Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2009/google-reader-bl http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Sorry, Conservatives: You Deserve Donald Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/sorry-conservatives-you-deserve-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/423607/donald-trump-conservative-movement-jonah-goldberg" target="_blank">From Jonah Goldberg,</a> in an epic lament about the <em>trumpenproletariat's</em> crush on Donald Trump and the willingness of mainstream conservatives to pander to it:</p> <blockquote> <p>Every principle used to defend Trump is subjective, graded on a curve. Trump is like a cat trained to piss in a human toilet. It&rsquo;s amazing! It&rsquo;s remarkable! Yes, yes, it is: <em>for a cat</em>. But we don&rsquo;t judge humans by the same standard.</p> </blockquote> <p>I think this is unfair to cats who learn to piss in the toilet. At least that's a useful skill, and at least they don't spend all their free time bragging about it. Still, fair point.</p> <p>On a related note, I continue to be impressed at the number of conservatives who are aghast not at Trump per se, but at the fact that the conservative base is so enamored of him. Most conservative support of Trump is "venting and resentment pretending to be some kind of higher argument," Goldberg says. And then: "I am tempted to believe that Donald Trump&rsquo;s biggest fans are not to be relied upon in the conservative cause." Ya think?</p> <p>But surely Goldberg understands that this is the right-wing base that he and his colleagues have built? I don't expect any conservative writer to acknowledge this in public, but surely in the occasional dark night of the soul they understand what they've done? For years they've supported the worst no-nothing bombast of Drudge and Limbaugh, the casual reality distortion of Fox News, and the resentment-based appeals of people like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin. And they've turned a blind eye to even worse: birthers, Agenda 21 lunacy, Cliven Bundy's army, and much, much more. It was handy at the time, and helped win a few elections. But now the outrage-based mob they've nurtured has come back to haunt them&mdash;and unsurprisingly, it turns out not to care all that much about the debating-hall nuances of Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. They just want to kick out the wetbacks and get back at those smug liberals who make fun of them.</p> <p>Live by the sword, die by the sword. But if you want to survive, you'd better at least understand that once forged, a sword can be wielded by anyone strong enough to grab it. You might not like it when your army decides to follow, but you're the one who taught them to follow the shiny object without worrying too much about whose hand is on the hilt, aren't you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 05 Sep 2015 15:23:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 283466 at http://www.motherjones.com A Republican's Guide to Gotcha Questions http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/republicans-guide-gotcha-questions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Are "gotcha" questions unfair? It depends. I'm personally averse to Jeopardy-style factual quizzes, but not because it's out of line to probe presidential candidates about what they know. Rather, it's the form of the question itself. It treats presidential candidates like schoolchildren being quizzed <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_threat_level.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">in front of the class. It's inherently demeaning for any self-<wbr>respecting adult&mdash;and for politicians too.</wbr></p> <p>That said, there are gotchas and there are gotchas, and some are worse than others. Here's a taxonomy:</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/aponline/19991104/aponline181051_000.htm" target="_blank">SEVERE:</a></strong> "Can you name the president of Chechnya? The president of Taiwan? The general who is in charge of Pakistan? The prime minister of India?" Only an asshole asks questions like this.</p> <p>Recommended answer: "Oh, go fuck yourself."</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1999/08/19/us/bush-irked-at-being-asked-brushes-off-drug-question.html" target="_blank">HIGH:</a></strong> "Have you ever used cocaine?" This is moderately nasty, but there are dangers to a straightforward refusal to respond. Humor is worth a try.</p> <p>Recommended answer: "Once, but only accidentally when I picked up a friend at Mena airport in the 90s and left the car door open."</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/opinion/17stein.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">ELEVATED:</a></strong> "Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?" This is a double-edged sword. Answer it properly and you sound like you actually know something about Islam. Waffle and you sound stupid. Your best bet is to turn it into an attack.</p> <p>Recommended answer: "ISIS terrorists are Sunni. President Obama is a Shiite. That's why he hates those guys so much. It all goes back to the seventh-century, when Obama's 18th cousin 43 times removed insisted that someone from Mohammad's family should take up the leadership of the Muslim <em>Ummah</em>."</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/08/donald-trump-bible-great-um-lets-not-get-specifics" target="_blank">GUARDED:</a></strong> "What's your favorite Bible verse?" This is basically a hanging curve. If you ever went to Sunday School, you shouldn't have any trouble hitting it out of the park.</p> <p>Recommended answer: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth. I try to live up to this every single day. There will be no appeasement of America's enemies on my watch."</p> <p><strong><a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/The-Vote/2008/1001/couric-strikes-again-asks-palin-impossible-question" target="_blank">LOW:</a></strong> "What newspapers and magazines do you regularly read?" This is pretty much the opposite of a gotcha. It's the human interest version of "hello," a way of easing into an interview with a friendly little softball.</p> <p>Recommended answer: "All the usual suspects. The <em>Times</em>, the <em>Post</em>, <em>Human Events</em>, and the <em>Journal of Econometrics</em>. Did you see their paper last month critiquing the Fed's easy money policies by applying a Tobit regression to a fixed-effects nonparametric model with time-aggregated panel data? It was killer."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 05 Sep 2015 10:35:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 283461 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 4 September 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/friday-cat-blogging-4-september-2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122710/hillary-clintons-taste-tv-so-uncool-its-charming" target="_blank">Like Hillary Clinton,</a> we've been watching a lot of HGTV lately. This has inspired Marian to create a long list of renovation projects she'd like to do. It's inspired me to wonder if literally everyone in the world wants an open-concept floor plan these days.</p> <p>And one other thing: It's also made it clear that most interior designers on TV are dog people. How do I know? Because they seem to be very fond of rectangular sinks in bathrooms. However, as we more refined types know, this is entirely unacceptable. Ovals fit the requirements of a properly outfitted household much better.</p> <p><strong>BONUS FEATURE IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:</strong> The prefecture of Hiroshima, in the cat-crazy country of Japan, has created the first cat's-eye version of Google Street View. <a href="http://hiroshima-welcome.jp/kanpai/catstreetview/" target="_blank">Check it out.</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2015_09_04.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 19:06:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 283451 at http://www.motherjones.com The Iran Deal Highlights the Crackup of the Israel Lobby http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/iran-deal-highlights-crackup-israel-lobby <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jonathan Chait writes that AIPAC's failure to stop the Iran deal shows that "there is no more 'Israel lobby'; there is a red Israel lobby and a blue one." <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/09/iran-deal-and-the-end-of-the-israel-lobby.html" target="_blank">And that matters a lot:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As a simple matter of political mechanics, acquiring a veto-proof majority in both houses of Congress meant hawks needed liberal Democrats to take their side. But they did not have arguments that could appeal to liberals &mdash; even liberals with a deep emotional connection to Israel.</p> <p>....This underscores the most important tectonic forces moving beneath the Israel lobby&rsquo;s feet. Over the last 15 years, the foreign-policy debate in Israel has moved steadily rightward....[This] has pushed the American Jewish establishment to the right of American Jewry as a whole.</p> <p>....But there is more at work than simple pigheadedness or habitual aggression. Many conservative supporters of Israel do not necessarily regard the crack-up of American Jewish opinion as a problem. In their view, diplomacy with Iran is the prelude to Israel&rsquo;s annihilation, and support for Netanyahu&rsquo;s permanent occupation is the sine qua non of genuine support for Israel. It follows that the Iran debate essentially succeeded, by smoking out the fake Israel supporters. An almost giddy Jennifer Rubin <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_netanyahu_flag.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">concludes that the deal&rsquo;s victory destroys &ldquo;the myth of bipartisan support for Israel.&rdquo; The crack-up of the Israel lobby is, for its most conservative members, not a failure at all but the fulfillment of a longtime dream.</p> </blockquote> <p>Benjamin Netanyahu no longer even tries to appeal to both liberal and conservative American Jews. As Gershom Gorenberg points out, he has all but turned his government into an overseas arm of the Republican Party, apparently in the hope that this would <a href="http://prospect.org/article/netanyahu-has-lost-iran-deal-wont-leave-table" target="_blank">eventually work out for the best:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Netanyahu's imagined America is one in which Mitt Romney was sure to win in 2012, as can be seen from the prime minister's behavior back then. Like the Republicans to whom he is close, he treats Obama's presidency as a historical glitch. Like many Jewish Republicans, he expects American Jews to place Israel at the top of their voting priorities, to agree with his policies, and to wake up at last to the need to vote Republican. After all, that's how the American Jews he knows best see things. To these misreadings, add his irrepressible impulse to jump into American politics.</p> <p>The consequence is that Netanyahu has done more than anyone else to identify Israel&mdash;that is, the Israel shaped by his policies&mdash;with the Republican Party. Nancy Pelosi's bitter, brilliant reproach after his speech to Congress last March was the clearest possible warning that his alliance with the GOP against Obama would free, or push, Democrats to break with him. He ignored the warning.</p> </blockquote> <p>Like nearly everything else in American politics, Israel has become a dreary partisan issue. Conservatives might be thrilled with this because they think it will hurt liberals, but the evidence suggests just the opposite: it will hurt Israel instead.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 18:54:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 283446 at http://www.motherjones.com Tip O' the Day: Don't Be Trapped by the Tyranny of the List http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/tip-o-day-dont-be-trapped-tyranny-list <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago I stumbled across a story about the weekly email that NBER sends out touting its latest working papers. They recently decided to randomize the order of the papers separately for each of the 23,000 emails they send out. "This will mean that roughly the same number of message recipients will see a given paper in the first position, in the second position, and so on."</p> <p>One thing led to another, and I never wrote about this. But Neil Irwin <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/04/upshot/how-economists-can-be-just-as-irrational-as-the-rest-of-us.html?partner=rss&amp;emc=rss" target="_blank">picks up the ball today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>No editorial judgment goes into the sequence in which the working papers appear. It is random, based on the order in which the paper was submitted and in which the N.B.E.R. approval process was completed. In other words, there is no inherent reason to think that the first paper listed is more groundbreaking, important or interesting than the third or 17th.</p> <p>But a lot more people read the first one listed. <strong>Showing up first in the email generated a 33 percent increase in the number of people who clicked on the working paper</strong> and a 29 percent increase in the number who downloaded it.</p> <p>Perhaps even more amazing, it wasn&rsquo;t just that more people pulled up the paper that appeared first. <strong>Those papers also received 27 percent more citations in later research,</strong> though that result was based on a relatively small time period. Having the luck to appear first in the email <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_arxiv_spike.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">meant that a given working paper had greater influence in subsequent economic research.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, high-IQ economists are as lazy about clicking only the first entry on a list as your average teenage Google user. And it's not just economists. The same thing is true of physicists. The inventor of arXiv, a website that publishes early copies of physics papers, <a href="http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2009/07/29/arxiv-position-effects/" target="_blank">discovered the same thing several years ago.</a> You can see the result in the graph at the right. Physicists might be as lazy as the rest of us, but they're not dumb, and they all figured out a long time ago that being first on the list is a big deal. Since each day's announcements are made in the order they were submitted, starting at 4 pm the previous day, it means that a huge herd of physicists are all pounding their Enter keys at 4 pm in a desperate effort to be first on the next day's list.</p> <p>The moral of this story is that....economists and physicists are as lazy and irrational as everyone else? I guess. But the real moral of the story is for <em>you</em> not to be trapped by the tyranny of the list. The next time you google something, try clicking on the 8th link. In fact, do what I do and change the default number of hits to 50 per page and then try clicking the 18th link. You might be pleasantly surprised.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 17:40:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 283441 at http://www.motherjones.com In Shocker, Media Learns That Donald Trump Doesn't Know Anything http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/shocker-media-learns-donald-trump-doesnt-know-anything <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Color me surprised. I read Hugh Hewitt's interview with Donald Trump yesterday and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/why-has-conservative-talk-radio-gone-gaga-over-donald-trump" target="_blank">commented on it,</a> but it didn't even occur to me to say anything about the substance of Trump's replies. I mentioned as an aside that <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_hewitt_gaffe_4.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 35px;">Trump, as usual, was "comically ignorant" of pretty much everything, and thought no more about it. That's just standard Trump.</p> <p>But today's headlines are all about Trump's "struggles," "stumbles," and "gaffes." That's all totally fair, but why did it take <em>this</em> interview to suddenly wake everyone up? Trump has been responding to questions this way for the entire campaign. Ask him about China, and he says he'll send Carl Icahn over. Ask him how he'll get Mexico to pay for a wall, and he says "management." Ask him about taxes and he says he'll be great for the middle class. Ask him for his favorite Bible verse and he claims that's too personal to share.</p> <p>This has been his MO all along. His ignorance&mdash;and his shameless lack of interest in fixing it&mdash;has always been obvious. He doesn't even try to hide it. He'll hire good people. He'll delegate. He'll learn it when he needs to. He's entirely up front about not knowing squat, and it's barely even caused a ripple. Until now. Suddenly everyone is shocked to learn that Trump doesn't know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah.</p> <p>I guess it was bound to happen sometime. Perhaps the Trump show was just too entertaining to ruin with this kind of pedantry back in August. What would we all have written about without him?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 15:53:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 283436 at http://www.motherjones.com Kentucky Gay Marriage Melodrama Is Finally Over (Sort Of) http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/kentucky-gay-marriage-melodrama-finally-over-sort <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/05/us/kim-davis-same-sex-marriage.html" target="_blank">From Joe Davis,</a> explaining why his wife, the clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, refuses to issue marriage licenses to gay couples:</p> <blockquote> <p>Just because five Supreme Court judges make a ruling, it&rsquo;s not a law.</p> </blockquote> <p>Actually, yes, it is. But Joe could be excused for thinking otherwise given how many allegedly serious Republican presidential candidates seem to agree with him.</p> <p>In any case, this affair has now ended in what always seemed the most obvious way: with LGBT couples getting marriage licenses from deputies in the county clerk's office. Kim Davis still objects to this, of course, because her name is on the license (by state law). But her deputies apparently aren't as keen on twiddling their thumbs in the county jail as she is. They had to decide whether to obey Davis or obey a federal judge, and they wisely chose to obey the judge.</p> <p>In theory, this is now over. But Davis remains in jail, all the better to assure her future role as a martyr for the cause and poster child for fundraising appeals by the right-wing email outrage crowd. I imagine she'll stay there just long enough to cement her reputation, and then announce that she's resigning her office. Her moment in the sun is nearly over, but her moment on the rubber chicken circuit is just beginning.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:27:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 283426 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in August http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/chart-day-net-new-jobs-august <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The American economy <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm" target="_blank">added 173,000 new jobs last month,</a> 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at 83,000 jobs. The headline unemployment rate fell from 5.3 percent to 5.1 percent. Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees were up at an annualized rate of 2.9 percent.</p> <p>Roughly speaking, there was nothing interesting in the guts of the report. The unemployment rate was down both because there were more employed workers and because the size of the labor force shrank a bit. The labor force participation rate stayed steady. There were no big surprises in any particular industry.</p> <p>This has left everyone free to speculate on what this report means for the prospect of the Fed increasing interest rates later this month. On the one hand, the jobs report fell a bit below expectations. On the other hand, the unemployment rate was down nicely and wages showed a bit of life. On the third hand&mdash;well, everyone's just guessing here. Basically, this month's jobs report is ordinary enough that it probably won't have much impact at all. The Fed will consider overseas weakness, labor market slack, and all the other things that have been on their plate for a while. If they were planning to raise rates before this report came out, they probably still are.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_new_jobs_august_2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:10:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 283421 at http://www.motherjones.com Protester Attacks Trump Guard's Fist With His Head; Trump to Press Charges http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/protester-attacks-trump-guards-fist-his-head-trump-press-charges <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_banner_trump_racist_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">At Donald Trump's ceremonial loyalty-oath signing on Thursday, a group of protesters showed up holding a big blue banner that read "Trump: Make America Racist Again." A Trump security guard took offense at this sign of insolence and ripped the banner away from them. One of the protesters then chased the guard and grabbed him, at which point the guard turned around and clocked the guy. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/09/03/guard-for-donald-trump-hits-protester/" target="_blank">From the <em>New York Times</em>:</a> "The Trump campaign said that the security team member on Thursday was 'jumped from behind' and that the campaign would 'likely be pressing charges.'"</p> <p>The banner disappeared into Trump Tower, never to be seen again. Quite rightly, I might add. This sort of impudence from losers and lightweights will not be tolerated when Donald Trump is president. Truly he is already making America great again.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="322" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/I8TFCPT-WtM" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 65px;" width="500"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 05:31:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 283411 at http://www.motherjones.com Sentence of the Day: Court Must Rule on Whether Court Can Rule http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/sentence-day-court-must-rule-whether-court-can-rule <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/09/why-entire-kansas-court-system-could-shut-down" target="_blank">From my colleague Pema Levy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Sometime in the next few months, the state Supreme Court is likely to rule on whether the legislature has the right to strip the Supreme Court of its administrative authority.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, I guess someone has to do it. You will perhaps be unsurprised to learn that this sentence refers to Kansas.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 03:10:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 283406 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Has Conservative Talk Radio Gone Gaga Over Donald Trump? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/why-has-conservative-talk-radio-gone-gaga-over-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Roughly speaking, I think the reason Donald Trump will eventually flame out is because people will get tired of his act. This is the downside of getting lots of media attention: when you recycle the same sentence fragments over and over, people eventually figure out that you have nothing more to say. His supporters get bored. The press gets bored. The whole country gets bored. And while the endless insults might be amusing for a while, eventually even his fans will conclude that he sounds an awful lot like a fourth grader, not a president. In the end, Trump will end not with a bang, but a whimper.</p> <p>In the meantime, though, I'm a little curious about why conservative talk radio has been so consistently gaga over Trump. For example, <a href="http://www.hughhewitt.com/donald-trump-on-the-day-he-took-the-pledge/" target="_blank">here's a little snippet <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hugh_hewitt_cnn.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">from Hugh Hewitt's show today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>HH: You know everything about building buildings. You could build the wall. I have no doubt about that....But on the front of Islamist terrorism, I&rsquo;m looking for the next commander-in-chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard, yet, Donald Trump?</p> <p>DT: No, you know, I&rsquo;ll tell you honestly, <strong>I think by the time we get to office, they&rsquo;ll all be changed. They&rsquo;ll be all gone.</strong> I knew you were going to ask me things like this, and there&rsquo;s no reason, because number one, I&rsquo;ll find, I will hopefully find General Douglas MacArthur in the pack. <strong>I will find whoever it is that I&rsquo;ll find,</strong> and we&rsquo;ll, but they&rsquo;re all changing, Hugh.</p> <p>....HH: Now I don&rsquo;t believe in gotcha questions. And I&rsquo;m not trying to quiz you on who the worst guy in the world is.</p> <p>DT: Well, that is a gotcha question, though. I mean, you know, when you&rsquo;re asking me about who&rsquo;s running this, this this, that&rsquo;s not, that is not, <strong>I will be so good at the military, your head will spin.</strong></p> <p>....HH: Last question, I want to go back to the beginning, because I really do disagree with you on the gotcha question thing, Donald Trump. At the debate, I may bring up Nasrallah being with Hezbollah, and al-Julani being with al-Nusra, and al-Masri being with Hamas. Do you think if I ask people to talk about those three things, and the differences, that that&rsquo;s a gotcha question?</p> <p>DT: Yes, I do. I totally do. I think it&rsquo;s ridiculous....I&rsquo;ll have, <strong>I&rsquo;m a delegator. I find great people. I find absolutely great people, and I&rsquo;ll find them in our armed services, and I find absolutely great people.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the thing: I don't know if obsequious is the right word to describe Hewitt's attitude, but it's close. Throughout the interview he takes considerable pains to compliment Trump on every little piece of knowledge he manages to dredge up, like a teacher complimenting a dim third-grader for remembering five times three. This is despite the fact that Trump makes it crystal clear that he's comically ignorant about practically everything that Hewitt thinks is important.</p> <p>But Hewitt is no idiot. He's a partisan warrior and a trained killer on the radio, but he's not a stupid one. He's a very smart guy.</p> <p>So why does he put up with someone like Trump? Is it just for the ratings? Does he think Trump actually might become president? Is he embarrassed by this? Or what? Inquiring minds want to know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 04 Sep 2015 00:30:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 283401 at http://www.motherjones.com Rhetoric vs. Reality, Police Safety Edition http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/rhetoric-vs-reality-police-safety-edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's the rhetoric:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="http://hotair.com/archives/2015/09/02/hot-air-exclusive-scott-walker-speaks-out-on-cop-murders-and-american-leadership/" target="_blank">Scott Walker:</a> "<strong>In the last six years under President Obama,</strong> we've seen a rise in anti-police rhetoric....[This] rhetoric has real consequences for the safety of officers who put their lives on the line for us and hampers their ability to serve the communities that need their help."</p> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2015/09/ted-cruz-obama-darren-goforth" target="_blank">Ted Cruz:</a> "Cops across this country are feeling the assault. <strong>They're feeling the assault from the president,</strong> from the top on down....That is fundamentally wrong, and it is endangering the safety and security of us all."</p> <p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/08/29/trump-in-tennessee-downplays-police-brutality-promises-to-get-rid-of-gangs/" target="_blank">Donald Trump:</a> "I know cities where police are afraid to even talk to people because they want to be able to retire and have their pension....And then you wonder what's wrong with our cities. <strong>We need a whole new mind-set.</strong>"</p> </blockquote> <p>And here's the reality. During the George Bush administration, police fatalities per 100 million residents averaged 58 per year (54 if you exclude 2001). During the Obama administration, that's dropped to 42.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_police_deaths.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 25px 0px 5px 45px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 03 Sep 2015 21:45:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 283381 at http://www.motherjones.com Marx and Keynes Put Economics on the Map, and They Can Take It Right Off Again http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/marx-and-keynes-put-economics-map-and-they-can-take-it-right-again <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/09/03/why-political-science-cant-and-shouldnt-be-too-much-like-economics/" target="_blank">Over at PostEverything,</a> Dan Drezner wonders why economics has managed to wield such an outsized influence among the social sciences. His strongest point&mdash;or at least the one he spends the most time on&mdash;is that economists "share a strong consensus about the virtues of free markets, free trade, capital mobility and entrepreneurialism." This makes them catnip to the plutocrat class, and therefore the favored social scientists of influential people everywhere.</p> <p>Fine, <a href="https://twitter.com/ModeledBehavior/status/639477696876138496" target="_blank">says Adam Ozimek,</a> but what about liberal economists? "Why is Paul Krugman famous? Robert Shiller? Joe Stiglitz? Jeff Sachs? 'To please plutocrats' is not a good theory." <a href="https://twitter.com/ModeledBehavior/status/639478252780785664" target="_blank">And this:</a> "Why do liberal think tanks with liberal donors supporting liberal <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_marx_keynes.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">causes hire so many economists? To please plutocrats?"</p> <p>I think Drezner and Ozimek each make good points. Here's my amateur historical explanation that incorporates both.</p> <p>The first thing to understand is that in the 19th century, economists were no more influential than other social scientists. Folks like David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus were certainly prominent, but no more so than, say, Herbert Spencer or Max Weber. What's more, economics was a far less specialized field then. John Stuart Mill had a strong influence on economics, but was he an economist? Or a philosopher? Or a political scientist? He was all of those things.</p> <p>So what happened to make economists so singularly influential in the 20th century? I'll toss out two causes: Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes.</p> <p>The fight for and against communism defined the second half of the 20th century, and Marx had always identified economics as the underpinning of his socio-historical theories. Outside of the battlefield, then, this made the most important conflict of the time fundamentally a fight over economics. In the public imagination, if not within the field itself, the fight between communism and free markets became identified as the face of economics, and this made it the most important branch of the social sciences.</p> <p>Then Keynes upped the ante. In the same spirit that Whitehead called philosophy a series of footnotes to Plato, economics in the second half of the 20th century was largely a series of footnotes to Keynes. Rightly or wrongly, he became the poster child for liberals who wanted to justify their belief in an activist government and the arch nemesis of conservatives who wanted no such thing. In the same way that communism was the biggest fight on the global stage, the fight over the size and scope of government was the biggest fight on the domestic stage. And since this was fundamentally a fight over economics, the field of economics became ground zero for domestic politics in advanced economies around the world.</p> <p>And that's why economists became so influential among both plutocrats and the lefty masses. Sure, it's partly because economists use lots of Greek letters and act like physicists, but mostly it's because that window dressing was used in service of the two most fundamental geo-socio-political conflicts of the late 20th century.</p> <p>So does that mean economics is likely to lose influence in the future? After all, free market capitalism and mixed economies are now triumphant. Compared to the 20th century, we're now arguing over relative table scraps. And, as Drezner points out, the profession of economics has hardly covered itself with glory in the opening years of the 21st century. Has their time has come and gone?</p> <p>Maybe. I mean, how should I know? Obviously there's a lot of inertia here, and economics will remain pretty important for a long time. But the biggest fights are gone and economists have an embarrassing recent track record of failure. If the rest of the social sciences want to mount an assault on the field, this would probably be a pretty good time to do it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 03 Sep 2015 18:38:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 283361 at http://www.motherjones.com Florida Governor Refuses to Admit That His Own Investigators Have Cleared Planned Parenthood http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/florida-governor-refuses-admit-his-own-investigators-have-cleared-planned-parenth <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Good news! Florida regulators have finished their investigation of Planned Parenthood and concluded that there were no problems with the group's handling of fetal tissue. But you might not know that if you read their press release about the investigation. It turns out that Florida Gov. Rick Scott <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/florida/2015/09/8575790/scotts-office-scrubbed-release-cleared-planned-parenthood" target="_blank">preferred to keep this under wraps:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Emails between the governor&rsquo;s office and AHCA, obtained by POLITICO Florida through a public records request, show the agency prepared a press release that same day noting that <strong>&ldquo;there is no evidence of the mishandling of fetal remains at any of the 16 clinics we investigated across the state.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p><strong>Scott's office revised the release to exclude that sentence,</strong> an email sent by Scott&rsquo;s communications director, Jackie Schutz, shows. Additionally, the revised release noted the AHCA would refer physicians who worked at the clinics to the Board of Medicine for possible disciplinary action.</p> </blockquote> <p>Kinda reminds you of a half-bright middle schooler who thinks he has a genius idea, doesn't it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Regulatory Affairs Sex and Gender Top Stories Thu, 03 Sep 2015 17:08:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 283331 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Shot Themselves in the Foot Over Iran http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/republicans-shot-themselves-foot-over-iran <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Why did Republicans <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-iran-deal-20150902-story.html" target="_blank">fail to kill the Iran nuclear deal?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Opponents of the deal may have miscalculated the degree of public interest in the debate. They hoped for the kind of outpouring of public anger that gave rise to the tea party and nearly doomed Obamacare in August 2010. <strong>But the Iran deal &ldquo;just hasn&rsquo;t had that kind of galvanizing effect&rdquo; on the public, said Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), who backs the agreement.</strong></p> <p>....A Republican invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address both houses of Congress in March appears to have backfired. His harsh denunciation of the negotiations then underway, which the White House portrayed as a snub of Obama&rsquo;s foreign policy, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_iran_nuclear_deal.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">made the debate more polarizing and partisan, pushing Democrats to the president&rsquo;s side.</p> <p><strong>Another factor, said one frustrated Republican on Capitol Hill: &ldquo;Trump happened.&rdquo;</strong> The GOP leadership aide, granted anonymity to discuss the setback, said billionaire Donald Trump&rsquo;s attention-grabbing presidential campaign, along with scrutiny of Hillary Rodham Clinton&rsquo;s email server, overshadowed all other issues this summer, making it harder for the Republicans&rsquo; message to attract attention.</p> <p>....Democrats have felt free to back the deal in part because they heard from many in the American Jewish community who split from the more hawkish AIPAC....The dozen or so Democratic opponents in Congress come mainly from parts of New York, New Jersey and Florida with large politically conservative Jewish populations. <strong>But the opponents failed to mount a serious effort to persuade other lawmakers to buck the White House.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>First things first: don't blame this on Donald Trump. He's been scathing about the deal, and has probably drawn more attention to it than all the AIPAC-funded ads put together. As for Hillary Clinton's email woes, it would please me no end if Republicans had shot themselves in the foot by focusing the fever swamps on that and leaving no room for outrage about Iran. But I doubt it. There's always stuff going on. Nobody ever fights a political battle in a pristine environment. There was plenty of room for Iran outrage.</p> <p>As it happens, though, I think Republicans <em>did</em> shoot themselves in the foot, but in a different way. Ever since 2009, their political strategy has been relentless and one-dimensional: oppose everything President Obama supports, instantly and unanimously. They certainly followed this playbook on Iran. Republicans were slamming the deal before the text was even released, and virtually none of them even pretended to be interested in the merits of the final agreement. Instead, they formed a united, knee-jerk front against the deal practically before the ink was dry.</p> <p>This did two things. First, it made them look unserious. From the beginning, the whole point of the economic sanctions against Iran was to use them as leverage to pressure the Iranian leadership to approve a nuclear deal. But by opposing it so quickly&mdash;based on an obviously specious desire for a "better deal" that they were never willing to spell out&mdash;Republicans made it clear that they opposed any agreement that lifted the sanctions. In other words, they opposed any agreement, period.</p> <p>Second, by forming so quickly, the Republican wall of opposition turned the Iran agreement into an obviously partisan matter. Once they did that, they made it much harder for Democrats to oppose a president of their own party. A more deliberate approach almost certainly would have helped them pick up more Democratic votes.</p> <p>All that said, keep in mind that Democrats only needed 34 senators <em>or</em> 145 House members to guarantee passage. That's not a high bar for a historic deal backed by a Democratic president. In other words, it's quite possible that Republicans actually did nothing wrong. They simply never had a chance in the first place.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 03 Sep 2015 16:06:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 283311 at http://www.motherjones.com Anchor Babies Exist, But Probably Not Very Many of Them http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/anchor-babies-exist-probably-not-very-many-them <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Do "anchor babies" exist? Or are they just a pernicious myth invented by the anti-immigration right? The <em>LA Times</em> sent reporter Molly Hennessy-Fiske to Rio Grande City in Texas to <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/immigration/la-na-texas-anchor-babies-20150903-story.html" target="_blank">check things out:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In this county in the heart of the impoverished Rio Grande Valley, so-called anchor babies have been delivered for decades, some to women who have already settled in Texas, others to those who crossed the river expressly to give birth on U.S. soil. "About six months ago I got one who was literally still wet from the river," [Dr. Rolando] Guerrero said.</p> <p>....Just how many Mexican mothers come to give birth to the babies and the cost of caring for them are unclear. <strong>"They do come on purpose," said Thalia Munoz, chief executive of Starr County Memorial.</strong> "We have to absorb the costs....It's a persistent problem. It's a fact: They come over here for the anchor baby, they come over for the benefits."</p> <p>....The doctors said they saw fewer women coming to have babies after Texas officials ordered a surge of law enforcement and National Guard troops to the border last summer in response to an influx of Central American immigrants....<strong>But since then, "slowly, it's been going back up," Guerrero said.</strong></p> <p>....At Starr County Memorial, <strong>most of the mothers the doctors see do not cross intentionally to give birth,</strong> they said &mdash; they were already living on the U.S. side of the border with families of mixed status. "I have families where I've delivered three or four" U.S.-born babies, Guerrero said.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's unlikely that we'll ever get a firm handle on how common this phenomenon is. But if the evidence of this story is typical, we can say that (a) anchor babies certainly exist, but (b) probably not in very large numbers. That's not likely to satisfy anyone, but sometimes life is like that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 03 Sep 2015 15:07:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 283306 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Do High Schools Erase All the Test Score Gains of the Past 40 Years? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/why-do-high-schools-erase-all-test-score-gains-past-40-years <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>SAT scores have been dropping slowly but steadily <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/sat-scores-at-lowest-level-in-10-years-fueling-worries-about-high-schools/2015/09/02/6b73ec66-5190-11e5-9812-92d5948a40f8_story.html" target="_blank">for the past decade:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The steady decline in SAT scores and generally stagnant results from high schools on federal tests and other measures reflect a troubling shortcoming of education-reform efforts. <strong>The test results show that gains in reading and math in elementary grades haven&rsquo;t led to broad improvement in high schools, experts say.</strong> That means several hundred thousand teenagers, especially those who grew up poor, are leaving school every year unready for college.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;Why is education reform hitting a wall in high school?&rdquo;</strong> asked Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a think tank. &ldquo;You see this in all kinds of evidence. Kids don&rsquo;t make a whole lot of gains once they&rsquo;re in high school. It certainly should raise an alarm.&rdquo;</p> <p>It is difficult to pinpoint a reason for the decline in SAT scores, but educators cite a host of enduring challenges in the quest to lift high school achievement. Among them are <strong>poverty, language barriers, low levels of parental education and social ills</strong> that plague many urban neighborhoods.</p> </blockquote> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_9_year_17_year_test_scores_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I'm delighted to see an education story that acknowledges <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/08/kids-school-test-scores-charts-kevin-drum" target="_blank">the plain evidence of test score gains,</a> even if just in an aside. The simple fact is that through middle school, standardized test scores have risen significantly over both the past decade and the past four decades. Elementary and middle school test scores have <em>not</em> been either stagnant or dropping, but based on the usual reporting of this stuff, I doubt that one person in a hundred is aware of this.</p> <p>But I'm also happy to see the flip side of this acknowledged: in general, all these gains wash away in high school. On the "gold standard" NAEP test, math scores have gone up just a few points among 17 year olds and reading scores have been flat. The usual explanation is that education reforms have initially been centered on elementary and middle schools, and scores will go up for older kids once those reforms start to become widespread in high schools.</p> <p>Maybe. But that excuse is starting to look old in the tooth. And even if high schools haven't seen a lot of reforms yet, why is it that they seem to have a <em>negative</em> effect on student performance? If math scores were up, say, ten points by the end of middle school and remained ten points up by the end of high school, that would be one thing. High schools wouldn't be adding anything, but they wouldn't be doing any harm either. But that's not the case. Kids come out of middle school better prepared today, but come out of high school no better than they did in 1971. High school is actually <em>erasing</em> gains.</p> <p>This is, needless to say, troubling. Poverty, language barriers, low levels of parental education and social ills are problems at all ages, so that explains little. Nor does disaggregating scores by race, since demographic changes have been similar at all age levels. But the plain truth is that the only thing that really matters is how well prepared kids are when they finish high school. All the test score gains in the world mean nothing if they're gone by age 17. This is something we really need to figure out.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 03 Sep 2015 14:22:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 283301 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: The Future of Health Care Costs Looks Surprisingly Rosy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/chart-day-future-health-care-costs-looks-surprisingly-rosy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You've seen various versions of this chart from me before, but perhaps you'd like to see it from a pair of highly-qualified researchers rather than some shorts-clad blogger? Not a problem. <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w21501.pdf" target="_blank">A recent paper</a> out of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and Economics at USC shows that the annual increase in health care costs has been dropping steadily for more than 30 years. The green arrow shows the trendline.</p> <p>Obviously this won't go on forever. But once again, it shows that the recent slowdown in health care costs isn't just an artifact of the Great Recession. That probably helped, but the downward trend far predates the recession. Bottom line: there will still be spikes and valleys in the future, but there's every reason to think that the general trend of health care costs over the next few decades will be either zero (i.e., equal to overall inflation) or pretty close to it.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_healthcare_annual_increase_1960_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 03 Sep 2015 01:25:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 283291 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Has Lost Between $1 and $6 Billion Over His Business Career http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/donald-trump-has-lost-between-1-and-6-billion-over-his-business-career <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This post is about Donald Trump&mdash;sorry!&mdash;but the topic is something I've been a little curious about for a while: how much of Trump's wealth is inherited vs. earned? The basics are easy: Trump's father turned over control of the family real estate business to him in 1974. At the time, it was worth about $200 million. Trump would eventually inherit one-fifth of this, so his share of the company was worth about $40 million to start with.</p> <p>Over at <em>National Journal</em>,&nbsp;Shirish D&aacute;te estimates that if Trump had put that money into an index fund of S&amp;P 500 stocks, it would be worth about $3 billion today. If he'd taken the $200 million he was reportedly <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_s_and_p_return_1974_2014.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">worth in 1982 and done the same, he'd be worth $8 billion. So how does that compare to Trump's actual net worth? <a href="http://www.nationaljournal.com/twentysixteen/2015/09/02/1-easy-way-donald-trump-could-have-been-even-richer-doing-nothing" target="_blank">Here's D&aacute;te:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Every year, Trump shares a lot of information with us that helps us get to the figures we publish. But he also consistently pushes for a higher net worth&mdash;especially when it comes to the value of his personal brand,&rdquo; <em>Forbes</em> reporter Erin Carlyle wrote this June, explaining the magazine&rsquo;s assessment that Trump was worth <strong>$4.1 billion,</strong> less than half of his claimed net worth. A subsequent review by Bloomberg found he was worth <strong>$2.9 billion.</strong></p> <p>....Perhaps the most deeply researched account of his wealth is a decade old: the book <em>TrumpNation</em>, by former <em>New York Times</em> journalist Tim O&rsquo;Brien, who found three sources close to Trump who estimated that he was worth <strong>between $150 million and $250 million</strong>....Trump wound up suing O&rsquo;Brien for defamation, claiming his book had damaged his business. The suit was eventually dismissed, but not before Trump sat for a deposition in which he admitted that he routinely exaggerated the values of his properties.</p> <p>....That 2007 deposition also revealed that in 2005, two separate banks had assessed Trump&rsquo;s assets and liabilities before agreeing to lend him money. One, North Fork Bank, decided he was worth <strong>$1.2 billion,</strong> while Deutsche Bank found he was worth no more than <strong>$788 million.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>So....at a guess, Trump is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 billion in 2015. Anything above that is based on valuations of his personal brand&mdash;which might be worth something in theory, but buys no jet fuel or campaign ads. In terms of actual, tangible net worth, he's worth considerably less than the $3 billion (or $8 billion) he'd be worth if he'd just dumped his share of the family fortune into a Vanguard fund.</p> <p>In other words, over the course of the past four decades, Trump's business acumen has netted him somewhere between -$1 billion and -$6 billion. Ouch. Virtually every person in America can claim a better financial record than that.</p> <p>Now, in fairness, D&aacute;te's numbers for the S&amp;P fund assume that all dividends are reinvested, which would have meant Trump had no income to live on. Obviously he spends a fair amount every year, and if you take that into account the Vanguard strategy wouldn't look as good. Plus, of course, there's the fact that D&aacute;te is a THIRD-RATE LOSER who is JEALOUS of Trump's BRILLIANT CAREER and does anything he can to DEMEAN Trump's SUCCESS. So take him with a grain of salt.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 23:06:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 283281 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton's Favorability Ratings Are Right In Their Normal Groove http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/hillary-clintons-favorability-ratings-are-right-their-normal-groove <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/09/02/what-hillarys-sinking-poll-numbers-really-mean-in-one-chart/" target="_blank">Greg Sargent says</a> that Hillary Clinton's tanking favorability ratings should take no one by surprise. It's what happens every time an election starts up and she's once again viewed as a partisan political figure. "Her drop was probably inevitable once she made the transition from Secretary of State &mdash; a job that carries the trappings of above-politics statesmanship, or if you prefer, states-womanship &mdash; to candidate for president."</p> <p>There's much more at the link, but the annotated chart below pretty much tells the story. When she's removed from the fray, her unfavorability ratings bounce around between 20 and 40 percent. When she's involved in an election, they go up to 45-55 percent or even a little higher. The same thing is happening this time around.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_unfavorability_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 18:55:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 283271 at http://www.motherjones.com Iran Will Always Be Three Months Away From Having Nukes http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/iran-will-always-be-three-months-away-having-nukes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Paul Waldman writes about the asymmetric political risks that Democrats and Republicans face <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/09/02/in-an-unusual-development-congressional-dems-display-admirable-backbone/" target="_blank">over the Iran nuclear deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If the agreement proves to be a failure &mdash; let&rsquo;s say that Iran manages to conduct a nuclear weapons program in secret, then announces to the world that they have a nuclear weapon &mdash; it will indeed be front-page news, and the Democrats who supported the deal might suffer grave political consequences. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nuclear_explosion.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">So in order to vote yes, they had to look seriously at the deal and its alternatives, and accept some long term political peril.</p> <p>By contrast, there probably is less long term risk for Republicans in opposing the deal.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s true that if the deal does achieve its goals, it will be added to a list of things on which Republicans were spectacularly wrong, but which led them to change their opinions not a whit....Iraq War....Bill Clinton&rsquo;s tax-increasing 1993 budget....George Bush&rsquo;s tax cuts....But if the deal works as intended, what will be the outcome be? Iran without nuclear weapons, of course, but that is a state of being rather than an event. There will be no blaring headlines saying, &ldquo;Iran Still Has No Nukes &mdash; Dems Proven Right!&rdquo; Five or ten years from now, Republicans will continue to argue that the deal was dreadful, even if Iran&rsquo;s nuclear ambitions have been contained.</p> </blockquote> <p>In a way, it's actually worse than this. Even if Iran doesn't get nukes there will be endless opportunities to raise alarms that it's going to happen <em>any day now</em>. Israeli leaders have been warning that Iran is three months away from a nuclear bomb for over two decades. There will always be new studies, new developments, and new conflicts that provide excuses for hysterical Fox News segments telling us we're all about to die at the hands of the ayatollahs. To see this in action, just take a look at Obamacare. All the top line evidence suggests it's working surprisingly well. Maybe better than even its own supporters thought it would. But that hasn't stopped a torrent of alarming reports that provide countless pretexts for predicting Obamacare's imminent doom. Premiums are going up 40 percent! Workers' hours are being slashed! You won't be able to see your family doctor anymore! Death panels!</p> <p>So have no worries. Iran could be nuclear free in 2050 and Bill Kristol's grandkids will still be warning everyone else's grandkids that the ayatollahs are <em>this close</em> to getting a bomb. It's kind of soothing, in a way, like a squeaky door that you'd miss if you ever oiled it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 17:43:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 283256 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's the Price Tag for CAP's New Child Care Program: About $100 Billion http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/heres-price-tag-caps-new-child-care-program-about-100-billion <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Center for American Progress&mdash;aka "Hillary's Think Tank"&mdash;has released <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/early-childhood/report/2015/09/02/119944/a-new-vision-for-child-care-in-the-united-states-3/" target="_blank">"A New Vision for Child Care in the United States."</a> But it's not really very new. It's just a tax credit that varies with income. If you're at the poverty level, you'd get a tax credit of about $13,000 paid directly to the child care facility of your choice. If you make more, the tax credit <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cap_child_care.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">would be less. The maximum out-of-pocket expense for families would range from 2 percent at the low end to 12 percent at the high end.</p> <p>Does this sound familiar? It should: it bears a strong family resemblance to Obamacare.</p> <p>But it might be a good idea regardless of how new it really is. I'm certainly a fan of both preschool and subsidized child care. The big question is going to be how much it costs, and that's something the authors don't address. There's probably a reason for that. My very rough horseback calculation suggests it could run up a tab of $100 billion per year. Maybe more.<sup>1</sup><strong>[See update below.] </strong></p> <p>That's a lot of money. How's it going to be paid for? <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/09/02/this-could-be-the-new-big-idea-about-childcare-from-democrats/" target="_blank">Danielle Paquet asked CAP about this,</a> and was told vaguely that "restructuring the tax system" and "closing wasteful loopholes" might do the trick. I dunno. That's a lot of wasteful loopholes.</p> <p>Needless to say, this is one of the downsides of taking public policy seriously. If you're Donald Trump, you just tell everyone not to worry. "I'm going to be great for the kids," and he'll take care of it from there. But if you're a Democrat, you normally feel obliged to present an actual plan that can actually work in the real world&mdash;and that means people can attach a price to it. And that, in turn, means you can be badgered about how you're going to pay for it.</p> <p>Politically speaking, this is something that Democrats will need to be careful about. There's a temptation among liberals to be the anti-Trump, tossing out dozens of detailed white papers to solve all the world's problems. But this gives conservatives an opening to add up the cost of all those white papers and start bellowing about how their very own proposals prove that Democrats want to bankrupt the country and tax millionaires into insolvency. It's best to tread carefully here.</p> <p>On the other hand, maybe Hillary could benefit from a small dose of Trumpism. Maybe she should adopt CAP's proposal and just declare that she's going to soak the rich to pay for it. Why pussyfoot around it? After all, polls show that taxing the rich at higher rates is a pretty popular idea. Maybe it's time to go bullroar populist and just beat the tar out of the malefactors of great wealth.</p> <p>Then again, maybe not. That doesn't really sound much like Hillary, does it?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The program is for kids aged 0-4. My estimate is based on about 20 million kids qualifying, with an average tax credit in the neighborhood of $8,000 each. That's $160 billion. If two-thirds of all families take advantage of this tax credit, that comes to about $100 billion. Needless to say, more detailed cost estimates are welcome.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I am mistaken. CAP estimates a cost of $40 billion for their proposal, which they believe would not just help working families, but also stimulate the economy:</p> <blockquote> <p>The economy as a whole benefits from policies that help working families. As an example, the Canadian province of Quebec developed a nearly universal child care assistance program, and economists at the University of Quebec and the University of Sherbrooke estimate that the program boosted women&rsquo;s labor force participation by nearly 4 percentage points, which in turn boosted GDP by 1.7 percentage points.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm habitually skeptical of claims that social programs will recoup all or part of their costs by boosting the economy, but it's probably true in this case. The effect of increased employment on GDP is pretty straightforward. The policy question, of course, is <em>how much</em> this will offset the program costs. But then, that's always the policy question, isn't it?</p> <p>In any case, I'm not sure how CAP gets to $40 billion, and it strikes me as a little low. But it might be right. It would be interesting to see an estimate from a reliable third-party source.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 16:21:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 283241 at http://www.motherjones.com September Is All Set to Be Ben Carson Month http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/september-all-set-be-ben-carson-month <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump's moment in the spotlight is up. He won't go gently into that good night, but go he will. The big question at this point is who will replace him as the tea party's temporary favorite? The answer appears to be Ben Carson, the retired <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ben_carson_hands.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">neurosurgeon who made a name for himself among conservatives with a speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Here's a short excerpt:</p> <blockquote> <p>The PC police are out in force at all times....We&rsquo;ve got to get over this sensitivity....what we need to do in this PC world is forget about unanimity of speech and unanimity of thought....PC is dangerous....one last thing about political correctness, which I think is a horrible thing, by the way....I&rsquo;m not politically correct....</p> </blockquote> <p>Do you notice a trend? Carson also talked about HSAs (a replacement for Obamacare) and tithing (a 10 percent flat tax) and the deficit (bad) and education (good) and moral decay (ruined the Roman empire) and, yes, even mentioned God a few times. But political correctness is his real schtick, and he hates it even more than Trump.</p> <p>But why? Since Carson seems set to become the Next Big Thing, Ed Kilgore decided to explain him to us. In the first GOP debate, Carson made mention of the "Alinsky Model," which enjoyed a brief vogue among conservatives a few years ago and then sort of disappeared from sight. <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/cafe/the-secret-to-ben-carsons-success-calm-bedside-manner" target="_blank">Kilgore takes off from there:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The &ldquo;Alinsky Model&rdquo; is a dog whistle to a certain breed of conspiracy minded hard-core conservative, as is the identification of [Hillary] Clinton with the &ldquo;secular progressive movement.&rdquo; Both are references some might recognize from Glenn Beck&rsquo;s many discourses, and both are meant to describe people who are actively and consciously working through deceit to enslave if not destroy (Carson&rsquo;s word) America. <strong>The Alinsky Model&rsquo;s main weapon, according to most aficionados of this sort of thinking, is &ldquo;political correctness,&rdquo;</strong> which happens to be Dr. Ben Carson&rsquo;s favorite phrase for everything he is fighting against.</p> <p>....The more you listen to Carson talking about &ldquo;political correctness,&rdquo; the more it becomes obvious he&rsquo;s not attacking college speech codes or disputes over racial or ethnic or gender terms, but liberal elite mockery of right-wing conspiracy theories....In this context, it becomes clear that Carson&rsquo;s occasional &ldquo;gaffes&rdquo; aren&rsquo;t really accidents, but what he believes: <strong>Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery; Obama might be planning to cancel elections; Democrats are opening the borders to bring in immigrants who will increase the welfare population and thus keep Democrats in power.</strong> Even though these are not unusual beliefs in the fever swamps of the far right, they are exotic for a major-party presidential candidate.</p> <p>....And there&rsquo;s something extra special about an African-American preemptively labeling suspected incidents of racism and sexism as mere political incorrectness, which he then defends as essential free speech! Let it rip!</p> </blockquote> <p>Ladies and gentlemen, this is your next man of the moment. Like Trump, he specializes in mood affiliation politics: nice, easy, common-sense solutions to all our problems, without bothering to explain how any of this stuff can actually work. Unlike Trump, he has a very calm demeanor. So if you like your third-grade comfort food politics with a side of bombast, Trump is your guy. But if you like it smooth and affable, Carson is. Take your pick.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 15:31:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 283226 at http://www.motherjones.com Iran Deal Now Assured of Passage http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/iran-deal-now-assured-passage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Iran nuclear agreement picked up its 34th supporter in the Senate this morning, assuring that even if Congress rejects the deal (which it probably will), it won't be able to override President Barack Obama's veto of the rejection.</p> <p>In the end, this probably didn't matter much, since Nancy Pelosi says the House already had enough votes to sustain a veto, but it never hurts to be sure. Next up: If Obama can round up 41 votes, the Senate won't even be able to reject the deal in the first place and no veto will be necessary. I think that's a long shot, since now, with passage secured, it leaves wavering senators free to vote against it in the knowledge that their vote won't matter. We'll see.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> And the 34th and deciding senator is&hellip;drum roll, please&hellip;Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who is retiring next year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Foreign Policy Obama Top Stories Wed, 02 Sep 2015 14:20:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 283211 at http://www.motherjones.com I Have No Headline Worthy of Donald Trump's Latest http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/09/i-have-no-headline-worthy-donald-trumps-latest <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I hesitate to drop the P-bomb, but <a href="https://twitter.com/paul_w_hoffman/status/638888254469574656" target="_blank">this bit of word salad from Donald Trump</a> is eerily Palinesque. How is it possible that <em>Spy</em> magazine is no longer around to explain this to the world?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_argle_bargle.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 02 Sep 2015 01:53:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 283191 at http://www.motherjones.com