Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en 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 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 The North Pole Is In Big Trouble. So Is the South Pole. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For years, climate deniers have been producing charts that <a href="" target="_blank">use the El Ni&ntilde;o year of 1998 as a starting point.</a> Why? Because it was an unusually hot year, and if you start there it looks like global warming has "paused" for a good long time. Here's a <a href="" target="_blank">colorful example of the genre</a> from the <em>Daily Mail</em> a few years ago:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_daily_mail_plateau.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>These charts are no longer useful to the deniers thanks to the very high temperatures of the past couple of years, so they've gone away. But what will take their place? I was amused to discover the answer a few days ago: <em>2016 doesn't mean anything because it was an El Ni&ntilde;o year.</em></p> <p>Hah! Nobody ever said they didn't have chutzpah. But it got me curious: what does a global temperature chart look like if you pull out just the El Ni&ntilde;o and La Ni&ntilde;a years? That seemed like a lot of work to get right, so I put it aside. Today, however, I found out that someone else had already done it for me. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_climate_change_el_nino_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>This comes from a Weather Channel piece titled <a href="" target="_blank">"Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans."</a> The chart itself apparently comes from, but I can't figure out exactly where to link to it. <em>[UPDATE: <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is.</a> It's an animated GIF!]</em> However, it shows the historical data clearly: El Ni&ntilde;o years (in red) are always hot, but have been getting steadily hotter. La Ni&ntilde;a years (in blue) are always cool, but have also been getting steadily hotter. And the years in-between (in black) have been getting steadily hotter too. Long story short, every kind of year has been getting steadily hotter for a long time.</p> <p>And this year is a real champ. Here's the latest <a href="" target="_blank">from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_arctic_sea_ice_1978_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_antarctic_sea_ice_1978_2016_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>Both poles are showing massive ice loss compared to trend. We've never seen anything like it. You can draw all the misleading charts you want, but it doesn't change the facts. Climate change is real, and it's getting worse.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 19:07:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 320886 at Is the Military Reluctant to Support the Use of Force? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Retired Gen. Charles Dunlap says we shouldn't be too worried about all the generals that Donald Trump is <a href="" target="_blank">picking for his cabinet:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Many in the civilian world misunderstand the ways most generals see the world....<strong>Retired generals don&rsquo;t clamor for war; they are typically the voices urging that all other avenues be exhausted before turning to force.</strong></p> <p>As chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then-Army Gen. Colin Powell authored a thoughtful but tempered use-of-force doctrine that said America should only go to war with defined objectives and a clear exit strategy. It was designed to persuade civilian policymakers to be extremely cautious about ordering troops into battle. It didn&rsquo;t work, <strong>and true &ldquo;hawks&rdquo; of Powell&rsquo;s tenure often proved to be high-ranking civilian officials with liberal political leanings.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>My sense is that this is true. But that doesn't mean it is, of course. Maybe my sense is wrong. I'd like to hear more about this from both civilian and military folks who have held high-ranking positions in previous administrations. When it comes to the use of force, are ex-generals generally voices of moderation?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 17:53:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 320866 at Swamp Watch - 7 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href=";_r=0" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em> reports</a> that Donald Trump plans to name Gen. John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, as Secretary of Homeland Security. That makes three generals so far in his cabinet: Flynn, Mattis,<sup>1</sup> and Kelly. That's a lot of generals, no? Especially for a guy who <a href="" target="_blank">trashed America's generals</a> during the campaign because "they haven't done the job." I guess he changed his mind.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Who Trump continues to call "Mad Dog" at every possible opportunity.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_07.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:45:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 320861 at Signs of the Times <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">The view from the bottom:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Los Angeles Unified School District has set up a hotline and opened &ldquo;extended support sites&rdquo; to respond to a high level of student anxiety about the election of Donald Trump as president.</p> </blockquote> <p>And the view from the top:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Paul Ryan this morning to CNBC on potential Trump business conflicts-of-interest: "This is not what I'm concerned about in Congress."</p> &mdash; Manu Raju (@mkraju) <a href="">December 7, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:32:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 320856 at Charts of the Day: Income Inequality Doesn't Have to Spiral Out of Control <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Over at Equitable Growth,</a> Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman provide a look at the latest numbers on income inequality in the United States:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pikkety_growing_inequality.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>The authors comment:</p> <blockquote> <p>For the 117 million U.S. adults in the bottom half of the income distribution, growth has been non-existent for a generation while at the top of the ladder it has been extraordinarily strong....In the bottom half of the distribution, only the income of the elderly is rising....To understand how unequal the United States is today, consider the following fact. <strong>In 1980, adults in the top 1 percent earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50 percent of adults. Today they earn 81 times more.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that's the modern world for you, right? It's all about skills and education and greater returns to rock stars. There's really not much we can do about&mdash;oh wait. Here's another chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pikkety_growing_inequality_france.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>Huh. Apparently you <em>can</em> run a thriving modern economy that benefits the working class as well as the rich. And note that this is pre-tax income. If social welfare benefits were included, the working class in France would be doing even better compared to the US:</p> <blockquote> <p>The diverging trends in the distribution of pre-tax income across France and the United States&mdash;two advanced economies subject to the same forces of technological progress and globalization&mdash;show that <strong>working-class incomes are not bound to stagnate in Western countries.</strong> In the United States, the stagnation of bottom 50 percent of incomes and the upsurge in the top 1 percent coincided with <strong>drastically reduced progressive taxation, widespread deregulation of industries and services, particularly the financial services industry, weakened unions, and an eroding minimum wage.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>We could do better for the working class and still maintain our economic dynamism if we wanted to. The only thing stopping us is that, apparently, we<sup>1</sup> don't want to.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>For a certain definition of "we," that is.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:05:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 320851 at The Trump Era of Crony Capitalism Has Officially Started <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I would like to bring your attention once again to the two stock charts below:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boeing_trump_tweet_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sprint_tmobile_trump_softbank_1.jpg" style="margin: 17px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>Last week, Trump took a baby step into the world of crony capitalism by bribing/threatening United Technologies to keep a Carrier plant in Indiana so that Trump would look good. Today, he took a big ol' dive into the crony capitalism pool, tanking one company's stock because they had displeased him, and boosting two others because an investor had agreed to say nice things about him.</p> <p>Now, in both cases the effects were temporary. Still, is this going to be a regular thing? Are American equity markets now in thrall to the whims of Donald Trump? Do companies need to be fearful of what the president of the United States might do to them if he happens to take a dislike to something they do?</p> <p>And while I know how annoying this question can be, can you even imagine how Republicans would react if Barack Obama pulled this kind of stunt? Fox News would practically explode and Jason Chaffetz would start gearing up for a year or two of hearings. But since it's Trump doing it, there's nothing but radio silence. Apparently government interference in the free market isn't quite so terrible after all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 05:36:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 320841 at Hillary Clinton's Popular Vote Lead Is Now Up to 2 Percent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I figure it's still worth periodically posting a reminder that far more people wanted Hillary Clinton as their president than Donald Trump. <a href="" target="_blank">The latest numbers</a> show Clinton ahead by 2.6 million votes, or 2 percent of the total. Aside from the obviously corrupt election of 1876, no winning candidate in the two-party era has ever done even remotely as dismally in the popular vote as Trump.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_popular_vote_2016_12_06.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 145px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 05:04:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 320836 at What Did Donald Trump Promise the President of Softbank? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Masayoshi Son, the president of Softbank and owner of Sprint, met with Donald Trump this afternoon and then announced that he planned to invest $50 billion in the United States over the next five years. <a href="" target="_blank">Trump tweeted</a> that "Masa said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election!"</p> <p>Maybe so. But is this because Trump has promised to supercharge the economy and get rid of pesky, growth-killing regulations? Or is it, perhaps, because Trump promised to get rid of one particular pesky regulation? <a href="" target="_blank">Here's the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When he acquired Sprint, Mr. Son&rsquo;s initial plan was to merge the carrier with German-owned T-Mobile US Inc. to take on market leaders AT&amp;T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., <strong>but he abandoned the effort after regulators signaled they would reject the plan.</strong> Some investors and analysts have said he could make another attempt after Mr. Trump&rsquo;s election and when a new chairman is appointed to the Federal Communications Commission.</p> <p>Mr. Son planned to tell Mr. Trump about what happened with T-Mobile, <strong>and how he had wanted to invest in the U.S. but the regulatory climate was too harsh so he invested <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sprint_tmobile_trump_softbank_1.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">outside the U.S. instead,</strong> the person familiar with the matter said.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's true: Obama regulators killed Sprint's planned acquisition of T-Mobile on antitrust grounds. This is undoubtedly the "harsh" regulatory climate that bothered Son. So perhaps Trump agreed that if Son takes another run at T-Mobile, his administration would be happy to make sure the merger gets a big ol' green light. The stock market certainly seemed to think this was likely. Within a few minutes of Trump's tweet, Sprint stock shot up 6 percent and T-Mobile rose 2 percent.</p> <p>In the same <em>Journal</em> article, we also get this:</p> <blockquote> <p>AT&amp;T Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson also spoke positively of the economic benefits of a Trump presidency Tuesday....He expressed hope that &ldquo;a more moderate approach to some of these regulations is in the making under a Trump administration.&rdquo; Mr. Stephenson said the U.S. is the <strong>&ldquo;highest tax country in the developed world&rdquo;</strong> and that <strong>capital investment, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is at its lowest level since World War II.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The business community is certainly sucking up to Trump these days, aren't they? They're apparently also developing a taste for his casual relationship with the truth. Here are two parting charts, presented without comment.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_us_corporate_tax_rate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d9d9d9; margin: 15px 0px 0px 25px;"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nonresidential_fixed_investment_1950_2015.jpg" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 25px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 02:28:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 320831 at Trump Fires Michael Flynn Jr. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Here's some cheery news:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday fired one of his transition team&rsquo;s staff members, Michael G. Flynn, the son of his designated national security adviser, for using Twitter to spread a fake news story about Hillary Clinton that this weekend led to an armed confrontation in a pizza restaurant in Washington.</p> </blockquote> <p>As near as I can tell, Flynn Jr. is batshit crazy. It's good to see him gone. The only problem is that Flynn Sr. isn't much better, and he's going to be running our foreign policy before long. I guess the best we can hope for is that sometime soon he does something so mind-bogglingly barmy that even Donald Trump will feel obligated to fire him. Hopefully sometime before January 20.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 00:09:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 320826 at Insurance Industry OK With Repealing Obamacare As Long As We Don't Actually Repeal Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_2017.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at this. The health insurance industry is outlining what it wants to keep <a href="" target="_blank">when Republicans repeal Obamacare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The insurers, some who have already started leaving the marketplaces because they are losing money there, say they need a clear commitment from the Trump administration and congressional leaders that the government will <strong>continue offsetting some costs for low-income people.</strong> They also want to keep in place rules that <strong>encourage young and healthy people to sign up,</strong> which the insurers say are crucial to a stable market for individual buyers.</p> <p>....[Marilyn] Tavenner acknowledged that the current law &ldquo;needed to be improved.&rdquo; But she emphasized that there was widespread agreement among Republicans about the need for some the law&rsquo;s provisions, <strong>including covering people with expensive medical conditions.</strong> President-elect Donald J. Trump has also signaled his support of this popular provision. &ldquo;There are common starting platforms,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>....Ms. Tavenner said the industry wanted to know more about what the Republicans were planning, <strong>including information on the fate of the Medicaid expansion under the law.</strong> &ldquo;We still have more questions than answers,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t want to disrupt individuals who are relying on our coverage,&rdquo; she said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the case for laughing: the insurance industry says it's OK with repealing Obamacare, but we should maintain the pre-existing conditions ban, the individual mandate, the subsidies for low-income families, and the Medicaid expansion. Needless to say, that <em>is</em> Obamacare.</p> <p>Here's the case for crying: "The market has already been a little wobbly this year," Tavenner said. If it looks like any of these four provisions are going to be repealed with nothing to replace them, insurers will simply pull out of the market at the "next logical opportunity." That would be about six months from now.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">And as I've mentioned before,</a> there's a good chance this doesn't just mean pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges. If the mandate and the subsidies go away, but the pre-existing conditions ban stays in place, insurers might very well pull out of the individual market entirely. Republicans are playing with fire here, and it's not clear if they even know it. Someone in the insurance biz really needs to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 00:00:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 320816 at A Second Look at Childcare Expenses and the Decline of Working Women <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">A couple of weeks ago</a> I wrote about a paper which claimed that declining female labor force participation was a result of increasing childcare costs. I was skeptical because the paper clearly showed that participation rates for women with children declined <em>less</em> than rates for women without children.</p> <p>Today, Chris Herbst of Arizona State University emails to say my skepticism is justified. The problem, he says, is that well-off families increasingly spend a lot for premium childcare, and this boosts the average. If, instead, you look at medians, childcare expenditures haven't really gone up that much. Instead of rising 32 percent between 1990 and 2011, the median increase is only 16 percent. What's more, virtually all of that increase happened during the 90s. Since childcare is labor intensive, he uses the earnings of childcare workers as a proxy for the cost of childcare. Here's what that looks like:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_childcare_earnings_1990_2011_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>Long story short, if the cost of childcare hasn't gone up much for working-class and middle-class families, then it probably has little effect on the labor force participation rate of women. <a href="" target="_blank">The full paper is here,</a> and it has some other interesting tidbits. For example, Herbst finds that the modest increase in childcare expenditures masks a big split: expenditures have gone up a lot for children under five, but have actually gone down a bit for older children. Perhaps there's some further work to do comparing the labor force participation of women with toddlers vs. women with school-age children?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 19:28:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 320761 at Stop Talking About Air Force One! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>There's been an ongoing debate for the past few weeks over a weighty topic: should we pay attention to every damn thing Donald Trump tweets?</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Argument for:</strong> He's president-elect. If he says something, it's news.</p> <p><strong>Argument against:</strong> His tweets are just shiny objects meant to distract us from the more boring but far more important ways he's destroying our great nation.</p> </blockquote> <p>Today brings evidence for ignoring the tweets. Earlier this morning, for no particular reason, Trump decided that we should cancel the contract for a new pair of Air Force Ones. Why? Trump says they're too expensive. My guess is that he's just mad that they won't be ready until 2024, which means the president after him will get a better plane than the POS he has to fly around in.</p> <p>Anyway. This is big news everywhere. It's on CNN, it's on the front pages of all the newspapers, and a Google search for "Air Force One" brings up a results page that's dominated by Trump's tweet.</p> <p>If there were ever a shiny object, this is it. It came out of the blue. It's completely ridiculous. Trump obviously has no idea what goes into these planes. (Hint: surviving a nuclear war.) It will never get seriously followed up. It's just <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boeing_trump_tweet_1.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">random crap designed to get him some attention. Why are we wasting our time with this?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Maybe there's more to this than I thought. Last year, after a century of producing planes in the US, <a href="" target="_blank">Boeing began construction of a plant in China.</a> It also gets a lot of its business from Chinese airlines, and perhaps privately told the Trump team that it was nervous about Trump's outreach to the president of Taiwan. Historically, after all, Boeing is one of the first to suffer when China gets mad. Plus it turns out that this wasn't just harmless guff: Boeing stock dropped about 1.5 percent after Trump's tweet.</p> <p>I'm still not sure about how much attention we should give to Trump's tweets, but now you know both sides of the story. Except for one thing: what does Trump have against Boeing? That's still a bit of a mystery.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 18:26:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 320751 at