Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2015/05 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en There's More to Kumbaya Than Just Getting Liberals and Conservatives to Agree http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/theres-more-kumbaya-just-getting-liberals-and-conservatives-agree <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Tim Lee lists four pro-growth policy reforms that he thinks <a href="http://www.vox.com/2015/7/1/8858745/boost-economic-growth-cato" target="_blank">liberals and conservatives can agree on:</a></p> <ol><li>Let developers in coastal cities build more</li> <li>Boost high-skilled immigration</li> <li>Reform copyright and patent laws</li> <li>Liberalize occupational licensing rules</li> </ol><p>In theory, I suppose these could be areas of bipartisan agreement. But without throwing too much sand in the gears just to make a nuisance of myself, we should take a look at why all four of these things are so firmly going nowhere even though liberals and conservatives allegedly hold common cause on them. Here we go:</p> <ol><li><strong>Coastal cities.</strong> The problem here is that this is a pretty low priority for both liberals and conservatives. They just don't care that much, and they certainly don't care enough to fight the nonpartisan power bloc that unfailingly&mdash;and rabidly&mdash;opposes this: current residents of coastal cities. This is mainly a local issue, not a state or federal issue, and the fastest way for any local pol in LA or San Francisco to get tossed out of office is to propose lots of new high-rise residential buildings that will (allegedly) bring tons of traffic and crime into the community, and probably drive down current property values. So the game just isn't worth the candle. Plus, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_agenda_21_conspiracy.png" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">conservatives have to watch out for the tea-party crazies who think high-rises are part of an Agenda 21 plot from the UN to make us all live like rabbits in government-controlled urban warrens. Or something.</li> <li><strong>High-skill immigration.</strong> There <em>are</em> people who oppose this&mdash;primarily high-skill citizens who don't really want lots of new competition&mdash;but that's not the big problem. Mainly this is a political football. Sure, liberals and conservatives agree on this particular part of immigration reform. But liberals don't want to <em>unilaterally</em> agree to it. They want it to be one of the bargaining chips for broader immigration reform. After all, if they preemptively agree to all the stuff conservatives already support, they have no leverage for eventually negotiating a comprehensive bill that includes some stuff conservatives don't support. So for the time being, it's being held hostage and that shows no signs of changing soon.</li> <li><strong>Copyright and patent.</strong> I dunno. For a policy that liberals and conservatives allegedly agree about, we sure haven't seen much action on it. Quite the contrary, in fact. Most Republicans and about a third of Democrats just approved fast-track status for the TPP treaty, which, among other things, enshrines American-style copyright and patent law on everyone who's part of the treaty. Once that's in place, we couldn't change our laws in any meaningful way even if we wanted to. And frankly, I've seen very little evidence that either Republicans or business-oriented Democrats really want to. They're too interested in currying favor with IP owners to bother with an issue that will win them virtually no votes from anyone on Election Day.</li> <li><strong>Occupational licensing rules.</strong> This one, finally, is a bit of a mystery to me. I agree that it's not an inherently partisan issue, but in a way, that's the problem. It's also not a hot-button issue, which means neither party is really willing to fight back against it. On the other hand, taxidermists, animal trainers, bartenders, funeral attendants, and so forth <em>are</em> willing to fight for it since it restricts entry and raises wages in their profession.</li> </ol><p>There's a common theme to all four of these issues: there are special interests who care a lot about them, but no real benefit for working politicians to reach across the aisle and fight back. In theory, they might have similar attitudes on these four items, but why bother doing anything about it? No one is jamming their phone lines about this stuff and no one is voting for or against them based on their positions. If activists want action on this kind of googoo stuff, they have to figure out a way to make the public care. Once they do that, they'll have at least a fighting chance of getting politicians to care too. Until then, don't get your hopes up.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:44:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 278881 at http://www.motherjones.com Greece Is Just a Few Days Away From Unconditional Surrender to Germany http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/greece-just-few-days-away-unconditional-surrender-germany <!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/images/Blog_Greece_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Apparently the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/02/business/international/greece-bailout-tsipras.html" target="_blank">Greek prime minister is blinking:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a letter sent on Tuesday to the creditors &mdash; the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other eurozone countries &mdash; Mr. Tsipras said Greece was &ldquo;prepared to accept&rdquo; a deal set out publicly over the weekend by the creditors, with small modifications to some of the central points of contention: pension cuts and tax increases. In the letter, released publicly on Wednesday, Mr. Tsipras linked Greece&rsquo;s acceptance of the terms to a new package of bailout aid that would need to be negotiated.</p> <p>The development initially raised the prospect of progress in resolving a financial crisis that has sent shudders through global markets and deeply strained European unity. President Fran&ccedil;ois Hollande of France called for talks in the hopes of getting a deal by the weekend, saying, according to Agence-France Presse: &ldquo;We need to be clear. The time for a deal is now.&rdquo;</p> <p>But other European leaders, fed up with Mr. Tsipras and in no mood for quick compromise, dashed any hopes of an immediate breakthrough.</p> <p><strong>Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany responded by repeating her position that there should be no further negotiations until Greece holds the referendum on Sunday.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, Merkel is not even willing to grant Tsipras a few meaningless face-saving concessions. Why? I think Merkel believes she now holds all the cards and has no reason to make any concessions at all, no matter how small. And I suspect she's right. In the end, the Greek public will be unwilling to back Tsipras in Sunday's referendum and will vote to accept the European deal as is. The potential catastrophe of default and leaving the euro is just too scary for most of them to contemplate.</p> <p>So Tsipras will be out and Europe will effectively have total control of Greek finances. After six months of cage rattling, the Greek revolt will be over and future governments will simply have to accept whatever pain Merkel wants to deal out. At that point, with Tsipras gone, it's actually possible she'll agree to a few concessions here and there. Policy issues aside, there's little doubt that Merkel's personal contempt for Tsipras has done a lot to cement her hard line toward Greece.</p> <p>So that's my prediction. Unless Tsipras caves completely beforehand, the referendum will be held on Sunday and Greeks will vote to stay in the euro and accept Germany's terms. It will basically be an unconditional surrender.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 01 Jul 2015 17:24:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 278866 at http://www.motherjones.com Santorum Holding Onto Debate Stage By His Fingernails in Latest CNN Poll http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/santorum-holding-debate-stage-his-fingernails-latest-cnn-poll <!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_poll_republican_candidates_june_2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Fox News will be sponsoring the first Republican debate on August 6, and they have decided to limit the stage to the top ten candidates. The lucky winners will be the ones who "place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent, recognized national polls leading up to Aug. 4."</p> <p>So how is everyone doing so far? CNN is certainly a recognized national poll, so they'll be part of the eventual winnowing. And their <a href="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2015/images/06/30/trumpbushclinton.pdf" target="_blank">most recent poll </a>shows Jeb! at the top followed by Trump, Huckabee, Carson, and Rand Paul. The bottom three candidates&mdash;Christie, Cruz, and Santorum&mdash;could easily lose a point or two just due to statistical churn, to be replaced by Jindal, Kasich, and Fiorina.</p> <p>I'm looking forward to the Trump-Christie showdown for the Annoying Loudmouth Award, and to the Carson-Cruz showdown for the Looneybin Award&mdash;though both men have been disappointingly circumspect lately, hedging their beliefs as if they really wanted to win this thing.</p> <p>But there's still a chance of Rick Perry melting down in amusing fashion. That should make the whole thing worth watching.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 01 Jul 2015 16:03:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 278861 at http://www.motherjones.com Atlanta Fed Says Workers Finally Benefiting From Recovery http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/07/atlanta-fed-says-workers-finally-benefiting-recovery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's some potentially good news. There are various way of tracking wage growth (with or without benefits, employer survey vs. worker survey, nonsupervisory vs. everyone, etc.), and the Atlanta Fed has introduced a new wage index constructed from the Current Population Survey. In theory, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_atlanta_fed_wages.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">this should provide reliable data with a large sample size and will be available monthly. The good news is that their index shows nominal wage growth increasing at a <a href="http://macroblog.typepad.com/macroblog/2015/06/new-atlanta-fed-series-shows-wage-growth-held-steady-in-may.html" target="_blank">fairly healthy 3.3 percent per year:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Wage growth by this measure was essentially unchanged from April and 1 percentage point higher than the year-ago reading. <strong>The current pace of nominal hourly wage growth is similar to that seen during the labor market recovery of 2003&ndash;04</strong> and about a percentage point below the pace experienced during 2006&ndash;07, which was the peak of the last business cycle.</p> </blockquote> <p>Other wage measures will be released later this week. With inflation still well under control, this is good news for workers, and potentially bad news for Fed watchers, who hope they won't use it as an excuse to raise rates. We'll see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 01 Jul 2015 15:17:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 278856 at http://www.motherjones.com Jeb Bush's Finances Could Spell Trouble For Him in the GOP Primaries http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/jeb-bushs-finances-could-spell-trouble-him-gop-primaries <!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.washingtonpost.com/politics/jeb-bushs-33-years-of-tax-returns-expected-to-show-increased-wealth/2015/06/30/af8ad598-1f3d-11e5-84d5-eb37ee8eaa61_story.html?hpid=z1" target="_blank">Jeb Bush is in big trouble:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Since leaving the Florida governor&rsquo;s office in 2007, Jeb Bush has made about $29 million, a considerable increase in his personal wealth since reentering the private sector....The documents show he paid an effective tax rate of more than 36 percent each year since leaving the governor&rsquo;s office, according to his campaign.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's it? $5 million per year? And he was lame enough with his finances to hand over 36 percent to Uncle Sugar? What the hell kind of business-oriented Republican does he think he is? You could make that much working for a bunch of do-gooder charity operations like some starry-eyed Democrat.</p> <p>Jeb better have a good explanation for this. Otherwise he might not make it out of the primaries.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 30 Jun 2015 21:55:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 278801 at http://www.motherjones.com Did Republicans Ever Think They Really Had a Chance of Winning King v. Burwell? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/did-republicans-ever-think-they-really-had-chance-winning-king-v-burwell <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today, Harold Pollack wins the award for....um, something. Best geek-obsessive amateur polling and chartmaking of 2015? Whatever, it's really impressive. Man, I wish I had done this.</p> <p>So here's what he did: Last week, before the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision was announced, Pollack asked an "elite group of health policy and legal experts" to give their predictions. Who would win? The plaintiffs or the government? He got replies from <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_laptop.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">over 40 people, about three-quarters of them Democrats. With the obvious caveat that this is a nonrandom, nonscientific sample etc. etc., <a href="http://www.samefacts.com/2015/06/domestic-politics/expert-predictions-of-the-outcome-in-king-vs-burwell/" target="_blank">here's what he found:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Although Democrats and Republicans had wildly different views of who should win, <strong>the distribution of predicted probabilities of a plaintiff victory was surprisingly similar between the two groups.</strong> Amazingly, Cato&rsquo;s Michael Cannon and I offered identical prior predictions&mdash;20% probability of plaintiff victory.</p> <p>Among Democrats, the median predicted probability of plaintiff victory was 40%. Among Republicans, the median was 37.5%.</p> </blockquote> <p>Pollack has a different takeaway from some of this than I do, and you should read his post for more. But I have a different point to make. Before the decision was handed down, I noticed that <em>in public</em> an awful lot of experts seemed to be assuming a plaintiff victory. Conservatives were adamant that they had a slam-dunk winning case. Liberals, for their part, increasingly seemed to be in tacit agreement thanks to their pessimism about the cynicism of the Roberts court. At a guess, if you were a visitor from Mars perusing blogs and op-ed columns, you'd assume that most people thought the plaintiffs were going to win.</p> <p>And yet, behind the scenes that wasn't the case. In private, even Republicans thought victory for the plaintiffs was unlikely.</p> <p>So here's what we have in this case. In public, Republicans were sticking with confident assertions that the case was a winner on plain textual grounds. Democrats, in public, were becoming more and more resigned to a conservative victory.</p> <p>And what does the public take away from all this? All we can do is guess, but I'd say most of them figured the plaintiffs had the better case. After all, both sides seemed to think so. This makes it pretty easy to generate a serious sense of outrage when, in the end, the plaintiffs lost after all.</p> <p>The lesson conservatives taught us here is simple: Never let them see you sweat. Insist to the bitter end that you obviously have the better case. That's good politics. For one thing, it might actually give you a better chance of winning. And even if it doesn't, it makes it easier to maintain public outrage when you lose. In this case, conservatives did a pretty good job of wringing every possible advantage they could out of <em>King v. Burwell</em>.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 30 Jun 2015 18:08:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 278766 at http://www.motherjones.com Managers of America, Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose Except Straight Time for 60 Hours of Work a Week http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/managers-usa-unite-you-have-nothing-lose-except-straight-time-60-hours-work-week <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>If you're paid 12 bucks an hour, you're not making much. But hey&mdash;at least you're eligible for overtime. Hooray! Federal law dictates that you be paid time-and-a-half for working more than 8 hours in a day or 40 hours in a week.</p> <p>But wait. You work at McDonald's and you're a "supervisor." Under the current opaque and complicated rules adopted a decade ago by the Bush administration, that <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_manager.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">means you're management. No overtime for you. Sorry.</p> <p>That wage amounts to about $23,000 per year, and if that seems a little stingy for a manager, you're right. Way back in 1975, the Ford administration set the wage level to qualify as management at $6.25/hour, and if you adjust for inflation that amounts to about $28/hour today, or $56,000 per year. For most of us, that's intuitively a little closer to the wage we think a real manager makes.</p> <p>Well, good news. Today, after years of arguing and rulemaking, the Obama administration raised the wage level at which the "management exemption" comes into play. It's a little less than the inflation-adjusted figure from the Ford administration, but it's close. The new level is $970 per week, or about $50,000 per year. Anyone paid less than that, even if they have supervisory duties, qualifies for overtime pay. What's more, future increases are pegged to the level of inflation, so the rules will keep up with reality even when Republicans are in office.</p> <p>Naturally, the folks who benefit from the old rules are threatening havoc. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/labor-proposal-would-make-millions-more-eligible-for-ot/2015/06/29/917a768a-1ec0-11e5-a135-935065bc30d0_story.html?wpisrc=nl_daily202&amp;wpmm=1" target="_blank">Check this out:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The National Retail Federation, a business group, says <strong>its members would probably respond by converting many salaried workers to hourly status, which could cost them benefits such as paid vacation.</strong> Other salaried workers would have their hours cut and wouldn&rsquo;t receive higher pay. Businesses might hire additional workers to avoid paying overtime or extend the hours they give part-timers. Yet supporters of extending overtime coverage say they would welcome those changes.</p> </blockquote> <p>Charming. Of course, we've heard this before in other contexts&mdash;remember all those millions of workers who were supposedly going to be cut from 30 hours a week to 29 to avoid giving them health insurance under Obamacare?&mdash;and most companies aren't likely to follow through on this threat. But it's the thought that counts. And surely there will be a few who decide that screwing their managers is good business, and I expect we'll hear about every last one of them.</p> <p>Don't listen. In this case, anecdotes are just propaganda tools. In a year or so the Department of Labor will provide us all with comprehensive statistics on what happened, and then we'll know. Until then, just enjoy the good news.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:21:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 278746 at http://www.motherjones.com Health Update Update http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/health-update-update <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/health-update" target="_blank">As you may recall,</a> the key thing my doctor&mdash;and I&mdash;would like to see on the multiple myeloma front is a big drop in my M protein level, a marker for cancerous plasma cells. Today we got the latest results, and it's up to 0.9. Since the first round of chemotherapy had already gotten it down to 1.0, what this means is that the entire second round of chemotherapy at City of Hope was basically useless. I didn't respond to it at all.</p> <p>We went ahead with the biopsy today anyway, for reasons that are a little vague to me. Apparently it will give us some indication of <em>where</em> the cancerous cells are, but the results won't have any impact on my treatment plan. In a couple of days I'll start on a low daily dose of Revlimid, in hopes that it will get my M protein level down to zero. If it doesn't, then we'll try a higher dose.</p> <p>Revlimid is a highly controlled substance because it's in the same family as thalidomide and can cause serious birth defects. You cannot just pick it up at your local pharmacy. First, you have to fill out a lengthy form, and the medication is then mailed from a central location, presumably in a plain brown wrapper or something. As near as I could tell, pretty much every question on the form was some variation of me promising not to even think about getting anyone pregnant while I'm taking it. As you can imagine, this is not really an issue, so the form turned out not to be too much of a chore after all. It was just OK, OK, OK, OK, etc. I promise.</p> <p>So that's it for now. Not exactly cheery news, but the buildup of cancerous cells in my bone marrow is not actually that heavy (about 5 percent or so), which means there's a decent chance the Revlimid will be enough to keep it under control. We'll know in a couple of months or so.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 30 Jun 2015 03:49:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 278726 at http://www.motherjones.com Health Update http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/health-update-0 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is probably it for blogging today. It's biopsy day for me, and unfortunately this is up in LA, so it's going to wipe out most of the day. The good news is that this is the last of the tests for now, and in a week or two we'll know for sure how well I responded to the second-round chemo up at City of Hope. Whether <em>that</em> turns out to be good news or bad is the million-dollar question.</p> <p>In the meantime, I'm feeling pretty good. I bought myself a Surface 3 yesterday as part of my tablet collection hobby. It's my fourth in four years. I now have an iPad, an Android tab, and two Windows tabs. Since I don't spend a lot of money on anything else, I figure it's actually a fairly harmless and cheap hobby.</p> <p>Seems to be OK so far with a few odd quirks. But I've not yet been able to answer my key question: how well does Firefox work? Their servers appear to have been down for maintenance since last night, so I'm unable to sync the new tablet. Until then, it's basically a brick since Firefox is about half of what I do with it. Maybe the Mozilla folks will have their servers back up and running by the time I get home.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Jun 2015 17:30:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 278641 at http://www.motherjones.com Court Rules EPA Must Consider Cost in Regulation of Power Plants http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/court-rules-epa-must-consider-cost-regulation-power-plants <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In today's EPA case, the question at hand was whether EPA has to consider both costs and benefits when it makes the decision to regulate power plants. EPA says it has to consider only benefits during the initial decision, and can consider costs later when it writes the actual regulations themselves.</p> <p>The conservative majority on the Supreme Court disagreed. Although the Clean Air Act generally requires EPA to regulate sources that&nbsp; &ldquo;presen[t] a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_power_plant_smokestack.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">threat of adverse effects to human health or the environment," the requirements for regulating power plants are different. EPA can only regulate power plants if it finds regulation "appropriate and necessary."</p> <p>So what does that mean? "There are undoubtedly settings in which the phrase 'appropriate and necessary' does not encompass cost," the majority opinion says, "But this is not one of them." <a href="http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-46_10n2.pdf" target="_blank">Then this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>EPA points out that other parts of the Clean Air Act expressly mention cost, while [the power plant clause] does not. But this observation shows only that&nbsp;[the power plant clause's] broad reference to appropriateness encompasses <em>multiple </em>relevant factors (which include but are not limited to cost); other provisions&rsquo; specific references to cost encompass just cost. <strong>It is unreasonable to infer that, by expressly making cost relevant to other decisions, the Act implicitly makes cost irrelevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants</strong>....Other parts of the Clean Air Act also expressly mention environmental effects, while [the power plant clause] does not. Yet that did not stop EPA from deeming environmental effects relevant to the appropriateness of regulating power plants.</p> </blockquote> <p>As it happens, this is not entirely clear. The origin of the phrase "the exception proves the rule" applies to this. If I say that parking is not allowed on 4th Avenue on weekdays, this implicitly means that parking <em>is</em> allowed on weekends. The fact that I made a specific rule and deliberately failed to include certain cases in that rule, means that the rule doesn't apply to the excepted cases.</p> <p>In this case, cost is specifically mentioned elsewhere in the Clean Air Act, but not here. So power plants appear to be an exception to the general rule that cost has to be considered from the very start. This means that the question is whether "appropriate and necessary" encompasses cost, or whether Congress would have specifically mentioned cost if it wanted it considered.</p> <p>The conservative majority decided cost was inherently part of that phrase. The liberal dissenters disagreed. The conservatives won.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Jun 2015 15:51:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 278676 at http://www.motherjones.com This Will Probably Not Be a Very Fun Week http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/will-probably-not-be-very-fun-week <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This week's news to watch for:</p> <ul><li>Greek talks have broken down and they might be about to leave the euro, causing chaos.</li> <li>Negotiations with the Iranians have hit a pretty rough patch. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_china_stock_market_plunge_june_2015.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">There may be no nuclear deal after all.</li> <li>Puerto Rico has effectively declared bankruptcy.</li> <li>China's stock markets, which have been falling already, are off a cliff today. "China&rsquo;s main stock index entered bear-market territory Monday," says the <em>Wall Street Journal,</em> "as a surprise interest-rate cut over the weekend failed to lift the market amid concerns over investors&rsquo; debt levels, while uncertainty about Greece shook sentiment elsewhere in the region."</li> <li>And in non-financial bad news, the Supreme Court has a couple of important cases coming up this week. The smart money suggests that the liberal run of good luck in the high court may be over. Fasten your seat belts.</li> </ul><p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> It's already happening. The Court has just upheld lethal injection procedures for executing death-row inmates and has struck down EPA rules on toxic emissions. On the brighter side, they ruled that independent commissions can draw district lines. So liberals are 1-2 so far this week.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:41:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 278661 at http://www.motherjones.com Greece Now Has to Decide Whether to Leave the Euro http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/greece-now-has-decide-whether-leave-euro-its-noit-no-brainer <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Today's news is all about Greece. To make a long story short, the Greeks last week presented the Europeans with an austerity proposal that was pretty much what they had been asking for. But it turned out that "pretty much" wasn't good enough. The Europeans wanted <em>exactly</em> what they had been asking for and sent the Greeks packing. Talks broke down completely, and the Greek prime minister has called for a referendum later this week. The question: whether to accept the humiliating European terms and stay in the euro, or to reject the terms and exit the euro. <a href="http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/grisis/" target="_blank">Paul Krugman offers his opinion:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I would vote no, for two reasons. First, much as the prospect of euro exit frightens everyone&mdash;me included&mdash;the troika is now effectively demanding that the policy regime of the past five years be continued indefinitely. Where is the hope in that? Maybe, just maybe, the willingness to leave will inspire a rethink, although probably not. <strong>But even so, devaluation couldn&rsquo;t create that much more chaos than already exists, and would pave the way for eventual recovery, just as it has in many other times and places. </strong>Greece is not that different.</p> <p>Second, the political implications of a yes vote would be deeply troubling. The troika clearly did a reverse Corleone&mdash;they made Tsipras an offer he can&rsquo;t accept, and presumably did this knowingly. So the ultimatum was, in effect, a move to replace the Greek government. And even if you don&rsquo;t like Syriza, that has to be disturbing for anyone who believes in European ideals.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's worth unpacking this a bit, and doing it in the simplest possible way. If Greeks vote no on the European proposal, it's basically a vote to abandon the euro and recreate a new version of their old currency. Call it the New Drachma. They would then devalue the ND, making Greek exports more competitive in the international market. That would mean more tourists, more olive exports, and more fish exports. At least, that's what it would mean in the long term.</p> <p>In the short term it would mean chaos. Banks would close, and capital controls would be put in place until the new currency could be put in circulation. Imports would skyrocket in price, and this would effectively mean pay cuts for everyone. Savings would be lost, and pensions would be effectively slashed.</p> <p>In other words, Greece would almost certainly suffer <em>more</em> short-term austerity by leaving the euro than by staying within in it. The payoff, hopefully, would be control of their own currency, which would allow them to rebalance their economy in the long run and begin a true economic recovery. In the meantime, however, I'd be skeptical of Krugman's belief that leaving the euro would cause a bit of chaos, but not much more than Greece is already suffering. <a href="http://equitablegrowth.org/2015/06/28/must-read-barry-eichengreen-path-grexit-tragedy-paved-political-incompetence/" target="_blank">Here's Barry Eichengreen:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Nearly a decade ago, I analyzed scenarios for a country leaving the eurozone.&hellip;The costs, I concluded, would be severe and heavily front-loaded.&hellip;a bank run&hellip;shutter[ing] the financial system.&hellip;losing access to not just their savings but also imported petrol, medicines and foodstuffs.&hellip;Not only would any subsequent benefits, by comparison, be delayed, but they would be disappointingly small.&hellip;Any improvement in export competitiveness due to depreciation of the newly reintroduced national currency would prove ephemeral.&hellip;Greece&rsquo;s.&hellip;leading export, refined petroleum, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_greece_germany.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">is priced in dollars and relies on imported oil.&hellip;Agricultural exports.&hellip;will take several harvests to ramp up. And attracting more tourists won&rsquo;t be easy against a drumbeat of political unrest.</p> </blockquote> <p>A lot of people think it's a no-brainer for Greece to leave the euro at this point. This is why it's not. Make no mistake: it will cause a <em>lot</em> of pain. Greek incomes will effectively be slashed, and it will take years to recover on the backs of improved exports. It's quite possible that this is the only good long-term solution for Greece, which has been treated badly by its European creditors&mdash;for which you should mostly read "German creditors"&mdash; but it is no easy decision. There will be a lot of suffering for a lot of years if Greece goes down this road.</p> <p>This is why the Greek prime minister has called for a referendum on the European proposal. If Greeks vote no, they're accepting his proposal to exit the euro and accepting the inevitable austerity that will follow. That allows him to keep governing. If they vote yes, he will accept the European proposal and presumably step down from government. The people will have spoken, and effectively they will be saying that they were bluffing all along, and now that their bluff has been called they're willing to fold.</p> <p>For Europe, the problem is different. If Greece leaves the euro, it probably won't affect them very much. The Greek economy is simply too small to matter, and most Greek debt is now held in public hands. However, the political implication are potentially huge: It means the currency union is not forever and ever, as promised. If the pain of using a currency whose value is basically dictated by the needs of Germany becomes too severe, countries will leave. Perhaps later they will be let back in. Instead of a currency union, it will become more of a currency board, with countries coming in and out as they need to. This will be especially true if observers like Krugman are right, and the short-term pain of Greece leaving is mild and long-term recovery is strong. That would send a strong lesson to any future country stuck in the web of German monetary policy and finding itself in a deep and long economic depression.</p> <p>Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Economy Foreign Policy International Top Stories Mon, 29 Jun 2015 14:01:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 278636 at http://www.motherjones.com And Now For Something Completely Different http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/now-something-completely-different <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>A new<sup>1</sup> study from Swift, Stone, and Parker has identified the top four components of a successful online fundraising appeal. Here they are:</p> <ul><li>The end of a quarterly fundraising cycle.</li> <li>Clear comparisons to the opposition's fundraising results.</li> <li>Over the top doomsaying.</li> <li>Cats.</li> </ul><p>Lucky for me, I've got all those things, so I figured I'd take a crack at it.</p> <p class="rteindent1">Check out <em>National Review's</em> current fundraising drive. <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/420201/two-fifty-very-nifty-jack-fowler" target="_blank">One reader</a>&nbsp;just gave $250! <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/420233/lifeline-sanity-jack-fowler" target="_blank">This guy</a> coughed up $100! They've even got a <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/385379/join-national-review-wine-club-and-save-100-and-get-two-complimentary-bottles-pinot" target="_blank">wine club</a> to suck in new contributors. And a cruise!</p> <p class="rteindent1"><em>These guys are killing us.</em> Without your help, the heirs of William F. Buckley will dominate the political magazine market for years to come. And you know what that means: More articles about how the only real racism is anti-white <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_fundraiser.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">racism. More pseudo-science about how the globe is probably cooling, not warming. More hagiographies of Marco Rubio. More whining about how white people can't use the N-word. More blog posts about Jonah Goldberg's dog.</p> <p class="rteindent1">Maybe you think this doesn't matter to you? Think again. This week features <a href="https://www.nationalreview.com/nrd/articles/419954/reagans-supply-side-genius" target="_blank">"Reagan's Supply-Side Genius,"</a> and it doesn't matter if you try to ignore it. Your crazy uncle is going to be regaling you about it <em>for hours</em> this Thanksgiving unless you figure out how to fight back.</p> <p class="rteindent1">This blog is your ticket. We need contributions to help us fight back against the avalanche of right wing babble. Right. Now.</p> <p class="rteindent1">This is our final push. My cats are down to their last bowl of kibble. The fell hordes of <em>NR</em> are already cackling at their imminent victory. Soon we won't be able to afford the very pixels that make up this blog. I know you don't want that. So please, make a generous contribution today. The first $10 will go to cat food.<sup>2</sup> The rest will go to fighting the dark hordes. And Jonah's dog.</p> <p>OK, I'm joking around here. But we really are closing out our fiscal year next week and <em>Mother Jones</em> can use all the help we can get. If you can afford to <a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7Z56KD&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">pitch in</a>, please do&mdash;so I never have to write a fundraising appeal like this and actually mean it.</p> <p><a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7Z56KD&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">Make a tax-deductible gift by credit card here</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=9JQ8KKMWQUQT4" target="_blank">Or via PayPal here.</a></p> <p><em>1: See the Annals of Improbably Convenient Results, v. 83, p. 101.<br> 2: Just kidding. The cats already have a bottomless supply. Your full donation will go towards MoJo&rsquo;s hard-hitting journalism that gets people talking.</em><em> Like our groundbreaking package, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/true-cost-of-gun-violence-in-america" target="_blank">"The True Costs of Gun Violence in America,"</a> that <a href="https://twitter.com/markfollman/status/612073338240811008" target="_blank">President Obama alluded to</a> in the wake of Charleston.&nbsp;</em></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 19:00:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 278306 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 26 June 2015 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/friday-cat-blogging-26-june-2015 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This is a bird's eye view of cat TV. Sort of like breaking the fourth wall, feline style. But how did Kevin get on TV? He was in here just a minute ago. Very fishy, no?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_hopper_2015_06_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 18:00:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 278486 at http://www.motherjones.com In a Few Years, Gay Marriage Will Be About as Threatening as Cell Phones http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/few-years-gay-marriage-will-be-about-threatening-cell-phones <!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/images/Blog_Gay_Wedding.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Jonathan Bernstein gets it right on <a href="http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-06-26/gay-marriage-won-t-be-controversial" target="_blank">same-sex marriage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Supreme Court&rsquo;s decision today in <em>Obergefell</em>, which recognizes marriage as a basic right, is that it&rsquo;s not going to be very controversial.</p> <p>....How do I know? Because we&rsquo;ve seen it in state after state in which marriage equality was enacted. There&rsquo;s no controversy remaining in Massachusetts; for that matter, there&rsquo;s little or no controversy remaining in Iowa, which had court-imposed marriage equality in 2009. On a related issue, conflict over gays and lesbians serving in the military ended immediately after &ldquo;don&rsquo;t ask don&rsquo;t tell&rdquo; was replaced four years ago. In practice, extending full citizenship and human rights to all regardless of sexual orientation and identity is actually not all that controversial&nbsp;&mdash; at least not after the fact.</p> </blockquote> <p>I get the fact that gay marriage seems creepy and unnatural to some people. I don't like this attitude, and I don't feel it myself, but I get it.</p> <p>But you know what? Bernstein is right. For a while it will continue to be a political football, but not for long. Even the opponents will quickly realize that same-sex marriage changes....nothing. Life goes on normally. The gay couples in town still live and hang out together just like they always have, and a few marriage ceremonies didn't change that. In their own houses, everything stays the same. The actual impact is zero. No one is trying to recruit their kids to the cause. Their churches continue to marry whoever they want to marry. After a few months or a few years, they just forget about it. After all, the lawn needs mowing and the kids have to get ferried to soccer practice and Chinese sounds good for dinner&mdash;and that gay couple who run the Jade Palace over on 4th sure make a mean Kung Pao Chicken. And that's it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 17:30:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 278551 at http://www.motherjones.com Are We Still Yammering About Whether the Civil War Was About Slavery? Really? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/are-we-still-yammering-about-whether-civil-war-was-about-slavery-really <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Are we still arguing about whether the Civil War was <em>really</em> fought over slavery? Seriously? What's next? The Holocaust was really about Jews overstaying their tourist visas? The Inquisition was a scientific exploration of the limits of the human body? The Romans were genuinely curious about whether a man could kill a hungry lion? The Bataan death march was a controlled trial of different brands of army boots?</p> <p>WTF?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:56:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 278541 at http://www.motherjones.com Canada Warns: "Goldfish the Size of Dinner Plates Are Multiplying Like Bunnies" http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/canada-warns-goldfish-size-dinner-plates-are-multiplying-bunnies <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>A Fish Out of Water</em> was one of my favorite childhood books. A boy buys a goldfish and is warned not to feed him too much. But he does, and the goldfish outgrows his tank. Then he outgrows a flower vase. Then he outgrows the bathtub. Then he outgrows the swimming pool. Finally, the owner of the shop comes to the rescue and gets the fish back to its normal size. The boy promises <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fish_out_of_water.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">never to overfeed his fish again. Lesson learned: listen to your elders. The End.</p> <p>Except....what if this was more than just a charming kids' book? Could it actually have been a premonition of 21st century ecological disaster? What if there really were gigantic goldfish out there <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2015/06/25/canadian-officials-say-discarded-pet-goldfish-are-multiplying-and-getting-kind-of-ginormous/?hpid=z6" target="_blank">rampaging through our lakes and ponds?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If you have a goldfish, and you are kind of over that goldfish, to the point where you are now wondering whether it might be best to set that goldfish free, please rethink that decision. That's the request from the Alberta government, which is trying to get Canadians to refrain from dumping out their fish tanks into ponds. Because those ponds are filling up with those discarded goldfish, which are getting really, really big in the wild.</p> <p>Or, as the CBC notes: <strong>"Goldfish the size of dinner plates are multiplying like bunnies."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>If it can happen in Canada, it can happen in America. You have been warned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:29:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 278531 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Still Isn't Safe, and Liberals Better Not Forget It http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/obamacare-still-isnt-safe-and-liberals-better-not-forget-it <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Greg Sargent warns Democrats <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2015/06/26/morning-plum-gop-wont-give-up-fight-against-obamacare-dems-should-take-that-seriously/" target="_blank">not to get complacent about Obamacare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>House Republicans are still forging ahead with a separate lawsuit against Obama over the law (though it may not be resolved for years). Conservatives like Ted Cruz are still calling for holding spending bills hostage to roll back the ACA. GOP presidential hopefuls Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, and Cruz are all pledging to keep up the fight to repeal Obamacare &mdash; &ldquo;every single word,&rdquo; as Cruz puts it.</p> <p>....<em>Democrats should take continued GOP opposition to Obamacare very seriously.</em> It has serious real-world consequences. As long as states hold out against the Medicaid expansion, it could slow the law&rsquo;s efforts to realize its goal of expanding coverage. One thing this means is that Democrats should redouble their efforts to regain electoral ground on the level of the states, where future decisions about the Medicaid expansion will be made.</p> </blockquote> <p>When Obama won the 2012 election, I figured Obamacare was finally safe. Except....there was still the Supreme Court. But they mostly upheld Obamacare, and once again I thought it was finally safe. Whew. Still, Republicans kept fighting. And things remained dicey as long as Obamacare was still vaporware. Then it finally went into effect in 2014, and disastrous rollout or not, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_nightmare.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I figured that was it. Once it's actually helping millions of people, it's safe. But wait! Then there was another Supreme Court case. But that dropped this week, and Obamacare was once again upheld.</p> <p>So <em>now</em> Obamacare is finally safe, right? You'd think so, wouldn't you? But Republicans are obsessed with Obamacare like no other law that's been passed in decades. It's kind of scary, the same way it was scary watching the unhinged Captain Ahab stumping around the Pequod. So no, Obamacare is still not safe. Not unless Democrats win at least the White House, and maybe both the White House and the Senate, in 2016. At that point, Republicans will finally have to give up. They'd have no plausible path to repeal, and by 2020 the law would have been in place for seven years; it would be covering upwards of 25 million people; and the health care industry would&nbsp; be so plugged into Obamacare's rules that it would literally take years to extricate them if the law was repealed.</p> <p>It sounds bizarre&mdash;not least of all to me, who badly underestimated how long Republicans could stay maniacally fixated on Obamacare&mdash;but it won't truly be safe until and unless Democrats win in 2016. I sure hope Democrats figure this out. If you want to know what we're up against, use Kevin's Quick Zeitgeist Test. Type "Obamacare" into Google and then go to image view. Here's the URL:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="https://www.google.com/search?lr=&amp;cr=&amp;safe=images&amp;gws_rd=ssl&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;hl=en&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;q=obamacare&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=-HSNVfnbNMLFggSu7YbIAw" target="_blank">https://www.google.com/search?lr=&amp;cr=&amp;safe=images&amp;gws_rd=ssl&amp;um=1&amp;ie=UTF-8&amp;hl=en&amp;tbm=isch&amp;source=og&amp;q=obamacare&amp;sa=N&amp;tab=wi&amp;ei=-HSNVfnbNMLFggSu7YbIAw</a></p> </blockquote> <p>Now do a quick count of pro vs. anti Obamacare images in, say, the top 50 results. Not counting neutral photos, I put it at about 10:1 for the haters. These guys aren't giving up. Those of us who support Obamacare had better show a similar level of passion for keeping it around.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 16:07:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 278526 at http://www.motherjones.com Supreme Court: Gay Marriage Now Legal in all 50 States http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/supreme-court-gay-marriage-now-legal-all-50-states <!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_gay_marriage_poll_2015_06_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Jeez, sleep in a few minutes and you miss out. This has turned out to be <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/27/us/supreme-court-same-sex-marriage.html" target="_blank">lefty week at the Supreme Court:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a nationwide right to same-sex marriage.</p> <p>Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision. He was joined by the court&rsquo;s four more liberal justices.</p> </blockquote> <p>No surprises here: it was the four liberal justices in the majority plus Anthony Kennedy, who has long been sympathetic to gay causes. And the timing was about right. It's one thing to say that marriage is quintessentially a state issue, but common sense dictates that states should (a) have roughly the same rules, and (b) should respect each other's marriages. Gay marriage has now been approved in enough states that it was time to set a nationwide standard. It's one thing for different states to have different waiting times or different medical requirements, but not fundamentally different rules on who can get married in the first place.</p> <p>And for those who think the Supreme Court is locked away in a bubble, take a look at the chart on the right. 57 percent of all Americans now approve of same-sex marriage and 70 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 34. This was a freight train, and obviously Kennedy thought it was time to get off the tracks and get on board.</p> <p>So hooray for the Supreme Court this week. They saved Obamacare; they saved non-discrimination requirements in low-income housing; they saved same-sex marriage; and they ruled that the government has to pay for any raisins it seizes. All in all, not a bad way to end their term.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 15:14:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 278511 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: Healthcare Industry Approves of Obamacare Decision http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/chart-day-healthcare-industry-approves-obamacare-decision <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>They might not have said so very loudly, but the health care industry really didn't want to see Obamacare gutted by the Supreme Court. They've invested a lot of money into adapting to it, and to them it's not socialism run amok or looming tyranny. It's a positive development that's bringing American health care into the 21st century. As you can see in the chart below, Wall Street reflected this. When the Supreme Court's decision was announced, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and health care stocks soared.</p> <p>Obamacare: Good for America, good for business.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_healthcare_stocks_6_25_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 6px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Jun 2015 01:14:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 278481 at http://www.motherjones.com President Obama Has Had a Pretty Good Week http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/president-obama-has-had-pretty-good-week <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So....pretty good week for Obama, eh? He got fast-track passed; he won the Obamacare case in the Supreme Court; and Confederate flags are coming down all over America.</p> <p>Not bad for a <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/videos/news/politics/2015/06/21/29073257/" target="_blank">"very lame, lame duck."</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 19:05:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 278436 at http://www.motherjones.com John Roberts Now Officially the Fourth Conservative Sellout on the Supreme Court http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/john-roberts-now-officially-fourth-conservative-sellout-supreme-court <!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.nationalreview.com/corner/420292/chief-justice-roberts-officially-has-gone-native-washington-quin-hillyer" target="_blank">From Quin Hillyer at <em>National Review</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>With today&rsquo;s Obamacare decision, John Roberts confirms that he has completely jettisoned all pretense of textualism. He is a results-oriented judge, period, ruling on big cases based on what he thinks the policy result should be or what the political stakes are for the court itself. He is a disgrace. That is all.</p> </blockquote> <p>So there you have it. Roberts has now joined a long line of conservative sellouts, from Harry Blackmun to John Paul Stevens to David Souter. After Souter, Republicans swore this would never happen again and insisted on nominating only hardline conservatives with a long paper trail: Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Sam Alito. But now Roberts has let them down. It turns out that the ability to hold onto conservative principles while serving under Ronald Reagan is insignificant next to the power of the Washington DC cocktail party circuit.</p> <p>Still, at least Republicans can now end their embarrassing charade of pretending to have a plan to fix things up if the court had ended Obamacare subsidies in states without their own exchanges. I think it's pretty safe to say that even the pretense of "working on" a plan to replace Obamacare will now be dumped quietly on the ash heap of history&mdash;until Republicans have a presidential nominee in hand, at which point the charade will have to start all over. But I think <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/03/republicans-offer-new-health-care-propoz-z-z-z-zal" target="_blank">we already know what their bold new plan will contain.</a> There are few surprises in the land of conservative ideas.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 18:42:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 278421 at http://www.motherjones.com The Wit and Wisdom of Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court's Lovable Curmudgeon http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/wit-and-wisdom-antonin-scalia-supreme-courts-lovable-curmudgeon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is Antonin Scalia's dissent in the Obamacare case. Although Scalia would not approve, I have arranged the excerpts out of order so they make more sense and are more amusing. I have also eliminated all the legal arguments and other boring parts. You can always read the full opinion <a href="http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/14pdf/14-114_qol1.pdf" target="_blank">here</a> if you want. For now, though, tell us what you really think, Mr Scalia:</p> <blockquote> <p>Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is <em>not</em> established by a State is &ldquo;established by the State.&rdquo;</p> <p>Yet the opinion continues, with no semblance of shame, that &ldquo;it is also possible that the phrase refers to <em>all</em> Exchanges&mdash;both State and Federal.&rdquo;</p> <p>But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved. <em>[Scalia makes it clear throughout that he's still really pissed about losing the original Obamacare case in 2012. &ndash;ed.]</em></p> <p>Contrivance, thy name is an opinion on the Affordable Care Act!</p> <p>Faced with overwhelming confirmation that &ldquo;Exchange established by the State&rdquo; means what it looks like it means, the Court comes up with argument after feeble argument to support its contrary interpretation.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_scalia_obamacare.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The Court&rsquo;s next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery involves other parts of the Act that purportedly presuppose the availability of tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges....Pure applesauce.</p> <p>The somersaults of statutory interpretation they have performed...will be cited by litigants endlessly, to the confusion of honest jurisprudence. And the cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.</p> <p>We should start calling this law SCOTUScare.</p> </blockquote></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 17:34:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 278401 at http://www.motherjones.com Greece Gives Europe What It Wants, Europe Says No Anyway http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/greece-gives-europe-what-it-wants-europe-says-no-anyway <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>European leaders were in final, last-ditch, eleventh-hour, crisis talks with their Greek counterparts today, which by my count is at least the third time we've held final, last-ditch, eleventh-hour, crisis talks in the past two weeks. This leaves me a little unsure of when the <em>real</em> "world will explode" deadline is anymore. But soon, I'm sure.</p> <p>In any case, as Paul Krugman notes, the Europeans are no longer merely demanding concessions of a certain size from the Greeks, they now want final say over <a href="http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/breaking-greece/" target="_blank">the exact makeup of the concessions:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The creditors keep rejecting Greek proposals on the grounds that they rely too much on taxes and not enough on spending cuts. So we&rsquo;re still <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_greece_gdp_projection_vs_reality.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">in the business of dictating domestic policy.</p> <p>The supposed reason for the rejection of a tax-based response is that it will hurt growth. The obvious response is, are you kidding us? The people who utterly failed to see the damage austerity would do &mdash; see the chart, which compares the projections in the 2010 standby agreement with reality &mdash; are now lecturing others on growth? Furthermore, the growth concerns are all supply-side, in an economy surely operating at least 20 percent below capacity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Basically, the Europeans just can't seem to say yes even when they get what they want. Besides, although tax increases probably will hurt Greek growth, so will spending cuts. There's just no way around it. The Greek economy is completely moribund, and any kind of austerity is going to make it worse. But the Europeans want austerity anyway, and they have the whip hand, so now they've decided they also want to dictate the exact nature of the concrete life preservers they're throwing to Greece.</p> <p>The Greeks have little choice left, unless they're willing to leave the euro, which would cause massive short-term pain at home. Maybe they will, but it would take a backbone of steel to do it. Voters would probably cheer raucously the first night, but be in a mood to vote the entire team out of office after about the second day, when their savings and pensions were converted into New Drachmas and suddenly slashed in half. There is no happy ending to this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:11:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 278386 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Survives Supreme Court to Fight Another Day http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/06/obamacare-survives-supreme-court-fight-another-day <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Hey, I finally got one right! The Supreme Court decided to keep Obamacare subsidies intact, with both Roberts and Kennedy voting with the liberal judges in a 6-3 decision. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obama_victorious.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">And apparently they upheld the subsidies on the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/26/us/supreme-court-affordable-care-act-health-subsidies.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;module=a-lede-package-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news&amp;_r=0" target="_blank">plainest possible grounds:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the words must be understood as part of a larger statutory plan. &ldquo;In this instance,&rdquo; he wrote, &ldquo;the context and structure of the act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;<strong>Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,</strong>&rdquo; he added. &ldquo;If at all possible, we must interpret the act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>So this had nothing to do with the possibility that if Congress required states to build their own exchanges in order to get subsidies, that would be unconstitutional coercion on the states. That had been something a few of us speculated on in recent days. Instead it was a white bread ruling: laws have to be interpreted in their entirety, and the entirety of Obamacare very clearly demonstrated that Congress intended subsidies to go to all states, not just those who had set up their own exchanges.</p> <p>So that's that. As far as I know, there are no further serious legal challenges to Obamacare. The only challenge left is legislative, if Republicans capture both the House and the Senate and manage to get a Republican elected president. So let's all hope that doesn't happen, m'kay?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Jun 2015 15:30:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 278381 at http://www.motherjones.com