Donald Trump is giving a big economic policy speech this morning. So what is he proposing?

Who benefits most from this? Answer: the upper middle class. If you're poor, a tax deduction helps very little because your child-related expenses are low (thanks to being poor) and your tax rate is 10 percent or less, so you get to write off a pittance at most. If you're rich it doesn't help much because it's chump change. But if you're in the upper middle class, it's great. Your tax rate is probably around 20-30 percent, so you can write off a fair amount, and it's a meaningful sum of money. So it's great for all the lawyers and doctors out there.

By contrast, a tax credit is the same for everyone. The poor get $2,000. The middle class gets $2,000. The rich get $2,000. The rich still don't care much, but both the poor and the middle class benefit. But that's not what Trump is proposing. Like Republicans everywhere, he and his economic team just don't care much about the poor or the working class.

More importantly, though, neither a child tax deduction nor a child tax credit mean anything to me. I don't have kids. So where's the blogger tax deduction? Or the write-off for cat-related expenses? What is Donald Trump doing to try to buy my vote?

Health Care Journalists Love Homeopathy

From Alex Tabarrok:

This isn't even the worst of it. I once got randomly assigned to a doctor who listened to my complaints and suggested some exercises. I went back two weeks later for a follow-up, and told her that nothing had changed. She was perplexed, and suggested a couple of other things I might try. Also this: "Or you might want to try homeopathic remedies. You can find them at most health food stores."

I got out of there as fast as I could and never saw her again.1

Also, it turned out the exercises she assigned me were making things worse. When my regular doctor came back from vacation, he ordered me to stop immediately.

1One friend, who obviously tries to see the bright side in people, suggested that she didn't really believe in homeopathy, but just wanted to prescribe some kind of placebo. Since lots of people seem to believe in homeopathy, she tossed it out in case I was one of them.

Maybe. But I didn't feel like staying around to find out.

Here is Meredith Blake in the LA Times commenting on the Olympic opening ceremonies last night:

 In yet the latest decision to fuel the #NBCfail hashag, the network broadcast the ceremony on a one-hour delay on the East Coast. The West Coast was delayed by an additional three hours. NBC claimed it was delaying the broadcast in order to provide additional “context” for viewers. The real reason, of course, was to draw as many eyeballs and run as many commercials (and women’s gymnastics promos) as possible.

Are we going to keep whining about this forever? The Olympics are tape-delayed so they can be broadcast in prime time. They're stuffed with commercials because NBC paid a billion dollars for the broadcast rights and commercials are how they make up for that.

We're not children. We all know this. Nevertheless, we've been complaining about it since 1992 and NBC has been resolutely tape-delaying the games anyway ever since. Why? Because that's how most normal people like it. You know, the ones who have to work during the day and don't get home until 6 or 7 o'clock.

The only question I have is why NBC allows itself to be bullied by a small squad of elitist reporters and sports purists into making up weird excuses about "context" or "plausibly live." Why not just say, "Don't be a child. We're tape-delaying it so more people can watch." Their viewing audience, which is much more sophisticated than the reporters and sports purists, will have no problem with this.

POSTSCRIPT: But other sports events aren't tape delayed. Why the Olympics? Why why why?

Please. Events in the US aren't tape delayed because they're carefully scheduled to air when the networks want them to air. Overseas events are usually shown live and re-broadcast on tape delay. But you can't do this with the Olympics because they run all day.

Also, not to make too fine a point of this, but most Americans don't give a shit about most Olympic sports. They watch them once every four years, mostly to cheer Americans who win medals, and that's about it. If it's even slightly inconvenient to watch, they won't bother. Despite their whinging, this is also true of the elitist reporters and sports purists, who for 47 months out of every 48 mostly couldn't care less about rowing or archery or sumo wrestling.

I could have chosen just about any newspaper for this, but here's the Washington Post last night:

Drink this in: it's front-page news that the Republican candidate for president has endorsed the Republican Speaker of the House for reelection. Front. Page. News. The New York Times says Trump did it in an effort to "heal" a "party rift." If so, Trump sure was dragged kicking and screaming into it. He read off his endorsement with all the enthusiasm of a Cultural Revolution dissident reading a confession of his counter-revolutionary deviations to his fellow reeducation campmates.

Anyway, Hillary Clinton also got a tiny bit of press on Friday for once again bobbling her claim that James Comey kinda sorta exonerated her in Emailgate. But the operative word here is "tiny." It might have been a bigger deal if everyone hadn't been so busy writing about the latest episode of the Trump telenovela. And Paul Ryan is going to win regardless.

Bottom line: Trump says he's the guy who's going to win so much we'll all get tired of winning. But he lost the news cycle completely on Friday for no reason and no gain, just so he could indulge yet another trivial personal feud. Nice work.

Friday Cat Blogging - 5 August 2016

Hilbert, like all cats, likes to hunker down on any kind of flat object you might lay down somewhere: clothes, paper, books, iPads, you name it. But like all cats, he's also very hard to fool. He only wants to lie down on this stuff if it's somehow annoying to the humans. Here's the morning newspaper, for example. There's a bunch of sections I'm not reading at the moment. He ignores those. The only part he's interested in is the section I happen to be reading at the moment.

This seems to be universal behavior. How do they do it? Do they track our eyes, so they know what we're looking at? Is it feline telepathy? Whatever it is, the message is clear: You are paying attention to something other than me, and you need to knock it off. Capiche?

Excellent. Donald Trump has introduced his blue-chip economic advisory team:

The list includes strikingly few academic policy experts, usually the bread-and-butter of campaign policy teams. Instead, the advisory team of 13 men — and no women — consists largely of personal friends or longtime business associates of Trump. The median net worth of Trump's official economic advisers appears to be at least several hundred million dollars.

That wealthy group includes Harold Hamm, a self-made oil billionaire.... Dan DiMicco, a former chief executive of steelmaker Nucor.... Steven Mnuchin.... chief executive of the hedge fund Dune Capital Management.... Steve Roth.... Vornado Realty Trust; hedge fund billionaire John Paulson.... The only academic economist on the team — the only one who has a doctorate in economics — is Peter Navarro of the University of California at Irvine, who focuses on trade with China.

....Trump's outsider crew at times conflicts with his message of economic populism....His team is filled with hedge fund managers, bankers and real estate speculators.

A whole bunch of Wall Street billionaires plus Stephen Moore, an annual contender for stupidest man in the world. This fits Trump perfectly, especially since he's not going to listen to any of them anyway. Why should he, after all? He knows more about how the economy works than any of them, believe me.

Ed Kilgore points out that in the latest polls, Trump is not just behind, he's even losing ground with his most fervent supporters, the white working class:

He’s still leading in this demographic, to be sure. But every recent Republican has won it, by ever-increasing margins. Mitt Romney won non-college-educated white voters by an estimated 62-36 in 2012....That could be changing. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal survey showed his lead among non-college-educated white voters drooping to 49-36. Similarly, McClatchy/Marist pegs it at 46-31. These are not world-beating numbers. And you have to wonder: If Trump is losing his special appeal to the voting category that has long been his campaign’s signature “base,” where is he supposed to make that up?

In short, Romney won the WWC by 26 points. Trump is winning it by only about 15 points. This is devastating if it keeps up. Trump doesn't just need to match Romney's numbers, he needs to beat them. If he can't stay even with 2012 at a minimum, he's got no chance to win.

I would be very interested to see these numbers broken down by region. Unfortunately, this produces very small subgroups, which makes it hard to draw any firm statistical conclusions. Nonetheless, there's not much question that there are two fundamentally different varieties of the white working class: the Southern WWC and all the rest of them. If Trump is losing even the Southern WWC, he's doomed.

Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in July

The American economy added 255,000 new jobs last month, 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at a very robust 165,000 jobs. The number of short-term unemployed dropped sharply, but the number of longer-term unemployed increased. Overall, the unemployment rate held steady at 4.9 percent.

And there was more good news: hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees increased at an annual rate of about 4 percent compared to last month. That's not bad at all. We're now in the silly season when all of these numbers will be politicized, but there's really no way to make the July jobs numbers look bad. This is a very solid report.

Sean Hannity Tells Us How He Really Feels

Bret Stephens, the Wall Street Journal's deputy editorial page editor, was unimpressed with Sean Hannity's latest meltdown:

Hannity was not amused:

As Donald Trump says, the Republican Party has never been so united. It's heartwarming, isn't it?

Donald Trump Roundup For Thursday Evening

By the standards of earlier this week, today was surprisingly quiet on the Trump front. I think his supporters were all taking a deep breath and steeling themselves for whatever he does next. Still, there were a few tidbits.

We can start with last January, when the US government announced that (a) it had finally reached an agreement to pay Iran $1.7 billion to settle claims that had been in litigation since 1979, and (b) Iran would release four US prisoners. Was this timing just a coincidence, or was this actually a ransom payment? Republicans all insisted it was ransom, of course, and Obama insisted it wasn't. It was a story for a couple of days and then disappeared.

Until yesterday, when the Wall Street Journal reported that the initial payment of $400 million was made in cash. That is, pallets stacked with euro notes and Swiss francs. This was kind of juicy, though it wasn't really news. The agreement is still for $1.7 billion, the same as always. But then Trump stepped in to say that he'd seen a really high-quality "military" video of Iran unloading the stacks of cash. Everyone was bewildered. No such video exists, as far as anyone knows. So what did Trump really see?

The Washington Post asked Trump's staff to explain what Trump was talking about and emailed a link to a Fox News clip that showed the January footage from Geneva, asking if that was the video the nominee saw. "Yes," spokeswoman Hope Hicks responded in an email. "Merely the b-roll footage included in every broadcast."

The January footage from Geneva? What's that? According to the Post, it's "dark, grainy footage of shadowy figures walking off a small private plane with bags in hand," taken in Geneva where three of the American prisoners first landed after being released. Not Iran. Not military. Not top secret. No stacks of cash. The Trump campaign has explicitly admitted this. So what did Trump do today? Do I even have to tell you?

Despite Donald Trump’s claim of having seen video footage of the $400 million cash delivery to Iran having been acknowledged as false by his own campaign, the Manhattan billionaire kicked off a rally Thursday afternoon by repeating the tall tale.

....Trump once again spoke of the nonexistent footage at his rally Thursday in Portland, Maine....He suggested that the payment was made in a combination of euros, Swiss francs and other currencies because “they probably don’t want our currency.”

For the record, the deal was done in euros and francs because US law prohibits the transfer of dollars to Iran. But whatever. In that same rally, Trump:

  • Repeated a false claim that neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters saw bombs in their apartment.
  • Lied yet again about opposing the Iraq War.
  • Once more claimed falsely that shootings of police officers were at "record levels."

In other words, just another day on the ranch for Trump. Here's another slice of life from that same rally:

See? Tea partiers will literally boo at anything if it happens to be associated with Democrats. In the upper echelons of the Republican Party, things are no better: Trump's supporters are getting nervous and starting to turn on each other. Remember the "intervention" that was supposed to happen yesterday? Rudy Giuliani blamed the whole fiasco on Newt Gingrich:

"That word, I think, honestly I love him dearly, but I think that word was used by Newt in a memo that got around," Giuliani said. "What a ridiculous word. An intervention is for a drug addict and it's for someone who's an alcoholic and I've had to do them with people at times. There's nothing wrong with them, if that's the case. Donald Trump doesn't drink or smoke, by the way. We don't have that problem."

Well, no, not that problem. But we do have another problem: Trump is looking increasingly deranged, hardly the kind of person you want near the nuclear codes. What do you think of that, John McCain?

QUESTION: Are you comfortable with Donald Trump possibly having control of the nuclear arsenal?

McCAIN: [Silence, followed by unintelligible stammering.] Anyone that the people of this country choose to be the commander in chief....Anyone who is elected president fairly in this country....The American people select the next president of the United States....I have the utmost respect for the verdict of the people.

Hmmm. Perhaps you noticed that McCain never actually answered the question? So did a lot of other people. In other news, there's a kerfuffle going on about whether Melania Trump is an illegal immigrant. Paul Ryan made it clear that he doesn't think much of Trump and is pretty sure he's going to lose in a landslide. Indeed, multiple polls now show Hillary Clinton with a huge lead over Trump. Her lead is so big that she's even "paused" her advertising in Virginia because it's not clear if she needs it anymore. Who knows? Maybe this will turn out to be the cheapest presidential campaign in recent memory.

BREAKING NEWS! Trump pal and New York State campaign co-chairman Carl Paladino went a little off the reservation tonight:

Speaking over the phone for an unrelated story, Carl Paladino—the 2010 GOP candidate for governor of New York—abruptly changed subjects and assailed the sitting president and his policies. The Buffalo-based real estate developer and Tea Party activist maintained that Obama, a practicing Christian, has sought to mislead the public about his religious affiliation, but that the citizenry has not fallen for his falsehoods.

“In the mind of the average American, there is no doubt he is a Muslim,” Paladino said. “He is not a Christian.”

Just to make this perfect, it appeared in the New York Observer, owned by Ivanka Trump's husband, Jared Kushner.