Kevin Drum

The Excuses Are Flying High in Trumpworld

| Wed Feb. 3, 2016 12:00 PM EST

Watching Donald Trump make excuses for yet another business failure is edifying. Here's Trump on why he lost in Iowa:

I think we could've used a better ground game, a term I wasn't even familiar with....But people told me my ground game was fine. And I think by most standards it was.

Hey, "people" told him his ground game was fine! And it was. By most standards. Anyway, Iowa doesn't really matter. And Ted Cruz cheated. And the grass was wet. And the sun was in his eyes.

This is Trump all over. He hops from one failure to another, always with a handy excuse. Football is a lousy business. Eastern Airlines ripped me off. The Plaza would have done great if the economy hadn't turned down. Atlantic City was overbuilt. I never really had anything to do with Trump University.

This is the same guy who thinks that running America will be child's play. It's so easy. Just watch. But he's such a lousy manager that he never bothered to learn what a "ground game" is—which is roughly the equivalent of understanding about food costs if you run a restaurant.

I wouldn't hire Donald Trump to run a lemonade stand, let alone the United States of America. I don't think I could stand the pity party. He needs to take his daddy issues to a shrink, not the Oval Office.

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Here's Some Context For Blood Lead Levels in Flint

| Wed Feb. 3, 2016 11:05 AM EST

I don't have any special point to make with these charts. They show blood lead levels in children over the past couple of decades for a few selected states, and they're meant only to provide a bit of context for reporting about Flint. Complete data is here if you're curious about how your state is doing.

For comparison, at the height of the water crisis Flint reported BLLs above 5 m/d for about 6 percent of its children. The latest round of testing suggests that Flint is now down to 3 percent.

Chart of the Day: Another Sign That Dodd-Frank Is Working

| Wed Feb. 3, 2016 12:25 AM EST

Via Matt O'Brien, this chart from JP Morgan shows financial sector leverage over the past few decades. As you can see, leverage skyrocketed during the Bush era, which contributed to the 2008 financial meltdown, and then plummeted shortly thereafter. Then it flattened out for a couple of years, and under normal circumstances it probably would have started to climb again when the economy began to recover. Two things stopped it: Dodd-Frank and Basel III, both of which mandated higher capital requirements and thus lower overall leverage levels. This has reduced Wall Street profits but made the banking system safer for everyone.

In other words: financial regulation FTW. Nothing is perfect, and Wall Street is doing everything it can to undermine Dodd-Frank during the rulemaking process, but if it accomplishes nothing except encouraging less leverage it will have done its most important job.

Here's the Myth Donald Trump Might Ride All the Way to the White House

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 7:39 PM EST

Bruce Bartlett has written a new paper that examines the role of "reverse racism" in the rise of Donald Trump. Bartlett touches on a number of topics—e.g., changing demographics, partisan realignment, the media promotion of race as an in-group marker—but the cornerstone of his narrative is a simple recognition that fear of reverse racism is deep and pervasive among white Americans. Here's the basic lay of the land from a bit of research done a few years ago by Michael Norton and Samuel Sommers:

As you can see, everyone agrees that racism was endemic in the '50s, and everyone agrees that it has improved since then. But among whites, a majority believe racism against blacks has improved so much—and reverse racism against whites has intensified so much—that today there's actually more bias against whites than against blacks.

The Norton-Summers study doesn't break down racial views further, but it's a safe guess that fears of reverse racism are concentrated primarily among political conservatives—encouraged on a near daily basis by talk radio, Fox News, and Republican politicians. Given this, it's hardly any wonder that Trump's barely coded appeals to racial resentment have resonated so strongly among Republican voters. Trump himself may or may not have any staying power, but his basic appeal is rooted in a culture of white grievance that's been growing for years and is likely to keep growing in the future as white majorities continue to shrink. No matter what happens to Trump himself, he's mainstreamed white victimhood as a political force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future.

Donald Trump Lost the Iowa Caucus. Now He’s Whining on Twitter.

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 11:54 AM EST

This is such an awesome bit of whining from Donald Trump that I felt I had to share it. I think we need a new word for this. Trump+whining = Twining. Or Trump + griping = Triping. Or something. Maybe figure out a way to add the concept that he's actually a winner even when he's objectively a failure. That might take some kind of German construction, though.

Clinton Beats Sanders, 50-50

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 11:34 AM EST

I'm not much of a horse-race guy, but it sure seems like the horse race is now key to the future of the Democratic primaries. The problem for Bernie Sanders is that he has an obvious structural disadvantage—superdelegates are almost 100 percent Clinton supporters—as well as a problem in the states following New Hampshire. So he needs to follow up his good showing in Iowa with electrifying results in New Hampshire.

But he can't. He started opening up a big lead in New Hampshire at the beginning of January, and the polls now have him 20 points ahead. To generate any serious shock waves he'd have to win by 30 or 40 points, and that's just not in the cards. Obviously anything can happen, but at this point it looks like Sanders wins in New Hampshire; it's entirely expected and ho hum; and Clinton then marches implacably on to the nomination. It's hard for me to see a likely scenario in which anything different happens.

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Boring Mortgages Are Too Boring For Wall Street—Again

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 10:56 AM EST

Liar loans are back!

These mortgages, which are given to borrowers that can’t fully document their income, helped fuel a tidal wave of defaults during the housing crisis and subsequently fell out of favor.

Now, big money managers including Neuberger Berman, Pacific Investment Management Co. and an affiliate of Blackstone Group LP are lobbying lenders to make more of these “Alt-A” loans....Many of these loans come with interest rates as high as 8%, compared with an average of about 3.8% for a typical 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

....There has also been a rebranding effort: Most lenders prefer to call these products “nonqualified mortgages” due to the stigma attached to the Alt-A category. By backing these loans, money managers said they would reach an underserved corner of the housing market: Borrowers who have good credit but might be self-employed or report income sporadically.

Naturally, everything is different this time around. Everyone is being careful. It's just a small piece of the market. Borrowers have to produce some documentation. So don't worry: things are going to be fine. Wall Street knows what it's doing. No need to concern your pretty little heads about this.

Ted! Ted! Ted!

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 11:45 PM EST

Here are tonight's big messages as we all fondly say "Goodbye, Iowa":

  • Ted Cruz: I will have the shortest name of any president in history.
  • Marco Rubio: Benghazi!
  • Donald Trump: Finishing in the top ten is a great victory.
  • Jeb Bush: I have a short name too. And hey, I beat Carly.
  • Republican Party: We count votes a lot more efficiently than those loser Democrats.
  • Hillary Clinton: A win is a win. Let's get out of here.
  • Bernie Sanders: Hmmm. Maybe we're not that tired of Hillary's emails after all.
  • Democratic Party: We may be slow, but we make up for it with a stereotypically cumbersome and complex voting process.

Iowa is historically so unpredictive of anything that I honestly didn't have a lot of interest in tonight's results. I was mainly curious about how Donald Trump would somehow spin his second place finish as a victory. The answer, it turned out, was to drone on about how "they" told him to skip Iowa because he wouldn't even break the top ten. I assume this is the same "they" who repeatedly told Marco Rubio that he was too much of a schmuck to win. Whoever "they" are, they've been busy.

And now on to New Hampshire, a state inexplicably in love with Donald Trump. What's that all about, anyway?

UPDATE: The photo above is from season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The name of the episode is "Goodbye, Iowa."

It Turns Out That Millennials Like Hillary Clinton Just Fine

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 3:37 PM EST

It's the first election day of the cycle, so I might as well go with the flow. Langer Research recently asked millennials how they'd feel if various candidates won the presidency. Here were the choices:

  • like declaring a national holiday
  • like there's a light at the end of the tunnel
  • like shrugging
  • like going back to bed
  • like fleeing the country

And here are the results:

Needless to say, Donald Trump elicited the most extreme reaction. More interesting, I think, is that even among millennials there's really no enthusiasm gap between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This has decidedly not been the conventional wisdom, and most poll results seem to confirm that Sanders has more support among the young. But this one, which explicitly measures enthusiasm, shows no difference. Apparently young liberals are just as excited about a Clinton presidency as a Sanders one.

The Political Generation Gap Has Become a Generation Chasm

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 2:37 PM EST

This is nothing new, but I continue to find it sort of fascinating. Here's Pew's breakdown of the voting generation gap over the past 40 years:

At the turn of the century, there was no partisan difference in the votes of young and old. But in recent elections, there has been a huge generation gap at the polls. Today 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat in their core social, economic and political views, while 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican, up from 64% and 70% respectively in 1994.

There's more at the link. Approval ratings of presidents are now based almost entirely on party affiliation. Liberals and conservatives get their news from entirely different places. And they just flatly disapprove of each other more than ever.

And it apparently all started with George Bush. Even during the Clinton wars of the 90s, the gaps weren't that big. Only after Bush was elected—and the Republican Party became thoroughly Rove-ized—did all these trends really pick up steam. Thanks Karl!