Apparently Democrats and Republicans have agreed on a budget for the remaining five months of the fiscal year. So no government shutdown! Hooray!

So how did the negotiator-in-chief make out? President Trump had demanded money for his southern border wall, funding for a new deportation force, spending cuts for "sanctuary cities," defunding of Planned Parenthood, cuts in science and clean energy spending, and cuts to the NIH. I don't think anyone really understood that last demand—who hates medical research?—but for some reason Trump wanted lower NIH spending. CNN tells us what he got:

The plan would add billions for the Pentagon and border security but would not provide any money for President Donald Trump's promised border wall with Mexico....There is no money provided for a deportation force and there are no cuts of federal monies to so-called sanctuary cities....In the proposal, there are no cuts to funding for Planned Parenthood, a demand from Democrats. Funding for the National Institute of Health is increased by $2 billion and there is additional money for clean energy and science funding.

So there's a bit of extra defense spending—though less than half of what Trump wanted—that nobody really objected to in the first place, and that's it. In other words:

Don't get too excited, though. Negotiations for next year's budget are already underway.

Nobody ever quite knew what Sebastian Gorka's job was at the White House. He was a former Breitbart News editor recruited to be part of the Strategic Initiatives Group, a sort of shadow National Security Council concocted by Steve Bannon. But that never went anywhere, and Gorka couldn't get a job on the real National Security Council because he couldn't get a security clearance. So instead he went on TV a lot. The Washington Examiner explains:

A White House source said Gorka's role has always been unclear and said Gorka never had national security issues in his portfolio. "This guy has always been a big mystery to me," the source said of Gorka's contributions to the staff.

The source said Gorka's only known duties included speaking on television about counterterrism, as well as "giving White House tours and peeling out in his Mustang," but added that he had few notable responsibilities.

The Examiner reports that Gorka "will soon accept a position outside the White House," which is a very Hirohito-esque way of putting it. "Gorka's new role will deal with the 'war of ideas' involved in countering radical Islamic extremism, a senior administration official said, and will entail an appointment to a federal agency." But not the State Department. Or anyplace else important, I guess.

Oh, and Gorka has lately been accused of belonging to an anti-Semitic far-right party in Hungary with Nazi roots. But I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.

I'm going to go out and throw some frisbees around. In the meantime, enjoy John Dickerson's interview with Donald Trump about his health care bill:

JOHN DICKERSON: So but in the bill, as it was analyzed, there were two problems. One, and you talked about this with Congressman Robert Aderholt, who brought you the example of the 64-year-old who under Obamacare the premiums--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: But that was a long time ago, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: But has that been fixed?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Totally fixed.

JOHN DICKERSON: How?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: How? We've made many changes to the bill. You know, this bill is--

JOHN DICKERSON: What kind though?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --very much different than it was three weeks ago.

JOHN DICKERSON: Help us explain because there are people--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: The bill--

JOHN DICKERSON: --out there wondering what kind of changes.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Let me explain. Let me explain it to you.

JOHN DICKERSON: Okay.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This bill is much different than it was a little while ago, okay? This bill has evolved. And we didn't have a failure on the bill. You know, it was reported like a failure. Now, the one thing I wouldn't have done again is put a timeline. That's why on the second iteration, I didn't put a timeline.

But we have now pre-existing conditions in the bill. We have -- we've set up a pool for the pre-existing conditions so that the premiums can be allowed to fall. We're taking across all of the borders or the lines so that insurance companies can compete--

JOHN DICKERSON: But that's not in--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --nationwide.

JOHN DICKERSON: --this bill. The borders are not in--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Of course, it's in.

Needless to say, it's not in. It might be in a future bill, but it's not in the current bill. On the bright side, I'm impressed that Trump even knows about the high-risk pool, even if he doesn't quite know what it's called.

We also learned that Trump's response to North Korea's missile test is that he's not happy. What does that mean? "I would not be happy. If he does a nuclear test, I will not be happy."

Roger that.

Here's a useful tip. Suppose you do something stupid and crack the body of your camera. This happened to, um, a friend of mine recently, who quickly learned that ordinary superglue is useless. It works about as well as kindergarten paste. What you need is glue that's specifically designed to work on polypropylene and similar plastics. Allow the Glue Guy to explain:1

My friend stupidly left his camera on the roof of his car before pulling out of a parking lot. What an idiot! The camera fell off at the first stop sign, producing a nasty crack in one corner. The two sides of the crack were pulling away from each other with considerable force, but this Loctite stuff worked great anyway. It wasn't especially pretty when it was done, but it's stayed solidly glued together for over a month now.

1I have not been paid for this endorsement. As far as you know, anyway.

By now we all know the story of President Trump's sudden U-turn on NAFTA earlier this week. But just to refresh your memories, here is the Washington Post:

“I was all set to terminate,” Trump said in an Oval Office interview Thursday night. “I looked forward to terminating. I was going to do it.”...At one point, he turned to Kushner, who was standing near his desk, and asked, “Was I ready to terminate NAFTA?”

“Yeah,” Kushner said, before explaining the case he made to the president: “I said, ‘Look, there’s plusses and minuses to doing it,’ and either way he would have ended up in a good place.”

The basic story here is that Trump is a child. He was all ready to pull the trigger, but then his advisors brought in a colorful map showing that lots of red states and counties would be harmed by pulling out of NAFTA. Eventually Trump calmed down and normalcy reigned for another day.

But here's the part of the story I still don't understand: what happened on Wednesday that suddenly put a burr up Trump's ass to pull out of NAFTA? Just a few weeks ago he sent a list of negotiating points to Congress, and both Mexico and Canada have agreed the treaty needs some updating. Things were moving along fairly normally, and then suddenly Trump woke up one morning and decided to light off a nuclear bomb.

What was that all about? Was it really because of Trump's obsession over having some kind of accomplishment to show for his first hundred days? Did he eat a taco that didn't agree with him? Did Steve Bannon have a late-night talk with him?

This was the reason all along that Trump was a far more dangerous candidate than Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. From a liberal point of view, his incompetence was a bonus that might restrict the short-term damage he could do. But Trump also brought to the table a noxious racist appeal, an ugly nationalism, an appalling level of ignorance, and a mercurial temperament. All of these were on display Wednesday. Apparently out of nowhere, and for no particular reason, he just strolled into the Oval Office and decided he wanted to formally withdraw from NAFTA.

Why? And what are the odds he's going to do this again on something more important? Something that, for whatever reason, his aides can't talk him out of with a colorful map and another diet Coke?

I'm not sure everyone realizes that this is the most dangerous thing Trump has done so far. It was a close-run thing, but next time it might not be. And we still have 1,361 days left to go of Trump's presidency.

Our cats' favorite activity is playing under the sheets after we strip the bed and put on freshly laundered bedclothes. Last week I stuck the camera under the sheets and snapped a few photos while the cats went nuts. Look at those eyes! Like saucers! This was taken during one of the few microseconds when Hilbert wasn't just a blur.

A reader emailed this morning suggesting that GDP growth in the first quarter was low because GDP growth in the first quarter is always low:

Something I’ve long wondered is if the seasonal adjustments BLS is making on these numbers is artificially skewing the 1Q results every year. As you recall 1Q09 was the bottom of the Great Recession, it feels like they are overcorrecting for that phenomenon. When you look at the quarterly progression of every year (minus 2015 it looks like) 1Q sucks and then you get q/q improvement during the year.

I remember having read some criticisms of BEA's seasonal adjustments, so I got curious. Is Q1 growth routinely lower than later quarters?

[NOTE: The original chart I used showed GDP growth compared to the previous year. That's not what BEA reports. The headline number is annualized growth from the previous quarter. I've revised the chart, which significantly revises the text below too.]

On average, reported first quarter growth really is considerably lower than it is in the other three quarters. Nor is this an issue of unusually high revisions from the advance print to the final print. For the past seven years, the advance number has been a little higher on average than the final revision.

FWIW, if you look at GDP compared to the previous year (i.e., Q1 of 2017 compared to Q1 of 2016 etc.), average growth rates are about the same in all four quarters. This is probably a better measure.

While we're on the subject, though, the weather is one of my favorite topics when it comes to making excuses for poor growth. Here is Nelson Schwartz in the New York Times today:

Michelle Meyer, chief United States economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said healthier business investment indicated that the overall economy was performing better than the headline numbers would suggest. “Warm weather meant consumers weren’t spending as much on electricity and natural gas and home heating,” Ms. Meyer said. “Government spending can also be affected by seasonal factors, and defense spending is especially volatile.”

Here is Nelson Schwartz in the New York Times three years ago:

In their initial estimate for growth in the months of January, February and March, government statisticians said output expanded at an annual rate of just 0.1 percent, although experts noted that figure was affected by one-time headwinds like unusually cold weather and slower inventory gains after businesses aggressively built up stockpiles in the second half of 2013.

Too hot, too cold, the weather is never just right, is it?

Presidenting Is Hard

Poor Donald Trump. Being president is harder than he thought:

"I loved my previous life. I had so many things going," Trump told Reuters in an interview. "This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier."...Midway through a discussion about Chinese President Xi Jinping, the president paused to hand out copies of what he said were the latest figures from the 2016 electoral map.

"Here, you can take that, that's the final map of the numbers," the Republican president said from his desk in the Oval Office, handing out maps of the United States with areas he won marked in red. "It’s pretty good, right? The red is obviously us."

There are three takeaways from this. First, Trump's old life was pretty easy because other people ran his companies and he didn't really do much. Second, he thought presidents just consulted their guts and made decisions, sort of like Celebrity Apprentice, and then stuff magically happened. Third, he still can't maintain discussion of a real topic (Chinese President Xi Jinping) for more than a few moments before getting sidetracked by one of his obsessions (his huge victory in November). Here are the maps he handed out. He obviously had copies made just for the occasion:

But Trump still hasn't learned his lesson. I've dealt with lots of people who will regale you endlessly with tales of how complicated their own business is, but the less they know about some other business the easier they think it is to fix. For example:

Sure, Donald. You can't even get Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon to stop squabbling, but the Middle East? Piece of cake. There's no reason to think this is a difficult problem that requires a lot of hard work. It's just that all the presidents before you have been really, really stupid.

Still, they were all bright enough to know that if you want to get things done, you need to get people who support your agenda running the bureaucracy. Trump still hasn't figured that out:

It's hard to find Republicans to work in the federal government in the first place, and harder still to find Republicans willing to work for a man-child like Trump. Even at that, though, he's barely even trying. Not counting cabinet positions, he's managed to nominate about three people per week. That's pathetic.

Politico has released its fourth annual survey of the White House press corps. Here's an excerpt:

A full 63 percent of the press corps has been lied to by the Trump administration. It might even be as high as 88 percent. And that's in just the first three months.

For comparison, the only other time Politico asked this question was in 2014. After six years of covering the Obama White House, 50% of the reporters said they had been lied to. That's not exactly a result to be proud of, but I imagine that if Trump is still in office in 2022, his number will be hovering right around 99 percent.1

1The remaining one percent will be a reporter who had just been assigned to the White House beat the week before.

The LA Times reports that House Republicans have steadfastly refused to reach out to Democrats in an effort to pass their health care bill. This is no surprise. They're well aware of how they suckered Democrats in 2009, killing months of time in "talks" even though none of them ever planned to support Obamacare. They figure Democrats would do the same to them, and they're right.

But then we get this:

And senior House Republicans and White House officials have almost completely shut out doctors, hospitals, patient advocates and others who work in the healthcare system, industry officials say, despite pleas from many healthcare leaders to seek an alternative path that doesn’t threaten protections for tens of millions of Americans.

....Health insurers, who initially found House Republicans and Trump administration officials open to suggestions for improving insurance markets, say it is increasingly difficult to have realistic discussions, according to numerous industry officials. “They’re not interested in how health policy actually works,” said one insurance company official, who asked not to be identified discussing conversations with GOP officials. “It’s incredibly frustrating.”

Another longtime healthcare lobbyist, who also did not want to be identified criticizing Republicans, said he’d never seen legislation developed with such disregard for expert input. “It is totally divorced from reality,” he said.

It's increasingly obvious that Republicans aren't actually trying to pass a health care bill. They just want to be able to tell their base that they tried. And President Trump wants to erase the taste of defeat from the first health care bill.

If House Republicans were serious, they'd engage with the health care industry. They haven't. If they were serious they'd care about the CBO score. They don't. If they were serious they'd be crafting a bill that could pass Senate reconciliation rules. They aren't even trying. If Senate Republicans were serious they'd be weighing in with a bill of their own. They aren't wasting their time.

In the beginning, I think Paul Ryan really did want to pass something, mainly so that it would make his tax cut plan easier to pass. But he's given up on that. At this point he just wants a piece of paper that gets 218 votes and demonstrates that the Republican caucus isn't hopelessly inept. He knows it will be DOA in the Senate, but at least it will get health care off his plate once and for all. Then he can move on to cutting taxes on the rich, which is what he really cares about. And he'll have no trouble rounding up votes for that.