The signup period for Obamacare is over, and total enrollment fell short of last year. The Washington Post reports the details:

The lower total...marks a striking turnabout from the trend as the Obama administration neared its end — when sign-ups for coverage under the law were running steadily ahead of a year ago.

The volume plummeted, in particular, during the final week of the three-month enrollment season — falling from nearly 700,000 in 2016 to just over 375,000. That last week traditionally is a peak time when eligible customers race to get ACA health plans, most of them with federal subsidies. This time, however, the Trump White House directed federal health officials to halt all advertising and other enrollment-outreach activities for the last six days of the sign-up period.

Based on data from Charles Gaba, here's what enrollment looked like throughout the entire signup period:

Signups were running a bit ahead of 2016 during the entire open enrollment period, but then Trump took office. Republicans began talking about repealing Obamacare, Trump signed an executive order telling agencies to do whatever they could to throw sand in the gears, and outreach efforts were halted. The result was a substantial downturn in the second half of January. My estimate is that all these antics lowered enrollment by about 600,000. That's 600,000 people who now have no medical coverage and run the risk of bankruptcy if anything serious goes wrong. Nice work, folks.

For additional evidence on this score, Charles Gaba has more. He notes that state exchanges have their own marketing and outreach programs, so they were less affected by Trump's sabotage efforts. Sure enough, he finds that state exchanges ended up higher than last year by 2 percent or more, while the federal exchange ended up 4.7 percent lower than last year. He's got all the details here.

UPDATE: Gaba sends along the following chart to illustrate his point. As you can see, state exchange enrollment in the final week was very similar to last year, and that's without final enrollment figures. However, federal exchange enrollment was far lower than 2016 in the final week. The most likely explanation is that advertising and outreach for the federal exchange largely ceased starting on January 23.

I know that nobody cares about this, but my post this morning about commercial lending got me curious. The proper way to judge whether banks are making loans is to look at total bank lending as a percent of GDP. So I did. And as long as I did the work, I might as well pretty it up and share it with you. Here it is for the past 30 years:

As you can see, bank lending generally declines during recessions and then goes back up. Right now, it stands at a little over 11 percent of GDP, which is as high as it's ever been. To suggest, as President Trump did, that businesses are having a hard time getting loans because of Dodd-Frank is ridiculous.

That said, a brief warning. Corporations raise money in multiple ways. Bank lending is part of it. But there are also stock issues, bond sales, private equity, non-bank loans, and so forth. If you put all of this together, it would give you an idea of the overall ease or difficulty of raising money right now, and I have no idea what it would show if someone went through this exercise. In other words: commercial bank lending is pretty robust right now, but don't draw any larger conclusions from this unless you have the data to back it up.

It is rose-pruning season, and that means Marian has been outside pruning our roses in the lovely weather we've had this week. The cats have been supervising, of course. We humans aren't entirely to be trusted, you know.

And after a hard day of supervising, what's better than a nice, cold glass of iced tea? As you can see, Hilbert was not amused.

Nine months ago President Obama signed an executive order that required retirement advisers to act in the best interest of their client. That seems like a good idea, doesn't it? Maybe to you it does, but as it turns out, Republicans hate it. It's just more nanny state-ism. They think everyone should have the freedom to pick financial advisors who get secret kickbacks for steering you into lousy investments.

Donald Trump doesn't actually seem to care one way or another, but whatever. If Republicans want to repeal it, what the hell:

So that's that. A few seconds after he signed the EO, a reporter tried to ask him a question about Iran. "They're not behaving," Trump said, and the pool was escorted out.

This coming Earth Day is the March for Science. "On April 22, 2017, we walk out of the lab and into the streets," say the organizers in a charming effort to sound like hellions. It doesn't really work, though, thanks to a Twitter feed full of stuff like this:

There are also a zillion Star Trek jokes, pictures of Albert Einstein, nerdy hats, and everything else you'd expect from scientists. However, early on in the planning some people suggested that the organizers should try to ensure that the whole thing wasn't just a bunch of white men. This led to a statement on diversity, and eventually to this single tweet among the gazillions of others:

Maybe this is a little over the top. YMMV. However, as I read it, the organizers aren't saying that these issues can be reduced to data and solved as scientific problems. They are saying that these things affect scientists, just as they affect us all.

Nonetheless, the good folks at National Review are upset. A scientist named Alex Berezow says he won't be attending the march because, among other things, "It's curious that a website that seeks to include everybody conspicuously left men, whites, and Christians off the diversity list." Wesley Smith agrees:

Berezow is exactly right: For example, science can tell us the biological nature of a fetus. It cannot tell us whether it is right or wrong to have an abortion. That question sounds in morality, ethics, religion, and politics.

If science properly understood ever becomes conflated in the public mind with left wingism, it will profoundly harm that crucial sector and thence, the human future.

Science is already too politicized with policy or ethical debates wrongly called questions about whether one side or the other is “anti-science.”

I suspect that if we dig deep enough, we would find George Soros money paying for all of this. Be that as it may, no reputable scientist should march in the March for Science.

Yeah. George Soros is everywhere. And making an effort to highlight the fact that women and people of color are scientists too isn't a good thing, it's "politicizing" science. That sure is a funny definition of politicizing.

Just to follow up on last night, here is Kellyanne Conway's apology for telling the nation about the "Bowling Green massacre" on prime time TV last night. It's a masterpiece:

Just an honest mistake! What she meant to say, apparently, was this:

Two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green terrorists.

This makes no sense, of course. The two Iraqis were the masterminds behind the two Iraqis? Please. So here's Conway's version of a mea culpa:

  • Tell a tall tale about what she meant to say.
  • Link to a four-year-old story which—if you actually read it—says only that the FBI is conducting "dozens of current counter-terrorism investigations."
  • Mount a grievance against a reporter who quoted her correctly on the Today show.
  • Compliment herself for her class and grace because she chooses not to bring down her slavering hordes on an editor who did nothing wrong.
  • Pretend that the White House didn't spend days upon endless days moaning and bellyaching about the MLK Jr. bust story—a story that was corrected in less than half an hour.

Mission accomplished! Millions of people have now heard about the Bowling Green massacre. Conway has, technically, admitted she was wrong, so the media won't bother following up and virtually no one will hear that no such massacre took place. You'd think that would be victory enough, but just for good measure she then attacked a reporter and told the world what a wonderful, gracious person she is. What a pro.

President Trump plans to sign an executive order rolling back regulations that his friends find annoying:

The move would address another one of Trump’s campaign promises: Dismantling 2010’s financial reform legislation, known as Dodd Frank. The legislation forced banks to take various steps to prevent another financial crisis, including holding more capital and taking yearly “stress tests” to prove they could withstand economic turbulence. The financial industry, particularly its small community banks, complained the rules went too far.

“We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank,” Trump said during a meeting with business leaders Friday morning. “Because frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, that had nice businesses, they just can’t borrow money ... because the banks just won’t let them borrow because of the rules and regulations in Dodd Frank.”

Hey, who needs rules to make banks safer and prevent another financial crash? That's for weenies. Trump's rich friends are suffering, and that's all that matters.

But just in case anyone cares, Trump's friends aren't suffering. Last year, total commercial lending hit $2 trillion, compared to $1.5 trillion at the height of the housing bubble. And ever since Dodd-Frank passed, commercial lending has been increasing quite smartly, at about 10 percent per year. That's higher growth than in the two decades before Obama was elected.

But those are just boring old facts. What matters is Trump's fiction about his poor friends who can't get loans. Carry on.

The American economy added 227,000 new jobs last month. Unemployment ticked up slightly from 4.72 percent to 4.78 percent, so the headline rate increased from 4.7 percent to 4.8 percent. The whole jobs report was a little strange, though, due to a whopping revision in BLS's estimate of the total population of the country. Without the controls, 413,000 people re-entered the labor force and the total number of people employed rose by 457,000. Those are both excellent numbers, even if they did cause the official unemployment rate to rise slightly. The labor participation rate rose from 62.7 percent to 62.9 percent regardless of the population revision.

Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees went up at an annual rate of 2.3 percent. By coincidence, that's also the average annual increase for the entire Obama presidency. In an era of low inflation, that's OK but not great. Altogether, this is the last jobs report of the Obama era and the starting point for judging the economic policies of the Trump era:

  • Headline unemployment rate: 4.8 percent
  • U6 unemployment rate: 9.4 percent
  • Labor participation rate: 62.9 percent
  • Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees: $21.84

Tonight, Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews:

I bet it's brand new information to people that President Obama had a six-month ban on the Iraqi refugee program after two Iraqis came here to this country, were radicalized, and they were the masterminds behind the Bowling Green massacre. Most people don't know that because it didn't get covered.

Here was Matthews' response: "Let's talk about the major strategic goal of this administration." A better response would have been: "WTF? There was never a massacre in Bowling Green. Are you out of your goddamn mind?"

In case you're wondering, your memory hasn't short-circuited. There was no massacre in Bowling Green that the media inexplicably failed to cover. A couple of Iraqi refugees were arrested for trying to send money and weapons back home to Iraq. The Obama administration subsequently tightened up the vetting for the refugee program. That's all.

And this was five years ago.

Honest to God, these people will say anything. Soon we're going to be hearing about the poisoning of the town reservoir in Terre Haute that killed thousands but was covered up by the Clinton Foundation. And how Obama responded by rounding up every refugee in the country and shipping them off to camps in Alaska. And then Iran nuked the camps, but it was all hushed up because Obama was afraid of antagonizing the ayatollah.

And Chris Matthews will respond by asking about Trump's plans for bringing back good jobs to hardworking Americans in the heartland.

Right now, if you Google "Bowling Green massacre," all the hits are for pieces calling it out as fiction. But just wait a year. It will soon become an article of faith on the conservative email network that hundreds died in the Bowling Green massacre, complete with before-and-after pictures from Google Earth of the Baptist church that was left a smoking crater in the aftermath.

POSTSCRIPT: However, you'll only have to wait until tomorrow for Kellyanne Conway to make an aggrieved statement about how she meant to say Bowling Green mask affair, and it was just a slip of the tongue and the media knows it perfectly well, and they should be ashamed of themselves for always thinking the worst of Trump etc. etc. Just watch.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Do not for a second think that this wasn't deliberate. Conway knows that millions will hear about the Bowling Green massacre, but only thousands are likely to hear that it was just made up. And those thousands will all be liberals who read the New York Times and are never going to vote for Trump anyway.

Sorry about the clickbait headline. Here's what Trump actually said:

Freedom of religion is a sacred right, but it is also a right under threat all around us. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.

That doesn't seem so bad. Trump just wants ministers to be able to speak up and support Godly candidates if they want to. What's the problem with that?

Maybe nothing. Except that repealing the Johnson Amendment would also allow churches to contribute to campaigns. And churches aren't required to disclose their donors. And setting up a church isn't really very hard. Mark Kleiman explains:

The Russian, Chinese, Saudi, and Iranian governments would all, predictably, either find congregations already recognized by the IRS to use as front groups or incorporate new ones. Of course a group organized as a mosque might not be able to wield much influence without stirring up opposition, but nothing bars the Saudis or the Iranians from paying some stooges to set up a fake Baptist church.

....So, like most of Trump’s ideas, this one reduces mostly to corruption and the sacrifice of American sovereignty to foreign — especially Russian — influence. And of course that won’t keep the tame preachers of the Christian Right from backing him all the way.

So maybe my headline wasn't really so clickbaity after all? It all depends on the fine print, I guess.