Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Here Are the Top Ten Republican Accomplishments of 2017 So Far <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here are the top ten Republican accomplishments of 2017 so far:</p> <ol><li>Trump signs executive order on immigration, but it's so badly drafted it causes chaos around the country and is immediately put on hold by court.</li> <li>Trump chooses crackpot as National Security Advisor, fires him three weeks after inauguration.</li> <li>Trump tries to bully China by playing games with One China policy, is forced into humiliating retreat after realizing he's playing out of his league.</li> <li>Paul Ryan proposes border adjustment tax to raise $1 trillion, but can't convince anyone to sign on.</li> <li>Trump casually green-lights raid on Yemen over dinner, it turns into an epic disaster that kills a SEAL and <a href="" target="_blank">accomplishes nothing.</a></li> <li>Trump blathers about the wall and a 20 percent border tax on Mexico, causing the Mexican president to cancel a planned visit.</li> <li>Congress goes into recess, but Republicans are embarrassingly forced to cancel town hall events because they're afraid of facing big crowds opposed to their policies.</li> <li>Trump continues to claim that crime is skyrocketing; that he won a huge election victory; that his inauguration crowd was immense; that polls showing his unpopularity are fake; and that refugees have wreaked terror on America, despite the fact that these are all easily-checkable lies.</li> <li>After weeks of confusion on their signature priority, Republicans finally realize that repealing Obamacare isn't all that easy and basically give up.</li> <li>Trump proposes spending an extra $54 billion on defense without realizing he can't do that.</li> </ol><p>Have either Trump or the Republican Congress done anything yet that's been both successful and non-routine? Unless I'm forgetting something big, it's just been one failure after another for the past two months. And that's not even counting all the day-to-day idiocy coming out of the White House ("enemy of the people," Sweden, "so-called judge," Bowling Green massacre, national security confabs at Mar-a-Lago restaurant, etc.).</p> <p>Help me out here. Am I missing some big success?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Feb 2017 06:28:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 326671 at Conservative Republicans Declare Opposition to Any Health Care Plan That Spends Money <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>The Hill</em> reports that Obamacare replacement <a href="" target="_blank">has taken yet another hit:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The chairman of the influential Republican Study Committee said Monday he would vote against a draft ObamaCare replacement bill that leaked last week. Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), head of the 172-member committee, said Monday <strong>his opposition stems from the draft bill's use of refundable tax credits.</strong><br> &nbsp;<br> "There are serious problems with what appears to be our current path to repeal and replace Obamacare. The draft legislation, which was leaked last week, risks continuing major Obamacare entitlement expansions and delays any reforms," Walker said in a statement Monday.</p> </blockquote> <p>Refundable tax credits are the mechanism for funding the Republican replacement plan. So what Walker is saying is that he opposes any plan that spends money.</p> <p>The only alternative, of course, is a plan that costs nothing, which would be suicidal for Republicans. Even Donald Trump couldn't bluster his way into convincing people that a zero-dollar plan would help them compared to what they have now.</p> <p>Republicans are really truly in a pickle. Here are their options:</p> <ul><li>Leave Obamacare alone. This would obviously enrage their base.</li> <li>Repeal Obamacare and propose a replacement acceptable to conservatives. This would be so obviously useless that everyone <em>outside</em> their base would be enraged.</li> <li>Repeal Obamacare with no replacement. But since Republicans <a href="" target="_blank">can only repeal parts of Obamacare</a> while leaving other parts alone, this runs the risk of imploding the entire individual insurance market. That would be an electoral disaster.</li> </ul><p>It's no wonder that Paul Ryan feels so backed into a corner that his latest "strategy" is to bull through a repeal-and-delay bill&mdash;<a href="" target="_blank">and then dare anyone in the GOP caucus to vote against it.</a> It's a desperate ploy that's bound to both fail <em>and</em> to piss off a lot of his fellow Republicans in the process. But what choice does he have? He has to pretend to do something.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 28 Feb 2017 00:09:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 326656 at Wait a Second — Jon Huntsman Is a Candidate For the #2 Job at State? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Former Utah Gov. and ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is in talks to be the No. 2 at the State Department, U.S. officials said Monday....The search for the deputy secretary of state has continued after President Donald Trump rejected Elliott Abrams, who had the backing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is nuts. How do you go from Elliott Abrams to Jon Huntsman? This is like deciding to buy a Hummer and then changing your mind and deciding that a Prius is a better fit after all. Does Tillerson have any idea what he really wants? Or is this coming from Trump, who thinks that Huntsman has that central casting look he's so fond of in his cabinet?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Feb 2017 23:42:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 326651 at The DNC Battle Has Actually Ended Pretty Amicably <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href=";utm_term=.fb2edfb882dc" target="_blank">Dave Weigel</a> recaps all the currents that flowed around the Ellison-Perez contest for DNC chair, and covers most of the bases very nicely. One of those bases, of course, is that Ellison was the Bernie guy and Perez was the Hillary guy. <a href="" target="_blank">Josh Marshall comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Democratic party will have a hard time moving forward if every contest must be reduced and simplified into a replay of the 2016 primary battle.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's true, but you know what? It's only been a few months since the election. These things take time. All things considered, Democrats are in surprisingly fine fettle considering just how thoroughly they've been tromped over the past few years and how little time has passed since Donald Trump won. A few high-profile lefties have been complaining about Keith Ellison's loss and how it proves the Democratic Party is a pawn of Wall Street etc. etc., but the emphasis here should be on "few." And those few are mostly people who had no patience for mainstream liberalism anyway. All things considered, there's been very little blowback from Tom Perez's win. Nearly everybody seems pretty anxious to move on and win some elections.</p> <p>One other point while I'm on the subject. Marshall also says this:</p> <blockquote> <p>I think most Democrats realize or believe that the politics of the Obama era will not be the politics that is necessary in the post-Obama era. But probing beneath that general agreement is where things get more contentious. For many on the left of the party&nbsp;&mdash; and broadly speaking, the Sanders wing of the party&nbsp;&mdash; this isn't some evolutionary development or a general insufficiency of the Obama era. <strong>Obama's incrementalist, cautious policy approach&nbsp;&mdash; deemed "neo-liberal" in its policy particulars&nbsp;&mdash; is what made Trumpism possible, they argue.</strong> So Obama-ism it is not just outdated or insufficient. It is the cause of the present crisis and must be specifically repudiated before the party can move forward.</p> </blockquote> <p>For a long time, one of the favorite tropes of centrist columnists was that Republicans needed a candidate who was fiscally conservative but socially liberal. This was primarily because these columnists themselves were fiscally conservative but socially liberal. Someone,<sup>1</sup> however, pointed out that exactly the opposite approach was more likely to succeed with actual voters: fiscally liberal but socially conservative. And roughly speaking, that's how Trump campaigned.<sup>2</sup> By adding a wall and an immigration ban to the normal conservative stew, he was, in effect, more socially conservative than even a guy like Ted Cruz. Fiscally, however, he was relatively liberal for a Republican. Sure, he yakked about the national debt, but he also promised not to touch Social Security or Medicare; he wanted to tear down Obamacare but was vocal about replacing it with something even better; he wanted a surge in Pentagon spending; he touted a huge infrastructure spending plan; and he promised tax cuts for all.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fiscally_socially_liberal_conservative_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Roughly speaking, the fiscally conservative/socially liberal quadrant describes libertarians, who have spent decades trying to gather a following but haven't succeeded anywhere in the world, as far as I know. It's literally the only quadrant of this matrix that's clearly a loser. Conversely, the basic Democrat and basic Republican quadrants have attracted plenty of followers. The only one that's never really been tried recently is the Donald Trump quadrant.</p> <p>But if it weren't for the hammerlock of the two-party system, it's long been viewed as a very plausible winning combination&mdash;and Trump just proved it could be. But he pulled this off by taking advantage of his rare ability to work around the traditional parties, not because of a backlash to the "neoliberalism" of the Obama era. White working-class voters have been fleeing the Democratic Party for decades, but not because Democrats were too stingy. It was because they were too friendly to gays, too prone to spending welfare money on blacks, and wanted to take their guns away. Donald Trump fixed all that.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> When I say that the DNC race ended amicably, I mean that it was relatively small beer compared to lots of intra-Democratic battles of the past. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd maybe give it a 3. However, I'm willing to change my mind if someone who's been closer to these battles over the past few decades disagrees. How about Ed Kilgore? I'd trust his judgment on this.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Sorry, I don't remember who. It probably came from more than one person.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Whether he governs that way remains to be seen.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Feb 2017 21:23:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 326631 at My Epiphany For the Day <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I have finally figured out who Donald Trump reminds me of. He's a dumb version of Robert Moses.</p> <p>This is a relief. It's been burrowing around in the back of my mind for a long time, but I couldn't quite place who I was thinking of. This should free up some space in my brain for further incisive political comparisons.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Feb 2017 20:29:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 326626 at Trump Wants to Increase Defense Spending by $54 Billion. Can He Do It? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We learned today that President Trump wants to increase defense spending by $54 billion. How much is that, anyway?</p> <p>This is tricky. Normally, you'd just take a look at defense spending over the past decade or so and see how it compares to the trend. However, ever since 9/11, a big chunk of defense spending has been for <a href="" target="_blank">"Overseas Contingency Operations,"</a> known to the rest of us as "wars." You don't want to count that as part of the baseline. On the other hand, the OCO account sometimes acts as a sort of slush fund for ordinary spending, which basically hides increases in baseline defense expenditures.</p> <p>With that caveat in mind, here is baseline defense spending since 2001:<sup>1</sup></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_baseline_defense_budget_authority_2001_2018.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>There are two ways you can look at this:</p> <ul><li>All this is doing is getting defense spending back up to its Obama-era levels prior to the sequester.</li> <li>Yikes! That's a 45 percent increase since 2001.</li> </ul><p>Do we really need to be spending 45 percent more than we did in 2001 for baseline defense? Remember, if we decide to invade Iraq and take their oil, that would get funded separately. The baseline budget is just to support basic military readiness.</p> <p>I guess we can all make up our own minds about this, though I can't say that I've heard any persuasive arguments that the Pentagon is truly suffering too much with a $550 billion budget. The real question is whether Trump's $54 billion increase can get through Congress. Normally, Republicans would pass it via reconciliation and they wouldn't need any Democratic votes. However, this increase would blow past the sequester limits put in place in 2013, and this can only be done via regular order.<sup>2</sup> That means Republicans need at least eight Democratic votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster.</p> <p>Normally, they could probably get that. But if they try to balance this $54 billion increase with a $54 billion cut to the EPA and safety net programs, there are very few Democrats who will play ball. So what's the plan here?</p> <hr align="left" width="30%"><p><sup>1</sup>Historical budget authority <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. OCO levels <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. I adjusted for inflation using the GDP deflator. This seemed more appropriate than consumer inflation measures like CPI and PCE, but it doesn't actually make much difference. They all show pretty similar inflation levels over a short period like this.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Though I admit I can't find an authoritative confirmation of this. I <em>think</em> that any spending above the sequestration levels can be filibustered, but I'd appreciate confirmation from someone knowledgeable about this. The sequester applies only to discretionary spending, and it's possible that Republicans can add $54 billion to defense if they slash $54 billion from mandatory spending elsewhere.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> OK, <a href="" target="_blank">Stan Collender confirms</a> that spending above the sequester caps can filibustered. If Stan says it's true, then it's true. He goes on to say that the only options for Republicans are (a) to put the increase in the OCO fund, or (b) to authorize the spending, trigger the sequester, and then for Trump to ignore the sequester. They're both illegal, but it's hard to tell if anyone cares these days.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Feb 2017 19:01:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 326611 at Meet the New ISIS Plan, Same as the Old ISIS Plan <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>President Trump long ago gave up on the fib he told repeatedly throughout the campaign about having a secret plan to defeat ISIS. There was never any plan, so now it's up to the Pentagon to come up with one. They should have it ready for Trump in a few days, <a href="" target="_blank">and this morning the <em>LA Times</em> gives us a preview:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The month-long strategic review, which Trump requested Jan. 28, is expected to include proposals to <strong>send more U.S. troops to both countries,</strong> deploy more U.S. forces near the front lines, give greater authority to ground commanders, and possibly provide weapons to Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria.</p> <p>....<strong>U.S. analysts said they don&rsquo;t expect the new plan to differ dramatically from the Obama administration&rsquo;s approach,</strong> at least in Iraq.</p> </blockquote> <p>No, of course it won't differ much from Obama's approach. That's because Obama's approach is pretty much the only possible approach unless you're willing to send tens of thousands of front-line troops to Iraq to do the fighting. Nobody, including Trump, is willing to do that, so you're left with only tweaks here and there. A few more advisors, an uptick in bombing runs, small changes in the rules of engagement, etc. That's been true from the start.</p> <p>Trump, of course, will sell his base on the fiction that this plan is a radical toughening up of Obama's feckless approach, and they'll believe him. Eventually it will work, whether or not they make changes to Obama's plan, and then Trump will crow endlessly that this is what happens when you put a man of action in the White House. Sigh.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Feb 2017 17:20:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 326596 at Quote of the Day: Presidenting Is Hard <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG. We are all so screwed.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump: &ldquo;Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.&rdquo;<br><br> Nobody???! <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) <a href="">February 27, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Feb 2017 16:50:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 326591 at WSJ: Republicans Give Up, Admit They Can't Create a Non-Appalling Health Care Plan <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Our story so far: Republicans spent years vilifying Obamacare and promising to repeal and replace it at their first opportunity. Then that opportunity came, but they still couldn't agree on the "replace" part, so they suggested something called repeal-and-delay: repeal Obamacare now, and work on a replacement plan later. But that turned out to be pretty unpopular even among Republicans, who naturally wanted to know what they were going to get before Obamacare was dismantled. So Republican leaders went back to the drawing board and tried to draw up a replacement plan. So far this has been a dismal failure, for the obvious reason that even a mediocre replacement plan will cost a lot of money, and they don't want to spend a lot of money.</p> <p>What to do? The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reports that <a href="" target="_blank">repeal-and-delay is back:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Republican leaders are betting that the only way for Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act is to <strong>set a bill in motion and gamble that fellow GOP lawmakers won&rsquo;t dare to block it.</strong></p> <p>Party leaders are poised to act on the strategy as early as this week, <strong>after it has become obvious they can&rsquo;t craft a proposal that will carry an easy majority in either chamber.</strong> Lawmakers return to Washington Monday after a week of raucous town halls in their districts that amplified pressure on Republicans to forge ahead with their health-care plans.</p> <p>Republican leaders pursuing the &ldquo;now or never&rdquo; approach see it as their best chance to break through irreconcilable demands by Republican centrists and conservatives over issues ranging from tax credits to the future of Medicaid.</p> </blockquote> <p>There you have it. It has "become obvious" they can't craft a decent replacement plan now, so instead they're going to try to convince everyone that they <em>can</em> craft a replacement plan later. This is obvious nonsense, but they're just going to bull ahead and dare anyone to stop them.</p> <p>This is extremely high-risk-high-reward. First of all, they might just lose. All it takes is three defections in the Senate. Second, they can't repeal everything, and a partial repeal will send the individual insurance market into chaos. Third, President Trump has already gone on record opposing this strategy, and he's not a guy who likes to publicly back down. And fourth, they're leaving themselves open for the mother of all Democratic attacks. I don't think Democrats are nearly as divided as the press would have us believe, but if Republicans go ahead with this plan it will unite the party instantly. Politically, it would be a godsend for Democrats.</p> <p>The desperation Republicans are showing here is remarkable. They are all but admitting that they flatly can't pass a health care plan that's worth the paper it's printed on. This is not an auspicious start to their plan to show the country how great things can be if they'd just put the GOP in charge once and for all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Feb 2017 16:14:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 326586 at The Enduring Mystery of Japan's Economy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> writes today about <a href="" target="_blank">Japan's stagnant economy and persistent deflation:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>During Japan&rsquo;s go-go 1980s, Hiromi Shibata once blew a month&rsquo;s salary on a cashmere coat, wore it a few times, then retired it. <strong>Today, her daughter&rsquo;s idea of a shopping spree is scrounging through her mom&rsquo;s closet in Shizuoka, a provincial capital.</strong></p> <p>....The U.S. appears to be leading other parts of the globe out of an extended era where central banks relied heavily on low and negative interest rates and stimulus to jump-start growth and keep prices from falling....<strong>Japan remains definitively stuck, despite a long and aggressive experiment with ultralow rates.</strong> A quarter-century after its property bubble burst, a penny-pinching generation has come of age knowing only economic malaise, stagnant wages and deflation&mdash;a condition where prices fall instead of rise.</p> <p>....<strong>Since then, annual growth has averaged less than 1% amid periodic recessions.</strong> Prices began falling in the late 1990s....Many economists believed the Bank of Japan&rsquo;s 2013 stimulus would be enough to jolt the nation out of its downward spiral of weak growth and falling prices....Some economists contend the government should try even more fiscal stimulus and monetary easing. Others argue the stimulus has already saddled Japan with so much debt&mdash;now 230% of gross domestic product&mdash;that it could end in an economic collapse.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's true that Japan has suffered through two decades of low growth:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gdp_usa_japan_1994_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>But there's way more to this story. Obviously, the bigger your population, the bigger your GDP. The fact that the Russia has a bigger GDP than Switzerland doesn't mean it has a better economy. It just means it's bigger. The key metric to judge whether an economy is in good shape is GDP per working-age adult, since that tells you how productive your workers are. So let's look at that:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_japan_gdp_per_working_age_1994_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Despite its persistently low inflation, Japan's economy is doing fine. Their GDP per working-age adult is actually higher than ours. So why are they growing so much more slowly than us? It's just simple demographics:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_japan_working_age_population.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Japan is aging fast. Its working-age population peaked in 1997 and has been declining ever since. Fewer workers means a lower GDP even if those workers are as productive as anyone in the world. Now put all this together, and here's what you get:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_japan_gdp_per_capita_1994_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>This is GDP per capita. That is, the amount of stuff that Japan produces for each person in the country. Over the past two decades it's grown 20 percent. And aside from the Great Recession, that growth has been pretty steady. It's not declining. It's not stagnating.</p> <p>Under the circumstances, Japan is doing fine. Each of their workers is as productive as ours, and their productivity has actually grown a little <em>faster</em> than ours. But there's only so much you can do when your population is declining. Given the demographic realities, Japan is probably doing about as well as they could.</p> <p>There are two things I take away from this. First, there's not much the Bank of Japan can do to stimulate their economy. It's already running pretty well. Second, despite this, Japan <em>is</em> suffering from persistent deflation. Why? If their economy is productive and growing, deflation shouldn't be any more of a problem for them than it is for us. Somehow, though, the very fact of a declining working-age population&mdash;and, since 2011, a declining overall population&mdash;seems to be driving deflation. This is very mysterious, especially since Japan's deflation has persisted even in the face of massive BOJ efforts that, according to conventional economics, should have restored normal levels of inflation.</p> <p>So why didn't it? Is it really a consequence of demographic decline? Or is it something else?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Feb 2017 14:50:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 326571 at The President Is Determined to Be Presidential <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>New York Times</em> tells us about <a href="" target="_blank">President Trump's TV strategy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One West Wing official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about strategy, said the administration craved the split-screen television images of Mr. Trump at round-table discussions with business executives every few days on one side, and the vehement protesters of his administration on the other.</p> </blockquote> <p>This sounds right. Trump seems to believe that sitting around a table with powerful business executives is "presidential." It's basically a child's idea of what a president looks like. So that's what he does. I don't think it's even cynical image manipulation on his part. He really does think this is what makes a president presidential.</p> <p>Meanwhile, back in the real world, we have this:</p> <blockquote> <p>A day before delivering a high-stakes address on Tuesday to a joint session of Congress, Mr. Trump will demand a budget with <strong>tens of billions of dollars in reductions to the Environmental Protection Agency</strong> and State Department, according to four senior administration officials with direct knowledge of the plan. <strong>Social safety net programs, aside from the big entitlement programs for retirees, would also be hit hard.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is obviously the work of Mike Pence and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney more than it is of Trump himself, but Trump will nonetheless be the master showman selling this plan. It's also more symbolic than anything else, but it's symbolism that matters since it means Trump is signaling that he's willing to go along with Paul Ryan's feverish devotion to cutting spending on the poor. We already know that Trump is also eager to cut taxes on the rich, so it appears he and Ryan are entirely on the same page. The next few months promise to be bloody.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 27 Feb 2017 08:06:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 326576 at The Dead Pool - 26 February 2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Man of the people that he is, Donald Trump likes to pick rich guys for high-level positions in his administration. Unfortunately, <a href="" target="_blank">that poses a problem:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Donald Trump&rsquo;s nominee for Navy secretary, investor Philip Bilden, is expected to withdraw from consideration, sources familiar with the decision told <em>Politico</em>, becoming the second Pentagon pick unable to untangle their financial investments in the vetting process....Like billionaire investment banker Vincent Viola, who withdraw his nomination to be secretary of the Army earlier this month, Bilden ran into too many challenges during a review by the Office of Government Ethics to avoid potential conflicts of interest, the sources said.</p> </blockquote> <p>To become Secretary of State, maybe all this divesting of huge fortunes is worth it. But Navy Secretary? Probably not.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dead_pool_2017_02_26_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Feb 2017 23:47:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 326561 at Computers Have Revolutionized Gerrymandering. The Supreme Court Should Take Notice. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Generally speaking, the Supreme Court is reluctant to weigh in on gerrymandering cases. There are exceptions, primarily where race is a factor, but for the most part they take the view that legislative redistricting is a political question, not a legal one. If a majority party gerrymanders a state to improve its chances in subsequent elections, that's just politics red in tooth and claw.</p> <p>But there's another reason that courts shy away from gerrymandering cases: there's no obvious judicial standard to use. If they <em>did</em> rule that gerrymandering was illegal or unconstitutional, they'd have to provide some kind of guidance about what's acceptable and what's not. But what would that be? Some weird topographical algorithm? Something relating partisan breakdowns in individual districts to the overall partisan breakdown of the state? Neither of these would work, and the lack of an easily justiciable rule means it's unlikely the Supreme Court would ban gerrymandering even if it did decide it was a legal issue.</p> <p>But it turns out there <em>is</em> a rule that can be applied easily and fairly. I've had this in an open tab for weeks, and it's time to either close the tab or share the insight. <a href="" target="_blank">So here it is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There is a perfectly good scientific standard for determining whether there is partisan gerrymandering. <strong>This is the &ldquo;partisan symmetry&rdquo; measure</strong> developed by Andrew Gelman and Gary King. Essentially, symmetry requires that a specific share of the popular vote (say, 60 percent) would translate into the same number of congressional seats, regardless of which party won that share of the vote. <strong>For instance, if winning 60 percent of the popular vote in a state gives the Republican Party 65 percent of the congressional seats, then the Democratic Party should also win 65 percent of the seats if it wins 60 percent of the vote.</strong></p> <p>....But as Justice Scalia pointed out in his <em>Vieth</em> opinion, parties do not have a right to equal representation, any more than any other social group. It is only individual voters who have a right to equal treatment under the 14th Amendment and Article 1 of the Constitution....<strong>In our book, we show that the partisan symmetry standard can be logically derived from the equal treatment of individual voters,</strong> based on recent results in social choice theory. In partisan elections, you cannot treat all individual voters equally without treating all parties equally. This means that the party that gets more votes must get more seats. This sounds obvious, but it is precisely what the Supreme Court did not accept in the Vieth case. <strong>We show &mdash; line by mathematical line &mdash; that this logic is inescapable.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>We live in an era of brute-force, computer-driven gerrymandering, which produces results like this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_north_carolina_gerrymandering_2010_2012_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>But if gerrymandering is now a brute-force, computer-driven activity, the best answer is a brute-force computer-driven rule. A few decades ago, applying the partisan symmetry rule would have been all but impossible, but today it's easy. It's also something that can be easily defined, and is therefore pretty easily managed by the courts.</p> <p>In the past, gerrymandering was a problem, but it was a modest one. Computers have changed all that. Anyone can now produce a map gerrymandered beyond anyone's imagination as recently as 30 years ago. That makes it a much bigger problem and a much bigger source of electoral unfairness. The Supreme Court will have a chance to revisit the issue later this year, and they should think very hard about how technology has affected the ancient art of gerrymandering.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Feb 2017 20:20:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 326556 at Here's What an "Empowered" Border Agency Looks Like <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>These three things all happened in the course of the past month:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Muhammad Ali Jr. detained at airport, questioned about his religion. Born in the USA. <a href=""></a> <a href="">@lrozen</a> <a href="">@jljacobson</a></p> &mdash; Gershom Gorenberg (@GershomG) <a href="">February 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Mem Fox: "I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, with so many insults..." <a href=""></a> <a href="">#auspol</a> <a href="">#ANSUSExit</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; THE Russell (@THE_Russell) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">French historian (and professor at Columbia and Sorbonne) detained 10hrs at airport upon arrival in U.S. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; David Lebovitz (@davidlebovitz) <a href="">February 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Even if I granted that mistakes can happen and maybe that's all this is, here's the part I've never understood. Whenever we hear stories like these, there's one thing that's constant: the border agents act like complete assholes. Why? Even if you think someone is here on the wrong visa or an expired visa or whatnot, why treat them like shit? What does that buy you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Feb 2017 17:42:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 326551 at Donald Trump Obliterates the Deficit! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Behold the echo chamber. Here is Gateway Pundit two days ago:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gateway_pundit_deficit.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Here is Herman Cain this morning:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">On FOX &amp; Friends Herman Cain just said that the media isn't telling you that Trump reduced the debt $12b in his 1st month.</p> &mdash; David S. Bernstein (@dbernstein) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Here is Donald Trump shortly afterward:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The strangest thing about this is's true. I'm not really used to that from Trump. I guess accidents do happen, though.</p> <p>Now, it's also meaningless, and not just because Trump hasn't actually done anything yet. The deficit bounces up and down monthly depending on how much the government happens to spend and how much tax revenue it takes in. For example, take a look at the following chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_deficit_2009_2017.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The month of April is shown in blue. Let's make that into its own chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_deficit_april_2009_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Impressive! During Obama's presidency, he turned around America's finances. We went from a deficit of $80 billion in 2010 to a surplus of over $100 billion in his final year. Why didn't the mainstream media ever report <em>that</em>?</p> <p>Because who cares, that's why. You know what happens in April? Everyone pays their taxes. Does that mean the deficit is in great shape every April? Of course not. That just happens to be when a lot of the money comes in.</p> <p>But it doesn't matter. As I've mentioned before, Trump's tweets are for for his fans, not for us. And his fans now think that in his <em>very first month</em> Trump has erased the deficit. The guy promised action, and by God, he's delivered. It just goes to show that all this deficit stuff wasn't really so hard to solve after all. It just needed a man of action to go in and straighten things out.</p> <p>Not that the FAKE NEWS media will ever admit that, of course.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Feb 2017 00:46:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 326536 at Tom Perez Wins Race for DNC Chair <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The election for DNC chair is over, and Tom Perez won:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">What do you call it when you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results? Oh yeah: the Democratic Party. <a href="">#DNCChair</a></p> &mdash; Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Sigh. This is so ridiculous. I know that Keith Ellison was the "Bernie guy" and Perez was the "Obama/Hillary guy," but it's nuts that this got turned into some kind of ideological showdown. Not only are Ellison and Perez about equally progressive, but DNC chair isn't a policy position anyway. It's a fundraising and managerial position. I didn't really care one way or the other between the two because I have no idea which of them is a better manager and fundraiser.</p> <p>In any case, thank goodness that Ellison and Perez themselves are grownups. Perez, in what was obviously a prearranged move, immediately offered Ellison the deputy chair job, and Ellison accepted:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Perez and Ellison traded lapel pins... <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>This strikes me as the best of all outcomes. Democrats get to keep Ellison in Congress, and hopefully Perez will give him some real authority at the DNC. Better two high-profile guys there than one.</p> <p>Besides, national-level purity contests are stupid. Democrats are fine at the national level. It's every other level that they suck at. Anybody who spends any time or energy continuing to fight over some national standard of progressiveness at the DNC is just wasting everyone's time. From a party standpoint, state and local races are all that matter for the next couple of years.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Feb 2017 23:24:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 326531 at Obamacare Approval Really Has Gone Up, Especially Among Democrats and Independents <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">A month ago</a> I took a look at Obamacare approval levels and wasn't too impressed at the spike since Trump's election. The increase was pretty small, and it was hard to tell if it was sustainable. <a href="!minpct=25&amp;maxpct=60&amp;mindate=2016-07-01&amp;maxdate=2017-02-25&amp;smoothing=less&amp;showpoints=yes&amp;showsplines=yes&amp;hiddenpollsters=&amp;hiddensubpops=&amp;partisanship=S,P,N&amp;parties=D,R,I,N&amp;selected=favor,oppose&amp;fudge=0.8" target="_blank">So let's take another look:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_obamacare_approval_2017_02_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I don't usually look at the "Less Smoothing" version of Pollster's charts, but I'm doing it this time to try and get a sense of what's been happening recently. This time, it really does look like there's been a genuine change since Election Day, somewhere in the range of 5-6 points. Both <a href="" target="_blank">Kaiser</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Pew</a>, which have conducted high-quality tracking polls for a long time, show the same thing. Pew breaks down the results by party, and it turns out the increase is due almost entirely to Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_obamacare_democrats_independents_2017_02_23.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>In the past year, approval levels have increased 7 points among Democrats and 14 points among independents. Breaking this down further, approval has spiked a whopping 20 points among Democratic-leaning independents. By contrast Republican-leaning independents are up only slightly and Republicans haven't budged even a single point.</p> <p>In other words, now that Obamacare is under serious attacks, more lefties are finally deciding it's worth defending after all. Finally.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Feb 2017 21:14:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 326526 at There's Only One Big Thing That Matters About the Upcoming Republican Health Care Plan <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Politico</em> has gotten its hands on a leaked copy of a Republican health care plan. It's a discussion draft of a bill that's a couple of weeks old, but it still provides a good idea of what Republicans are thinking these days. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's my summary of Sarah Kliff's summary:</a></p> <ul><li><strong>Good news:</strong> Compared to previous plans, it's better on pre-existing conditions; more generous in its funding of high-risk pools; generally cheaper for young people; and includes bigger tax credits than earlier Republican plans.</li> <li><strong>Neutral news:</strong> Loosens the list of "essential" benefits for all plans. This is generally better for healthy people and worse for sick people.</li> <li><strong>Bad news:</strong> Eliminates Medicaid expansion; cuts Medicaid funding; is terrible for the poor; and is far more expensive for older workers.</li> </ul><p>There's other stuff (all Obamacare taxes are repealed, for example, which is great news for the rich), but I submit to you that these are pesky details. There's really only one big thing that matters: how much the program costs.</p> <p>Obamacare spends roughly $100 billion per year on subsidies to make health coverage affordable for the poor, and even at that premiums are too high for many people and deductibles are too high for almost everyone. Handwaving aside, there's no way to produce a plan that's even remotely useful with any less funding than Obamacare. That's just reality.</p> <p>If the funding is sufficient, we can all have a good time arguing over continuous coverage penalties, age ratios, essential benefits, and all that. If the funding is insufficient, it's all just whistling in the wind.</p> <p>Rumor has it that an outline of this plan was already submitted to the Congressional Budget Office, and the score they returned was so horrific that it never saw the light of day. So when Republicans do finally release a bill and a CBO score, just turn immediately to the section that estimates the ten-year cost. If it's substantially less than a trillion dollars, you can skip the rest.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:38:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 326506 at Leaked DHS Doc Says Trump's Seven Countries Aren't Very Dangerous <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Remember those seven countries that President Trump singled out for a travel ban? He asked the Department of Homeland Security to check them out and explain why they deserved to be on a no-entry list. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what he got:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dhs_seven_countries_risk_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Oops. "Rarely implicated" means a grand total of six people out of 82. That's one per year since 2011. And not one terrorist plot per year, either. One "terrorism related offense" per year. In many of these cases, it's probably a material support charge for sending a hundred bucks to some warlord back home.</p> <p>This comes via the AP, <a href="" target="_blank">which got this comment:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen on Friday did not dispute the report's authenticity, but said it was not a final comprehensive review of the government's intelligence.</p> <p>"While DHS was asked to draft a comprehensive report on this issue, the document you're referencing was <strong>commentary from a single intelligence source versus an official, robust document with thorough interagency sourcing,</strong>" Christensen said. "The ... report does not include data from other intelligence community sources. It is incomplete."</p> </blockquote> <p>I have a feeling that once the "interagency sourcing" is finished, there might be a different spin on these numbers. This is very definitely not what the boss wants to hear.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:07:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 326501 at Friday Cat Blogging - 24 February 2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The weather has been lovely this week, and Hilbert is spending lots of quality time up on the patio cover. He's gotten pretty adept at scooting up and down the access tree, but he still whines a lot when he wants to come down, hoping that someone will come out and lift him off. I used to fall for this until the third or fourth time that he came over to me and then scampered off as soon as I put up my hands. Ha ha ha. Fooled the human again.</p> <p>Hilbert is also anxious for everyone to know that <em>he</em> has <a href="" target="_blank">a college named after him too.</a> Also a local <a href="" target="_blank">art museum.</a> Plus a <a href="" target="_blank">summer camp</a>, a <a href="" target="_blank">village in Wisconsin</a> and its accompanying <a href="" target="_blank">high school</a>, a <a href="" target="_blank">lake</a>, and a <a href="" target="_blank">theater</a>. So there.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2017_02_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 20:05:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 326471 at It's Happening—News Groups Are Being Barred From White House Press Briefings <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From CNN:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>CNN and other news organizations were blocked Friday from a White House press briefing</strong>....The <em>New York Times</em>, the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, and <em>Politico</em> were also excluded from the meeting, which is known as a gaggle and is less formal than the televised Q-and-A session in the White House briefing room.</p> <p>The Associated Press and <em>Time</em> magazine boycotted the briefing because of how it was handled. The White House Correspondents Association is protesting.</p> <p>The conservative media organizations <em>Breitbart News</em>, <em>The Washington Times</em> and One America News Network were allowed in.</p> </blockquote> <p>A few days ago, there was some talk about whether Trump would slow-walk federal disaster relief for the Oroville Dam area. As it turned out, <a href="" target="_blank">he didn't,</a> but the possibility was taken seriously for a while.</p> <p>This is what makes the Trump presidency so unpredictable. No modern president would even think of taking revenge on a state that voted against him by refusing disaster aid. No modern president would dream of evicting news outlets from a press briefing because they had criticized him. No modern president would lie about easily checkable facts on a routine basis. No modern president would loudly cite every positive bit of economic news as a personal triumph. No modern president since Nixon would casually ask the FBI to take its side in an ongoing investigation.</p> <p>It's not that modern presidents <em>couldn't</em> do these things. They just didn't. And we all came to assume that none of them would. The technical machinery of government&mdash;collecting data, hiring staffers, working by the rules&mdash;would be left alone to operate in a professional and impartial way. But that's no longer something we can assume.</p> <p>Trump is going to find lots of things like this. Things that nobody ever thought of before, but aren't illegal. Or maybe just slightly illegal. And he's going to use them to demagogue his enemies and take revenge on people who badmouth him. Fasten your seat belts.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 19:54:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 326476 at Who's the Deporter-in-Chief? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Bryan Caplan:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&nbsp;U.S. immigration law&nbsp;&mdash; and U.S. immigration statistics&nbsp;&mdash; makes a big distinction between full-blown deportations ("Removals") and "voluntarily" returning home under the threat of full-blown deportation ("Returns").</p> <p>The distinction is not entirely cosmetic. If you re-enter after Removal, you face a serious risk of federal jail time if you're caught. If you re-enter after a mere Return, you generally don't. But Return is still almost as bad as Removal, since both exile you from the country where you prefer to reside. Since I've previously suggested that we should count each Return as 85% of a Removal, I've constructed a "Deportation Index" equal to Removals + .85*Returns to capture the substance of U.S. immigration policy. Check out the numbers:</p> </blockquote> <p>No, no, no. I love ideas like this, but it demands a visual presentation. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_caplan_deportations_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Under Obama, removals were much higher than any other president. However, there were far fewer returns. Thus, "deportations" were higher than any other president, but the total number of people who were actually sent home was lower than any other president.</p> <p>The next step is to calculate this as a percentage of the number of illegal immigrants in the country each year. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_caplan_deportations_percent_population.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>This is approximate, since the total population of illegal immigrants is a little fuzzy before 2000. But it's close enough. Obama still has a higher removal rate and a lower index rate than any other president, but the winner for the title of Deporter-in-Chief is...Ronald Reagan. Every president since then has been successively more tolerant of a large undocumented population.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 18:45:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 326466 at Here's a Brief Primer On Where to Get Good Data <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A reader emails to ask me where I get my data:</p> <blockquote> <p>I'm curious as to what your process is....Do you usually start with Google? LexisNexis? Something else? You seem to have a preference for citing public sources, but how often do you start with a private aggregator like LexisNexis, and then find a public link from that? I guess what I'm asking with that one is, how much does it help to have access to private sources like LexisNexis? Is it instrumental in this kind of thing, or just nice to have, or not really that big of a deal?</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't have access to any private sources. I just have a computer and a web browser. That's the hub of my data-driven empire.</p> <p>But what <em>are</em> my favorite sources? Maybe some people would be interested. And it would be kind of fun to list them. So here they are.</p> <p><u><strong>IMPORTANT WARNING:</strong></u> Knowing where to find data is very helpful. However, what's <em>really</em> important is knowing which data is appropriate to your purposes. You have to develop a feel for which sources are trustworthy. You have to know which data you need. (GDP? Real GDP? GDP per capita? GDP at purchasing power parity?) Sometimes you have to be creative. But the bottom line is that access to data doesn't do any good unless you understand it first. There are no shortcuts to that. That said, here are the sources I use most often. Since I spend a lot of time writing about the economy, this list is very top heavy with economic data sites.</p> <ul><li><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>FRED</strong></a> is by far my most frequently used source. It's run by the St. Louis Fed, and it aggregates tens of thousands of economic data series in a single place. It's pretty flexible, it produces nice charts, and it lets you download the data to Excel so you can play with it yourself. If you're looking for US economic data, it's usually your first stop. It's got some overseas economic data too.<img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fred_gdp_china.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"> &nbsp;</li> <li>The <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Bureau of Economic Analysis</strong></a> and the <strong><a href="" target="_blank">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a></strong> are also good sources. Most of their data is in FRED, but not all of it. The <a href="" target="_blank">BLS jobs report</a> is released on the first Friday of every month, along with all supporting data. The BEA's <a href="" target="_blank">GDP report</a> is released each quarter on the last Friday of the following month (i.e. the end of April for the Q1 report). The BEA release calendar is <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. The BLS release calendar is <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>The Census Bureau collects historical data on <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>household income</strong></a> that isn't available on FRED. Ditto for <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>trade data,</strong></a> though it's clunky and frustrating to use. I really wish the trade data was presented more cleanly and made available to FRED.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>The <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Federal Reserve</strong></a> has a ton of data, some available on FRED but some not. Their <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Flow of Funds</strong></a> report is basically a balance sheet for the United States.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>For US crime statistics, go to the FBI's <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Uniform Crime Reports.</strong></a> Their data delivery tool provides a lot of flexibility, allowing you to get data for specific crimes, specific localities, and specific time periods. Unfortunately, it's usually two years behind the latest release, so you have to wade through the most recent <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>PDF reports</strong></a> if you want current data. If you need a complete series, start with the data tool and then fill in the most recent couple of years by hand from the relevant reports.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>I almost hate to mention the <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>OECD data portal</strong></a> because it's such a pain to use. However, it's gotten better, and it's your first stop for data about other countries. They only cover OECD countries, of course, which basically means <a href="" target="_blank">the 35 richest countries in the world.</a> The OECD tries hard to present uniform data for all countries, but that's a difficult task. When comparing countries, it's worth being even more careful than usual about what data you use and how different countries account for different things.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Needless to say, I use Google a lot too. Obviously you need to have some idea of what you're looking for so you can use the right search terms, and often you have to iterate. That is, do a search, find a word or a reference that seems close to what you want, do another search using that word, rinse and repeat. You'll usually get to something reliable and relevant eventually. Tips for best results: use <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Google Advanced Search.</strong></a> Make use of all its fields. Go to <a href="" target="_blank">Settings</a> and set your results to 50 or 100 per page. After you get results, click on Tools to restrict your search to a specific time period.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>There are also some miscellaneous sites that aren't technically data portals but still provide a lot of useful information. <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>EIA</strong></a> has good energy data. The White House Office of Management and Budget has tons of historical budget data, but the Trump administration doesn't have a useful OMB site yet. Go to the archived <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Obama OMB site</strong></a> instead. Google's <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Ngram viewer</strong></a> has <a href="" target="_blank">pitfalls</a>, but it's a lot of fun for tracking the rise and fall of words and phrases. The <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Tax Policy Center</strong></a> has loads of useful data on taxes. The <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</strong></a> has a terrible name but lots of good analysis. Ditto for the <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Economic Policy Institute.</strong></a> Both are left-wing, so keep that in mind. <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Gallup</strong></a> has lots of good poll data going back a long way, and <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Pollster</strong></a> does a good job of poll aggregation. <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Wikipedia</strong></a> is also great. It's a genuinely useful site if you want a brief primer on something or other, and every article has lots of links to its sources. I always check its data back to the primary source, but it often points me in a direction I hadn't considered.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Finally, this isn't data per se, but the site I probably use the most often is <a href="" target="_blank"><strong></strong></a> I head over there something like 20 or 30 times a day. It's fantastically better than any printed thesaurus because you can quickly hyperlink through synonyms until you find just the right one. I use it so much that I have it set up as one of the standard searches in my browser's address bar.</li> </ul><p>I'm probably forgetting a few places that I use a lot. I'll update this post if any come to mind.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:46:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 326461 at Bannon Gives Team Trump a New Rallying Cry: "Deconstruct the Administrative State" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Steve Bannon says that President Trump appointed all his cabinet members with a common goal: "deconstruction of the administrative state." <a href="" target="_blank">Meaning what?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Meaning the system of <strong>taxes, regulations and trade pacts</strong> that the president says have stymied economic growth and <strong>infringed upon U.S. sovereignty.</strong> Bannon says that the post-World War II political and economic consensus is failing and should be replaced with a system that empowers ordinary people over coastal elites and international institutions.</p> <p>At the core, Bannon said in his remarks, is a belief that &ldquo;we&rsquo;re a nation with an economy &mdash; not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders, <strong>but we are a nation with a culture and a reason for being.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh. Bannon is supposedly the brains behind the Trump operation, but this still sounds like gibberish to me. Combined with his calls for increased "sovereignty," "economic nationalism," and an epic twilight battle against Arabs for the soul of humanity, I assume this is just a politically correct phrase that describes his personal jihad against non-Christianity without quite saying so. In particular, Bannon's "deconstruction" appears to encompass a war against Muslims, secular humanists, liberal Catholics, and maybe Jews. But it's so crude to say that out loud, isn't it?</p> <p>In any case, I eagerly await huge crowds of Trump supporters waving signs that say "Deconstruct the Administrative State!!!" What will the competing signs say?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:24:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 326446 at White House Offers Excuse For Improper Behavior: The FBI Started It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The White House has an official excuse for asking the FBI to debunk a <em>New York Times</em> story about Trump campaign aides having frequent contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Here it is: They started it. That is, the FBI approached them, not the other way around.</p> <p>I guess that's appropriate for the Trump administration, which is best thought of as an overgrown kindergartner. However, <a href="" target="_blank">First Read isn't sure this defense does them any favors:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This White House explanation raises the question: <strong>So what's worse &mdash; the White House asking the FBI to publicly knock down a story, or the FBI pulling aside a top White House official to comment on the big story of the day?</strong> Just ask yourself: If you substituted Clinton's and Lynch's names for Priebus' and McCabe's, would the congressional hearings already be scheduled?</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. And if an FBI official really did pull aside Reince Priebus to whisper in his ear that the <em>Times</em> story was wrong, that still suggests an improper relationship between the FBI and the White House. In any case, First Read goes on to suggest that the <em>Times</em> wasn't all that wrong anyway. Here is Ken Dilanian:</p> <blockquote> <p>"NBC News was told by law enforcement and intelligence sources that the NYT story WAS wrong &mdash; in its use of the term 'Russian intelligence officials.' <strong>Our sources say there were contacts with Russians, but that the US hasn't confirmed they work for spy agencies.</strong> We were also told CNN's description of Trump aides being in 'constant touch' with Russians was overstated. However, our sources did tell us that <strong>intelligence intercepts picked up contacts among Trump aides and Russians during the campaign.</strong>"</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, the <em>Times</em> may have different sources telling them different things. One way or another, it appears that Trump aides were in periodic contact with Russian officials during the campaign, and the only questions are: (a) were they intelligence officials? and (b) how often did they talk? Considering Trump's bizarre fixation on Vladimir Putin and his administration's obvious panic over this story, a good guess is that there really is something there they want to keep under wraps.</p> <p>And just for a final comical effect, after asking the FBI to leak information to the press, Trump himself then took to Twitter to complain about the FBI being unable to stop leaks:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security "leakers" that have permeated our government for a long time. They can't even......</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">February 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">February 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Do you laugh or cry? We're going to be asking ourselves that a lot, I think. Only 204 weeks to go.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:35:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 326441 at