Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2013/01/not-everyone-living-longer%C2%A0%E2%80%A6 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Driverless Taxis By 2017? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/driverless-taxis-2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's the latest on the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/gm-lyft-to-test-self-driving-electric-taxis-1462460094" target="_blank">driverless car front:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>General Motors Co. and Lyft Inc. within a year will begin testing a fleet of self-driving Chevrolet Bolt electric taxis on public roads, a move central to the companies&rsquo; joint efforts to challenge Silicon Valley giants in the battle to reshape the auto industry.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is all in addition to a whole bunch of companies claiming they'll have <a href="http://www.techinsider.io/google-apple-tesla-race-to-develop-self-driving-cars-by-2020-2016-4" target="_blank">fully autonomous vehicles commercially available by 2020.</a> If this really happens, it's impressive as hell. I'm a longtime optimist on artificial intelligence, but even I figured it would take until 2025 for truly driverless cars to become a reality. Will I have to pull in my my prediction of 2040 for full-on strong AI too? Maybe. The next few decades are going to be very interesting indeed.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 06 May 2016 02:21:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 303436 at http://www.motherjones.com Everyone Is Getting Today's Trump Tweet Totally Wrong http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/everyone-getting-todays-trump-tweet-totally-wrong <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I think everyone is badly misinterpreting this tweet from Donald Trump:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Happy <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CincoDeMayo?src=hash">#CincoDeMayo</a>! The best taco bowls are made in Trump Tower Grill. I love Hispanics! <a href="https://t.co/ufoTeQd8yA">https://t.co/ufoTeQd8yA</a> <a href="https://t.co/k01Mc6CuDI">pic.twitter.com/k01Mc6CuDI</a></p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/728297587418247168">May 5, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This is not an awkward and embarrassing outreach to Hispanics. It's not aimed at Hispanics at all. It's aimed at white people. This is the kind of thing that Trump's base&mdash;the white working class&mdash;views as a perfectly sincere appreciation of Mexican culture. It says, "Yes, I want a wall, and yes, I want to deport all the illegal immigrants in the country. But that doesn't mean I hate Mexicans." It's basically an affirmation to Trump's voters that they aren't racists.</p> <p>Plus it gets a ton of attention, and it also induces loads of mockery from overeducated PC liberals who don't understand a compliment when they see one. It's really a genius tweet.</p> <p>Does everyone understand now? Trump is playing this game at a higher level than most of his critics.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 05 May 2016 23:05:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 303421 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Americans Are Pretty Upbeat About the Job Market http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/chart-day-americans-are-pretty-upbeat-about-job-market <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>How do Americans feel about the economy? <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/04/01/americans-views-of-job-availability-among-most-positive-in-last-15-years/" target="_blank">Here is Pew Research:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Americans are now more positive about the job opportunities available to them than they have been since the economic meltdown....<strong>Today&rsquo;s more upbeat views rank among some of the best assessments of the job market in Pew Research Center surveys dating back 15 years.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>There's no significant partisan difference in views of the job market. However, older, poorer, and less-educated folks all report less optimism about employment than younger, richer, and better-educated respondents.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_jobs_available.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 5px 100px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 05 May 2016 21:02:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 303411 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's Why OxyContin Is So Damn Addictive http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/heres-why-oxycontin-so-damn-addictive <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Why has OxyContin become the poster child for opioid abuse? The <em>LA Times</em> has a long investigative piece today which suggests that a big part of the blame should be laid at the feet of Purdue Pharma, the makers of the drug. When OxyContin was launched, it was billed as a painkiller that would last 12 hours&mdash;longer than morphine and other opioids. That 12-hour dosing schedule was critical to its success. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_oxycontin_size.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Without it, Oxy didn't have much benefit. Unfortunately, it turned out that it <a href="http://static.latimes.com/oxycontin-part1/#nt=oft12aH-1la1" target="_blank">wore off sooner for a lot of people:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Experts said that when there are gaps in the effect of a narcotic like OxyContin, patients can suffer body aches, nausea, anxiety and other symptoms of withdrawal. When the agony is relieved by the next dose, it creates a cycle of pain and euphoria that fosters addiction, they said.</p> <p><strong>OxyContin taken at 12-hour intervals could be &ldquo;the perfect recipe for addiction,&rdquo;</strong> said Theodore J. Cicero, a neuropharmacologist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a leading researcher on how opioids affect the brain.</p> <p>Patients in whom the drug doesn&rsquo;t last 12 hours can suffer both a return of their underlying pain and &ldquo;the beginning stages of acute withdrawal,&rdquo; Cicero said. &ldquo;That becomes a very powerful motivator for people to take more drugs.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>But Purdue refused to accept shorter dosing schedules, since that would eliminate its strongest competitive advantage. Instead, they launched a blitz aimed at doctors, telling them to stick with the 12-hour dosing but to prescribe larger amounts. Sometimes this worked and sometimes it didn't, and when it didn't it increased the chances of addiction:</p> <blockquote> <p>In the real world practice of medicine, some doctors turned away from OxyContin entirely. San Francisco public health clinics stopped dispensing the painkiller in 2005, based in part on feedback from patients who said it wore off after eight hours. <strong>The clinics switched to generic morphine, which has a similar duration and costs a lot less.</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;What I had come to see was the lack of evidence that it was any better than morphine,&rdquo; Dr. Mitchell Katz, then head of the San Francisco public health department, said in an interview.</p> </blockquote> <p>The whole piece is worth a read. Purdue has known from the start that 12-hour dosing didn't work for a significant number of patients, but they relentlessly focused their marketing in that direction anyway. Why? Because without it, Oxy wouldn't be a moneymaker. As for the danger this posed, that was mostly suppressed by keeping documents under seal in court cases "in order to protect trade secrets." Welcome to the American pharmaceutical industry.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 05 May 2016 19:23:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 303386 at http://www.motherjones.com I Have a Terrific Deal On Mandatory Arbitration Clauses For You http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/i-have-terrific-deal-mandatory-arbitration-clauses-you <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The CFPB has proposed a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2016/05/05/business/05reuters-usa-arbitration.html" target="_blank">new rule</a> that would prevent big companies from forcing their customers to accept mandatory arbitration in place of an actual trial in an actual court. <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/435010/cfpb-moves-ban-arbitration-better-lawyer" target="_blank">Iain Murray is unhappy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Like most of the CFPB&rsquo;s rules, this may sound good at first hearing. In fact, it will be a disaster for the average consumer who enters into contracts like credit-card or mobile-phone service agreements....<strong>The inefficiency of the legal system has to be budgeted for, and so without arbitration, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_arbitration.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">fees will go up and some people just won&rsquo;t be offered a service at all.</strong></p> <p>....Those won&rsquo;t be the only ways the consumer will suffer&nbsp;&mdash; those who are currently &ldquo;denied their day in court&rdquo; will as well. Because arbitration services are much cheaper, companies that use them generally pay all the fees for the consumer as well as their own. That&rsquo;s not the case in court, where the consumer bears a considerable cost. If you are lucky enough to get a contract after this rule goes into effect, you&rsquo;d better budget something for your day in court, because you&rsquo;re going to have to lawyer up. Of course, there&rsquo;s always the chance that you&rsquo;ll be asked to participate in a class action lawsuit, which this rule is primarily designed to facilitate.</p> </blockquote> <p>Fair enough. As it turns out, corporations all offered their services quite widely back in the dark ages before arbitration clauses, but it's true that arbitration does indeed have some benefits. Still, we're all free marketeers around here who believe in contracts freely arrived at without undue coercion. Right? So here's what I propose: my bank and my cell phone company should offer me the choice of accepting arbitration or not when I first sign up. If I accept, they offer me a discount. The CFPB's only role will be to ensure that the discount is reasonably in line with the actual cost savings from arbitration. Deal?</p> <p>No? I guess there must be something else going on. I wonder what?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 05 May 2016 16:30:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 303366 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Prepares to Tap His "Expansive Personal Rolodex" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/trump-prepares-tap-his-expansive-personal-rolodex <!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.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-wont-self-fund-general-election-campaign-1462399502" target="_blank">This comes as no surprise, but...</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Facing a prospective tab of more than $1 billion to finance a general-election run for the White House, <strong>Donald Trump reversed course Wednesday and said he would actively raise money</strong> to ensure his campaign has the resources to compete with Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s fundraising juggernaut....&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll be putting up money, but won&rsquo;t be completely self-funding,&rdquo; the presumptive Republican nominee said in an interview Wednesday....<strong>The campaign will tap his expansive personal Rolodex</strong> and a new base of supporters who aren&rsquo;t on party rolls, two Trump advisers said.</p> <p>The new plan represents a shift for Mr. Trump, who has for months portrayed his Republican opponents as &ldquo;puppets&rdquo; for relying on super PACs and taking contributions from wealthy donors that he said came with strings attached.</p> </blockquote> <p>Needless to say, this about-face will have no effect. Trump has long made it clear that he doesn't really mean anything he says, and his supporters are OK with this. If he attacks you, it's only because he wants to win. He'll take it back once you drop out. If he offends an important constituency on a policy issue, he explains that he was just providing "an answer." Nobody should have taken it seriously. If he's caught in an outright lie, he simply denies ever having made the offending statement&mdash;even if he made it just yesterday and even if it's on tape.</p> <p>This is all fine. His supporters accept that this kind of behavior is not just OK, but positively admirable. After all, once he wins he's going to deploy this kind of combat on their behalf. Right?</p> <p>You betcha.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 05 May 2016 15:50:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 303361 at http://www.motherjones.com Will the 2016 Campaign Be All About Race? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/will-2016-campaign-be-all-about-race <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Greg Sargent says that Donald Trump <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/05/05/this-brutal-new-ad-shows-the-shredding-machine-that-awaits-trump/" target="_blank">is in for a rough time:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The general election will differ from the primaries in an important sense: <strong>Unlike Republicans, Democrats will not be constrained from brutally unmasking the truly wretched nature of his racial appeals.</strong> Trump&rsquo;s GOP rivals had to treat his xenophobia, bigotry, and demagoguery with kid gloves, because many Republican voters agreed with his vows to ban Muslims and carry out mass deportations. But the broader general electorate does not agree with those things. Indeed, many voters that populate key general election constituencies are likely horrified by them. As a result, Democrats will be able to prosecute Trump mercilessly in ways his GOP rivals simply could not &mdash; with a relentless, non-diluted, non-euphemistic focus on his white nationalism.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm a little less sure about this. Highlighting Trump's racial appeals will help Hillary among liberals, but those are votes she's going to get anyway. The question is whether it will help her among centrist folks who are undecided, and I'm less sure about that. I suppose we'd need some polling data to get a clearer picture of this, but I suspect there are plenty of people in the middle who favor building a wall; are suspicious of Muslim immigrants; and really hate it when support for those things is called racist. Hillary doesn't have to tread as lightly as Trump's Republican opponents, but she might still have to be careful on this score.</p> <p>Luckily, there are plenty of other avenues to attack Trump. Unluckily, there are plenty of avenues for Trump to attack Hillary too. I expect a pretty brutal campaign. Here's the opening salvo:</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="254" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/8DbsCgwVVIc?start=0" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 90px;" width="450"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 05 May 2016 15:15:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 303356 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Have a Tough Six Months Ahead of Them http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/republicans-have-tough-six-months-ahead-them <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Every living Republican president has decided <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/05/04/bush-41-and-43-have-no-plans-to-endorse-trump/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_bush-743pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory" target="_blank">not to endorse Donald Trump:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Bush 41, who enthusiastically endorsed every Republican nominee for the last five election cycles, will stay out of the campaign process this time. He does not have plans to endorse presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, spokesman Jim McGrath told <em>The Texas Tribune</em>.</p> <p>....Bush 43, meanwhile, "does not plan to participate in or comment on the presidential campaign," according to his personal aide, Freddy Ford.</p> </blockquote> <p>I agree that Republicans partly brought Trump on themselves. But only partly. They were hoping for an ideological extremist, and before this year it wasn't obvious either to them or to liberal critics that they might instead get a demagogic populist extremist. All of us assumed that eventually Republicans would nominate a hardcore conservative, and we were all taken by surprise when Trump stepped in instead.</p> <p>So the truth is that I feel sorry for them. A lot of conservatives have an agonizing choice to make now: either support Trump or, effectively, support Hillary Clinton, a candidate they loathe. If I had a similar choice&mdash;say, between supporting a liberal Trump or supporting Ted Cruz&mdash;what would I do? I'd like to think I'd bite the bullet and support Cruz. But honestly? I don't know. Serious Republicans have a helluva rough six months ahead of them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 05 May 2016 04:39:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 303341 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's How Flint's Lead Disaster Is Likely to Affect Its Children http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/heres-how-flints-lead-disaster-likely-affect-its-children <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've been saying for a while that (a) the elevated lead levels in Flint were fairly moderate and probably didn't cause a huge amount of damage, and (b) the water is now safe to drink. A reader wants me to put my money where my mouth is:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> How about backing up your statements with references? Where are the studies? Who are the scientists?</p> &mdash; David Lewis (@climateguy) <a href="https://twitter.com/climateguy/status/728050222216060928">May 5, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>OK. The exact data I'd like to have doesn't seem to be available, but I can provide a rough sense of the landscape. Between 2013 and 2015, the number of children in Flint with <em>elevated blood lead levels</em> (above 5 m/d) <a href="http://www.humanmedicine.msu.edu/pphi/AJPH.2015.pdf" target="_blank">rose from 2.4 percent to 4.9 percent.</a> If you <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_levels_1998_2016_3.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">plot this out, it suggests that the <em>average increase in BLL</em> was somewhere between 0.2 m/d and 1 m/d. Increases in BLL are approximately associated with a loss of <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/acclpp/final_document_030712.pdf" target="_blank">one IQ point per m/d,</a> so this corresponds to an average loss of perhaps half an IQ point. However, most studies are based on children with elevated BLLs throughout their childhood. The elevated blood levels in Flint only lasted for about 18 months, which suggests that even half an IQ point is probably high. It's more like a quarter or a third of an IQ point. That's not even measurable.</p> <p>Now, this is cocktail-napkin stuff, and I'm not an expert. All I'm trying to do is give you a rough idea of the magnitude of the problem. Anyone who has better data and knows how to analyze it more rigorously is welcome to set me straight if I've made a mistake.</p> <p>That said, it's unlikely that I'm off by a lot. What happened in Flint was a horrible tragedy, but it's unlikely to have a major cognitive impact on the city's children. However, this is on average. It <em>could</em> have a major impact on individual children, and this is why parents should have their kids tested for lead exposure. This is doubly true in areas of Flint that are known to have had especially high water lead levels.</p> <p>As for the question about drinking the water today, that's easier to answer: thousands of residential tests confirm that lead levels in Flint's water are <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/obama-visits-flint-tells-truth-0" target="_blank">below the EPA's action level of 15 parts per billion.</a> What's more, blood testing confirms that elevated BLLs have returned to their 2013 levels. All of this is strong evidence that Flint water is now safe to use.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 05 May 2016 04:06:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 303336 at http://www.motherjones.com Conservatives Are Drooling Yet Again Over Hillary's Email Account http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/conservatives-are-drooling-yet-again-over-hillarys-email-account <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Several years ago a Romanian hacker broke into the email accounts of several high-ranking US officials. One of the email accounts he hacked belonged to Clinton pal Sidney Blumenthal, and it was this hack that eventually led to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_guccifer.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the <a href="http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/investigation/hillary-clinton-private-e-mail-account-897531" target="_blank">revelation</a> that Hillary Clinton had a private email address.</p> <p>In early April he was extradited from Bucharest, where he had been serving a seven-year prison sentence, and conservatives have been drooling with anticipation ever since. Well, guess what? It turns out the hacker claimed in a jailhouse interview that he had, indeed, downloaded "gigabytes" of Hillary Clinton's email. Imagine that! <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/hacker-guccifer-i-got-inside-hillary-clinton-s-server-n568206" target="_blank">Let's listen in:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"It was like an open orchid on the Internet," Marcel Lehel Lazar, who uses the devilish handle Guccifer, told NBC News in an exclusive interview from a prison in Bucharest. "There were hundreds of folders."</p> <p>....A source with knowledge of the probe into Clinton's email setup told NBC News that with Guccifer in U.S. custody, investigators fully intend to question him about her server.</p> <p><strong>When pressed by NBC News, Lazar, 44, could provide no documentation to back up his claims, nor did he ever release anything on-line supporting his allegations, as he had frequently done with past hacks. The FBI's review of the Clinton server logs showed no sign of hacking, according to a source familiar with the case.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, I'm sure he's telling the truth, not just making up shit. Naturally Fox News is on the case with a <a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/05/04/romanian-hacker-guccifer-breached-clinton-server-it-was-easy.html" target="_blank">more recent jailhouse interview:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Wearing a green jumpsuit, Lazar was relaxed and polite in the monitored secure visitor center, separated by thick security glass. In describing the process, Lazar said he did extensive research on the web and then guessed Blumenthal&rsquo;s security question.&nbsp;Once inside Blumenthal's account, Lazar said he saw dozens of messages from the Clinton email address.</p> <p>Asked if he was curious about the address, <strong>Lazar merely smiled.</strong>&nbsp;Asked if he used the same security question approach to access the Clinton emails, he said no&nbsp;&mdash; then described how he allegedly got inside.</p> <p>&ldquo;For example, when Sidney Blumenthal got an email, I checked the email pattern from Hillary Clinton, from Colin Powell from anyone else to find out the originating IP. &hellip; When they send a letter, the email header is the originating IP usually,&rdquo; Lazar explained.&nbsp;</p> <p>He said, &ldquo;then I scanned with an IP scanner." Lazar emphasized that he used readily available web programs to see if the server was &ldquo;alive&rdquo; and which ports were open. Lazar identified programs like netscan, Netmap, Wireshark and Angry IP, though it was not possible to confirm independently which, if any, he used.</p> <p>In the process of mining data from the Blumenthal account, Lazar said he came across evidence that others were on the Clinton server. <strong>"As far as I remember, yes, there were &hellip; up to 10, like, IPs from other parts of the world,&rdquo;</strong> he said.</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it. Not only did Lazar hack into the Clinton server, but nearly a dozen other hackers did too. And every single one of them, apparently, has said nothing about it until now. Nor have they released any actual hacked emails. And they were all able to do it without leaving behind even the slightest trace.</p> <p>Nonetheless, the resident expert at Fox News called Lazar's story "plausible."</p> <p>Sigh. I'm sure this will lead to yet another whirlwind of emailgate activity. Buckle your seat belts.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 05 May 2016 00:33:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 303326 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Visits Flint, Tells the Truth http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/obama-visits-flint-tells-truth-0 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Obama visited Flint today and <a href="http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/michigan/flint-water-crisis/2016/05/04/obama-flint-michigan/83921316/" target="_blank">told residents,</a> "It's not too much to expect for all Americans that their water is safe."</p> <blockquote> <p>Obama made the comments during a speech in the city on Wednesday, a few hours after he drank filtered Flint water after a briefing by federal officials on the city's lead-contaminated water. He also requested a glass of filtered water during his speech, saying "I really did need a glass of water. This is not a stunt."</p> <p>The president vouched for the safety of certified filters and encouraged most city residents to start drinking filtered water instead of bottled water. <strong>"If you're using a filter ... then Flint water at this point is drinkable,"</strong> Obama said after taking a brief sip of filtered water, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_monthly.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">adding that the Environmental Protection Agency says using the filter makes the water safe and drinkable.</p> <p>The only exception is pregnant women and children under 6, who should continue to use bottled water "out of an abundance of caution," he said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Good for Obama. He told them the truth: Flint water is safe to drink. My own take is that Flint water is safe for children too, but if I were president I suppose I might back off on that a little. A president's words carry a bit more weight than a blogger's. Still, residential testing shows that lead levels in Flint water have been well below 15 ppb since the beginning of the year. Obama is right about the precautions residents should take (flush your pipes, get blood tests for your kids, etc.), but the bottom line is that most Flint residents should feel comfortable drinking, cooking, and bathing with tap water.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 21:33:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 303296 at http://www.motherjones.com Readers: Please Help Give Me Some Direction For the Next Six Months http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/readers-please-help-give-me-some-direction-next-six-months <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The biggest problem with Donald Trump is that he's a charlatan and a demagogue who could do immense damage to the United States. But this is my blog, which means everything is about me me me. And <em>my</em> biggest problem with Trump is trying to figure out just how much to mock the guy. Given the amount of crap that spills out of his mouth daily, I could do nothing but mock Trump and easily keep this blog churning along for the next six months.</p> <p>For example, a few weeks ago Trump was asked if women who get abortions should be punished. "The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment," he said. "Yes, there has to be some form." Today, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_oh_well.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 24px 0px 15px 30px;">Jonah Goldberg passes along <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/434949/trump-vomits-abortion-word-salad" target="_blank">Trump's follow-up on Morning Joe:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>WILLIE GEIST: What about what you told Chris Matthews a few weeks ago, which is that women who get abortions should be punished? Do you still believe that to be true?</p> <p>&nbsp;TRUMP: No, he was asking me a theoretical, or just a question in theory, and I talked about it only from that standpoint. Of course not. <strong>And that was done, he said, you know, I guess it was theoretically, but he was asking a rhetorical question, and I gave an answer.</strong> And by the way, people thought from an academic standpoint, and, asked rhetorically, people said that answer was <strong>an unbelievable academic answer!</strong> But of course not, and I said that afterwards.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's so Palinesque it makes me nostalgic for the 2008 election. But is it ridiculous enough to deserve a place on the blog? Or is it just garden variety Trump?</p> <p>Also: I'm going to spend a lot of time over the next few months agreeing with people like Jonah Goldberg, which is not something I'm used to. Ditto for conservatives agreeing with me, which they're not used to either. This is going to be a weird campaign season.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> The great part about Trump's answer is that, basically, he said, "Hey, the guy asked me a question, so I gave an answer. What are you gonna do?" This is his excuse. It doesn't mean he actually <em>meant</em> what he said. And apparently his supporters are fine with this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 18:38:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 303261 at http://www.motherjones.com How Badly Off Is the Middle Class? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/how-badly-middle-class <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've coincidentally run into a couple of things this week that have sparked a question. The first is from Atrios, who describes in caustic terms <a href="http://www.eschatonblog.com/2016/05/shit-is-fucked-up-and-bullshit.html" target="_blank">how the well-off political class views the world:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I think they see the world as a combination of the way their peers see it (and they're mostly rich!), some 30 year old vision of Middle Class America, and The Poors. <strong>They don't get that middle class America are increasingly becoming like the poors.</strong> Maybe a bit more money, maybe a bit better lifestyle, but living paycheck to paycheck with student debt and one financial (medical, etc..) event away from nothing.</p> </blockquote> <p>So is this true? Is the American middle class getting worse off with time? By coincidence, <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w22211" target="_blank">a new paper by John Komlos</a> tries to answer this question. First, he takes a look at income, and comes to the usual conclusion: the richer you are, the more your income has grown over the past few decades (with an odd exception for the very poorest, who have done better than the middle class). But then he goes further: "Income growth is of interest primarily to the extent it is welfare enhancing," he says, and then produces some estimates of welfare growth since 1979. This involves a bunch of Greek letters, including <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_welfare_1979_2011.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">one that can't be estimated at all, but let's ignore all that and just assume that Komlos did his sums properly. His basic result is on the right (I've edited and annotated it to make his estimates a little clearer).</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, overall welfare doesn't differ much from income: the richer you are, the faster your welfare has increased. Overall, the rich have done spectacularly well, while the middle-class has endured decades of sluggish growth.</p> <p><em>But</em> &mdash; there's a big difference between "should be better" and "gotten worse." There's no question that middle-class income growth has suffered since the Reagan era. That said, middle-class welfare has nonetheless grown, not declined. Using my rough central estimate of Komlos's numbers (the red line), the welfare of middle-class families has increased about 0.3 percent per year, meaning that middle-class families today are about 10 percent better off than they were in 1979.</p> <p>I can't stress enough that <em>this is grim news</em>. That number should be way higher. Still, if you want to make the argument that middle-class families today are in deeper absolute financial stress than they used to be ("increasingly becoming like the poors") you need to provide some evidence. I can't find it. I've looked all over, and everything I can find suggests that middle-class families are about as financially secure as they've always been&mdash;both in current income and future retirement income. That is, some are doing OK, some are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and some are in deep trouble. Just like always.</p> <p>Are there any good measures of personal financial stress that cover the past few decades and show an increasing problem? I've read loads of anecdotal pieces, but all they show is that some families have a lot of financial problems. What I want to know is whether <em>more</em> families are having lots of financial problems.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 17:26:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 303251 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Now Have to Face Up to Merrick Garland http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/republicans-now-have-face-merrick-garland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Everybody thinks Donald Trump will lose the general election in November. If that's true, what should Republicans do about the Supreme Court?</p> <ol><li>Go ahead and confirm Merrick Garland. He's about as good as they're likely to get from a Democrat.</li> <li>Continue their holdout and let Hillary Clinton nominate someone even more liberal next year.</li> </ol><p>Decisions, decisions. But it's a live question. Garland is now officially a pretty serious dilemma for Republicans.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 15:43:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 303241 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Cheap Pot! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/chart-day-cheap-pot <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's now been three years since Washington State legalized the sale of marijuana. So what happened? Answer: it got cheaper. The price of pot has fallen from $25 per gram to about $9 per gram, and it's still dropping. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/05/04/the-price-of-legal-pot-is-collapsing/" target="_blank">Keith Humphreys comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Falling pot prices create winners and losers. Because state taxes are based on a percentage of the sales price, declining prices mean each sale puts less money in the public purse. On the other hand, bargain-basement prices undercut the black market, bringing the public reduced law enforcement costs, both in terms of tax dollars spent on jail and the damage done to individuals who are arrested.</p> <p>For consumers who enjoy pot occasionally while suffering no adverse effects from it, low prices will be a welcome but minor benefit....On the downside, young people tend to be price-sensitive consumers, and their use of inexpensive pot may rise over time, as might that of problematic marijuana users.</p> </blockquote> <p>Are falling prices in Washington due to legalization? That seems like a reasonable guess. On the other hand, if the folks at <a href="http://www.priceofweed.com/" target="_blank">priceofweed.com</a> have things right, $9 per gram is roughly the market rate everywhere west of the Rockies. So there might be something else going on. Maybe legalization in Washington and Colorado have affected the entire regional market. Or maybe there's been a bumper crop of pot in Mendocino County. It's a little hard to say without more data.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_washington_marijuana_price.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 15:07:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 303231 at http://www.motherjones.com How Smart Is Donald Trump? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/how-smart-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump is now officially the presumptive Republican nominee for president. But what kind of chance does he have of winning in November?</p> <p>I'd guess "pretty slim," but it depends on a couple of things. First, does anything horrible happen between now and the election&mdash;say, a terrorist attack, a financial crash, or Hillary Clinton being indicted for her email woes? Any of those <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_intelligent.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">could sweep him into office, but since they're entirely unpredictable there's not much point in worrying about them.</p> <p>Second, just how smart is Trump? Here's what worries me: in retrospect, we can see that Trump played the rest of the GOP field like a Stradivarius. He somehow managed to get his strongest competitors, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, out of the running early. He didn't waste much energy on obvious losers like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Then he zeroed in on Marco Rubio. In the end, he was left only with Ted Cruz, possibly the most disliked man on the planet.</p> <p>Was this deliberate? The entire Republican Party would have rallied around Rubio if he'd been the last man standing, and that could very well have turned things around. But Cruz was never much of a threat to Trump. He's got a smarmy personality that doesn't appeal to the public, and a contemptuous disposition that has made virtually every Republican politician on Capitol Hill into a sworn enemy. Even faced with a Trump freight train bearing down on them, they couldn't bring themselves to circle the wagons and work for a Cruz victory.</p> <p>So: Did Trump actively try to make sure that Cruz would be his final opponent? Is he that smart and that proficient at executing a long-term strategy? Or did he just get lucky? The answer to that question might determine what happens in November.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 04:43:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 303206 at http://www.motherjones.com Fighting Cancer Has Gotten a Lot More Expensive Since 2000 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/fighting-cancer-has-gotten-lot-more-expensive-2000 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_price_anticancer_drugs_2000_2014.png" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Cancer drugs are expensive. No surprise there. But Carolyn Johnson reports on a study showing that they've become <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/05/02/the-inexplicable-and-relentless-rise-of-cancer-drug-prices/" target="_blank">spectacularly more expensive over time:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The [study] examined 32 cancer medications given in pill form and found that their initial launch list prices have steadily increased over the years &mdash; even after adjusting for inflation. The average monthly amount insurers and patients paid for a new cancer drug was <strong>less than $2,000 in the year 2000 but soared to $11,325 in 2014.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Shazam! That makes the rise of university tuition seem like peanuts. Still, at least prices should go down as time goes by and competing medications come to market. Right? No siree:</p> <blockquote> <p>A study published Monday in <em>Health Affairs</em> examined what happened to the prices of two dozen cancer drugs after launch and found that pharmaceutical companies on average <strong>increased prices 5 percent above inflation</strong> each year. That inflation <strong>dwarfed ameliorating effects from competing drugs being introduced,</strong> which resulted in an average discount of about 2 percent. And the biggest hikes &mdash; of about 10 percent &mdash; coincided with the drugs receiving approval for other conditions. In other words, when a drug became useful to a larger number of patients, the price shot up.</p> <p>The findings highlight the often mind-boggling ways that drug prices behave. Launch prices for cancer drugs have soared over time; after launch, those prices also increase steadily, despite competition from other treatments and even as the drugs are used by more patients.</p> </blockquote> <p>Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of ways this makes sense. First, pharma companies might well price new cancer drugs moderately in order to get them on formularies and build up market share. Then, once they've been approved and doctors start to get familiar with them, they raise the price a bit each year. No one's going to remove a drug from their approved formulary just because of a measly little 5 percent price increase, after all.</p> <p>Second, cancer drugs can legitimately become more valuable over time. It's one thing to have the original clinical studies, but the true efficacy of a new drug is still a bit iffy until oncologists start prescribing it in large quantities and get personal experience with it. Once that happens&mdash;assuming the results are good&mdash;demand for the drug goes up and the market will bear a higher price. When doctors find a drug that produces good results with acceptable side effects, they quite reasonably get attached to it.</p> <p>That said, I'm guessing that the main driver of these price increases is <em>because they can</em>. Without these drugs, you die. That makes it pretty tough for an insurance company to say no regardless of what the price is.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 23:06:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 303191 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Do Campaigns Give Away Their Strategies? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/why-do-campaigns-give-away-their-strategies <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>As soon as the California primary is over, Donald Trump will be <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/434884/pro-hillary-superpac-will-attack-june-will-trump-and-rnc-be-ready" target="_blank">facing a barrage of attack ads:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A series of ads painting [Trump] as an unserious, unready, and unscrupulous businessman who also happens to disparage women and minorities is to start airing June 8, the day after the final primaries in which Trump is likely to clinch the Republican presidential nomination.</p> <p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a good day to start,&rdquo; said Justin Barasky with Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Democrat Hillary Clinton. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not going to the make the same mistake Republicans did in waiting too long [to go on the offensive].&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>That sounds fine. But why announce it in advance? Doesn't that just give your opposition time to plan a counteroffensive? Or am I missing something?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 22:28:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 303186 at http://www.motherjones.com Lead Water Pipes in 1900 Caused Higher Crime Rates in 1920 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/lead-water-pipes-1900-caused-higher-crime-rates-1920 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last year I wrote about a paper that looked at the relationship between childhood lead poisoning and violent crime rates in a whole new way. James Feigenbaum and Christopher Muller compared cities from the early 20th century that installed lead water pipes with those that installed iron pipes, and found that cities with lead pipes had higher homicide rates. Today, <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/more-evidence-for-lead-poisoning-as-key-crime-driver" target="_blank">Josh Marshall</a> alerts me to the fact that Feigenbaum and Muller have now published a final draft of their paper. <a href="http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/jfeigenbaum/files/feigenbaum_muller_lead_crime.pdf" target="_blank">The basic results are below:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lead_pipes_homicide_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>As you can see, the effect is consistently positive. "Based on the lowest and highest point estimates," the authors conclude, "cities that used lead pipes had between 14 and 36 percent higher homicide rates than cities that did not." They present further versions of this chart with various controls added, but the results are largely the same. Overall, they estimate that cities with lead pipes had homicide rates 24 percent higher than cities with iron pipes.</p> <p>As a check, they also examine the data to see if lead pipes are associated with higher death rates from cirrhosis and infant diarrhea, both of which have been linked with lead poisoning:</p> <blockquote> <p>As expected, we observe large, positive, and statistically significant relationships between a city's use of lead pipes and its rates of death from cirrhosis and infant diarrhea. Unexpectedly, we find that cities that used lead water pipes had higher rates of death from scarlet fever and influenza. Cities that used iron pipes, in contrast, had higher rates of death from circulatory disease, cancer, and cerebral hemorrhage. We know of no scientific literature to motivate these latter relationships.</p> </blockquote> <p>So it looks like lead really is the culprit, and it really is associated with higher crime rates.</p> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/01/lead-and-crime-some-new-evidence-century-ago" target="_blank">Click on my post from last year</a> to get more details about both the strengths and weaknesses of this paper. As with any retrospective study like this, there are reasons to be cautious about the results. However, the main strength of this study is unquestionably important: it verifies the lead-crime link in an environment completely different from all the other studies done to date, which examine gasoline lead exposure from 1960-2010. It's yet more evidence that lead really did play a role in the great crime wave&mdash;and the subsequent crime decline&mdash;of the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The original version of this post used the wrong chart. It's now been corrected.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 18:44:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 303151 at http://www.motherjones.com Weekly Flint Water Report: April 23-29 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/weekly-flint-water-report-april-23-29 <!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 450 samples. The average for the past week was 5.50.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_water_2016_04_29.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 17:05:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 303126 at http://www.motherjones.com What's the Best Way to Talk About Racism? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/whats-best-way-talk-about-racism <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at Vox, we're having a battle of the charts. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/5/3/11569754/donald-trump-is-going-to-win" target="_blank">Matt Yglesias</a> says this is the one chart you need to understand Donald Trump's popularity in the Republican Party:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_white_racism.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 115px;"></p> <p>But no! <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/5/3/11571444/republican-democrat-anti-immigrant" target="_blank">Dara Lind</a> says <em>this</em> is the one chart you need:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_immigrants_good.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 135px;"></p> <p>Needless to say, there's no real disagreement here. Both writers are suggesting that Trump is winning because he appeals to a Republican Party base that thinks white people are getting screwed and doesn't much like all the non-white people they think are doing the screwing. So they're all pretty happy about Trump's wall and his proposed Muslim ban and his endless griping about "political correctness." At its core, Trump's appeal is fundamentally racist.</p> <p>I think it's safe to say that nearly all liberals believe this. There's voluminous evidence beyond just these two charts, after all. But here's my question: what should we do about it? This has been bugging me for a while.</p> <p>If we attack it head on&mdash;"Republicans are racists!"&mdash;it accomplishes nothing. Or worse than nothing: it pisses off our targets so badly that they'll never hear another word we say. Besides, it's all but impossible to <em>prove</em> that racism is at the core of any particular belief, and doubly impossible to do so in the case of any particular person. It's also really easy to go overboard on charges of racism once you get started.</p> <p>Alternatively, knowing that this is a political loser, we can skirt the direct charges of racism and focus instead on tangentially related topics. The upside is that we have at least a chance of winning over some voters who aren't too far gone. The downside, obviously, is that we're avoiding the elephant in the room. How do you fight racism if you're not willing to talk directly about it?</p> <p>I don't have a good answer. Accusing people of racism is the fastest way to shut down a conversation and ensure implacable opposition. Avoiding racism is the fastest way to make sure nothing serious ever gets done about it. So what's the right approach?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 16:35:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 303121 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Accuses...Someone of Something http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/donald-trump-accusessomeone-something <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cruz_jfk.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">A few days ago I was checking out at the supermarket and saw the cover of the <em>National Enquirer</em> telling me that Ted Cruz's father was linked in some way with the assassination of JFK. I briefly wondered whether this would help or hurt Cruz with the tea party crowd and then forgot about it. <a href="http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-gop-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/05/trump-ted-cruz-father-222730" target="_blank">But Donald Trump is <em>on it</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being &mdash; you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,&rdquo; Trump said Tuesday during a phone interview with Fox News. &ldquo;What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don't even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;I mean, what was he doing &mdash; what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?&rdquo; Trump continued. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s horrible.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Very presidential, no? But it reminds me of a <em>New York Times</em> piece this weekend headlined <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/politics/donald-trump-trade-policy-china.html" target="_blank">"Experts Warn of Backlash in Donald Trump&rsquo;s China Trade Policies."</a> Gee, no kidding. I'm glad the <em>Times</em> was on this.</p> <p>And yet, what are reporters supposed to do? Trump tosses out absurdities on a daily basis, and we can either ignore them or we can give them more oxygen by writing earnest explanations of why he's wrong. It's a lose-lose proposition. Tomorrow he'll declare that teaching arithmetic in grade school is a waste of time since we all have calculators on our cell phones. Mobs of Trump supporters will start carrying around signs saying "No More Times Tables!!!" and a week later, when no one cares anymore, we'll get a barrage of op-eds laying out in gruesome detail all the academic research explaining why kids should still learn arithmetic these days. I imagine this is going to happen approximately weekly from now until the first week of November.</p> <p>Strange days.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 15:25:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 303106 at http://www.motherjones.com It's Looking Like Another Trump Blowout in Indiana http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/its-looking-another-trump-blowout-indiana-california <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There's not much more to say about the Republican primary. The polls now show Donald Trump with a commanding lead in tomorrow's primary in Indiana, and he's got a big lead in California too. It's all over but the shouting.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_indiana_republican_primary_2016_05_02.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 20px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 04:43:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 303101 at http://www.motherjones.com The Long, Hard Slog of Health Care Reform (Abridged Version) http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/long-hard-slog-health-care-reform-abridged-version <!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/2016/05/bernie-sanders-just-latest-goo-goo-candidate" target="_blank">Earlier today,</a> in the course of linking to a Ryan Cooper post about Bernie Sanders, I mentioned that I thought Cooper was "very, very wrong about the history <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_signing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">of health care reform too, but I'll leave that for another time." Well, why not now? <a href="http://theweek.com/articles/621601/bernie-sanders-critics-now-say-hes-con-man-that-reveals-lot--about" target="_blank">Here is Cooper:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Democrats as a party were not "working their fingers to the bone" trying to get universal health care through this entire time [i.e., since 1993]. For two whole presidential elections the party's nominees ran on measly little half-measures they barely mentioned....ObamaCare &mdash; a basically mediocre program that is still a big improvement on the status quo &mdash; reflects its political origins. It's what milquetoast liberals had settled on as a reasonable compromise, so when George Bush <em>handed them a great big majority on a silver platter,</em> that's what we got. It was Bush's failed presidency, not 30 years of preemptively selling out to the medical industry, that got the job done.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's pretty brutal. But let's go back a little further. Here's a very brief history of health care reform over the past half century:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>1962:</strong> JFK launches effort to provide health care for the elderly. It is relentlessly attacked as socialized medicine and Kennedy is unable to get it passed before he dies.</p> <p><strong>1965:</strong> Following a landslide victory, and with massive majorities in both the House and Senate, LBJ passes Medicare and Medicaid.</p> <p><strong>1971:</strong> Richard Nixon proposes a limited health care reform act. Three years later he proposes a more comprehensive plan similar in scope to Obamacare. Sen. Ted Kennedy holds out for single-payer and ends up getting nothing. "That was the best deal we were going to get," <a href="https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2012/06/22/stockman/bvg57mguQxOVpZMmB1Mg2N/story.html" target="_blank">Kennedy admitted later,</a> calling his refusal to compromise his biggest regret in public life. "Nothing since has come close."</p> <p><strong>1979:</strong> Jimmy Carter proposes a national health care plan. The Senate takes it up, but Carter is unable to broker a compromise with Kennedy, who wants something more ambitious.</p> <p><strong>1993:</strong> Bill Clinton tries to pass health care reform. He does not have a gigantic majority in Congress, and fails miserably. Two years later Newt Gingrich takes over the House.</p> <p><strong>1997:</strong> Clinton and Ted Kennedy pass a more modest children's health care bill, SCHIP, with bipartisan support.</p> <p><strong>2009:</strong> Barack Obama gets a razor-thin Democratic majority for a few months and eventually passes Obamacare, which expands Medicaid for the poor and offers exchange-based private insurance for the near-poor.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is what politics looks like. Every single Democratic president in my lifetime has tried to pass health care reform. Some of them partially succeeded and some failed entirely, but all of them tried. The two main things standing in the way of getting more have been (a) Republicans and (b) liberals who refused to compromise on single-payer.</p> <p>Contra Cooper, George Bush did not hand Obama a "great big majority." Democrats in 2009 had a big majority in the House and a zero-vote majority in the Senate. That's the thinnest possible majority you can have, and this is the reason Obamacare is so limited. To pass, it had to satisfy the 40th most conservative senator, so that's what it did.</p> <p>There's been a long and ultimately sterile argument over whether Obama could have gotten more. I think the evidence suggests he got as much as he could, but the truth is that we'll never know for sure. And it doesn't change the bigger picture anyway: thousands of Democrats&mdash;politicians, activists, think tankers, and more&mdash;have literally spent decades working their fingers to the bone creating plan after plan; selling these plans to the public; and trying dozens of different ways to somehow push health care reform through Congress. For most of that time it's been a hard, grinding, thankless task, and we still don't have what we ultimately want. But in the end, all of these hacks and wonks have made a difference and helped tens of millions of people. They deserve our respect, not a bit of casually tossed off disparagement just because they didn't propose single-payer health care as their #1 priority every single year of their lives.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 02 May 2016 23:39:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 303091 at http://www.motherjones.com The Super-Rich Tech Elite Is Just Fine With Big Government http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/super-rich-tech-elite-just-fine-big-government <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Gregory Ferenstein, in the course of arguing that super-rich donors are about equally split between Democrats and Republicans (although the Republicans donate more in absolute dollars), points <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_greetings_silicon_valley.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">out that the super rich in Silicon Valley are almost exclusively Democrats. <a href="http://techcrunch.com/2016/05/01/the-tech-elite-are-moving-left-this-election-cycle/" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I think the more likely explanation is that the nation&rsquo;s new industrial titans are pro-government.</p> <p>Google, Facebook, and most Internet titans are fueled by government projects: the Internet began in a defense department lab, public universities educate a skilled workforce and environmental policies benefit high tech green industries. The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, is a fan of Obamacare, which helps his entrepreneurial drivers keep their health insurance as they transition between jobs.</p> <p>In other words, the Democratic party is good for emerging industries and billionaires recognize it. Donald Trump is a candidate known to go after major figures in tech; a trend that may further the Democrats friendship with new industrial titans.</p> <p>Perhaps more importantly, I&rsquo;ve argued that the modern emerging workforce of Silicon Valley, urbanized professionals, and &ldquo;gig economy&rdquo; laborers all represent an entirely new political demographic redefining the Democratic party to be more about education, research and entrepreneurship, and less about regulations and labor unions.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's something to this, but I suspect culture has a lot more to do with it. Most of these folks have spent their lives marinating in social liberalism, and being situated in the Bay Area just adds to that. So they start out with a visceral loathing of conservative social policies that pushes them in the direction of the Democratic Party. From there, tribalism does most of the additional work: once you've chosen a team, you tend to adopt all of the team's views.</p> <p>Beyond that, yes, I imagine that tech zillionaires are more than normally aware of how much they rely on government: for basic research, for standards setting, for regulation that protects them from getting crushed by old-school dinosaurs, and so forth. And let's be honest: most of the really rich ones have their wealth tied up almost entirely in capital gains, which doesn't get taxed much anyway. So endorsing candidates who happen to favor higher tax rates on ordinary income (which they probably won't get anyway) doesn't really cost them much.</p> <p>For most folks in Silicon Valley, even the super rich, there's very little personal cost to supporting Democrats. Combine that with an almost instinctive revulsion at both troglodyte Republican policies and the Fox News base of the party, and there just aren't going to be many Republican supporters in this crowd.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 02 May 2016 18:49:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 303071 at http://www.motherjones.com