Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2008/11 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Steven Mnuchin Just Doesn't Understand http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/steven-mnuchin-just-doesnt-understand <!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/policy-and-politics/2017/1/19/14324766/steven-mnuchin-irs-funding" target="_blank">This is adorable:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump&rsquo;s pick for secretary of the Treasury, was asked about tax reform in his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, he took things in a surprising direction: He suggested that the IRS needed a larger staff.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;I was particularly surprised, looking at the IRS numbers, that the IRS headcount has gone down quite dramatically, almost 30 percent over the last number of years,&rdquo;</strong> Mnuchin said in response to a question from Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican....&ldquo;Now perhaps the IRS just started with way too many people,&rdquo; Mnuchin added. But he suggested that &ldquo;staffing of the IRS is an important part of fixing the tax gap.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>That's, um, surprising, all right. Yessir, Mr. Mnuchin. Very surprising indeed.</p> <p>For those of you who don't get the joke, this is sort of like Mnuchin testifying in front of a bunch of mafia dons and expressing surprise that they charge such high interest rates in their lending operation. Maybe with lower rates you gentlemen could expand into the suburban market and gain a share of the home equity business? Lotta kitchen remodels out there.</p> <p>Basically, Mnuchin looked at the IRS numbers like a normal person and was surprised to see that they weren't trying to maximize tax collections. He apparently didn't realize that the Republicans he was testifying in front of have been <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/12/rich-people-cheer-republicans-cut-irs-budget" target="_blank">very deliberately slashing the IRS budget</a> for years precisely so they <em>can't</em> maximize tax collections. The last thing Republicans want is an IRS that audits rich people more closely.</p> <p>Mnuchin will learn. After all, Donald Trump did. Remember when Trump suggested that women who get abortions should be punished? He had no idea what he was talking about, and just assumed that since Republicans consider abortion bad, the maximal anti-abortion position must be good. He didn't realize that jailing middle-class teenagers is a position unpopular enough to jeopardize reelection prospects, and as a result Republicans have long insisted that even if they manage to make abortion illegal, they will always consider women who get abortions to be "victims" of unscrupulous butchers, not lawbreakers. That's the party line, anyway, and everyone is expected to know it.</p> <p>Before long, I'm sure Mnuchin will learn to listen respectfully to harangues about the gold standard and fiat money and ending the Fed. It's a small price to pay for the opportunity to occupy the position once held by Alexander Hamilton.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 20 Jan 2017 02:52:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 323601 at http://www.motherjones.com John Cornyn Promised . . . Absolutely Nothing Today http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/sen-john-cornyn-promisedabsolutely-nothing-today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Sen. John Cornyn, the #2 Republican leader in the Senate, took some questions today about the GOP replacement for Obamacare.&nbsp; <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/cornyn-says-no-one-on-medicaid-expansion-wil-lose-coverage" target="_blank">TPM's Lauren Fox reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When Cornyn was asked if he was concerned about people who've benefited from Medicaid expansion losing coverage, he said it was a shared concern. "We're all concerned, but it ain't going to happen," Cornyn said. "Will you write that down... It ain't gonna happen."</p> <p>Reporters followed up. "You're saying nobody's going to lose coverage?" one asked. "Nobody's going to lose coverage," Cornyn said. <strong>"Obviously, people covered today will continue to be covered. And, the hope is we'll expand access. Right now 30 million people are not covered under Obamacare."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>When you're dealing with Republicans and health care, you have to be mighty careful. Cornyn <em>didn't</em> say that people covered by Medicaid would continue to be covered <em>by Medicaid</em>. He just said they'd be "covered." This could mean anything. It could mean giving the poor a $1,000 refundable tax credit they can use toward buying coverage on the open market, which would be useless. It could mean giving the poor access to tax-favored HSAs and catastrophic coverage, which would also be useless. It could mean keeping them on Medicaid but instituting a 50 percent copay to make sure they have "skin in the game."</p> <p>Reporters need to step up their game. If they're going to ask about stuff like this, they have to demand enough detail for the answer to mean something. Cornyn may <em>sound</em> like he promised something here, but he didn't. And I assure you he chose his words very carefully.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 20 Jan 2017 00:23:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 323596 at http://www.motherjones.com Thanks For Everything, President Obama. We're Going to Miss You. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/thanks-everything-president-obama-were-going-miss-you <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's less than 24 hours until Barack Obama leaves the White House. In eight years, here's my top ten list of what he accomplished:</p> <ol><li>Affordable Care Act</li> <li>Stimulus package</li> <li>Climate actions: Paris agreement, EPA power plant standards, auto mileage standards, etc.</li> <li>Dodd-Frank financial reform</li> <li>Iran nuclear treaty</li> <li>Killed Osama bin Laden</li> <li>Allowed gays to serve openly in the military</li> <li>New START treaty</li> <li>Delivered 74 consecutive months of job growth</li> <li>Declined to get seriously involved in Syria</li> </ol><p>I'm keenly aware of all the criticisms you can make of this list: the stimulus wasn't big enough; Dodd-Frank didn't go far enough; Obamacare doesn't have a public option; cap-and-trade failed; the surveillance state became permanent; there was no help for underwater homeowners; there are still troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; and so forth. These are all legit. Nonetheless, if you compare this list to other presidents of the past century, there aren't more than three or four who can match it. Here in the real world, that's pretty good.</p> <p>On foreign affairs, Obama got better as he spent more time in office. In 2009 he approved a huge surge of troops into a hopeless fight in Afghanistan. In 2011, he resisted intervening in Libya but eventually agreed to a middling-size offensive. Finally, by 2013, he had learned his lesson and simply refused to allow more than a modest bit of engagement in Syria. And thank God for that. If we had committed seriously to Syria, we'd be fighting a massive two-front war there to this day. Anybody who thinks otherwise is just not paying attention.</p> <p>In the end, Obama wasn't a transformative president. But that's a high bar: in my book, FDR and Reagan are the only presidents of the past century who qualify. Still, Obama turned the battleship a few degrees more than most presidents, and we're all better off for it. He also brought a certain amount of grace and civility to the White House, as well as a genuine willingness to work across the aisle. In the event, that turned out to be futile, because Republicans had already decided to oppose everything he did sight unseen. But he did try.</p> <p>I don't know how much of his legacy will survive. A fair amount, I think, since repealing things like Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and the Iran treaty are harder than they look. But some of it will fade or evaporate in the Trump era. And Obama was never able to make any headway against the anger that festers in the hearts of so many Americans toward the poor, the non-white, the non-male, the non-straight, and the non-Christian. Now this anger will guide our next four years. I miss him already, the best president of my lifetime.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 19 Jan 2017 20:22:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 323571 at http://www.motherjones.com Report: Trump Team Wants to Slash Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Everything Else Except Defense http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/report-trump-team-wants-slash-social-security-medicare-medicaid-and-pretty-much-e <!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 news on squeezing our bloated government <a href="http://thehill.com/policy/finance/314991-trump-team-prepares-dramatic-cuts" target="_blank">down to size:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Donald Trump is ready to take an ax to government spending. Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday&rsquo;s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, <em>The Hill</em> has learned....Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump&rsquo;s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is terrifying, of course, but it's also puzzling. $10.5 trillion over ten years? That's a trillion dollars a year. If you eliminated the domestic discretionary budget entirely, you'd only save half a trillion bucks. So how do they do it?</p> <p>Well, we're told that the proposed budget cuts "hew closely" to a recent <a href="http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2016/02/a-blueprint-for-balance-a-federal-budget-for-2017" target="_blank">Heritage Foundation report,</a> so I went and took a look. The answer, of course, is that the only way to cut that kind of money is to take a meat axe to everything, including Social Security and Medicare. Here's a chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_heritage_budget_cuts.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Let's break this down. How does Heritage manage these whopping cuts? According to a modest little footnote in the appendix on page 165, here's the answer:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Medicaid:</strong> No details. There will be a spending cap, and all mandatory spending will somehow be cut to fit.</p> <p><strong>Medicare:</strong> Increase eligibility age, add a "temporary" premium for Part A, increase premiums for Parts B and D, phase out subsidies for seniors with "significant" income, "reform" cost-sharing arrangements, transition to <strike>vouchers</strike> premium support starting in 2021.</p> <p><strong>Domestic Discretionary:</strong> Magic spending cap.</p> <p><strong>Social Security:</strong> Increase retirement age, index retirement age so it keeps going up, reduce benefits by adopting chained CPI for inflation adjustments, and "transition the payment to a flat, anti-poverty benefit focused on individuals who need it most," whatever that means.</p> </blockquote> <p>In fairness, there's a bit more detail on the domestic discretionary side. Actually, a mountain of detail: over the course of 140 pages, Heritage recommends cuts to over a hundred programs. These include catfish programs, the Ex-Im bank, climate programs, Amtrak, the National Endowment for the Arts, etc. etc. This might turn out to be harder than they expect, since some senator somewhere probably thinks very highly of the USDA Catfish Inspection Program, but I guess they can try. In any case, about 80 percent of the savings come from a small number of programs:</p> <ul><li>Energy subsidies: $28 billion</li> <li>Land and Water Conservation Fund: $20 billion</li> <li>Various HHS/HUD jobs program: $10 billion</li> <li>Davis-Bacon: $9 billion</li> <li>Federal Transit Administration: $4 billion</li> <li>Nine climate programs: $4 billion</li> <li>Military health care: $4 billion</li> </ul><p>So there you have it. Slash a bunch of hippy-dippy stuff (clean energy, water conservation, transit, climate); some employment stuff (jobs programs, Davis-Bacon); and military health care spending. Then take a meat axe to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and everything else, and you're done! Piece of cake.</p> <p>Perhaps someone should start asking our president-elect if he's on board with this stuff.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 19 Jan 2017 18:39:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 323556 at http://www.motherjones.com Steven Mnuchin Forgot $95 Million In His Financial Disclosure Forms http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/steven-mnuchin-forgot-100-million-his-financial-disclosure-forms <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump's nominee for Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, has revised his <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/01/19/treasury-nominee-initially-omitted-more-than-100-million-from-disclosures-democratic-memo-shows/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_wb-mnuchin-memo-855a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.33fe510d4352" target="_blank">financial disclosure form:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to the memo, Mnuchin submitted answers Dec. 19 to a standard committee questionnaire seeking information about his financial and business interests. At the time, Mnuchin verified that those responses were accurate and complete.</p> <p>However, Mnuchin had left out <strong>$95 million in real estate</strong> from his initial disclosures, according to the memo....Mnuchin also at first failed to disclose his role as <strong>director of Dune Capital International,</strong> which is incorporated in the Cayman Islands, the document shows.</p> <p>....According to the memo, <strong>Mnuchin characterized the missing information as inadvertent mistakes,</strong> and he updated his answers to the committee&rsquo;s questionnaire on Saturday, less than a week before his hearing.</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. Mnuchin's earlier disclosure form revealed a net worth around $400 million, far higher than the earlier consensus estimate of $40 million. I guess when you're worth that much, it's easy to forget that your four homes (in Los Angeles, England, and two in New York) are worth another $95 million. It could happen to anyone.</p> <p>Anyway, the bottom line is that Mnuchin is actually worth about half a billion dollars, which makes a lot more sense for a Goldman Sachs/hedge fund lifer. The previous estimates of his net worth always struck me as surprisingly paltry.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 19 Jan 2017 15:59:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 323536 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump and the Strong Dollar: A One-Day Follow-Up http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/trump-and-strong-dollar-one-day-follow <!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/2017/01/please-stop-pretending-donald-trumps-every-utterance-has-magic-powers" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> blared the news that Donald Trump's comments on the dollar being too strong had sent the dollar "reeling." I suggested we might want to wait a few days before buying into this, but it turns out I was wrong. We only had to wait one day:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wsj_dollar_index_yesterday_today.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>This follows the usual formula: (a) Trump says something, (b) a related financial index reacts instantly, and (c) by the next day everything is back to normal. I gather that there are folks on Wall Street who are writing algorithms to make money off this dynamic, but it's unclear how long that can last. I mean, how many times can this happen before everyone realizes that Trump's blather doesn't really mean anything?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 19 Jan 2017 04:30:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 323526 at http://www.motherjones.com Final Swamp Watch - 17 January 2017 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/final-swamp-watch-17-january-2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Despite weeks of effort, Donald Trump was apparently unable to find a Hispanic to serve as Secretary of Agriculture. Was this because no Hispanics were willing to join his administration? Or was it because Trump just couldn't build any kind of personal rapport with any of the Hispanics who came to Trump Tower to visit with him? We'll never know.</p> <p>Instead, <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/trump-will-pick-sonny-perdue-to-lead-agriculture-233820" target="_blank">our new Agriculture Secretary will be Sonny Perdue,</a> the man who won election as governor of Georgia in 2003 by promising to let residents vote on a flag referendum that would allow them to return the Confederate battle cross to a central position in the state flag. In the end, the Democratic legislature refused to allow this, and instead compromised on a flag that ditched the rebel cross but included the Confederate Stars and Bars&mdash;something that most people don't really recognize, but which kinda sorta appeased the <strike>racist</strike> Southern heritage faction of the Peach State.</p> <p>I'm sure this appealed to Trump, and Perdue <em>does</em> have some agricultural experience&mdash;that is, assuming you count the fact that he runs a "global trading company that facilitates U.S. commerce focusing on the export of U.S. goods and services...such as blueberries, grains, onions, peanuts, pecans, soybeans, and spinach." He's probably done pretty well for himself in this business, allowing him to join his brother, Sen. David Perdue, in the rich man's club.</p> <p>Anyway, that's it. Until and unless someone pulls out or is rejected by the Senate, Trump has now named his nominees for every cabinet-level position. As you can see, he tangled with the swamp, and the swamp won.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2017_01_17.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 19 Jan 2017 02:21:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 323521 at http://www.motherjones.com Health Care Is All About the Benjamins http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/health-care-all-about-benjamins <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Sherri Underwood, a Midwestern woman in her mid-50s, writes that she voted for Donald Trump <a href="http://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/1/18/14300952/donald-trump-vote-regret" target="_blank">but now regrets it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Most of my decision came down to my poor experience with Obamacare.</strong> In the &rsquo;90s, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a chronic illness that causes fatigue, memory loss, physical aches, and soreness....I eventually was unable to work at all. I lost employer-based health insurance when I left the workforce and had to pay my health care costs out of pocket.</p> <p>When Obamacare first came into effect, I was excited to get what I thought would be financial help with my costly medicine and treatments. <strong>But [my husband&rsquo;s salary] put me in an earning bracket too high to qualify for any financial assistance....I&rsquo;m left with a premium of $893,</strong> so high that I can no longer afford the cost of my medicines and treatments on top of the monthly premiums.</p> <p>....<strong>In the end, I voted for Trump because he promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, and that was the most important issue to my own life.</strong> Looking back, I realize what a mistake it was. I ignored the pundits who repeated over and over again that he would not follow through on his promises, thinking they were spewing hysterics for better ratings. Sitting on my couch, my mouth agape at the words coming out his mouth on the TV before me, I realized just how wrong I was.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is so depressing. Underwood's general problem is that she's decided Trump is not a man who will carry out his promises, so now she doesn't believe he's going to improve Obamacare. Fine. But what Underwood never understood is that even if Trump <em>did</em> carry out his promises, she'd still be worse off. Although Underwood may not have qualified for a subsidy, she did benefit from the fact that Obamacare allows a maximum premium ratio of 3:1 between old people and young people. Trump and other Republicans think this ought to be 5:1. If it were, Underwood's premium would be over $1,000. Obamacare probably saved her something in the neighborhood of $2,000 per year.</p> <p>Plus Obamacare allowed her to get insurance in the first place. Until it took effect, no one would cover her.</p> <p>Lots of people have benefited considerably from Obamacare, but not everyone. Underwood found herself in the worst possible position: old enough to have a high premium but well-off enough that she didn't qualify for assistance. So she was gobsmacked when she discovered just how much health care costs in America. Most people have no real clue about this, but per-capita health care spending in the bloated US system is over $10,000 per year for someone 55 years old. That means insurance premiums are going to be $10,000+ per year too. There's just no getting around this.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_healthcare_spending_per_capita_oecd_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>If Republicans want to cover people like Underwood, they're going to have to spend more money than Obamacare. If they want to reduce deductibles, they're going to have to spend more money than Obamacare. If they want to increase subsidies for the middle class, they're going to have to spend more money than Obamacare. This is an iron law, and no amount of blather about state lines or tort reform or anything else changes it more than minutely. But Republicans want to spend less, not more. Even if Trump had been sincere, there was never any chance that Underwood would do better under his plan than under Obamacare.</p> <p>It all comes down to money. Ignore the rest of the chaff. If you think national health care should be better, it means spending more money. Period.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 19 Jan 2017 01:28:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 323511 at http://www.motherjones.com Six Agencies Are Investigating Trump-Russia Ties http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/six-agencies-are-investigating-trump-russia-ties <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>McClatchy has the latest on the investigation into <a href="http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/article127231799.html" target="_blank">ties between Russia and the Trump team:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The FBI and five other law enforcement and intelligence agencies have collaborated for months in an investigation into Russian attempts to influence the November election....<strong>The agencies involved in the inquiry are the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department&rsquo;s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and representatives of the director of national intelligence,</strong> the sources said.</p> <p>....One of the allegations involves whether <strong>a system for routinely paying thousands of Russian-American pensioners</strong> may have been used to pay some email hackers in the United States or to supply money to intermediaries who would then pay the hackers, the two sources said....A key mission of the six-agency group has been to examine <strong>who financed the email hacks of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta.</strong></p> <p>....The working group is scrutinizing the activities of a few Americans who were affiliated with Trump&rsquo;s campaign or his business empire and of multiple individuals from Russia and other former Soviet nations who had similar connections, the sources said.</p> <p>....<strong>The BBC reported that the FBI had obtained a warrant on Oct. 15</strong> from the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court allowing investigators access to bank records and other documents about potential payments and money transfers related to Russia. <strong>One of McClatchy&rsquo;s sources confirmed the report.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>That's an awful lot of agencies investigating an awful lot of allegations against an awful lot of people. And as the article says, you can't get a warrant unless you can demonstrate at least some kind of plausible probable cause. That means these folks are working off a lot more than just the famous dossier produced by the ex-MI6 spy.</p> <p>At this point, I flatly don't know what I believe anymore. This is all crazy stuff, but a whole bunch of investigators don't seem to be treating it as crazy. Either way, though, the guy at the center of all this is going to become president of the United States in two days.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 18 Jan 2017 20:16:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 323491 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Our Planet Continues to Fry http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/chart-day-our-planet-continues-fry <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There's just not much to say about this. We now have the <a href="https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/noaa-nasa_global_analysis-2016.pdf" target="_blank">official number for 2016,</a> and it was <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/science/earth-highest-temperature-record.html" target="_blank">yet another record-setting year</a> for global warming. Here's the latest set of <a href="http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/meant80n.uk.php" target="_blank">Arctic temperatures:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_arctic_temperature_2016_2017.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The green line is where we'd normally be. The red line is where we are: about 15&deg;C higher than usual. Total sea ice extent is now about 3 million square kilometers less than normal.</p> <p>However, 2017 will probably be a little cooler than 2016 thanks to the end of our latest El Ni&ntilde;o, so I'm sure the climate deniers will be back in the saddle a year from now. In the meantime, we continue to fry.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:33:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 323461 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: Lead? What Lead? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/quote-day-lead-what-lead <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Well, we've now officially gone from this:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Clinton proposes goal of ending lead exposure in 5 years</p> &mdash; Ben Adler (@badler) <a href="https://twitter.com/badler/status/720297713678483456">April 13, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> <p>To this:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Pruitt on lead exposure's dangers in children: "I don't know. I've not looked at the scientific research on that."</p> &mdash; Rebecca Leber (@rebleber) <a href="https://twitter.com/rebleber/status/821750721909493760">January 18, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> <p>If Pruitt had been asked about the effects of zirconium dioxide on Alzheimer's disease or something, then sure. Nobody knows everything, after all. But lead paint has been in the news for something like 50 years now and Flint's water pipes have been in big, bold headlines for the past two. You'd have to work pretty hard not to be aware of what lead does.</p> <p>Still, if you're bound and determined never to regulate anything, no matter how dangerous, then I suppose it pays to aggressively shut your eyes to environmental dangers of all kinds. Welcome to the New Model EPA, folks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:27:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 323456 at http://www.motherjones.com Inflation Surges Above 2%, US Is Doomed http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/inflation-surges-above-2-us-doomed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Well, this is it, boys and girls. We're doomed:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_inflation_2016_december.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The Consumer Price Index has breached 2 percent for one month, which means hyperinflation is right around the corner. The Fed must act!</p> <p>Never mind that the Fed doesn't care about the CPI and pays attention to the PCE inflation index, which is well below 2 percent. Or that they <em>really</em> pay attention to the core PCE, which is also well below 2 percent. Inflation is always and everywhere ready to devour us.</p> <p>Sarcasm aside, it is a little odd that the CPI and PCE went in opposite directions in November. I'll be curious to see if that continues when we get the December PCE numbers.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 18 Jan 2017 17:02:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 323451 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Is Already Campaigning For 2020 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/donald-trump-campaigning-2020-already <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I mentioned in passing <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/donald-trump-hopes-eu-collapses" target="_blank">yesterday</a> that Donald Trump's tweets aren't meant for the press or for Congress or for people like you and me. They're meant for his fans. Today brings a pretty good example of this:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">With all of the jobs I am bringing back into the U.S. (even before taking office), with all of the new auto plants coming back into our.....</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/821364027506966532">January 17, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">country and with the massive cost reductions I have negotiated on military purchases and more, I believe the people are seeing "big stuff."</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/821365569366671360">January 17, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> <p>This is obviously laughable. Even if you take Trump at face value, he's been responsible for no more than a tiny handful of jobs, and he hasn't negotiated a lower price on anything yet, let alone "massive" cost reductions on military purchases. So why bother tweeting something that makes him look ridiculous?</p> <p>Because he needs his supporters to continue thinking he's a miracle worker. To them, this tweet is a simple progress report. Even if anyone bothers fact checking it, they'll never see it. All they see is Trump keeping them apprised of the tremendous progress he's making in draining the swamp and bending Washington to his will.</p> <p>But surely he can't keep this up for multiple years, can he? At some point, after all, even people who don't pay much attention to the news will eventually realize there's a disconnect between reality and Trump's big talk. Then they'll start to see Trump for the empty hustler he is. Right?</p> <p>This is the $64,000 question. I wish I knew the answer. For now, I'll just say that I'm not sure. A lot of it depends on events, of course, and a lot of it depends on how successful Trump is at blaming other people for everything that goes wrong. Depending on circumstances, it's possible that the true believers will stay on board forever, even if he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 18 Jan 2017 02:54:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 323421 at http://www.motherjones.com Seven Years Is Enough: Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Prison Sentence http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/seven-years-enough-obama-commutes-chelsea-mannings-prison-sentence <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Obama announced today that he is commuting the sentence of Chelsea Manning, who has spent nearly seven years in prison for leaking thousands of classified documents when she was stationed in Iraq as an intelligence analyst in 2010. She will be freed in May. James Joyner is not pleased:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Manning certainly more deserving of sympathy than Snowden. OTOH, WH argument cuts both ways. This is big FU to the military justice system. <a href="https://t.co/nDCo3gA7vE">https://t.co/nDCo3gA7vE</a></p> &mdash; James Joyner (@DrJJoyner) <a href="https://twitter.com/DrJJoyner/status/821471881941417984">January 17, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> <p>This is just not right. Obama has commuted hundreds of sentences, as have previous presidents. By definition, these are acts of mercy that explicitly reduce a sentence imposed by the justice system. His commutation of Manning's sentence is no more a big FU to the military justice system than his other commutations are big FUs to the civilian justice system.</p> <p>What's more, there are several reasons to believe that Manning deserves this show of mercy. She released only low-level documents, not top secret ones. She was clearly in a good deal of mental distress when she did it. And she pleaded guilty to most of the charges and apologized publicly for her actions.</p> <p>The biggest disconnect between those who approve of her commutation and those who don't is undoubtedly a simple difference of opinion about how serious her crimes were. But there's another disconnect that's less obvious because so many of us barely even notice it anymore: the United States is a wild outlier when it comes to the length of prison sentences. Manning was sentenced to <em>35 years in prison</em>. A lot of people will shrug when they read that, but it's insane by any kind of global standard. We hand out 15 and 20-year sentences like candy in America, while the rest of the world considers 5-10 years a severe sentence for anyone short of a serial killer.</p> <p>Chelsea Manning will end up spending seven years in prison. By any non-crazy standard, that's a very long sentence considering the circumstances of Manning's crime. I don't believe she was wrongly convicted&mdash;no government can possibly allow a soldier to expose a massive trove of state secrets without punishment&mdash;but I do believe that seven years is enough. Let it rest.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 17 Jan 2017 22:26:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 323396 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Approval Hasn't Suddenly Spiked in the Past Month http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/obamacare-approval-hasnt-suddenly-spiked-past-month <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A new poll from NBC and the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> is getting some attention today for showing <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/brink-repeal-obamacare-has-never-been-more-popular-n707806" target="_blank">a big jump in support for Obamacare</a> now that Republicans are talking about getting rid of it. But this poll shows less than it seems. The last time it was taken was March 2015, so all it tells us is that one poll shows an increase in approval sometime over the past two years. For comparison, here's the NBC/WSJ poll overlaid on the monthly Kaiser tracking poll:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_approval_nbc_kaiser_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The Kaiser poll shows roughly a two-point increase over the past two years, all of it coming in the fall of 2016. Will it show another increase in January? Maybe, but we'll have to wait and see.</p> <p>In the meantime, the NBC/WSJ poll tells us very little. It doesn't show any kind of increase in the past month, just an increase over the past two years. And even that might be an artifact of sampling error in its March 2015 poll. I'm just as eager to see an increase in public approval of Obamacare as anybody, but the NBC/WSJ poll literally tells us nothing about the past month or two. In another few weeks both Gallup and Kaiser should give us some real data to chew on.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 17 Jan 2017 19:34:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 323361 at http://www.motherjones.com Please Stop Pretending that Donald Trump's Every Utterance Has Magic Powers http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/please-stop-pretending-donald-trumps-every-utterance-has-magic-powers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Yesterday Donald Trump said he thought the dollar was "too strong." Today the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> goes into overdrive to describe the effect of the great man's words:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-comments-send-dollar-reeling-1484666714" target="_blank"><strong>Trump Comments Send Dollar Reeling</strong></a></p> </blockquote> <p>Reeling! Is that true? Well, the <em>Journal's</em> own dollar index fell about 1 percent, and sure, that's a fair amount for a single day. But let's take a look at the <em>Journal's</em> index for the entire period since Trump's election:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wsj_dollar_index_trump_election_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Hmmm. The dollar steadily gained strength following Trump's election based on expectations of his economic and trade policy. Then it started sliding around the start of the new year. Its latest 1 percent drop is hardly significant: it's dropped that much in a single day before, and it's still up significantly since Trump's election. And in case you're curious, here's a longer-term view:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wsj_dollar_index_2014_2017.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>So did Trump's words have a galvanizing effect on the world's currency traders? It's possible, but we might want to wait a few days before we say so. There are other things going on in the world too, after all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 17 Jan 2017 18:52:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 323351 at http://www.motherjones.com Social Media Is Best Used for Distraction, Not Argument http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/social-media-best-used-distraction-not-argument <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The Chinese government is the acknowledged expert at authoritarian use of social media to promote party goals. So how do they do it? <a href="http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/01/authoritarians-distract-rather-debate.html" target="_blank">Alex Tabarrok</a> points today to a new paper that engaged in a ton of ground-level research to come to a conclusion that shouldn't surprise anyone. <a href="http://gking.harvard.edu/files/gking/files/50c.pdf" target="_blank">They don't waste their time trying to change minds:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime&rsquo;s strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. We infer that <strong>the goal of this massive secretive operation is instead to distract the public and change the subject,</strong> as most of the these posts involve cheerleading for China, the revolutionary history of the Communist Party, or other symbols of the regime.</p> </blockquote> <p>As the chart at the top of this post shows, the government's social media army leaps into action at all the appropriate times, but instead of defending the party or the government, they just spend their time distracting attention onto other subjects.</p> <p>I hardly need to mention that this strategy should remind you of someone.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:51:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 323331 at http://www.motherjones.com CBO: If Obamacare Is Repealed, Premiums Will Skyrocket and Millions Will Lose Coverage http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/cbo-if-obamacare-repealed-premiums-will-skyrocket-and-millions-will-lose-coverage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A few days ago Newt Gingrich wrote a jeremiad against the Congressional Budget Office, which acts as the official scorekeeper for the effect of proposed legislation. The CBO, he said, was obsolete, corrupt, left-wing, etc. etc. and simply didn't know how to account for a dynamic, entrepreneurial, red-tape-cutter like Donald Trump.</p> <p>Gingrich's real problem, of course, is that the CBO is required to stick close to reality, which means that it often produces projections and estimates that are inconvenient for Republicans. Take today, for example. Senate Democrats asked for an estimate of what would happen if Obamacare were repealed. <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52371" target="_blank">Here's the CBO's answer:</a></p> <ul><li>18 million people would lose insurance. By 2026, that would increase to 32 million.</li> <li>Premiums in the individual market would skyrocket, increasing 20-25 percent in the first year and about 50 percent by 2026.</li> <li>Insurers would exit the individual market en masse. About half the nation's population would live in areas with no individual insurers at all, rising to three-quarters by 2026.</li> </ul><p>That <em>is</em> inconvenient, isn't it? This is what happens if you eliminate Obamacare but keep in place the ban on pre-existing conditions&mdash;which Republicans all say they support and which <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/save-obamacare-donald-trump-repeal-gop" target="_blank">they can't repeal anyway.</a> Premiums would skyrocket, 32 million people would lose coverage, and insurers would abandon about three-quarters of the country.</p> <p>This is what Republicans need to address with their "replace" plan. But they can't do it and they know it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 17 Jan 2017 17:18:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 323321 at http://www.motherjones.com Even Lots of Republicans Think the Feds Should Guarantee Health Care For All http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/even-lots-republicans-think-feds-should-guarantee-health-care-all <!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.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/13/more-americans-say-government-should-ensure-health-care-coverage/" target="_blank">Via Pew Research,</a> here's another reason that Republicans might have more trouble than they think repealing Obamacare:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_healthcare_government_responsibility.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Republicans have been chanting "repeal and replace" for so long that people have started to believe the "replace" part. Even among Republicans, half of those with working-class incomes and a third of those with middle-class incomes believe the federal government ought to guarantee health coverage for everyone. It's only rich Republicans who are dead set against it.</p> <p>So what is Donald Trump going to do about that? Unfortunately, the answer is pretty obvious: he's going to propose a replacement plan that does hardly anything for anyone and then he's going to lie about it&mdash;loudly and relentlessly. Congressional Republicans will all join in, and the press will then report that the effect of the replacement plan is "controversial." Because, really, who can say what it does? All those numbers are pretty confusing, after all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 17 Jan 2017 03:54:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 323306 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Demands an Apology From You http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/donald-trump-demands-apology-you <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Just out of curiosity, I did a quick check to see how many people/organizations Donald Trump has demanded an apology from since he began his presidential campaign. The answer is 21:</p> <ul><li>Intelligence chiefs</li> <li>Cast and producers of Hamilton</li> <li>Mika Brzezinski</li> <li>The media</li> <li>Ruth Bader Ginsburg</li> <li>CNN</li> <li>Wall Street Journal</li> <li>Vicente Fox</li> <li>Mark Halperin</li> <li>Hillary Clinton</li> <li>Rachel Maddow</li> <li>Chuck Todd</li> <li>Chris Christie</li> <li>The liberal media</li> <li>The Washington Post</li> <li>Carly Fiorina</li> <li>Fox News</li> <li>Tom Llamas</li> <li>Charles Krauthammer</li> <li>John McCain</li> <li>Univision</li> </ul><p>For a guy who never apologizes himself, he sure does demand a lot of apologies from others, doesn't he?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 16 Jan 2017 19:55:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 323301 at http://www.motherjones.com We've Reached #cut50 For Young Black Men http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/weve-reached-cut50-young-black-men <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's some good news for MLK Day. The incarceration rate for young black men is now <a href="http://www.ricknevin.com/1-15-17.html" target="_blank">down more than half since 2001:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nevin_black_incarceration.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>The not-so-good news is that this has nothing to do with better criminal justice policies or efforts to create opportunities for people of color. It's because of lead. The younger you are, the more likely you are to have grown up in a (mostly) lead-free environment, and that means you're less likely to have committed a felony or gotten sent to prison. Because prison sentences in America tend to be long, de-incarceration lags falling crime rates by a fair amount, but eventually it does catch up.</p> <p>You'll note that, generally speaking, black incarceration has fallen more than white incarceration. The reason for this is simple: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2013/01/lead-and-crime-how-it-connects-race" target="_blank">the biggest victims of lead poisoning in the 1960-90 era</a> were residents of urban cores, which had more lead paint and higher concentrations of gasoline lead than other areas. These residents were disproportionately black, so when lead levels went up it affected blacks more strongly than whites. But when leaded gasoline was banned and lead poisoning declined, that also affected blacks more strongly than whites. Black crime rates fell more steeply than white crime rates, and now black incarceration is falling more steeply than white incarceration.</p> <p>We're still at nothing close to parity, of course. Lead explains some things, but it doesn't explain the stain of racism and greed in men's hearts. This is America's original sin, and it will take more than an EPA regulation to overcome it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 16 Jan 2017 18:23:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 323296 at http://www.motherjones.com Monica Crowley Is the First Casualty of the Trump Administration http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/monica-crowley-first-casualty-trump-administration <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Monica Crowley <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jan/16/crowley-forgo-post-trump-white-house/" target="_blank">won't be joining the Trump administration after all:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;After much reflection I have decided to remain in New York to pursue other opportunities and will not be taking a position in the incoming administration,&rdquo; she said in a statement. &ldquo;I greatly appreciate being asked to be part of President-elect Trump&rsquo;s team and I will continue to enthusiastically support him and his agenda for American renewal.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>I haven't bothered blogging about this, but just in case you missed the news, it turns out that Crowley is a serial plagiarist. As it happens, I have a pretty high tolerance for the kind of plagiarism that's usually involved in cases like this (a dozen lines or paragraphs that are semi-copied from other sources in a 500-page book), but it turns out that Crowley also <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/monica-crowley-plagiarism-phd-dissertation-columbia-214612" target="_blank">plagiarized great big chunks of her PhD dissertation.</a> That's a different thing altogether. Not only did she plagiarize <em>a lot</em>, but she did it in a setting where the whole point is to demonstrate original research and original thought. I don't know if universities can rescind a PhD, but I'll bet Columbia is looking pretty hard at doing just that.</p> <p>I doubt that either Trump or Michael Flynn cares about this, but on the other hand, they probably don't care much about Crowley either. So she's gone.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 16 Jan 2017 17:48:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 323291 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Do Republicans Hate Obamacare? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/why-republicans-hate-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Why are Republicans so hellbent on repealing Obamacare? This came up on Twitter the other day, and at first it sounds like a silly question. They've been opposed to Obamacare from the start, and they've been vocal about what they don't like.</p> <p>But it's a more interesting question than it seems. After all, we no longer have to guess about its effects. We know. So let's take a look.</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The Good.</strong> Obamacare has provided <a href="https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2016/03/03/20-million-people-have-gained-health-insurance-coverage-because-affordable-care-act-new-estimates" target="_blank">more than 20 million people</a>&mdash;most of them low-income or working class&mdash;with health coverage. It has done this with no negative effects on either <a href="https://www.medicare.gov/about-us/affordable-care-act/affordable-care-act.html" target="_blank">Medicare</a> or the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/heres-huge-and-undercovered-obamacare-success-story" target="_blank">employer health insurance market.</a> It didn't raise taxes more than a few pennies on <a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxvox/repealing-affordable-care-act-would-cut-taxes-high-income-households-raise-taxes-many-others" target="_blank">anyone making less than six figures.</a> It's had no effect on the willingness of companies to <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/obamacare-still-doing-great-still-not-causing-involuntary-part-time-work" target="_blank">hire full-time workers.</a> Health care costs under Obamacare have continued to grow at <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/06/today-brings-yet-more-obamacare-non-failure" target="_blank">very modest rates.</a> And it's accomplished all this <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/114th-congress-2015-2016/reports/51385-HealthInsuranceBaseline.pdf" target="_blank">under its original budget.</a></p> <p><strong>The Bad.</strong> Obamacare unquestionably has some problems. About 20 percent of its customers choose Bronze plans with very high deductibles. Some of the least expensive plans have narrow networks that restrict your choice of doctor. Some insurers have left the exchanges because they were losing money. And premium increases have been volatile as insurers have learned the market. But <em>every one of these things</em> is a result of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/10/obamacare-market-markets-arent-perfect" target="_blank">Obamacare's reliance on private markets,</a> something that Republicans support. Insurers are competing. They're offering plans with different features at different price points. Some of them are successful and some aren't. That's how markets work. It's messy, but eventually things settle down and provide the best set of services at the best possible price.</p> <p><strong>The Popular.</strong> Obamacare is popular unless you call it "Obamacare." If you call it <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/polling-obamacare-label-makes-big-difference-n102861" target="_blank">Kynect</a>, its negatives drop. If you call it the <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/2013/09/26/whats-in-a-name-lots-when-it-comes-to-obamacareaca.html" target="_blank">Affordable Care Act,</a> its negatives drop. If you ask about the actual things it does, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/obamacare" target="_blank">virtually every provision</a> is popular among Democrats and Republicans alike. Even Obamacare's taxes on the rich, which are fairly modest, are popular. Aside from the individual mandate, <em>the only truly unpopular part of Obamacare is the name "Obamacare."</em> (And even that's only unpopular among Republicans.)</p> </blockquote> <p>So why the continued rabid opposition to Obamacare? It's not because the government has taken over the health care market. On the contrary, Obamacare affects only a tiny part of the health insurance market and mostly relies on taking advantage of existing market forces. It's not because the benefits are too stingy. That's because Democrats kept funding at modest levels, something Republicans approve of. It's not because premiums are out of control. Republicans know perfectly well that premiums have simply caught up to CBO projections this year&mdash;and federal subsidies protect most people from increases anyway. It's not because everyone hates what Obamacare does. Even Republicans mostly like it. The GOP leadership in Congress could pass a virtually identical bill under a different name and it would be wildly popular.</p> <p>In the end, somehow, this really seems to be the answer:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CitizenCohn">@CitizenCohn</a> I watched it close up for a week. Sheer spite is a bigger part of it than I would've believed.</p> &mdash; Charles P. Pierce (@CharlesPPierce) <a href="https://twitter.com/CharlesPPierce/status/820132673595314176">January 14, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> <p>Republicans hate the idea that we're spending money on the working class and the poor. They hate the idea that Barack Obama is responsible for a pretty successful program. They hate the idea that taxes on the wealthy went up a bit. They hate the idea that a social welfare program can do a lot of good for a lot of people at a fairly modest price.</p> <p>What kind of person hates all these things?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 16 Jan 2017 13:35:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 323281 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Hopes the EU Collapses http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/donald-trump-hopes-eu-collapses <!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 giving <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-vows-insurance-for-everybody-in-obamacare-replacement-plan/2017/01/15/5f2b1e18-db5d-11e6-ad42-f3375f271c9c_story.html" target="_blank">interviews</a> this <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-01-15/trump-calls-nato-obsolete-and-dismisses-eu-in-german-interview" target="_blank">weekend!</a> Here's what he has to say:</p> <ul><li>His health care plan, which is almost down to the "final strokes," will provide "insurance for everyone."</li> <li>He wants to give Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices.</li> <li>He thinks more countries will leave the EU, and that's fine with him. He believes the EU is just a Trojan Horse for German domination of trade, which makes it bad for America.</li> <li>If BMW opens a plant in Mexico, he's going to hit them with a 35 percent import tariff.</li> <li>He wants to do a deal with the Russians. Perhaps he'll lift sanctions on Russia in return for a reduction in nuclear arms.<sup>1</sup></li> <li>Jared Kushner is a genius who will negotiate peace in the Middle East.<sup>2</sup></li> <li>He's going to keep using Twitter in the White House in order to communicate directly with his fans.<sup>3</sup></li> </ul><p>I guess that's it for now. I can't wait to see Trump's health care plan, which is apparently going to provide far better coverage than Obamacare and cost a lot less. Whatever it turns out to be, I'll bet Democrats will be kicking themselves for not thinking of it first.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>So Russia gets its sanctions lifted <em>and</em> gets to save money by paring back its expensive and useless nuclear arsenal. Maybe I'm just being obtuse, but it's not clear to me what the US gets out of this deal.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>This is just a wild guess on my part, but I'll bet Kushner has never spoken to a Palestinian leader in his life and doesn't have the slightest clue what they want from any kind of peace agreement.</p> <p><sup>3</sup>This is something that too many people continue to misunderstand. Trump's tweets aren't meant for the press or for Congress or for you and me. They're meant for his true believers. You should always read them with that in mind.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 16 Jan 2017 05:49:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 323286 at http://www.motherjones.com Evidence of Bizarre Trump-Russia Ties Continues to Ooze Out http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/01/evidence-bizarre-trump-russia-ties-continues-ooze-out <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So what's new on the Trump-Russia front? First up, the <em>Independent</em> tells us that the former MI6 agent behind the now-famous dossier alleging close ties between Russia and the Trump team was dismayed that his findings didn't <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-russia-dossier-file-investigation-hacking-christopher-steele-mi6-a7526901.html" target="_blank">generate more action during the presidential campaign:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr Steele became increasingly frustrated that the FBI was failing to take action on the intelligence from others as well as him. <strong>He came to believe there was a cover-up, that a cabal within the Bureau blocked a thorough inquiry into Mr Trump, focusing instead on the investigation into Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s emails.</strong></p> <p>....By late July and early August MI6 was also receiving information about Mr Trump. By September, information to the FBI began to grow in volume: Mr Steele compiled a set of his memos into one document and passed it to his contacts at the FBI. But there seemed to be little progress in a proper inquiry into Mr Trump. The Bureau, instead, seemed to be devoting their resources in the pursuit of Hillary Clinton&rsquo;s email transgressions.</p> <p><strong>The New York office, in particular, appeared to be on a crusade against Ms Clinton.</strong> Some of its agents had a long working relationship with Rudy Giuliani, by then a member of the Trump campaign, since his days as public prosecutor and then Mayor of the city.</p> </blockquote> <p>In related news, <em>BuzzFeed </em>says Israel is extremely interested in the possibility of <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/sheerafrenkel/spy-agencies-around-the-world-are-digging-into-trump-moscow?utm_term=.adJyLeKEr#.hfelxL6ZV" target="_blank">Trump-Russia ties:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;You can trust me that many intelligence agencies are trying to evaluate the extent to which Trump might have ties, or a weakness of some type, to Russia,&rdquo; one of the intelligence officers said....The officer said part of Israel&rsquo;s interest in the dossier &mdash; and in other intelligence on Trump&rsquo;s ties to Russia &mdash; <strong>stems from concern that secrets Israel shares with the Unites States might be fed to Russia.</strong></p> <p>Earlier this week, Israel&rsquo;s <em>Yediot Ahronot</em> newspaper reported that <strong>Israeli intelligence officials were questioning whether to continue sharing intelligence with the incoming Trump administration.</strong> The report said that during a recent meeting with US intelligence officials, Israel was told that the Russians had &ldquo;leverages of pressure&rdquo; to use against Trump. <em>BuzzFeed News</em> could not independently confirm that a meeting had taken place.</p> </blockquote> <p>Other reports suggest that British intelligence is thinking along the same lines as Israel. And the <em>Daily Beast</em> reports that a group dedicated to hacking the NSA and releasing its prize malware has suddenly gone out of business <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/13/mystery-hackers-blow-up-secret-nsa-hacking-tools-in-final-fuck-you.html?via=twitter_page" target="_blank">a few days before Trump's inauguration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Shadow Brokers emerged in August with the announcement that they&rsquo;d stolen the hacking tools used by a sophisticated computer-intrusion operation known as the Equation Group, and were putting them up for sale to the highest bidder. <strong>It was a remarkable claim, because the Equation Group is generally understood to be part of the NSA&rsquo;s elite Tailored Access Operations program.</strong></p> <p>....It soon emerged that the Shadow Brokers really had the goods....Virtually nobody, though, believed the Shadow Brokers&rsquo; claim that they were mere hackers trying to sell the exploits for a quick fortune.</p> <p>The more persuasive theory, supported by no less than Edward Snowden, is that <strong>the Shadow Brokers are one of the same Russian government hacking groups now accused of targeting the U.S. election</strong>....Under this theory, the Shadow Brokers were part of a tit-for-tat in the intelligence world. The group emerged just as the U.S. began confronting Russia over its election hacking, and then seemed to release its secrets in time with the public thrusts and parries between the two countries....<strong>Now, with a new, friendlier administration coming in, Vladimir Putin may be pressing the reset button.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The more I read about this stuff, the harder I find it to believe. It just seems wildly ridiculous, the kind of thing that would barely pass muster on a TV potboiler, let alone in real life. The truth is that I'd probably dismiss it entirely if it weren't for the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/07/donald-trumps-top-ten-giveaways-vladimir-putin" target="_blank">vast amount</a> of <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/09/donald-trumps-love-affair-vladimir-putin-really-alarming" target="_blank">very public</a> and <a href="http://www.vox.com/2017/1/11/14232666/trump-russia-allegations" target="_blank">very strange</a> evidence that <a href="http://www.vox.com/world/2016/11/1/13487322/donald-trump-russia-agent-hack" target="_blank">Team Trump and Team Putin are very close.</a></p> <p>I don't know. This is all completely outlandish, and I can hardly bring myself to credit it. And yet, there's an awful lot of evidence that points in the direction of it being true&mdash;or at least partly true, anyway. Strange days.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 15 Jan 2017 19:51:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 323276 at http://www.motherjones.com