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 The Residents of Flint Need to Know the Truth About Lead Poisoning http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/residents-flint-need-know-truth-about-lead-poisoning <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This article about Flint is heartbreaking, but <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/us/flint-michigan-water-crisis-mental-health.html?_r=0" target="_blank">not quite for the obvious reason:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Health care workers are scrambling to help the people here cope with what many fear will be chronic consequences of the city&rsquo;s water contamination crisis: profound stress, worry, depression and guilt.</p> <p>....Diane Breckenridge, Genesee Health&rsquo;s liaison to local hospitals, said she had seen &ldquo;people come into the hospitals directly related to breakdowns, nervous breakdowns, if you will....Most of it&rsquo;s been depression or suicidal ideation directly linked to what&rsquo;s going on with their children,&rdquo; she added. &ldquo;They just feel like they can&rsquo;t even let their children take a bath.&rdquo; Children, too, are traumatized, said Dexter Clarke, a supervisor at Genesee Health, not least because they constantly hear frightening things on television about the lead crisis, including breathless advertisements by personal injury lawyers seeking clients.</p> <p>....Too often now, Nicole Lewis cannot sleep....To help her nerves, she recently installed a home water filtration system, paying $42.50 a month for the service on her main water supply line. She also bought a blender to make her sons smoothies with lead-leaching vegetables, like spinach and kale.</p> <p>But still her mind races, especially late at night. Her 7-year-old was just found to have attention deficit disorder, she said. Her 2-year-old is already showing athletic promise, but she wonders whether lead exposure will affect his ability to play sports.</p> </blockquote> <p>These people desperately need to be told the truth:</p> <ul><li>What happened in Flint was a horrible, inexcusable tragedy.</li> <li>Residents have every right to be furious with government at all levels.</li> <li>But the health effects are, in fact, pretty minimal. With a few rare exceptions, the level of lead contamination caused by Flint's water won't <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_levels_1998_2016_3.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">cause any noticeable cognitive problems in children. It will not lower IQs or increase crime rates 20 years from now. It will not cause ADHD. It will not affect anyone's ability to play sports. It will not cause anyone's hair to fall out. It will not cause cancer. And "lead leaching" vegetables don't work.</li> </ul><p>For two years, about 5 percent of the children in Flint recorded blood lead levels greater than 5 m/d. This is a very moderate level for a short period of time. In every single year before 2010, Flint was above this number; usually far, far above.</p> <p>The choices here are sickening. On the one hand, nobody wants to downplay the effects of lead poisoning, or even be viewed as downplaying them. On the other hand, feeding the hysteria surrounding Flint has real consequences. The residents of Flint should not be tormented about what's going on. They should not be flocking to therapists. They should not be gulping Xanax.</p> <p>Of course, at this point Flint residents probably don't believe anything the government tells them, and for understandable reasons. So maybe it's time for someone they trust a little more to begin telling them the truth. I'm looking at you, Rachel Maddow.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 01 May 2016 17:36:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 303041 at http://www.motherjones.com In Which I Respond to My Critics About the Bernie Revolution http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/respond-critics-bernie-revolution <!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/kevin-drum/2016/04/heres-why-i-never-warmed-bernie-sanders" target="_blank">A couple of days ago</a> I wrote a post criticizing Bernie Sanders for basing his campaign on a promised revolution that never had the slightest chance of happening. A lot of people didn't like it, which is hardly a surprise. What <em>is</em> a surprise is how polarizing the response was. My Twitter feed was split almost perfectly in half, and nearly every response fell into one of two categories:</p> <ol><li>OMG, thank you for finally writing what I've been feeling all along.</li> <li>Another Boomer happy with the status quo. Your generation has been a failure. Stupid article.</li> </ol><p>There was almost literally nothing in between. Either fulsome praise or utter contempt. I need to think some more before I figure out what to make of this: It's dangerous to assume Twitter reflects the larger progressive community, but it might be equally dangerous to write it off as meaningless. It certainly seems to suggest an even stronger chasm in the Democratic Party than I might have suspected, and possibly more trouble down the road if it also reflects a stronger loathing of Hillary among white millennials than I've previously suspected. But I'm not sure.</p> <p>In any case, although I can't do much about people who just didn't like my tone (bitter, condescending, clueless, etc.) I figure it might be worth addressing some of the most common substantive complaints. Here are the top half dozen:</p> <p><strong>1. I'm a typical Clintonian defender of the status quo.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/BenSpielberg">@BenSpielberg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> That's a classic call to preserve the status quo. He actually makes David Brooks's epiphany column look inspiring. lol</p> &mdash; Random Gingko (@anon_pinko) <a href="https://twitter.com/anon_pinko/status/726265003402207232">April 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>No. My post was very explicitly about <em>how</em> to make progress, not <em>whether</em> we should make progress. I don't support everything Bernie supports, but I support most of it: universal health care, reining in Wall Street, fighting climate change, reversing the growth of income inequality, and so forth. If we could accomplish all this in a couple of years, I'd be delighted. But we can't.</p> <p><strong>2. I think change is impossible.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">In which <a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@KDrum</a> argues the system cannot be changed thus anyone who tries creates cynicism: <a href="https://t.co/mqhOzxij0n">https://t.co/mqhOzxij0n</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NoSenseOfIrony?src=hash">#NoSenseOfIrony</a></p> &mdash; John Goshorn (@jhgoshorn) <a href="https://twitter.com/jhgoshorn/status/726122799664926720">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>No. Of course the system can be changed. Why would I bother spending 14 years of my life blogging if I didn't believe that? But promising a revolution that's simply not feasible really does have the potential to create cynicism when a couple of years go by and it hasn't happened.</p> <p><strong>3. Yes we <em>can</em> have a revolution! You just have to want it bad enough.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/paulkrugman">@paulkrugman</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> Excuse me, but FDR &amp; L. Johnson did revolutionary things! Most of us r sick of settling!</p> &mdash; MYOFB (@myofb13) <a href="https://twitter.com/myofb13/status/726139762566914048">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>FDR and LBJ had massive public discontent and huge Democratic majorities in Congress. The former was the result of an economic disaster and the latter took a decade to build up in an era when Democrats already controlled Congress. We're not going to get either of those things quickly in an era with an adequate economy and a polarized electorate.</p> <p><strong>4. Sure, you boomers have it easy. What about young people?</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/NewsConnoisseur">@NewsConnoisseur</a> None of the good things you tout about the economy are true for young people. $70k student loans, not incomes/jobs</p> &mdash; Kevin M. Kelly (@kmkelly) <a href="https://twitter.com/kmkelly/status/726396859233624065">April 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This just isn't true. The average college grad today <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/ny-fed-report-finds-rising-incomes-falling-unemployment-for-young-college-graduates-1454079989" target="_blank">earns about $43,000,</a> roughly the same as 25 years ago. The unemployment rate for recent college grads is under 5 percent. About 70 percent of college grads have debt <a href="https://www.newamerica.org/downloads/Millennials_and_Student_Debt.pdf" target="_blank">under $30,000,</a> and the default rate on college debt is <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/projects/bpea/fall-2015_embargoed/conferencedraft_looneyyannelis_studentloandefaults.pdf" target="_blank">about the same as it was 30 years ago.</a> <em>I want to be crystal clear here:</em> this isn't good news. Incomes should be rising and debt should be much lower. Nonetheless, the plain fact is that recent college grads aren't in massive pain. They suffered during the Great Recession like everyone else, but all told, they probably suffered a little less than most other groups.</p> <p>(For comparison purposes: My first job out of college in 1981 paid me about $35,000 in current dollars. That's a little less than a current grad earning $43,000 and forking over $300 per month in loan repayments. I was hardly living high on that amount, but I can't say that I felt especially oppressed either.)</p> <p><strong>5. You have no idea what life is like outside the Irvine bubble.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@KDrum</a> really said: "You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves"<br><br> White. Privileged. Wealthy.</p> &mdash; R is for &Oslash;&plusmn;&Ugrave;&#136;&Oslash;&uml;&Oslash;&plusmn;&Oslash;&ordf; (@TheeInitiative) <a href="https://twitter.com/TheeInitiative/status/726087486657671168">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I got a lot of tweets suggesting that I was, um, <em>misguided</em> because I'm personally well off and live in an upper-middle-class neighborhood. It's certainly true that it's easier to be patient about change when you're not personally suffering, but in this case it's the Bernie supporters who are living in a bubble. They <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_real_eci_1996_2016.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">assume that the entire country is as ready for torches and pitchforks as they are, but the numbers flatly don't back that up. The <a href="https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/families/2014/f06AR.xls" target="_blank">median family income</a> in America <em>is</em> $67,000. Unemployment <em>is</em> at 5 percent, and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/u6-now-last-refuge-scoundrels" target="_blank">broader measures like U6</a> are in pretty good shape too. Middle-class earnings have been pretty stagnant, but total compensation&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bls.gov/web/eci/ecicois.pdf" target="_blank"><em>hasn't</em> declined</a> over the past two decades. Obamacare <em>has</em> helped <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/03/yet-again-obamacare-still-working" target="_blank">millions of people.</a> So has the ADA, SCHIP, the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/heres-why-bernie-sanders-doesnt-say-much-about-welfare-reform" target="_blank">steady rise in social welfare spending,</a> the 2009 stimulus, and the 2006 Pension Protection Act.</p> <p><em>Again, let's be crystal clear:</em> This isn't an argument that everything is hunky dory. I've written hundreds of blog posts pointing out exactly why our current economic system sucks. But it <em>is</em> an argument that the economy is simply nowhere near bad enough to serve as the base of any kind of serious political revolution.</p> <p><strong>6. Oh, fuck you.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This is one of the most stupidest article by <a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> i have ever read in my life. Solidifying my <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BernieOrBust?src=hash">#BernieOrBust</a> <a href="https://t.co/hYpV08YLKQ">https://t.co/hYpV08YLKQ</a></p> &mdash; Block 4 The BlockGod (@Classic_Archaic) <a href="https://twitter.com/Classic_Archaic/status/726192588928098304">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I guess I can't really argue with that. I also can't argue with anyone who just didn't like my tone. In my defense, I've found that no matter how hard I try to adopt an even tone, Bernie supporters are quick to insist that I'm just an establishment shill. For what it's worth, the same is true of Hillary supporters when I write a post critical of her&mdash;even when my criticism is of something patently obvious, like her appetite for overseas military intervention.</p> <p>Two more things. First, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/04/29/stop-sneering-at-the-bern/" target="_blank">Greg Sargent</a> makes a perfectly reasonable criticism of my position. My fear is that having been promised a revolution, Bernie supporters will become disgusted and cynical when Hillary Clinton and the establishment win yet again and the revolution doesn't happen. Sargent argues not only that it's useful to have someone like Bernie delivering a "jolt" to the political system, but that he might have permanently invigorated a new cohort of voters. "Many of these Sanders voters, rather than dissipate once they come crashing down from their idealistic high, might find ways to translate those newly acquired high ideals into constructive influence."</p> <p>Yep. There's no way of telling what will happen. If Bernie himself is bitter from his defeat, I think I'm more likely to turn out to be right. But if Bernie decides to take what he's built and turn it into a real movement, Sargent is more likely to be right. We'll see.</p> <p>Finally, for the record, here's where I agree and disagree with Bernie's main campaign points. None of this will be new to regular readers, but others might be interested:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Income inequality:</strong> Total agreement. I've written endlessly about this. Rising inequality is a cultural and economic cancer on a lot of different levels.</p> <p><strong>Universal health care:</strong> Total agreement. I think it will take a while to get there from where we are now, but if I could snap my fingers and import France's health care system today, I'd do it.</p> <p><strong>Breaking up big banks:</strong> I agree with the sentiment here, but I don't think it's the best way of reining in the finance system. I prefer focusing on leverage: increasing capital requirements significantly; increasing crude leverage requirements; and increasing both of these things more for bigger banks. This makes banks safer in the first place; it gives them an incentive not to grow too large; and it reduces the damage if they fail anyway. (This, by the way, has been our main response to the financial crisis via Basel III and Fed rulemaking. It's been a good step, but it would be better if it had been about twice as big.)</p> <p><strong>Free college:</strong> I'm ambivalent about this. These days, college benefits the upper middle class much more than the working class. On the other hand, the nation benefits as a whole from making college as accessible as possible. Beyond that, this is mostly a state issue, not one that can be easily solved at a national level. Generally speaking, I'd like to see college debt levels drop by a lot, but I'm not quite sure what the best way to do that is.</p> <p><strong>Raising taxes on the rich:</strong> I'm generally in favor of this, though not necessarily in exactly the way Bernie proposes. More broadly, though, I think liberals should accept that if we want big programs that significantly reduce inequality&mdash;and we should&mdash;it's going to require higher taxes on everyone. The rich can certainly do more, especially given their stupendous income increases since the Reagan era, but they can't do it all.</p> <p><strong>Military intervention:</strong> Bernie hasn't really been very specific on this, but he's generally skeptical of overseas wars. I agree with him entirely about this. It's my biggest concern with a Hillary Clinton presidency.</p> </blockquote> <p>I've probably left some important stuff out, but those are the big ticket items. Take them for what they're worth.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Here's a <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/4/30/1521884/-Kevin-Drum-Explained-Why-He-Never-Bought-Into-Sanders-And-the-Response-He-Got" target="_blank">Daily Kos poll</a> about my take on Sanders. In fairness, it follows a sympathetic summary from Xaxnar, and it's obviously nothing scientific, but still interesting.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_daily_kos_poll_sanders.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 30 Apr 2016 19:36:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 303031 at http://www.motherjones.com Shia Mob in Iraq Demands More Technocrats http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/shia-mob-iraq-demands-more-technocrats <!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/world/protesters-storm-iraqi-parliament-in-baghdad/2016/04/30/0862fd3a-0ec1-11e6-8ab8-9ad050f76d7d_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_iraq-828am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory" target="_blank">Protesters stormed the Iraqi parliament today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Baghdad Operations Command declared a state of emergency and said all roads into the capital had been closed....Iraq is in the grip of a political crisis, <strong>with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attempting to reshuffle his cabinet and meet the demands of the demonstrators,</strong> who have been spurred on by the powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. But Abadi has been hampered by chaotic parliament sessions, where lawmakers have thrown water bottles and punches at one another.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oddly, the "firebrand cleric" Sadr (remember when that practically used to be his first name in news reports?) is demanding that...the current hacks running government ministries be replaced with nonpartisan technocrats. "More bean counters in the cabinet!" isn't the usual rallying cry of a populist uprising, but there you have it.</p> <p>Needless to say, the sectarian hacks currently in charge have been resisting this change for the past month. In the meantime, Iraq is in chaos. Again.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 30 Apr 2016 14:42:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 303026 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Fundraising and Cat Blogging - 29 April 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/friday-cat-fundraising-and-blogging-29-april-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Why do we beg you for money three times a year? <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/04/that-popping-sound-you-hear" target="_blank">Clara and Monika explain:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Remember when Chris Hughes put <em>The New Republic</em> up for sale earlier this year? His letter to TNR staff subtly blamed the very same people it was addressed to: "I will be the first to admit that when I took on this challenge nearly four years ago, I underestimated the difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today's quickly evolving climate."</p> <p>Bullshit. "Transitioning" was not <em>The New Republic's</em> main challenge. Refusing to work on, with, and for the internet was once a pervasive problem in news organizations, but while vestiges of that still linger, it is no longer what keeps publications from succeeding financially.</p> <p>What keeps them from making money now is that online advertising pays pennies....From the very beginning, 40 years ago this year, our newsroom has been built on the belief that journalism needs to be untethered from corporate interests or deep-pocketed funders&mdash;that the only way a free press can be paid for is by its readers. This can take a few different forms: subscriptions, donations, micropayments, all of which we're experimenting with. It can be something the audience is forced to do (via the paywalls you'll find at the <em>New York Time</em>s or the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>) or something they choose to do, as in public radio.</p> <p>At <em>Mother Jones</em>, we've gone the latter route: Our mission is to make our journalism accessible to as many people as possible. Instead of requiring you to pay, we bet on trust: We trust you'll recognize the value of the reporting and pitch in what you can. And you trust us to put that money to work&mdash;by going out there and kicking ass.</p> </blockquote> <p>So please help us out! This is my final pitch for the spring fundraiser, and it includes <em>more options than ever before</em>. You can donate via PayPal or credit card, as usual, or <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_monthly_donation.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">you can sign up to make a monthly donation. If enough of you do this, maybe we can cut back on the fundraising begs? Maybe.</p> <ul><li>Click here to donate via <a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=3MREP27XKRQHE" target="_blank">PayPal.</a></li> <li>Click here to donate via <a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7H64Z005&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">credit card.</a></li> </ul><p>And with that out of the way, it's finally time for catblogging. Hopper's new favorite place lately is...me. When I settle down on the sofa these days, she comes right over and flops down on my stomach. After a good tummy rub, she snoozes while I peruse the news on my tablet. It works out pretty well for everyone.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_04_29.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:00:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 302996 at http://www.motherjones.com No, Donald Trump Didn't Oppose the Iraq War http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/no-donald-trump-didnt-oppose-iraq-war <!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://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2016/04/degradation-of-standards-watch-post.html" target="_blank">Via Bob Somerby,</a> here are two ways of handling the same set of facts. The first, from the <em>New York Times</em>, is wrong:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, pledged a major buildup of the military, the swift destruction of the Islamic State and the rejection of trade deals that he said tied the nation&rsquo;s hands. But he also pointedly rejected the nation-building of the George W. Bush administration, <strong>reminding his audience that he had opposed the Iraq war.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The second, from the <em>Washington Post</em>, is right:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump blamed previous administrations for making a mess of the Middle East &mdash; a reasonable claim, but one he littered with false assertions. <strong>He again claimed, against the known record,</strong> to have opposed the Iraq War well before it began.</p> </blockquote> <p>Granted, the <em>Post's</em> version is in an editorial, where writers have more freedom to say what they want. Still, straight news reporters have, obviously, an obligation to report the news straight. And the straight truth is that Donald Trump <em>didn't</em> oppose the war in Iraq&mdash;not until well after it had already become a disaster, anyway. All the available evidence says so, and reporters shouldn't enable Trump's lies by repeating them unchallenged.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_politifact_iraq_war.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 47px;"></p> <p>If Trump really opposed the war in Iraq, all he has to do is show us the evidence. It would take five minutes. He hasn't done it. He's lying.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:52:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 302991 at http://www.motherjones.com Trey Gowdy Still Tracking Down Benghazi Conspiracy Theories http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/trey-gowdy-still-tracking-down-benghazi-conspiracy-theories <!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.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/pentagon-pushes-back-against-benghazi-panels-demands" target="_blank">Via Steve Benen,</a> I see that the Pentagon is finally getting a little fed up with Trey Gowdy's Benghazi investigation:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dod_benghazi.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>Gowdy's "nonpartisan" investigators are apparently still obsessed with tracking down idiotic conspiracy theories that originate in Facebook posts, radio shows, and other corners of the right-wing fever swamp. They seem to be convinced, even now, that the military deliberately chose not to respond to the Benghazi attacks even though they could have. Why would they do this? Who knows. Because they were acting under orders from the secretary of state, to whom they had sworn a secret blood oath? It's just the kind of thing Hillary would do, isn't it? And by God, the truth is out there. Eventually Trey Gowdy will get to it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:10:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 302986 at http://www.motherjones.com Three Cheers for Monotasking! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/three-cheers-monotasking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Is multitasking finally <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/fashion/monotasking-drop-everything-and-read-this-story.html" target="_blank">getting the reputation it deserves?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Multitasking, that bulwark of anemic r&eacute;sum&eacute;s everywhere, has come under fire in recent years. A 2014 study in the <em>Journal of Experimental Psychology</em> found that interruptions as brief as two to three seconds &mdash; which is to say, less than the amount of time it would take you to toggle from <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_focus.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">this article to your email and back again &mdash; were enough to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.</p> <p>....But monotasking, also referred to as single-tasking or unitasking, isn&rsquo;t just about getting things done....&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a digital literacy skill,&rdquo; said Manoush Zomorodi, the host and managing editor of WNYC Studios&rsquo; &ldquo;Note to Self&rdquo; podcast, which recently offered a weeklong interactive series called Infomagical, addressing the effects of information overload. &ldquo;Our gadgets and all the things we look at on them are designed to not let us single-task. We weren&rsquo;t talking about this before because we simply weren&rsquo;t as distracted.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Anyone who has coded&mdash;or worked with coders&mdash;knows all about this. They complain constantly about interruptions, and with good reason. When they're deep into a problem, switching their attention is costly. They've lost their train of thought, and it can take several minutes to get it back. That's not much of a problem if it happens a few times a day, but it's a real killer if it happens a few times an hour.</p> <p>Not all jobs require as much concentrated attention as coding, but it's probably more of them than most people think. More generally, the ability to focus on a single task for an extended period is a talent that's underappreciated&mdash;especially by extroverts, who continue to exercise an unhealthy hegemony over most workplaces. Sure, the folks who want to be left alone are the ones who actually get most of the work done, but they're still mocked as drones or beavers or trolls. That's bad enough, but now technology is helping the extroverts in their long twilight campaign against actually concentrating on anything. There are times when I wonder if we're starting to lose this talent altogether. Probably not, I suppose&mdash;something like this probably can't change all that appreciably over the course of just a few years, no matter what kind of technological miracles are helping us along.</p> <p>But we sure are hellbent on helping it along. Open office plans, cell phones, constant notifications: these are all things that fight against sustained attention on a task. For some people and some tasks, that doesn't matter. But for a lot of important work, it matters a lot. Smart hiring managers in the modern world should be asking, "How long can you concentrate on a task before you have to take a break?" I wonder how many of them do?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 15:21:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 302976 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's Why I Never Warmed Up to Bernie Sanders http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/heres-why-i-never-warmed-bernie-sanders <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>With the Democratic primary basically over, I want to step back a bit and explain the big-picture reason that I never warmed up to Bernie Sanders. It's not so much that he's all that far to my left, nor that he's been pretty skimpy on details about all the programs he proposes. That's hardly uncommon in presidential campaigns. Rather, it's the fact that I think he's basically running a con, and one with the potential to cause distinct damage to the progressive cause.</p> <p>I mean this as a provocation&mdash;but I also mean it. So if you're provoked, mission accomplished! Here's my argument.</p> <p>Bernie's explanation for everything he wants to do&mdash;his theory of change, or theory of governing, take your pick&mdash;is that we need a revolution in this country. The rich own everything. Income inequality is skyrocketing. The middle class is stagnating. The finance industry is out of control. Washington, DC, is paralyzed.</p> <p><a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/bernie-sanders-democratic-party-new-york-primary-213829" target="_blank">But as Bill Scher points out,</a> the revolution that Bernie called for didn't show up. In fact, it's worse than that: we were never going to get a revolution, and Bernie knew it all along. Think about it: has there <em>ever</em> been an economic <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_delacroix_revolution.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">revolution in the United States? Stretching things a bit, I can think of two:</p> <ul><li>The destruction of the Southern slave economy following the Civil War</li> <li>The New Deal</li> </ul><p>The first of these was 50+ years in the making and, in the end, required a bloody, four-year war to bring to a conclusion. The second happened only after an utter collapse of the economy, with banks closing, businesses failing, wages plummeting, and unemployment at 25 percent. <em>That's</em> what it takes to bring about a revolution, or even something close to it.</p> <p>We're light years away from that right now. Unemployment? Yes, 2 or 3 percent of the working-age population has dropped out of the labor force, but the headline unemployment rate is 5 percent. Wages? They've been stagnant since the turn of the century, but the average family still makes close to $70,000, more than nearly any other country in the world. Health care? Our system is a mess, but 90 percent of the country has insurance coverage. Dissatisfaction with the system? <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/188717/personal-satisfaction-high-not-fully-recovered.aspx" target="_blank">According to Gallup,</a> even among those with incomes under $30,000, only 27 percent are dissatisfied with their personal lives.</p> <p>Like it or not, you don't build a revolution on top of an economy like this. Period. If you want to get anything done, you're going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: through the slow boring of hard wood.</p> <p>Why do I care about this? Because if you want to make a difference in this country, you need to be prepared for a very long, very frustrating slog. You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves&mdash;all the things that Bernie disdains as part of the corrupt mainstream establishment. In place of this he promises his followers we can get everything we want via a revolution that's never going to happen. And when that revolution inevitably fails, where do all his impressionable young followers go? Do they join up with the corrupt establishment and commit themselves to the slow boring of hard wood? Or do they give up?</p> <p>I don't know, but my fear is that some of them will do the latter. And that's a damn shame. They've been conned by a guy who should know better, the same way dieters get conned by late-night miracle diets. When it doesn't work, they throw in the towel.</p> <p>Most likely Bernie will have no lasting effect, and his followers will scatter in the usual way, with some doubling down on practical politics and others leaving for different callings. But there's a decent chance that Bernie's failure will result in a net increase of cynicism about politics, and that's the last thing we need. I hate the idea that we might lose even a few talented future leaders because they fell for Bernie's spiel and then got discouraged when it didn't pan out.</p> <p>I'll grant that my pitch&mdash;and Hillary's and Barack Obama's&mdash;isn't very inspiring. <em>Work your fingers to the bone for 30 years and you might get one or two significant pieces of legislation passed.</em> Obviously you need inspiration too. But if you don't want your followers to give up in disgust, your inspiration needs to be in the service of goals that are at least attainable. By offering a chimera instead, Bernie has done the progressive movement no favors.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 05:25:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 302961 at http://www.motherjones.com Campaign Reporters Fess Up: They Really Can't Stand Hillary Clinton http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/campaign-reporters-fess-they-really-cant-stand-hillary-clinton <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last month <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/2016-campaign-opinion-journalists-press-corps-reporters-survey-213844" target="_blank"><em>Politico</em> polled 80 campaign reporters</a> about this year's race. It turns out they hate Nevada and Ohio but love South Carolina&mdash;mainly because it has good food, apparently. They think Maggie Haberman is the best reporter covering the race, and Fox News has done the best job of hosting a debate. Donald Trump has gotten the softest coverage, probably because they all agree that "traffic, viewership, and clicks" drives their coverage.</p> <p>And who's gotten the harshest coverage? Do you even have to ask? It turns out that even reporters themselves agree that it's not even a close call:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_press_politico.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 21:46:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 302946 at http://www.motherjones.com Help Us Make Conservatives Even More Miserable http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/help-us-make-conservatives-even-more-miserable <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The progressive movement is being torn from within. It&rsquo;s close to a civil war. The fault line runs straight through the heart of the Democratic coalition, but not through <em>Mother Jones</em>. We stand on one side of the chasm, while many of our friends have set up shop on the other. And quite a few others think they can stand with one foot on&mdash;</p> <p>Oh wait. That's actually <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434605/national-review-donate-conservative-cause" target="_blank">Jonah Goldberg</a> writing an epitaph for the conservative movement and begging for money for <em>National Review</em>. I tried to rework it for MoJo's spring fundraising drive, but it just doesn't fit. There's no liberal equivalent of Donald Trump. Also: the prose is a little too purple for my taste.</p> <p>So how about this: If you donate some money to us, we'll use it to try and make Jonah even more miserable. That's a movement I can get behind! And we accept either PayPal or credit cards.</p> <p>Click here to donate via <a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=3MREP27XKRQHE" target="_blank">PayPal.</a></p> <p>Click here to donate via <a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7H64Z005&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">credit card.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:56:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 302921 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Is Right: Reagan's Tax Cuts Didn't Revive the Economy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/obama-right-reagans-tax-cuts-didnt-revive-economy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is President Obama, in the course of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/magazine/president-obama-weighs-his-economic-legacy.html?_r=0" target="_blank">defending his economic performance:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If we can&rsquo;t puncture some of the mythology around austerity, politics or tax cuts or the mythology that&rsquo;s been built up around the Reagan revolution, <strong>where somehow people genuinely think that he slashed government and slashed the deficit and that the recovery was because of all these massive tax cuts, as opposed to a shift in interest-rate policy</strong> &mdash; if we can&rsquo;t describe that effectively, then we&rsquo;re doomed to keep on making more and more mistakes.</p> </blockquote> <p>This train has long since left the station, and Republicans are dead set on making sure it never returns. But that doesn't mean Obama is wrong. He's not. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_reagan_era_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Even conservative James Pethokoukis <a href="http://www.aei.org/publication/what-obama-gets-right-and-wrong-about-reaganomics/" target="_blank">acknowledges this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A recent Brookings literature review noted that Martin Feldstein and Doug Elmendorf found in a 1989 analysis &ldquo;that the 1981 tax cuts had virtually no net impact on economic growth.&rdquo; They find that the strength of the recovery over the 1980s could be ascribed to monetary policy. In particular, they find no evidence that the tax cuts in 1981 stimulated labor supply.</p> </blockquote> <p>Feldstein was Reagan's chairman of the CEA, so he's hardly some liberal shill trying to take down Reagan's legacy. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/10/ronald-reagans-legacy" target="_blank">As I noted a few years ago,</a> there were five main drivers of the 80s boom. In order of importance, they were:</p> <ol><li>Paul Volcker easing up on interest rates/monetary aggregates in 1982</li> <li>The steep drop in oil prices after 1981</li> <li>Reagan's devaluation of the dollar</li> <li>Reagan's deficit spending</li> <li>Reagan's tax cuts</li> </ol><p>Conservatives will never admit any of this, but there's no reason the rest of us have to go along with their fairy tale about Reaganomics. Taxes matter, but they simply don't matter nearly as much as they claim, and it's long past time for the mainstream press to acknowledge all this. It's hardly controversial anywhere outside the Fox News bubble.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:34:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 302911 at http://www.motherjones.com Economic Growth Slows to 0.5% in First Quarter http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/economic-growth-slows-05-first-quarter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The economy grew at a sluggish <a href="http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/2016/pdf/gdp1q16_adv.pdf" target="_blank">0.5 percent annual rate</a> in the first quarter. The main culprits for the poor performance were downturns in durable goods, nonresidential construction, and defense spending. This is the third year in a row in which growth has been poor in the first quarter, which means that one-off excuses about snowstorms and so forth don't really hold water anymore. But it might be a statistical artifact. <a href="http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/quick-gdp-point-re-2016q1/" target="_blank">Jared Bernstein says</a> "there&rsquo;s some concern with the seasonal adjusters, which some argue are biasing Q1 down and Q2 up." I guess we'll have to wait until Q2 to find out.</p> <p>Even if that's true, however, growth is still fairly listless, averaging around 2 percent per year. It's yet another indication that the global economy remains fragile and the Fed should think twice before raising rates any more than they've already done.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gdp_2016_q1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:07:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 302906 at http://www.motherjones.com High-Risk Pools Don't Work, Have Never Worked, and Won't Work in the Future http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/high-risk-pools-dont-work-have-never-worked-and-wont-work-future <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Even among conservative voters, Obamacare's protection of people with pre-existing conditions has always been popular. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-pre-existing-conditions-20151104-column.html" target="_blank">In a recent Kaiser poll,</a> it garnered 74 percent approval from Democrats, 70 percent approval from independents, and 69 percent approval from Republicans.</p> <p>Technically, this protection is guaranteed by two different provisions of Obamacare: guaranteed issue, which means that insurance companies have to accept anyone who applies for coverage, and community rating, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ryan_poverty.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">which means they have to charge everyone the same price. But popular or not, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-health-ryan-idUSKCN0XP00C" target="_blank">Paul Ryan wants nothing to do with it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In election-year remarks that could shed light on an expected Republican healthcare alternative, Ryan said existing federal policy that prevents insurers from charging sick people higher rates for health coverage has raised costs for healthy consumers while undermining choice and competition.</p> <p>...."Less than 10 percent of people under 65 are what we call people with pre-existing conditions, who are really kind of uninsurable," Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told a student audience at Georgetown University. "Let's fund risk pools at the state level to subsidize their coverage, so that they can get affordable coverage," he said. "You dramatically lower the price for everybody else. You make health insurance so much more affordable, so much more competitive and open up competition."</p> </blockquote> <p>It's true that the cost of covering sick people raises the price of insurance for healthy people. That's how insurance works. But there's no magic here. It costs the same to treat sick people whether you do it through Obamacare or through a high-risk pool&mdash;and it doesn't matter whether you fund it via taxes for Obamacare or taxes for something else. However, there <em>are</em> some differences:</p> <ul><li>Handling everyone through a single system is more efficient and more convenient.</li> <li>High-risk pools have a <a href="http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/the-trouble-with-high-risk-pools-as-a-conservative-alternative/" target="_blank">lousy history.</a> They just don't work.</li> <li>Implementing them at the state level guarantees a race to the bottom, since no state wants to attract lots of sick people into its program.</li> <li>Ryan's promise to fund high-risk pools is empty. He will never support the taxes it would take to do it properly, and he knows it.</li> </ul><p>This is just more hand waving. Everyone with even a passing knowledge of the health care business knows that high-risk pools are a disaster, but Republicans like Ryan keep pitching them anyway as some kind of bold, new, free-market alternative to Obamacare. They aren't. They've been around forever and everyone knows they don't work.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:59:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 302881 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: John Boehner Sure Doesn't Think Much of Ted Cruz http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/quote-day-john-boehner-sure-doesnt-think-much-ted-cruz <!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.stanforddaily.com/2016/04/28/john-boehner-talks-election-time-in-office/" target="_blank">From former House speaker John Boehner,</a> asked what he thinks of Ted Cruz:</p> <blockquote> <p>I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.</p> </blockquote> <p>The interesting thing about this is that it's not very interesting. It's just par for the course for Cruz.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:50:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 302876 at http://www.motherjones.com Democrats Have a Class Gap. Republicans Have a Generation Gap. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/democrats-have-class-gap-republicans-have-generation-gap <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>What are the big fault lines within the Democratic and Republican parties? According to a recent Pew report, Democrats have a class gap: Democratic elites are far more liberal than less educated members of the party. But there's not much of a generation gap: old and young voters are pretty similar ideologically.</p> <p>Among Republicans, it's just the opposite. They have a huge generation gap, with older voters skewing much more conservative than younger voters. But there's no class gap: their elites are in pretty close sync with the party base. The raw data is <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2016/04/26/a-wider-ideological-gap-between-more-and-less-educated-adults/" target="_blank">here,</a> and the chart below shows the magnitude of the difference:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_democrat_republican_younger_more_educated_2.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 2px;"></p> <p>This is interesting, since the most talked-about aspect of the Democratic primary was the astonishingly strong preference of young voters for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. But <em>why</em> did they prefer Bernie? The obvious answer is that they're more liberal than older Democrats and therefore preferred his more radical vision&mdash;but the Pew data says that's not the case.</p> <p>So what <em>is</em> the answer? The age gap could still explain a bit of it, since young Democrats are a little more liberal than older Democrats. And the class gap could also explain a bit of it, since Bernie voters tend to be both young and well educated. But even put together, this doesn't seem like enough.</p> <p>Obviously there was something about Bernie that generated huge enthusiasm among younger voters. But if it wasn't ideology, what was it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 04:48:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 302871 at http://www.motherjones.com Weekly Flint Water Report: April 16-22 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/weekly-flint-water-report-april-16-22 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is this week's Flint water report. As usual, I've eliminated outlier readings above 2,000 parts per billion, since there are very few of them and they can affect the averages in misleading ways. During the week, DEQ took 302 samples. The average for the past week was 15.03.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_water_2016_04_22.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 Apr 2016 21:24:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 302856 at http://www.motherjones.com The Media Weighs In On Carly Fiorina http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/media-weighs-carly-fiorina <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The reviews are in on Ted Cruz's choice of Carly Fiorina as his running mate. Can you spot the consensus opinion?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cruz_desperate.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 35px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 Apr 2016 21:12:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 302851 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump's Foreign Policy Doesn't Improve When Read From a Teleprompter http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/trumps-foreign-policy-doesnt-improve-when-read-teleprompter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I kinda sorta listened to Donald Trump's foreign policy speech this morning. You know, the one we were all looking forward to because it was <em>written by an actual speechwriter</em> and would be <em>delivered via teleprompter</em>. That's Trump being presidential, I guess.</p> <p>So how did Trump do? That depends on your expectations. For a guy who never uses a teleprompter, not bad. By normal standards, though, he sounded <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_america_first.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">about like a sixth grader reciting a speech from note cards. On content, it was the same deal. Compared with normal Trump, it wasn't bad. By any real-world standard, it was ridiculous.</p> <p>Fact-checking his speech is sort of pointless, basically a category error. Trump is a zeitgeisty kind of guy, and that's the only real way to evaluate anything he says. In this case, the zeitgeist was "America First"&mdash;and everyone's first question was, <em>does he know</em>? Does he know that this is a phrase made famous by isolationists prior to World War II? My own guess is that he didn't know this the first time he used it, but he does now. Certainly his speechwriter does. But he doesn't care. It fits his favorite themes well, and the only people who care about its history are a bunch of overeducated pedants. His base doesn't know where it came from and couldn't care less.</p> <p>So: America First. And that's about it. Trump will do only things that are in America's interest. He will destroy ISIS, crush Iran, wipe out the trade deficit with China, eradicate North Korea's bomb program, and give Russia five minutes to cut a deal with us or face the consequences. Aside from that, Trump's main theme seemed to be contradicting himself at every turn. We will crush our enemies and protect our friends&mdash;but only if our friends display suitable gratitude for everything we do for them. We will rebuild our military and our enemies will fear us&mdash;but "war and aggression will not be my first instinct." We will be unpredictable&mdash;but also consistent so everyone knows they can trust us. He won't tell ISIS how or when he's going to wipe them out&mdash;but it will be very soon and with overwhelming force. He will support our friends&mdash;but he doesn't really think much of international agreements like NATO.</p> <p>Then there was the big mystery: his out-of-the-blue enthusiasm for 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and cyberwar. Where did <em>that</em> come from? In any case, the Pentagon is obviously already working on all three of these things, so it's not clear just what Trump has in mind. (Actually, it is clear: nothing. Somebody put these buzzwords in his speech and he read them. He doesn't have the slightest idea what any of them mean.)</p> <p>So what would Trump do about actual conflicts that are actually happening right now? Would he send troops to Ukraine? To Syria? To Libya? To Yemen? To Iraq? Naturally, he didn't say. Gotta be unpredictable, after all.</p> <p>But whatever else you take away, America will be strong under Donald Trump. We will be respected and feared. Our military will be ginormous. No one will laugh at us anymore. We will proudly defend the values of Western civilization. This all serves pretty much the same purpose in foreign policy that political correctness, Mexican walls, and Muslim bans serve in Trump's domestic policy.</p> <p>And there you have it. Did he really need a teleprompter for that?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 Apr 2016 18:31:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 302811 at http://www.motherjones.com Cruz-Fiorina in 2016! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/cruz-fiorina-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The rumor mill says that Ted Cruz plans to announce today that Carly Fiorina will be his running mate. <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/434657/cruz-fiorina-taking-shape-today" target="_blank">Jim Geraghty comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Announcing Fiorina today would be a big gamble for Cruz. There&rsquo;s a lot to like about Fiorina, but will this announcement help lock up Indiana and give Cruz a slew of delegates in places like California? If Fiorina is today&rsquo;s big news, <strong>we may look back on this as a key moment where Cruz united the anti-Trump factions of the party... or we may look back on this as a Hail Mary pass.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. Pretty sure I know which one of these it will be. In fact, it's even worse than it seems. Given Fiorina's popularity in California, it's more like a Hail Mary pass to the wrong end zone.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 Apr 2016 17:17:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 302806 at http://www.motherjones.com Do Lucky People Feel Better About Paying Taxes? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/do-lucky-people-feel-better-about-paying-taxes <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Robert Frank thinks that we can get rich people to support higher taxes by reminding them of <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/4/27/11433650/taxes-rich-people" target="_blank">how lucky they are:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Underestimating the importance of luck is [] a totally understandable tendency</strong>....Most highly successful people are very talented and hardworking, after all, and when they construct the narratives of their own lives, the most readily available memories are the difficult problems they've been solving every day for decades. Less salient are the sporadic external events that also invariably matter, like the mentor who helped you during a rough patch in 11th grade or the promotion you got because a more qualified colleague had to turn it down to care for an ill spouse.</p> <p>....I've seen even brief discussions of the link between success and luck temper the outrage many wealthy people feel about taxes....<strong>In my own recent conversations with highly successful people, I've seen opinions change on the spot.</strong> Many who seem never to have considered the possibility that their success stemmed from factors other than their own talent and effort are often surprisingly willing to rethink. In many instances, even brief reflection stimulates them to recall <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_four_leaf_clover.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">specific examples of good breaks they've enjoyed along the way.</p> </blockquote> <p>I've long wondered how it is that so many people are completely clueless about how lucky they are. Off the top of my head, here's the story of my life:</p> <p>I was born in the richest state in the richest country in the richest era of human history. I was born white, male, straight, and healthy. I was born with a high IQ and an even temper. My parents loved me and took care of me. We weren't rich, but I never wanted for anything important. I attended good quality state schools free of charge for 17 years. I never had any catastrophic money problems after I left home. By a rather unlikely chance, I ended up marrying the most wonderful person in the world. I had a great mentor at one job who helped me make an improbable move into high-tech marketing. Later I found myself working for a guy I happened to click with, and ended up vice president of marketing. Our company eventually got acquired and I made a bunch of money. After I left, I just happened to start blogging as a hobby right at the time blogging became big. A couple of years later I got a call out of the blue asking if I wanted to blog for pay. A few years after that I got another call out of the blue and ended up at MoJo.</p> <p>There's more, but that's enough for now. And of course, recently I've had some bad luck. But even that hasn't been so bad. Thanks to all the good luck I had before, I've received hundreds of thousands of dollars of top-notch medical treatment at practically no cost.</p> <p>Does any of this mean I didn't work hard and diligently? Of course not. But lots of people work hard and diligently. In fact, most people do. If I had worked hard and diligently but been born in a small village in Pakistan, I'd be...living in a small village in Pakistan right now. All the hard work and diligence in the world wouldn't have done much of anything for me.</p> <p>I can easily believe that most people give short shrift to all this stuff. Hell, I've known people who were smug about their real estate acumen because they happened to buy a house in 2002, and then cried about their terrible luck when they failed to sell it in 2007. We all like to fool ourselves into believing that good things are due to our smarts while bad things are all down to bad luck. But for most of us, there's an awful lot of good luck involved in our lives too.</p> <p>But here's the thing I'm interested in: is it really true that pointing this out to a rich person is likely to turn them into a tax-loving supporter of the welfare state? That hasn't been my experience, but then, I've never gone whole hog on the luck argument. Maybe it works! But if it does, we liberals have sure been remarkably negligent for the past few decades. This is a pretty easy argument to make, after all.</p> <p>So: has anyone (other than Robert Frank) tried this? Ideally with a rich person, but even an upper-middle-class Republican will do. Did it work? Inquiring minds want to know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 Apr 2016 16:08:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 302786 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton Wants All Millennials to Feel Free to Use Her Lawn http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/hillary-clinton-wants-all-millennials-feel-free-use-her-lawn <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I guess I'm finally curious enough about something to write a post about it. The subject is The Kids Today. Here are a couple of recent posts <a href="http://www.eschatonblog.com/2016/04/getoffmylawnism.html" target="_blank">from Atrios:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I know I keep returning this subject, and I probably don't have anything especially new to say about it, but I guess support for Bernie by The Kids Today has brought a lot of it out recently. I'm increasingly amazed that The Kids Today seems to include anyone under 40, and that the olds (#notallolds) hate them with white hot passion. The Kids Today are Generation <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_phones.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Screwed, and the Old Economy Steves of the world really should shut their pie holes.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.eschatonblog.com/2016/04/hard-to-kick-habit.html" target="_blank">And:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Hope to be wrong, but suspect that team Clinton (very broadly defined) will still be talking about Berniebros in September. I'm quite happy for Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, as I always thought she would be. I'm not happy with the months of "we would have won it easy if not for these meddling kids who won't vote in November" rhetoric. Better figure out how to appeal to them. Stop calling them immature and stupid. The goal is to win, not to make early excuses for why you're going to lose.</p> </blockquote> <p>I realize that our personal takes on this subject are strongly influenced by which blogs/tweets/etc. we happen to read, and Atrios and I are probably reading different stuff. But I still wonder where this is coming from. Do older folks really hate millennials with a white hot passion? Is Team Clinton obsessed with Berniebros? I just don't see it. What I've seen is a competitive primary where both sides have been sniping at the other, just like 2008. And now that it's over, the sniping will fade away. Just speaking personally, my Twitter feed and general reading list has been about equally full of rancor aimed at both sides. The youngs are starry-eyed idealists; the olds are corrupt sellouts. Berniebros are disgusting; Hillarybots are cutthroat. Bernie is clueless about how to get things done; Hillary is a warmonger. Etc.</p> <p>If you yourself are a millennial, I suppose it's only natural to pay special attention to every single op-ed ever written on the subject of millennials. But I don't think this particular genre is any more prevalent today than op-eds about young Gen Xers a couple of decades ago or op-eds about young boomers back when I was graduating from college. They're no more critical, either. Just the same old stuff about middle-aged folks trying to understand younger folks, sometimes with sympathy and sometimes without.</p> <p>I guess I'm doing that annoying oldster thing where I use my personal experience to shrug off what's happening today as just more of the same. But honest, I wouldn't do it if I saw endless streams of criticism of Bernie and Bernie supporters&mdash;and millennials in general&mdash;that truly seemed way out of proportion to what I've seen before. But I just haven't.</p> <p>As for Hillary, I can guarantee that the <em>only</em> thing she and her team want from millennials is their support. That's been crystal clear from the start, and the fact that there are some assholes on her side doesn't change that. There are always assholes on all sides. But Team Hillary itself, even broadly defined, has no greater desire than to prove itself to millennials and get their votes in November. Just wait and see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 Apr 2016 14:51:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 302776 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare's Competitive Markets Are Starting to Work Pretty Well http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/obamacares-competitive-markets-are-starting-work-pretty-well <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The decision last week by United Healthcare to drop out of&nbsp;Obamacare got a lot of attention, but the truth is that UH was a pretty small player in the exchanges. What's more important&mdash;but <em>hasn't</em> gotten much attention&mdash;is the fact that more and more Obamacare insurers are getting close to profitability. <a href="https://www.balloon-juice.com/2016/04/26/on-exchange-profitability/" target="_blank">Richard Mayhew comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>2014 was a year where there were only guesses about both the Exchange population, the market structure, and federal policy structure (specifically the risk corridor revenue neutrality restrictions. 2015 had a bit more clarity on who was coming into the market, what was working and what was not working, and what federal policy on risk corridors would actually be. 2016 is the first year where the policies are priced on functionally decent real information and some of the amazingly dumb strategic decisions have been unwound through either course changes or through exiting the market.</p> <p>As a simple reminder, <strong>competitive markets should see some companies make money and some companies that offer more expensive and less attractive products lose money.</strong> I would be extremely worried if everyone was making money after three years, just like I would be extremely worried that everyone was losing money after three years of increasingly better data.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obamacare critics have spent a lot of energy trying to pretend that premiums on the exchanges have skyrocketed, but that's never been true. What <em>is</em> true is that premiums started below projections and have since risen moderately as insurers get a better grasp on their customer base. This is how competitive markets work: players enter the market with prices designed to attract market share; customers pick winners and losers; prices adjust over time; and some companies are successful while others drop out. Eventually you reach a rough equilibrium, which we're getting close to with Obamacare.</p> <p>It's ironic (or something) that the problems conservatives are making such a fuss about are the result of precisely what they say they want: competitive insurance markets. Apparently Obamacare has produced a little more competition than they're comfortable with.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 27 Apr 2016 04:43:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 302771 at http://www.motherjones.com Three Awesome Paragraphs — And Only You Can Decide Which Is the Awesomest of All http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/three-awesome-paragraphs-%E2%80%94-and-only-you-can-decide-which-awesomest-all <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>While we wait for polls to close on Super Tuesday 4 (seriously), I've been catching up on news in the tech biz. And I need your help. Which of these is the greatest paragraph of the day? You have three choices.</p> <p>The first one, from Michael Hiltzik of the <em>LA Times</em>, is part of an interview with Michael Ferro, chairman of the company that owns the <em>LA Times</em>, about <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Raining_Money.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">how they plan to <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-hiltzik-gannett-tpub-20160426-snap-htmlstory.html" target="_blank">supercharge the <em>LA Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The strategic plan also includes a <strong>"content monetization engine"</strong> that will use artificial intelligence to redistribute Tribune Publishing content to multiple destinations and market the content in a way "we think will revolutionize our content strategy," Ferro said. "We think it'll be a rock-star business" that can "<strong>create more revenue ... than you've ever seen.</strong>" That module will also be unveiled May 4, he said.</p> </blockquote> <p>A content monetization engine! That is so awesome. And it will create more revenue "than you've ever seen." I've heard plenty of hyperbole from tech evangelists before, but nothing quite like that. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2016/04/26/twitter-shares-tumble-as-social-network-predicts-hard-road-ahead/" target="_blank">Next up is Twitter:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The increase in users, which reversed a decline in the previous quarter, was a rare positive for the ailing company....<strong>The company reported 310 million monthly active users, up from 305 million the previous quarter</strong>....For the first three months of the year, the company reported $595 million in revenue, missing the $608 million Wall Street had expected....Overall, Twitter said it saw a net loss of $80 million, or 12 cents a share, which was a bit better than analysts had forecast.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is not an awesome paragraph per se, especially since it's only a paragraph in the first place by virtue of my ellipses. But think about this. Twitter has 310 million users. 310 million! It generates revenues of about $2 billion per year. And yet, it's an "ailing" company that's still losing a ton of money. How tough is the social networking market when 310 million users isn't enough to turn a profit? And how does a company that basically runs a server farm manage to rack up more than $2 billion in operating costs annually? Beats me.</p> <p>Finally, we have this contender from a piece about Apple's <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2016/04/26/apple-reports-its-first-revenue-drop-in-more-than-a-decade/" target="_blank">first revenue decline in 13 years:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Analysts do expect that iPhone sales will recover after the company introduces this year's expected model of the iPhone....Reports based on apparent weak links in Apple's supply chain indicate that the new phone could have a new kind of headphone port, be dust-proof and waterproof and <strong>may even sport a totally redesigned home button.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>OMG. A <em>totally</em> redesigned home button! What will the geniuses at Apple think of next? A totally redesigned on/off button? A totally redesigned microphone? A totally redesigned headphone port? Oh wait....</p> <p>Anyway, those are your choices. My heart is with #1, which is truly as awesome a paragraph as I've read lately. I can't wait for May 4th.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 Apr 2016 22:18:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 302751 at http://www.motherjones.com Lemonade Is the Opiate of the Masses http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/lemonade-opiate-masses <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I'm having some trouble coming up with political or even quasi-political topics to write about this morning, so instead let's watch Chris Hayes risk his hard-won career in a single tweet:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Ok, I'm probably gonna regret this honest (perhaps naive question): is it possible the lyrics in Lemonade about infidelity are just lyrics?</p> &mdash; Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) <a href="https://twitter.com/chrislhayes/status/725033803043999744">April 26, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>A few tweets later Hayes is careful to assure us that he hasn't gone completely around the bend: "In conclusion: @Beyonce is legitimately a genius and we're lucky to have her in our shared cultural life." Whew. Even in the polysyncretic, multicultural stewpot that defines modern America, there are still a few norms of required behavior left, and unqualified praise of Beyonc&eacute; is high on that list. I was relieved to see that Hayes was questioning only the meaning of Beyonce's lyrics, not her unparalleled genius.</p> <p>I suppose it comes as no surprise that I don't care one way or the other about Beyonc&eacute;. I've read snatches of the lyrics from <em>Lemonade</em>, and they strike me about the same way most popular music lyrics strike me. "Middle fingers up, put them hands high. Wave it in his face, tell him, boy, bye. Tell him, boy, bye, middle fingers up. I ain't thinking &lsquo;bout you." That really doesn't do much for me, but <em>de gustibus</em>. I could name lots of stuff that's meaningful to me but strikes most other people as puerile or just plain dumb.</p> <p>Still, it really is kind of weird that Hayes is so obviously reticent about asking his question. For those of you who just returned from a trip to Mt. Everest, <em>Lemonade</em> is Beyonc&eacute;'s latest album, and the lyrics are all about the pain she felt when her husband, music mogul Jay-Z, cheated on her. Or so it's universally assumed. It is very definitely <em>not</em> assumed that Beyonc&eacute; is capable of writing searing lyrics that have nothing to do with her own personal life. Odd, isn't it? That's almost the definition of a genius. Why <em>couldn't</em> she do that?</p> <p>For what it's worth, I'd also point out a couple of other things. First, Beyonc&eacute; is famous for her almost fanatical control of her image. Second, as many people have pointed out, <em>Lemonade</em> is available for streaming only on Tidal, which is Jay-Z's company. So that means Beyonc&eacute; is helping Jay make a lot of money off his alleged infidelity&mdash;and shoring up his faltering streaming service at the same time.</p> <p>So then. Take your pick:</p> <ul><li>Jay-Z cheated on Beyonc&eacute;. She's pissed off about it and wrote an album to exorcise her pain.</li> <li>Nothing happened. It's just an album on the subject of infidelity and other things, which Beyonc&eacute; captures with astonishing virtuosity. Geniuses can do that sort of thing.</li> <li>It's all part of Beyonc&eacute;'s endless pseudo-narrative, which she controls with about the same subtlety that Stalin used to control the Red Army. Art in the service of art may have a long and rich history, but art in the service of great riches does too.</li> </ul><p>And with that, I'm off to lunch while everyone tears me apart. Have fun!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 Apr 2016 20:02:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 302741 at http://www.motherjones.com It Was Chinese Tea That Spawned the Tea Party http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/it-was-chinese-tea-spawned-tea-party <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today brings a new academic entry in the angry voter sweepstakes. A quartet of high-powered economists took a look at congressional districts and divided them up by how much they were exposed to trade with China. Some districts showed lots of job losses due to trade while others showed very little. How did voters react?</p> <p>Districts with lots of job losses were somewhat more likely to vote out incumbents, but not by a lot. Nor were they more likely to switch parties. However, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_china_trade_deficit.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">they <em>were</em> likely to become more extreme, <a href="http://www.ddorn.net/papers/ADHM-PoliticalPolarization.pdf" target="_blank">electing very conservative Republicans and very liberal Democrats:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The point estimates suggest that about<strong> three quarters of the movement away from the political center induced by trade is the result of increasing conservativeness among elected legislators, while one quarter is due to increasing liberalness.</strong></p> <p>....Districts subject to larger increases in import competition from China are substantially less likely to elect a moderate legislator....Comparing more and less trade-exposed districts, <strong>the more-exposed district would become 18.5 percentage points less likely to have a centrist in power between 2002 and 2010.</strong> To put this magnitude in context, over the 2002 to 2010 time period, the fraction of &ldquo;moderates&rdquo; in the House declines to 37.1% from a baseline of 56.8%.</p> </blockquote> <p>The authors believe that import competition from China following their accession to the WTO has played a big role in the polarization of American politics:</p> <blockquote> <p>China bashing is now a popular pastime as much among liberal Democrats as among Tea Party Republicans. Our contribution in this paper is to show that this political showmanship is indicative of deeper truths. <strong>Growing import competition from China has contributed to the disappearance of moderate legislators in Congress,</strong> a shift in congressional voting toward ideological extremes, and net gains in the number of conservative Republican representatives, including those affiliated with the Tea Party movement.</p> </blockquote> <p>Why did this benefit conservatives more than liberals? At a guess, it's because they were better able to tap into voter anger. Both sides could make similar economic arguments, but conservatives could add a healthy dose of nationalism to the mix, something that liberals are a lot less comfortable with. That made their attacks on China more resonant.</p> <p>Ironically, voters on both sides were basically getting scammed. Big talk aside, neither conservatives nor liberals did much to reduce trade with China. In fact, it's not clear there was much they could have done. Short of abandoning the WTO and starting a trade war, there really weren't a lot of options on the table. The net result, then, was lots of windy rhetoric and a more polarized Congress, and eventually the Donald Trump campaign. But Trump, like all the rest of the China bashers, has nothing more than windy rhetoric too.</p> <p>At this point, the game is almost fully played out anyway. China's impact on American jobs is a done deal, with little more to come as China itself moves to a less manufacturing-oriented economy and finds itself in competition with countries like Vietnam and Indonesia. But if the authors of this paper are right, the American political scene will continue to pay a price for decades to come.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 26 Apr 2016 16:18:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 302711 at http://www.motherjones.com