster relief effort].

    This brings the toxicity of partisan politics to jaw-dropping levels. California Republicans won’t even stick up for their own state, and a Republican president offers nothing in response to an enormous natural disaster. Why? No reason was given, but Occam’s Razor suggests that the best guess is the most obvious one: California is a Democratic state that didn’t vote for Donald Trump. You don’t mess with the family.

  • Surprise! The Senate Tax Bill Kills the Middle Class, But It’s Great For the Rich

    A few days ago the Joint Committee on Taxation released its analysis of the Senate tax bill, which I wrote about here. My conclusion was that the bill was “batshit crazy,” but Republicans cried foul. The JCT analysis included the effects of eliminating Obamacare’s individual mandate, and while that seems fair to me, it didn’t to them. They want just the taxes, ma’am.

    The Tax Policy Center heard their pleas and did an analysis based solely on the tax provisions in the bill. Here it is:

    In 2027, the very poorest will see a small tax increase and the middle class will see a tiny decrease. The rich, of course, will get a sizeable tax cut.

    But believe it or not, that’s not the worst part of the TPC analysis. The chart above is an average of all the winners and losers in each income category. But if you dig a little deeper, just how many winners and losers are there? This many:

    Among middle-class families, 50-70 percent will see a tax increase by 2027. Among the rich, that number is only 15-30 percent. And among the super-duper rich, almost no one sees a tax increase.

    It’s really hard to think of things to say about these charts. They come out every few days, and they’re from reputable sources. And they all show a massive preference toward the rich. But Republicans like Orrin Hatch pretend to be outraged when anyone points this out. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan stay scarce so they don’t have to answer questions. Other Republicans insist that these analyses are totally bogus because they don’t account for supercharged growth, and Fox News eagerly joins in. Donald Trump, who would reap tens of millions of dollars from this tax bill, routinely lies in public about how he’d “get killed”—and then tosses in a real thigh slapper: “The deal is so bad for rich people, I had to throw in the estate tax just to give them something.”

    Yuk yuk. But this is fundamentally why Donald Trump is president: despite everything, rich people backed him because he’d give them a tax cut and Hillary Clinton wouldn’t. The love of money may not be the root of all evil, but it sure is responsible for a lot of it.

  • Lunchtime Photo

    I have no idea what this is. I shot it while I was roaming around the Knockneer estate in Killarney, and I was attracted by the almost fiery red of the backlit leaves. Leaves? I guess they’re leaves. For some reason, I didn’t bother to look more closely after I took the picture. But what else could they be?

    UPDATE: So far, the consensus seems to be that the red stuff is some kind of fungus. Or perhaps just peeling bark. I’m going with the bark thing for now. I sure wish I’d taken a look at it when I had a chance.

  • America Has Richer Rich People Than Most Countries

    I’ve got some kind of nasty stomach bug and I feel lousy. Does that mean I should take the rest of the day off, or that I should use it as an excuse to be meaner than normal to the usual suspects? Decisions, decisions.

    In the meantime, here’s a chart that I already made so it’s ready to go. It shows the change since 1980 in how much wealth the top 1 percent controls in a bunch of rich countries:

    This comes from Jonathan Rothwell, who ultimately places the blame for high US inequality on doctors, lawyers, and bankers. I’m not so sure of that, but I thought the chart was worth putting up just to show that high income inequality isn’t some inevitable feature of modern capitalism. Every other country has lower levels than us, and many of them have way lower levels. This is basically a political decision, and we’ve decided that the rich should be very rich indeed.

    And then we decided they need a tax cut. After all, since they make more money, they pay more taxes. That’s just not fair, amirite?

    Hmmm. I guess I decided on the “meaner” option.

  • Here’s How the Residents of Super-White America Voted in 2016

    I’ve long been a skeptic of the theory that Donald Trump won the presidency because of his appeal to white racial anxiety. He certainly tried to win on that basis, but exit polling is pretty clear that, nationwide, Trump won no more of the white vote than Mitt Romney did. It’s true that he won the majority of the white vote, but that’s because Republicans always win the majority of the white vote.

    But that’s just the 100,000-foot view. What happens when you dig deeper? Thomas Edsall, who consistently writes some of the most thought-provoking analysis around, takes a look at some of the data that’s now starting to trickle out and presents us with this chart that compares the 2012 and 2016 elections:

    In most places, even those that are heavily white, the red trendline is below zero, which means Trump won a smaller share of the vote than Romney did. The only places where he outperformed Romney were in the very whitest suburbs and small towns:

    The very white municipalities that voted so strongly for Trump believe that they have reason to worry about the racial stability of their neighborhoods….It is in these locales, which are experiencing the earliest signs of minority growth, that anxiety over approaching diversity is strongest. Put another way, anger, fear and animosity toward immigrants and minorities was most politically potent in the communities most insulated from these supposed threats.

    ….Will Stancil, a research fellow at the Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity who created the chart, explained….“To the extent Trump really resonated, it was in heavily-white areas — and that includes exurbs at the urban fringe, rural areas, and many heavily white second-ring suburbs,” Stancil wrote in his email. “It was his message resonating in those areas that gave him a fighting chance at all.”

    This fits a lot of the evidence we have. As it turns out, racial anxiety among whites really isn’t widespread. But it is strong among whites in a very small number of ultra-white communities. That’s why Trump didn’t do unusually well in California, Arizona, New Mexico, or Texas, where the immigrant population is highest. People in those states have lived with Mexican immigrants for a long time and learned that the sky isn’t falling. But farther away, in the very white communities of the upper Midwest, this is still brand new stuff. Unlike Californians, who know better from experience, they buy the idea that immigrants are unusually crime prone and take away everyone’s jobs—and that makes them scared. They’re a receptive audience for Trump’s “Build a Wall” message.

    All this said, we’re still left with a question: if the only place Trump did better than Romney was in the very whitest communities, was that enough to push him to victory? After all, he did worse than Romney everywhere else. Well, Edsall has a chart for that too, showing how Trump performed in the upper Midwest, but you’ll have to click the link to see it. (Spoiler alert: the answer is probably yes.)

    Edsall finishes up with this:

    In some respects, the data gathered by Orfield’s team is good news for Democrats. The core of Trump’s support lies in counties and municipalities like Dravosburg and Elk County, many of which are losing population. They are, in effect, the last gasp of white hegemony.

    Still, immense damage has been done….As the public discourse around issues of social welfare, immigration, national security, and a whole host of other issues becomes highly racialized and explicitly hostile, the potential for open racial conflict may rise. Furthermore, as these negative attitudes toward racial outgroups become increasingly tightly tied to parties, polarization increases and gridlock and a lack of legislative compromise ensue.

    When I look back at the 2016 election, what is really striking is how much influence over the course of events was exercised by the relatively small numbers of voters in super-white municipalities and counties and by the politician who ignited them — how the last gasp of a small fraction of the electorate set the nation on such a dangerous and destructive course.

    Amen. And the faster the politicians who have set fire to this movement—or even merely tolerated it—are sent packing, the better off our country will be.

  • Donald Trump’s Twitter Fights Since January 20 (Non-Political Edition)

    Mother Jones illustration

    Setting aside media folks and American politicians—who are nearly daily targets—here are all the people Donald Trump has personally attacked on Twitter since his inauguration. Do you notice anything demographically peculiar?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Photo credits: Chelsea Manning: Chelsea Manning; Arnold Schwarzenegger: NBC; Sadiq Khan: James Gourley/Rex Shutterstock; Ken Frazier: Merck; Stephen Curry: Prensa Internacional; Colin Kaepernick: Steven Ferdman/Rex Shutterstock; Jemelle Hill: ESPN; Frederica Wilson: Kevin Dietsch/Pool/CNP; Myeshia Johnson: Sun-Sentinel; Tom Steyer: Karl Mondon/TNS; Michael Moore: Future-Image; LaVar Ball: Leonard Ortiz/The Orange County Register; Donald Trump: Timothy L. Hale/ZUMA; Marshawn Lynch: Steve Jacobson/Image of Sports/Newscom.

  • Repealing the Individual Mandate Would Hurt the Poor, Help the Rich

    Speaking of the individual mandate, it turns out that CBO has analyzed how federal spending would change if the mandate were repealed. This is not about Obamacare subsidies, which will obviously decrease if fewer people buy insurance. This is about reductions in direct spending on Medicare, Medicaid, etc. Here it is:

    It’s pretty easy to see why Republicans love the idea of repealing the mandate. It means less federal spending on the poor and working class, and more spending on the rich. And that’s not even counting the premium increases that would mostly hit the working and middle classes. From a conservative point of view, you have to admit that this is a real winner.

  • Mulvaney OK With Keeping Individual Mandate, Provides No Guidance on How to Pay For It

    The latest:

    Mulvaney: White House ‘OK’ pulling individual mandate repeal from tax bill

    White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said Sunday that the administration wants to repeal part of Obamacare in Congress’ tax bill but is “OK with taking it out” if “it becomes an impediment.”

    ….“If we can repeal part of Obamacare as part of a tax bill, and have a tax bill that is still a good tax bill that can pass, that’s great,” Mulvaney continued. “If it becomes an impediment to getting the best tax bill we can, then we’re OK with taking it out. So, I think it’s up to the Senate and the House to sort of hammer out those details.

    Fine, but repealing the individual mandate saves a lot of money, according to the CBO score. In 2027, it reduces the deficit due to tax cuts from $91 billion to $37 billion. Since this deficit needs to be zero in 2028, Republicans have a lot more hammering out to do if they keep the mandate. I wonder if Mulvaney or Trump have any opinion on how to deal with these pesky little details?

  • Six Months Ago Donald Trump Fired the Director of the FBI

    This is your periodic reminder that six months ago the president of the United States fired the director of the FBI. Then he went on national TV and admitted that he had done it because he was exasperated with Comey’s investigation of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign (“this Russia thing”). And then nothing happened.