Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/rss http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Does the Pentagon Really Waste $125 Billion on Pencil Pushers? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/does-pentagon-really-waste-125-billion-pencil-pushers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Washington Post</em> has a big article up tonight about <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/pentagon-buries-evidence-of-125-billion-in-bureaucratic-waste/2016/12/05/e0668c76-9af6-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-banner-main_pentagon-0655pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.d8960468f95d" target="_blank">military waste:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Pentagon hid study exposing $125 billion in wasteful spending</strong></p> <p>The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by <em>The Washington Post</em>....The report, issued in January 2015, identified &ldquo;a clear path&rdquo; for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. I have some doubts about this. For starters, that $125 billion over five years. That comes to $25 billon per year, or about 4 percent of the defense budget. That's not peanuts, but it hardly seems big enough to represent "far more wasteful spending than expected," as the article says.</p> <p>But that's not the main thing that makes me skeptical about this. My big problem is that this is a McKinsey report, and I have a fairly cynical view of McKinsey-driven "process improvement" blather. For example, the report suggests that the Pentagon can save loads of money by increasing its back-office productivity by 4-8 percent per year. "Private sector industries commonly show similar gains," they say merrily, so why not the Pentagon?</p> <p>This is exactly the kind of thing that gives business consultants a bad name. Do private sector businesses really show routine annual productivity gains like this in their back-office operations? I doubt it very much. And even if they do, can the federal government do the same things that private industry does? Hard to say. In any case, it turns out that McKinsey's biggest finding is that the Pentagon is spending more on its contracts than it should. Here's how they propose to fix this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_contract_optimization.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>The buzzword-to-reality ratio here is astronomical. I could have written this without knowing a thing about Pentagon procurement. Here's the McKinsey timeline:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_contract_optimization_timeline.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>Seriously? They think the Pentagon can massively transform its entire procurement process in <em>eight months</em>, at which point, they blandly say, it's time to "Validate savings and begin renegotiating contracts"? That's insane. I used to work for a pretty well-run private-sector company with 200 employees, and I don't think we could have done this in eight months. Hell, later on McKinsey even admits that "only about 17% of fundamental change projects deliver their full potential." But they blithely recommend full steam ahead anyway, because success will come with:</p> <ul><li>Strong, consistent top leadership</li> <li>Clear vision, aligned with strategy and widely communicated</li> <li>Effective governance structure with clear decision-making authority</li> <li>Defined accountability at all levels with reward and enforcement mechanisms</li> <li>Engaged workforce and supportive stakeholders</li> </ul><p>This is cribbed out of a book you can buy at Barnes &amp; Noble for $29.95, and it basically describes the platonic ideal of a corporation. No one ever has all this stuff, and certainly not a gigantic federal bureaucracy. And that's not all. I won't bother trying to summarize it. I'll just show you a few slides:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_it.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 10px;"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_risk.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 10px;"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_process_redesign_factory.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 10px;"></p> <p>McKinsey wants DoD to establish core IT as "a shared-services organization." This might be a good idea, or it might not. But it's straight out of a textbook, and it's something that takes years to do decently&mdash;assuming it's a good idea in the first place. Would it save money in the long run? Maybe, but I wouldn't bet on it.</p> <p>And don't even get me started on the "Process Redesign Factory." Holy crap.</p> <p>So why did the study get scrapped? Here is Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, who ordered it in the first place:</p> <blockquote> <p>In an interview with <em>The Post</em>, he did not dispute the board&rsquo;s findings about the size or scope of the bureaucracy. But he dismissed the $125 billion savings proposal as &ldquo;unrealistic&rdquo; and said the business executives had failed to grasp basic obstacles to restructuring the public sector....Work said the board fundamentally misunderstood how difficult it is to eliminate federal civil service jobs &mdash; members of Congress, he added, love having them in their districts &mdash; or to renegotiate defense contracts.</p> </blockquote> <p>Normally this would sound like defensiveness from someone who was set in their ways and just didn't want anything to change. But this guy <em>wanted</em> McKinsey to come in. He simply concluded that their report was shallow and uninformed, and I can't say I disagree. The Powerpoint deck looks like it's little more than boilerplate that's lightly massaged by a 22-year-old "senior analyst" for each client.</p> <p>I can sympathize with anyone who thinks the Pentagon could make its back-office operations more efficient, but can't do it thanks to bureaucratic inertia. I don't doubt for a second that this is true. But if you want to change this, you'd better do more than bring in a few McKinsey suits to provide you with the exact same recommendations they provide to everyone else, using the exact same swarm of buzzwords. This report sounds like dreck.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 06:38:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 320731 at http://www.motherjones.com Let's Revisit Climate Change and Wildfires in the West http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/lets-revisit-climate-change-and-wildfires-west <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The #1 most popular article at the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> right now is <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/my-unhappy-life-as-a-climate-heretic-1480723518" target="_blank">"My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic,"</a> by Roger Pielke Jr. His piece is basically a complaint that he has been pilloried for years because he holds the view that climate change is real, but that it hasn't been responsible for a change in the number or intensity of hurricanes, floods, or drought. I can't comment much on that since I haven't followed Pielke's fights with climate scientists, but I did take notice of this bit from his article:</p> <blockquote> <p>More is going on here than thin-skinned reporters responding petulantly to a vocal professor. In 2015 <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-pol-ca-brown-wildfires-20151019-story.html" target="_blank">I was quoted in the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>,</a> by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Paige St. John, making the rather obvious point that politicians use the weather-of-the-moment to make the case for action on climate change, even if the scientific basis is thin or contested.</p> <p>Ms. St. John was pilloried by her peers in the media. Shortly thereafter, she emailed me what she had learned: <strong>&ldquo;You should come with a warning label: Quoting Roger Pielke will bring a hailstorm down on your work from the London <em>Guardian</em>, <em>Mother Jones</em>, and Media Matters.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Hey! I recognize one-third of that hailstorm: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/10/la-times-says-climate-not-blame-more-wildfires-theyre-wrong" target="_blank">it's me.</a></p> <p>I don't know what the other two-thirds of the hailstorm said, but my criticism was calm, factual, and straightforward. St. John's article was about wildfires, and my post noted that "Pielke doesn't actually say climate is unrelated to increased wildfire activity"&mdash;and then noted that practically no one else St. John quoted says that either:</p> <blockquote> <p>Virtually everyone quoted in this article either (a) says nothing about climate change or (b) says climate change is an important factor in the rise of wildfires in California and the West. And yet, somehow all of this is written in a way that makes it sound as if climate change has nothing to do with wildfires, and it's topped by a headline that says in no uncertain terms, "Gov. Brown's link between climate change and wildfires is unsupported, fire experts say."</p> <p>Very peculiar.</p> </blockquote> <p>As near as I can tell, St. John pretty seriously misrepresented the evidence in her piece. The critiques of it deserved a response, not a cozy email to one of her sources. But as far as I know, they never got one.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 03:15:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 320721 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Repeal Is Doomed http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/obamacare-repeal-doomed-pre-existing-conditions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The current hotness in Republican circles is "repeal and delay." That is, they want to pass legislation that repeals Obamacare in, say, 2019, but doesn't replace it with anything. Then they can spend the next couple of years figuring out what should <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_lemonade.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;">take its place. There's only one problem with this:</p> <blockquote> <p>Republicans. Can't. Repeal. Obamacare.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh, they can repeal big parts of it. Anything related to the budget, like taxes and subsidies, can be repealed via the Senate procedure called reconciliation, which needs only 51 votes to pass. But all the other parts can be filibustered, and it takes 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Republicans don't have 60 votes in the Senate.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>This leaves quite a few elements of Obamacare that can't be repealed via reconciliation, but I think Democrats should focus on one: pre-existing conditions. This is the provision of Obamacare that bans insurers from turning down customers or charging them extra for coverage, no matter what kind of pre-existing conditions they have. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/save-obamacare-donald-trump-repeal-gop" target="_blank">I tell the whole story here,</a> but there are several reasons this is the best provision to focus on:</p> <ul><li>It's an easy thing to understand.</li> <li>It's very popular.</li> <li>Republicans say they favor keeping it.</li> <li>Donald Trump says he favors keeping it.</li> <li>It's not a minor regulation. It is absolutely essential to any health care plan.</li> <li>It's fairly easy to explain why repealing Obamacare but leaving in place the pre-existing conditions ban<sup>2</sup> would destroy the individual insurance market and leave tens of millions of people with no way to buy insurance.</li> </ul><p>The last point is the most important. Take me. I'm currently being kept alive by about $100,000 worth of prescriptions drugs each year. If I can go to any insurer and demand that they cover me for $10,000, that's a certain loss of $90,000. If millions of people like me do this, insurance companies will lose billions. In the employer market, which covers people who work for large companies, this is workable because insurers have lots and lots of healthy, profitable people at each company to make up these losses. In the individual market&mdash;after you've repealed the individual mandate and the subsidies&mdash;they don't. They will bear huge losses and they know it.</p> <p>What this means is not just that Obamacare would collapse. It means the entire individual market would collapse. Every insurance company in America would simply stop selling individual policies. It would be political suicide to make this happen, and this means that Democrats have tremendous leverage if they're willing to use it. It all depends on how well they play their hand.</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">"It all depends on how well [Dems] play their hand."<br><br> Translation: Everyone be very worried.<br> .<a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> <a href="https://t.co/jIGizuXxY2">https://t.co/jIGizuXxY2</a></p> &mdash; Douglas Barricklow (@DeepCoffee) <a href="https://twitter.com/DeepCoffee/status/805871818347257856">December 5, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>The current Republican hope is that they can repeal parts of Obamacare, and then hold Democrats hostage: <em>vote for our replacement plan or else the individual insurance market dies.</em> There's no reason Democrats should do anything but laugh at this. Republicans now control all three branches of government. They've been lying to their base about Obamacare repeal for years. Now the chickens have come home to roost, and they're responsible for whatever happens next. If the Democratic Party is even marginally competent, they can make this stick.</p> <p>Plenty of Republicans already know this. Some have only recently figured it out. Some are still probably living in denial. It doesn't matter. Pre-existing conditions is the hammer Democrats can use to either save Obamacare or else demand that any replacement be equally generous. They just have to use it.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Of course, Republicans do have the alternative of either (a) getting rid of the filibuster or (b) firing the Senate parliamentarian and hiring one who will let them do anything they want. If they do either of those things, then they can repeal all of Obamacare and replace it with anything they want. I don't think they'll do either one, but your mileage may vary on this question.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Just for the record, it's worth noting that Republicans can't modify the pre-existing conditions ban either. Democrats can filibuster that too.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 23:39:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 320706 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Is a Serial, Compulsive Liar http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/donald-trump-is-a-serial-compulsive-liar <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump, eight days ago:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/802972944532209664">November 27, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Donald Trump, in a legal filing five days later, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/05/in-an-anti-recount-filing-trumps-lawyers-say-the-election-was-not-tainted-by-fraud-or-mistake/" target="_blank">as reported by the <em>Washington Post's</em> Philip Bump:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_michigan_filing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;"></p> <p>Trump is a serial, compulsive liar. Soon he will be president of the United States.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 18:03:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 320666 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Need to Step Up and get Gen. Michael Flynn Out of the White House http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/republicans-need-step-and-get-gen-michael-flynn-out-white-house <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You've probably heard that a gunman <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2016/12/04/d-c-police-respond-to-report-of-a-man-with-a-gun-at-comet-ping-pong-restaurant/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.cca21dc144ed" target="_blank">entered the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria</a> in Washington DC yesterday and started shooting. He didn't hit anyone, though, and it's not clear if he was even trying. So why was he there? He says he was trying to "self investigate" an allegation that Bill and Hillary Clinton ran a pedophilia ring out of the restaurant.</p> <p>No, this is not me being smug and elitist again this morning. This is an honest-to-goodness conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate, and it's been making the rounds for a while. Why? Because the owner of Comet Ping Pong is both gay and a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party. <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-38156985" target="_blank">And that's not all!</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It's known, for instance that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump flew on the private plane of convicted child abuser Jeffery Epstein. Tony Podesta, the brother of the Clinton aide whose emails were hacked, was a friend of Dennis Hastert, a Republican politician who earlier this year was sentenced to 15 months in prison, and has admitted abusing boys. The Jimmy Savile scandal in the UK has featured in speculation as an example of a serial child abuser getting away with his crimes.</p> </blockquote> <p>So far this has no connection to Donald Trump, and perhaps you're thinking that's another silver lining, aside from the fact that no one was hurt in the attack. But I'm afraid you'll have to make do with only one silver lining today. You see, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/gen-michael-flynns-descent-madness" target="_blank">Gen. Michael Flynn,</a> who will soon be Donald Trump's National Security Advisor, tweeted this a few days before the election:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">U decide - NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc...MUST READ! <a href="https://t.co/O0bVJT3QDr">https://t.co/O0bVJT3QDr</a></p> &mdash; General Flynn (@GenFlynn) <a href="https://twitter.com/GenFlynn/status/794000841518776320">November 3, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>And that's not all. Here is Michael Flynn Jr., who is not just Flynn's son. He is also Flynn's chief of staff and closest aide. Here he is yesterday, <em>after the shooting</em>:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Until <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pizzagate?src=hash">#Pizzagate</a> proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PodestaEmails?src=hash">#PodestaEmails</a> and the many "coincidences" tied to it. <a href="https://t.co/8HA9y30Yfp">https://t.co/8HA9y30Yfp</a></p> &mdash; Michael G Flynn (@mflynnJR) <a href="https://twitter.com/mflynnJR/status/805611056009768960">December 5, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>There's much more in Flynn Jr's Twitter feed following this, all pointing in the same direction: he is a complete crackpot. And he is one of the closest confidantes of his father, who is also a crackpot. And Flynn Sr. is the top national security aide to Donald Trump, who is well known to have a weakness for conspiracy theories already.</p> <p>Obviously Democrats have no influence over Donald Trump's White House. But presumably Republicans do. They need to figure out a way to get Flynn booted from the NSA position and as far away from Trump as possible. This isn't an amusing joke, and it's not just politics anymore. It's a serious national security weakness.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It's hard to keep up these days. In the tweet at the top of this post, Flynn Sr. isn't referring to Pizzagate. He's referring to a <em>different</em> pedophilia allegation involving Hillary Clinton. According to Truepundit.com, it linked "Clinton herself" and her "associates" to money laundering, child exploitation, sex crimes with children, perjury, obstruction of justice, and "other felony crimes."</p> <p>I even wrote about it <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/meet-ret-general-michael-flynn-most-gullible-guy-army" target="_blank">back when it happened.</a> It's been a busy two weeks since then. Sigh.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 17:37:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 320661 at http://www.motherjones.com Swamp Watch - 5 December 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/swamp-watch-5-december-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump has <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/us/politics/ben-carson-housing-urban-development-trump.html" target="_blank">chosen Ben Carson as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.</a> Why? He's not remotely qualified for the position and he's publicly (!) stated that he doesn't have the experience to lead a government agency. Still, Carson is black and the U in HUD stands for Urban, and that's probably enough for Trump.</p> <p>Does this sound unbearably smug and elitist? Sure, I'll cop to that. But as near as I can tell, Trump has already picked a Defense Secretary solely on the strength of the fact that his nickname is "Mad Dog," and a UN ambassador because she looks kind of foreign. So it fits.</p> <p>By the way, you'll notice that in my table below I've finally decided to label Mnuchin and Ross as part of the swamp. My original hesitation was because they weren't part of DC politics. Does Wall Street count as part of the swamp? Upon reflection, of course it does. Hell, Mnuchin even comes from Goldman Sachs. If that's not part of the swamp, what is?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_05_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:45:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 320646 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Releases Twitter White Paper on Trade http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/trump-release-twitter-white-paper-trade <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>After hinting around for weeks, president-elect Donald Trump finally released a detailed, <em>7-part (!)</em> tweetstorm about <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/805376548882776064" target="_blank">his plans to reform America's mercantile policy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The U.S. is going to substantialy reduce taxes and regulations on businesses, but any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence, is WRONG! <strong>There will be a tax on our soon to be strong border of 35%</strong> for these companies wanting to sell their product, cars, A.C. units etc., back across the border. This tax will make leaving financially difficult, but these companies are able to move between all 50 states, with no tax or tariff being charged. <strong>Please be forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake!</strong> THE UNITED STATES IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS.</p> <p>Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trade_deficit_china_2007_2016.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so!</p> </blockquote> <p>At the risk of taking Trump literally, rather than seriously, I wonder if he actually thinks he can do this? It's not as if the president is allowed to unilaterally slap a 35 percent tariff on Carrier air conditioners or Ford Fiestas, after all. If Trump invokes the appropriate "national emergency" authority, he could impose a tariff on all air conditioners or all cars. Or he could impose a tariff on all goods from Mexico or all goods from China. But I think that's as far as his authority goes. He can't simply decide to punish one particular company.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>In the case of Mexico, of course, he can't do even this much unless he persuades Congress to exit NAFTA&mdash;and that has a snowball's chance of happening. He could, in theory, impose a 35 percent tariff on, say, telecom equipment made in China, but that would send up howls of protest from American businesses and almost certain retribution from China.</p> <p>So...what's the plan here? The American business community, which would go ballistic over something like this, has been pretty quiet, which suggests they think it's just blather. That's my guess too. But I guess you never know. We overeducated elites like to say that stuff like this is just affinity politics&mdash;aka red meat for the rubes&mdash;but perhaps eventually we'll learn that we should have taken Trump literally after all.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>As far as I know, anyway. But I would certainly appreciate a detailed explainer on this from someone who's truly an expert.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 02:58:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 320631 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump's Taiwan Call Was No Accident http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/trumps-taiwan-call-was-no-accident <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So&mdash;about that call between Donald Trump and the president of Taiwan. <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/donald-trump-s-call-taiwan-president-was-not-surprised-official-n691466" target="_blank">First we have this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan's leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged,</strong> a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday...."Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait," Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_china_flag.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Huang told NBC News. "Both are in line with Taiwan's national interest."</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-12-03/china-dismisses-unprecedented-trump-tsai-call-as-taiwan-gimmick" target="_blank">And this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The call was planned in advance with knowledge of Trump&rsquo;s transition team</strong> and was the right thing to do, said Stephen Yates, a former U.S. national security official who served under President George W. Bush. Yates denied multiple media reports that he arranged the call, while adding that it doesn&rsquo;t make sense for the U.S. to be &ldquo;stuck&rdquo; in a pattern of acquiescing to China over Taiwan.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently several sources say that Yates was indeed the guy who helped arrange the call, but Yates denies it. You can decide for yourself who to believe. In any case, both sides claim it was done intentionally.</p> <p>Was it a good idea? In Trump's defense, if you're going to do something like this, the only time to do it is right away. That's especially true if you want to use it as leverage. Who knows? Maybe Trump's team is planning to quietly pass along word that Trump is willing to maintain our status quo policy toward Taiwan (i.e., not formally recognizing the Taiwanese government), but only if China commits to doing something serious about North Korea.</p> <p>Or maybe Trump has no bargain in mind at all, and just wants to change US policy toward China. It would be typically Trump to start out with a slap in the face so they know he means business, and then go from there.</p> <p>Is this wise? I sort of doubt it, but I'm hardly an old China hand. And I have to admit that China hasn't gone ballistic, as many people predicted. Their response so far has been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/world/asia/taiwan-call-gives-china-a-clue-on-what-to-expect-from-donald-trump.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=a-lede-package-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">distinctly low-key:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>China&rsquo;s first official reaction, from Foreign Minister Wang Yi, was fairly benign &mdash; though it was firm in reiterating the One China policy, under which the United States formally recognized Beijing as China&rsquo;s sole government....A follow-up statement from the Foreign Ministry on Saturday, <strong>noting that the ministry had filed a formal complaint with the United States government,</strong> was similar in tone. It urged &ldquo;relevant parties in the U.S.&rdquo; to &ldquo;deal with the Taiwan issue in a prudent, proper manner.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Whatever you think of all this, I'm pretty sure it was no accident. Whether it's meant just to shake up China; to act as leverage for a future bargain; or as a precursor to a policy change&mdash;well, that's hard to say. But there was something behind it. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 22:36:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 320621 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Can't Fix Offshoring, But He's Got Bigger Problems Anyway http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/donald-trump-cant-fix-offshoring-hes-got-bigger-problems-anyway <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Steven Pearlstein suggests that Donald Trump's deal with Carrier is part of a larger strategy aimed at <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2016/12/02/give-him-credit-trump-carrier-deal-puts-shareholder-obsessed-ceos-on-notice/" target="_blank">changing norms of behavior:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There was a time in America when there was an unwritten pact in the business world &mdash; workers were loyal to their companies and successful companies returned that loyalty....<strong>Then came the 1980s,</strong> and all that began to change as American industry began to falter because of foreign competition....So the social norm changed....<strong>Although the public never much liked the idea of closing plants and shipping jobs overseas, it no longer was socially unacceptable.</strong></p> <p>Now comes Donald Trump &mdash; in the public mind, a successful businessman &mdash; who as the new president, suddenly declares that the new norm is not longer acceptable, and he intends to do whatever he can to shame and punish companies that abandon their workers....<strong>He knows that he and his new commerce secretary will have to engage in a few more bouts of well-publicized arm twisting before the message finally sinks in in the C-Suite. He may even have to make an example of a runaway company by sending in the tax auditors or the OSHA inspectors or cancelling a big government contract</strong>. It won&rsquo;t matter that, two years later, these highly publicized retaliations are thrown out by a federal judge somewhere. Most companies won&rsquo;t want to risk such threats to their &ldquo;brands.&rdquo; They will find a way to conform to the new norm, somewhat comforted by the fact that their American competitors have been forced to do the same.</p> </blockquote> <p>I mostly disagree with this. I think the "norm" Pearlstein is talking about here is actually just ordinary economic reality. During the postwar economic boom, American companies didn't need to offshore jobs, so they didn't. Nor did they need to lay off workers or downsize their companies frequently. America was the most efficient manufacturer around, and there was plenty of money sloshing around for everybody. So why invite trouble?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_growth_per_capita_real_gdp_1947_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>When the postwar boom came to an end, businesses changed. We learned that what we thought had been a permanent new norm, was no such thing. It was just a temporary, three-decade blip. Starting in the 80s, as economic growth leveled off, the business community returned to operating the same way businesses had operated ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.</p> <p>I suspect Pearlstein is right about what Trump is trying to do. He'll engage in some naming and shaming, and on a few occasions he'll try to set an example by going after companies in semi-legal or outright illegal ways. It might even work a little bit, and it will almost certainly work in a PR sense. But more generally, Trump can't keep the tide from coming in any more than any other president. It's not as if the offshoring phenomenon is peculiar to America, after all.</p> <p>The good news, such as it is, revolves around automation. Within a decade or so, most manufacturing work will be so highly automated that it won't matter much where it's made. We're already starting to see signs of this. That will put an end to large-scale offshoring, but unfortunately, it will be even worse for blue-collar workers. We're on the cusp of an era when tens of millions of workers will be put out of jobs by automation, and we'd better figure out what we're going to do about that. But one thing is certain: whatever the answer is, it's not naming and shaming.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 16:35:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 320616 at http://www.motherjones.com Pissed Off About Something You See on the Web? Call Out the Person, Not the Organization. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/pissed-about-something-you-see-web-call-out-person-not-organization <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at <em>National Review</em>, <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/442711/peaceful-group-black-lives-matter-sure-does-love-cop-killers-and-murderous-dictators" target="_blank">David French writes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>For a &lsquo;Peaceful&rsquo; Group, Black Lives Matter Sure Does Love Cop Killers and Murderous Dictators</strong></p> <p>I don&rsquo;t know how I missed it, but this sickening essay from Black Lives Matter has to be read to believed. Entitled &ldquo;Lessons from Fidel: Black Lives Matter and the Transition of El Comandante,&rdquo; it begins....</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not especially trying to pick on French here, but this gives me an excuse to gripe about something that I see too often these days.</p> <p>Let's stipulate that the essay in question is horrible. I don't care one way or the other. What I do care about is that French attributes it to "Black Lives Matter." But that's not the case. It was written by a specific person, not by BLM as some kind of official position statement. It represents them no more than I represent <em>Mother Jones</em>.</p> <p>Still, at least MoJo employs me and has some responsibility for what I write. You can't even say that much about the author of the Castro piece. To the extent that there's an "official" BLM organization, <a href="http://blacklivesmatter.com/" target="_blank">it's here.</a> This is the organization founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza. But pretty much anyone can set up shop under the BLM name, and the essay French links to comes from a Medium site called <a href="https://medium.com/@BlackLivesMatterNetwork/" target="_blank">@BlackLivesMatterNetwork.</a> It has posted a grand total of three pieces in the last two months. I have no idea who wrote them or who the site is associated with.</p> <p>Condemn the piece all you want. But it's not fair to use it to tar "Black Lives Matter." They aren't responsible for everything that's tossed onto the web under the BLM banner.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It turns out that the official BLM site shared the Castro essay on its <a href="https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatter/" target="_blank">Facebook page.</a> So it's fair to call them out for promoting it.</p> <p>My general complaint stands, however. If I write something, it means "Kevin Drum says," not "<em>Mother Jones</em> says." If David French writes something, it means "David French says," not "<em>National Review</em> says." Needless to say, this rule is for personal opinion/analysis pieces. News organizations are corporately responsible for editorial opinions and straight news.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 00:03:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 320611 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Decides to Poke the Chinese Dragon http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/donald-trump-decides-poke-chinese-dragon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Financial Times</em> reports that Donald Trump spoke on the phone today with Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan. <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/fd19907e-b8d4-11e6-961e-a1acd97f622d" target="_blank">This is a very big deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The telephone call, confirmed by three people, <strong>is believed to be the first between a US president or president-elect and a leader of Taiwan since diplomatic <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_china_dragon_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">relations between the two were cut in 1979.</strong></p> <p>Although it is not clear if the Trump transition team intended the conversation to signal a broader change in US policy towards Taiwan, the call is likely to infuriate Beijing which regards the island as a renegade province. &ldquo;<strong>The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,</strong>&rdquo; said Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House national security council.</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, maybe Trump was just <a href="http://shanghaiist.com/2016/11/18/trump_taiwan_expand.php" target="_blank">calling to ask for a business favor:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The mayor of Taoyuan confirmed rumors on Wednesday that US president-elect Donald Trump was considering constructing a series of luxury hotels and resorts in the northwest Taiwanese city. A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September....Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect's second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Who knows? But foreign policy wonks are blowing a gasket over this, and the question of the hour is: Did Trump set off this diplomatic shitstorm accidentally or deliberately? I have to believe it was deliberate. Even Trump's team isn't so pig-ignorant that they're unaware of our policy toward China and Taiwan.</p> <p>But if that's the case, it means that Trump is dead set on pursuing a hostile policy against China from the get-go. Perhaps, thanks to his decades of steely negotiating victories, he believes the Chinese will eventually back down once they realize they can't mess with him. Perhaps. Welcome to Trumpland.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It's worth noting that Trump has an odd kind of advantage here. For a little while longer, anyway, he can do this kind of stuff just to see what happens&mdash;and then, if it blows up, he can pretend he wasn't up to speed what with all the staffing work etc. etc. Then he calls someone in China and declares that everything is fine, China is a fantastic place, he has nothing but the highest respect for them, blah blah blah.</p> <p>Will this work? I suppose it might. But not for much longer.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 23:17:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 320606 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 2 December 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/friday-cat-blogging-2-december-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I got lucky this week and managed to snap this gorgeous portrait of Hopper. Today, however, everyone is inside. The wind is blowing pretty hard, and it took the cats less than a minute to decide that the backyard was much too scary for them. Leaves blowing! Branches thwacking on the patio cover! Loud whooshing sounds! Much better to snooze inside next to a window, where cruel nature can be seen but not heard.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_12_02.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:56:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 320591 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Finally Admits He Wants to Build the DAPL Pipeline http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/donald-trump-finally-admits-he-wants-build-dapl-pipeline <!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.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2016/12/2/13818568/trump-endorses-dakota-access-pipeline" target="_blank">This should surprise no one:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For the first time, <strong>Donald Trump has said he supports finishing construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline</strong>....The company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, had donated $100,000 to a Trump Victory Fund before the election in the hopes that he&rsquo;d greenlight it.</p> <p>....There&rsquo;s also a seedy financial twist here: Last week, disclosure forms suggested that <strong>Trump himself had as much as $300,000 personally invested in the project.</strong> That explains why his transition team had to clarify that Trump&rsquo;s support "has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a win-win-win-win for Trump:</p> <ul><li>It's a project that provides a bunch of blue-collar jobs.</li> <li>He gets to come out against a Native American tribe and its whining about "sacred lands," something that his base of real Americans will surely appreciate.<sup>1</sup></li> <li>A big donor gets what it wants.</li> <li>And Donald gets a little cut of the action for himself.</li> </ul><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_northern_border_pipeline_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">What's not to like? The only surprising thing is that it took Trump this long. I wonder why it didn't become a staple of his campaign speech months ago?</p> <p><em>MoJo</em> has had lots of coverage of this, so I haven't spent too much time on it. But there is one thing I'm curious about. There's already a gas pipeline called the Northern Border Pipeline that crosses the Missouri River at the site of the DAPL project. That's one of the reasons the DAPL folks want to build there, and I assume it also figures into the Army Corps of Engineers' thinking. If they approved the gas pipeline decades ago, what justification do they have for not approving a second pipeline in the same place? I only bring this up because I almost never see it mentioned in coverage of the DAPL protests. But surely this has some impact on what the Corps can do legally?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Please note sarcastic tone here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:43:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 320586 at http://www.motherjones.com Democrats Have a Secret Weapon to Save Obamacare http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/democrats-have-secret-weapon-save-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Yesterday I teased you about a "secret weapon" that can save Obamacare. Here it is:</p> <ul><li>Pre-existing conditions</li> </ul><p>Obamacare requires insurance companies to insure anyone who wants coverage, no matter what kind of pre-existing conditions they have. It also requires them to sell this coverage at the same price they sell to everyone else. Unless Republicans go nuclear&mdash;by eliminating the filibuster or threatening to fire the Senate parliamentarian&mdash;they can't repeal this without a bunch of Democratic votes. And as long as the pre-existing conditions <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_how_to_save_obamacare.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">ban is in place, repealing Obamacare, with or without a replacement, will wreck the individual insurance market.</p> <p>I mean this literally: Most likely, every insurance company in America would simply exit the market. Something like 7 percent of Americans would flatly have no source of insurance. This is political suicide, and Republicans know it. Hopefully, Democrats know it too.</p> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/save-obamacare-donald-trump-repeal-gop" target="_blank">My full story about this is here.</a> I recommend that everyone read it. If Democrats want to save health care reform, this is the hammer that will allow them to do it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 18:11:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 320566 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton's Popular Vote Lead Passes 2.5 Million http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/hillary-clintons-popular-vote-lead-passes-25-million <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Just thought I'd mention it. As of today, she leads Donald Trump in the popular vote <a href="http://cookpolitical.com/story/10174" target="_blank">by 2.56 million votes,</a> a margin of 1.89 percent. In the three key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that gave him his victory, Trump's combined lead is less than 80,000 votes. By any measure you can think of, Trump has the narrowest victory of any president in the last century; the smallest mandate; and is by far the least liked.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:53:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 320561 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: A Disappointing Jobs Report in October http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/disappointing-jobs-october <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The American economy <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.htm" target="_blank">added 178,000 new jobs last month,</a> 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at a modest 88,000 jobs. At first glance this seems OK, but it looks worse when you drill below the surface.</p> <p>The headline unemployment rate spiked down to 4.6 percent, which is very close to a record low for the past 40 years. Unfortunately this is largely because a stunning 446,000 people dropped out of the labor force, not because a huge number of people got jobs. In fact, the labor participation rate went <em>down</em>, from 62.8 percent to 62.7 percent. Given this, it's not surprising that hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees were flat. If the labor market were really tightening, wages would be going up.</p> <p>The general reaction to this jobs report seems to be that it shows "decent, steady growth." I don't agree. That <em>is</em> what the headline unemployment number shows, but this mostly suggests that the headline unemployment number is becoming less and less reliable as a good measure of the jobs picture. This was a disappointing report.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_jobs_october_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 25px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:06:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 320556 at http://www.motherjones.com What's the Real Reason Drug Prices Are So High In America? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/whats-real-reason-drug-prices-are-so-high-america <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This hardly seems important at the moment, but Sarah Kliff mentioned something today that's always bugged me. She's explaining why prescription drugs cost a lot more in the US than elsewhere, and concludes that it's because other countries <a href="http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/11/30/12945756/prescription-drug-prices-explained" target="_blank">all negotiate drug prices at a national level and we don't:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The United States has no government panel that negotiates drug prices. There are thousands of health insurance plans all across the country. Each has to negotiate its own prices with drugmakers separately. Because Americans are fragmented across all these different health insurers, plans have much less bargaining power to demand lower prices. In other words: Australia is buying drugs in bulk, like you would at Costco, while we&rsquo;re <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vox_cartoon_drug_spending.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">picking up tiny bottles at the local pharmacy. You can guess who is paying more.</p> </blockquote> <p>OK, but take a look at the stick figure on the right, part of Vox's latest innovation in explanatory journalism. The country with the lowest drug spending is Denmark, population 6 million. Compare that to Blue Cross, which insures about 100 million people. United Healthcare insures about 70 million. Aetna insures about 20 million. Kaiser Permanente clocks in around 10 million.</p> <p>In other words, all of these health insurers are as big as whole countries. And they're <em>way</em> bigger than little Denmark. So why are they unable to negotiate lower drug prices? Medicare may be prohibited from doing this, but private insurers aren't.</p> <p>Are insurers hemmed in by rules requiring them to offer any "medically necessary" drug? Are they, ironically, limited by competition&mdash;afraid of losing customers if they don't cover everything? Are they just lousy negotiators because they don't really care? After all, high prices are going to get passed along anyway, so it doesn't hurt them as long as their competitors are in the same boat.</p> <p>Alternatively, do I completely misunderstand how the process works?</p> <p>My gripe with this is not so much that drug prices are high. My gripe is that the US essentially subsidizes the rest of the world. Pharmaceutical companies require a certain overall return on their invested capital, but they don't care where it comes from. If prices are low in Europe and high in the US, that's fine. If prices in the US came down, they'd make up for it by raising prices in Europe&mdash;and that would be fine too.</p> <p>So why not put America First, to coin a phrase, and push down prices here? It wouldn't hurt the drug companies, it would just force them to raise prices elsewhere. That would be fine with me. I've never really understood why we're in the business of helping Europe pay less for drugs.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:45:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 320541 at http://www.motherjones.com Russia Complains That Ukraine Interfered With Its Interference in the American Election http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/russia-complains-ukraine-interfered-its-interference-american-election <!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.politico.com/story/2016/12/russia-ukraine-trump-manafort-232101" target="_blank">This is insane:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A top Russian official is accusing the Ukrainian government of undermining Donald Trump&rsquo;s presidential campaign</strong> by trashing him on social media and disseminating dirt on one of his close associates.</p> <p>....&ldquo;<strong>Ukraine seriously complicated the work of Trump&rsquo;s election campaign headquarters</strong> by planting information according to which Paul Manafort, Trump&rsquo;s campaign chairman, allegedly accepted money from Ukrainian oligarchs,&rdquo; Maria Zakharova said at a press briefing....The renewed scrutiny of Manafort&rsquo;s dealings in Ukraine comes at an awkward time for the veteran operative and for Trump.</p> </blockquote> <p>WTF? Russia is <em>publicly</em> complaining that another country took sides against it in an American election? Aren't they even pretending anymore that they didn't do anything to help Donald Trump win the presidency?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 06:07:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 320546 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: There's No Such Thing as Facts Anymore http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/quote-day-theres-no-such-thing-facts-anymore <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>One of the problems with Donald Trump's habit of lying endlessly&mdash;aside from the fact that he does it in the first place&mdash;is that it affects everyone around him. By chance, today brought this all front and center. We start off with Trump himself:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Trump?src=hash">#Trump</a> tells Cincinnati rally that violent crime is at a 45-year high. It's actually at a 51-year low, according to latest FBI data. <a href="https://t.co/eAKjq35cvp">pic.twitter.com/eAKjq35cvp</a></p> &mdash; Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) <a href="https://twitter.com/RVAwonk/status/804497948742664193">December 2, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This is a routine, garden-variety Trump lie. He obviously knows it's untrue, but he doesn't care. You see, for him it represents some kind of higher truth. Trump lackey Scottie Nell Hughes, in the course of explaining a different Trump lie, <a href="http://thedianerehmshow.org/audio/#/shows/2016-11-30/how-journalists-are-rethinking-their-role-under-a-trump-presidency/114095/@15:36" target="_blank">tells us how this works on the Diane Rehm show this morning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>People that say facts are facts, they're not really facts....<strong>There's no such thing, unfortunately anymore, as facts.</strong> And so Mr. Trump's tweet, amongst a certain crowd, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, <strong>he has some facts amongst him and his supporters,</strong> and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and there's no facts to back it up.</p> </blockquote> <p>Got that? These things the rest of us call lies are <em>facts amongst him and his supporters</em>. Senior lackey Kellyanne Conway agrees that truth in Trumpworld is a relative thing, but defends it more directly. If Trump says it, then by definition there must be something to it:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="https://twitter.com/KellyannePolls">@KellyannePolls</a> on Trump&rsquo;s unfounded tweets abt fraud: &ldquo;He&rsquo;s president-elect so that&rsquo;s presidential behavior&rdquo;</p> &mdash; Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) <a href="https://twitter.com/ZekeJMiller/status/804484983205298176">December 2, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Finally, Corey Lewandowski tells us all to <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/shouting-match-erupts-between-clinton-and-trump-aides/2016/12/01/7ac4398e-b7ea-11e6-b8df-600bd9d38a02_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_election750p%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.824db153858a" target="_blank">just get the hell over it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This is the problem with the media. <strong>You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally.</strong> The American people didn&rsquo;t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes &mdash; when you have a conversation with people, whether it&rsquo;s around the dinner table or at a bar &mdash; <strong>you&rsquo;re going to say things, and sometimes you don&rsquo;t have all the facts to back it up.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently we've got four years of this behavior ahead of us. Trump's "facts" aren't meant to be facts. They just represent a state of mind, or perhaps an aspiration of some kind. His supporters all get this. Now we'd all better get it too.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 04:31:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 320536 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Promises Revenge on Companies He Doesn't Like http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/trump-promises-revenge-companies-he-doesnt <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This popped up in my Twitter feed this morning:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tweet_trump_consequences.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 20px;"></p> <p>This is totally true. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/donald-trump-working-class-indiana" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I noted that Bernie Sanders had urged Trump to deny federal contracts to companies that move jobs overseas, which I called a massive abuse of power. I got some pushback on that, along the lines of "Why shouldn't a president stand up for American workers?"</p> <p>Well, a president should. But a president <em>shouldn't</em> personally punish companies that do things he doesn't like. I hope that requires no explanation. Now, if Congress passes a law banning federal contracts for companies that engage in some specified form of job offshoring, that would be different. It would almost certainly be a very bad law, but I'm pretty sure it would be constitutional. And if it allowed the executive branch a certain amount of discretion in enforcing the law, then Trump could take advantage of that.</p> <p>I would not recommend doing this. But it would be legal. Until then, however, it wouldn't be. And it would be wrong. Let's not encourage Trump to think of himself as any more of a mafia kingpin than he already does.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 23:33:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 320521 at http://www.motherjones.com Big Mac Followup http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/big-mac-followup <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I got showered with comments yesterday about the Big Mac. <em>It's so much more than the middle bun, you cretin!</em> Even my sister got on my case about it. My sister!</p> <p>So today I went out to our newly refurbished McDonald's and got one. My conclusion: it was fine. The special sauce was fine, the pickles were fine, and it was a perfectly good hamburger on the McDonald's scale of hamburgers. About halfway through eating it, though, it suddenly occurred to me that...it sure had a lot of bread. But all of you Big Mac lovers like the extra bun, I guess. De gustibus.</p> <p>I haven't been to McDonald's in a long time, and I see that they now hand out numbers like most other places. Unlike other places, however, mine has a staff that comes by and takes your number from the table without leaving any food. It took a while to sort this out, so I used the time to load Facebook on my phone. I did this because apparently blog posts with inline <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_facebook_logo_small.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">images (like the one on the right) don't render very well in Facebook Instant, whatever that is. And since half our traffic now comes from mobile Facebook users, this is a problem.</p> <p>So I got the Facebook app loaded and then scrolled through my feed, but there was nothing of mine there. Hmmm. I've never paid much attention to Facebook, so I wasn't sure what to do. I searched for MoJo, and then liked it, figuring that might make MoJo content appear. Oddly, though, what it mostly did was make lots of Brad DeLong posts appear. What's going on up there at Cal? I got this sorted out eventually, but it turns out the MoJo digital team has been curating the feed so that the troublesome posts don't go up. So I still don't know quite what's going on. But I'll find out soon enough when I chat with our web folks.</p> <p>That was my midday. How was yours?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 23:05:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 320516 at http://www.motherjones.com Swamp Watch - 1 December 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/swamp-watch-1-december-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Washington Post</em> says Donald Trump will pick Gen. James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense. I gather Mattis is pretty well respected, though I continue to believe that Trump himself was swayed solely by his "Mad Dog" nickname.</p> <p>Mattis will need a special exemption from Congress, since he's only been retired from the military for three years rather than the legally required seven. That will probably sail through, though I sort of hope it runs into at least a few bumps. I don't have anything against Mattis, but the 7-year rule is a pretty good one. Civilian control of the military is an important tradition.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_01.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:37:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 320511 at http://www.motherjones.com Medicare Is Probably Not On the 2017 Agenda http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/medicare-probably-not-2017-agenda <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>According to Paul Ryan, <a href="http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398578" target="_blank">he has six top priorities for the upcoming year:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Regulatory relief....Obamacare relief....reforming the tax code....foreign policy, rebuilding the military....securing the border....And then while we work on that, we want to work on poverty and restoring our constitutional separation of powers....So those are effectively the six pieces that we&rsquo;ve been talking about.</p> </blockquote> <p>I have a couple of comments about this. First, there's nothing here about entitlement reform, or Medicare reform in particular. This doesn't mean Medicare is safe forever, but it does suggest it's <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_medicare.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">not a briar patch Ryan wants to jump in right away.</p> <p>Second, these are all really, really complex. Regulatory relief&mdash;whatever that actually means&mdash;is dauntingly complicated. Repealing Obamacare is all but impossible without Democratic support, which means months or years of negotiation. Tax <em>cuts</em> are easy, but Ryan seems to want wholesale tax reform on the 1986 model, which has a ton of moving parts. Securing the border is a lot more than just building a wall. And "working on poverty"&mdash;I shudder to think what he means by this&mdash;is obviously no cakewalk.</p> <p>On the bright side, rebuilding the military is fairly easy. You just give them more money and hope it doesn't go down a rat hole.</p> <p>If Ryan is serious about this stuff, he's mapped out two years of work already&mdash;and that's not even counting whatever Donald Trump wants to throw in the mix. Put it all together, stir in Trump's promise not to touch entitlements, and I suspect that we're not going to see any serious movement on Medicare for at least a year, maybe more.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 19:21:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 320496 at http://www.motherjones.com Carrier Watch: We're Now Up to $7 Million — So Far http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/carrier-watch-were-now-7-million-%E2%80%94-so-far <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> passes along the <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/indiana-gives-7-million-in-tax-breaks-to-keep-carrier-jobs-1480608461" target="_blank">latest news on the Carrier deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Indiana officials agreed to give United Technologies Corp. $7 million worth of tax breaks over 10 years to encourage the company&rsquo;s Carrier Corp. unit to keep about 1,000 jobs in the state, according to people familiar with the matter....The deal would cover 800 Carrier workers from the Indianapolis furnace plant and an additional 300 research and headquarters positions that weren&rsquo;t slated to go to Mexico, according to another person briefed on the deal.</p> </blockquote> <p>Two things. First, we're now down to 800 jobs saved. The other 300 weren't going to Mexico in the first place, while another thousand are still scheduled to head south of the border. Second, this comes to about $1,000 annually per job saved. As these kinds of deals go, that's not too bad.</p> <p>However! Keep your eyes open. Call me cynical if you want, but I have a feeling it might eventually turn out that Carrier got a few more tidbits out of Trump than just this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 17:43:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 320476 at http://www.motherjones.com After the Election, Obamacare Repeal Is Suddenly a Little Less Tempting http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/after-election-obamacare-repeal-suddenly-little-less-tempting <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Back in October, when Democrats were in charge of the White House and seemed set to continue that, 32 percent of Americans said they wanted to repeal Obamacare. After the election, when Republicans had won total control of everything, that number dropped sharply to 26 percent. Here are the results of the <a href="http://kff.org/health-reform/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-november-2016/" target="_blank">latest Kaiser tracking poll:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_repeal_november_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_favorability_november_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>Apparently, when repeal of Obamacare became a concrete reality, rather than just a rallying cry, a fair number of people started to think twice. Even among Trump voters, only half want to see the law repealed.</p> <p>In any case, Democrats have a secret weapon to rescue Obamacare&mdash;one that's hiding in plain sight. More on that later.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:52:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 320466 at http://www.motherjones.com