Kevin Drum Feed | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Pissed Off About Something You See on the Web? Call Out the Person, Not the Organization. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at <em>National Review</em>, <a href="" target="_blank">David French writes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>For a &lsquo;Peaceful&rsquo; Group, Black Lives Matter Sure Does Love Cop Killers and Murderous Dictators</strong></p> <p>I don&rsquo;t know how I missed it, but this sickening essay from Black Lives Matter has to be read to believed. Entitled &ldquo;Lessons from Fidel: Black Lives Matter and the Transition of El Comandante,&rdquo; it begins....</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not especially trying to pick on French here, but this gives me an excuse to gripe about something that I see too often these days.</p> <p>Let's stipulate that the essay in question is horrible. I don't care one way or the other. What I do care about is that French attributes it to "Black Lives Matter." But that's not the case. It was written by a specific person, not by BLM as some kind of official position statement. It represents them no more than I represent <em>Mother Jones</em>.</p> <p>Still, at least MoJo employs me and has some responsibility for what I write. You can't even say that much about the author of the Castro piece. To the extent that there's an "official" BLM organization, <a href="" target="_blank">it's here.</a> This is the organization founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza. But pretty much anyone can set up shop under the BLM name, and the essay French links to comes from a Medium site called <a href="" target="_blank">@BlackLivesMatterNetwork.</a> It has posted a grand total of three pieces in the last two months. I have no idea who wrote them or who the site is associated with.</p> <p>Condemn the piece all you want. But it's not fair to use it to tar "Black Lives Matter." They aren't responsible for everything that's tossed onto the web under the BLM banner.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 00:03:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 320611 at Donald Trump Decides to Poke the Chinese Dragon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Financial Times</em> reports that Donald Trump spoke on the phone today with Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan. <a href="" target="_blank">This is a very big deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The telephone call, confirmed by three people, <strong>is believed to be the first between a US president or president-elect and a leader of Taiwan since diplomatic <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_china_dragon_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">relations between the two were cut in 1979.</strong></p> <p>Although it is not clear if the Trump transition team intended the conversation to signal a broader change in US policy towards Taiwan, the call is likely to infuriate Beijing which regards the island as a renegade province. &ldquo;<strong>The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,</strong>&rdquo; said Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House national security council.</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, maybe Trump was just <a href="" target="_blank">calling to ask for a business favor:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The mayor of Taoyuan confirmed rumors on Wednesday that US president-elect Donald Trump was considering constructing a series of luxury hotels and resorts in the northwest Taiwanese city. A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September....Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect's second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Who knows? But foreign policy wonks are blowing a gasket over this, and the question of the hour is: Did Trump set off this diplomatic shitstorm accidentally or deliberately? I have to believe it was deliberate. Even Trump's team isn't so pig-ignorant that they're unaware of our policy toward China and Taiwan.</p> <p>But if that's the case, it means that Trump is dead set on pursuing a hostile policy against China from the get-go. Perhaps, thanks to his decades of steely negotiating victories, he believes the Chinese will eventually back down once they realize they can't mess with him. Perhaps. Welcome to Trumpland.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It's worth noting that Trump has an odd kind of advantage here. For a little while longer, anyway, he can do this kind of stuff just to see what happens&mdash;and then, if it blows up, he can pretend he wasn't up to speed what with all the staffing work etc. etc. Then he calls someone in China and declares that everything is fine, China is a fantastic place, he has nothing but the highest respect for them, blah blah blah.</p> <p>Will this work? I suppose it might. But not for much longer.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 23:17:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 320606 at Friday Cat Blogging - 2 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I got lucky this week and managed to snap this gorgeous portrait of Hopper. Today, however, everyone is inside. The wind is blowing pretty hard, and it took the cats less than a minute to decide that the backyard was much too scary for them. Leaves blowing! Branches thwacking on the patio cover! Loud whooshing sounds! Much better to snooze inside next to a window, where cruel nature can be seen but not heard.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_12_02.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:56:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 320591 at Donald Trump Finally Admits He Wants to Build the DAPL Pipeline <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">This should surprise no one:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For the first time, <strong>Donald Trump has said he supports finishing construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline</strong>....The company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, had donated $100,000 to a Trump Victory Fund before the election in the hopes that he&rsquo;d greenlight it.</p> <p>....There&rsquo;s also a seedy financial twist here: Last week, disclosure forms suggested that <strong>Trump himself had as much as $300,000 personally invested in the project.</strong> That explains why his transition team had to clarify that Trump&rsquo;s support "has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a win-win-win-win for Trump:</p> <ul><li>It's a project that provides a bunch of blue-collar jobs.</li> <li>He gets to come out against a Native American tribe and its whining about "sacred lands," something that his base of real Americans will surely appreciate.<sup>1</sup></li> <li>A big donor gets what it wants.</li> <li>And Donald gets a little cut of the action for himself.</li> </ul><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_northern_border_pipeline_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">What's not to like? The only surprising thing is that it took Trump this long. I wonder why it didn't become a staple of his campaign speech months ago?</p> <p><em>MoJo</em> has had lots of coverage of this, so I haven't spent too much time on it. But there is one thing I'm curious about. There's already a gas pipeline called the Northern Border Pipeline that crosses the Missouri River at the site of the DAPL project. That's one of the reasons the DAPL folks want to build there, and I assume it also figures into the Army Corps of Engineers' thinking. If they approved the gas pipeline decades ago, what justification do they have for not approving a second pipeline in the same place? I only bring this up because I almost never see it mentioned in coverage of the DAPL protests. But surely this has some impact on what the Corps can do legally?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Please note sarcastic tone here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:43:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 320586 at Democrats Have a Secret Weapon to Save Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday I teased you about a "secret weapon" that can save Obamacare. Here it is:</p> <ul><li>Pre-existing conditions</li> </ul><p>Obamacare requires insurance companies to insure anyone who wants coverage, no matter what kind of pre-existing conditions they have. It also requires them to sell this coverage at the same price they sell to everyone else. Unless Republicans go nuclear&mdash;by eliminating the filibuster or threatening to fire the Senate parliamentarian&mdash;they can't repeal this without a bunch of Democratic votes. And as long as the pre-existing conditions <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_how_to_save_obamacare.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">ban is in place, repealing Obamacare, with or without a replacement, will wreck the individual insurance market.</p> <p>I mean this literally: Most likely, every insurance company in America would simply exit the market. Something like 7 percent of Americans would flatly have no source of insurance. This is political suicide, and Republicans know it. Hopefully, Democrats know it too.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">My full story about this is here.</a> I recommend that everyone read it. If Democrats want to save health care reform, this is the hammer that will allow them to do it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 18:11:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 320566 at Hillary Clinton's Popular Vote Lead Passes 2.5 Million <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Just thought I'd mention it. As of today, she leads Donald Trump in the popular vote <a href="" target="_blank">by 2.56 million votes,</a> a margin of 1.89 percent. In the three key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that gave him his victory, Trump's combined lead is less than 80,000 votes. By any measure you can think of, Trump has the narrowest victory of any president in the last century; the smallest mandate; and is by far the least liked.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:53:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 320561 at Chart of the Day: A Disappointing Jobs Report in October <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The American economy <a href="" target="_blank">added 178,000 new jobs last month,</a> 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at a modest 88,000 jobs. At first glance this seems OK, but it looks worse when you drill below the surface.</p> <p>The headline unemployment rate spiked down to 4.6 percent, which is very close to a record low for the past 40 years. Unfortunately this is largely because a stunning 446,000 people dropped out of the labor force, not because a huge number people got jobs. In fact, the labor participation rate went <em>down</em>, from 62.8 percent to 62.7 percent. Given this, it's not surprising that hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees were flat. If the labor market were really tightening, wages would be going up.</p> <p>The general reaction to this jobs report seems to be that it shows "decent, steady growth." I don't agree. That <em>is</em> what the headline unemployment number shows, but this mostly suggests that the headline unemployment number is becoming less and less reliable as a good measure of the jobs picture. This was a disappointing report.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_jobs_october_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 25px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:06:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 320556 at What's the Real Reason Drug Prices Are So High In America? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This hardly seems important at the moment, but Sarah Kliff mentioned something today that's always bugged me. She's explaining why prescription drugs cost a lot more in the US than elsewhere, and concludes that it's because other countries <a href="" target="_blank">all negotiate drug prices at a national level and we don't:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The United States has no government panel that negotiates drug prices. There are thousands of health insurance plans all across the country. Each has to negotiate its own prices with drugmakers separately. Because Americans are fragmented across all these different health insurers, plans have much less bargaining power to demand lower prices. In other words: Australia is buying drugs in bulk, like you would at Costco, while we&rsquo;re <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vox_cartoon_drug_spending.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">picking up tiny bottles at the local pharmacy. You can guess who is paying more.</p> </blockquote> <p>OK, but take a look at the stick figure on the right, part of Vox's latest innovation in explanatory journalism. The country with the lowest drug spending is Denmark, population 6 million. Compare that to Blue Cross, which insures about 100 million people. United Healthcare insures about 70 million. Aetna insures about 20 million. Kaiser Permanente clocks in around 10 million.</p> <p>In other words, all of these health insurers are as big as whole countries. And they're <em>way</em> bigger than little Denmark. So why are they unable to negotiate lower drug prices? Medicare may be prohibited from doing this, but private insurers aren't.</p> <p>Are insurers hemmed in by rules requiring them to offer any "medically necessary" drug? Are they, ironically, limited by competition&mdash;afraid of losing customers if they don't cover everything? Are they just lousy negotiators because they don't really care? After all, high prices are going to get passed along anyway, so it doesn't hurt them as long as their competitors are in the same boat.</p> <p>Alternatively, do I completely misunderstand how the process works?</p> <p>My gripe with this is not so much that drug prices are high. My gripe is that the US essentially subsidizes the rest of the world. Pharmaceutical companies require a certain overall return on their invested capital, but they don't care where it comes from. If prices are low in Europe and high in the US, that's fine. If prices in the US came down, they'd make up for it by raising prices in Europe&mdash;and that would be fine too.</p> <p>So why not put America First, to coin a phrase, and push down prices here? It wouldn't hurt the drug companies, it would just force them to raise prices elsewhere. That would be fine with me. I've never really understood why we're in the business of helping Europe pay less for drugs.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:45:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 320541 at Russia Complains That Ukraine Interfered With Its Interference in the American Election <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">This is insane:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A top Russian official is accusing the Ukrainian government of undermining Donald Trump&rsquo;s presidential campaign</strong> by trashing him on social media and disseminating dirt on one of his close associates.</p> <p>....&ldquo;<strong>Ukraine seriously complicated the work of Trump&rsquo;s election campaign headquarters</strong> by planting information according to which Paul Manafort, Trump&rsquo;s campaign chairman, allegedly accepted money from Ukrainian oligarchs,&rdquo; Maria Zakharova said at a press briefing....The renewed scrutiny of Manafort&rsquo;s dealings in Ukraine comes at an awkward time for the veteran operative and for Trump.</p> </blockquote> <p>WTF? Russia is <em>publicly</em> complaining that another country took sides against it in an American election? Aren't they even pretending anymore that they didn't do anything to help Donald Trump win the presidency?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 06:07:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 320546 at Quote of the Day: There's No Such Thing as Facts Anymore <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>One of the problems with Donald Trump's habit of lying endlessly&mdash;aside from the fact that he does it in the first place&mdash;is that it affects everyone around him. By chance, today brought this all front and center. We start off with Trump himself:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">#Trump</a> tells Cincinnati rally that violent crime is at a 45-year high. It's actually at a 51-year low, according to latest FBI data. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) <a href="">December 2, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This is a routine, garden-variety Trump lie. He obviously knows it's untrue, but he doesn't care. You see, for him it represents some kind of higher truth. Trump lackey Scottie Nell Hughes, in the course of explaining a different Trump lie, <a href="" target="_blank">tells us how this works on the Diane Rehm show this morning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>People that say facts are facts, they're not really facts....<strong>There's no such thing, unfortunately anymore, as facts.</strong> And so Mr. Trump's tweet, amongst a certain crowd, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, <strong>he has some facts amongst him and his supporters,</strong> and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and there's no facts to back it up.</p> </blockquote> <p>Got that? These things the rest of us call lies are <em>facts amongst him and his supporters</em>. Senior lackey Kellyanne Conway agrees that truth in Trumpworld is a relative thing, but defends it more directly. If Trump says it, then by definition there must be something to it:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="">@KellyannePolls</a> on Trump&rsquo;s unfounded tweets abt fraud: &ldquo;He&rsquo;s president-elect so that&rsquo;s presidential behavior&rdquo;</p> &mdash; Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) <a href="">December 2, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Finally, Corey Lewandowski tells us all to <a href=";utm_term=.824db153858a" target="_blank">just get the hell over it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This is the problem with the media. <strong>You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally.</strong> The American people didn&rsquo;t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes &mdash; when you have a conversation with people, whether it&rsquo;s around the dinner table or at a bar &mdash; <strong>you&rsquo;re going to say things, and sometimes you don&rsquo;t have all the facts to back it up.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently we've got four years of this behavior ahead of us. Trump's "facts" aren't meant to be facts. They just represent a state of mind, or perhaps an aspiration of some kind. His supporters all get this. Now we'd all better get it too.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 04:31:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 320536 at Trump Promises Revenge on Companies He Doesn't Like <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This popped up in my Twitter feed this morning:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tweet_trump_consequences.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 20px;"></p> <p>This is totally true. <a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I noted that Bernie Sanders had urged Trump to deny federal contracts to companies that move jobs overseas, which I called a massive abuse of power. I got some pushback on that, along the lines of "Why shouldn't a president stand up for American workers?"</p> <p>Well, a president should. But a president <em>shouldn't</em> personally punish companies that do things he doesn't like. I hope that requires no explanation. Now, if Congress passes a law banning federal contracts for companies that engage in some specified form of job offshoring, that would be different. It would almost certainly be a very bad law, but I'm pretty sure it would be constitutional. And if it allowed the executive branch a certain amount of discretion in enforcing the law, then Trump could take advantage of that.</p> <p>I would not recommend doing this. But it would be legal. Until then, however, it wouldn't be. And it would be wrong. Let's not encourage Trump to think of himself as any more of a mafia kingpin than he already does.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 23:33:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 320521 at Big Mac Followup <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I got showered with comments yesterday about the Big Mac. <em>It's so much more than the middle bun, you cretin!</em> Even my sister got on my case about it. My sister!</p> <p>So today I went out to our newly refurbished McDonald's and got one. My conclusion: it was fine. The special sauce was fine, the pickles were fine, and it was a perfectly good hamburger on the McDonald's scale of hamburgers. About halfway through eating it, though, it suddenly occurred to me sure had a lot of bread. But all of you Big Mac lovers like the extra bun, I guess. De gustibus.</p> <p>I haven't been to McDonald's in a long time, and I see that they now hand out numbers like most other places. Unlike other places, however, mine has a staff that comes by and takes your number from the table without leaving any food. It took a while to sort this out, so I used the time to load Facebook on my phone. I did this because apparently blog posts with inline <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_facebook_logo_small.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">images (like the one on the right) don't render very well in Facebook Instant, whatever that is. And since half our traffic now comes from mobile Facebook users, this is a problem.</p> <p>So I got the Facebook app loaded and then scrolled through my feed, but there was nothing of mine there. Hmmm. I've never paid much attention to Facebook, so I wasn't sure what to do. I searched for MoJo, and then liked it, figuring that might make MoJo content appear. Oddly, though, what it mostly did was make lots of Brad DeLong posts appear. What's going on up there at Cal? I got this sorted out eventually, but it turns out the MoJo digital team has been curating the feed so that the troublesome posts don't go up. So I still don't know quite what's going on. But I'll find out soon enough when I chat with our web folks.</p> <p>That was my midday. How was yours?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 23:05:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 320516 at Swamp Watch - 1 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Washington Post</em> says Donald Trump will pick Gen. James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense. I gather Mattis is pretty well respected, though I continue to believe that Trump himself was swayed solely by his "Mad Dog" nickname.</p> <p>Mattis will need a special exemption from Congress, since he's only been retired from the military for three years rather than the legally required seven. That will probably sail through, though I sort of hope it runs into at least a few bumps. I don't have anything against Mattis, but the 7-year rule is a pretty good one. Civilian control of the military is an important tradition.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_01.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:37:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 320511 at Medicare Is Probably Not On the 2017 Agenda <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>According to Paul Ryan, <a href="" target="_blank">he has six top priorities for the upcoming year:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Regulatory relief....Obamacare relief....reforming the tax code....foreign policy, rebuilding the military....securing the border....And then while we work on that, we want to work on poverty and restoring our constitutional separation of powers....So those are effectively the six pieces that we&rsquo;ve been talking about.</p> </blockquote> <p>I have a couple of comments about this. First, there's nothing here about entitlement reform, or Medicare reform in particular. This doesn't mean Medicare is safe forever, but it does suggest it's <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_medicare.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">not a briar patch Ryan wants to jump in right away.</p> <p>Second, these are all really, really complex. Regulatory relief&mdash;whatever that actually means&mdash;is dauntingly complicated. Repealing Obamacare is all but impossible without Democratic support, which means months or years of negotiation. Tax <em>cuts</em> are easy, but Ryan seems to want wholesale tax reform on the 1986 model, which has a ton of moving parts. Securing the border is a lot more than just building a wall. And "working on poverty"&mdash;I shudder to think what he means by this&mdash;is obviously no cakewalk.</p> <p>On the bright side, rebuilding the military is fairly easy. You just give them more money and hope it doesn't go down a rat hole.</p> <p>If Ryan is serious about this stuff, he's mapped out two years of work already&mdash;and that's not even counting whatever Donald Trump wants to throw in the mix. Put it all together, stir in Trump's promise not to touch entitlements, and I suspect that we're not going to see any serious movement on Medicare for at least a year, maybe more.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 19:21:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 320496 at Carrier Watch: We're Now Up to $7 Million — So Far <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> passes along the <a href="" target="_blank">latest news on the Carrier deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Indiana officials agreed to give United Technologies Corp. $7 million worth of tax breaks over 10 years to encourage the company&rsquo;s Carrier Corp. unit to keep about 1,000 jobs in the state, according to people familiar with the matter....The deal would cover 800 Carrier workers from the Indianapolis furnace plant and an additional 300 research and headquarters positions that weren&rsquo;t slated to go to Mexico, according to another person briefed on the deal.</p> </blockquote> <p>Two things. First, we're now down to 800 jobs saved. The other 300 weren't going to Mexico in the first place, while another thousand are still scheduled to head south of the border. Second, this comes to about $1,000 annually per job saved. As these kinds of deals go, that's not too bad.</p> <p>However! Keep your eyes open. Call me cynical if you want, but I have a feeling it might eventually turn out that Carrier got a few more tidbits out of Trump than just this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 17:43:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 320476 at After the Election, Obamacare Repeal Is Suddenly a Little Less Tempting <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Back in October, when Democrats were in charge of the White House and seemed set to continue that, 32 percent of Americans said they wanted to repeal Obamacare. After the election, when Republicans had won total control of everything, that number dropped sharply to 26 percent. Here are the results of the <a href="" target="_blank">latest Kaiser tracking poll:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_repeal_november_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_favorability_november_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>Apparently, when repeal of Obamacare became a concrete reality, rather than just a rallying cry, a fair number of people started to think twice. Even among Trump voters, only half want to see the law repealed.</p> <p>In any case, Democrats have a secret weapon to rescue Obamacare&mdash;one that's hiding in plain sight. More on that later.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:52:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 320466 at You Must Watch This Video Clip Immediately <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Seriously. Do it now.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 50px;" width="500"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:23:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 320451 at 2016 Was Bad for Democrats, But It Wasn't an Epic Disaster <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at the <em>Washington Post</em>, Chris Cillizza presents a chart showing the <a href=";utm_term=.c4ece8dbde16" target="_blank">dismal fortunes of the Democratic Party in recent years:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_party_control_2008_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d9d9d9; margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>But 2008 was a landslide year for Democrats. Of course they'll look bad if you start from there. If, instead, you start at 1994&mdash;the post-Gingrich era&mdash;and eliminate the 2008 results, you get this:<sup>1</sup></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_party_control_1994_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>Neither of these charts is "correct." What's more, both show that 2016 was, indeed, a fairly dismal year for Democrats, especially at the state level. Still, it matters where you start. If your starting point is a landslide year, things are automatically going to look bleak. But if you expand your vision to the past two decades, 2016 looks bad, but it's not an epic disaster.</p> <p>2016 was a pretty good year for Republicans. But that's all.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>For the record, I cobbled together these numbers from several sources, and they may be off slightly. But they show the trend accurately.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:05:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 320446 at How Do American Kids Do In Math? Pretty Well, It Turns Out. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier this evening I promised more on the TIMSS math test, and now I'm here to deliver. I could pretty easily just copy the full ranking table and consider it a job well done, but there's a problem with that: a bunch of Asian tigers are always at the top, light years ahead of everyone else. There's not much point in comparing ourselves to them. Do we really care that we do worse than countries that goad their kids into studying math until their eyes fall out? Likewise, there are lots of poor countries clustered near the bottom. There's not much point in comparing ourselves to them either. It might make us feel good, but do we really care that we beat out Malaysia and Oman?</p> <p>Really, what we want to know is how we compare to peer countries. We also want to know if we're improving over time. So without further ado, here's the answer for 8th graders:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_timss_math_2015_peer_countries.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 2px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_timss_math_us_1995_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>Basically, this isn't bad. We do pretty well among our peers, and our scores have been improving steadily for the past two decades. The full report is <a href="" target="_blank">here,</a> and it has lots of interesting tidbits.</p> <p>It's worth noting that there are two big international math tests: TIMSS and PISA. The United States usually does fairly well on TIMSS and not so well on PISA, which claims to be more about concepts and actual problem solving. If your ideological preference is to show that American kids are doing fine, you'll focus on TIMSS. If your ideological preference is to show that American education is a cesspool and needs massive reform, you'll focus on PISA. Take your pick.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_timss_2015_race.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">One other note. If you <em>really</em> want a takeaway from the latest TIMSS test, it's the same as the takeaway from every other test ever administered to America schoolkids: we do a terrible job of educating black children. The single biggest thing we could do to improve education in this country is to cut out the half measures and focus serious money and resources on poor, black school districts. But I guess the white working class wouldn't be very happy about that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 04:59:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 320441 at Carrier Will Get a Tax Break For Staying in Indiana <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday I warned everyone to keep an eye out for details about the size of the bribe that Carrier got from Donald Trump to stay in Indiana. We still don't know that, <a href="" target="_blank">but we do know a little bit more:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Carrier, the company that changed its plans to shutter a plant in Indianapolis and shift production to Mexico after talks with President-elect Donald Trump, confirmed Wednesday that <strong>it would receive financial assistance</strong> from the state of Indiana as part of the deal to keep the plant open.</p> <p>....A statement from the company...&ldquo;The incentives offered by the state were an important consideration.&rdquo; The Indiana Economic Development Corp., a state agency, <strong>will grant Carrier a tax break in exchange for keeping the plant open,</strong> said John Mutz, a member of the corporation's board and a former lieutenant governor.</p> </blockquote> <p>How big a tax break? And what else will Carrier get? Stay tuned as we learn more details about how many taxpayer dollars are being spent in order to provide Donald Trump with a PR opportunity.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 04:17:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 320436 at There's Something Wrong With the TIMSS Advanced Math Test <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Excellent news! <a href="" target="_blank">The 2015 TIMSS test results are out.</a> This is one of two international math tests for 4th and 8th graders (the other is PISA), and it provides us with yet another chance to bemoan the shoddy education of American students.</p> <p>I'll get to that later tonight. First, though, I want to point out an odd thing about the TIMSS test. This year, for only the second time, they decided to add a third "advanced" math test for high school seniors who were in advanced math courses. Eight countries participated, and the United States did pretty well. We lagged behind only Lebanon.</p> <p>Lebanon? You bet: their average score was 532, a whopping 50 points ahead of the two second-place countries (Russia and the US). But then I noticed something: only 3.2 percent of Lebanese students were in advanced math courses compared to 34 percent of Slovenian students. It makes sense that if you compare the top 3.2 percent of one country to the top 34 percent of another, the former is going to do a lot better.</p> <p>So are differences in these scores just due to differences in how selective different countries are in accepting students into advanced math courses? Here's the scatterplot you've been waiting for:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_timss_advanced_math_2015_score_vs_number_test_takers_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>Selectivity doesn't account for everything, but it does have a significant impact. If you restrict your classes to only the very brightest students (like Lebanon, Russia, and the US), they'll do well. If you open them up to more than a quarter of your students (like Italy, Portugal and Slovenia), the average kids will drag down the mean score. But which country is actually doing a better job of education? It's hard to say.</p> <p>Regardless, there's always something to complain about. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is Jeffrey Mervis in <em>Science</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Students taking the most challenging math and science courses in their senior year were found to have performed progressively worse as they moved from elementary to middle to high school. The U.S. cohort, for example... deteriorated over time, from 29 and 9 points ahead of the midpoint in fourth and eighth grade, respectively, to 15 points below as seniors. Italy recorded the steepest drops, a startling 126 points below the midpoint in physics and 78 points in advanced math by the end of high school.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's not clear to me that the "midpoint" of the TIMSS test means anything at all. In the advanced math test, every single country except Lebanon scored below it. What kind of midpoint is that? A pretty arbitrary one, I'd guess.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 02:33:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 320431 at Ethics Office Congratulates Trump for Something He's Not Planning to Do <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is weird as hell. Between 12:55 and 12:57 pm on the East Coast this afternoon, the Office of Government Ethics <a href="" target="_blank">sent out a tweetstorm addressed to Donald Trump:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We can't repeat enough how good this total <em>divestiture</em> will be....Brilliant! <em>Divestiture</em> is good for you, very good for America!....<strong>OGE applauds the "total" <em>divestiture</em> decision. Bravo!</strong>....As we discussed with your counsel, <em>divestiture</em> is the way to resolve these conflicts....OGE is delighted that you've decided to <em>divest</em> your businesses. Right decision!....Bravo! Only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to <em>divest</em> . Good call!....this aligns with OGE opinion that POTUS should act as if 18 USC 208 applies. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>....<strong>this <em>divestiture</em> does what handing over control could never have done....</strong>we told your counsel we'd sing your praises if you <em>divested</em>, we meant it.</p> </blockquote> <p>Needless to say, Trump has made no decision to divest his holdings. He has said only that he plans to hand over control of "business operations" to his kids.</p> <p>So what happened? Here's a few theories:</p> <ol><li>Trump really does plan to divest, and his lawyers have told OGE this. Then OGE screwed up and scheduled a tweetstorm about it before Trump's announcement.</li> <li>OGE did this "accidentally" in order to put pressure on Trump to divest.</li> <li>OGE did this deliberately in order to put pressure on Trump to divest.</li> <li>Something else.</li> </ol><p>As near as I can tell, #4 is the winner. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what the <em>New York Times</em> reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a statement, Seth Jaffe, an agency spokesman, said that officials there were &ldquo;excited&rdquo; by Mr. Trump&rsquo;s announcements on conflicts of interest and that the messages were not based on any information about the president-elect&rsquo;s plans beyond what was shared on his Twitter feed.</p> <p>Asked later about the disclosure of the advice that the Office of Government Ethics had given to Mr. Trump&rsquo;s lawyers, Mr. Jaffe said he could not provide additional comment. But the agency has left the posts on its official government account.</p> </blockquote> <p>So...they just misinterpreted Trump's tweets and got so excited that they couldn't contain themselves. I can't say that this seems especially likely, but I guess anything is possible.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> NPR has more <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> Their account seems to imply that maybe #3 is the right answer. If it is, then bravo. After all, if Donald Trump can make waves via Twitter, then so can everyone else.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 01:06:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 320426 at Ron Wyden Thinks We All Deserve the Truth About Russian Election Interference <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">This is a helluva tease:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wyden_letter_russian_interference.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 90px;"></p> <p>That's all the Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee except Dianne Feinstein, who joined all the Republicans in apparently not wanting this to be made public. That's quite a partisan divide in a mostly nonpartisan committee. I wonder what it's all about?</p> <p>The ball's in your court, President Obama. To quote our president-elect: at this point, what the hell do you have to lose?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 30 Nov 2016 22:27:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 320411 at Forget the Wall. If You Want Less Illegal Immigration, Go After Employers. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Controlling illegal immigration has never seemed all that hard to me. The vast majority of those who are in the United States illegally&mdash;either by crossing the border or overstaying their visas&mdash;are here to find jobs. So if you want to reduce illegal immigration, you need to make it hard for employers to hire anyone who's not <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_illegal_immigration_1990_2014.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">authorized to work. But in the <em>LA Times</em> today, <a href="" target="_blank">Wayne Cornelius says that's not in the cards:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>There has never been much public or congressional appetite for a harsh crackdown on employers,</strong> especially the small businesses that depend most heavily on workers in the U.S. illegally. They are pillars of their communities and campaign contributors. Besides, immigration agents have had higher enforcement priorities &mdash; tracking down immigrants who committed serious crimes or pose national security threats.</p> <p>President-elect Trump has called for full implementation of an electronic employment eligibility verification system called E-Verify....E-Verify, however, is no panacea. It does not prevent immigrants who are ineligible to work from getting jobs by providing valid information pertaining to other people (borrowed documents). And as long as penalties are weak, requiring employers to use E-Verify will not significantly reduce violations.</p> <p><strong>Will Congress approve crippling fines or even prison sentences for business owners who ignore E-Verify rules?</strong> Will lawmakers direct the Justice Department to make these scofflaws a top priority? Unless and until that happens, many employers will continue to view hiring those in the U.S. illegally as a low-risk, high-reward crime. <strong>In 2014, the probability that one of the nation&rsquo;s 6 million employers would be investigated for violating immigration laws was 0.03%.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I don't personally care all that much about the level of illegal immigration. The chart above, <a href="" target="_blank">from Pew Research,</a> shows the current numbers, which strike me as reasonable. But obviously a lot of people do care, and most of them are Republicans. They talk tough, they build walls and fences, and they promise to hire lots of border enforcement agents. But this is all a sham. If the economic incentives continue to exist, so will illegal immigration.</p> <p>The problem is that Republicans can't come to grips with their two main constituencies. Social conservatives generally hate undocumented workers and want to deport them all. Business conservatives want no such thing. So Republicans thunder on TV that borders are borders, and by God we need to control them. Then they quietly go back to their jobs and do nothing.</p> <p>The obvious way to cut down on illegal immigration has always been to go after employers. Not only does this attack the root of the problem, but it's practically self-funding. You hire lots of ICE auditors and then pay for them by levying big fines on employers who break the law. As the problem diminishes, you collect less money but you also need fewer auditors.</p> <p>E-Verify isn't perfect. Nothing is. But it could be made good enough. And once that's done, enforcement could be made pretty widespread and the fines could be made pretty high. If you do that, you can forget about the wall. It's just a distraction.</p> <p>Bottom line: Anyone who claims to be fiercely opposed to illegal immigration but doesn't support strong employer sanctions is just lying to you.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 30 Nov 2016 20:05:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 320391 at Somebody Please Explain the Big Mac To Me <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Sad news:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Pittsburgh-area McDonald's franchisee who created the Big Mac nearly 50 years ago has died. Michael "Jim" Delligatti was 98....Delligatti's franchise was based in Uniontown, about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh, when he invented the chain's signature burger with two all-beef patties, "special sauce," lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.</p> </blockquote> <p>I've never understood the Big Mac. It's basically just a double cheeseburger with an extra bun in the middle. But why would anybody want an extra bun in the middle of their hamburger? Has anyone ever eaten a hamburger and then said, "That was pretty tasty, but it could use some extra bread"?</p> <p>Can someone please explain this to me? Thanks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 30 Nov 2016 17:18:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 320356 at