Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Friday Cat Blogging - 5 February 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here are the furballs up on the balcony surveying their domain. All is well in the kingdom&mdash;though Hilbert does appear to be alarmed about something. Probably a patch of light on the opposite wall or something. Hilbert is quite convinced that we humans don't take the threat of light patches seriously enough. Someday, perhaps he'll have the last laugh.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_hilbert_2016_02_05.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 65px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 05 Feb 2016 19:54:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 296051 at The Bernie vs. Hillary Fight Is Kind of Ridiculous <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow supports Hillary Clinton: "I think Bernie's terrific as an advocate. There's a difference between a strong community advocate and being someone who can get things done." Martin Longman says this is an example of <a href="" target="_blank">how nasty things are getting:</a> "Breaking out the Sarah Palin talking points isn't smart. Talk about how people view socialism all you want, but don't dismiss community organizers or advocates. This isn't a Republican campaign."</p> <p>I had to laugh at that. Nasty? I'd rate it about a 1 on the Atwater Scale. Toughen up, folks.</p> <p>And speaking of this, it sure is hard to take seriously the gripes going back and forth between the Hillary and Bernie camps. Is it really the case that we can't even agree on the following two points?</p> <ul><li>Sanders is more progressive than Clinton.</li> <li>Clinton is more electable than Sanders.</li> </ul><p>I mean, come on. They're both lefties, but Sanders is further left. The opposing arguments from the Clinton camp are laughable. Clinton is more progressive because she can get more done? Sorry. That's ridiculous. She and Bill Clinton have <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_liberal_conservative_gallup.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">always been moderate liberals, both politically and temperamentally. We have over two decades of evidence for this.</p> <p>As for electability, I admire Sanders' argument that he can drive a bigger turnout, which is good for Democrats. But it's special pleading. The guy cops to being a socialist. He's the <a href="" target="_blank">most liberal member of the Senate</a> by quite a margin (Elizabeth Warren is the only senator who's close). He's already promised to raise middle-class taxes. He can't be bothered to even pretend that he cares about national security issues, which are likely to play a big role in this year's election. He wants to spend vast amounts of money on social programs. It's certainly true that some of this stuff might appeal to people like me, but it's equally true that there just aren't a lot of voters like me. Liberals have been gaining ground over the past few years, but even now <a href="" target="_blank">only 24 percent of Americans</a> describe themselves that way. Republicans would tear Sanders to shreds with hardly an effort, and there's no reason to think he'd be especially skilled at fending off their attacks.</p> <p>I like both Sanders and Clinton. But let's stop kidding ourselves about what they are and aren't. Republicans won't be be swayed by these fantasies, and neither will voters. We might as well all accept it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 05 Feb 2016 19:50:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 296046 at Obamacare Enrollment Up About 15 Percent This Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Open enrollment for Obamacare is over, and <a href="" target="_blank">HHS announced yesterday</a> that 12.7 million people signed up via the exchanges plus another 400,000 via New York's Basic Health Program. So that gives us 13.1 million&mdash;up from 11.4 million last year. And since HHS is getting better at purging nonpayers, this number should hold up better throughout the year than it did in 2015. Charles Gaba has more details <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a></p> <p>Add to that about 15 million people enrolled in Medicaid thanks to the Obamacare expansion, and the total number of people covered this year comes to 28 million or so. This means Obamacare has reduced the ranks of the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_uninsured_cdc_cbo_2q_2015_1.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">uninsured <a href="" target="_blank">from 19 percent to about 10 percent.</a> Not bad.</p> <p>Obamacare's raw enrollment numbers remain lower than CBO projected a few years ago, but that's partly because employer health care has held up better than expected&mdash;which is a good thing. The fewer the people eligible for Obamacare the better. <a href="" target="_blank">More on that here.</a> Generally speaking, despite the best efforts of conservatives to insist that Obamacare is a disastrous failure, the truth is that it's doing pretty well. More people are getting covered; costs are in line with projections; and there's been essentially no effect on employment or hours worked. The only real problem with Obamacare is that it's too stingy: deductibles are too high and out-of-pocket expenses are still substantial. Needless to say, though, that can be easily fixed anytime Republicans decide to stop rooting for failure and agree to make Obamacare an even better program. But I guess we shouldn't hold our collective breath for that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 05 Feb 2016 18:07:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 296016 at Here's How Morality Shapes the Presidential Contest <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few years ago Jonathan Haidt wrote <em>The Righteous Mind</em>, an attempt to understand the way different people view morality. I won't say that I bought his premise completely, but I did find it interesting and useful. In a nutshell, Haidt suggests that we all view morality through the lens of six different "foundations"&mdash;and the amount we value each foundation is crucial to understanding our political differences. Conservatives, for example, tend to view "proportionality"&mdash;an eye for an eye&mdash;as a key moral concern, while liberals <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_candidates_moral_foundations.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">tend to view "care/harm"&mdash;showing kindness to other people&mdash;as a key moral attribute. You can read more about it <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a></p> <p>So which presidential candidates appeal to which kinds of people? <a href="" target="_blank">Over at Vox,</a> Haidt and Emily Ekins write about some recent research Ekins did on supporters of various presidential candidates. I've condensed and excerpted the results in the chart on the right. As you can see, Democrats tend to value care but not proportionality. Republicans are just the opposite. No surprise there. But were there any moral values that were unusually strong for different candidates <em>even after controlling for ideology and demographics?</em></p> <p>Yes. Sanders supporters scored extremely low on the authority axis while Trump supporters scored high on authority and low on the care axis. Outside of the usual finding for proportionality, that's it. Hillary Clinton supporters, in particular, were entirely middle-of-the-road: "Moral Foundations do not significantly predict a vote for Hillary Clinton; demographic variables seem to be all you need to predict her support (being female, nonwhite, and higher-income are all good predictors)."</p> <p>So there you have it. Generally speaking, if you value proportionality but not care, you're a Republican. If you value care but not proportionality, you're a Democrat. Beyond that, if your world view values authority&mdash;even compared to others who are similar to you&mdash;you're probably attracted to Donald Trump. If you're unusually resistant to authority, you're probably attracted to Bernie Sanders. The authors summarize the presidential race this way:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Bernie Sanders draws young liberal voters who have a strong desire for individual autonomy</strong> and place less value on social conformity and tradition. This likely leads them to appreciate Sanders's libertarian streak and non-interventionist foreign policy. Once again, Hillary Clinton finds herself attracting more conservative Democratic voters who respect her tougher style, moderated positions, and more hawkish stance on foreign policy.</p> <p>....On the Republican side...despite Trump's longevity in the polls, authoritarianism is clearly not the only dynamic going on in the Republican race. In fact, the greatest differences by far in the simple foundation scores are on proportionality. <strong>Cruz and Rubio draw the extreme proportionalists &mdash; the Republicans who think it's important to "let unsuccessful people fail and suffer the consequences,"</strong> as one of our questions put it.</p> <p>....One surprise in our data was that <strong>Trump supporters were not extreme on any of the foundations.</strong> This means that Trump supporters are more centrist than is commonly realized; consequently, Trump's prospects in the general election may be better than many pundits have thought. Cruz meanwhile, with a further-right moral profile, may have more difficulty attracting centrist Democrats and independents than would Trump.</p> </blockquote> <p>So which moral foundations define you? If you're curious, <a href="" target="_blank">click here and take the test.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 05 Feb 2016 16:10:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 295996 at Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in January <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The American economy <a href="" target="_blank">added 151,000 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 a ho-hum 61,000 jobs&mdash;all of it in the private sector. The headline unemployment rate ticked down to 4.9 percent. This is not a great result, but all the trends were in the right direction. Labor force participation was up, the number of employed workers was up, and the number of unemployed people declined.</p> <p>Surprisingly, this produced decent wage growth: both hourly and weekly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees went up at an annual rate of about 3.5 percent. That's not bad.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_jobs_january_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 25px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 05 Feb 2016 15:17:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 295991 at We Are Live-Blogging the Democratic Debate in New Hampshire <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As debates go, this one was pretty good. The moderators generally did a good job, allowing the candidates to argue when it made sense, but ending things when it looked like there was nothing useful left to say. This is a lot easier with two people than ten, of course, and also easier when both candidates are relatively civil.</p> <p>Hillary was more aggressive than I've seen her before. Her complaint early on that Bernie was slandering her with innuendo and insinuation (and "artful smears") was tough but, I think, <a href="" target="_blank">also fair.</a> And I have a feeling Bernie felt a little embarrassed by it. He was certainly careful to pull things back to a civil tone after that. Hillary is not a natural campaigner, but she's a good debater, and this was Hillary at her pugnacious best.</p> <p>Obviously foreign affairs are not Bernie's strong point, but I was still a little surprised at just how poorly prepared he was to say much of anything or to draw much of a contrast with Hillary's views. Either he really doesn't know much, or else he thinks his dovish views are losers even <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_democratic_debate_2016_04_04_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">among the Democratic base. I won't pretend that Hillary was a genius on this stuff&mdash;almost nobody is on a debate stage&mdash;but at least she sounded well briefed and confident.</p> <p>On financial issues, Bernie was surprisingly weak. This really is his strong point, but he continues to have a hard time getting much beyond platitudes. I get that it's a debate and 90 seconds isn't much, but it's still enough time for a little more detail than "the system is rigged." Hillary didn't do much better, but she held her own and gave a strong response to the two (!) questions about her Goldman Sachs speeches.</p> <p>Overall, I doubt this debate changed many minds. Bernie insisted that we can dream. Hillary insisted that we figure out what's doable. I'd score it a clear win for Hillary based on her aggressiveness and generally solid answers compared to Bernie's platitudes and obvious reluctance to attack hard. But I admit this might just be my own biases talking, since Hillary's approach to politics is closer to mine than Bernie's.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Debate transcript here.</a></p> <hr width="30%"><p><strong>11:06 -</strong> And that's a wrap.</p> <p><strong>11:04 -</strong> Hillary: We need to "come up with the best answers." That's her campaign in a nutshell.</p> <p><strong>11:02 -</strong> No, neither Hillary nor Bernie will pick the other as VP. Come on, Chuck.</p> <p><strong>10:58 -</strong> But Bernie will happily get suckered! It's campaign finance reform for him.</p> <p><strong>10:55 -</strong> Hillary isn't going to be suckered into setting a top priority, thus throwing all the others under the bus. Come on, Chuck.</p> <p><strong>10:47 -</strong> I thought this was a 90-minute debate. What's the deal?</p> <p><strong>10:44 -</strong> Regarding Flint, I will not be happy until either Hillary or Bernie mentions that we now know lead poisoning leads to higher crime rates, <a href="" target="_blank">"as brilliantly set out in an article by Kevin Drum a couple of years ago."</a> I will vote for whoever says this first.</p> <p><strong>10:42 -</strong> Bernie on the death penalty: In a violent world, "government should not be part of the killing." I have to admit I've never really understood this particular bit of reasoning.</p> <p><strong>10:31 -</strong> Ah. Hillary now gets to use Colin Powell as backup for her email problems.</p> <p><strong>10:29 -</strong> Hillary is thrilled about all the young people supporting Bernie. OK then.</p> <p><strong>10:25 -</strong> Bernie loves the caucus process? Seriously?</p> <p><strong>10:17 -</strong> Bernie: "Pathetic" that Republicans refused to support VA reform.</p> <p><strong>10:12 -</strong> I hate to say this, but Bernie on North Korea sounds about as well briefed as Donald Trump. Very strange situation. Handful of dictators&mdash;or, um, maybe just one. Gotta put pressure on China. "I worry very much about an isolated, paranoid country with atomic bombs."</p> <p><strong>10:10 -</strong> Bernie does himself no favors on national security. I'm closer to his position than Hillary's, but Bernie honestly sounds like he's never given this stuff a moment's thought. At least Hillary has some views and sounds confident in her abilities.</p> <p><strong>10:08 -</strong> Bernie wagging his finger again. I'm pretty sure the hosts will call on him regardless.</p> <p><strong>10:06 -</strong> Bernie really needs to have a foreign policy other than "I voted against the Iraq War."</p> <p><strong>10:05 -</strong> Why is there bipartisan loathing of being "the policeman of the world"? What does this even mean?</p> <p><strong>10:03 -</strong> Hillary: we have a very cooperative government in Afghanistan. You bet. Wildly incompetent and corrupt, but pliable.</p> <p><strong>10:01 -</strong> Everyone agrees that a Muslim civil war is the right way to handle the Middle East.</p> <p><strong>9:59 -</strong> Hillary frequently insists on responding even when Bernie hasn't really left a mark. Leave well enough alone!</p> <p><strong>9:58 -</strong> Hillary provides Shermanesque answer about not sending ground troops to Iraq or Syria.</p> <p><strong>9:46 -</strong> Oh FFS. Is "Release the transcripts!" going to be the next big Hillary "scandal"?</p> <p><strong>9:44 -</strong> Unfortunately, Hillary doesn't really explain her more complicated financial regulation plan very well. There's probably no help for that, especially in 90 seconds.</p> <p><strong>9:42 -</strong> I'm with Hillary on reinstating Glass-Steagall. To me, it's the Democratic equivalent of raising the retirement age to save Social Security: easy to understand, but not the best answer by a long way.</p> <p><strong>9:41 -</strong> Hillary defends her Goldman Sachs speeches competently, but Bernie doesn't really fight back. He just provides a generic answer about the pernicious power of Wall Street.</p> <p><strong>9:31 -</strong> Hillary is attacking very hard tonight. Bernie voted to deregulate derivatives! Not that there's anything wrong with that. You think she's played this game before? Bernie responds by telling people to look up a YouTube.</p> <p><strong>9:29 -</strong> Bernie answers with generic criticism of special interests and money in politics. Not a strong response.</p> <p><strong>9:27 -</strong> Hillary criticizes Bernie for claiming to run a positive campaign, but constantly attacking her "by innuendo, by insinuation." Then she asks him to stop the "artful smear" he's been carrying out against her. This is a tough hit on Bernie.</p> <p><strong>9:26 -</strong> Hillary: "I won't make big promises." Not sure that came out as well as it should have.</p> <p><strong>9:23 -</strong> I think Hillary missed a chance to say that of course Bernie is a Democrat and he shouldn't have to defend himself on that score. It would have been a nice moment for her with no downside.</p> <p><strong>9:19 -</strong> Hillary refers to Bernie as "self-appointed gatekeeper" of who's a progressive. Ouch.</p> <p><strong>9:17 -</strong> Bernie: Obama was a progressive by 2008 standards.</p> <p><strong>9:15 -</strong> Bernie: none of his ideas are radical. True enough, by non-American standards.</p> <p><strong>9:14 -</strong> Good answer from Hillary on whether she's progressive enough: Under Bernie's standards, no one in the party is truly progressive.</p> <p><strong>9:07 -</strong> Hillary: "The numbers just don't add up" for all of Bernie's proposals.</p> <p><strong>9:01 -</strong> I see that Rachel Maddow is as excited as I am that Martin O'Malley has dropped out.</p> <p><strong>9:00 -</strong> And with that, on with the debate!</p> <p><strong>8:58 -</strong> This is the second election cycle in which I've liked both of the Democratic frontrunners. In 2008 I ended up leaning for Obama, which I don't regret. This year I'm leaning toward Hillary. Both times, however, I've been surprised at how fast things turned ugly. But ugly they've turned.</p> <p><strong>8:53 -</strong> Last night on Twitter I said that Hillary Clinton had given a terrible answer to the Goldman Sachs speech question. I was immediately besieged with outraged comments about how I was just another Beltway shill who's always hated Hillary. This morning I wrote that Bernie Sanders was disingenuously pretending not to criticize Clinton over her Wall Street contributions even though he obviously was. I was immediately besieged with outraged comments about how I was just another Beltway shill who's always been in the bag for Hillary. Welcome to the Democratic primaries.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Elections Hillary Clinton Top Stories bernie sanders Fri, 05 Feb 2016 01:53:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 295961 at Rubio Feasts on the Leftovers in New Hampshire <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_new_hampshire_gop_poll_2016_02_04_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Apologies for two polls in one day, but the <a href="" target="_blank">latest CNN poll</a> shows something interesting in the Republican race. Donald Trump is still in the lead in New Hampshire, but in the wake of the Iowa caucuses Marco Rubio has picked up a lot of support. Basically, several other folks have either left the race or lost their fan base, and nearly all of it has gone to Rubio.</p> <p>It's only one poll, and the absolute margin of error is large, but it probably shows the trend fairly well. And what it suggests is that as the also-rans steadily drop out of the race, Rubio is picking up the bulk of their support. If this happens in other states as well, Rubio could be well on his way to building a commanding lead.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 05 Feb 2016 01:25:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 295981 at More Classified Emails Found on Private Server <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The indefatigable Ken Dilanian reports the latest news on <a href="" target="_blank">classified information being sent to private email accounts:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The State Department&rsquo;s Inspector General has found <strong>classified information sent to the personal email accounts of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and the senior <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_colin_powell.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">staff of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,</strong> NBC News has learned.</p> <p>In a letter to Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy dated Feb. 3, State Department Inspector General Steve Linick said that the State Department has determined that 12 emails examined from State&rsquo;s archives contained national security information now classified &ldquo;Secret&rdquo; or &ldquo;Confidential.&rdquo; The letter was read to NBC News.</p> <p>....Colin Powell told NBC News he strongly disputed that the information in the messages was classified, and characterized the contents as innocuous. <strong>Said Powell, &ldquo;I wish they would release them so that a normal, air-breathing mammal would look at them and say, &lsquo;What&rsquo;s the issue?&rsquo;&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Sorry, Colin! It's an election year, and no normal mammals are to be found. Just the usual horde of hacks and bottom-feeders.</p> <p>FWIW, I agree with him. Just release everything. Aside from a few zealots at the CIA playing stupid interagency games, nobody who's actually seen any of these emails seems to think there's anything even slightly confidential about any of them. It's long past time to cut the crap and put this whole thing to bed one way or the other.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:42:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 295936 at Debate Live-Blogging Tonight! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I don't find the Democratic debates nearly as interesting as the Republican slugfests, but I'll be liveblogging tonight's showdown regardless. It's on MSNBC at 9 pm Eastern, and for the first time we don't have to waste a third of our questions on Martin O'Malley. That alone makes it worth tuning in.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:01:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 295931 at Donald Trump Losing Steam After Iowa Loss <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gop_poll_ppp_2016_02_04_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">It's only one poll, and a national poll at that, but PPP says Donald Trump is <a href="" target="_blank">suffering badly from his loss in Iowa:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"Donald Trump's really seen some cratering in his support this week," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "A key part of his message has always been that he's a winner and now that he's lost something Republicans&mdash;and especially conservatives&mdash;aren't finding him as compelling as they did a few weeks ago." [Marco] Rubio is the candidate with the real momentum in the race. He's up 8 points from his 13% standing in our poll right before Christmas."</p> </blockquote> <p>Trump is still a few points ahead in the main polling, but PPP also polled a three-man race between Trump, Rubio, and Ted Cruz. The winner was Rubio. Trump can huff and puff and threaten to sue the entire state of Iowa&mdash;in other words, his usual MO&mdash;but it's not going to change things. Live by the polls, die by the polls.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 04 Feb 2016 18:54:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 295926 at Flint Probably Has Bigger Problems Than Lead Pipes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">The latest from Flint:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mayor Karen Weaver is calling for immediate removal of lead pipes from Flint's water distribution system, and is expected to detail her request at a news conference later Tuesday, Feb. 2....<strong>Replacing all of Flint's lead service lines has been estimated to cost more than $60 million.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">The latest from New Jersey:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Eleven cities in New Jersey, and two counties, have a higher proportion of young children with dangerous lead levels than Flint, Mich., does,</strong> according to New Jersey and Michigan statistics cited by a community advocacy group....In New Jersey, children 6 years of age and younger have continued to ingest lead from paint in windows, doors and other <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lead_new_jersey.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">woodwork found in older homes, particularly in older, poorer cities, said Elyse Pivnick, director of environmental health for Isles, Inc., a community development organization based in Trenton.</p> <p><strong>"In light of the Flint debacle, we wanted people to understand that water is not the only thing that's poisoning children,"</strong> she said. "Most people think the lead problem was solved when we took lead out of gasoline and new homes in the 1970s, but that's not true."</p> </blockquote> <p>I suppose it's inevitable that residents of Flint want to replace their lead pipes. But it's probably unfortunate. At this point, Flint's water pipes are almost certainly pretty safe, and will become even safer over the next few months as properly treated waters rebuilds the scale inside the pipes. A multi-year program to replace them will most likely have no effect at all on childhood lead levels.</p> <p>So what would I spend $60 million on if I had the choice? Two things:</p> <ul><li>Lead paint abatement in older homes. The biggest danger points are <a href="" target="_blank">window casings in old homes,</a> because the friction from opening and closing windows eats through newer layers of paint and exposes old lead paint, which is then ground into lead dust.</li> <li>Soil testing and cleanup. This is decidedly unsexy, but in modern cities this is where most of the lead is. Lead from gasoline spent decades settling into urban soil after we burned it in our cars, and every summer, when the weather dries up, it gets "resuspended" and becomes a source of lead poisoning all over again.</li> </ul><p>In both cases, the lead poisoning mechanism is the same: small children get lead dust on their fingers and then lick it off. This is one of the reasons that lead poisoning is a much smaller problem for adults than for children. Lead in small doses doesn't affect mature brains strongly, and even if it did, adults mostly don't play in the dirt and then lick their hands. Kids do.</p> <p>The first step in soil abatement is mapping: figuring out which spots have the highest levels of lead contamination. The next step is cleaning it up. There are multiple ways of doing this, some <a href="" target="_blank">cheap</a> and some <a href="" target="_blank">expensive,</a> and only a professional evaluation can determine the best method in specific areas.</p> <p>Anyway, that's that. The problem, of course, is that there's no chance at all that anyone is going to give Flint $60 million to clean up its soil and its old windows. But someone might give them $60 million to replace their lead pipes. It won't do nearly as much good, but at least it's something.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 04 Feb 2016 17:38:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 295916 at The Party Is Deciding....On Marco Rubio? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_rubio_endorsements.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Over at FiveThirtyEight, they're taking <em>The Party Decides</em> out for a spin by tracking the most important sign of just <em>how</em> the party decides: endorsements. This is allegedly the key metric for predicting the nomination, and they report that young Marco Rubio is now solidly in the lead and <a href="" target="_blank">moving ahead quickly:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Although four more endorsements and a slight lead in points do not make Rubio a lock as the choice of Republican elected officials, this bump is a sign that members of Congress could be starting to see him as the most acceptable option for the nomination....Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush &mdash; he had led our list since August &mdash; but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.</p> <p>....Iowa caucus winner Ted Cruz has slowly been picking up points as well &mdash; he&rsquo;s added seven since the beginning of the year &mdash; though he has yet to receive an endorsement from a sitting senator or governor.</p> </blockquote> <p>Poor Ted. Everyone hates him, so the only endorsements he can get are from a few&nbsp;backbench House members. I guess he'll show them when he's sitting pretty in the Oval Office next year.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 04 Feb 2016 16:39:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 295901 at Yes, Bernie Sanders Is Questioning Hillary Clinton's Integrity <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Greg Sargent points us to <a href="" target="_blank">this exchange yesterday on CNN:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>WOLF BLITZER: Are you suggesting that Secretary Clinton is beholden to Wall Street and big money?</strong></p> <p>BERNIE SANDERS: No. What I&rsquo;m simply saying is a fact. She recently reported that her Super PAC received $25 million. $15 million of that came from Wall Street. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sanders_pointing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">I will let the American people determine what all of that means.</p> </blockquote> <p>And here is Sargent on what Sanders is doing:</p> <blockquote> <p>He says our political economy is in the grip of an oligarchic elite, resulting in a massive upward redistribution of wealth in recent decades and rendering government paralyzed from doing anything about it....Sanders constantly points to the funding of her campaign &mdash; and her acceptance of speaking fees &mdash; as symptomatic of this problem. But Sanders does not want to take the final step and say that Clinton personally is making the policy choices she does <em>precisely because</em> she is beholden to the oligarchy, due to its funding of her campaign. <strong>The upshot is that Sanders is indicting the entire system, but doesn&rsquo;t want to question the integrity of Clinton herself &mdash; or perhaps doesn&rsquo;t want to be seen doing that.</strong> This is the central tension at the heart of Sanders&rsquo;s whole argument.</p> </blockquote> <p>Is it true that Sanders is just too nice a guy to name names? Maybe. But I'm a little less inclined to be generous about this kind of thing. To my ears, it sounds more like typical political smarm. "Hey, I'm not saying she's a crook. I'm just saying she drives a pretty nice car, amirite?" Contra Sargent, I'd say that Sanders is very much questioning the integrity of Clinton herself, and doing it in a pretty familiar way.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:39:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 295891 at Marco Rubio Lashes Out Against Call For Religious Toleration <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">President Obama,</a> during a speech today at a Baltimore mosque:</p> <blockquote> <p>If we&rsquo;re serious about freedom of religion&nbsp;&mdash; and I&rsquo;m speaking now to my fellow Christians who remain the majority in this country&nbsp;&mdash; we have to understand an attack on one faith is an attack on all our faiths. And when any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up. And we have to reject a politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias, and targets people because of religion.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Marco Rubio,</a> commenting a couple of hours later on Obama's speech:</p> <blockquote> <p>Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today: he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims....It's this constant pitting people against each other that I can't stand.</p> </blockquote> <p>There you have it. Ask Christians to reject the politics of bigotry, and you're pitting people against each other. And Marco Rubio, for one, will have no part of that.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Revised to include exact quote from Rubio.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 04 Feb 2016 00:36:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 295871 at Yet Another Look at BernieCare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I hope you'll pardon a bit of real-time navel-gazing. It won't take long. A couple of weeks ago Bernie Sanders released an outline of his single-payer health plan, and I pronounced it <a href="" target="_blank">"pretty good."</a> A week later, <a href="" target="_blank">Emory's Kenneth Thorpe</a> took a detailed look at Sanders' plan and basically concluded that it was fantasy. Why the huge difference between us?</p> <p>It has little to do with the details of the Sanders plan. We're both looking primarily at the financing. Here was my reasoning:</p> <ul><li>Total health care outlays in the United States come to about $3 trillion.</li> <li>The federal government already spends $1 trillion.</li> <li>Sanders would spend $1.4 trillion more. That comes to $2.4 trillion, which means Sanders is figuring his plan will save about $600 billion, or 20 percent of total outlays.</li> <li>I doubt that. I'll buy the idea that a single-payer plan can cut costs, but not that much. I might find $1.7 or $1.8 trillion in extra revenue credible, which means that Sanders is probably lowballing by $300 billion or so&mdash;which, by the standards of most campaign promises, is actually <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_thorpe_cost_sanders_plan.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">not that bad. I'd be delighted if a single Republican were that honest about the revenue effects of whatever tax plan they're hawking at the moment.</li> </ul><p>But Thorpe says Sanders is off by a whopping $1.1 trillion. Yikes! Where does that come from? There are several places where Thorpe suggests the Sanders plan will cost more than Sanders thinks, but the main difference is shown in the table on the right. Thorpe, it turns out, thinks the Sanders plan would cost an additional $1.9 trillion in the first year. So he and I are roughly on the same page.</p> <p>But I stopped there. I basically assumed that both costs and revenues would increase each year at about the same rate, and that was that. Thorpe, however, figures costs will increase substantially each year but tax revenues will increase hardly at all. So that means an increasing gap between revenue and spending, which averages out to $1.1 trillion over ten years.</p> <p>Other details aside, then, this is the big difference. If Sanders' new taxes fall further and further behind each year as health care costs rise, then he's got a big funding gap that he would have to make up with higher tax rates. But if he can keep cost growth down to about the same level as his tax revenue growth, his plan is in decent shape.</p> <p>So which is it? Beats me. This is the kind of thing where the devil really is in the details, and even a small difference in assumptions can add up to a lot over ten years. Still, I was curious to see why Thorpe and I seemed to diverge so strongly, and this is it. Take it for what it's worth.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 03 Feb 2016 22:35:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 295856 at And Now For a Short Dental Interlude <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm off to the dentist. My teeth are actually in fine shape, but when you hit your 50s all the fillings you got in your 20s and 30s apparently start to go south, so they have to be removed and refilled. Or so my dentist says, anyway. Today I get two or three of them replaced. I don't remember exactly. Hopefully she does.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It was three. Two of them were old silver fillings, which she hates because of the mercury. So out they came.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 03 Feb 2016 19:21:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 295821 at The Republican Field Is Shrinking Rapidly <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I know how easy it is to lose track of things. So just for the record, we're now down to seven real candidates on the Republican side of things:</p> <ul><li><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_original_gop_field.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Cruz</li> <li>Rubio</li> <li>Bush</li> <li>Trump</li> <li>Carson</li> <li>Christie</li> <li>Kasich</li> </ul><p>This doesn't count the three dead-enders who haven't officially quit yet: Jim Gilmore, Rick Santorum, and Carly Fiorina. By my figuring, New Hampshire should kill off Bush and Carson and get us down to five real candidates. Maybe even Kasich and Christie, too. For all practical purposes, by next Wednesday we might finally be down to our long-fabled three-man race.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 03 Feb 2016 18:06:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 295806 at The Excuses Are Flying High in Trumpworld <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Watching Donald Trump make excuses for yet another business failure is edifying. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's Trump on why he lost in Iowa:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I think we could've used a better ground game, a term I wasn't even familiar with....But people told me my ground game was fine. And I think by most standards it was.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hey, "people" told him his ground game was fine! And it was. By most standards. Anyway, Iowa doesn't really matter. And Ted Cruz cheated. And the grass was wet. And the sun was in his eyes.</p> <p>This is Trump all over. He hops from one failure to another, always with a handy excuse. Football is a lousy business. Eastern Airlines ripped me off. The Plaza would have done great if the economy hadn't turned down. Atlantic City was overbuilt. I never really had anything to do with Trump University.</p> <p>This is the same guy who thinks that running America will be child's play. It's so easy. Just watch. But he's such a lousy manager that he never bothered to learn what a "ground game" is&mdash;which is roughly the equivalent of understanding about food costs if you run a restaurant.</p> <p>I wouldn't hire Donald Trump to run a lemonade stand, let alone the United States of America. I don't think I could stand the pity party. He needs to take his daddy issues to a shrink, not the Oval Office.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 03 Feb 2016 17:00:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 295791 at Here's Some Context For Blood Lead Levels in Flint <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I don't have any special point to make with these charts. They show blood lead levels in children over the past couple of decades for a few selected states, and they're meant only to provide a bit of context for reporting about Flint. Complete data is <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> if you're curious about how your state is doing.</p> <p>For comparison, at the height of the water crisis Flint reported BLLs above 5 m/d for about 6 percent of its children. The latest round of testing suggests that Flint is now down to 3 percent.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bll_5_states_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 7px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_bll_10_states_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 7px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 03 Feb 2016 16:05:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 295781 at Chart of the Day: Another Sign That Dodd-Frank Is Working <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Via Matt O'Brien,</a> this chart from JP Morgan shows financial sector leverage over the past few decades. As you can see, leverage skyrocketed during the Bush era, which contributed to the 2008 financial meltdown, and then plummeted shortly thereafter. Then it flattened out for a couple of years, and under normal circumstances it probably would have started to climb again when the economy began to recover. Two things stopped it: Dodd-Frank and Basel III, both of which mandated higher capital requirements and thus lower overall leverage levels. This has reduced Wall Street profits but made the banking system safer for everyone.</p> <p>In other words: financial regulation FTW. Nothing is perfect, and Wall Street is doing everything it can to undermine Dodd-Frank during the rulemaking process, but if it accomplishes nothing except encouraging less leverage it will have done its most important job.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_leverage_1980_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 1px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 03 Feb 2016 05:25:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 295771 at Here's the Myth Donald Trump Might Ride All the Way to the White House <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Bruce Bartlett has written a <a href="" target="_blank">new paper</a> that examines the role of "reverse racism" in the rise of Donald Trump. Bartlett touches on a number of topics&mdash;e.g., changing demographics, partisan realignment, the media promotion of race as an in-group marker&mdash;but the cornerstone of his narrative is a simple recognition that fear of reverse racism is deep and pervasive among white Americans. Here's the basic lay of the land from a bit of research done a few years ago <a href="" target="_blank">by Michael Norton and Samuel&nbsp;Sommers:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_black_white_bias.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>As you can see, everyone agrees that racism was endemic in the '50s, and everyone agrees that it has improved since then. But among whites, a majority believe racism against blacks has improved so much&mdash;and reverse racism against whites has intensified so much&mdash;that today there's actually more bias against whites than against blacks.</p> <p>The Norton-Summers study doesn't break down racial views further, but it's a safe guess that fears of reverse racism are concentrated primarily among political conservatives&mdash;encouraged on a near daily basis by talk radio, Fox News, and Republican politicians. Given this, it's hardly any wonder that Trump's barely coded appeals to racial resentment have resonated so strongly among Republican voters. Trump himself may or may not have any staying power, but his basic appeal is rooted in a culture of white grievance that's been growing for years and is likely to keep growing in the future as white majorities continue to shrink. No matter what happens to Trump himself, he's mainstreamed white victimhood as a political force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 03 Feb 2016 00:39:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 295746 at Donald Trump Lost the Iowa Caucus. Now He’s Whining on Twitter. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is such an awesome bit of whining from Donald Trump that I felt I had to share it. I think we need a new word for this. Trump+whining = Twining. Or Trump + griping = Triping. Or something. Maybe figure out a way to add the concept that he's actually a winner even when he's objectively a failure. That might take some kind of German construction, though.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_tweets_2016_02_02.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 140px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Elections Top Stories Tue, 02 Feb 2016 16:54:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 295621 at Clinton Beats Sanders, 50-50 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">BREAKING: Hillary Clinton wins Democratic caucuses in Iowa.</p> &mdash; The Associated Press (@AP) <a href="">February 2, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I'm not much of a horse-race guy, but it sure seems like the horse race is now key to the future of the Democratic primaries. The problem for Bernie Sanders is that he has an obvious structural disadvantage&mdash;superdelegates are almost 100 percent Clinton supporters&mdash;as well as a problem in the states following New Hampshire. So he needs to follow up his good showing in Iowa with electrifying results in New Hampshire.</p> <p>But he can't. He started opening up a big lead in New Hampshire at the beginning of January, and the polls now have him 20 points ahead. To generate any serious shock waves he'd have to win by 30 or 40 points, and that's just not in the cards. Obviously anything can happen, but at this point it looks like Sanders wins in New Hampshire; it's entirely expected and ho hum; and Clinton then marches implacably on to the nomination. It's hard for me to see a likely scenario in which anything different happens.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_new_hampshire_democratic_2016_02_02.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 02 Feb 2016 16:34:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 295616 at Boring Mortgages Are Too Boring For Wall Street—Again <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_snake_oil.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="" target="_blank">Liar loans are back!</a></p> <blockquote> <p>These mortgages, <strong>which are given to borrowers that can&rsquo;t fully document their income,</strong> helped fuel a tidal wave of defaults during the housing crisis and subsequently fell out of favor.</p> <p>Now, big money managers including Neuberger Berman, Pacific Investment Management Co. and an affiliate of Blackstone Group LP are lobbying lenders to make more of these &ldquo;Alt-A&rdquo; loans....<strong>Many of these loans come with interest rates as high as 8%,</strong> compared with an average of about 3.8% for a typical 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.</p> <p>....There has also been a rebranding effort: <strong>Most lenders prefer to call these products &ldquo;nonqualified mortgages&rdquo; due to the stigma attached to the Alt-A category.</strong> By backing these loans, money managers said they would reach an underserved corner of the housing market: Borrowers who have good credit but might be self-employed or report income sporadically.</p> </blockquote> <p>Naturally, everything is different this time around. Everyone is being careful. It's just a small piece of the market. Borrowers have to produce <em>some</em> documentation. So don't worry: things are going to be fine. Wall Street knows what it's doing. No need to concern your pretty little heads about this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 02 Feb 2016 15:56:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 295611 at Ted! Ted! Ted! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_goodbye_iowa.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here are tonight's big messages as we all fondly say "Goodbye, Iowa":</p> <ul><li>Ted Cruz: I will have the shortest name of any president in history.</li> <li>Marco Rubio: Benghazi!</li> <li>Donald Trump: Finishing in the top ten is a great victory.</li> <li>Jeb Bush: I have a short name too. And hey, I beat Carly.</li> <li>Republican Party: We count votes a lot more efficiently than those loser Democrats.</li> <li>Hillary Clinton: A win is a win. Let's get out of here.</li> <li>Bernie Sanders: Hmmm. Maybe we're not that tired of Hillary's emails after all.</li> <li>Democratic Party: We may be slow, but we make up for it with a stereotypically cumbersome and complex voting process.</li> </ul><p>Iowa is historically so unpredictive of anything that I honestly didn't have a lot of interest in tonight's results. I was mainly curious about how Donald Trump would somehow spin his second place finish as a victory. The answer, it turned out, was to drone on about how "they" told him to skip Iowa because he wouldn't even break the top ten. I assume this is the same "they" who repeatedly told Marco Rubio that he was too much of a schmuck to win. Whoever "they" are, they've been busy.</p> <p>And now on to New Hampshire, a state inexplicably in love with Donald Trump. What's that all about, anyway?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The photo above is from season 4 of <em>Buffy the Vampire Slayer</em>. The name of the episode is "Goodbye, Iowa."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 02 Feb 2016 04:45:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 295601 at