Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en The Dead Pool - 26 February 2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Man of the people that he is, Donald Trump likes to pick rich guys for high-level positions in his administration. Unfortunately, <a href="" target="_blank">that poses a problem:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Donald Trump&rsquo;s nominee for Navy secretary, investor Philip Bilden, is expected to withdraw from consideration, sources familiar with the decision told <em>Politico</em>, becoming the second Pentagon pick unable to untangle their financial investments in the vetting process....Like billionaire investment banker Vincent Viola, who withdraw his nomination to be secretary of the Army earlier this month, Bilden ran into too many challenges during a review by the Office of Government Ethics to avoid potential conflicts of interest, the sources said.</p> </blockquote> <p>To become Secretary of State, maybe all this divesting of huge fortunes is worth it. But Navy Secretary? Probably not.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dead_pool_2017_02_26.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Feb 2017 23:47:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 326561 at Computers Have Revolutionized Gerrymandering. The Supreme Court Should Take Notice. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Generally speaking, the Supreme Court is reluctant to weigh in on gerrymandering cases. There are exceptions, primarily where race is a factor, but for the most part they take the view that legislative redistricting is a political question, not a legal one. If a majority party gerrymanders a state to improve its chances in subsequent elections, that's just politics red in tooth and claw.</p> <p>But there's another reason that courts shy away from gerrymandering cases: there's no obvious judicial standard to use. If they <em>did</em> rule that gerrymandering was illegal or unconstitutional, they'd have to provide some kind of guidance about what's acceptable and what's not. But what would that be? Some weird topographical algorithm? Something relating partisan breakdowns in individual districts to the overall partisan breakdown of the state? Neither of these would work, and the lack of an easily justiciable rule means it's unlikely the Supreme Court would ban gerrymandering even if it did decide it was a legal issue.</p> <p>But it turns out there <em>is</em> a rule that can be applied easily and fairly. I've had this in an open tab for weeks, and it's time to either close the tab or share the insight. <a href="" target="_blank">So here it is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There is a perfectly good scientific standard for determining whether there is partisan gerrymandering. <strong>This is the &ldquo;partisan symmetry&rdquo; measure</strong> developed by Andrew Gelman and Gary King. Essentially, symmetry requires that a specific share of the popular vote (say, 60 percent) would translate into the same number of congressional seats, regardless of which party won that share of the vote. <strong>For instance, if winning 60 percent of the popular vote in a state gives the Republican Party 65 percent of the congressional seats, then the Democratic Party should also win 65 percent of the seats if it wins 60 percent of the vote.</strong></p> <p>....But as Justice Scalia pointed out in his <em>Vieth</em> opinion, parties do not have a right to equal representation, any more than any other social group. It is only individual voters who have a right to equal treatment under the 14th Amendment and Article 1 of the Constitution....<strong>In our book, we show that the partisan symmetry standard can be logically derived from the equal treatment of individual voters,</strong> based on recent results in social choice theory. In partisan elections, you cannot treat all individual voters equally without treating all parties equally. This means that the party that gets more votes must get more seats. This sounds obvious, but it is precisely what the Supreme Court did not accept in the Vieth case. <strong>We show &mdash; line by mathematical line &mdash; that this logic is inescapable.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>We live in an era of brute-force, computer-driven gerrymandering, which produces results like this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_north_carolina_gerrymandering_2010_2012_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>But if gerrymandering is now a brute-force, computer-driven activity, the best answer is a brute-force computer-driven rule. A few decades ago, applying the partisan symmetry rule would have been all but impossible, but today it's easy. It's also something that can be easily defined, and is therefore pretty easily managed by the courts.</p> <p>In the past, gerrymandering was a problem, but it was a modest one. Computers have changed all that. Anyone can now produce a map gerrymandered beyond anyone's imagination as recently as 30 years ago. That makes it a much bigger problem and a much bigger source of electoral unfairness. The Supreme Court will have a chance to revisit the issue later this year, and they should think very hard about how technology has affected the ancient art of gerrymandering.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Feb 2017 20:20:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 326556 at Here's What an "Empowered" Border Agency Looks Like <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>These three things all happened in the course of the past month:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Muhammad Ali Jr. detained at airport, questioned about his religion. Born in the USA. <a href=""></a> <a href="">@lrozen</a> <a href="">@jljacobson</a></p> &mdash; Gershom Gorenberg (@GershomG) <a href="">February 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Mem Fox: "I have never in my life been spoken to with such insolence, with so many insults..." <a href=""></a> <a href="">#auspol</a> <a href="">#ANSUSExit</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; THE Russell (@THE_Russell) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">French historian (and professor at Columbia and Sorbonne) detained 10hrs at airport upon arrival in U.S. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; David Lebovitz (@davidlebovitz) <a href="">February 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Even if I granted that mistakes can happen and maybe that's all this is, here's the part I've never understood. Whenever we hear stories like these, there's one thing that's constant: the border agents act like complete assholes. Why? Even if you think someone is here on the wrong visa or an expired visa or whatnot, why treat them like shit? What does that buy you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Feb 2017 17:42:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 326551 at Donald Trump Obliterates the Deficit! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Behold the echo chamber. Here is Gateway Pundit two days ago:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gateway_pundit_deficit.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Here is Herman Cain this morning:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">On FOX &amp; Friends Herman Cain just said that the media isn't telling you that Trump reduced the debt $12b in his 1st month.</p> &mdash; David S. Bernstein (@dbernstein) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Here is Donald Trump shortly afterward:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The strangest thing about this is's true. I'm not really used to that from Trump. I guess accidents do happen, though.</p> <p>Now, it's also meaningless, and not just because Trump hasn't actually done anything yet. The deficit bounces up and down monthly depending on how much the government happens to spend and how much tax revenue it takes in. For example, take a look at the following chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_deficit_2009_2017.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The month of April is shown in blue. Let's make that into its own chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_deficit_april_2009_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Impressive! During Obama's presidency, he turned around America's finances. We went from a deficit of $80 billion in 2010 to a surplus of over $100 billion in his final year. Why didn't the mainstream media ever report <em>that</em>?</p> <p>Because who cares, that's why. You know what happens in April? Everyone pays their taxes. Does that mean the deficit is in great shape every April? Of course not. That just happens to be when a lot of the money comes in.</p> <p>But it doesn't matter. As I've mentioned before, Trump's tweets are for for his fans, not for us. And his fans now think that in his <em>very first month</em> Trump has erased the deficit. The guy promised action, and by God, he's delivered. It just goes to show that all this deficit stuff wasn't really so hard to solve after all. It just needed a man of action to go in and straighten things out.</p> <p>Not that the FAKE NEWS media will ever admit that, of course.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 26 Feb 2017 00:46:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 326536 at Tom Perez Wins Race for DNC Chair <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The election for DNC chair is over, and Tom Perez won:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">What do you call it when you do the same thing over and over again and expect different results? Oh yeah: the Democratic Party. <a href="">#DNCChair</a></p> &mdash; Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Sigh. This is so ridiculous. I know that Keith Ellison was the "Bernie guy" and Perez was the "Obama/Hillary guy," but it's nuts that this got turned into some kind of ideological showdown. Not only are Ellison and Perez about equally progressive, but DNC chair isn't a policy position anyway. It's a fundraising and managerial position. I didn't really care one way or the other between the two because I have no idea which of them is a better manager and fundraiser.</p> <p>In any case, thank goodness that Ellison and Perez themselves are grownups. Perez, in what was obviously a prearranged move, immediately offered Ellison the deputy chair job, and Ellison accepted:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Perez and Ellison traded lapel pins... <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) <a href="">February 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>This strikes me as the best of all outcomes. Democrats get to keep Ellison in Congress, and hopefully Perez will give him some real authority at the DNC. Better two high-profile guys there than one.</p> <p>Besides, national-level purity contests are stupid. Democrats are fine at the national level. It's every other level that they suck at. Anybody who spends any time or energy continuing to fight over some national standard of progressiveness at the DNC is just wasting everyone's time. From a party standpoint, state and local races are all that matter for the next couple of years.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Feb 2017 23:24:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 326531 at Obamacare Approval Really Has Gone Up, Especially Among Democrats and Independents <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">A month ago</a> I took a look at Obamacare approval levels and wasn't too impressed at the spike since Trump's election. The increase was pretty small, and it was hard to tell if it was sustainable. <a href="!minpct=25&amp;maxpct=60&amp;mindate=2016-07-01&amp;maxdate=2017-02-25&amp;smoothing=less&amp;showpoints=yes&amp;showsplines=yes&amp;hiddenpollsters=&amp;hiddensubpops=&amp;partisanship=S,P,N&amp;parties=D,R,I,N&amp;selected=favor,oppose&amp;fudge=0.8" target="_blank">So let's take another look:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_obamacare_approval_2017_02_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I don't usually look at the "Less Smoothing" version of Pollster's charts, but I'm doing it this time to try and get a sense of what's been happening recently. This time, it really does look like there's been a genuine change since Election Day, somewhere in the range of 5-6 points. Both <a href="" target="_blank">Kaiser</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Pew</a>, which have conducted high-quality tracking polls for a long time, show the same thing. Pew breaks down the results by party, and it turns out the increase is due almost entirely to Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_obamacare_democrats_independents_2017_02_23.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>In the past year, approval levels have increased 7 points among Democrats and 14 points among independents. Breaking this down further, approval has spiked a whopping 20 points among Democratic-leaning independents. By contrast Republican-leaning independents are up only slightly and Republicans haven't budged even a single point.</p> <p>In other words, now that Obamacare is under serious attacks, more lefties are finally deciding it's worth defending after all. Finally.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Feb 2017 21:14:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 326526 at There's Only One Big Thing That Matters About the Upcoming Republican Health Care Plan <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Politico</em> has gotten its hands on a leaked copy of a Republican health care plan. It's a discussion draft of a bill that's a couple of weeks old, but it still provides a good idea of what Republicans are thinking these days. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's my summary of Sarah Kliff's summary:</a></p> <ul><li><strong>Good news:</strong> Compared to previous plans, it's better on pre-existing conditions; more generous in its funding of high-risk pools; generally cheaper for young people; and includes bigger tax credits than earlier Republican plans.</li> <li><strong>Neutral news:</strong> Loosens the list of "essential" benefits for all plans. This is generally better for healthy people and worse for sick people.</li> <li><strong>Bad news:</strong> Eliminates Medicaid expansion; cuts Medicaid funding; is terrible for the poor; and is far more expensive for older workers.</li> </ul><p>There's other stuff (all Obamacare taxes are repealed, for example, which is great news for the rich), but I submit to you that these are pesky details. There's really only one big thing that matters: how much the program costs.</p> <p>Obamacare spends roughly $100 billion per year on subsidies to make health coverage affordable for the poor, and even at that premiums are too high for many people and deductibles are too high for almost everyone. Handwaving aside, there's no way to produce a plan that's even remotely useful with any less funding than Obamacare. That's just reality.</p> <p>If the funding is sufficient, we can all have a good time arguing over continuous coverage penalties, age ratios, essential benefits, and all that. If the funding is insufficient, it's all just whistling in the wind.</p> <p>Rumor has it that an outline of this plan was already submitted to the Congressional Budget Office, and the score they returned was so horrific that it never saw the light of day. So when Republicans do finally release a bill and a CBO score, just turn immediately to the section that estimates the ten-year cost. If it's substantially less than a trillion dollars, you can skip the rest.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:38:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 326506 at Leaked DHS Doc Says Trump's Seven Countries Aren't Very Dangerous <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Remember those seven countries that President Trump singled out for a travel ban? He asked the Department of Homeland Security to check them out and explain why they deserved to be on a no-entry list. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what he got:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dhs_seven_countries_risk_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Oops. "Rarely implicated" means a grand total of six people out of 82. That's one per year since 2011. And not one terrorist plot per year, either. One "terrorism related offense" per year. In many of these cases, it's probably a material support charge for sending a hundred bucks to some warlord back home.</p> <p>This comes via the AP, <a href="" target="_blank">which got this comment:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen on Friday did not dispute the report's authenticity, but said it was not a final comprehensive review of the government's intelligence.</p> <p>"While DHS was asked to draft a comprehensive report on this issue, the document you're referencing was <strong>commentary from a single intelligence source versus an official, robust document with thorough interagency sourcing,</strong>" Christensen said. "The ... report does not include data from other intelligence community sources. It is incomplete."</p> </blockquote> <p>I have a feeling that once the "interagency sourcing" is finished, there might be a different spin on these numbers. This is very definitely not what the boss wants to hear.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:07:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 326501 at Friday Cat Blogging - 24 February 2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The weather has been lovely this week, and Hilbert is spending lots of quality time up on the patio cover. He's gotten pretty adept at scooting up and down the access tree, but he still whines a lot when he wants to come down, hoping that someone will come out and lift him off. I used to fall for this until the third or fourth time that he came over to me and then scampered off as soon as I put up my hands. Ha ha ha. Fooled the human again.</p> <p>Hilbert is also anxious for everyone to know that <em>he</em> has <a href="" target="_blank">a college named after him too.</a> Also a local <a href="" target="_blank">art museum.</a> Plus a <a href="" target="_blank">summer camp</a>, a <a href="" target="_blank">village in Wisconsin</a> and its accompanying <a href="" target="_blank">high school</a>, a <a href="" target="_blank">lake</a>, and a <a href="" target="_blank">theater</a>. So there.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hilbert_2017_02_24.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 20:05:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 326471 at It's Happening—News Groups Are Being Barred From White House Press Briefings <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From CNN:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>CNN and other news organizations were blocked Friday from a White House press briefing</strong>....The <em>New York Times</em>, the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, and <em>Politico</em> were also excluded from the meeting, which is known as a gaggle and is less formal than the televised Q-and-A session in the White House briefing room.</p> <p>The Associated Press and <em>Time</em> magazine boycotted the briefing because of how it was handled. The White House Correspondents Association is protesting.</p> <p>The conservative media organizations <em>Breitbart News</em>, <em>The Washington Times</em> and One America News Network were allowed in.</p> </blockquote> <p>A few days ago, there was some talk about whether Trump would slow-walk federal disaster relief for the Oroville Dam area. As it turned out, <a href="" target="_blank">he didn't,</a> but the possibility was taken seriously for a while.</p> <p>This is what makes the Trump presidency so unpredictable. No modern president would even think of taking revenge on a state that voted against him by refusing disaster aid. No modern president would dream of evicting news outlets from a press briefing because they had criticized him. No modern president would lie about easily checkable facts on a routine basis. No modern president would loudly cite every positive bit of economic news as a personal triumph. No modern president since Nixon would casually ask the FBI to take its side in an ongoing investigation.</p> <p>It's not that modern presidents <em>couldn't</em> do these things. They just didn't. And we all came to assume that none of them would. The technical machinery of government&mdash;collecting data, hiring staffers, working by the rules&mdash;would be left alone to operate in a professional and impartial way. But that's no longer something we can assume.</p> <p>Trump is going to find lots of things like this. Things that nobody ever thought of before, but aren't illegal. Or maybe just slightly illegal. And he's going to use them to demagogue his enemies and take revenge on people who badmouth him. Fasten your seat belts.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 19:54:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 326476 at Who's the Deporter-in-Chief? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Bryan Caplan:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&nbsp;U.S. immigration law&nbsp;&mdash; and U.S. immigration statistics&nbsp;&mdash; makes a big distinction between full-blown deportations ("Removals") and "voluntarily" returning home under the threat of full-blown deportation ("Returns").</p> <p>The distinction is not entirely cosmetic. If you re-enter after Removal, you face a serious risk of federal jail time if you're caught. If you re-enter after a mere Return, you generally don't. But Return is still almost as bad as Removal, since both exile you from the country where you prefer to reside. Since I've previously suggested that we should count each Return as 85% of a Removal, I've constructed a "Deportation Index" equal to Removals + .85*Returns to capture the substance of U.S. immigration policy. Check out the numbers:</p> </blockquote> <p>No, no, no. I love ideas like this, but it demands a visual presentation. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_caplan_deportations_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Under Obama, removals were much higher than any other president. However, there were far fewer returns. Thus, "deportations" were higher than any other president, but the total number of people who were actually sent home was lower than any other president.</p> <p>The next step is to calculate this as a percentage of the number of illegal immigrants in the country each year. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_caplan_deportations_percent_population.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>This is approximate, since the total population of illegal immigrants is a little fuzzy before 2000. But it's close enough. Obama still has a higher removal rate and a lower index rate than any other president, but the winner for the title of Deporter-in-Chief is...Ronald Reagan. Every president since then has been successively more tolerant of a large undocumented population.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 18:45:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 326466 at Here's a Brief Primer On Where to Get Good Data <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A reader emails to ask me where I get my data:</p> <blockquote> <p>I'm curious as to what your process is....Do you usually start with Google? LexisNexis? Something else? You seem to have a preference for citing public sources, but how often do you start with a private aggregator like LexisNexis, and then find a public link from that? I guess what I'm asking with that one is, how much does it help to have access to private sources like LexisNexis? Is it instrumental in this kind of thing, or just nice to have, or not really that big of a deal?</p> </blockquote> <p>I don't have access to any private sources. I just have a computer and a web browser. That's the hub of my data-driven empire.</p> <p>But what <em>are</em> my favorite sources? Maybe some people would be interested. And it would be kind of fun to list them. So here they are.</p> <p><u><strong>IMPORTANT WARNING:</strong></u> Knowing where to find data is very helpful. However, what's <em>really</em> important is knowing which data is appropriate to your purposes. You have to develop a feel for which sources are trustworthy. You have to know which data you need. (GDP? Real GDP? GDP per capita? GDP at purchasing power parity?) Sometimes you have to be creative. But the bottom line is that access to data doesn't do any good unless you understand it first. There are no shortcuts to that. That said, here are the sources I use most often. Since I spend a lot of time writing about the economy, this list is very top heavy with economic data sites.</p> <ul><li><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>FRED</strong></a> is by far my most frequently used source. It's run by the St. Louis Fed, and it aggregates tens of thousands of economic data series in a single place. It's pretty flexible, it produces nice charts, and it lets you download the data to Excel so you can play with it yourself. If you're looking for US economic data, it's usually your first stop. It's got some overseas economic data too.<img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fred_gdp_china.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"> &nbsp;</li> <li>The <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Bureau of Economic Analysis</strong></a> and the <strong><a href="" target="_blank">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a></strong> are also good sources. Most of their data is in FRED, but not all of it. The <a href="" target="_blank">BLS jobs report</a> is released on the first Friday of every month, along with all supporting data. The BEA's <a href="" target="_blank">GDP report</a> is released each quarter on the last Friday of the following month (i.e. the end of April for the Q1 report). The BEA release calendar is <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. The BLS release calendar is <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>The Census Bureau collects historical data on <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>household income</strong></a> that isn't available on FRED. Ditto for <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>trade data,</strong></a> though it's clunky and frustrating to use. I really wish the trade data was presented more cleanly and made available to FRED.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>The <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Federal Reserve</strong></a> has a ton of data, some available on FRED but some not. Their <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Flow of Funds</strong></a> report is basically a balance sheet for the United States.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>For US crime statistics, go to the FBI's <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Uniform Crime Reports.</strong></a> Their data delivery tool provides a lot of flexibility, allowing you to get data for specific crimes, specific localities, and specific time periods. Unfortunately, it's usually two years behind the latest release, so you have to wade through the most recent <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>PDF reports</strong></a> if you want current data. If you need a complete series, start with the data tool and then fill in the most recent couple of years by hand from the relevant reports.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>I almost hate to mention the <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>OECD data portal</strong></a> because it's such a pain to use. However, it's gotten better, and it's your first stop for data about other countries. They only cover OECD countries, of course, which basically means <a href="" target="_blank">the 35 richest countries in the world.</a> The OECD tries hard to present uniform data for all countries, but that's a difficult task. When comparing countries, it's worth being even more careful than usual about what data you use and how different countries account for different things.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Needless to say, I use Google a lot too. Obviously you need to have some idea of what you're looking for so you can use the right search terms, and often you have to iterate. That is, do a search, find a word or a reference that seems close to what you want, do another search using that word, rinse and repeat. You'll usually get to something reliable and relevant eventually. Tips for best results: use <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Google Advanced Search.</strong></a> Make use of all its fields. Go to <a href="" target="_blank">Settings</a> and set your results to 50 or 100 per page. After you get results, click on Tools to restrict your search to a specific time period.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>There are also some miscellaneous sites that aren't technically data portals but still provide a lot of useful information. <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>EIA</strong></a> has good energy data. The White House Office of Management and Budget has tons of historical budget data, but the Trump administration doesn't have a useful OMB site yet. Go to the archived <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Obama OMB site</strong></a> instead. Google's <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Ngram viewer</strong></a> has <a href="" target="_blank">pitfalls</a>, but it's a lot of fun for tracking the rise and fall of words and phrases. The <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Tax Policy Center</strong></a> has loads of useful data on taxes. The <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Center on Budget and Policy Priorities</strong></a> has a terrible name but lots of good analysis. Ditto for the <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Economic Policy Institute.</strong></a> Both are left-wing, so keep that in mind. <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Gallup</strong></a> has lots of good poll data going back a long way, and <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Pollster</strong></a> does a good job of poll aggregation. <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Wikipedia</strong></a> is also great. It's a genuinely useful site if you want a brief primer on something or other, and every article has lots of links to its sources. I always check its data back to the primary source, but it often points me in a direction I hadn't considered.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Finally, this isn't data per se, but the site I probably use the most often is <a href="" target="_blank"><strong></strong></a> I head over there something like 20 or 30 times a day. It's fantastically better than any printed thesaurus because you can quickly hyperlink through synonyms until you find just the right one. I use it so much that I have it set up as one of the standard searches in my browser's address bar.</li> </ul><p>I'm probably forgetting a few places that I use a lot. I'll update this post if any come to mind.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 17:46:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 326461 at Bannon Gives Team Trump a New Rallying Cry: "Deconstruct the Administrative State" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Steve Bannon says that President Trump appointed all his cabinet members with a common goal: "deconstruction of the administrative state." <a href="" target="_blank">Meaning what?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Meaning the system of <strong>taxes, regulations and trade pacts</strong> that the president says have stymied economic growth and <strong>infringed upon U.S. sovereignty.</strong> Bannon says that the post-World War II political and economic consensus is failing and should be replaced with a system that empowers ordinary people over coastal elites and international institutions.</p> <p>At the core, Bannon said in his remarks, is a belief that &ldquo;we&rsquo;re a nation with an economy &mdash; not an economy just in some global marketplace with open borders, <strong>but we are a nation with a culture and a reason for being.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh. Bannon is supposedly the brains behind the Trump operation, but this still sounds like gibberish to me. Combined with his calls for increased "sovereignty," "economic nationalism," and an epic twilight battle against Arabs for the soul of humanity, I assume this is just a politically correct phrase that describes his personal jihad against non-Christianity without quite saying so. In particular, Bannon's "deconstruction" appears to encompass a war against Muslims, secular humanists, liberal Catholics, and maybe Jews. But it's so crude to say that out loud, isn't it?</p> <p>In any case, I eagerly await huge crowds of Trump supporters waving signs that say "Deconstruct the Administrative State!!!" What will the competing signs say?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:24:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 326446 at White House Offers Excuse For Improper Behavior: The FBI Started It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The White House has an official excuse for asking the FBI to debunk a <em>New York Times</em> story about Trump campaign aides having frequent contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Here it is: They started it. That is, the FBI approached them, not the other way around.</p> <p>I guess that's appropriate for the Trump administration, which is best thought of as an overgrown kindergartner. However, <a href="" target="_blank">First Read isn't sure this defense does them any favors:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This White House explanation raises the question: <strong>So what's worse &mdash; the White House asking the FBI to publicly knock down a story, or the FBI pulling aside a top White House official to comment on the big story of the day?</strong> Just ask yourself: If you substituted Clinton's and Lynch's names for Priebus' and McCabe's, would the congressional hearings already be scheduled?</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. And if an FBI official really did pull aside Reince Priebus to whisper in his ear that the <em>Times</em> story was wrong, that still suggests an improper relationship between the FBI and the White House. In any case, First Read goes on to suggest that the <em>Times</em> wasn't all that wrong anyway. Here is Ken Dilanian:</p> <blockquote> <p>"NBC News was told by law enforcement and intelligence sources that the NYT story WAS wrong &mdash; in its use of the term 'Russian intelligence officials.' <strong>Our sources say there were contacts with Russians, but that the US hasn't confirmed they work for spy agencies.</strong> We were also told CNN's description of Trump aides being in 'constant touch' with Russians was overstated. However, our sources did tell us that <strong>intelligence intercepts picked up contacts among Trump aides and Russians during the campaign.</strong>"</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, the <em>Times</em> may have different sources telling them different things. One way or another, it appears that Trump aides were in periodic contact with Russian officials during the campaign, and the only questions are: (a) were they intelligence officials? and (b) how often did they talk? Considering Trump's bizarre fixation on Vladimir Putin and his administration's obvious panic over this story, a good guess is that there really is something there they want to keep under wraps.</p> <p>And just for a final comical effect, after asking the FBI to leak information to the press, Trump himself then took to Twitter to complain about the FBI being unable to stop leaks:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The FBI is totally unable to stop the national security "leakers" that have permeated our government for a long time. They can't even......</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">February 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">find the leakers within the FBI itself. Classified information is being given to media that could have a devastating effect on U.S. FIND NOW</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">February 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Do you laugh or cry? We're going to be asking ourselves that a lot, I think. Only 204 weeks to go.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:35:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 326441 at Trump Immigration Debacle May Cost US Tourism Industry $3 Billion <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I griped about a story that wildly misrepresented the alleged effect of President Trump's travel ban on the tourism industry. However, it's worth pointing out that there does seem to be <a href="" target="_blank">a milder version of the story that's actually true:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It&rsquo;s known as the &ldquo;Trump Slump.&rdquo; And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.</p> <p>Thus, the prestigious <em>Travel Weekly</em> magazine (as close to an &ldquo;official&rdquo; travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%....On the web, flight searches for trips heading to the U.S. out of all international locations was recently down by 17%....According to the Global Business Travel Association, in only a single week following announcement of the ban against certain foreign tourists, the activity of business travel declined by nearly $185 million.</p> </blockquote> <p>International tourism contributes about $100 billion to the US economy each year. If that declines 6.8 percent, that's $6.8 billion. If you figure the Trump Slump is a temporary thing, maybe it's more like $3 billion or so.</p> <p>In other words, not earth shaking on a national level. Still, if Trump's immigration policies are going to cost us $3 billion, he'd better figure out how he's planning to make that up. A few hundred jobs at a Carrier plant aren't going to come close.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 06:03:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 326426 at Reince Priebus Asked the FBI to Assure Reporters There Was Nothing to the Russia Story. They Refused. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Last week</a> the <em>New York Times</em> reported that members of Donald Trump's campaign staff "had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election. The White House vigorously denies this, and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus went on TV to knock down the story. That's fine. But it turns out Priebus did more than that. According to CNN, Priebus asked the FBI to <a href="" target="_blank">tell reporters that there was nothing to the story:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe<sup>1</sup> and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.</p> <p>....[A] White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey <strong>asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories.</strong><sup>2</sup> A law enforcement official says McCabe didn't discuss aspects of the case but wouldn't say exactly what McCabe told Priebus.</p> <p><strong>Comey rejected the request for the FBI to comment on the stories,</strong> according to sources, because the alleged communications between Trump associates and Russians known to US intelligence are the subject of an ongoing investigation.</p> </blockquote> <p>I wonder if anyone in the Trump White House even understands how inappropriate this is? They might not. Partly it's because they're so inexperienced, and partly it's because they've all been marinating in the Trump worldview that you're a chump if you let delicate moral sensibilities get in the way of hitting back against your enemies. They might well believe that asking the FBI to talk to reporters is no different than asking the press secretary to talk to reporters.</p> <p>If this is true, it's no excuse. I'm just curious. If Priebus knew this was wrong, it's hard to believe that he would have pressed the bureau multiple times, even knowing that it was almost certain to leak eventually.</p> <p>In other words, at best they're muttonheads. At worst they're casually corrupt. Take your pick.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>In case that name sounds familiar, it's the same Andrew McCabe who was supposedly at the center of one of the <a href="" target="_blank">dumbest "Hillary scandal" stories</a> ever written outside of the fever swamps.<sup>3</sup> Long story short, McCabe's wife is a Democrat. ZOMG!</p> <p><sup>2</sup>This is especially rich since Reibus whined just a few days ago about reporters using anonymous sources. "Put names on a piece of paper and print it," he said on <em>Face the Nation</em>. "If people aren&rsquo;t willing to put their name next to a quote, then the quote shouldn&rsquo;t be listed."</p> <p><sup>3</sup>Speaking of which, can you even imagine the epic meltdown we'd be enduring from Republicans right now if Hillary Clinton had done anything like this?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 05:29:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 326421 at Democrats at War? Let's Compare and Contrast 2009 and 2017. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's a headline <a href="" target="_blank">currently running in the <em>New York Times</em>:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nyt_democrats_war_trump.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I don't have any beef with this. The Democratic base <em>is</em> demanding total war on Trump, and Democratic politicians have mostly gotten on board. What I do wonder, though, is whether the <em>Times</em> ever used language like this during the first couple of months of the Obama administration? Maybe they did, but via Google, here's a walk down memory lane as reported by the <em>Times</em> in early 2009:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nyt_headlines_early_obama_term.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Obama woos and visits and holds receptions and reaches out and sets a new tone. Republicans are "resistant," they skip briefings, they vote unanimously against budgets, and unanimously against the stimulus bill. But there's no war in those headlines.</p> <p>Later, of course, we learned that there <em>was</em> a war. Before Obama was even inaugurated, Republicans met and agreed to form a united front that unanimously blocked every Obama initiative, sight unseen. The fact that the country was mired in the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression didn't matter. Their only goal was to prevent Obama from having any legislative successes.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank">smoking guns</a> that <a href="" target="_blank">uncovered this strategy</a> didn't come until later, but anyone reporting from Capitol Hill surely knew what was happening almost immediately. Republicans publicly spurned Obama's attempts to compromise. They voted against the stimulus bill unanimously in the House and nearly unanimously in the Senate. They launched the era of the routine filibuster on everything. They embraced the tea party within a month of Obama taking office.</p> <p>In other words, it was all pretty obvious. And yet, coverage at the time tended to refer vaguely to a "breakdown in bipartisanship." Perhaps Democrats were pushing too hard? Maybe they were unwilling to compromise? Surely Republicans were sincere about their opposition to increasing the deficit?</p> <p>So why the difference this time? Democratic activists have been pretty vocal about what they want, but then again, by this time in 2009 the tea party had already gotten its start. They were pretty vocal too.</p> <p>My guess: as always, Republicans are given a pass for their ultra-conservative views, which might be a little crazy, but are still presumed to be deeply rooted and genuine. Democrats, conversely, are generally thought craven if they "give in" to their base. Democrats tend to be a bit wonkier and more policy driven than Republicans, and as a result reporters generally don't believe that they're truly passionate about their principles. The very fact that they're more willing to compromise proves this. So when they oppose Trump, they've "conceded" to their base; they're "mimicking" the Republican strategy; they're "quietly worried" that their base expects too much; they "still hope for compromise"; and "protesters are leading the politicians." In other words, it's pretty calculated, not at all like those Republicans with their deeply ingrained family values and distrust of government.</p> <p>Blecch. Can you tell I'm annoyed?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 02:17:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 326416 at Only 12% of Guantanamo Detainees Released by Obama Have Returned to the Battlefield <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Counterterrorism crackpot Sebastian Gorka appeared on <em>Fox &amp; Friends</em> this morning to argue <a href="" target="_blank">against closing Guantanamo Bay:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Obama released lots and lots of people that were there for very good reason, and what happened? <strong>Almost half the time</strong> they returned to the battlefield.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">This comes via Jesse Singal,</a> who points out that twice a year the Director of National Intelligence releases a report called "Summary of the Reengagement of Detainees Formerly Held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." That makes it pretty easy to check on this. Here's a summary of all the recidivism figures since they began the reports in 2012:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_guantanamo_recidivism_obama_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>During his eight years in the White House, President Obama <a href="" target="_blank">released</a> 161 Guantanamo detainees&mdash;the ones Dick Cheney called <a href="" target="_blank">"the worst of the worst"</a> when he left office back in 2009. Thanks to careful vetting and competent diplomacy, the recidivism rate of these detainees has been only about 12 percent (5.6 percent confirmed). That's three times better than the Bush/Cheney record.</p> <p>As for Gorka, I suppose "almost" can be stretched to mean a lot of things. But can 12.4 percent be stretched to mean "almost half"? In the Trump administration, apparently it can.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 00:58:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 326411 at Now In Happy Retirement, John Boehner Admits Republicans Will Never Agree on Obamacare Repeal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In today's episode of Confess Your Unpopular Opinions, I confess that I kind of like Mitch McConnell. I'm grading on a curve, of course, the curve being "people who oppose everything that is right and good about America." Still, I kind of like the fact that McConnell doesn't generally get on his high horse. For example, when Republicans blocked Merrick Garland last year, most conservatives started peddling a load of nonsense about how Supreme Court justices were never confirmed in a president's final year and they were just upholding the grand traditions of the Senate blah blah blah. But not McConnell. He basically said that Republicans were doing it because they could. That's OK. I mean, if you're going to screw me, don't try to pretend that you're doing me a favor at the same time.</p> <p>Likewise, I kind of liked John Boehner too. He was just a man born too late. If he had been Speaker of the House 30 years earlier, he would have been fine. He would have logrolled and compromised and made deals and the government would have chugged along. By 2011, however, the GOP was fully tea party-ized and Boehner had more trouble with his own caucus than he did with the Democrats.</p> <p>Boehner seemed genuinely happy when he finally left the House, and ever since he's been unusually open about the reality of trying to deal with the loons in his own party. Today, he cheerfully explained that Republican plans to quickly repeal Obamacare <a href="" target="_blank">were just "happy talk":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>He said changes to former President Barack Obama&rsquo;s signature legislative achievement would likely be relatively modest. &ldquo;[Congressional Republicans are] going to fix Obamacare&nbsp;&mdash; <strong>I shouldn&rsquo;t call it repeal-and-replace, because it&rsquo;s not going to happen,&rdquo; he said.</strong></p> <p>....Boehner said the talk in November about lightning-fast passage of a new health care framework was wildly optimistic. <strong>&ldquo;I started laughing,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Republicans never ever agree on health care.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;Most of the framework of the Affordable Care Act ... that&rsquo;s going to be there,&rdquo; Boehner concluded.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. I wrote a piece for the magazine a couple of months ago making the same point, and it got way less attention than I thought it deserved. That's rankled my fragile male ego ever since, so I'm taking this opportunity to highlight it again. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's the ending:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obamacare's preexisting-conditions provision provides Democrats with some leverage. Republicans need Democratic votes to repeal the provision and pass a workable law, which means that if Democrats hold out they can certainly get a far better deal than Ryan's plan. <strong>They might even be able to stop the Obamacare repeal in its tracks.</strong> It all depends on how well they play their hand.</p> </blockquote> <p>Boehner's argument is expressed differently than mine, but it comes to the same thing: the best way for Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare is to compromise with Democrats. Their next best option is to somehow ram through a plan of their own and accept all the flak this entails. However, both options require Republicans to stay ruthlessly united, and as Boehner says, what are the odds of that?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 22:50:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 326396 at Pew: Republicans Disagree With You, and They Disagree Indignantly <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Good 'ol Pew Research. They do some intriguing work sometimes. Today they released <a href="" target="_blank">"Partisan Conflict and Congressional Outreach,"</a> which analyzed 200,000 press releases and Facebook posts from members of Congress using "methods from the emerging field of computational social science" in order to "quantify how often legislators themselves 'go negative' in their outreach to the public." Here's the basic finding:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_congress_facebook_disagreement.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The most moderate Republican expresses disagreement at the same rate as the most extreme Democrat. The average Republican expresses disagreement at about three times the rate of the average Democrat.</p> <p>But maybe this is all nice, polite disagreement? Nope. Pew categorized negativity as both "disagreement" and "indignant disagreement,"&nbsp; which they helpfully define as "a type of disagreement that also expresses anger, resentment or annoyance." Republicans expressed indignant disagreement at three times the rate of Democrats. And if we turn our attention to Facebook, there's a reason for this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_congress_facebook_likes.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Sadly, this is not broken down by party. I would be (genuinely!) interested in knowing whether indignant disagreement increases Facebook engagement as much among Democrats as Republicans. Something for the next report, I guess.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 20:10:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 326366 at Mnuchin: Obama Ruined the Economy, But the Economy Is Doing Great <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In an interview with the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says <a href="" target="_blank">President Obama held back the economy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Mnuchin, in his first interview since his confirmation last week as Treasury secretary, <strong>said slower economic growth since the financial crisis had primarily been an anomaly and a result of Obama administration policies that can be reversed</strong>....&ldquo;We think it&rsquo;s critical that we get back to more normalized economic growth. More normalized economic growth is 3% or higher,&rdquo; Mr. Mnuchin said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. But what about the strength of the dollar?</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>He said the strong U.S. dollar is a reflection of confidence in the U.S. economy and its performance compared with the rest of the world</strong> and was a &ldquo;good thing&rdquo; in the long run....The dollar has appreciated by 23% over the past three years and added to those gains since the November election.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think the strength of the dollar has a lot to do with kind of where our economy is relative to the rest of the world, and that the dollar continues to be the leading currency in the world, the leading reserve currency and a <strong>reflection of the confidence that people have in the U.S. economy,</strong>&rdquo; Mr. Mnuchin said.</p> </blockquote> <p>So which is it? Did Obama's policies tank the American economy? Or are they responsible for stronger growth than anywhere else in the world, as reflected in the strength of the dollar? The Trumpies really ought to make up their minds about whether America is a trade-blighted hellhole or the best performing economy in the world.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dollar_2013_2017.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 19:30:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 326351 at Under Trump, Fear Is a Feature of Immigration Policy, Not a Bug <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here are a few immigration headlines plucked at random from Google News:</p> <ul><li><strong>New York Times:</strong> Immigrants Hide, Fearing Capture on &lsquo;Any Corner&rsquo;<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>LA Times:</strong> 'You can't even walk anywhere without fearing you may get caught': Immigrants in U.S. illegally prepare for possible deportation<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>USA Today:</strong> It's a frightening day to be an undocumented immigrant in America<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Fox32 Chicago:</strong> Immigrants fearing deportation under Trump change routines, won't even go outside<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>WFAA Dallas:</strong> Immigration fears: Dreamer arrested in Dallas</li> </ul><p>It's not (yet) clear that ICE is rounding up any more immigrants than in the past, but they're doing it way more loudly and with way more headlines than before. As you'd expect, this is scaring the hell out of people. <a href="" target="_blank">Ed Kilgore comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Fear in the immigrant community&rdquo; is itself a crucial tool for this administration given the signs that <strong>it would prefer that as many as possible of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country decide to <em>self-deport</em>.</strong> It is certainly less expensive and visible than running down huge numbers of people, holding them in detention facilities, and then shipping them out of the country.</p> <p>....<strong>If the self-deportation strategy doesn&rsquo;t work substantively or politically, then we will find out whether Kelly and Trump have the stomach for the police-state tactics that would be necessary to deport many millions of people by force.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>My guess is a little different. I doubt that this noisy crackdown will cause very many undocumented workers to go back to Mexico or Central America. This is not the first time they've been the target of a grandstanding politician, and for the most part they'll ride it out, just as they have with previous crackdowns.</p> <p>However, it might very well dissuade further illegal immigration. What with the wall and the increased border security and the raids, a fair number of people might decide that the benefits of migrating to El Norte aren't worth the risk. In other words, Trump's style of TV-driven governing with little substance behind it might actually work here.</p> <p>The question, of course, is <em>how long</em> it will work. Not forever, because TV will soon get bored and move on to something new no matter how much ICE tries to amp up the outrages to get ever more coverage. So maybe it buys Trump six months or a year. After that, if he really wants to cut down the flow of illegal immigration across the border, he's going to have to adopt an actually effective policy, something he hasn't yet shown an aptitude for. He's also going to have to deal with all the good Republican business owners who are going to get increasingly antsy for as long as this keeps up. They need workers, and they won't be happy if Trump gets too carried away with all this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 17:47:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 326331 at Map of the Day: Kansas Is Not Quite the Slowest Growth State in the Nation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback <a href="" target="_blank">slashed taxes when he took office five years ago,</a> and since then the state's economy has, for lack of a better word, sucked. The state legislature, which eagerly supported Brownback at first, has finally gotten tired of the obvious problems the tax cuts have produced, and tried this month to raise more revenue. It almost worked, but Brownback vetoed the bill and the state senate fell just short of overturning it. So the tax cuts stay in place for now, and the Kansas budget remains enormously in the hole.</p> <p>Allow me to illustrate how this has worked out using my new favorite toy, GeoFRED. Here is employment growth over the past year:</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="//;esize=medium&amp;h=855&amp;w=1555" style="overflow:hidden;height:397px;width:630px;"></iframe></p> <p>Woot! Kansas isn't in last place. It's fourth from last. Here's growth of gross state product in 2015 (the most recent year available):</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="//;esize=medium&amp;h=855&amp;w=1555" style="overflow:hidden;height:397px;width:630px;"></iframe></p> <p>Better! Kansas is 8th from last (counting Alaska, not shown). When the 2016 figures are available, maybe Kansas will move up to ninth or tenth from last.</p> <p>There you have it. A picture is worth a thousand words, so that's 2,000 words I've just saved you. You're welcome.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 16:51:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 326316 at Ivanka Trump Meets With Congress to Pretend That Her Father Cares About Children <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Bloomberg reports on Ivanka Trump's <a href="" target="_blank">first foray into policymaking:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Members of the House and Senate met with the president&rsquo;s eldest daughter in the Roosevelt Room at the White House last week to discuss her proposed child care tax benefit, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting....It&rsquo;s not clear whether Ivanka Trump is finding much appetite on Capitol Hill for her proposal. <strong>A deduction for child care expenses is both costly and regressive</strong> because it would favor wealthier families with two working parents. <strong>The deduction would cost the federal government $500 billion in revenue over a decade,</strong> according to an estimate by the Tax Foundation, a politically conservative, nonprofit research group.</p> </blockquote> <p>Let's see. It would cost $500 billion and fund a touchy-feely welfare program. On the bright side, it would benefit wealthy families more than the poor. Decisions, decisions....</p> <p>As for the regressiveness, here's a quick stylized example for a plan that allows, say, a deduction of up to $5,000 for child care expenses:</p> <ul><li>Income of $500,000, tax bracket = 39.6 percent, total value of deduction = $1,980</li> <li>Income of $70,000, tax bracket = 15 percent, total value of deduction = $750</li> <li>Income of $25,000, tax bracket doesn't matter because you're not paying any income taxes, total value of deduction = $0.</li> </ul><p>Everybody in the world with even a passing knowledge of tax policy is well aware of all this. Tax deductions are next to useless for the working and middle classes. That's why anyone who actually wants to help the non-rich proposes tax credits with a fairly low income cap.</p> <p>In other words, this is typical Trump. Launch Ivanka onto Capitol Hill with a high-profile proposal and get plenty of good PR for it. But the proposal itself does little for the working class, and Congress won't pass it anyway. I think I should start keeping a list of Trump proposals that fit this model.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 15:50:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 326311 at Quote of the Day: The Information You Want Is Not Available, Informationally Speaking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Colonel Pat Ryder,</a> an Air Force spokesman, on President Trump's claim that he had saved $1 billion on the development program for a new Air Force One:</p> <blockquote> <p>To my knowledge I have not been told that we have that information.</p> </blockquote> <p>Roger that. Ryder added that reporters would have to ask the commander-in-chief to clear this up. Unsurprisingly, Bloomberg reports that a White House spokesman "didn&rsquo;t respond to repeated inquiries about Trump&rsquo;s comments."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 06:48:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 326301 at