A couple of weeks ago Hillary Clinton announced a plan to rein in excessive price increases by pharmaceutical companies. It was a hot topic at the time thanks to outrage over the 6x price increase of the EpiPen. However, if my sleuthing is accurate, Clinton's plan wasn't covered at all in the print editions of the New York Times and Washington Post, and got only a short blurb in the Wall Street Journal.

Today Donald Trump announced a modest child-care and maternity leave plan that was almost comically underfunded. The New York Times produced a long front-page story. The Washington Post ran a long story in the A section and added a second analysis piece online. The Wall Street Journal provided Ivanka Trump with prime op-ed real estate to tout her father's plan. That's some great coverage! And all of these pieces barely mentioned that Trump offered no remotely plausible way to pay for his proposal.

I suppose you can argue that Trump's child-care plan is more important than Clinton's drug pricing plan. Or that an actual policy proposal from Trump is so rare that it's big news no matter what. Or that Republicans don't normally propose spending money on people in need.

Sure, I guess. I mean, I realize that the marvel of the dancing bear is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all. Even so, it sure seems like the press really doesn't care about Hillary Clinton's policy proposals—oh God, another boring white paper from Hillz—but swoons every time Donald Trump blurps out one of his laughably ill-thought-out ideas—he's using Ivanka to appeal to suburban women, we gotta get on this! But that's editorial judgment for you. I'm sure the pros know what they're doing.

POSTSCRIPT: Can I gripe about something else as long as we're on the subject? Thanks. Here's the New York Times:

But in selling his case, Mr. Trump stretched the truth, saying that his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, has no such plan of her own and “never will.”

The Washington Post doesn't even mention this, and needless to say, neither does Ivanka Trump's bit of puffery in the Journal. So props to the Times. But seriously: stretched the truth? As Trump knows perfectly well, Hillary Clinton has been pressing for better child-care and family leave policies for decades, and her current proposal has been on her website for months. It's far more extensive, more generous, and better thought out than Trump's.

This is why Trump feels like he can simply say anything he wants, no matter how ridiculous. The obvious way to describe Trump's statement is to call it a lie. That's what it is. Instead, it either goes unmentioned or, at best, gets tiptoed around inaccurately. In what way, after all, did Trump "stretch the truth"? That implies there's some kernel of truth to what Trump said, but he exaggerated it. But that's not what he did. He just lied.

Another email hack from Guccifer 2.0! [See update below.] So what did we learn?

Let's see. Colin Powell thinks that Donald Trump is a racist idiot who has no shame. That seems fair. Also, Powell thinks that Hillary Clinton could have handled her email affair better. Hard to argue with that. And Powell really, really didn't want her email woes to be connected to him. That may or may not be fair, but it's certainly understandable.

In addition, there's apparently some unremarkable stuff about "tech initiatives from Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s time as governor of Virginia, and some years-old missives on redistricting efforts and DNC donor outreach strategy." Exciting! Plus a bunch of spreadsheets listing DNC donors. That's a bummer for the DNC, but otherwise pretty dull.

I don't know who Guccifer is, or whether he's a front for the Russian government, but he needs to step up his game. If there's any more like this, he's going to give email hacking a bad name.

UPDATE: The stuff about Tim Kaine and the DNC came from a Guccifer 2.0 dump. However, Powell's emails came from a different source. Here's the Intercept:

Powell’s private messages were leaked by DCLeaks.com, an anonymously managed website that shares hacked emails from U.S. military and political figures. DCLeaks has a relationship with Guccifer 2.0, a hacker that many allege to have ties with Russian intelligence.

I took this to imply that DCLeaks got the emails from Guccifer 2.0, but the authors of the story say that wasn't their intent. For now, anyway, it appears that the source of those emails is unknown.

Today's announcement that incomes increased 5 percent in 2015 was genuinely good news. But it's also worthwhile to put it in perspective. As most of you know, income growth was very high in the 50s and 60s but slowed down after that. However, it didn't flatline. Income continued to grow, only at a slower rate. However, since 2007 we've fallen far behind even that anemic growth rate:

Even with last year's spike, the effects of the Great Recession are still with us. If we'd continued growing at the rate of 1980-2007, median household income would be $4,500 higher than it is. That's a big hit. There's still plenty of work to do.

Here's what we've all been waiting for: Donald Trump's maternity leave proposal. It is, we are told, the result of consultations with his expert on women's issues, Ivanka Trump:

Mr. Trump’s proposal calls for allowing taxpayers—both those who take the standard deduction and those who itemize deductions—to deduct child-care expenses up to an amount equal to the average cost of care in their state....The proposal also calls for providing six weeks of paid maternity leave through unemployment benefits to parents whose employers don’t offer paid maternity leave....The Trump campaign said the cost of his paid-leave policy would be offset by reducing waste and abuse in the unemployment insurance program. The Trump proposal also would offer “spending rebates” of up to $1,200 a year to lower-income families through the Earned Income Tax Credit.

This is, as usual, as clear as mud. On the maternity leave front, we apparently have a one-sentence proposal: six weeks of leave "through unemployment benefits," whatever that means. Does it mean that new mothers will simply receive normal unemployment benefits for six weeks? That maxes out at $450 per week—or $2,700 for six weeks—which is about half of the median weekly earnings level.

As for the cost, well, who knows? But let's take a rough swag. There are about 4 million births per year in the United States. Figure 70 percent of women are in the labor force and 90 percent don't get employer maternity leave. That gets us to 2.5 million women eligible for Trump's program, and on average each will get a total of, oh, let's say $2,000 or so. That comes to $5 billion.

And how will it be paid for? By reducing "waste and abuse" in the unemployment insurance program. Again, let's take a rough swag at this. Total benefits in 2016 are projected to come in at $32 billion. Of that, about 10 percent represents overpayments, or $3.2 billion. A vigorous program could probably cut that by half, saving $1.6 billion. Finally, the federal share of UI is roughly 20 percent, so that means the feds would save about $0.3 billion.

So it seems like Trump is a wee bit short—not that he cares, I'm sure. In his world, one takes the word for the deed. As for his child-care program, it's hard to analyze. As a tax deduction it would mostly benefit the middle class and above. However, he's also offering something or other through the EITC. How would this all add up? Beats me, and I doubt that it will become any clearer when we see his program details.

Still, snark aside, at least he's accepting the principle that we ought to help out new mothers with maternity leave and child-care expenses. Will any other Republicans follow his lead?

I bookmarked this a couple of days ago, but haven't gotten around to posting about it yet. Here is Nina Burleigh on how President Bush "lost" 22 million emails:

....Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server—its was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails.

....Most troubling, researchers found a suspicious pattern in the White House email system blackouts, including periods when there were no emails available from the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

....In 2003, a whistleblower told the National Security Archive [a private watchdog group] that the George W. Bush White House was no longer saving its emails. The Archive...refiled their original lawsuit. The plaintiffs soon discovered that Bush aides had simply shut down the Clinton automatic email archive, and they identified the start date of the lost emails as January 1, 2003.

....In court in May 2008, administration lawyers contended that the White House had lost three months’ worth of email backups from the initial days of the Iraq War. Bush aides thus evaded a court-ordered deadline to describe the contents of digital backup believed to contain emails deleted in 2003 between March—when the U.S. invaded Iraq—and September....Eventually, the Bush White House admitted it had lost 22 million emails, not 5 million. Then, in December 2009—well into Barack Obama’s administration—the White House said it found 22 million emails, dated between 2003 and 2005, that it claimed had been mislabeled.

This did not go unreported at the time. But it didn't get much reporting, despite the fact that there's far clearer evidence here of deliberate stonewalling and lawbreaking than anything that even the fever swamps suggest about Hillary Clinton's emails.

So why is it that Clinton's emails have gotten coverage of such titanic proportions? Partly because Republicans have pushed the story hard. Partly because the rolling disclosure of Clinton's emails have rekindled interest on a regular basis. And partly because it fits into the well-known narrative of Hillary Clinton as evasive and duplicitous. In the LA Times today, Mark Barabak describes this syndrome perfectly:

For Hillary Clinton, the most politically damaging aspect of her recent health scare is not any new revelation but the reemergence of an old pattern. The image of her buckling at the knees Sunday pushed doubts about her personal well-being from the crazy realm of conspiracy mongering squarely into the mainstream of serious discussion.

Making things much worse, though, was her campaign’s handling of the episode — the delays, the half-explanations, the grudging trickle of information — which played to some deep concerns going back to Clinton’s White House days and controversies over openness and candor.

Far and away the biggest impediment standing between Clinton and the White House is the fact that a great many voters, including some with every intention of voting for the former first lady and secretary of State, simply do not trust her.

I don't blame Barabak for writing this. It's annoying, but it's also true: Clinton's handing of her pneumonia really does feed into the narrative of her as secretive and only grudgingly honest. This narrative may or may not be fair, but it's there—and Clinton knows it perfectly well. This is what makes it so frustrating for her supporters that she scored such an own goal over this. If she had announced the pneumonia diagnosis on Friday, the universal response would have been sympathy. It's rotten luck to pick up a bug like this in the middle of a campaign. Instead, she's opened herself up to yet another round of criticism.

In the end, there's very little to gripe about in either of these recent Clinton stories. She made a dumb mistake using a private server and a single email account while she was Secretary of State, but in the end there's little evidence of any actual wrongdoing. Likewise, she was dumb to withhold news of her pneumonia. But obviously there's no wrongdoing here at all, just a misplaced sense of privacy that simply doesn't exist for presidential candidates.

The Census Bureau dropped a second report today, their annual look at the health insurance rate. This is less interesting than the income and poverty report since we already know a lot about the level of health insurance coverage from other sources. Still, the Census provides high-quality data, so it's worth taking a look at. Unsurprisingly, the number of uninsured was down:

In 2015, 9.1 percent of people (or 29.0 million) were uninsured for the entire calendar year. This was a decrease of 1.3 percentage points from 2014, when 10.4 percent (or 33.0 million) were uninsured for the entire calendar year.

(Note that this number includes the entire population, including the elderly. This is why it's lower than the CDC numbers I've reported before, which include only people under age 65.)

Say what you will about Obamacare, but it's been astonishingly effective at doing what it set out to do. The Census estimates that 18 million more people have health insurance today than in 2013.

But there's more here than just raw numbers. Obamacare has done better in some states than others, because too many states continue to hold out against Medicaid expansion:

In places like California and New York, the uninsured rate is below 8 percent. But in places like Texas and Florida, which would cut off their collective big toes before they'd allow an Obama program to help their poor, the uninsured rate is 12 percent or higher. The next chart tells the story:

Medicare expansion states have lower rates of uninsurance and bigger drops in uninsurance since Obamacare started up. The non-expansion states could help their own residents with the stroke of a pen, but most of them continue to refuse. It gives spite a whole a new meaning.

The latest estimate of poverty from the Census Bureau is similar to their estimate of income: the good news is that poverty dropped substantially in 2015, but the bad news is that we still have a ways to go before we reach pre-recession levels. Among working-age adults, poverty levels fell from 13.5 percent to 12.4 percent, a decline of nearly a tenth. However, the poverty rate among working-age adults was around 10-11 percent from 1990-2007:

The report claims that new estimates of poverty using the SPM, which should be more accurate than the old measure, are also available, but the URLs they provide lead nowhere. I guess they're a little behind. Presumably this stuff will be available shortly.

I've got good news and bad news for you today. First the good news:

Median household income was $56,516 in 2015, a 5.2 percent increase from the 2014 median in real terms....

And now, continuing directly, the bad news:

....but 1.6 percent lower than the median in 2007, the year before the most recent recession, and 2.4 percent lower than the median household income peak that occurred in 1999.

This comes from the latest Census report on income and poverty. It shows that income really is making a strong recovery as the labor market tightens. But it also shows that we still have a ways to go before we make up for the losses of the Great Recession.

The LA Times has two front-page stories related to Hillary Clinton's pneumonia. Ditto for the Wall Street Journal. The Washington Post has three. But the New York Times is flooding the zone! Huzzah for the Gray Lady!

Among free-market fans, Chile's privatized pension plan has long been held up as a model for us to follow. The problem, as the Financial Times notes today, is that it's performed pretty dismally. Daniel Gross suggests that it was all well-intentioned, but for some reason just didn't work out:

There's one thing Gross and I agree about: net returns of 3 percent during the booming market of the past 35 years is indeed a disaster. It's the "just turned out" part that deserves closer scrutiny. Sadly, I can't read Spanish and therefore can't inspect the primary source for this debacle, but there's no way that management fees indistinguishable from highway robbery just happened to happen. This may not be corruption in the sense of fund managers embezzling trillions of pesos for hookers and blow, but it's certainly corruption in the more refined sense of deliberately allowing the financial sector to enrich itself at the expense of workers who are required to give them their money.

Why is this becoming a big issue now? Because for its first 35 years, when it was being hailed as a free-market miracle, not many people were actually retiring. Now they are, and it turns out their pensions are pretty paltry. If net returns had been closer to the 8 percent retirees deserved, their pensions would be three times higher. Fees like this are basically legalized theft.

This is not some obscure detail of pension investing, either. Management fees are one of the most crucial aspects of long-term fund management and everyone knows it. Normally, you'll hear arguments about whether fees of 1 percent are larcenous compared to, say, fees of half a percent. But fees big enough to reduce returns from 8 percent to 3 percent? That's no accident. It's the predictable result of an unregulated free market working on behalf of unsophisticated investors. Everyone involved in this knew exactly what they were doing.