Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2013/05%3Fpage%3D8 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Benghazi Is Over, But the Mainstream Media Just Yawns http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/benghazi <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>After two years of seemingly endless Benghazi coverage, how did the nation's major media cover the report of a Republican-led House committee that debunked every single Benghazi conspiracy theory and absolved the White <a href="http://intelligence.house.gov/sites/intelligence.house.gov/files/documents/Benghazi%20Report.pdf" target="_blank"><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_house_intelligence_benghazi.jpg" style="margin: 25px 0px 15px 30px;"></a>House of wrongdoing? Long story short, don't bother looking on the front page anywhere. Here's a rundown:</p> <ul><li><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/house-panel-finds-no-intelligence-failure-in-benghazi-attacks/2014/11/21/0749a070-71dd-11e4-ad12-3734c461eab6_story.html" target="_blank">The <em>Washington Post</em></a> briefly moved its story into the top spot on its homepage this afternoon. In the print edition, it ran somewhere inside, though I don't know where.</li> <li><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/world/middleeast/republican-led-benghazi-inquiry-largely-backs-administration.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=first-column-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em></a> ran only a brief AP dispatch yesterday. Late today they finally put up a staff-written story, scheduled to run in the print edition tomorrow on page A23.</li> <li><a href="http://online.wsj.com/articles/house-report-cia-military-acted-properly-in-benghazi-attacks-1416616698?KEYWORDS=benghazi" target="_blank">The <em>Wall Street Journal</em></a> ran a decent piece, but it got no play on the website and ran in the print edition on page A5.</li> <li><a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/11/21/house-panel-debunks-benghazi-theories/19367265/" target="_blank"><em>USA Today</em></a> ran an AP dispatch, but only if you can manage to find it. I don't know if it also ran anywhere in the print edition.</li> <li>As near as I can tell, the <em>LA Times</em> ignored the story completely.</li> <li>Ditto for the US edition of the <em>Guardian</em>.</li> <li><a href="http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/11/22/leading-republican-wants-senate-to-join-house-probe-benghazi-attack/?intcmp=latestnews" target="_blank">Fox News</a> ran a hilarious story that ignored nearly every finding of the report and managed to all but say that it was actually a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration. You really have to read it to believe it.</li> </ul><p>I get that the report of a House committee isn't the most exciting news in the world. It's dry, it has no visuals, it rehashes old ground, and it doesn't feature Kim Kardashian's butt.</p> <p>Still, this is a report endorsed by top Republicans that basically rebuts practically every Republican bit of hysteria over Benghazi spanning the past two years. Is it really good news judgment to treat this the same way they would a dull study on the aging of America from the Brookings Institution?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Late tonight, the <em>LA Times</em> finally roused itself to run a <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/africa/la-fg-house-benghazi-20141123-story.html" target="_blank">non-bylined piece</a> somewhere in the Africa section.</p> <p>I should add that the stories which <em>did</em> run were mostly fairly decent (Fox News excepted, of course). In particular, Ken Dilanian's AP report was detailed and accurate, and ran early in the morning. The problem is less with the details of the coverage, than with the fact that the coverage was either buried or nonexistent practically everywhere.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress International Media Sun, 23 Nov 2014 04:42:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 265311 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Finally Admit There Is No Benghazi Scandal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/republicans-finally-admit-there-no-benghazi-scandal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>For two years, ever since Mitt Romney <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/09/romney-campaign-attacks-obama-over-mythical-apology-embassy-attackers" target="_blank">screwed up</a> his response to the Benghazi attacks in order to score campaign points, Republicans have been on an endless search for a grand conspiracy theory that explains how it all happened. Intelligence was ignored because it would have been inconvenient to the White <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_house_intelligence_benghazi.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">House to acknowledge it. Hillary Clinton's State Department bungled the response to the initial protests in Cairo. Both State and CIA bungled the military response to the attacks themselves. Even so, rescue was still possible, but it was derailed by a stand down order&mdash;possibly from President Obama himself. The talking points after the attack were deliberately twisted for political reasons. Dissenters who tried to tell us what really happened were harshly punished.</p> <p>Is any of this true? The House Select Intelligence Committee&mdash;controlled by Republicans&mdash;has been investigating the Benghazi attacks in minute detail for two years. Today, with the midterm elections safely past, <a href="http://intelligence.house.gov/sites/intelligence.house.gov/files/documents/Benghazi%20Report.pdf" target="_blank">they issued their findings.</a> Their exoneration of the White House was sweeping and nearly absolute. So sweeping that I want to quote directly from the report's summary, rather than paraphrasing it. Here it is:</p> <ul><li>The Committee first concludes that the CIA ensured sufficient security for CIA facilities in Benghazi....Appropriate U.S. personnel made reasonable tactical decisions that night, and the Committee found <strong>no evidence that there was either a stand down order or a denial of available air support....</strong><br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Second, the Committee finds that there was <strong>no intelligence failure prior to the attacks.</strong> In the months prior, the IC provided intelligence about previous attacks and the increased threat environment in Benghazi, but the IC did not have specific, tactical warning of the September 11 attacks.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Third, the Committee finds that a mixed group of individuals, including those affiliated with Al Qa'ida, participated in the attacks....<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Fourth, the Committee concludes that after the attacks, the early intelligence assessments and the Administration's initial public narrative on the causes and motivations for the attacks were not fully accurate....There was no protest. <strong>The CIA only changed its initial assessment about a protest on September 24, 2012, when closed caption television footage became available on September 18, 2012 (two days after Ambassador Susan Rice spoke)....</strong><br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Fifth, the Committee finds that the process used to generate the talking points HPSCI asked for&mdash;and which were used for Ambassador Rice's public appearances&mdash;was flawed....<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Finally, the Committee found <strong>no evidence that any officer was intimidated, wrongly forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement or otherwise kept from speaking to Congress, or polygraphed because of their presence in Benghazi.</strong> The Committee also found no evidence that the CIA conducted unauthorized activities in Benghazi and no evidence that the IC shipped arms to Syria.</li> </ul><p>It's hard to exaggerate just how remarkable this document is. It's not that the committee found nothing to criticize. They did. The State Department facility in Benghazi had inadequate security. Some of the early intelligence after the attacks was inaccurate. The CIA should have given more weight to eyewitnesses on the ground.</p> <p>But those are routine after-action critiques, ones that were fully acknowledged by the very first investigations. Beyond that, every single conspiracy theory&mdash;without exception&mdash;was conclusively debunked. There was no stand down order. The tactical response was both reasonable and effective under the circumstances. The CIA was not shipping arms from Libya to Syria. Both CIA and State received all military support that was available. The talking points after the attack were fashioned by the intelligence community, not the White House. Susan Rice followed these talking points in her Sunday show appearances, and where she was wrong, it was only because the intelligence community had made incorrect assessments. Nobody was punitively reassigned or polygraphed or otherwise intimidated to prevent them from testifying to Congress.</p> <p>Read that list again. Late on a Friday afternoon, when it would get the least attention, a Republican-led committee finally admitted that every single Benghazi conspiracy theory was false. There are ways that the response to the attacks could have been improved, but that's it. Nobody at the White House interfered. Nobody lied. Nobody prevented the truth from being told.</p> <p>It was all just manufactured outrage from the beginning. But now the air is gone. There is no scandal, and there never was.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress International Military Sat, 22 Nov 2014 06:02:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 265306 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 21 November 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/friday-cat-blogging-21-november-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here in Drumland we have a new version of the Second Commandment. Here's the rewrite:</p> <blockquote> <p>Thou shalt not bow down thyself to any other cats: for I, the Lord thy Hilbert, am a jealous cat.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the backstory. Last week I got slightly concerned that Hopper was getting a bit less sociable. It was nothing big. She was still perfectly friendly, but she never jumped into our laps anymore. She's always had too much energy to be much of a lap cat, but when we first got her she'd occasionally get tuckered out and curl up with us.</p> <p>Long story short, my concern was completely misplaced. It turns out the reason she was avoiding our laps was because of Hilbert. Even if he was three rooms away, his spidey sense would tingle whenever she curled up with us, and he'd rush over to demand attention. Eventually he'd push her off completely, and apparently Hopper got tired of this. So she just stopped jumping into our laps.</p> <p>But as soon as we began restraining Hilbert, it turned out that Hopper was delighted to spend a spare hour or so with her human heating pads. This was easier said than done, since Hilbert really, really gets jealous when he sees Hopper on a lap. There's always another lap available for him, of course, but that's not the lap he wants. He wants whatever lap Hopper is sitting in. Keeping him away is an endless struggle.</p> <p>But struggle we do, and we figure that eventually Hilbert will learn there are laps aplenty and Hopper will realize that sitting in a lap isn't an invitation to be abused by her brother. Peace and love will then break out. Someday.</p> <p>In the meantime, here's this week's catblogging. On the left, Hopper is curled up in a sink that just fits her. Like so many cats, she's convinced that we humans might not know how to use the bathroom properly, so she always likes to come in and supervise. On the right, Hilbert is upstairs surveying his domain. Probably checking to ensure that no one else is sitting in a lap.</p> <p><img align="left" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2014_11_21_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 4px 5px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2014_11_21.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 5px 0px 5px 4px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:55:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 265266 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Finally Sue Over Obamacare -- And There's Even a Surprise Included http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/republicans-finally-sue-over-obamacare-and-theres-even-surprise-included <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>House Republicans finally filed their long-awaited lawsuit against President Obama today, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/22/us/politics/obamacare-lawsuit-filed-by-republicans.html" target="_blank">and it actually contained a surprise:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The suit also challenges what it says is President Obama&rsquo;s unlawful giveaway of roughly $175 billion to insurance companies under the law. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the administration will pay that amount to the companies over the next 10 years, though the funds have not been appropriated by Congress. The lawsuit argues that it is an unlawful transfer of funds.</p> <p>....If the lawsuit is successful, poor people would not lose their health care, because the insurance companies would still be required to provide coverage &mdash; but without the help of the government subsidy, the companies might be forced to raise costs elsewhere. The subsidies reduce the co-payments, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs that consumers incur when they go to doctors and hospitals.</p> </blockquote> <p>Long story short, it turns out there are two parts to the suit. The first part challenges Obama's delay of the employer mandate, and it's entirely symbolic. After all, it's only a delay. Even if Republicans win, by the time the case makes it all the way through the court system it will be moot. The delay will be over by then and the employer mandate will be in place.</p> <p>But this second part is unexpected. Republicans are arguing that a provision of the law called Cost Sharing Reduction wasn't automatically funded, as were most parts of the law. The law <em>authorizes</em> CSR, but no appropriation was ever made, so it's illegal to actually pay out these funds.</p> <p>Do they have a case? This is a brand new allegation, so I don't think anyone has yet had a chance to look into it. But if I had to guess, I'd say it's probably about as specious as every other allegation against Obamacare. Unfortunately, though, that doesn't mean the Supreme Court won't uphold it. You never know these days. In the meantime, conservatives are likely to be dizzy with excitement over the whole thing since (a) it involves a clear constitutional question about appropriating funds, and (b) it would hurt poor people. That's quite a twofer.</p> <p>Of course, the suit still has to survive challenges to Congress' standing to sue in the first place, and that might kill it before any court even begins to judge the merits of the case. Wait and see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Health Care Obama Fri, 21 Nov 2014 17:55:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 265286 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama's Immigration Plan Is Both Good Policy and Remarkably Shrewd Politics http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/obamas-immigration-plan-both-good-policy-and-remarkably-shrewd-politics <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There are questions about whether President Obama's immigration plan is legal. There are questions about whether it's good policy. And then there are questions about whether it's smart politics. On the latter point, I'd say that Obama has been unusually shrewd, almost single-handedly <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/21/us/politics/in-immigration-fight-some-in-gop-fear-alienating-latinos.html" target="_blank">demolishing the plans of Republican leaders for the next two years:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>All but drowned out by Republicans' clamorous opposition to President Obama's executive action on immigration are some leaders who worry that their party could alienate the fastest-growing group of voters, for 2016 and beyond, if its hottest heads become its face.</p> <p>They cite the Republican Party's official analysis of what went wrong in 2012&hellip;"If Hispanics think that we do not want them here," the report said, "they will close their ears to our policies."</p> <p>&hellip;"Clearly with Republicans not having gotten to a consensus in terms of immigration, it makes it a lot more difficult to talk about immigration as a unified voice," said David Winston, a Republican pollster who advises House leaders. "There are some people &mdash; because there's not a consensus &mdash; that somehow end up having a little bit louder <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_steve_king_canteloupe.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 25px;">voice than perhaps they would normally have."</p> <p>Among them is Representative Steve King of Iowa&hellip;</p> </blockquote> <p>Ah yes, Steve King of Iowa. The odds of shutting him up are about zero, and with primary season approaching he's going to become the de facto leader of the anti-immigration forces. In the same way that Republican candidates all have to kiss Sheldon Adelson's ring and swear eternal loyalty to Israel if they want access to his billions, they're going to have to kiss King's ring and swear eternal hostility to any kind of immigration from south of the border&mdash;and they're going to compete wildly to express this in the most colorful ways possible. And that's a big problem. Expressing loyalty to Israel doesn't really have much downside, but effectively denouncing the entire Hispanic population of the United States is going to steadily destroy any hopes Republicans have of ever appealing to this fast-growing voting bloc.</p> <p>And that's not all. Republican leaders are not only fearful of next year's primaries branding the GOP forever as a bunch of xenophobic maniacs, they're afraid it's going to wipe out any chance they have over the next two years of demonstrating to voters that they're a party of adults. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-immigration-fight-20141120-story.html" target="_blank">Here's the <em>LA Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The strong reaction by Republican leaders has less to do with opposition to the nuts and bolts of the president's immigration policy and more to do with fear and anger that the issue will derail the agenda of the new Republican majority before the next Congress even convenes.</p> <p>Republican leaders who had hoped to focus on corporate tax reform, fast-track trade pacts, repealing the president's healthcare law and loosening environmental restrictions on coal are instead being dragged into an immigration skirmish that they've tried studiously to avoid for most of the last year.</p> <p>&hellip;To many, stark warnings from Boehner and McConnell sound more like pleas to the president to avoid reenergizing the GOP's conservative wing, whose leaders are already threatening to link the president's immigration plan to upcoming budget talks.</p> </blockquote> <p>For what it's worth, I think Obama deserves credit for an unusually brilliant political move here. Some of this is accidental: he would have announced his immigration plan earlier in the year if he hadn't gotten pushback from red-state Democratic senators who didn't want to deal with this during tough election battles. Still, he stuck to his guns after the midterm losses, and the result seems to be almost an unalloyed positive for his party.</p> <p>The downside, after all, is minimal: the public says it's mildly unhappy with Obama using an executive order to change immigration rules. But that's a nothingburger. Outside of the Fox News set that's already convinced Obama is a tyrant bent on shredding the Constitution, this simply isn't something that resonates very strongly or for very long. It will be forgotten in a few weeks.</p> <p>The upside, conversely, is potentially huge. Obama has, indeed, waved a red flag in front of congressional tea partiers, turning them into frothing lunatics who want to shut down the government and maybe even impeach him. This has already turned into a huge headache for John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who really don't want this to be the public face of the party. In addition, it's quite possibly wrecked the Republican agenda for the next year, which is obviously just fine with Obama. And it's likely to turn next year's primary season into an anti-Hispanic free-for-all that does permanent damage to the GOP brand.</p> <p>And that's not even counting the energizing effect this has on Democrats, as well as the benefit they get from keeping a promise to Hispanics and earning their loyalty for the next few election cycles.</p> <p>Is there a price to be paid for this? If you think that maybe, just maybe, Republicans were willing to work with Obama to pass a few constructive items, then there's a price. Those items might well be dead in the water. If you don't believe that, the price is zero. I'm more or less in that camp. And you know what? Even the stuff that might have been passable&mdash;trade authority, the Keystone XL pipeline, a few tweaks to Obamacare&mdash;I'm either opposed to or only slightly in favor of in the first place. If they don't happen, very few Democrats are going to shed any real tears.</p> <p>That leaves only presidential appointments, and there might be a downside there if you think that initially Republicans were prepared to be halfway reasonable about confirming Obama's judges and agency heads. I kinda doubt that, but I guess you never know. This might be a genuine downside to unleashing the tea party beast.</p> <p>So: the whole thing is politically pretty brilliant. It unifies Democrats; wrecks the Republican agenda in Congress; cements the loyalty of Hispanics; and presents the American public with a year of Republican candidates spitting xenophobic fury during primary season. If you're President Obama, what's not to like?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Immigration Obama The Right Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:29:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 265256 at http://www.motherjones.com Has Obama Gone Too Far? 5 Key Questions Answered About the Legality of His Immigration Plan http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/obama-immigration-legal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I've been paying only moderate attention to the whole issue of President Obama's executive order on immigration, and it's only over the past few days that I've started trying to learn more about the legal issues involved. And I confess that I've been a little surprised by what I've discovered. As near as I can tell, both liberal <em>and</em> conservative legal scholars&mdash;as opposed to TV talking heads and other professional <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Immigration_Sign.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">rabble-rousers&mdash;agree that Obama has the authority to reshape immigration enforcement in nearly any way he wants to. Here are answers to five key questions about the legality of the immigration plan Obama announced tonight:</p> <ol><li><strong>The linchpin of Obama's executive action is the president's inherent authority to engage in prosecutorial discretion,</strong> and just about everyone agrees that this authority is nearly unconditional. Speaking to a meeting of the conservative Federalist Society, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/18/federalist-society-obama-immigration_n_6182350.html" target="_blank">Christopher Schroeder said:</a> "I think the roots of prosecutorial discretion are extremely deep. The practice is long and robust. The case law is robust." <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120328/obama-immigration-executive-action-why-it-will-be-legal" target="_blank">Erwin Chemerinsky and Samuel Kleiner agree:</a> "It has always been within the president&rsquo;s discretion to decide whether to have the Department of Justice enforce a particular law. As the Supreme Court declared in <em>United States v. Nixon</em>, 'the Executive Branch has exclusive authority and absolute discretion to decide whether to prosecute a case.'"<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>OK, but exempting entire categories of people from prosecution?</strong> It turns out that current immigration law explicitly recognizes this. <a href="http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/on-immigration-obama-may-be-cynical-but-hes-not-breaking-the-law/article/2551807" target="_blank">Margaret Stock,</a> a Republican immigration lawyer and a Federalist Society member, says: "The Immigration and Nationality Act and other laws are chock-full of huge grants of statutory authority to the president. Congress gave the president all these powers, and now they are upset because he wants to use them. Other presidents have used the same authority in the past without an outcry."<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>But are those grants really broad enough?</strong> Apparently so. In fact, immigration law provides the president an unusually <em>broad</em> scope for executive action. <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2014/08/why_obama_has_the_power_to_stop_millions_of_deportations_without_congress.single.html" target="_blank">Eric Posner writes:</a> "The president&rsquo;s authority over this arena is even greater than his authority over other areas of the law....In 2012, the Supreme Court recognized the vast discretion of the president over immigration policy. In the case <em>Arizona v. United States</em>, the court struck down several Arizona laws that ordered state officials to enforce federal immigration laws, on pain of state penalty....As [Adam] Cox puts it, in a recent academic article, the court&rsquo;s reasoning "gives executive branch officials near complete control over the content of immigration law.'"<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Still, even if this is true in theory, is it really true in practice?</strong> As it turns out, yes, there's plenty of prior precedent for exactly this kind of thing. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-immigration-executive-order-one-of-many-20141117-story.html" target="_blank">As the <em>LA Times</em> reports,</a> "Obama would not be the first president to push through immigration reform by working outside of Congress." In fact, presidents from FDR through Bill Clinton have issued executive orders that deferred deportation for various categories of undocumented immigrants. And while it's true that Obama's action will likely affect more people than any of the previous ones, that's a political issue, not a legal one. From a strictly legal viewpoint, Obama is doing something that has plenty of past precedent.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Finally, what about work permits?</strong> Even if Obama can legally defer prosecution&mdash;a right conferred by both constitutional authority and statutory language&mdash;does that also give him the right to issue work permits to immigrants affected by his order? Surprisingly, perhaps, that has a long pedigree too&mdash;one that goes back not just to DACA (Obama's 2012 mini-DREAM executive order), but well before that. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2014/08/06/how-far-can-obama-go-on-deportations/" target="_blank">David Leopold,</a> former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, explains: "The federal regulations governing employment under immigration law existed well before DACA. Under those regulations, any undocumented immigrant granted deferred action &mdash; under programs that preceded DACA or coincide with it &mdash; had already been able to apply for employment authorization....The president&rsquo;s authority to grant work status long precedes DACA, and while it does apply to DACA and would apply to its expansion, it is not a direct outgrowth or creation of either."</li> </ol><p>It's an open question whether Obama's actions are politically wise. It might force Republicans into an uncomfortable corner as they compete loudly to denounce Obama's actions, further damaging their chances of appealing to Hispanics in future elections. Alternatively, it might poison any possibility of working constructively with congressional Republicans over the next couple of years, which might further degrade Democratic approval ratings. There's also, I think, a legitimate question about whether liberals should be cheering an expansion of presidential power, whether it's legal or not.</p> <p>That said, Obama's actions really do appear to be not just legal, but fairly uncontroversially so among people who know both the law and past precedent. Republicans may not like what Obama is doing, and they certainly have every right to fight it. But they should stop spouting nonsense about lawlessness and tyranny. That's just playground silliness.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Immigration Fri, 21 Nov 2014 05:27:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 265211 at http://www.motherjones.com No, the Culture Wars Haven't Heated Up. It Just Seems Like They Have. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/no-culture-wars-havent-heated-it-just-seems-they-have <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Andrew Sullivan cogitates today on the seemingly endless outpouring of outrage over <a href="http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/11/20/quote-for-the-day-433/" target="_blank">relatively small lapses in decent behavior:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I wonder also if our digital life hasn&rsquo;t made all this far worse. <strong>When you sit in a room with a laptop and write about other people and their flaws, and you don&rsquo;t have to look them in the eyes, you lose all incentive for manners.</strong></p> <p>You want to make a point. You may be full to the brim with righteous indignation or shock or anger. It is only human nature to flame at abstractions, just as the awkwardness of physical interaction is one of the few things constraining our rhetorical excess. When you combine this easy anonymity with the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_outrageous.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">mass impulses of a Twitterstorm, and you can see why manners have evaporated and civil conversations turned into culture war.</p> <p>I&rsquo;m as guilty of this as many....</p> </blockquote> <p>Why yes! Yes you are, Andrew.</p> <p>On a more serious note, I actually disagree with his diagnosis of the problem, which has become so common as to be nearly conventional wisdom these days. Here's why: I have not, personally, ever noticed that human beings tend to rein in their worst impulses when they're face to face with other human beings. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Most often, they don't. Arguments with real people end up with red faces and lots of shouting constantly. I just flatly don't believe that the real problem with internet discourse is the fact that you're not usually directly addressing the object of your scorn.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>So what <em>is</em> the problem? I think it's mostly one of visibility. In the past, the kinds of lapses that provoke internet pile-ons mostly stayed local. There just wasn't a mechanism for the wider world to find out about them, so most of us never even heard about them. It became a big deal within the confines of a town or a university campus or whatnot, but that was it.</p> <p>Occasionally, these things broke out, and the wider world did find out about them. But even then, there was a limit to how the world could respond. You could organize a protest, but that's a lot of work. You could go to a city council meeting and complain. You could write a letter to the editor. But given the limitations of technology, it was fairly rare for something to break out and become a true feeding frenzy.</p> <p>Needless to say, that's no longer the case. In fact, we have just the opposite problem: things can become feeding frenzies even if no one really wants them to be. That's because they can go viral with no central organization at all. Each individual who tweets or blogs or Facebooks their outrage thinks of this as a purely personal response. Just a quick way to kill a few idle minutes. But put them all together, and you have tens of thousands of people simultaneously responding in a way that <em>seems</em> like a huge pile-on. And that in turn triggers the more mainstream media to cover these things as if they were genuinely big deals.</p> <p>The funny thing is that in a lot of cases, they aren't. If, say, 10,000 people are outraged over Shirtgate, <em>that's nothing</em>. Seriously. Given the ubiquity of modern social media, 10,000 people getting mad about something is actually a sign that almost nobody cares.</p> <p>The problem is that our lizard brains haven't caught up to this. We still think that 10,000 outraged people is a lot, and 30 or 40 years ago it would have been. What's more, it almost certainly would have represented a far greater number of people who actually cared. Today, though, it's so easy to express outrage that 10,000 people is a pretty small number&mdash;and most likely represents nearly everyone who actually gives a damn.</p> <p>We need to recalibrate our cultural baselines for the social media era. People can respond so quickly and easily to minor events that the resulting feeding frenzies can seem far more important than anyone ever intended them to be. A snarky/nasty tweet, after all, is the work of a few seconds. A few thousand of them represent a grand total of a few hours of work. The end result may seem like an unbelievable avalanche of contempt and derision to the target of the attack, but in real terms, it represents virtually nothing.</p> <p>The culture wars are not nastier because people on the internet don't have to face their adversaries. They're nastier because even minor blowups <em>seem</em> huge. But that's just Econ 101. When the cost of expressing outrage goes down, the amount of outrage expressed goes up. That doesn't mean there's more outrage. It just means outrage is a lot more visible than it used to be.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I'll concede that this is potentially a problem with a very specific subset of professional troll. Even there, however, I'd note that the real world has plenty of rough equivalents, from Code Pink to the Westboro Baptist Church lunatics.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tech Thu, 20 Nov 2014 19:15:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 265196 at http://www.motherjones.com A Follow-Up: Why the Working and Middle Classes Don't Like Obamacare Much http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/follow-why-working-and-middle-classes-dont-obamacare-much <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's an interesting chart that follows up on <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/can-we-talk-heres-why-white-working-class-hates-democrats" target="_blank">a post I wrote a few days ago</a> about Democrats and the white working class. Basically, I made the point that Democrats have recently done a lot for the poor but very little for the working and middle classes, and this is one of the reasons that the white working class is increasingly alienated from the Democratic Party.</p> <p>I got various kinds of pushback on this, but one particular train of criticism suggested that I was overestimating just how targeted Democratic programs were. Sure, they help the poor, but they also help the working class a fair amount, and sometimes even the lower reaches of the middle class. However, while there's some truth to this for certain programs (unemployment insurance, SSI disability), the numbers I've seen in the past don't really back this up for most social welfare programs.</p> <p>Obamacare seems like an exception, since its subsidies quite clearly reach upward to families in the working and middle classes. Today, however, <a href="http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/the-aca-is-working-so-why-is-the-opposition-to-it-so-strong-and-persistent/" target="_blank">Bill Gardner</a> points me to <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/research/files/papers/2014/01/potential%20effects%20affordable%20care%20act%20income%20inequality%20aaron%20burtless/potential%20effects%20affordable%20care%20act%20income%20inequality%20aaron%20burtless.pdf" target="_blank">a Brookings paper from a few months ago</a> that suggests just the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_winners_losers_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">opposite. The authors calculate net gains and losses from Obamacare, and conclude that nearly all its benefits flow to the poor. If I interpolate their chart a bit, winners are those with household incomes below $25,000 or so, and losers are those with incomes above $25,000.</p> <p>The authors are clear that their estimates are not definitive, thanks to difficulties in performing some of the calculations. And obviously they're just averages. Quite plainly, there are some families with higher incomes that benefit from Obamacare.</p> <p>Still, there are fewer than you think&mdash;partly because the subsidies decline at higher incomes and partly because people with higher incomes already have employer insurance and don't need Obamacare. That said, I don't want to make too much of this single chart, especially given the measurement difficulties it presents. But I do think it's illustrative. If you think of Obamacare as something that benefits the working and middle classes, you're probably wrong. It may benefit a few of them, but overall it's a cost to them&mdash;or, under more generous assumptions, perhaps a wash.</p> <p>Obviously there's more to this, and Gardner discusses some of the other electoral implications of Obamacare in his post. It's worth a read. But the bottom line is simple: like most of the social welfare programs championed by Democrats, Obamacare is primarily aimed at the poor. Once again, the working and middle classes are left on the outside looking in.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> I'm sure many people will point out that middle class folks benefit from Obamacare in other ways. If they lose their jobs, for example, they can stay insured even if they have a preexisting condition. That's a benefit! However, as Gardner points out, an awful lot of middle-class voters don't know about these kinds of benefits, so it doesn't register with them. Basically, they take a look at who's getting the cash, and for the most part, it's not them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Health Care Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:51:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 265181 at http://www.motherjones.com It Turns Out That Ferguson Is Pretty Typical of America http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/it-turns-out-ferguson-pretty-typical-america <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_irvine_arrest_rate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The Ferguson police department famously arrests blacks at a rate three times higher than other races. A <em>USA Today</em> investigation shows <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/18/ferguson-black-arrest-rates/19043207/" target="_blank">just how commonplace that is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>At least 1,581 other police departments across the USA arrest black people at rates even more skewed than in Ferguson, a <em>USA TODAY</em> analysis of arrest records shows. That includes departments in cities as large and diverse as Chicago and San Francisco and in the suburbs that encircle St. Louis, New York and Detroit.</p> <p>Those disparities are easier to measure than they are to explain. They could be a reflection of biased policing; they could just as easily be a byproduct of the vast economic and educational gaps that persist across much of the USA &mdash; factors closely tied to crime rates. In other words, experts said, the fact that such disparities exist does little to explain their causes.</p> </blockquote> <p>Curious to know how your city fares? <a href="http://www.gannett-cdn.com/experiments/usatoday/2014/11/arrests-interactive/" target="_blank">Click here</a> and check out various places in your state. My hometown, it turns out, beats out Ferguson easily, arresting blacks at a rate nearly four times higher than other races. The difference, of course, is that Irvine is only 1.7 percent black to begin with, so there's hardly anyone here to complain about it. That makes it easy to ignore, but that's about all it means.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Crime and Justice Race and Ethnicity Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:40:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 265051 at http://www.motherjones.com Voter ID Laws: Terrible Public Policy, But Probably Pretty Feeble http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/voter-id-laws-terrible-public-policy-probably-pretty-feeble <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Republican-led voter-ID laws may be pernicious, but Nate Cohn says there are three reasons to think their <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/20/upshot/why-voter-id-laws-dont-swing-many-elections.html" target="_blank">actual electoral impact is overstated:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>To begin with, <strong>the true number of registered voters without photo identification is usually much lower than the statistics on registered voters without identification suggest</strong>. The number of voters without photo identification is calculated by matching voter registration files with state ID databases. But perfect matching is impossible and the effect is to overestimate the number of voters without identification.</p> <p>....<strong>People without ID are less likely to vote than other registered voters.</strong> The North Carolina study found that 43 percent of the unmatched voters &mdash; registered voters who could not be matched with a driver&rsquo;s license &mdash; participated in 2012, compared with more than 70 percent of matched voters.</p> <p>....There&rsquo;s no question that voter ID has a disparate impact on Democratic-leaning groups....<strong>[But] voters without an identification might be breaking something more like 70/30 for Democrats than 95/5.</strong> A 70/30 margin is a big deal, and, again, it&rsquo;s fully consistent with Democratic concerns about voter suppression. But when we&rsquo;re down to the subset of unmatched voters who don&rsquo;t have any identification and still vote, a 70/30 margin probably isn&rsquo;t generating enough votes to decide anything but an extremely close election.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/voter-suppression-kevin-drum?page=2" target="_blank">When I looked into this a couple of years ago,</a> I basically came to the same conclusion. Only a few studies were available at the time, but they suggested that the real-world impact of voter ID laws was fairly small. I haven't seen anything since then to suggest otherwise.</p> <p>None of this justifies the cynical Republican effort to suppress voting via ID laws. For one thing, they still matter in close elections. For another, the simple fact that they deliberately target minority voters is noxious&mdash;and this is very much <em>not</em> ameliorated by the common Republican defense that the real reason they're targeted isn't race related. It's because they vote for Democrats. If anything, that makes it worse. Republicans are knowingly making it harder for blacks and Hispanics to vote <em>because they vote for the wrong people</em>. I'm not sure how much more noxious a voter suppression effort can be.</p> <p>These laws should be stricken from the books, lock, stock and extremely smoking barrel. They don't prevent voter fraud and they have no purpose except to suppress the votes of targeted groups. The evidence on this point is now clear enough that the Supreme Court should revisit its 2008 decision in <em>Crawford v. Marion</em> that upheld strict voter ID laws. They have no place in a decent society.</p> <p>At the same time, if you're wondering how much actual effect they have, the answer is probably not much. We still don't have any definitive academic studies on this point, I think, but Cohn makes a pretty good case. It's possible that Kay Hagan might have lost her Senate race this year thanks to voter ID laws, but she's probably the only one.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Elections Wed, 19 Nov 2014 16:47:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 265041 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Scott Walker Might Be Our Next President http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/why-scott-walker-might-be-our-next-president <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In 2012, I basically considered Mitt Romney a shoo-in for the Republican nomination. I figured that he'd hoover up most of the moderate votes&mdash;and despite all the breathless press accounts, moderates still account for at least half of GOP voters&mdash;plus a share of the tea partiers, and that was that. The rest of the field would destroy each other as they fought over their own sliver of the tea party vote, eventually leaving Romney battered and unloved, but triumphant.</p> <p>Sure enough, that's what happened. But I don't see a strong moderate in the field right now. I suppose Jeb Bush and Chris Christie come the closest, but even if they run, they strike me as having some pretty serious problems. Romney was willing to adopt tea party positions across the board, even as he projected a moderate, adult persona, but neither Christie nor Bush will kowtow in quite that way. That's going to cause them problems, and Christie's fondness for showy confrontations is going to be an additional millstone around his neck. Either one might win, but neither seems like an especially likely nominee to me.</p> <p>All this is a long way of explaining why I think Scott Walker is the frontrunner. He has a record of governance. His persona is generally adult. He doesn't say crazy stuff. Relatively speaking, he's attractive to moderates. But at the same time, <a href="http://nypost.com/2014/11/18/a-walker-16-boom-he-looks-great-on-paper/" target="_blank">the tea partiers love him too.</a> The big strike against him, of course, is that he's lousy on TV. He's a terrible public speaker. And he's just boring as hell. However, Ed Kilgore perfectly explains why this <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_11/walker_16_death_by_vanilla052997.php" target="_blank">doesn't make him another Tim Pawlenty or John Kasich:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This is why Walker is so very commonly compared to Tim Pawlenty in 2012; the Minnesotan was perfectly positioned to become the most-conservative-electable-candidate nominee in a large but shaky field. And he wound up being the first candidate to drop out, before a single vote (other than in the completely non-official Ames Straw Poll) was cast. His sin was congenital blandness, and the defining moment of his campaign was when he all but repudiated his one great zinger: referring to the Affordable Care Act as "Obamneycare."</p> <p>But TPaw's demise does point up one big difference between these two avatars of the Republican revival in the Upper Midwest: <strong>nobody suspects Scott Walker may be too nice for his party. He may be bland, and a bad orator, but his bad intent towards conservatism's enemies is unmistakable.</strong> He's sorta Death by Vanilla, or a great white shark; boring until he rips you apart. I think Republican elites get that, and it excites them. But how about voters?</p> </blockquote> <p>Mitt Romney managed to base nearly his entire campaign on hating Barack Obama more than anyone else. It worked. Whenever someone started to score some points against his sometimes liberalish record in Massachusetts, he'd just launch into an over-the-top denunciation of Obama and the crowd would go wild. Walker can do the same thing, but without the artifice. Unlike Romney, he really has been fighting liberals tooth and nail for the past four years, and he has the scars to prove it. This will go a long, long way to make up for a bit of blandness.</p> <p>Besides, it's worth remembering that people can improve on the basics of campaigning. Maybe Walker will turn out to be hopeless. You never know until the campaign really gets going. But if he's serious, he'll get some media training and start working on developing a better stump speech. A few months of this can do wonders.</p> <p>Predictions are hard, especially about the future. But if he runs, I rate Walker a favorite right now. If his only real drawback is Midwestern blandness&mdash;well, Mitt Romney wasn't Mr. Excitement either. Walker can get better if he puts in the work. And if he does, he'll have most of Romney's upside with very little of the downside. He could be formidable.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Top Stories Scott Walker Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:38:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 265026 at http://www.motherjones.com Today's Winner in Washington: The Filibuster http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/todays-winner-washington-filibuster <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today, Democrats blocked action to approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. A few minutes later, Republicans blocked a bill to regulate the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA.</p> <p>Both bills had majority support. Both failed thanks to filibusters. It's good to see that life is back to normal in Washington DC.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Civil Liberties Climate Change Congress Energy Wed, 19 Nov 2014 01:24:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 265006 at http://www.motherjones.com Today's Math You Can Use: Marijuana + Big Corporations = A Lot More Marijuana http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/todays-math-you-can-use-marijuana-big-corporations-lot-more-marijuana <!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 good example of how cavalier snark can get the better of you. <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/392922/youve-got-be-carefully-taught-kevin-d-williamson" target="_blank">This is Kevin Williamson writing at <em>National Review</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>From the annals of issues that only intellectuals are capable of misunderstanding: Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at UCLA, is worried that the drug trade might end up being dominated by people who care about making money. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Marijuana_Dispensary.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">My experience with drug dealers suggests very strongly that they are a profit-seeking, entrepreneurial lot as it is.</p> </blockquote> <p>Har har. Mark is a friend of mine, so I guess I'd be expected to defend him, but I'm pretty sure he didn't mean his <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/11/17/is-big-marijuana-inevitable-4/marijuana-legalization-doesnt-have-to-lead-to-commercialization" target="_blank">short piece about the commercialization of pot</a> to be an attack on the free market. Quite the contrary. In fact, he has a powerful appreciation of the efficiency of the market, and knows very well that drug gangs are actually pitifully incompetent at the basics of modern distribution and logistics. Put them in competition with Philip Morris or RJ Reynolds and they'd go out of business in a few months. At the same time, with a truly modern, efficient multinational corporation at the helm, sales and consumption of marijuana would most likely skyrocket.</p> <p>Remember what happened to all those mom-and-pop stores when Walmart came into town? It would be about like that.</p> <p>I don't even know that I agree with Mark about trying to keep pot away from the commercial sector. My guess is that it's not really workable. Still, his argument is simple: The free market is powerful. Big corporations are far, far more efficient than a bunch of hoodlums. So if big corporations start selling drugs, then drug use (and abuse) is going to increase. Maybe a lot. You might still favor complete legalization, and that's fine. But you should at least recognize that it comes with a likely cost, just as it did with cigarettes and alcohol.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Marijuana Tue, 18 Nov 2014 21:51:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 264991 at http://www.motherjones.com Public Evenly Split on Immigration Action http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/public-evenly-split-immigration-action <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So how does the public feel about President Obama changing immigration rules via executive action? Pretty evenly split, it turns out. <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/11/17/usa-today-poll-immigration-isis-keystone-pipeline/19165331/" target="_blank">According to a <em>USA Today</em> poll,</a> Democrats want action now; Republicans want <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_immigration_2014_11.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">him to wait; independents are split down the middle; and the overall result is slightly in favor of waiting, by 46-42 percent.</p> <p>In other words, pretty much what you'd expect. Politically, then, this probably holds little risk for Obama or the Democratic Party. Especially in light of this:</p> <blockquote> <p>On one more issue, Americans are in agreement: The elections two weeks ago aren't going to make Washington work better. Just 15% predict Obama and the new Congress, now under solid Republican control, will work together more closely to reach bipartisan compromises.</p> </blockquote> <p>The American public is pretty politically astute, I'd say. They may not be up to speed on all the details of policymaking, but when it comes to the big picture, they know a lot more than the Beltway pundits seem to.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Immigration Tue, 18 Nov 2014 18:30:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 264966 at http://www.motherjones.com Isn't It About Time to Ask Republicans to Start Acting Like Adults? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/isnt-it-about-time-ask-republicans-start-acting-adults <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>David Brooks is unhappy that President Obama continues to be a liberal even though <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/18/opinion/david-brooks-obama-in-winter.html" target="_blank">Democrats lost in this year's midterm election:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The White House has not privately engaged with Congress on the legislative areas where there could be agreement. Instead, the president has been superaggressive on the one topic sure to blow everything up: the executive order to rewrite the nation&rsquo;s immigration laws.</p> <p>....I sympathize with what Obama is trying to do substantively, but the process of how it&rsquo;s being done is ruinous. <strong>Republicans would rightly take it as a calculated insult and yet more political ineptitude. Everybody would go into warfare mode.</strong> We&rsquo;ll get two more years of dysfunction that will further arouse public disgust and antigovernment fervor (making a Republican presidency more likely).</p> <p>This move would also make it much less likely that we&rsquo;ll have immigration reform anytime soon. White House officials are often misinformed on what Republicans are privately discussing, so they don&rsquo;t understand that many in the Republican Party are trying to find a way to <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/Blog_Party_Cranks.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">get immigration reform out of the way. This executive order would destroy their efforts.</p> </blockquote> <p>I continue to not get this train of thought. In 2006, Republicans lost. President Bush's first action was to order a surge in Iraq, which infuriated Democrats. In 2008, Republicans lost. They responded by adopting a policy of obstructing every possible action by Democrats&mdash;including even a modest stimulus package during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. In 2012, Republicans lost. They responded with brinkmanship over the fiscal cliff, a flat refusal to fill open judicial positions on the DC circuit court, and an endless bellowing rage over Benghazi and other manufactured outrages.</p> <p>By comparison, all Obama is doing is something he's been saying he'll do for nearly a year. It's not even all that big a deal if you step back for a moment and think about it. Several million undocumented immigrants are going to be told they're <em>officially</em> free of the threat of deportation for a temporary period, as opposed to the status quo, in which they're <em>effectively</em> free of the threat of deportation. Don't get me wrong: it's a big deal for the immigrants affected. But in terms of actual impact on immigration policy writ large? It doesn't really do much.</p> <p>And yet, this single action is apparently enough to&mdash;rightly!&mdash;put Republicans into warfare mode. If that's true, I can only conclude that literally anything Republicans don't like is enough to justify going into warfare mode. That's certainly been how it's worked in the past, anyway.</p> <p>Look: Republicans can decide for themselves if they want to go to war. If they want to pass yet another bill repealing Obamacare, that's fine. If they want to sue the president over the EPA or immigration, that's fine. If they want to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, that's fine. I assume Obama will win some of these battles and lose others, but in any case will treat them as the ordinary cut and thrust of politics instead of declaring them calculated insults that have infuriated him so much he can't possibly ever engage with the GOP again. In other words, he'll act like an adult, not a five-year-old.</p> <p>This is what we expect from presidents. Why don't we expect the same from congressional Republicans? Why are they allowed to stamp and scream whenever something doesn't go their way, and everyone just shrugs? Once and for all, why don't we demand that they act like adults too?</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> I didn't bother with Brooks' claim that Republicans are "privately" discussing real, honest-to-goodness immigration reform, but color me skeptical. If they want to engage on this subject, they need to discuss it with Obama, not between themselves. They've had plenty of time for that, and have never been willing to buck the tea party to get something done. Why would it be any different now? For more, I think <a href="http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_11/wait_wait052971.php" target="_blank">Ed Kilgore has about the right take on this.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress The Right Tue, 18 Nov 2014 16:53:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 264951 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's an Interesting Twist on Social Security That Might Be Worth Trying http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/heres-interesting-twist-social-security-might-be-worth-trying <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Via Matt Yglesias, here's a <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w20614" target="_blank">fascinating little study in behavioral economics.</a> It involves Social Security, which currently allows you to retire at age 62, but offers you a higher monthly payment if you retire later. For example, if you retire at 62, your monthly benefit might be $1,500, but if you delay a year, your monthly benefit might go up to $1,600. Given average lifespans, the total payout works out the same in both scenarios.</p> <p>But what if you offered retirees a different deal? What if, instead of a higher monthly benefit, you offered them a lump sum payout if they delayed retirement? In the example above, if you delay retirement to 63, you'll still <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_social_security_lump_sum.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">get $1,500 per month, but you'd also get a $20,000 lump sum payout. Delay to age 70 and you'd get a lump sum of nearly $200,000. How do people respond to that?</p> <p>It turns out that they delay retirement&mdash;or they say they would on a survey, anyway. Under the current scenario, people say they'd retire at 45 months past age 62, or 65 years and 9 months. Under the lump sum scenario, the average retirement age is about five months later. (A third scenario with a delayed lump sum payout motivates people to retire even later.)</p> <p>Would people do this in real life if they were offered these options? Maybe. And it would probably be a good thing, <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/11/18/7237975/social-security-lump-sum" target="_blank">as Yglesias explains:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Since the benefits would be actuarially fair, this would not save the government any money. But since people would be working longer, the overall size of the economy and the tax base would be larger. That extends the life of the Social Security Trust Fund, and helps delay the moment at which benefit cuts or tax increases are necessary. The overall scale of the change is not enormous, but it's distinctly positive and it's hard to see what the downside would be.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is hardly the highest priority on anybody's wish list, but it's an intriguing study. And it would certainly be easy to implement. Maybe it's worth a try.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Tue, 18 Nov 2014 15:29:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 264946 at http://www.motherjones.com Congressional Democrats Back Obama on Immigration Reform http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/congressional-democrats-back-obama-immigration-reform <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>With the election safely over, congressional Democrats have regained their courage on immigration and are now urging President Obama to go ahead with an executive action on immigration reform. Here's an excerpt from a letter that <a href="https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1362380-letter-to-white-house-on-immigration-with.html#document/p1" target="_blank">several Democratic leaders in the Senate sent today:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_democrats_immigration_letter.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>The principle behind most of what Obama plans to do falls under the category of "prosecutorial discretion," which means he can decide where best to use the government's limited law enforcement resources. Just like previous presidents, he can decide that resources should be directed in a certain way, which effectively means that certain immigrants will be free to stay in the country simply because no one will be targeting them for deportation.</p> <p>We can argue about just how far presidents should be allowed to go down this road, but basically it's something with a fair amount of precedent. This is clearly the focus of the letter from Senate Democrats, and although I'm not a lawyer, I'm pretty confident that the Justice Department will produce an adequate legal defense of Obama's constitutional authority in this area.</p> <p>But what's probably most important goes unsaid&mdash;or perhaps merely implied&mdash;in the Senate letter: if you qualify for "deferred action," you can also get a work permit and a Social Security number. I don't quite understand the legal authority for this, but it's part of the mini-DREAM executive action Obama signed in 2012, so apparently it's on firm legal ground.</p> <p>In any case, it now looks like Obama is not just firmly committed to this, but has the public support of key congressional Democrats as well. It's coming whether Republicans like it or not.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Immigration Obama Mon, 17 Nov 2014 23:00:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 264936 at http://www.motherjones.com Kids Today Are No Dumber Than Their Elders http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/kids-today-are-no-dumber-their-elders <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>One of my little pet peeves&mdash;occasionally given expression on this blog&mdash;is the notion that kids today are dumber than they used to be. I'd say that both the anecdotal and statistical evidence suggest just the opposite, but it's hard to get good comparisons since children are tested constantly while adults almost never are. Every year we hear horror stories about how few teenagers can locate France on a map, but who's to say whether adults are <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_grammar_questions_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">any better? After all, we never get the chance to herd them into classrooms and force them to tell us.</p> <p>Today, however, Andrew Sullivan points me to a lovely little tidbit that I can't resist passing along. As true evidence, it's pretty much worthless. But who cares? This is a blog! If I can't draw sweeping conclusions from minuscule data here, where can I? So here it is: <a href="http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/uby68mm0k2/tabs_OPI_grammar_nazi_20141021.pdf" target="_blank">a YouGov survey of a thousand adults</a> asking them six grammatical questions. The results are on the right. As you can see, every age group did about equally well. In fact, if you average all six questions, the results ranged from 75 percent correct for the youngsters to 73 percent correct for the senior citizens. That's no difference at all.</p> <p>So there you have it. The kids today are all right. Or alright. Or something. In any case, their grammar appears to be every bit as good as that of their elders.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Education Mon, 17 Nov 2014 20:01:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 264916 at http://www.motherjones.com America Is the Developed World's Second Most Ignorant Country http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/america-developed-worlds-2nd-most-ignorant-country <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago <a href="http://www.vox.com/2014/11/15/7221707/americans-think-the-unemployment-rate-is-32-percent" target="_blank">Vox ran a story</a> about a new Ipsos-MORI poll showing that Americans think the unemployment rate right now is an astonishing 32 percent&mdash;higher than during the Great Depression. The correct answer, of course, is about 6 percent. And this is not just a harmless bit of ignorance, like not being able to name the vice president. "It matters," we're told, "because the degree to which people perceive problems guides how they make political decisions."</p> <p>My first thought when I saw this is the same one I have a lot: how has this changed over time? After all, if Americans always think the unemployment rate is way higher than it is, then it doesn't mean much. But I couldn't find any previous polling data on this. I made a few desultory attempts in between football games this weekend, but came up empty.</p> <p>Luckily, John Sides is a stronger man than me, and also more familiar with the past literature on this stuff. It turns out there's not very much to look at, actually, but what there is suggests that this Ipsos-MORI poll is a weird outlier. Generally, speaking, <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/11/16/americans-think-the-unemployment-rate-is-32-percent-not-so-fast/" target="_blank">most people <em>do</em> know roughly what the unemployment rate is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In this 1986 article....two-thirds, stated that the unemployment rate was 10 percent, 11 percent, or 12 percent &mdash; a substantial degree of accuracy.</p> <p>In this 2014 article....approximately 40-50 percent of respondents could estimate this rate within 1 percentage point.</p> <p>In this 2014 article....most respondents gave fairly accurate estimates &mdash; which is reflected in the median.</p> </blockquote> <p>So the whole thing is a little odd. In past polls, people weren't too far off. In this one, they're off by more than 25 points. Something doesn't add up, but it's not clear what. In any case, it's worth taking this whole thing with a grain of salt.</p> <p>But all is not lost. If you decide to take this poll seriously anyway, you might be interested to know that the unemployment results are merely one part of a broader report titled <a href="https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3466/Perceptions-are-not-reality-10-things-the-world-gets-wrong.aspx" target="_blank">"Perils of Perception."</a> Basically, it's an international survey showing just how wrong people in different countries are about things like murder rates, number of Muslims, teen birth rates, voting, and so forth. This is then compiled into a handy "Index of Ignorance."</p> <p>So who's #1? Not us. We came in second to Italy. But that's not too bad! We're pretty damn ignorant, and with a little less effort we might take the top spot next year. Still, even though Germans and Swedes may feel smug about their knowledge of demographic facts, can they launch pointless wars in the Middle East whenever they feel like it? No they can't. So there.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_index_ignorance.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> On a slightly more serious note, Sides tells us that not only is the Ipsos-MORI poll an odd outlier, but that his research suggests that ignorance of the unemployment rate has very little impact on people's attitudes anyway. I'd say the Ipsos-MORI poll accidentally confirms this. The German public, for example, has a much more accurate view of the unemployment rate than the American public. So has that helped their policymaking? It has not. Over the past few years, Germany has probably had the worst economic policy of any developed country, while the US has had among the best. A well-informed public may be less important than we think.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum International Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:20:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 264896 at http://www.motherjones.com Sunni Awakening 2.0? Don't Hold Your Breath. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/sunni-awakening-20-dont-hold-your-breath <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Back in 2007, the military success of the famous "surge" in Iraq was due largely to the fact that many Sunni tribal leaders finally turned against al-Qaeda and began cooperating with the American army. This so-called Sunni Awakening was a key part of the tenuous peace achieved a year later.</p> <p>It was a fragile peace, however, and eventually it broke down thanks to the lack of a serious political effort to include Sunnis in the central government. By last year, the Sunni areas of Iraq had once again begun to rebel, and ISIS took <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_petraeus_sunni_awakening.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">advantage of this to storm into Iraq and take control of a huge swath of territory. If we want to regain this ground from ISIS, the first step is to once again persuade Sunni tribal leaders to cooperate with us, but it looks an awful lot like that particular playbook <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/world/iraq-and-us-find-some-potential-sunni-allies-have-already-been-lost.html?smid=pl-share&amp;_r=1" target="_blank">isn't going to work a second time:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Officials admit little success in wooing new Sunni allies, beyond their fitful efforts to arm and supply the tribes who were already fighting the Islamic State &mdash; and mostly losing. So far, distrust of the Baghdad government&rsquo;s intentions and its ability to protect the tribes has won out.</p> <p>....<strong>Much of the Islamic State&rsquo;s success at holding Sunni areas comes from its deft manipulation of tribal dynamics.</strong> Portraying itself as a defender of Sunnis who for years have been abused by Iraq&rsquo;s Shiite-majority government, the Islamic State has offered cash and arms to tribal leaders and fighters, often allowing them local autonomy as long as they remain loyal.</p> <p>At the same time, as it has expanded into new towns, the Islamic State has immediately identified potential government supporters for death. Residents of areas overrun by the Islamic State say its fighters often carry names of soldiers and police officers. If those people have already fled, the jihadists blow up their homes to make sure they do not return. At checkpoints, its men sometimes run names through computerized databases, dragging off those who have worked for the government.</p> <p>&ldquo;They come in with a list of names and are more organized than state intelligence,&rdquo; said Sheikh Naim al-Gaood, a leader of the Albu Nimr tribe. <strong>The most brutal treatment is often of tribes who cooperated with the United States against Al Qaeda in Iraq in past years, mostly through the so-called Sunni Awakening movement supported by the Americans.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Obviously ISIS may overplay its hand here, or simply overextend itself. They aren't supermen. At the same time, it's obvious that ISIS is well aware of how the original Sunni Awakening played out, and they're doing an effective job of making sure it doesn't play out that way again. Sunni leaders are already distrustful of Americans, having been promised a greater role in governance in 2007 and then seeing that promise evaporate, and ISIS leaders are adding a brutal element of revenge to make sure that no one thinks about believing similar promises this time around.</p> <p>All this is not to say that things are hopeless. But a replay of the Sunni Awakening isn't going to be easy. Sunni leaders have already been burned once and were unlikely from the start to be easily persuaded to give reconciliation another chance. ISIS is reinforcing this with both deft politics and brutal retaliation against collaborators. It's not going to be an easy dynamic to break.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Iraq Mon, 17 Nov 2014 15:57:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 264886 at http://www.motherjones.com Why Won't Orrin Hatch Blame Republicans For the Failure of Immigration Reform? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/why-wont-orrin-hatch-blame-republicans-failure-immigration-reform <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/14/orrin-hatch-federalist-society_n_6160562.html?utm_hp_ref=politics" target="_blank">Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch cracks me up:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[Hatch] expressed concern that President Barack Obama may soon take executive action on immigration and protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation. "It would be catastrophic for him to do that," said Hatch. "Part of it is our fault. We haven't really seized this problem. Of course, we haven't been in a position to do it either, with Democrats controlling the Senate. <strong>I'm not blaming Republicans.</strong> But we really haven't seized that problem and found solutions for it."</p> <p><strong>...."Frankly, I'd like to see immigration done the right way,"</strong> Hatch added. "This president is prone to doing through executive order that which he cannot do by working with the Congress, because he won't work with us. <strong>If he worked with us, I think we could get an immigration bill through</strong> ... He has a Republican Congress that's willing to work with him. That's the thing that's pretty interesting to me."</p> </blockquote> <p>You know, it was only 17 months ago that the Senate passed a vigorously negotiated and tough-minded bipartisan immigration bill that was actively supported by President Obama. You know who voted for it? Orrin Hatch. The only reason it's not the law of the land today is....Republicans in the House. That's it.</p> <p>So what's the problem here? Why <em>shouldn't</em> we blame Republicans?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Congress Immigration Sun, 16 Nov 2014 15:28:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 264871 at http://www.motherjones.com Two Important Notes For Anyone Renewing Obamacare Coverage http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/two-important-notes-anyone-renewing-obamacare-coverage <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today is the first day of the 2015 signup period for Obamacare. If you currently have coverage, you need to decide whether to keep the plan you have or shop around for a different one. Here are a couple of key things to keep in mind&mdash;whether you're buying coverage for yourself or know friends who are:</p> <ul><li><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/15/us/politics/cost-of-coverage-under-affordable-care-act-to-increase-in-2015.html" target="_blank">As the <em>New York Times</em> points out today,</a> it's possible that the net price of your current coverage could go up substantially this year. Here's why: the size of the federal subsidy depends on the price of your plan <em>relative to other plans</em>. If your plan was the cheapest on offer last year, it qualified for a maximum subsidy. But if other, cheaper plans are offered this year, and your plan is now, say, only the fourth cheapest, you'll get a smaller subsidy. So even if your actual plan premium stays the same, your net cost could go up a lot.<br><br> This is, naturally, becoming a partisan attack point, but don't ignore it just because the usual suspects are making hay with it. It's a real issue that anyone buying insurance on a state or federal exchange should be aware of.<br><br> Bottom line: <em>shop around</em>. Don't just hit the renew button without checking things out.</li> </ul><ul><li>Andrew Sprung has been writing tirelessly about something called Cost Sharing Reduction. It's not well known, but it could be important to you. Today, Sprung tells us that the new version of healthcare.gov has a pretty nice shoparound feature that allows you to enter some basic information and then provides a comparison of all plans in your area. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_2015_window_shopping.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">I tried it myself, and sure enough, the "window shopping" feature works nicely and is easily accessible from the home page.<br><br> However, it doesn't do a good job of steering you toward silver-level plans, which are the only ones eligible for Cost Sharing Reduction. For example, I shopped for a plan for a low-income family of three in Missouri, and the cost of the cheapest bronze plan was $0. The cost of the cheapest silver plan was $90 per month. That's an extra $1,000 per year, and a lot of low-income families will naturally gravitate toward the cheaper plan, especially since it's the first one they see.<br><br> But the bronze plan has both a deductible and an out-of-pocket cap of $12,600. The silver plan with CSR has a deductible of $2,000 and an out-of-pocket cap of $3,700. Unless you're literally rolling the dice that you're never going to see a doctor this year, you're almost certain to be better off with the silver plan, even though the up-front monthly premium is a little higher.<br><br> Bottom line: <em>shop around</em>. The plan that looks cheapest often isn't, and for low-income buyers a silver plan is often your best bet. For more, here's the <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/lower-costs/save-on-out-of-pocket-costs/" target="_blank">CSR page at healthcare.gov.</a> And for even more, Sprung has details about shopping at the new site <a href="http://xpostfactoid.blogspot.com/2014/11/getting-word-to-uninsured-can.html" target="_blank">here</a> and <a href="http://www.healthinsurance.org/blog/2014/11/14/healthcare-gov-puts-focus-on-the-bottom-line/" target="_blank">here.</a></li> </ul><p>I guess the bottom line is obvious by now: shop around. Even if you can navigate the website yourself, be careful. Not everything is obvious at first glance. And if you're not comfortable doing it by yourself, don't. Get help from an expert in your state. You have three months to sign up, so there's no rush.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Sat, 15 Nov 2014 17:17:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 264861 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 14 November 2014 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/friday-cat-blogging-14-november-2014 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2014_11_14.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">As you may recall, last week I regaled you with the news that cats (allegedly) love circles. Put a circular object on the floor, and they'll flock to it. But is this true? On Saturday, my sister visited and we performed our experiment: she laid down a scarf on the floor in a circular shape and we waited. I insisted that we do nothing to influence the cats, since that would ruin all the lovely Science&trade;, but we didn't have to wait long. Hilbert came over first, and then Hopper followed. For the next 15 minutes they went nuts for the circle. By the time I took the picture on the right, the scarf was no longer all that circular, but it didn't matter. They loved it.</p> <p>So there you have it. Cats <em>do</em> love circles. The reason, however, remains a mystery, so let's move on to this week's official catblogging. I've already mentioned that I have a hard time keeping up with our little furballs unless they're snoozing, so this week you get a picture of them snoozing (Hopper on the left, Hilbert on the right). I sent this to the shelter where we got them, and they thought it was hilarious. Our guys are not the kind of cats who curl up when they sleep. They stretch out as far as they can to air out their tummies, even if that means they're often hanging over the edge of a chair. But the couch is better. Even they can only fill up half a couch.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2014_11_14.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 14 Nov 2014 19:58:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 264831 at http://www.motherjones.com People Who Use Obamacare Sure Do Like It http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/people-who-use-obamacare-sure-do-it <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jonathan Cohn points us today to a Gallup poll with yet more good news for Obamacare. In a recent survey, the people who are actually using Obamacare gave it very high marks: 74 percent said the quality of health care they received was good or excellent, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_obamacare_satisfaction.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">and 71 percent said the overall coverage was good or excellent. What's remarkable is that these numbers are nearly the same as those for everyone else with health insurance, which includes those with either employer coverage or Medicare. <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120275/gallup-obamacare-customers-happy-exchange-insurance-cost" target="_blank">Here's the bottom line from Cohn:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>You hear a lot about what&rsquo;s wrong with the coverage available through the marketplaces and some of these criticisms are legitimate. The narrow networks of providers are confusing, for example, and lack of sufficient regulations leaves some patients unfairly on the hook for ridiculously high bills. But overall the plans turn out to be as popular as other forms of private and public insurance. It&rsquo;s one more sign that, if you can just block out the negative headlines and political attacks, you&rsquo;ll discover a program that is working.</p> </blockquote> <p>Republicans can huff and puff all they want, but the evidence is clear: despite its rollout problems, Obamacare is a success. It's covering millions of people; its costs are in line with forecasts; and people who use it think highly of it. There's no such thing as a big, complex program that has no problems, and Obamacare has its share. But overall? It's a standup triple.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Health Care Fri, 14 Nov 2014 18:43:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 264811 at http://www.motherjones.com Wakey, Wakey! Your Life Is Wasting Away. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/11/wakey-wakey-your-life-wasting-away <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Melissa Dahl points us to a <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/2lmp1k/im_dan_ariely_duke_professor_of_behavioral" target="_blank">Reddit conversation with Dan Ariely,</a> a Duke professor who's an expert on time management:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Ariely:</strong> One of the saddest mistakes in time management is the propensity of people to spend the two most productive hours of their day on things that don't require high cognitive capacity (like social media). If we could salvage those precious hours, most of us <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wake_up.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">would be much more successful in accomplishing what we truly want.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What are those hours? I must know.</p> <p><strong>Ariely:</strong> Generally people are most productive in the morning. The two hours after becoming fully awake are likely to be the best.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's a hell of a thing, isn't it? If Ariely is right, then almost by definition most of us waste the best hours of our lives. After all, by the time we eat breakfast, shower, get dressed, and commute to work, we've probably blown away the first 60-90 minutes of the day. And then, as Ariely says, we waste the next half hour chatting or checking email or working at some other low-priority task.</p> <p>But not me! Mostly for time zone reasons, my habit for a while has been to wake up and come straight to the computer. After I get caught up on the news and write my first post, I eat a quick breakfast. Then I come back and keep blogging. My first two hours are consumed almost entirely by work.</p> <p>So does that mean that my first two or three posts of the day are generally my best ones? I've never thought so. In fact, they're usually fairly short items. Later, as I engage more fully with the news of the day and the reactions of other bloggers, I start to write more substantive stuff. That's how it's always seemed, anyway. But maybe I'm wrong. What says the hive mind?</p> <p>In any case, I have a doctor's appointment this morning (chemo round 4, only 12 to go!), so I shall sadly be wasting my most productive hours. On the bright side, the medical staff will presumably be at its peak. That's not a bad tradeoff, I guess. See you on the other side.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 14 Nov 2014 15:33:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 264786 at http://www.motherjones.com