Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Sam Johnson Wants to Cut Your Social Security Benefits By a Third <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For reasons that are a little unclear, Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) has decided to introduce a shiny new plan to reform Social Security when Congress meets next year. Johnson's idea of "reform" is to slash everyone's benefits, so this idea seems slightly suicidal&mdash;not to mention pointless, since Donald Trump campaigned very loudly on a promise not to touch anyone's Social Security.</p> <p>But Johnson is a very conservative guy, and maybe he just wants to lay down a marker. So what would his plan do? It has 15 components, all of them crammed full of Social Security's usual alphabet soup of acronyms&mdash;AWI, PIA, AIME, MAGI, bend points, etc.&mdash;but it turns out that only six of them are big enough to be meaningful. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is the Social Security actuary's estimate of how much money they'd save:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_johnson_social_security_plan_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Basically, there are four big proposals that would cut benefits by 5.76 percent of payroll, and two proposals that would increase benefits by 1.37 percent of payroll. I assure you that this chart is far simpler to understand than the actual analysis, but it probably still leaves you a little baffled. Whose benefits would be cut? And by how much? I'm here to help:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_johnson_social_security_plan_benefit_cuts.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 35px;"></p> <p>Roughly speaking, people with extremely low average earnings over their working lives would see their benefits rise. That's good! Unfortunately, everyone with an average lifetime income over $22,000 would see their benefits slashed&mdash;in some cases by a lot. An income of $60,000 is not exactly a king's ransom, but nonetheless Johnson would cut benefits for these folks by a third.</p> <p>As usual with these plans, a lot of its provisions are phased in gradually over time. But unlike most of these plans, some of them start to kick in right away. This means that even people who are already retired would suffer benefit cuts. For example, Johnson's plan reduces the annual cost-of-living increase&mdash;and eliminates it entirely for anyone earning over $85,000&mdash;beginning in 2018.</p> <p>Anyway, since I tortured myself by reading this plan, I figured I should torture all the rest of you by blogging about it. Happy Holidays!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 11 Dec 2016 00:54:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 321201 at Swamp Watch - 10 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Apparently it's now settled that ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson will be Donald Trump's Secretary of State. It's hard to know what to make of this. My main takeaway is that Trump obviously had a really hard time finding someone who checked all his boxes. I don't want to go too far overboard on Tillerson's friendly relationship with Vladimir Putin&mdash;it's hardly damning that his company submitted bids for drilling rights in the Arctic&mdash;but it's very hard to figure out what Trump didn't like about the dozens of far more plausible candidates available to him. The best I can come up with is that pretty much everyone on the Republican side of the aisle is a Russia hawk, and that's the one thing that disqualified them all.</p> <p>Then again, Tillerson is a wealthy fossil-fuel CEO, and Trump likes rich people, fossil fuels, and CEOs. Maybe that's all it is.</p> <p>NOTE: I wouldn't normally mark Tillerson as a member of the swamp, but I'm making an exception due to his apparent chumminess with the swamp. <a href="" target="_blank">Details here.</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_10_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 10 Dec 2016 22:53:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 321196 at It Turns Out Rex Tillerson Is Just Another Member of the Swamp <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Now that ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson seems to be a likely choice for Secretary of State, I got to wondering: where did his name come from in the first place? Obviously not from Trump himself. Well, I asked, and Twitter delivered. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is <em>Politico</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Tillerson was brought into Trump Tower for an interview with Trump <strong>at the recommendation of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who count Exxon among their private consulting clients,</strong> according to two sources familiar with the conversations. His name was first publicly floated for the job in early December and he met privately with Trump on Tuesday. Rice sat down with the President-elect in late November, and Gates followed her three days later.</p> </blockquote> <p>So Tillerson pays Gates and Rice for "consulting," whatever that means, and they in turn recommend him to Trump for the State Department. Welcome to the swamp, ladies and gentlemen.</p> <p>And while on we're on the subject of the Secretary of State, <em>National Review</em> editor Rich Lowry says that Tillerson, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney <a href="" target="_blank">all have problems that ought to disqualify them:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The natural pick here has always been John Bolton, who endorsed Trump early, who fits broadly within the Trump worldview that you might characterize as muscular realism, and actually has substantial foreign policy experience.</p> </blockquote> <p>I think the answer here is pretty obvious: Bolton doesn't like Russia, and he has no qualms about saying so loudly and persistently. Trump obviously values an appreciation of Vladimir Putin's talents more highly than he does even loyalty to Trump. Plus there's the mustache.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 10 Dec 2016 20:44:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 321191 at October 29 vs. December 10: A Lesson in Editorial Judgment <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today brings a reminder of the editorial judgment at work in our press corps. First, here is the <em>New York Times</em> on October 29, reporting on an ambiguous letter from FBI Director James Comey that literally added nothing to what we already knew:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nyt_front_page_2016_10_29.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 43px;"></p> <p>And here is the <em>New York Times</em> on December 10, reporting on concrete news that the intelligence community believes a hostile foreign power played a major role in getting a game show host elected president of the United States:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nyt_front_page_2016_12_10.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 43px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 10 Dec 2016 19:12:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 321181 at Donald Trump Really, Really Doesn't Want to Hear About How Russia Got Him Elected <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Guess what? It turns out that Vladimir Putin really did think that the best way to cripple America was to get an incompetent buffoon like Donald Trump elected president. Smart man. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's the <em>Washington Post</em>:</a> "The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that <strong>Russia intervened in the 2016 election to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_putin_chin_small.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">help Donald Trump win the presidency, </strong>rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter."</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em> adds this:</a> "They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding &mdash; which they say was also reached with high confidence &mdash; that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee&rsquo;s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, <strong>but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.</strong>"</p> <p>Donald Trump's transition team thinks the intelligence community is full of crap, and we should ignore them and move on. "The election ended a long time ago," they said in a statement, "in one of the <strong>biggest Electoral College victories in history</strong>."</p> <p>Oh really? Let's interrupt our story about the greatest act of ratfucking in history for an aside about how Trump really did:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_electoral_college_1804_2016_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The good news, I guess, is that Trump has given up on claiming that he won a great victory in the popular vote. The bad news is that he's simply switched to lying about his Electoral College victory.</p> <p>Now back to Putin. I'd say that given Trump's apparent inability to ever utter the truth&mdash;along with the odd coincidence that Trump just happens to be pro-Russia on <a href="" target="_blank">nearly every issue Russia cares about</a>&mdash;it might be smart to at least take a peek at what the intelligence folks have to say. Especially since the <em>Post</em> story also says this:</p> <blockquote> <p>In September, during a secret briefing for congressional leaders, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced doubts about the veracity of the intelligence...and made clear to the administration that he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.</p> </blockquote> <p>So McConnell really did Trump a solid, didn't he? And guess what? It turns out that Trump thinks McConnell's wife is the best qualified person in the whole country to be his Secretary of Transportation! Just another coincidence, I'm sure.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 10 Dec 2016 06:11:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 321176 at Let's Cool It On the "Fake News" Irony <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at <em>National Review</em>, <a href="" target="_blank">James Sherk has a complaint:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President-elect Trump has picked Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants (i.e. Carl&rsquo;s Jr. and Hardee&rsquo;s) for labor secretary. <strong>Amusingly, the media coverage of his nomination has been dominated by . . . fake news.</strong> Several outlets have reported that Puzder opposes increasing the minimum wage. That&rsquo;s not exactly true.</p> </blockquote> <p>Forget the Puzder stuff. His view on the minimum wage is a little hard to pin down. My objection is to the overuse of "fake news." There are two things that can qualify:</p> <ul><li>Stuff that's literally made up and passed off as real. The most famous example is <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a></li> <li>Wild conspiracy theories passed around on Facebook pages and crank websites.</li> </ul><p>"Fake news" is a useful concept, but not if we start using it to refer to anything we think is wrong or biased or not fully reported. We already have good words for this kind of stuff, ranging from "not the whole story" to "outright lie." We don't need to ruin a perfectly good phrase by using it where it really doesn't fit.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 10 Dec 2016 01:09:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 321166 at The Scriptwriter for "The Trump Show" Needs to Get a Grip <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Exxon Mobil Corp. Chief Executive Rex Tillerson has emerged as the leading candidate to become President-elect Donald Trump&rsquo;s pick for secretary of state, according to two transition officials, marking the latest twist in a multiweek search for a top diplomat.</p> <p>....Among those considered for the post, Mr. Tillerson has perhaps the closest ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, having negotiated a 2011 energy partnership deal with Russia that Mr. Putin said could eventually be worth as much as $500 billion. In 2012, the Kremlin bestowed the country&rsquo;s Order of Friendship decoration on Mr. Tillerson.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh come on. Trump is planning to nominate a wealthy, inexperienced fossil-fuel mogul whose only qualification&mdash;literally&mdash;is that he's sort of chummy with Vladimir Putin? And Republicans are expected to confirm him?</p> <p>Who's writing the script for this show? No one's going to believe these plot twists. I gave up on <em>Designated Survivor</em> after a couple of episodes, and it was more realistic than this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 10 Dec 2016 00:30:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 321161 at Friday Cat Blogging - 9 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For years we've had a regular feline visitor to our house. However, a few days ago, for the first time I can remember, he visited during daylight hours. This caused considerable alarm, and in the ensuing dustup both of our cats somehow ended up on the roof. I'm not quite sure how or why, but after it was all over they roamed around for a while and then settled down on the patio cover. As you can see, Hilbert is keeping a watchful eye out for any further invasions of his territory.</p> <p>Speaking of territory, the Downing Street mouse problem has still not been solved. So now, in addition to Larry, Palmerston, and Gladstone, the staff has added a mother and son pair of cats, Evie and Ossie. We now have an army of five cats on Downing Street patrol. Would you like to see them and hear about all the inside dirt? (Turf wars! Dog terrorizing! Tarantulas!) This is the kind of thing for which tabloids are really and truly your best source. Forget the <em>Guardian</em>. I recommend <a href="" target="_blank">the <em>Sun</em></a> or <a href="" target="_blank">the <em>Mirror</em></a> for this story.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2016_12_09.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:56:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 321136 at Trump Still Blowing Off Intelligence Briefings <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few years ago, conservatives raised an alarm over the fact that President Obama didn't receive an in-person intelligence briefing every day. Sometimes, it turned out, he met with the briefer, but other times he just read the briefing material. This was deemed a major threat to national security.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">So how about Donald Trump?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President-elect Donald Trump is receiving an average of <strong>one presidential intelligence briefing a week,</strong> according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter, far fewer than most of his recent predecessors....Trump has asked for at least one briefing, and possibly more, from intelligence agencies on specific subjects, one of the officials said. The source declined to identify what subjects interested the president-elect, <strong>but said that so far they have not included Russia or Iran.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>My guess is that Trump (a) thinks he already knows everything he needs to know, and (b) is afraid the briefings might force him to acknowledge things he doesn't want to believe. In any case, he's going to be president pretty shortly, and surely Republicans are deeply concerned about his apparent lack of interest in the intelligence community's reports.</p> <p>Right?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:42:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 321126 at Who Will Write Us a Syllabus for Sneerology 101? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Paul Krugman notes today that all of us coastal elites actually do more for the recently famous white working class than Republicans do, but the working class folks still don't like us because they think we look down on them. <a href="" target="_blank">He's a little puzzled about this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Do the liberals sneer at the Joe Sixpacks? <strong>Actually, I&rsquo;ve never heard it</strong> &mdash; the people I hang out with do understand that living the way they do takes a lot more money and time than hard-pressed Americans have, and aren&rsquo;t especially judgmental about lifestyles. <strong>But it&rsquo;s easy to see how the sense that liberals look down on regular folks might arise, and be fanned by right-wing media.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not here to get into a fight with Krugman, but come on. Sure, the right-wing media fans the flames of this stuff, but is there really any question that liberal city folks tend to sneer at rural working-class folks? I'm not even talking about stuff like abortion and guns and gay marriage, where we disagree over major points of policy. I'm talking about lifestyle. Krugman talks about fast food, and that's a decent example. Working-class folks <em>like</em> fast food,<sup>1</sup> which explains why Donald Trump liked to show pictures of himself <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_branson_dolly_dixie.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">eating McDonald's or KFC. It's a sign that he's one of them. Ditto for Trump's famous trucker hat. (Did you even know that <a href="" target="_blank">it's a trucker hat,</a> not a baseball cap? He did.)</p> <p>If I felt like this was something that actually needs evidence, I could produce a million examples in a very short time. But everyone gets this, don't they? We sneer at their starchy food. We sneer at their holy-roller megachurches. (But not at black churches; never that.) We sneer at their favorite TV shows. We sneer at their reading habits. We sneer at their guns. We sneer at their double-wides. We sneer at the tchotchkes that litter their houses. We sneer at their supermarket tabloids. We sneer at their music. We sneer at their leisure activities. We sneer at their blunt patriotism. We sneer at&mdash;</p> <p>Again: come on. Maybe <em>you personally</em> don't do it&mdash;though judging from the comments here, a lot of you do&mdash;but you hardly need to be an anthropologist to recognize that this kind of sneering shows up on TV, in newspapers, on Twitter, in books, on Facebook, and in private conversations all the time. It's hard to believe that anyone is really blind to this.</p> <p>Now, it's true that they also sneer at us. Fair enough. But as all good liberals know, there's a big difference between a powerful group sneering at a vulnerable group, and vice versa. The former is a far bigger problem. And we educated city folks are, on average, far richer and more powerful than ruralish working-class folks. Our sneering has a power component that theirs doesn't. I confess that it's fun, and I enjoy my share of sneering in private, but I also accept that this attitude has political costs.</p> <p>Anyway, I'm curious: do you accept this? Is it as obvious to you as it is to me? Or do you think I'm overstating things? Do I really need to make my case in more detail?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>So do I. Except for McDonald's.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Dec 2016 19:17:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 321116 at American Media Suffering From Desperate Lack of Pro-Trump Voices <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It turns out that a lack of manufacturing jobs is not America's only problem. There's also a lack of columnists <a href="" target="_blank">willing to defend Donald Trump:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As they discovered during the long campaign season, the nation&rsquo;s newspapers and major digital news sites &mdash; the dreaded mainstream media &mdash; are facing a shortage of people able, or more likely willing, to write opinion columns supportive of the president-elect. Major newspapers, from <em>The Washington Post</em> to the <em>New York Times</em>, have struggled to find and publish pro-Trump columns for months. So have regional ones, such as the Des Moines Register and Arizona Republic, which have a long history of supporting Republican candidates.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the problem: these folks are not looking for writers who will defend particular Trump policies from time to time. They want columnists who will <em>regularly</em> defend <em>all</em> Trump policies. And here's the catch: they want people who are non-insane.</p> <p>That's hard. But perhaps it's a business opportunity for me. I could do this, I think, if I put my mind to it, but for obvious reasons of self-respect and the loss of all friends and family, the pay would have to be very high. So the question is, just how desperate is the media for a seemingly rational pro-Trump voice? Are they willing to pool their efforts to make me a highly-paid syndicated columnist who defends Trump no matter what he does?</p> <p>Let's see how serious they are. Show me the money, people.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Dec 2016 17:55:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 321111 at Swamp Watch - 9 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>According to reports, Trump will nominate Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) as Secretary of the Interior. After a run of three outsiders, this means we're back to the swamp for Trump's cabinet. McMorris Rodgers is a fairly standard issue Republican by contemporary standards, and naturally she hates any environmental regulations that might actually save our interior for future generations.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_09_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Dec 2016 16:26:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 321096 at Prediction: Terrorism in the Middle East Will Decline By Half Between 2020 and 2040 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>You guys are way too smart. I posted my mystery map of the Middle East yesterday morning, and in less than an hour you had figured out what it represented. For the rest of you, here's the map with its real title:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_middle_east_leaded_gasoline_phaseout_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I'm going to make an obvious point about this, but I want to make it carefully. Ever since I wrote my piece about <a href="" target="_blank">the link between violent crime and leaded gasoline,</a> I've gotten periodic questions about whether lead might be responsible for other things. The most common answer is <em>maybe</em>&mdash;but it's unlikely we'll ever have the data to prove it. For that reason, I try to stay pretty restrained about exactly what lead might and might not be responsible for.</p> <p>That said, there's a lot of evidence that leaded gasoline produced a wave of violent crime between 1960-1990 in the developed world, and that the introduction of unleaded gasoline eliminated that wave and eventually brought crime rates down nearly to 1960 levels. In most developed countries, leaded gasoline was phased out starting around the mid-70s, which benefited children born after that. When those children reached their late teenage years in the early 90s, they were much less prone to impulsiveness and aggression, which led to lower crime rates.</p> <p>But not every part of the world followed that timetable. In particular, leaded gasoline continued to be used in the Middle East up through the late 90s. Egypt began phasing it out in 1998, and most other countries followed over the next decade or so. Only a few&mdash;including Iraq and Afghanistan&mdash;still sell significant amounts of leaded gasoline.</p> <p>Since lead poisoning affects infants, its affects show up about 18-20 years later. What this means is that in the bright red countries, the cohort of kids who reach their late teen years around 2020 should be significantly less aggressive and violent than previous cohorts. Around 2025 the countries in lighter red will join them. Around 2030 the countries in pink will join. By 2040 or so, the process will be complete.</p> <p>Obviously this means that crime rates in the Middle East should decline steadily between 2020-40. But there's more. Given the effects of lead, it seems almost certain that reducing lead poisoning in teenagers and young adults should lead to a decline in terrorism as well.</p> <p>This is where I want to be careful. Obviously terrorism, like crime, has a lot of causes. What's more, you could eliminate every molecule of lead in the world and you'd still have plenty of crime and plenty of terrorism. But you'd have <em>less</em>. If terrorism follows the path of violent crime, eliminating leaded gasoline could reduce the level of terrorism by 50 percent or more.</p> <p>It's also possible&mdash;though this is much more speculative&mdash;that effective terrorism requires a minimum critical mass of people who are drawn to it. If you fall below that minimum, it might wither away. In other words, it's possible that removing lead from gasoline could reduce terrorism by even more than 50 percent.</p> <p>In any case, this leads to a concrete prediction: Between 2020 and 2040, the level of terrorism emanating from the Middle East will drop by at least half. Ditto for violence more generally, including civil wars. In a decade or so, we should begin to get hints of whether this prediction is correct.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Dec 2016 14:45:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 321076 at In Flint, 99% of Homes Are Safe As Long As They Have a Water Filter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_percentage_homes.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here's another look at the current state of water in Flint. Instead of an average, it shows the number of homes with different levels of lead in their tap water. The data (<a href=",6092,7-345-76292_76294_76297---,00.html" target="_blank">here</a>) is for the entire month of November (11/3 through 12/1) and covers 493 homes. The testing is done with unfiltered water.</p> <p>About 87 percent of homes have lead content of 5 parts per billion or less. This is safe for anyone, even small children. Another 9 percent have lead content of 6-15 ppb. This is probably safe for adults, and safe for children if it's filtered. Another 3 percent have lead levels between 16-100 ppb. This is unsafe unless filtered. Finally, about 1 percent of homes have lead levels above 100 ppb, which might be unsafe even if it's filtered.</p> <p>The filters are critical here. About 99 percent of Flint homes have safe water as long as a filter is properly installed and maintained. Replacing Flint's service lines will take a long time, and in the meantime the emphasis should be almost exclusively on making sure everyone has a working filter. Only a tiny percentage of houses still need to be using bottled water.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Dec 2016 05:52:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 321071 at Hoo Boy, Democrats Sure Do Hate Trump's Cabinet <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_losing_party_approval_cabinet.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Polls from Pew Research always have lots of interesting tidbits, <a href="" target="_blank">and today's is no exception.</a> One question was about approval of cabinet choices, and Donald Trump ranks the lowest of any recent president. But you have to dig down a bit to get the real news.</p> <p>It turns out this doesn't represent disapproval across the board. Members of Trump's party approve of his picks at roughly the same rate as members of the winning party always have. However, members of the opposing party are usually mildly positive toward a new president's picks. Not this year. Among Democrats, only 11 percent approve of Trump's cabinet choices. This is pretty remarkable. Trump starts out with the most intense disapproval among the opposite party of any new president in recent memory. <em>By far</em> the most intense.</p> <p>A second result is also interesting&mdash;as well as sort of amusing. In pretty much every poll ever taken, members of the president's party think the economy is stronger than members of the out party. Members of the president's party are also more likely to be optimistic about the future of the economy. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_economy_in_one_year_december_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d9d9d9; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">This is hardly surprising, but Trump has hypercharged it. Take a look at the chart on the right.</p> <p>Republicans are over the moon. A full 75 percent think the economy will be better in a year. Meanwhile, Democrats, who were already pessimistic, have cratered. Only 15 percent think the economy will be better a year from now.</p> <p>Personally, I think this is too easy. Instead of blathering about something vague like "economic conditions," you should be willing to name exactly what you think will be better. For example:</p> <ul><li>The unemployment rate is currently 4.6 percent. Higher or lower in November 2017?</li> <li>Real GDP growth averaged (approximately) 1.6 percent in 2016. Higher or lower in 2017?</li> <li>Real weekly wages of production and nonsupervisory employees were up (approximately) 0.41 percent in 2016. Higher or lower in 2017?</li> </ul><p>You can pick your own examples. But they should be specific and measurable, regardless of whether you think Trump is going to supercharge the economy or destroy it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 09 Dec 2016 03:12:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 321066 at Raw Data: If Obamacare Is Repealed, 17-37 Million People Will Lose Health Coverage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As Republicans merrily head down their stated path of repealing Obamacare without bothering to replace it, here are the <a href="" target="_blank">latest CDC numbers</a> on the uninsured:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cdc_uninsured_2016_june.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 20px;"></p> <p>Let's put that into raw numbers. There are currently 273 million people in America under the age of 65. If we abolished Obamacare and returned to the 2013 percentage of uninsured, 17 million people would lose health coverage.</p> <p>And that's optimistic. If Republican recklessness causes the insurance industry to abandon the individual market altogether (<a href="" target="_blank">explanation here</a>), the number of people who would lose coverage is somewhere in the range of 32-37 million. That's represents 22 million people who are currently in the <a href="" target="_blank">non-group insurance market</a> plus another 10-15 million who benefited from <a href="" target="_blank">Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.</a></p> <p>Repealing Obamacare makes a great campaign slogan, but now Republicans have to actually govern. Do they really want to be responsible for 17-37 million people losing health coverage? Really?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 20:18:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 321031 at Apparently the World Just Wants the Trains to Run on Time <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I seriously don't have the courage to click on this link, so I'll just share the tweet:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Share of the population who believe it is a good thing to have a 'strong leader' without elections or parliament <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Pedro da Costa (@pdacosta) <a href="">December 8, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Looking for a silver lining? The US is moving toward authoritarianism slower than the other countries. And Germany, which has some recent experience with this sort of thing, remains pretty committed to elections and so forth.</p> <p>Then again, Russia, Spain, and China have some recent experience with authoritarian governments too, and that's not stopping them from losing faith in democracy.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 19:28:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 321016 at How Many Generals Is Too Many? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_army_general_shoulder_boards.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Over at the <em>Washington Examiner</em>, Jamie McIntyre makes a fair point about <a href="" target="_blank">Trump's military-heavy cabinet:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"I am concerned that so many of the President-Elect's nominees thus far come from the ranks of recently retired military officers," Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement Wednesday evening....Yet when President Obama assembled his Cabinet in 2009, he also ended up with three retired four-stars in his inner circle: [Jim] Jones as his national security adviser, retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki as veterans affairs secretary, and retired Navy Adm. Dennis Blair as director of national intelligence. That's 12 stars to Trump's 11.</p> </blockquote> <p>Technically, DNI isn't a cabinet-level position, but it's hard to argue that it's less important than, say, Secretary of the Interior. Of course, Trump still has some positions to fill, including DNI, so we might not be done with the generals yet. Still, if Trump sticks with the three he's got, it's not out of the ordinary.</p> <p>The real issue with Trump seems to be that he's chosen a retired general to run the Department of Defense. It's reasonable to object to this, but let's just object to it, instead of claiming that Trump's cabinet is unusually heavy with ex-generals.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 18:19:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 321006 at Here's What's Left in Trump's Little Shop of Horrors <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In case you're keeping score at home, there are five cabinet posts left to be filled: State, Interior, Agriculture, Energy, and Veterans Affairs.</p> <p>Plus there are three cabinet-level positions still open: Office of Management and Budget, US Trade Representative, and Council of Economic Advisors.</p> <p>Of these, State and OMB are the most important. Veterans Affairs might be a spot for yet another general. Trade representative isn't usually a high-profile position, but might become one under Trump. The rest are offices he doesn't care about, which means they're wide open for women, minorities, and assorted billionaires.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 17:50:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 321001 at Swamp Watch - 8 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Well, Donald Trump is just playing with us now. The great protector of the working class plans to nominate for Secretary of Labor&mdash;that's Secretary of <em>Labor</em>&mdash;Andrew Puzder, the wealthy CEO of a fast-food empire who doggedly opposes a wide variety of worker protections imposed by big government. He also seems to take a fairly dim view of human labor in general, <a href="" target="_blank">regardless of how much it costs:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Puzder doesn't think that it's likely that any machine could take over the more nuanced kitchen work of Carl's Jr. and Hardee's. But for more rote tasks like grilling a burger or taking an order, technology may be even more precise than human employees. <strong>"They're always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there's never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,"</strong> says Puzder of swapping employees for machines.</p> </blockquote> <p>Puzder <a href="" target="_blank">might not be quite as bad</a> as that quote suggests, but he's hardly a fulsome friend of the working man and woman. On the bright side, Carl's Jr. makes a good burger. If they could just improve their fries, they'd be great.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_08.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 17:42:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 320996 at Infant Mortality Rose 1.3% Last Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today the Centers for Disease Control announced that <a href="" target="_blank">life expectancy at birth declined slightly between 2014 and 2015.</a> I wonder how they calculate that? They're basically predicting death rates around the year 2100, and it hardly seems likely they can do this. My understanding is that it's based on age-specific death rates prevailing for the current year, but what makes anyone think those death rates will remain the same for the next 80 years?</p> <p>That's a question for another blog post, I suppose. One thing is for sure, however: we can certainly take a look at death rates right now. And this, in particular, is disturbing:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cdc_infant_mortality_2014_2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>Infant mortality in the US is already far higher than it is in the rest of the developed world. It's under 450 in France, Germany, and Britain, for example, and under 350 in Italy, Japan, and Norway. The only OECD countries with higher infant mortality rates have per-capita incomes less than half ours.</p> <p>To make things worse, the rate of infant mortality among blacks is double what it is among whites and Hispanics. It's a horror story&mdash;and apparently it's getting worse. How is this possible?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 16:48:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 320991 at Today's Mystery Map <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Can you guess what this map represents? In my opinion it's pretty important, and I don't think I've ever seen it anywhere else. Leave your guesses in comments. I'll provide the answer tomorrow.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mideast_mystery_map_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 14:35:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 320976 at Swamp Watch - 7 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Another</em> cabinet appointment today? Does Donald Trump even pretend to vet any of these folks? Beats me. But yes, there's a third appointee today: Linda McMahon, of professional wrestling fame, will head up the Small Business Administration. (This is a <a href="" target="_blank">cabinet-level post,</a> so it goes on the list.) McMahon and her husband founded the WWE empire and are worth over $1 billion, so that's officially the third billionaire in his cabinet. Plus there's Trump himself, of course, so that's four. That's 0.7 percent of all the billionaires in the country&mdash;so far.</p> <p>Among other things, the McMahons have nearly single-handedly funded the Trump Foundation since 2007. Earlier this year they gave $6 million to Trump's campaign. Normally this gets you an ambassadorship to, say, Sweden, but the McMahons are longtime pals, so Linda gets a spot in the cabinet instead. The official excuse is that she helped build the WWE from a small business into an empire, so she knows just what small businesses need. Works for me.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_07_2.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 04:53:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 320971 at Media Coverage of the 2016 Election Was Very, Very Negative <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Shorenstein Center has published its <a href="" target="_blank">analysis of 2016 election coverage,</a> and the main takeaway is that it was very, very negative&mdash;but not <em>uniformly</em> negative. For most of the campaign, Donald Trump's coverage was more negative than Hillary Clinton's, but that suddenly turned around&nbsp;after James Comey's letter about Clinton's email was released. In the final two weeks of the campaign, more than a third of Clinton's coverage was devoted to scandals. At the same time, coverage of Trump turned suddenly less negative.</p> <p>The result is that during the crucial closing stretch of the campaign, Clinton's coverage was more negative than Trump's. It's hard to look at this and not conclude that Comey's letter was the key turning point that made Donald Trump president.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shorenstein_2016_presidential_clinton_scandal.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shorenstein_2016_presidential_net_tone_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>There are lots of other interesting tidbits in the Shorenstein report, but this one in particular struck me:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shorenstein_presidential_positive_coverage_1960_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;"></p> <p>That's an astonishingly straight line. For the past half century, news coverage of presidential campaigns has gotten steadily more negative&mdash;regardless of who's running. This is disturbing. It's easy to believe that the clubby and decorous political coverage of the 50s and 60s deserved to become tougher and more candid. But this doesn't mean that ever more cynical is the right answer. Does it really stand to reason that a full <em>two-thirds</em> of the coverage of the past three elections&mdash;featuring five different candidates&mdash;has been negative? I'm hard pressed to see how.</p> <p>Also, note that 2016 did <em>not</em> generate the most negative coverage of all time. That honor still belongs to 2000. I'm pointing this out as bait for Bob Somerby.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 00:52:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 320961 at Swamp Watch - 7 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We have another cabinet choice: Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt will lead the EPA. Pruitt is pretty much what you'd expect: he's a climate change skeptic and has <a href="" target="_blank">led the charge</a> against pretty much every Obama initiative to protect the environment. And he's from Oklahoma, so it's hardly surprising that he's cozy with the fossil fuel industry.</p> <p>In a controversial decision, the judges here at blog headquarters have named Pruitt the first Trump nominee who's neither part of the swamp nor rich, crazy, or scary. Pruitt is a state official, so he's not part of the DC swamp. And his climate skepticism and hatred of all environmental rules is pretty mainstream for Republicans. That's scary, of course, but the title is reserved for those who are scary far beyond just being folks that liberals don't like.</p> <p>This prompts a question: if you could wave a magic wand and dump either Steve Bannon or Michael Flynn from Trump's staff, which would you choose? I'd choose Flynn.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_07_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 20:07:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 320946 at