Health Update

The short version: nothing has changed. The long version: nothing has changed.

Literally. The M-protein level that we track so assiduously has stayed at the exact same level for four months running. The exact same level down to the hundredth of a gram. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm just being humored and they're only pretending to do the lab work. The guy is nuts about his M-protein level. Just mark down 0.58 and forget about it.

Everything else is stable and relatively normal too. My immune system is, of course, compromised by the chemo meds, but it remains in tolerably good condition. My red blood cells are fine. My platelet count is sometimes a little low, but not enough to be worried about. I go through weird cycles of fatigue (Friday was unusually bad, for example), but nothing close to what happened during the initial rounds of chemo. Mostly I just have to take naps more often than I used to. My neuropathy is annoying but seemingly fairly stable. And now that I'm off the evil dex, I'm no longer gaining weight. Sadly, I'm not losing it either. Even cancer can't kill off my weakness for chocolate.

National Review editor Rich Lowry thinks that although Donald Trump's fans love his populist blather, they might start to lose patience with some of the big programs that Congress tries to pass. For example:

Obamacare “repeal” without a replacement, a deficit-increasing traditional Republican “tax cut for the rich,” and even — although this is much less likely — Medicare reform. Trump may find his political capital depleting rapidly in the cause of passing conventional Republican legislation that isn’t as important to him as his populist calling cards.

I don't want to make too much of this, but when was the last time you heard a conservative, let alone the editor of NR, refer to tax reform as a "traditional Republican" "tax cut for the rich"? That's the way liberals jeer at supply-side voodoo. Conservatives insist that tax cuts like Trump's (or Paul Ryan's) are "broad based," "capital deepening," and "job creating." They are most definitely not "tax cuts for the rich."

But now they are. What does this mean?

It's that time of year again—when we beg our readers for tax-deductible donations to support our work.

But we've never been too much into doing things the way they've always been done. Case in point: Clara and Monika's new piece that argues for investigating Donald Trump—and supporting MoJo—includes this appraisal of the media:

"Why was it only now, well past the election, that Trump is being pushed to address how we would deal with banks to which he is in debt, or foreign leaders who have a say over his company's projects? Simply put: Math. Advertising pays fractions of a penny per click, which means that publishers have to pump out buckets of fast, cheap content to make ends meet, and that leaves little opportunity for serious investigation.

....In normal times, right now we'd be in the middle of the kind of routine end-of-year fundraising drive many nonprofits do in December ("We need to raise $250,000 by December 31!"). But these aren't normal times. So enough with the marketing pitches. None of us needs to be motivated by some arbitrary fundraising goal. Covering Trump, and what he represents, will take everything we've got."

Yep. Here's a small sample of my headlines (from this week alone!). If you think pieces like this matter, I hope you'll pitch in a few bucks to help us do it.

  • NBC NEWS: Putin Personally Directed Anti-Clicking Hacking
  • No, the Senate Will Not "Heavily Vet" Trump's Cabinet Nominees
  • Chart of the Day: Republicans Sure Are Warming Up to Vladimir Putin
  • Working Class Hero Donald Trump Sure Has Been Good For Wall Street
  • Russia Ran the Most Epic Ratfucking Operation in History This Year
  • How Putin Got His Pet Game Show Host Elected President
  • Here is Rex Tillerson's Awesome Record at ExxonMobil

And now, as your reward for reading this far (and donating to MoJo), here is Hopper enjoying herself in the garden earlier this week. And don't forget: today is also Beethoven's birthday. Let's all listen to the 7th Symphony.

Conservative Ramesh Ponnuru considers what would happen if Republicans "repealed" Obamacare but left in place the preexisting conditions ban:

This course could cause the insurance exchanges, already in trouble, to collapse entirely. That’s because the Republican bill would scrap the individual mandate while keeping Obamacare’s requirement that insurers treat sick and healthy people alike.

....The Republicans to whom [Philip] Klein talked are blasé about this possibility. If millions of people lose their coverage, these Republicans plan to say that the exchanges were already collapsing before they touched the law. It seems unlikely that the press will go along with this narrative, in part because many health-care experts, liberal and conservative, will tell reporters that it’s false.

What Republicans have not faced is that they don’t have the votes to repeal Obamacare. Calling a bill that doesn’t repeal Obamacare’s central provisions “repeal” is no escape from that dilemma.

It's a sign of the times that Ponnuru has to warn Republicans that the press won't go along with their preferred narrative because it's a lie. It's also a bit starry-eyed, unfortunately. The fact that it's a lie certainly wouldn't stop the right-wing press; wouldn't stop Trump; and would quite likely affect the rest of the press at least to the extent of calling it "controversial" and declining to take sides.

That said, Ponnuru is right. If you repeal some of Obamacare but leave the rest in place, it would cause the entire program to collapse. It might even go further, and cause the entire individual insurance market to collapse. Republicans better think hard about whether they want to be on the business end of something like that happening.

The Economic Report of the President is out, and we should probably take a look at it, if only for old time's sake. The rumor mill says that the next chairman of the CEA will be supply-side TV blatherer Larry Kudlow, and God knows what we can expect from him. Probably a ten-minute YouTube video. Or maybe a tweetstorm. Who knows?

Anyway, this year's report is stocked full of the usual number of interesting charts, but I'm going to highlight their version of my favorite chart. This one shows state and local spending following the Great Recession:

Normally, spending increases after a recession, and this is one of the things that powers the recovery. This time that didn't happen. Thankfully, we at least had a bit of help at the federal level:

Needless to say, Republicans feverishly opposed all attempts at economic stimulus because they didn't want the economy to get too much better. That might have helped Obama's reelection chances, you see.

Oh well. Bygones. I'm sure Trump will fix everything.

Donald Trump was eager this morning to fight back against the news that Vladimir Putin worked hard to get him elected:

Greg Sargent comments:

By referring to this episode, what Trump is inadvertently revealing here is that, yes, the complaint about Russian hacking to hurt Clinton did in fact precede the election, and this was widely and publicly known. Of course, there is ample other evidence that Trump is fully aware of this. The intel community had publicly declared it weeks before the election. Trump had reportedly been privately briefed on it by U.S. officials. Trump was confronted with evidence of the hack at a debate with Clinton that was watched by tens of millions of people. At the debate, he cast doubt on the notion that Russia had hacked the materials to hurt Clinton. And yet, as Mark Murray points out, Trump himself widely referenced the material dug up in the hacks at rallies, where he used that material to — wait for it — try to damage Clinton.

Yeah, Trump knows all this. He just doesn't care. He knows that most people have poor memories for this kind of stuff and are likely to believe him if he says nobody talked about the Russian hacking during the campaign. Give him a few months and he'll be tweeting about how no one brought up health care during the election, so why are they all so upset about it now?

Could Bernie Sanders have beaten Donald Trump? I think there's almost no chance of that, but since the topic keeps coming up, I feel like I ought to explain why. I know this won't persuade anyone, but the reason is simple: He's just too liberal.

Here's a chart of every Democratic presidential candidate in the postwar era—plus Bernie Sanders. It shows them from least liberal to most liberal. I used NOMINATE to gauge how liberal senators were; this paper to fill in the governors; and a bit of personal judgment to shift a few candidates around. I'm not pretending I got this perfect, but I think it's in the ballpark. Feel free to move folks around if you like.

Very roughly, the scores show how the candidates compare to all of Congress: LBJ was more liberal than two-thirds of Congress, while Bernie Sanders is more liberal than 99 percent of Congress. Winning candidates are in red.

No Democratic candidate with a score below 15 has ever won the presidency. Bernie Sanders, needless to say, is way below 15. There's not a snowball's chance that he could have won the presidency.

Like I said, I don't expect this to persuade anyone. You can always make up a dozen reasons why this time would have been different. But it wouldn't have been. In the end, Trump was treated like an ordinary Republican. Hillary Clinton, after being forced a bit to the left during the primaries, was treated like an ordinary Democrat who was right on the bubble of being too liberal for the country. Both candidates had plenty of personal flaws that they used against each other, but Sanders did too. They were just different than Clinton's. Republicans would have twisted him up like a wet rag and tossed him down the drain.

John Podesta, chair of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, is pissed:

The more we learn about the Russian plot to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and elect Donald Trump, and the failure of the FBI to adequately respond, the more shocking it gets....I was surprised to read in the New York Times that when the FBI discovered the Russian attack in September 2015, it failed to send even a single agent to warn senior Democratic National Committee officials. Instead, messages were left with the DNC IT “help desk.”

....Comparing the FBI’s massive response to the overblown email scandal with the seemingly lackadaisical response to the very real Russian plot to subvert a national election shows that something is deeply broken at the FBI.

[FBI Director James] Comey justified his handling of the email case by citing “intense public interest.” He felt so strongly that he broke long-established precedent and disregarded strong guidance from the Justice Department with his infamous letter just 11 days before the election. Yet he refused to join the rest of the intelligence community in a statement about the Russian cyberattack because he reportedly didn’t want to appear “political.” And both before and after the election, the FBI has refused to say whether it is investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.

I'm surprised that Democrats have been so muted about the FBI's role in the election. If something like this had happened to Republicans, it would be flogged daily on Rush, Drudge, Fox News, Breitbart, the Wall Street Journal, and the Facebook pages of everyone from Sarah Palin to Alex Jones. But Democrats have been almost pathologically afraid to talk about it, apparently cowed by the possibility that Republicans will mock them for making excuses about their election loss.

That's crazy. Here's a quick review:

  • Goaded by rabid congressional Republicans, the FBI spent prodigious resources on Hillary Clinton's email server, even though there was never a shred of evidence that national security had been compromised in any way.
     
  • In July, Comey broke precedent by calling a press conference and delivering a self-righteous speech about Clinton's "carelessness." Why did he do this, when FBI protocol is to decline comment on cases after investigations are finished? The answer is almost certainly that he wanted to insulate himself from Republican criticism for not recommending charges against Clinton.
     
  • Weeks later, Comey finally released the investigation's interview notes. Only the most devoted reader of bureaucratic prose was likely to suss out their real meaning: there had never been much of a case in the first place, and contrary to Comey's accusation, Clinton had never been careless with classified material. Like everyone else, she and her staff worked hard to exchange only unclassified material on unclassified networks (state.gov, gmail, private servers, etc.). There was a difference of opinion between State and CIA about what counted as classified, but this squabbling had been going on forever, and had driven previous Secretaries of State nuts too.
     
  • As Podesta notes, the FBI took a preposterously lackadaisical attitude toward Russia's hacking of the DNC server. Outside of a badly-written novel, it's hard to believe that any law enforcement organization would do as little as the FBI did against a major assault from a hostile foreign power aimed at one of America's main political parties.
     
  • Even when plenty of evidence was amassed about Russia's actions, Comey downplayed it in private briefings. This gave Republicans the cover they needed to insist that Obama not mention anything about it during the campaign.
     
  • Two weeks before Election Day, Comey authorized a search of Anthony Weiner's laptop, even though there was no reason to think any of the emails it contained were new, or that any of them posed a threat to national security. Then he issued a public letter making sure that everyone knew about the new evidence, and carefully phrased the letter in the most damaging possible way.

Any one of these things could be just an accident. Put them all together, and you need to be pretty obtuse not to see the partisan pattern. In every single case, Comey and the FBI did what was best for Republicans and worst for Democrats. In. Every. Single. Case.

If you want to believe this is just a coincidence, go ahead. But nobody with a room temperature IQ credits that. The FBI has spent the entire past year doing everything it could to favor one party over the other in a presidential campaign. Democrats ought to be in a seething fury about this. Instead, they're arguing about a few thousand white rural voters in Wisconsin and whether Hillary Clinton should have visited Michigan a few more times in October.

Over at the New York Times today, Eduardo Porter takes on the notion that working-class whites ignore their economic interests and vote for Republicans because of social issues like abortion and guns:

This view fits a common narrative among liberal analysts of American politics....But it largely misses the mark....There are almost nine million more jobs than there were at the previous peak in November 2007, just before the economy tumbled into recession. But the gains have not been evenly distributed.

Despite accounting for less than 15 percent of the labor force, Hispanics got more than half of the net additional jobs. Blacks and Asians also gained millions more jobs than they lost. But whites, who account for 78 percent of the labor force, lost more than 700,000 net jobs over the nine years.

This is very badly misleading. Let's plow our way through a fistful of charts to get at the truth. First up, here's the employment level:

Porter is right: if you look at the raw number of jobs, blacks and Hispanics have gotten most of them. Whites are at about the same level as they were in 2007. How can this be? That's easy: it's because the white population is at about the same level as it was in 2007

Whites have the same number of jobs as in 2007 because there are the same number of whites as in 2007. Hispanics and blacks have more jobs because there are more Hispanics and blacks. This means nothing. What you'd like to know is what percentage of each group is employed:

These numbers rattle around a bit. Whites did better in 2010-13 while blacks and Hispanics have done better in 2014-16. At this point they're all within a few points of each other. Now put all this together and you get the unemployment rate:

All three groups are at nearly the exact same level as they were in 2007, which means that all the new jobs have been shared out equally by population. Whites have done about as well as anyone else, and since whites started out ahead, it means they're still ahead. Here's the unemployment rate today, which is nearly identical to the rate in 2007:

  • Whites: 4.2 percent
  • Hispanics: 5.7 percent
  • Blacks: 8.1 percent

If you take a look at this stuff without accounting for population growth you'll be badly misled. When it comes to jobs, whites had it better than blacks and Hispanics in 2007 and they still do today by about the same amount. They haven't been screwed by the job market any more than anyone else, and they haven't gained or lost ground. After ten years with a huge recession in between, we're all back where we started.

After reading my post this morning about voter turnout rates, a friend asks if I can break this down by state. His wish is my command:

Nationally, voter turnout was up about 1 point from 2012. However, in Oregon it was up about 5 percent. In Wisconsin it was down about 3 percent. Of the three big Midwestern swing states, Wisconsin was down 3.5 points, Pennsylvania was up 2.7 points, and Michigan was up 0.9 points.

I don't know if there are any conclusions to be drawn from this. Nothing obvious pops out at me.

UPDATE: The initial version of this post had all the numbers reversed. It's now correct.