Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2010/11 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Health Care Is Expensive. Deal With It. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/health-care-expensive-deal-it <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>How much would a single-payer universal health care system cost in the United States? You don't need to do anything very complicated to get a ballpark figure. Here's the arithmetic:</p> <ul><li>Total spending on health care in the US is <strong>$3.2 trillion</strong></li> <li>Of that, $1.5 trillion is already funded by federal and state programs. That leaves additional required spending of <strong>$1.7 trillion.</strong></li> <li>A universal system will still require some copays and other out-of pocket expenses. Figure $200 billion or so. That leaves <strong>$1.5 trillion</strong></li> </ul><p>So that's it. A universal health care system in the US would require about $1.5 trillion in additional government spending. If you want to make heroic assumptions about how much a single-payer would save, go ahead. But nobody serious is going to buy it. If we're lucky, a good single-payer system would slow the growth of health care costs over the long term, but it's vanishingly unlikely to actually cut current costs.</p> <p>There was a lot of surprise today about an estimate that a single-payer plan for California would have a <a href="http://khn.org/news/tab-for-single-payer-proposal-in-california-could-run-400-billion/" target="_blank">net cost of about $200 billion.</a> But California has 12 percent of the nation's population, and 12 percent of $1.5 trillion is $180 billion. So that estimate is right in the ballpark of what you should expect. Short of some kind of legislative miracle, there's really no way around this. Health care is expensive.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 May 2017 04:52:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 333496 at http://www.motherjones.com Budget Crankery For Geeks: Real Nonresidential Fixed Investment Edition http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/budget-crankery-geeks-nonresidential-fixed-investment-version <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>If you want to read about President Trump's just-released budget, the rest of the news media has you covered. They have articles about cuts to food stamps, cuts to the border wall, cuts to the NIH, cuts to health research, cuts to Medicaid, cuts to the State Department, cuts to the EPA, trillions and trillions in cuts all over the place, and explainers about why 3 percent growth projections are ridiculous. Here's the tl;dr version: Trump's budget proposes huge cuts in spending on the poor along with preposterous assumptions about how much revenue they'll raise. The details really don't matter much since no one in Congress will read it. It's just a statement of Trump's callous guiding values.</p> <p>So I'm mostly going to skip the whole thing unless someone points out something especially amusing. And someone has! Section 2 of the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/budget.pdf" target="_blank">budget document</a> is titled, "What went wrong: Inheriting $20 trillion in debt and a broken, stagnant economy." Sure enough, it contains page upon page of woe. That Obummer dude sure did screw up the economy something fierce.</p> <p>However, a reader emails to point out something he thinks I'd appreciate: "Note the cherry picking of dates going on around pages 6 and 7 of the just-released Trump budget. Just as do the climate 'skeptics,' the authors of the Trump budget document pick inconsistent starting dates when they calculate growth rates of various things in order to get the good or bad results they desire. The best, perhaps, is the growth rate for real private nonresidential fixed investment."</p> <p>Hmmm. Real private nonresidential fixed investment, you say? Here's what the budget document says:</p> <blockquote> <p>Due to high taxes, high regulations, and poor economic policies, <strong>real private nonresidential fixed investment has grown by only 1.3 percent each year</strong> (on a fourth quarter-over-fourth quarter basis) since 2007, <strong>compared to 4.9 percent annually before the recession.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Yikes! That sucks. Is it true? I admit that I can't quite replicate their numbers, but let's call it close enough for government work. It's pretty nearly correct.</p> <p>Of course, it only works if you start precisely at 2007 so that you include the big drop from the recession. Here's what it looks like over the longer term:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nonresidential_investment_1999_2017.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>It doesn't really look all that different anymore, does it? In fact, since the Bush-era growth rate caused a massive property bubble and subsequent massive crash, we might well prefer a wee bit less growth than we had before 2007.</p> <p>I suppose it says something disturbing about me that I find this kind of technocratic lying with statistics more interesting than a thousand words about how the cuts to food stamps will hurt the poor. Then again, if you made it this far, it probably says something disturbing about you, too. In any case, I figure this is my comparative advantage. Everyone is writing about food stamps, but who else will point out the obscure but telling lies like this?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 May 2017 22:16:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 333461 at http://www.motherjones.com Lunchtime Photo http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/lunchtime-photo-11 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Remember that Canada Goose nest <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/04/lunchtime-photo-5" target="_blank">I showed you a while back?</a> It came to a sad end, unfortunately. I'm not sure what happened, exactly, but it was abandoned shortly before the eggs would have hatched.</p> <p>But there are other Canada Geese around, and they've had better luck. Here's a pair of goslings trying to catch a quick nap after a tiring day of pecking away at the grass looking for bugs. <em>[<strong>UPDATE:</strong> According to Rob Mac in comments, they aren't looking for bugs, they're just eating the grass.]</em> Aren't they adorable? Mom and Dad are keeping a close eye on the kids below.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_canada_goose_goslings_sleeping.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_canada_goose_parents.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 May 2017 19:30:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333416 at http://www.motherjones.com Brennan: CIA Was Original Source of Trump-Russia Investigation http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/brennan-cia-was-original-source-trump-russia-investigation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>How did the FBI's investigation into the Trump-Russia connection get started, anyway? Former CIA director John Brennan says <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-director-warned-russian-security-service-chief-about-interference-in-election/2017/05/23/ebff2a7e-3fbb-11e7-adba-394ee67a7582_story.html" target="_blank">he was the one who got the ball rolling:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;<strong>I encountered . . . intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign,</strong>&rdquo; Brennan said, adding that he did not see conclusive evidence of collusion but feared that Trump associates were wittingly or unwittingly being used to advance the interests of Moscow.</p> <p>....Brennan testified that he was disturbed by intelligence that surfaced last year showing a pattern of contacts between Russian agents or representatives and people with links to the Trump campaign. <strong>&ldquo;That raised concerns in my mind,&rdquo;</strong> Brennan said....With that remark, Brennan appeared to identify the point of origin of the FBI investigation that began in July &mdash; the first time a U.S. official has provided insight into what prompted the bureau probe.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's from the <em>Washington Post</em>. Brennan was testifying before Congress about Russian interference in the 2016 election, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/us/politics/john-brennan-russia-trump-campaign-cia.html" target="_blank">and the <em>New York Times</em> adds this disheartening tidbit:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>On Aug. 4, as evidence of that campaign mounted, Mr. Brennan warned Alexander Bortnikov, the director of Russia&rsquo;s Federal Security Service, known as the F.S.B., not to meddle in the election. Not only would interference damage relations between the two countries, he said, it was certain to backfire.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;I said that all Americans, regardless of political affiliation or whom they might support in the election, cherish their ability to elect their own leaders without outside interference or disruption,&rdquo;</strong> Mr. Brennan said. &ldquo;I said American voters would be outraged by any Russian attempt to interfere in election.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Mr. Brennan&rsquo;s warning proved futile.</strong> Though intelligence agencies are unanimous in their belief that Russia directly interfered with the election, <strong>it has become a divisive partisan issue, with Democrats far more likely than Republicans to accept the conclusion.</strong> President Trump has declared that &ldquo;Russia is fake news&rdquo; and tried to undermine the conclusions of his own intelligence services.</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't blame Brennan for thinking that Russian interference in the election would outrage everyone regardless of party. I suppose I might have thought the same thing. But it ain't so anymore:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">At Trump-Russia hearing with John Brennan, Republicans focus mostly on protecting Trump. <a href="https://t.co/vNArOktUUu">https://t.co/vNArOktUUu</a></p> &mdash; David Corn (@DavidCornDC) <a href="https://twitter.com/DavidCornDC/status/867078109924925441">May 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>As always, click the link for the whole story.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 May 2017 18:51:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 333436 at http://www.motherjones.com How Should We Respond to the Turkish Assault in Washington DC? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/how-should-we-respond-turkish-assault-washington-dc <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last week, a bunch of security goons working for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan waded into a demonstration outside the Turkish embassy in Washington DC and started beating up the protesters. A few days ago, the <em>Washington Post's</em> Philip Bump made a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2017/05/19/was-erdogan-personally-involved-in-his-bodyguards-attacks-on-protesters-in-d-c/?utm_term=.2cf8439798ae" target="_blank">pretty good case</a> that Erdogan did more than just watch as this happened. He actually ordered his guards to attack. <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/447860/president-erdogan-protesters-dc-us-must-send-message" target="_blank">Rich Lowry has the right response:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This is second offense for the Turks. A year ago, they beat up protesters and disfavored journalists outside an Erdogan talk at the Brookings Institution in Washington. One reporter wrote of that earlier incident, &ldquo;Never seen anything like this.&rdquo; If you hang around President Erdogan long enough, though, you&rsquo;ll see it all.</p> <p>....The Trump administration is obviously not putting an emphasis on promoting our values abroad. But it&rsquo;s one thing not to go on a democratizing crusade; it&rsquo;s another to shrug off an assault on the rights of protesters on our own soil. If nothing else, President Donald Trump&rsquo;s nationalism and sense of honor should be offended. Not only did the Turks carry out this attack, they are thumbing their noses at us by summoning our ambassador over it.</p> <p>The Turkish goons who punched and kicked people should be identified and charged with crimes. They are beyond our reach, either because they are back in Turkey or have diplomatic immunity. But we should ask for them to be returned and for their immunity to be waived. When these requests are inevitably refused, the Turkish ambassador to the U.S. (heard saying during the incident, &ldquo;You cannot touch us&rdquo;) should be expelled.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's obvious that Turkey is a delicate problem. On the one hand, they're a NATO member, and their location makes them a critical player in the war against ISIS. On the other hand, Erdogan is steadily converting Turkey into a totalitarian state. In the real world, sometimes you overlook this because you need allies and you don't always have the option of choosing someone who's pure and unsullied. But even if you accept this, Turkey is on thin ice since the Kurds are also our allies and Turkey interferes pretty seriously with our ability to team up with them. Even from a strictly realist/strategic perspective, our alliance with Turkey comes with a price.</p> <p>I won't pretend to have the answer. It's above my pay grade. But ordering your embassy security to attack protesters <em>in the US</em> who are lawfully and peacefully assembled is a whole different thing. That deserves a strong response even if it might cause strategic tension. Enough's enough.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 May 2017 17:27:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 333411 at http://www.motherjones.com BREAKING: Trump Budget Numbers Make No Sense http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/breaking-trump-budget-numbers-make-no-sense <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jon Chait says the Trump White House has <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/05/trump-budget-based-on-usd2-trillion-math-error.html" target="_blank">made a $2 trillion mistake:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Trump has promised to enact &ldquo;the biggest tax cut in history.&rdquo; Trump&rsquo;s administration has insisted, however, that the largest tax cut in history will not reduce revenue, because it will unleash growth....But then the budget assumes $2 trillion in higher revenue from growth in order to achieve balance after ten years. So the $2 trillion from higher growth is a double-count. It pays for the Trump cuts, and then it pays again for balancing the budget.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's true that the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/budget.pdf" target="_blank">budget summary document</a> includes a line item called "Effect of economic feedback" (in Table S-2) that comes to $2.062 trillion over ten years. Is that the same as the economic feedback that will pay for tax cuts? Who knows, really. It's all just made-up nonsense anyway. But here's an interesting thing. In the detailed projections, the <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/hist02z1.xls" target="_blank">Trump budget</a> projects <em>lower</em> tax revenue than the final <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2017/assets/hist02z1.xls" target="_blank">Obama budget:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tax_receipts_obama_trump_2014_2021.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>What's up with that? Does the Trump budget not include any economic feedback after all? But even if it doesn't, why is their projection lower than Obama's? Is it so they can use this lower number as a new baseline for comparison when they unveil their growth-exploding tax plan later in the year?</p> <p>I know, I know: who cares? The Trump numbers are just random gibberish plucked from the sky. Still, you'd think they could at least make them agree from one spreadsheet to the next. Where's the economic feedback in the tax revenue numbers?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 May 2017 16:52:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 333401 at http://www.motherjones.com Mulvaney: Trump's Promise Not to Cut Medicaid Has Been "Overridden" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/mulvaney-trumps-promise-not-cut-medicaid-has-been-overridden <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at the <em>Weekly Standard</em>, Michael Warren interviews <a href="http://www.weeklystandard.com/trumps-budget-relies-heavily-on-growth.-spending-cuts-not-so-much./article/2008169" target="_blank">budget chief Mick Mulvaney:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If a budget proposal is a message about priorities, it's clear entitlement reform isn't even on President Trump's radar. When starting on 2018 budget proposal, Mulvaney came to the president with a one-page list of entitlement programs to reform.</p> <p>"We went down the list: Yes, Yes, No, No, Yes, No, Yes, No, No," said Mulvaney. "The nos were <strong>all Social Security and Medicare.</strong> And that's it. He said, '<strong>I promised people on the campaign trail I would not touch their retirement and I would not touch Medicare, and we owe it to them.</strong>'"</p> </blockquote> <p>That's quite a trick memory Trump has. He actually promised not to touch Social Security, Medicare, <em>and Medicaid</em>. But he seems to have forgotten all about that last one. What happened?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">at briefing today, Mulvaney told me Trump promise not to touch Medicaid had been overridden by Trump promise to repeal/replace Obamacare <a href="https://t.co/WSafn6ighT">https://t.co/WSafn6ighT</a></p> &mdash; John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) <a href="https://twitter.com/JohnJHarwood/status/866840775224643584">May 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Oh.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 May 2017 15:31:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 333391 at http://www.motherjones.com Lead and Crime in Popular Culture http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/lead-crime-update-popular-culture <!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 a kick in the gut. In tonight's season finale of <em>Supergirl</em>, the good guys unearth a weapon originally designed by Lex Luthor as a way of encouraging Superman to self-deport himself by irradiating the atmosphere with kryptonite. At the moment, however, the threat to Earth is from Daxamites, whose weakness isn't kryptonite, but lead:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_supergirl_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="310"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_supergirl_2.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 6px;" width="310"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_supergirl_3b.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px;" width="310"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_supergirl_4.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 0px 0px 0px 6px;" width="310"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_supergirl_5.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 0px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>At least Superman has the good sense to look unhappy about this. On the bright side, if irradiating the atmosphere with lead ends up causing more crime, that's a sort of job security for him, isn't it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 May 2017 06:46:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 333361 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Asked the NSA and DNI to Repudiate the Russia Investigation http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-asked-nsa-and-dni-repudiate-russia-investigation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>According to the <em>Washington Post</em>, James Comey wasn't the only person that President Trump pressured <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-asked-intelligence-chiefs-to-push-back-against-fbi-collusion-probe-after-comey-revealed-its-existence/2017/05/22/394933bc-3f10-11e7-9869-bac8b446820a_story.html" target="_blank">regarding the FBI's Russia investigation:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, <strong>urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.</strong></p> <p>Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president....Trump&rsquo;s conversation with Rogers was documented contemporaneously in an internal memo written by a senior NSA official, according to the officials. It is unclear if a similar memo was prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to document Trump&rsquo;s conversation with Coats.</p> <p>....In addition to the requests to Coats and Rogers, <strong>senior White House officials sounded out top intelligence officials about the possibility of intervening directly with Comey to encourage the FBI to drop its probe of Michael Flynn</strong>....&ldquo;Can we ask him to shut down the investigation? Are you able to assist in this matter?&rdquo; one official said of the line of questioning from the White House.</p> </blockquote> <p>This. Is. Nuts. Trump is not only corrupt, he's an unbelievable moron. He <em>personally</em> asked the NSA director and the overall director of national intelligence to publicly weigh in on an ongoing investigation. Not only that, he basically asked them to lie, since they weren't privy to what the FBI was doing. In what universe did Trump think that either of them would respond positively to such a blunt request? Or that this kind of thing wouldn't leak?</p> <p>What's more, in addition to directly asking Comey to shut down the FBI investigation, he apparently had some of his aides call senior intelligence officers to ask them to intervene with Comey. There are two big questions here:</p> <ul><li>What is Trump afraid the investigation will find? Whatever it is, apparently <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/05/michael-flynn-fifth-amendment-congress-subpoena-trump-russia" target="_blank">Michael Flynn is afraid of it too.</a></li> <li>When do the impeachment proceedings begin?</li> </ul><p>If there really are contemporaneous memos from Comey, Rogers, and maybe Coats, and if all three can be called to testify about their conversations with Trump, then what more do we need? This is Nixon-level stuff.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 23:22:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 333336 at http://www.motherjones.com What's the Best Way to Measure Inflation? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/whats-best-way-measure-inflation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This post is long and wonky and probably not worth your time to read. You have been warned! But it's something I've been wrestling with for a while, and this is basically a way of getting my thoughts in order so that I can continue pondering it.</p> <p>The subject is inflation. Specifically, what's the best way to measure inflation? I'm talking here about the best <em>general</em> index, not specialized things like CPI-X (an attempt to measure inflation for the elderly) or core PCE (useful to the Fed as a way of judging the strength of the economy). The most common measure of inflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and that's what you see in the headlines each month when the BLS reports a new inflation number.</p> <p>But CPI has its problems, and lots of people prefer the Personal Consumption Expenditure index (PCE). Scott Winship has led the charge on this, and you can read a <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottwinship/2015/06/15/debunking-disagreement-over-cost-of-living-adjustment/" target="_blank">pretty readable explanation of his views here.</a> Long story short, Winship makes a good case for the problems with CPI, but I'm not thrilled with PCE either. I'm usually interested in measuring the lived experience of people&mdash;especially the non-rich&mdash;and in my opinion <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/07/yes-we-should-raise-minimum-wage" target="_blank">PCE uses a weighting system that obscures this.</a></p> <p>So what's the best index? First off, there are plenty of times when it doesn't matter. Here's a chart showing CPI and PCE over the last ten years:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cpi_pce_2006_2016.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>They're nearly identical. If you're comparing something to last year, or even to ten years ago, just go ahead and use CPI. It doesn't really make any difference. Here's a comparison over 20 years:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cpi_pce_1996_2016.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>There's a little more difference, but still not that much. Obviously this difference might be important in an academic or professional economic setting, but for everyday journalistic use, you can use CPI for a comparison of anything between a year and 20 years ago. It's going to be fine.</p> <p>But what if you want to go back further? Here are both indexes going back to 1978:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cpi_pce_1978_2016.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Now we're up to a difference of 21 percent. That's enough to really matter. Luckily, the BLS has created a series called CPI-U-RS that's become pretty popular. I like it because it seems to hit the right sweet spot between fixing the problems with CPI but retaining better weightings than PCE. In terms of the actual things that people use and buy, I think that CPI-U-RS is probably the best measure we have.</p> <p>Unfortunately, it only goes back to 1978. However, before then there's only a tiny difference between CPI and PCE. Here they are from 1929 to the present:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cpi_pce_1929_2016_1.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>So the best index to use is PCE (indexed to 1978=104) from 1929-1977 and CPI-U-RS from 1978-present. It would be nice if BLS would merge the two series and give the result a snazzy name like CPI-A1, but they don't. Until then we'll just have to <a href="https://www.motherjones.com/files/cpi_pce_and_cpiurs.xls" target="_blank">home brew it ourselves.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 22:55:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 333321 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Learns that Arabs Want a Palestinian Peace Deal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-learns-arabs-want-palestinian-peace-deal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In some ways, it's sort of entertaining to have a president who's literally learning the most basic facts of the world <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/22/world/middleeast/trump-israel-visit.html" target="_blank">on the job:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump began a two-day visit to Israel on Monday with a blunt assessment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: If Israel really wants peace with its Arab neighbors, <strong>the cost will be resolving the generations-old standoff with the Palestinians</strong>....&ldquo;I was deeply encouraged by my conversations with Muslim world leaders in Saudi Arabia, including King Salman, who I spoke to at great length. King Salman feels very strongly and, I can tell you, would love to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>It's an open question whether a Palestinian peace deal would really produce comity with the rest of the Arab world, but it's certainly a prerequisite and has been for decades. But I guess Trump hadn't really considered that a serious obstacle until he heard it face-to-face from the king.</p> <p>Anyway, we all know where this is going, right? Benjamin Netanyahu wants to stay on good terms with Trump, and Trump wants a peace deal. Everyone on the planet knows perfectly well that Netanyahu has no interest in this, but he'll string Trump along anyway. A "peace process" will be set up, Jared Kushner will preside over a meeting or two, and Netanyahu will settle back and wait for some kind of bombing or other terror attack to declare that he tried but the Palestinians just can't be dealt with. Every neocon in America will immediately jump on the bandwagon and insist that this is the final straw. Things were so hopeful thanks to Trump's goodwill, but they bombed innocent women and children while Israel was earnestly trying to make peace! They're savages! Netanyahu will ask Trump for a statement of support, and of course Trump will provide it because terrorists are bad. And that will be that.</p> <p>The whole thing will be a ridiculous charade, and everyone except Trump will know it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 21:22:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 333311 at http://www.motherjones.com Lunchtime Photo http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/lunchtime-photo-10 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I was out in Santa Monica for a few hours last week, and that means a bunch of Santa Monica pictures got added to the lunchtime photo queue. This one is a picture of a name painter on the pier.</p> <p>What's interesting technically is that I actually wanted more grain in the photo. I was hoping for that old-school Tri-X-pushed-to-ISO-1600 look. But even at ISO 3200, there's really not a lot of grain here. I'll have to try this again someday at ISO 12800.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_santa_monica_pier_name_painter.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 19:30:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 333251 at http://www.motherjones.com Behold the Greatest Budget Gimmickry of All Time http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/behold-greatest-budget-gimmickry-all-time <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's a helluva weird story <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-dodd-frank-cfpb-20170522-story.html" target="_blank">from Jim Puzzanghera of the <em>LA Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The House Republican legislation scaling back Dodd-Frank financial regulations would <strong>reduce federal budget deficits by $24.1 billion</strong> over the next decade....Would <strong>reduce federal spending by $6.9 billion</strong> from 2018 through 2027....The bureau received $565 million in the 2016 fiscal year....The House Republican legislation would <strong>reduce the bureau&rsquo;s funding to $485 million</strong> in 2018, and the CBO estimated that Congress would keep annual funding at about that level, adjusting for inflation, over the next decade.</p> </blockquote> <p>So the bill would (a) reduce funding by $800 million, (b) reduce spending by $6.9 billion, and (c) reduce deficits by $24.1 billion. How do we get from $800 million to $24.1 billion?</p> <p>I'm glad you asked! And trust me, you're going to love the answer. <a href="https://www.cbo.gov/system/files/115th-congress-2017-2018/costestimate/hr10.pdf" target="_blank">Here's how it breaks down:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbo_gop_financial_bill_deficit.gif" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>This is a work of art. The savings come almost entirely from two places: eliminating the Orderly Liquidation Fund and modifying the way Dodd-Frank agencies are funded. Here's the impressive part: neither of these things actually saves any money.</p> <p>The OLF is funded entirely by the financial industry. If the government has to liquidate a big bank, it foots the bill and then recoups the money via a fee on the banking sector. However, the money has to be spent immediately, while it gets recouped over time. So it's possible that, say, the feds would spend $10 billion to rescue a bank in 2027, but all the money would be recouped in later years. That counts as a $10 billion deficit in the the ten-year window 2018-2027.</p> <p>So CBO guessed the probability of the OLF being used in each of the next ten years, along with the possible cash flow imbalances, and then calculated the expected value. They came up with $14.5 billion. CBO acknowledges that this estimate has "considerable uncertainty," and that's true. More to the point, though, the whole thing is just gimmickry. Using the OLF will cost the government nothing (or close to nothing), but expenses might fall <em>inside</em> the ten-year window while revenues fall <em>outside</em> the ten-year window. That's all.</p> <p>Then there's the agency funding. It gets reduced $800 million, but somehow that becomes a deficit reduction of $9.2 billion. This one is even more impressive. Two agencies are affected&mdash;NCUA and CFPB&mdash;which currently get their funding from outside sources. This means their outlays count as "direct spending." Under the Republican law, their funding would come from Congress and be subject to annual appropriations. For some reason&mdash;and I admit this remains inscrutable to me&mdash;reducing "direct spending" and replacing it with the same amount of appropriated spending counts as deficit reduction <em>even though CBO assumes that actual funding levels won't change</em>.</p> <p>This is the immaculate conception of congressional legislation. It doesn't actually reduce spending more than trivially, but thanks to obscure budget gimmicks it gets scored as a $24 billion reduction in the ten-year budget deficit. It's magic! Maybe it's the power of the orb at work.<sup>1</sup></p> <p><sup>1</sup>You all know <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/05/22/donald-trump-and-the-mysterious-glowing-orb/" target="_blank">what this refers to,</a> don't you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 19:05:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 333291 at http://www.motherjones.com In 2002, the IEA Predicted Solar Was Going Nowhere. And in 2003. And 2004. And 2005... http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/2002-iea-predicted-solar-was-going-nowhere-and-2003-and-2004-and-2005 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Every year the International Energy Agency publishes the <em>World Energy Outlook</em>, which, among other things, forecasts the growth rate of solar PV installations. The 2016 edition even included a whole "special focus" on renewable energy. Presumably this means they took an extra careful look at their solar PV forecast. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_iea_solar_forecast_2016_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>That looks...odd, doesn't it? Solar PV has grown at a pretty fast clip over the past decade, but the IEA assumes the growth rate will suddenly level out starting this year and then start to decline. And this is their <em>optimistic</em> scenario that takes into account pledges made in Paris.</p> <p>What can we make of this? Auke Hoekstra provides some context:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I made a graph showing the historic track record of the IEA in predicting solar: reality steeply increasing but IEA is having none of it. <a href="https://t.co/Mq5Jx8LY6z">pic.twitter.com/Mq5Jx8LY6z</a></p> &mdash; AukeHoekstra (@AukeHoekstra) <a href="https://twitter.com/AukeHoekstra/status/866313289306963969">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Every single year, the IEA projects that solar is a passing fad and its growth rate will level out <em>that year</em>. And every single year, solar continues to grow anyway. But the next year the IEA makes the exact same forecast. It's almost as if they have some kind of hidden agenda here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 16:41:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 333281 at http://www.motherjones.com Commerce Secretary Amazed At How Friendly Saudi Arabia Is http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/commerce-secretary-amazed-how-friendly-saudi-arabia <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was in Saudi Arabia with President Trump this weekend, and today he appeared on CNBC to chat about it. <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/a-model-society" target="_blank">This comes via TPM:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><em>Ross:</em> I think the other thing that was fascinating to me ... <strong>there was not a single hint of a protestor anywhere there during the whole time we were there, not one guy with a bad placard,</strong> instead ...</p> <p><em>Host:</em> But Secretary Ross, that may be but not necessarily because they don&rsquo;t have those feelings there but because they control people and don&rsquo;t allow them to to come and express their feelings quite the same as we do here.</p> <p><em>Ross:</em> <strong>In theory that could be true.</strong> But boy there was certainly no sign of it, there was not a single effort at any incursion. There wasn&rsquo;t anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood. And at the end of the trip, as I was getting back on the plane the security guards from the Saudi side who&rsquo;d been helping us over the weekend all wanted to pose for a big photo-op. <strong>And then they gave me two gigantic bushels of dates, as a present, as a thank you for the trip that we had had. That was a pretty from the heart, very genuine gesture.</strong> It really touched me.</p> </blockquote> <p>Is everyone in the Trump administration a senile old man? The alternatives here are: (a) Ross is an idiot, (b) he's just spinning but doing an epically bad job of it, or (c) he's losing his mind. What the hell is it with this administration?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 16:08:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 333276 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Confirms His Intel Blabbing Originated With Israel http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-confirms-his-intel-blabbing-originated-israel <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Remember the top secret intel that President Trump shared with the Russians in the Oval Office? We all pretty much know that it came from Israel, but for some reason Trump decided to confirm this today:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Really confusing moment here where Trump stops the press from being ushered out of his photo spray with PM Netanyahu. Full video&mdash;&gt; <a href="https://t.co/A7UVcw3Zt2">pic.twitter.com/A7UVcw3Zt2</a></p> &mdash; Tom Namako (@TomNamako) <a href="https://twitter.com/TomNamako/status/866673737684455425">May 22, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Here&rsquo;s a more definitive rundown from the pool reporter in Israel: <a href="https://t.co/bEKnCPwG9f">pic.twitter.com/bEKnCPwG9f</a></p> &mdash; Tom Namako (@TomNamako) <a href="https://twitter.com/TomNamako/status/866674733064089600">May 22, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>As many people have pointed out, this was just a photo op. Trump didn't have to say anything. But he's Trump, so he had to have the last word. It continues to be remarkable how easy it is to bait the guy.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 15:58:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 333271 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Continues Game Playing In Hopes of Destroying Obamacare http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-continues-game-playing-hopes-destroying-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The campaign to destroy Obamacare <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/22/white-house-to-seek-90-day-delay-in-obamacare-subsidy-suit-238674" target="_blank">continues apace:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration on Monday plans to ask a federal court for another 90-day delay in a lawsuit over Obamacare insurance subsidies, according to two administration sources, leaving the future of the health care marketplaces in limbo through late August. The suit, <em>House v. Tom Price</em>, <strong>centers on Obamacare&rsquo;s cost-sharing program,</strong> which reimburses health insurers to help low-income people make co-payments at the doctor or hospital.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is the suit filed by the House against Obamacare's CSR subsidies. The delay means insurers won't get assurance one way or the other about the fate of these subsidies, which in turn means they have to assume they're going away. Anything else would be irresponsible.</p> <p>And that means insurers have to raise premiums substantially to make up for the potential loss of CSR payments. The Obamacare market could be stabilized easily by continuing them, but that's not what Trump wants. He wants Obamacare to fail without his fingerprints all over it, and this is his best try. Premiums will almost certainly rise 20-25 percent this year thanks to uncertainty about the CSR payments, and that will contribute to a narrative that Obamacare is imploding. Republicans are betting that no one will connect it to their lawsuit, and that might be a good bet.</p> <p>Unless, of course, Democrats and the media make it crystal clear what's going on here. Remember: this won't affect poor people much because their premiums are capped. But it <em>will</em> affect middle-class people who don't qualify for Obamacare tax credits. They're going to see their premiums spike up yet again, and Democrats need to make it clear just whose fault that it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 15:21:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 333261 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Officially Breaks Promise Not to Cut Medicaid http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-officially-breaks-promise-not-cut-medicaid <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Good times:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="http://dailysignal.com/2015/05/21/why-donald-trump-wont-touch-your-entitlements/" target="_blank"><strong>May 2015:</strong></a> "I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and <strong>I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid</strong>."</p> <p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/trump-to-propose-big-cuts-to-safety-net-in-new-budget-this-week/2017/05/21/62c01f44-3e34-11e7-adba-394ee67a7582_story.html?utm_term=.b54b8277548a" target="_blank"><strong>Today:</strong></a> "President Trump's first major budget proposal on Tuesday <strong>will include massive cuts to Medicaid</strong>....Trump's budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade."</p> </blockquote> <p>In fairness, back in 2015 Trump probably had no idea that Medicare and Medicaid were different things. By now, however, he understands that Medicaid is a whole separate program that's mainly for poor people. So naturally he wants to slash it. What's the point of spending money on people who aren't already rich, after all?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 14:25:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333246 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Are Laying the Groundwork For Their Normal Blue Slip Hypocrisy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/republicans-are-laying-groundwork-their-normal-blue-slip-hypocrisy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Blue slips. Remember those? They are actual slips of paper, and they are actually blue. Senators sign them to indicate their approval of judicial nominees from their home states. There is no actual rule about this, however, so whoever's chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee can play games with them pretty easily.</p> <p>Here's how it works. If you require only one blue slip to proceed, that makes it easier for a president to get his nominees confirmed. If you require two blue slips, it's harder.</p> <p>So when do you want to make it easier? When the president comes from your own party. When do you want to make it harder? When the president is from the other party. Here's how that's worked:</p> <ul><li><strong>Pre-1994:</strong> Generally speaking, only one blue slip is required.</li> <li><strong>1994:</strong> Republicans gain control of the senate. The president is a Democrat. Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch decides to require two blue slips.</li> <li><strong>2001:</strong> A Republican becomes president. Hatch decides one blue slip is plenty.</li> <li><strong>2005:</strong> Hatch gets tired of Democratic opposition and decides that no blue slips are required at all.</li> <li><strong>2007:</strong> Democrats win control of the Senate. The president is a Republican. Sen. Patrick Leahy goes back to requiring two blue slips. This seems like normal politicking, but....</li> <li><strong>2009:</strong> A Democrat becomes president. In a stunning display of integrity, Leahy continues to require two blue slips.</li> <li><strong>2015:</strong> Republicans take control of the Senate. Sen. Chuck Grassley naturally continues to require two blue slips since this helps obstruct Obama's nominees.</li> <li><strong>2017:</strong> A Republican becomes president. <a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/334296-gop-talks-of-narrowing-blue-slip-rule-for-judges" target="_blank">Suddenly there is chatter about eliminating the blue slip requirement completely.</a> The official excuse is that it should apply only to district court judges, not to circuit court judges. This is pretty obviously ridiculous, but that's their story and they're sticking to it. It will undoubtedly prompt dozens of earnest thumbsuckers about the history of the blue slip and whether there's a case for not applying it to circuit court judges.</li> </ul><p>Patrick Leahy, the Democratic Judiciary Committee chairman from 2007-2014, applied the blue-slip rule impartially regardless of who was president. This was despite a vast level of obstruction from Republicans to all of Obama's nominees. On the one hand, good for Leahy. We could use more displays of integrity like this. On the other hand, Democrats lost out on a whole bunch of judges that they otherwise would have gotten confirmed.</p> <p>By contrast, Republicans have a two-decade history of flipping the blue-slip rule whenever it conveniences them. Is there really much doubt that Grassley is going to nuke it just as soon as a single Democrat fails to return a blue slip on a Trump nominee and Fox News starts screaming about obstruction? I don't think so.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 13:50:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333241 at http://www.motherjones.com Newt Gingrich Swan Dives Into the Fever Swamps http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/newt-gingrich-swan-dives-fever-swamps <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Have you heard of Seth Rich? He's a DNC staffer who was murdered at four in the morning last July in the Washington DC neighborhood where he lived. For no good reason except his vague proximity to Hillary Clinton, Rich became the subject of conspiracy theories suggesting that he, not the Russians, had hacked thousands of emails from the DNC's email server and passed them along to WikiLeaks. When Hillary found out about this, she presumably gave the order to have him rubbed out.</p> <p>Needless to say, this is completely ridiculous. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/05/20/the-seth-rich-conspiracy-shows-how-fake-news-still-works/?utm_term=.9864a61ab17f" target="_blank">Dave Weigel explains it all here</a> if this is new to you.</p> <p>But last week the conspiracy theories re-emerged after a local news station claimed it had uncovered new evidence. Their evidence was a single source, an occasional Fox News legal analyst named Rod Wheeler, who recanted his claim within a day. But it was too late: Twitter bots were already running wild, Drudge and Rush Limbaugh were talking about it, and Sean Hannity devoted three nights to the Rich murder. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/05/21/gingrich-spreads-conspiracy-theory-about-slain-dnc-staffer/?utm_term=.817aa63830da" target="_blank">Now Newt Gingrich has weighed in:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments,&rdquo; Gingrich said.</p> <p>&ldquo;Nobody&rsquo;s investigating that, and what does that tell you about what&rsquo;s going on? Because it turns out, it wasn&rsquo;t the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee. He&rsquo;s been killed, and apparently nothing serious has been done to investigative his murder. So I&rsquo;d like to see how [Robert S.] Mueller [III] is going to define what his assignment is.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Naturally Gingrich said this during an appearance on <em>Fox and Friends</em>, whose hosts offered no pushback at all.</p> <p>This is vile and disgusting. Seth Rich's parents are distraught enough already about their son's murder, and it's unconscionable for a supposedly serious Republican politician and a supposedly serious Republican news network to drag themselves into the Seth Rich fever swamps like this. As usual, though, I suppose there will be no price to pay. Gingrich will continue to be welcomed on American news shows and his wife will be quickly confirmed as US ambassador to the Vatican. And Republicans will learn, once again, that there are really no depths they can sink to that will get them shunned from polite society.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 00:47:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 333236 at http://www.motherjones.com Road to Riyadh, Day Two http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/road-riyadh-day-two <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>When I first saw this picture, I figured it was just a dumb Photoshop and skipped on by. But no. This is real:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plasma_globe.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>King Salman seems genuinely fascinated by this modern miracle. El-Sisi obviously doesn't give a shit and is just being polite. Trump looks like he's trying to commune with Sauron. Naturally this turned into a huge Twitter meme instantly, and I imagine we're going to be seeing this picture around for years.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The advance work on this trip is hilarious:<br><br> Sword dance, all-male Toby Keith concert, secret Tillerson press conference, magic globe, ...</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="https://twitter.com/mattyglesias/status/866386055125184513">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">"Elites scoff, but in the working class suburbs of Grand Rapids voters are glad Trump is practicing orb magic with Arab dictators."</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="https://twitter.com/mattyglesias/status/866386899421863936">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And contrary to what I reported <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-sets-new-bar-presidential-success" target="_blank">earlier,</a> it turns out that Trump <em>didn't</em> quite manage to recite today's speech off the teleprompter correctly. He was apparently so nervous about the whole <em>radical Islamic terrorism</em> vs. <em>violent extremism</em> vs. <em>Islamist extremism</em> thing that he blew it:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Asked about line in speech today when Trump said Islamic instead of Islamist, a senior White House official said: &ldquo;He&rsquo;s an exhausted guy."</p> &mdash; Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) <a href="https://twitter.com/jeffzeleny/status/866381058073399296">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Trump had been in Saudi Arabia for about 36 hours at that point. Only 150 hours to go.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> ZOMG! The full picture of Trump and the orb might be even more awesome than the cropped shot.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plasma_globe_large.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 21:46:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333231 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Sets New Bar for Presidential Success http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/trump-sets-new-bar-presidential-success <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>By the way, Donald Trump is getting good marks for today's speech in Saudi Arabia because he managed to recite it adequately off the teleprompter and didn't veer off topic into any of the usual Trump idiocy.</p> <p>Seriously. This is what the coverage is like. Apparently that's all we expect from a president these days.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>One other note: I'm not sure how many people have noticed this, but Trump has a long history of talking big when he's on a stage or on TV but backing down when he meets people face-to-face. It's already happened with China, Japan, Mexico, Germany, and a host of others. Now it's happening with Saudi Arabia, which seems to have Trump practically in thrall. This should come as no surprise to anyone.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Of course, the last time this happened was Trump's state-of-the-union address, and he managed to bollox that up within two days. I won't be surprised if he does the same this time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 17:06:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 333226 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's Why the Saudis Love Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/heres-why-saudis-love-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last year, President Obama offered Saudi Arabia an arms deal worth $115 billion. President Trump just closed a deal valued at only $110 billion. He's also spoken viciously about Islam on the campaign trail and tried to ban the entry of visitors from seven Muslim countries. And yet the Saudis are thrilled to have Trump in office. Why? <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/middleeast/la-fg-trump-arabs-20170519-story.html" target="_blank">Molly Hennessy-Fiske explains:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The White House they see now is presided over by a strong leader &mdash; a model Gulf monarchs recognize from their own governing styles &mdash; <strong>and if Trump surrounds himself with business-friendly family members high in his administration, well, so do they.</strong></p> <p>....&ldquo;The GCC countries are not only excited about Trump, but the people he&rsquo;s chosen to have around him,&rdquo; said Alibrahim, who dismissed Obama as &ldquo;the worst president ever,&rdquo; <strong>unwilling to confront Iran and its Shiite Muslim proxies</strong> in Syria and neighboring Yemen, whom the Sunni leaders of the Gulf see as rivals.</p> <p>....&ldquo;<strong>Trump is a welcome change from Barack Obama because he does not remind them, does not pressure them, about American values and ideas about human rights and democracy.</strong> This president is a hardcore realist: He just doesn&rsquo;t care. This goes well with many leaders in this part of the world,&rdquo; Gerges said.</p> <p>Trump has already impressed Gulf Arab leaders by escalating the war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and <strong>supporting the Saudi fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, Trump's anti-Muslim rabble-rousing is just red meat for the American rubes. They don't take anything Trump says seriously, only what he does. And what's clear is that (a) Trump's personal brand of corruption is reassuringly Middle Eastern, (b) he hates Iran, (c) he's not going to harass the Saudis over trivia like human rights, and (d) he doesn't care how brutal they get in their war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.</p> <p>That's it. That's all they care about. Trump isn't bringing in more business and he's not selling them more arms. Nor is his actual policy toward Iran and Yemen more than a few degrees different from Obama's. He's just carrying it out with no strings attached. They like that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 16:45:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 333221 at http://www.motherjones.com What Do Millennials Spend All Their Money On? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/what-do-millennials-spend-all-their-money <!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, Australian real-estate mogul Tim Gurner had some harsh words for millennials who are unhappy that they can't afford to buy a house:</p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;When I was trying to buy my first home, <strong>I wasn&rsquo;t buying smashed avocado for $19</strong> and four coffees at $4 each,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day; they want travel to Europe every year.</p> <p>&ldquo;The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it,&rdquo; he said, adding that they &ldquo;saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>This prompted a snarky, avocado-centric Twitter meme for a while, and the next day the <em>New York Times</em> even tried to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/15/business/avocado-toast-millennials.html" target="_blank">fact check Gurner's claim:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to the Food Institute, which analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics expenditure data from 2015, people from 25 to 34 spent, on average, $3,097 on eating out. <strong>Data for this age group through the decades was not readily available</strong>....As for Mr. Gurner&rsquo;s second suggestion &mdash; skipping the European vacation &mdash; there is indeed an opportunity for savings, <strong>but research suggests millennials are the generation spending the least on travel.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is some strange stuff. In its current form, the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey <a href="https://www.bls.gov/cex/csxstnd.htm" target="_blank">goes back</a> to <a href="https://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/archive.htm" target="_blank">the 80s,</a> so this data is indeed available through the decades. Still, at least this is an attempt to take Gurner seriously: he's not literally complaining about avocados on toast, but about a cavalier attitude toward money in general. So let's take a look at that. First, here are total expenditures for 25-34-year-olds:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ces_income_expenditures_percent_25-34_year-olds.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>As you can see, millennials spend a smaller proportion of their income than 25-34-year-olds did a generation ago. In the Reagan era, this age group spent 91 percent of their income. Today's millennials spend only 81 percent of their income.<sup>1</sup> Still, thanks to rising incomes their total expenditures clock in about $3,000 higher (adjusted for inflation) than young households in the 80s.</p> <p>But do they spend a big part of that income on fripperies, like lavish vacations and expensive dinners out? Let's look:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ces_dining_entertainment_25-34_year-olds.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Three decades ago, 18-34-year-olds spent 10.5 percent of their income on entertainment and eating out. Millennials spend 8.6 percent. In real dollars, that represents a small decline. In other words, millennials are <em>more</em> frugal about dining and entertainment than past generations.</p> <p>So what <em>do</em> millennials spend their money on each year? They may have $3,000 more in disposable income than young families of the 80s and 90s, but they also spend:</p> <ul><li>About $1,000 more on health care.</li> <li>About $1,500 more on pensions and Social Security.</li> <li>About $2,000 more on overall housing (rent, maintenance, utilities, etc.).</li> <li>About $700 more on education.</li> </ul><p>If they're not buying houses, this is why. It's not because houses are more expensive: the average house costs about a third more than it did in the 80s and early 90s, but thanks to low interest rates the average mortgage payment is about the same or even a bit lower. But it's tough to scrape together a down payment when you're already running a tight ship on dining and entertainment and paying more than previous generations for health care, education, retirement, and student loans.</p> <p>That said, I'll add one more thing: our perceptions are probably a bit warped about this. Millennials who write about this stuff tend to live in media centers like New York or San Francisco or Washington DC, where housing is extremely expensive. Even with a decent income it's hard to afford anything more than a cramped apartment. In the rest of the country things are different, but we don't hear as much about that. Caveat emptor.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The share of income not counted as expenditures includes taxes, student loans, credit card payments, savings, etc.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 14:23:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 333216 at http://www.motherjones.com Road to Riyadh, Starring Donald Trump http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/05/road-riyadh-starring-donald-trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia is going great! Here's the first family arriving in Riyadh:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I wonder if Trump's supporters will be upset to see how different Melania dressed on her departure vs arrival to Saudi.. <a href="https://t.co/v6EjUTHijp">pic.twitter.com/v6EjUTHijp</a></p> &mdash; Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) <a href="https://twitter.com/LibyaLiberty/status/865828887095369730">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>At least Melania isn't kowtowing to sexist Muslim custom by wearing a headscarf. Oh wait:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">There really is a tweet for everything. <a href="https://t.co/tWPf5fTncb">pic.twitter.com/tWPf5fTncb</a></p> &mdash; Yashar (@yashar) <a href="https://twitter.com/yashar/status/865956485385334785">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Fine. But Trump himself is standing up for masculine American values, right?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump once criticized Obama for bowing to foreign leaders (as is customary).<br><br> Trump CURTSIES instead.<br><br><a href="https://t.co/SOEZy7IqGx">pic.twitter.com/SOEZy7IqGx</a></p> &mdash; Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) <a href="https://twitter.com/Mikel_Jollett/status/865966746036879360">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And here's the official readout of Trump's visit with the Saudi king:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_readout_saudi_arabia.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>What kind of pusillanimity is this? "Violent extremism" is an Obama-era euphemism used by people who refuse to look reality in the eye:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn't he should immediately resign in disgrace!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/742053354189299712">June 12, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>If Trump isn't even willing to name the problem when he meets with the Saudi king, how can he possibly fight it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 20 May 2017 17:08:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 333206 at http://www.motherjones.com