Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2011/08/liberals-have-been-played-chumps%22 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en The Trump Era of Crony Capitalism Has Officially Started http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/trump-era-crony-capitalism-has-officially-started <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I would like to bring your attention once again to the two stock charts below:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boeing_trump_tweet_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sprint_tmobile_trump_softbank_1.jpg" style="margin: 17px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>Last week, Trump took a baby step into the world of crony capitalism by bribing/threatening United Technologies to keep a Carrier plant in Indiana so that Trump would look good. Today, he took a big ol' dive into the crony capitalism pool, tanking one company's stock because they had displeased him, and boosting two others because an investor had agreed to say nice things about him.</p> <p>Now, in both cases the effects were temporary. Still, is this going to be a regular thing? Are American equity markets now in thrall to the whims of Donald Trump? Do companies need to be fearful of what the president of the United States might do to them if he happens to take a dislike to something they do?</p> <p>And while I know how annoying this question can be, can you even imagine how Republicans would react if Barack Obama pulled this kind of stunt? Fox News would practically explode and Jason Chaffetz would start gearing up for a year or two of hearings. But since it's Trump doing it, there's nothing but radio silence. Apparently government interference in the free market isn't quite so sacred after all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 05:36:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 320841 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton's Popular Vote Lead Is Now Up To 2% http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/hillary-clintons-popular-vote-lead-now-2 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I figure it's still worth periodically posting a reminder that far more people wanted Hillary Clinton as their president than Donald Trump. <a href="http://cookpolitical.com/story/10174" target="_blank">The latest numbers</a> show Clinton ahead by 2.6 million votes, or 2 percent of the total. Aside from the obviously corrupt election of 1876, no winning candidate in the two-party era has ever done even remotely as dismally in the popular vote as Donald Trump.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_popular_vote_2016_12_06.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 145px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 05:04:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 320836 at http://www.motherjones.com What Did Donald Trump Promise the President of Softbank? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/what-did-donald-trump-promise-president-softbank <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Masayoshi Son, the president of Softbank and owner of Sprint, met with Donald Trump this afternoon and then announced that he planned to invest $50 billion in the United States over the next five years. <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/806214236053667842" target="_blank">Trump tweeted</a> that "Masa said he would never do this had we (Trump) not won the election!"</p> <p>Maybe so. But is this because Trump has promised to supercharge the economy and get rid of pesky, growth-killing regulations? Or is it, perhaps, because Trump promised to get rid of one particular pesky regulation? <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-says-softbank-pledges-to-invest-50-billion-in-u-s-1481053732" target="_blank">Here's the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>When he acquired Sprint, Mr. Son&rsquo;s initial plan was to merge the carrier with German-owned T-Mobile US Inc. to take on market leaders AT&amp;T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., <strong>but he abandoned the effort after regulators signaled they would reject the plan.</strong> Some investors and analysts have said he could make another attempt after Mr. Trump&rsquo;s election and when a new chairman is appointed to the Federal Communications Commission.</p> <p>Mr. Son planned to tell Mr. Trump about what happened with T-Mobile, <strong>and how he had wanted to invest in the U.S. but the regulatory climate was too harsh so he invested <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sprint_tmobile_trump_softbank_1.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">outside the U.S. instead,</strong> the person familiar with the matter said.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's true: Obama regulators killed Sprint's planned acquisition of T-Mobile on antitrust grounds. This is undoubtedly the "harsh" regulatory climate that bothered Son. So perhaps Trump agreed that if Son takes another run at T-Mobile, his administration would be happy to make sure the merger gets a big ol' green light. The stock market certainly seemed to think this was likely. Within a few minutes of Trump's tweet, Sprint stock shot up 6 percent and T-Mobile rose 2 percent.</p> <p>In the same <em>Journal</em> article, we also get this:</p> <blockquote> <p>AT&amp;T Inc. Chief Executive Randall Stephenson also spoke positively of the economic benefits of a Trump presidency Tuesday....He expressed hope that &ldquo;a more moderate approach to some of these regulations is in the making under a Trump administration.&rdquo; Mr. Stephenson said the U.S. is the <strong>&ldquo;highest tax country in the developed world&rdquo;</strong> and that <strong>capital investment, as a percentage of gross domestic product, is at its lowest level since World War II.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The business community is certainly sucking up to Trump these days, aren't they? They're apparently also developing a taste for his casual relationship with the truth. Here are two parting charts, presented without comment.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_us_corporate_tax_rate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d9d9d9; margin: 15px 0px 0px 25px;"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nonresidential_fixed_investment_1950_2015.jpg" style="margin: 0px 0px 0px 25px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 02:28:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 320831 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Fires Michael Flynn Jr. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/trump-fires-michael-flynn-jr <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/06/us/politics/michael-flynn-son-trump.html" target="_blank">Here's some cheery news:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday fired one of his transition team&rsquo;s staff members, Michael G. Flynn, the son of his designated national security adviser, for using Twitter to spread a fake news story about Hillary Clinton that this weekend led to an armed confrontation in a pizza restaurant in Washington.</p> </blockquote> <p>As near as I can tell, Flynn Jr. is batshit crazy. It's good to see him gone. The only problem is that Flynn Sr. isn't much better, and he's going to be running our foreign policy before long. I guess the best we can hope for is that sometime soon he does something so mind-bogglingly barmy that even Donald Trump will feel obligated to fire him. Hopefully sometime before January 20.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 00:09:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 320826 at http://www.motherjones.com Insurance Industry OK With Repealing Obamacare As Long As We Don't Actually Repeal Obamacare http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/insurance-industry-ok-obamacare-repeal-long-we-dont-repeal-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_2017.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at this. The health insurance industry is outlining what it wants to keep <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/06/business/health-insurers-obamacare-republicans.html" target="_blank">when Republicans repeal Obamacare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The insurers, some who have already started leaving the marketplaces because they are losing money there, say they need a clear commitment from the Trump administration and congressional leaders that the government will <strong>continue offsetting some costs for low-income people.</strong> They also want to keep in place rules that <strong>encourage young and healthy people to sign up,</strong> which the insurers say are crucial to a stable market for individual buyers.</p> <p>....[Marilyn] Tavenner acknowledged that the current law &ldquo;needed to be improved.&rdquo; But she emphasized that there was widespread agreement among Republicans about the need for some the law&rsquo;s provisions, <strong>including covering people with expensive medical conditions.</strong> President-elect Donald J. Trump has also signaled his support of this popular provision. &ldquo;There are common starting platforms,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p>....Ms. Tavenner said the industry wanted to know more about what the Republicans were planning, <strong>including information on the fate of the Medicaid expansion under the law.</strong> &ldquo;We still have more questions than answers,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t want to disrupt individuals who are relying on our coverage,&rdquo; she said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's the case for laughing: the insurance industry says it's OK with repealing Obamacare, but we should maintain the pre-existing conditions ban, the individual mandate, the subsidies for low-income families, and the Medicaid expansion. Needless to say, that <em>is</em> Obamacare.</p> <p>Here's the case for crying: "The market has already been a little wobbly this year," Tavenner said. If it looks like any of these four provisions are going to be repealed with nothing to replace them, insurers will simply pull out of the market at the "next logical opportunity." That would be about six months from now.</p> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/obamacare-repeal-doomed-pre-existing-conditions" target="_blank">And as I've mentioned before,</a> there's a good chance this doesn't just mean pulling out of the Obamacare exchanges. If the mandate and the subsidies go away, but the pre-existing conditions ban stays in place, insurers might very well pull out of the individual market entirely. Republicans are playing with fire here, and it's not clear if they even know it. Someone in the insurance biz really needs to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with them.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 00:00:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 320816 at http://www.motherjones.com A Second Look at Childcare Expenses and the Decline of Working Women http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/second-look-childcare-expenses-and-decline-working-women <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/mystery-declining-labor-force-participation-continues" target="_blank">A couple of weeks ago</a> I wrote about a paper which claimed that declining female labor force participation was a result of increasing childcare costs. I was skeptical because the paper clearly showed that participation rates for women with children declined <em>less</em> than rates for women without children.</p> <p>Today, Chris Herbst of Arizona State University emails to say my skepticism is justified. The problem, he says, is that well-off families increasingly spend a lot for premium childcare, and this boosts the average. If, instead, you look at medians, childcare expenditures haven't really gone up that much. Instead of rising 32 percent between 1990 and 2011, the median increase is only 16 percent. What's more, virtually all of that increase happened during the 90s. Since childcare is labor intensive, he uses the earnings of childcare workers as a proxy for the cost of childcare. Here's what that looks like:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_childcare_earnings_1990_2011_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>Long story short, if the cost of childcare hasn't gone up much for working-class and middle-class families, then it probably has little effect on the labor force participation rate of women. <a href="http://ftp.iza.org/dp9072.pdf" target="_blank">The full paper is here,</a> and it has some other interesting tidbits. For example, Herbst finds that the modest increase in childcare expenditures masks a big split: expenditures have gone up a lot for children under five, but have actually gone down a bit for older children. Perhaps there's some further work to do comparing the labor force participation of women with toddlers vs. women with school-age children?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 19:28:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 320761 at http://www.motherjones.com Stop Talking About Air Force One! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/stop-talking-about-air-force-one <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>There's been an ongoing debate for the past few weeks over a weighty topic: should we pay attention to every damn thing Donald Trump tweets?</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Argument for:</strong> He's president-elect. If he says something, it's news.</p> <p><strong>Argument against:</strong> His tweets are just shiny objects meant to distract us from the more boring but far more important ways he's destroying our great nation.</p> </blockquote> <p>Today brings evidence for ignoring the tweets. Earlier this morning, for no particular reason, Trump decided that we should cancel the contract for a new pair of Air Force Ones. Why? Trump says they're too expensive. My guess is that he's just mad that they won't be ready until 2024, which means the president after him will get a better plane than the POS he has to fly around in.</p> <p>Anyway. This is big news everywhere. It's on CNN, it's on the front pages of all the newspapers, and a Google search for "Air Force One" brings up a results page that's dominated by Trump's tweet.</p> <p>If there were ever a shiny object, this is it. It came out of the blue. It's completely ridiculous. Trump obviously has no idea what goes into these planes. (Hint: surviving a nuclear war.) It will never get seriously followed up. It's just <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_boeing_trump_tweet_1.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">random crap designed to get him some attention. Why are we wasting our time with this?</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Maybe there's more to this than I thought. Last year, after a century of producing planes in the US, <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/lorenthompson/2015/09/23/boeing-to-build-its-first-offshore-plane-factory-in-china-as-ex-im-bank-withers/#3195473a5252" target="_blank">Boeing began construction of a plant in China.</a> It also gets a lot of its business from Chinese airlines, and perhaps privately told the Trump team that it was nervous about Trump's outreach to the president of Taiwan. Historically, after all, Boeing is one of the first to suffer when China gets mad. Plus it turns out that this wasn't just harmless guff: Boeing stock dropped about 1.5 percent after Trump's tweet.</p> <p>I'm still not sure about how much attention we should give to Trump's tweets, but now you know both sides of the story. Except for one thing: what does Trump have against Boeing? That's still a bit of a mystery.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 18:26:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 320751 at http://www.motherjones.com What Counts as "Physical Suffering"? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/what-counts-physical-suffering <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Wesley Smith is an absolute foe of assisted suicide in any form, for any reason, at any time. For that reason I don't usually read his stuff over at <em>National Review</em>. We disagree, and that's that.</p> <p>But things are slow today, and I found his latest sort of interesting. He's furious over an interview of Timothy Quill, an advocate of assisted suicide, despite the fact that Quill is very deliberately taking a moderate view. The interviewer basically asks him if people <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_map_assisted_suicide_support.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">should have access to assisted suicide drugs regardless of their reason, <a href="http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/872510?src=soc_fb_share" target="_blank">and Quill says no:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In my opinion, the more you have terminal illness with severe physical suffering as a major piece of the puzzle, the more you&rsquo;re on solid ground....That envelope will get tested as we move along with this, so we are going to need to find edges to it. Severely terminal illness is a good edge. It&rsquo;s not the firmest edge in the world, but it&rsquo;s a good edge, and predominant physical suffering as a piece of the puzzle seems to me a good edge.</p> </blockquote> <p>Obviously Smith disagrees with even this much, but at least Quill is setting limits. Yet Smith is still outraged. <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/442805/assisted-suicide-mendacity" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Baloney. <em>Not one law</em> in the United States allowing physician-assisted suicide requires proof of physical suffering to obtain a lethal prescription....Moreover, the statistics from Oregon and elsewhere show that <em>very few people commit assisted suicide due to physical suffering.</em> Rather, the issues are predominately existential, such as fears of being a burden or losing dignity.</p> <p>....As I said, assisted suicide advocates are so full of crap.</p> </blockquote> <p>But Quill isn't especially making the case that physical suffering is a major component of assisted suicide laws, he's using it to argue <em>against</em> broadening the justification for assisted suicide to include "psychological or spiritual suffering." You'd think Smith would appreciate at least that much, but apparently not.</p> <p>In any case, I think Smith is missing something here. It's true that most people with terminal conditions don't name physical suffering as a primary reason for wanting to die. But it's a significant consideration anyway. First, there's fear of physical suffering as their disease progresses. Second, there's fear of losing control. That is, there's a fear that at some point they'll become <em>physically unable</em> to control their own destiny, including the option of assisted suicide if they want it. Would you call that "physical suffering"? I'd put it in that category. It's not related to depression or fear of being a burden. It's a clearheaded fear of almost certain future physical decline that will take away the ability to choose their treatment.</p> <p>Now, Smith obviously disagrees that this should be the basis for assisted suicide, because he thinks nothing should be the basis for assisted suicide. But Quill is very clearly not full of crap. He's a proponent of a slow, moderate approach to assisted suicide; he thinks a physical suffering standard is a good way to <em>restrict</em> assisted suicide; and presumably he takes the view that loss of physical control is a very rational, very understandable fear.</p> <p>However, on one thing Smith is unquestionably correct: the assisted suicide laws on the books today don't require a show of physical suffering. So the whole conversation is moot anyway. Nor do I see what good it would do if they did. It would just require patients to claim they were in a lot of physical pain. There's no way to prove this one way or the other, so why bother?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 18:02:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 320741 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Don't Care About Keeping Jobs in America http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/republicans-dont-care-about-keeping-jobs-america <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_workers_construction.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Should we penalize businesses that send jobs offshore? I'm embarrassed to admit that I'd forgotten about President Obama's persistent efforts to do just that. <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2016/12/06/on-trumps-threats-of-retribution-republicans-have-a-double-standard/" target="_blank">Jim Tankersley reminds us:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>He called to end tax breaks for companies that outsource jobs, to cut taxes for domestic manufacturers and to levy a minimum tax on multinational corporations....Obama has included changes to the tax code, meant to penalize companies that move jobs overseas and boost those that invest in America, <strong>in every budget he submitted to Congress since 2009.</strong> Since 2012, he has repeatedly proposed an &ldquo;insourcing&rdquo; tax credit and eliminating deductions for moving expenses incurred in shipping jobs abroad.</p> <p><strong>Congress ignored nearly all those proposals</strong>....Since 2010, Obama has also proposed several steps meant to discourage so-called corporate inversions, which is the practice of companies moving their headquarters out of the United States in order to avoid corporate taxes. When his Treasury Department moved to crack down on that practice this year, Republicans howled.</p> </blockquote> <p>But now things are different:</p> <blockquote> <p>When Trump cajoled Indiana manufacturer Carrier into canceling part of its plans to ship jobs to Mexico last week, in part by offering a state tax incentive package to the company, House Speaker Paul Ryan dismissed criticism of Trump's efforts. &ldquo;I'm pretty happy that we're keeping jobs in America, aren't you?&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>....Republicans and business lobbyists have long said the best way to end inversions and reduce outsourcing is to cut corporate taxes....<strong>Conservatives, business groups and even financial markets appear optimistic that Trump will deliver on that rate cut, then abandon the trade threats.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Will concern for the working class finally outweigh concern for put-upon American multinational corporations? It never did while Obama was president, and there's no special reason to think it will now.</p> <p>It does make me wonder, though. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but why didn't Hillary Clinton make this stuff into a major campaign issue? It would have helped her against both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, but she barely ever mentioned these kinds of reforms. Odd.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 16:36:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 320736 at http://www.motherjones.com Does the Pentagon Really Waste $125 Billion on Pencil Pushers? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/does-pentagon-really-waste-125-billion-pencil-pushers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Washington Post</em> has a big article up tonight about <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/pentagon-buries-evidence-of-125-billion-in-bureaucratic-waste/2016/12/05/e0668c76-9af6-11e6-a0ed-ab0774c1eaa5_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-banner-main_pentagon-0655pm%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.d8960468f95d" target="_blank">military waste:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Pentagon hid study exposing $125 billion in wasteful spending</strong></p> <p>The Pentagon has buried an internal study that exposed $125 billion in administrative waste in its business operations amid fears Congress would use the findings as an excuse to slash the defense budget, according to interviews and confidential memos obtained by <em>The Washington Post</em>....The report, issued in January 2015, identified &ldquo;a clear path&rdquo; for the Defense Department to save $125 billion over five years. The plan would not have required layoffs of civil servants or reductions in military personnel.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. I have some doubts about this. For starters, that $125 billion is over five years. That comes to $25 billon per year, or about 4 percent of the defense budget. That's not peanuts, but it hardly seems big enough to represent "far more wasteful spending than expected," as the article says.</p> <p>But that's not the main thing that makes me skeptical about this. My big problem is that this is a McKinsey report, and I have a fairly cynical view of McKinsey-driven "process improvement" blather. For example, the report suggests that the Pentagon can save loads of money by increasing its back-office productivity by 4-8 percent per year. "Private sector industries commonly show similar gains," they say merrily, so why not the Pentagon?</p> <p>This is exactly the kind of thing that gives business consultants a bad name. Do private sector businesses really show routine annual productivity gains like this in their back-office operations? I doubt it very much. And even if they do, can the federal government do the same things that private industry does? Hard to say. In any case, it turns out that McKinsey's biggest finding is that the Pentagon is spending more on its contracts than it should. Here's how they propose to fix this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_contract_optimization.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>The buzzword-to-reality ratio here is astronomical. I could have written this without knowing a thing about Pentagon procurement. Here's the McKinsey timeline:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_contract_optimization_timeline.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>Seriously? They think the Pentagon can massively transform its entire procurement process in <em>eight months</em>, at which point, they blandly say, it's time to "Validate savings and begin renegotiating contracts"? That's insane. I used to work for a pretty well-run private-sector company with 200 employees, and I don't think we could have done this in eight months. Hell, later on McKinsey even admits that "only about 17% of fundamental change projects deliver their full potential." But they blithely recommend full steam ahead anyway, because success will come with:</p> <ul><li>Strong, consistent top leadership</li> <li>Clear vision, aligned with strategy and widely communicated</li> <li>Effective governance structure with clear decision-making authority</li> <li>Defined accountability at all levels with reward and enforcement mechanisms</li> <li>Engaged workforce and supportive stakeholders</li> </ul><p>This is cribbed out of a book you can buy at Barnes &amp; Noble for $29.95, and it basically describes the platonic ideal of a corporation. No one ever has all this stuff, and certainly not a gigantic federal bureaucracy. And that's not all. There's much, much more biz blather, but I won't bother trying to summarize it. I'll just show you a few slides:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_it.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 10px;"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_risk.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 10px;"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mckinsey_dod_process_redesign_factory.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 10px;"></p> <p>McKinsey wants DoD to establish core IT as "a shared-services organization." This might be a good idea, or it might not. But it's straight out of a textbook, and it's something that takes years to do decently&mdash;assuming it's a good idea in the first place. Would it save money in the long run? Maybe, but I wouldn't bet on it.</p> <p>And don't even get me started on the "Process Redesign Factory." Holy crap.</p> <p>So why did the study get scrapped? Here is Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work, who ordered it in the first place:</p> <blockquote> <p>In an interview with <em>The Post</em>, he did not dispute the board&rsquo;s findings about the size or scope of the bureaucracy. But he dismissed the $125 billion savings proposal as &ldquo;unrealistic&rdquo; and said the business executives had failed to grasp basic obstacles to restructuring the public sector....Work said the board fundamentally misunderstood how difficult it is to eliminate federal civil service jobs &mdash; members of Congress, he added, love having them in their districts &mdash; or to renegotiate defense contracts.</p> </blockquote> <p>Normally this would sound like defensiveness from someone who was set in their ways and just didn't want anything to change. But this guy <em>wanted</em> McKinsey to come in. He simply concluded that their report was shallow and uninformed, and I can't say I disagree. The Powerpoint deck looks like it's little more than boilerplate that's lightly massaged by a 22-year-old "senior analyst" for each client.</p> <p>I can sympathize with anyone who thinks the Pentagon could make its back-office operations more efficient, but can't do it thanks to bureaucratic inertia. I don't doubt for a second that this is true. But if you want to change this, you'd better do more than bring in a few McKinsey suits to provide you with the exact same recommendations they provide to everyone else, using the exact same swarm of buzzwords. This report sounds like dreck.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 06:38:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 320731 at http://www.motherjones.com Let's Revisit Climate Change and Wildfires in the West http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/lets-revisit-climate-change-and-wildfires-west <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The #1 most popular article at the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> right now is <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/my-unhappy-life-as-a-climate-heretic-1480723518" target="_blank">"My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic,"</a> by Roger Pielke Jr. His piece is basically a complaint that he has been pilloried for years because he holds the view that climate change is real, but that it hasn't been responsible for a change in the number or intensity of hurricanes, floods, or drought. I can't comment much on that since I haven't followed Pielke's fights with climate scientists, but I did take notice of this bit from his article:</p> <blockquote> <p>More is going on here than thin-skinned reporters responding petulantly to a vocal professor. In 2015 <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-pol-ca-brown-wildfires-20151019-story.html" target="_blank">I was quoted in the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>,</a> by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Paige St. John, making the rather obvious point that politicians use the weather-of-the-moment to make the case for action on climate change, even if the scientific basis is thin or contested.</p> <p>Ms. St. John was pilloried by her peers in the media. Shortly thereafter, she emailed me what she had learned: <strong>&ldquo;You should come with a warning label: Quoting Roger Pielke will bring a hailstorm down on your work from the London <em>Guardian</em>, <em>Mother Jones</em>, and Media Matters.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Hey! I recognize one-third of that hailstorm: <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/10/la-times-says-climate-not-blame-more-wildfires-theyre-wrong" target="_blank">it's me.</a></p> <p>I don't know what the other two-thirds of the hailstorm said, but my criticism was calm, factual, and straightforward. St. John's article was about wildfires, and my post noted that "Pielke doesn't actually say climate is unrelated to increased wildfire activity"&mdash;and then noted that practically no one else St. John quoted says that either:</p> <blockquote> <p>Virtually everyone quoted in this article either (a) says nothing about climate change or (b) says climate change is an important factor in the rise of wildfires in California and the West. And yet, somehow all of this is written in a way that makes it sound as if climate change has nothing to do with wildfires, and it's topped by a headline that says in no uncertain terms, "Gov. Brown's link between climate change and wildfires is unsupported, fire experts say."</p> <p>Very peculiar.</p> </blockquote> <p>As near as I can tell, St. John pretty seriously misrepresented the evidence in her piece. The critiques of it deserved a response, not a cozy email to one of her sources. But as far as I know, they never got one.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 06 Dec 2016 03:15:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 320721 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Repeal Is Doomed http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/obamacare-repeal-doomed-pre-existing-conditions <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The current hotness in Republican circles is "repeal and delay." That is, they want to pass legislation that repeals Obamacare in, say, 2019, but doesn't replace it with anything. Then they can spend the next couple of years figuring out what should <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_lemonade.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;">take its place. There's only one problem with this:</p> <blockquote> <p>Republicans. Can't. Repeal. Obamacare.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oh, they can repeal big parts of it. Anything related to the budget, like taxes and subsidies, can be repealed via the Senate procedure called reconciliation, which needs only 51 votes to pass. But all the other parts can be filibustered, and it takes 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. Republicans don't have 60 votes in the Senate.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>This leaves quite a few elements of Obamacare that can't be repealed via reconciliation, but I think Democrats should focus on one: pre-existing conditions. This is the provision of Obamacare that bans insurers from turning down customers or charging them extra for coverage, no matter what kind of pre-existing conditions they have. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/save-obamacare-donald-trump-repeal-gop" target="_blank">I tell the whole story here,</a> but there are several reasons this is the best provision to focus on:</p> <ul><li>It's an easy thing to understand.</li> <li>It's very popular.</li> <li>Republicans say they favor keeping it.</li> <li>Donald Trump says he favors keeping it.</li> <li>It's not a minor regulation. It is absolutely essential to any health care plan.</li> <li>It's fairly easy to explain why repealing Obamacare but leaving in place the pre-existing-conditions ban<sup>2</sup> would destroy the individual insurance market and leave tens of millions of people with no way to buy insurance.</li> </ul><p>The last point is the most important. Take me. I'm currently being kept alive by about $100,000 worth of prescriptions drugs each year. If I can go to any insurer and demand that they cover me for $10,000, that's a certain loss of $90,000. If millions of people like me do this, insurance companies will lose billions of dollars. In the employer market, which covers people who work for large companies, this is workable because insurers have lots and lots of healthy, profitable people at each company to make up these losses. In the individual market&mdash;after you've repealed the individual mandate and the subsidies&mdash;they don't. They will bear huge losses and they know it.</p> <p>What this means is not just that Obamacare would collapse. It means the entire individual market would collapse. Every insurance company in America would simply stop selling individual policies. It would be political suicide to make this happen, and this means that Democrats have tremendous leverage if they're willing to use it. It all depends on how well they play their hand.</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">"It all depends on how well [Dems] play their hand."<br><br> Translation: Everyone be very worried.<br> .<a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> <a href="https://t.co/jIGizuXxY2">https://t.co/jIGizuXxY2</a></p> &mdash; Douglas Barricklow (@DeepCoffee) <a href="https://twitter.com/DeepCoffee/status/805871818347257856">December 5, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>The current Republican hope is that they can repeal parts of Obamacare and then hold Democrats hostage: <em>Vote for our replacement plan or else the individual insurance market dies.</em> There's no reason Democrats should do anything but laugh at this. Republicans now control all three branches of government. They've been lying to their base about Obamacare repeal for years. Now the chickens have come home to roost, and they're responsible for whatever happens next. If the Democratic Party is even marginally competent, they can make this stick.</p> <p>Plenty of Republicans already know this. Some have only recently figured it out. Some are still probably living in denial. It doesn't matter. Pre-existing conditions is the hammer Democrats can use to either save Obamacare or else demand that any replacement be equally generous. They just have to use it.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Of course, Republicans do have the alternative of either (a) getting rid of the filibuster or (b) firing the Senate parliamentarian and hiring one who will let them do anything they want. If they do either of those things, then they can repeal all of Obamacare and replace it with anything they want. I don't think they'll do either one, but your mileage may vary on this question.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Just for the record, it's worth noting that Republicans can't modify the pre-existing-conditions ban either. Democrats can filibuster that too.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 23:39:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 320706 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Is a Serial, Compulsive Liar http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/donald-trump-is-a-serial-compulsive-liar <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump, eight days ago:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/802972944532209664">November 27, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Donald Trump, in a legal filing five days later, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/12/05/in-an-anti-recount-filing-trumps-lawyers-say-the-election-was-not-tainted-by-fraud-or-mistake/" target="_blank">as reported by the <em>Washington Post's</em> Philip Bump:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_michigan_filing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;"></p> <p>Trump is a serial, compulsive liar. Soon he will be president of the United States.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 18:03:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 320666 at http://www.motherjones.com Republicans Need to Step Up and get Gen. Michael Flynn Out of the White House http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/republicans-need-step-and-get-gen-michael-flynn-out-white-house <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>You've probably heard that a gunman <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2016/12/04/d-c-police-respond-to-report-of-a-man-with-a-gun-at-comet-ping-pong-restaurant/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.cca21dc144ed" target="_blank">entered the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria</a> in Washington DC yesterday and started shooting. He didn't hit anyone, though, and it's not clear if he was even trying. So why was he there? He says he was trying to "self investigate" an allegation that Bill and Hillary Clinton ran a pedophilia ring out of the restaurant.</p> <p>No, this is not me being smug and elitist again this morning. This is an honest-to-goodness conspiracy theory known as Pizzagate, and it's been making the rounds for a while. Why? Because the owner of Comet Ping Pong is both gay and a longtime supporter of the Democratic Party. <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-38156985" target="_blank">And that's not all!</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It's known, for instance that Bill Clinton and Donald Trump flew on the private plane of convicted child abuser Jeffery Epstein. Tony Podesta, the brother of the Clinton aide whose emails were hacked, was a friend of Dennis Hastert, a Republican politician who earlier this year was sentenced to 15 months in prison, and has admitted abusing boys. The Jimmy Savile scandal in the UK has featured in speculation as an example of a serial child abuser getting away with his crimes.</p> </blockquote> <p>So far this has no connection to Donald Trump, and perhaps you're thinking that's another silver lining, aside from the fact that no one was hurt in the attack. But I'm afraid you'll have to make do with only one silver lining today. You see, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/gen-michael-flynns-descent-madness" target="_blank">Gen. Michael Flynn,</a> who will soon be Donald Trump's National Security Advisor, tweeted this a few days before the election:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">U decide - NYPD Blows Whistle on New Hillary Emails: Money Laundering, Sex Crimes w Children, etc...MUST READ! <a href="https://t.co/O0bVJT3QDr">https://t.co/O0bVJT3QDr</a></p> &mdash; General Flynn (@GenFlynn) <a href="https://twitter.com/GenFlynn/status/794000841518776320">November 3, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>And that's not all. Here is Michael Flynn Jr., who is not just Flynn's son. He is also Flynn's chief of staff and closest aide. Here he is yesterday, <em>after the shooting</em>:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Until <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pizzagate?src=hash">#Pizzagate</a> proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PodestaEmails?src=hash">#PodestaEmails</a> and the many "coincidences" tied to it. <a href="https://t.co/8HA9y30Yfp">https://t.co/8HA9y30Yfp</a></p> &mdash; Michael G Flynn (@mflynnJR) <a href="https://twitter.com/mflynnJR/status/805611056009768960">December 5, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>There's much more in Flynn Jr's Twitter feed following this, all pointing in the same direction: he is a complete crackpot. And he is one of the closest confidantes of his father, who is also a crackpot. And Flynn Sr. is the top national security aide to Donald Trump, who is well known to have a weakness for conspiracy theories already.</p> <p>Obviously Democrats have no influence over Donald Trump's White House. But presumably Republicans do. They need to figure out a way to get Flynn booted from the NSA position and as far away from Trump as possible. This isn't an amusing joke, and it's not just politics anymore. It's a serious national security weakness.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It's hard to keep up these days. In the tweet at the top of this post, Flynn Sr. isn't referring to Pizzagate. He's referring to a <em>different</em> pedophilia allegation involving Hillary Clinton. According to Truepundit.com, it linked "Clinton herself" and her "associates" to money laundering, child exploitation, sex crimes with children, perjury, obstruction of justice, and "other felony crimes."</p> <p>I even wrote about it <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/meet-ret-general-michael-flynn-most-gullible-guy-army" target="_blank">back when it happened.</a> It's been a busy two weeks since then. Sigh.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 17:37:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 320661 at http://www.motherjones.com Swamp Watch - 5 December 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/swamp-watch-5-december-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Donald Trump has <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/05/us/politics/ben-carson-housing-urban-development-trump.html" target="_blank">chosen Ben Carson as his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.</a> Why? He's not remotely qualified for the position and he's publicly (!) stated that he doesn't have the experience to lead a government agency. Still, Carson is black and the U in HUD stands for Urban, and that's probably enough for Trump.</p> <p>Does this sound unbearably smug and elitist? Sure, I'll cop to that. But as near as I can tell, Trump has already picked a Defense Secretary solely on the strength of the fact that his nickname is "Mad Dog," and a UN ambassador because she looks kind of foreign. So it fits.</p> <p>By the way, you'll notice that in my table below I've finally decided to label Mnuchin and Ross as part of the swamp. My original hesitation was because they weren't part of DC politics. Does Wall Street count as part of the swamp? Upon reflection, of course it does. Hell, Mnuchin even comes from Goldman Sachs. If that's not part of the swamp, what is?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_05_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 16:45:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 320646 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump Releases Twitter White Paper on Trade http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/trump-release-twitter-white-paper-trade <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>After hinting around for weeks, president-elect Donald Trump finally released a detailed, <em>7-part (!)</em> tweetstorm about <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/805376548882776064" target="_blank">his plans to reform America's mercantile policy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The U.S. is going to substantialy reduce taxes and regulations on businesses, but any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence, is WRONG! <strong>There will be a tax on our soon to be strong border of 35%</strong> for these companies wanting to sell their product, cars, A.C. units etc., back across the border. This tax will make leaving financially difficult, but these companies are able to move between all 50 states, with no tax or tariff being charged. <strong>Please be forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake!</strong> THE UNITED STATES IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS.</p> <p>Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trade_deficit_china_2007_2016.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so!</p> </blockquote> <p>At the risk of taking Trump literally, rather than seriously, I wonder if he actually thinks he can do this? It's not as if the president is allowed to unilaterally slap a 35 percent tariff on Carrier air conditioners or Ford Fiestas, after all. If Trump invokes the appropriate "national emergency" authority, he could impose a tariff on all air conditioners or all cars. Or he could impose a tariff on all goods from Mexico or all goods from China. But I think that's as far as his authority goes. He can't simply decide to punish one particular company.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>In the case of Mexico, of course, he can't do even this much unless he persuades Congress to exit NAFTA&mdash;and that has a snowball's chance of happening. He could, in theory, impose a 35 percent tariff on, say, telecom equipment made in China, but that would send up howls of protest from American businesses and almost certain retribution from China.</p> <p>So...what's the plan here? The American business community, which would go ballistic over something like this, has been pretty quiet, which suggests they think it's just blather. That's my guess too. But I guess you never know. We overeducated elites like to say that stuff like this is just affinity politics&mdash;aka red meat for the rubes&mdash;but perhaps eventually we'll learn that we should have taken Trump literally after all.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>As far as I know, anyway. But I would certainly appreciate a detailed explainer on this from someone who's truly an expert.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 02:58:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 320631 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump's Taiwan Call Was No Accident http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/trumps-taiwan-call-was-no-accident <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>So&mdash;about that call between Donald Trump and the president of Taiwan. <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/donald-trump-s-call-taiwan-president-was-not-surprised-official-n691466" target="_blank">First we have this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan's leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged,</strong> a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday...."Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait," Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_china_flag.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Huang told NBC News. "Both are in line with Taiwan's national interest."</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-12-03/china-dismisses-unprecedented-trump-tsai-call-as-taiwan-gimmick" target="_blank">And this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The call was planned in advance with knowledge of Trump&rsquo;s transition team</strong> and was the right thing to do, said Stephen Yates, a former U.S. national security official who served under President George W. Bush. Yates denied multiple media reports that he arranged the call, while adding that it doesn&rsquo;t make sense for the U.S. to be &ldquo;stuck&rdquo; in a pattern of acquiescing to China over Taiwan.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently several sources say that Yates was indeed the guy who helped arrange the call, but Yates denies it. You can decide for yourself who to believe. In any case, both sides claim it was done intentionally.</p> <p>Was it a good idea? In Trump's defense, if you're going to do something like this, the only time to do it is right away. That's especially true if you want to use it as leverage. Who knows? Maybe Trump's team is planning to quietly pass along word that Trump is willing to maintain our status quo policy toward Taiwan (i.e., not formally recognizing the Taiwanese government), but only if China commits to doing something serious about North Korea.</p> <p>Or maybe Trump has no bargain in mind at all, and just wants to change US policy toward China. It would be typically Trump to start out with a slap in the face so they know he means business, and then go from there.</p> <p>Is this wise? I sort of doubt it, but I'm hardly an old China hand. And I have to admit that China hasn't gone ballistic, as many people predicted. Their response so far has been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/03/world/asia/taiwan-call-gives-china-a-clue-on-what-to-expect-from-donald-trump.html?hp&amp;action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=a-lede-package-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">distinctly low-key:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>China&rsquo;s first official reaction, from Foreign Minister Wang Yi, was fairly benign &mdash; though it was firm in reiterating the One China policy, under which the United States formally recognized Beijing as China&rsquo;s sole government....A follow-up statement from the Foreign Ministry on Saturday, <strong>noting that the ministry had filed a formal complaint with the United States government,</strong> was similar in tone. It urged &ldquo;relevant parties in the U.S.&rdquo; to &ldquo;deal with the Taiwan issue in a prudent, proper manner.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Whatever you think of all this, I'm pretty sure it was no accident. Whether it's meant just to shake up China; to act as leverage for a future bargain; or as a precursor to a policy change&mdash;well, that's hard to say. But there was something behind it. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 22:36:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 320621 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Can't Fix Offshoring, But He's Got Bigger Problems Anyway http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/donald-trump-cant-fix-offshoring-hes-got-bigger-problems-anyway <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Steven Pearlstein suggests that Donald Trump's deal with Carrier is part of a larger strategy aimed at <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2016/12/02/give-him-credit-trump-carrier-deal-puts-shareholder-obsessed-ceos-on-notice/" target="_blank">changing norms of behavior:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There was a time in America when there was an unwritten pact in the business world &mdash; workers were loyal to their companies and successful companies returned that loyalty....<strong>Then came the 1980s,</strong> and all that began to change as American industry began to falter because of foreign competition....So the social norm changed....<strong>Although the public never much liked the idea of closing plants and shipping jobs overseas, it no longer was socially unacceptable.</strong></p> <p>Now comes Donald Trump &mdash; in the public mind, a successful businessman &mdash; who as the new president, suddenly declares that the new norm is not longer acceptable, and he intends to do whatever he can to shame and punish companies that abandon their workers....<strong>He knows that he and his new commerce secretary will have to engage in a few more bouts of well-publicized arm twisting before the message finally sinks in in the C-Suite. He may even have to make an example of a runaway company by sending in the tax auditors or the OSHA inspectors or cancelling a big government contract</strong>. It won&rsquo;t matter that, two years later, these highly publicized retaliations are thrown out by a federal judge somewhere. Most companies won&rsquo;t want to risk such threats to their &ldquo;brands.&rdquo; They will find a way to conform to the new norm, somewhat comforted by the fact that their American competitors have been forced to do the same.</p> </blockquote> <p>I mostly disagree with this. I think the "norm" Pearlstein is talking about here is actually just ordinary economic reality. During the postwar economic boom, American companies didn't need to offshore jobs, so they didn't. Nor did they need to lay off workers or downsize their companies frequently. America was the most efficient manufacturer around, and there was plenty of money sloshing around for everybody. So why invite trouble?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_growth_per_capita_real_gdp_1947_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>When the postwar boom came to an end, businesses changed. We learned that what we thought had been a permanent new norm, was no such thing. It was just a temporary, three-decade blip. Starting in the 80s, as economic growth leveled off, the business community returned to operating the same way businesses had operated ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.</p> <p>I suspect Pearlstein is right about what Trump is trying to do. He'll engage in some naming and shaming, and on a few occasions he'll try to set an example by going after companies in semi-legal or outright illegal ways. It might even work a little bit, and it will almost certainly work in a PR sense. But more generally, Trump can't keep the tide from coming in any more than any other president. It's not as if the offshoring phenomenon is peculiar to America, after all.</p> <p>The good news, such as it is, revolves around automation. Within a decade or so, most manufacturing work will be so highly automated that it won't matter much where it's made. We're already starting to see signs of this. That will put an end to large-scale offshoring, but unfortunately, it will be even worse for blue-collar workers. We're on the cusp of an era when tens of millions of workers will be put out of jobs by automation, and we'd better figure out what we're going to do about that. But one thing is certain: whatever the answer is, it's not naming and shaming.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 16:35:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 320616 at http://www.motherjones.com Pissed Off About Something You See on the Web? Call Out the Person, Not the Organization. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/pissed-about-something-you-see-web-call-out-person-not-organization <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at <em>National Review</em>, <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/442711/peaceful-group-black-lives-matter-sure-does-love-cop-killers-and-murderous-dictators" target="_blank">David French writes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>For a &lsquo;Peaceful&rsquo; Group, Black Lives Matter Sure Does Love Cop Killers and Murderous Dictators</strong></p> <p>I don&rsquo;t know how I missed it, but this sickening essay from Black Lives Matter has to be read to believed. Entitled &ldquo;Lessons from Fidel: Black Lives Matter and the Transition of El Comandante,&rdquo; it begins....</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not especially trying to pick on French here, but this gives me an excuse to gripe about something that I see too often these days.</p> <p>Let's stipulate that the essay in question is horrible. I don't care one way or the other. What I do care about is that French attributes it to "Black Lives Matter." But that's not the case. It was written by a specific person, not by BLM as some kind of official position statement. It represents them no more than I represent <em>Mother Jones</em>.</p> <p>Still, at least MoJo employs me and has some responsibility for what I write. You can't even say that much about the author of the Castro piece. To the extent that there's an "official" BLM organization, <a href="http://blacklivesmatter.com/" target="_blank">it's here.</a> This is the organization founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza. But pretty much anyone can set up shop under the BLM name, and the essay French links to comes from a Medium site called <a href="https://medium.com/@BlackLivesMatterNetwork/" target="_blank">@BlackLivesMatterNetwork.</a> It has posted a grand total of three pieces in the last two months. I have no idea who wrote them or who the site is associated with.</p> <p>Condemn the piece all you want. But it's not fair to use it to tar "Black Lives Matter." They aren't responsible for everything that's tossed onto the web under the BLM banner.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It turns out that the official BLM site shared the Castro essay on its <a href="https://www.facebook.com/BlackLivesMatter/" target="_blank">Facebook page.</a> So it's fair to call them out for promoting it.</p> <p>My general complaint stands, however. If I write something, it means "Kevin Drum says," not "<em>Mother Jones</em> says." If David French writes something, it means "David French says," not "<em>National Review</em> says." Needless to say, this rule is for personal opinion/analysis pieces. News organizations are corporately responsible for editorial opinions and straight news.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 00:03:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 320611 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Decides to Poke the Chinese Dragon http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/donald-trump-decides-poke-chinese-dragon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>Financial Times</em> reports that Donald Trump spoke on the phone today with Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan. <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/fd19907e-b8d4-11e6-961e-a1acd97f622d" target="_blank">This is a very big deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The telephone call, confirmed by three people, <strong>is believed to be the first between a US president or president-elect and a leader of Taiwan since diplomatic <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_china_dragon_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">relations between the two were cut in 1979.</strong></p> <p>Although it is not clear if the Trump transition team intended the conversation to signal a broader change in US policy towards Taiwan, the call is likely to infuriate Beijing which regards the island as a renegade province. &ldquo;<strong>The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,</strong>&rdquo; said Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House national security council.</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, maybe Trump was just <a href="http://shanghaiist.com/2016/11/18/trump_taiwan_expand.php" target="_blank">calling to ask for a business favor:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The mayor of Taoyuan confirmed rumors on Wednesday that US president-elect Donald Trump was considering constructing a series of luxury hotels and resorts in the northwest Taiwanese city. A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September....Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect's second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Who knows? But foreign policy wonks are blowing a gasket over this, and the question of the hour is: Did Trump set off this diplomatic shitstorm accidentally or deliberately? I have to believe it was deliberate. Even Trump's team isn't so pig-ignorant that they're unaware of our policy toward China and Taiwan.</p> <p>But if that's the case, it means that Trump is dead set on pursuing a hostile policy against China from the get-go. Perhaps, thanks to his decades of steely negotiating victories, he believes the Chinese will eventually back down once they realize they can't mess with him. Perhaps. Welcome to Trumpland.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It's worth noting that Trump has an odd kind of advantage here. For a little while longer, anyway, he can do this kind of stuff just to see what happens&mdash;and then, if it blows up, he can pretend he wasn't up to speed what with all the staffing work etc. etc. Then he calls someone in China and declares that everything is fine, China is a fantastic place, he has nothing but the highest respect for them, blah blah blah.</p> <p>Will this work? I suppose it might. But not for much longer.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 23:17:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 320606 at http://www.motherjones.com Friday Cat Blogging - 2 December 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/friday-cat-blogging-2-december-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I got lucky this week and managed to snap this gorgeous portrait of Hopper. Today, however, everyone is inside. The wind is blowing pretty hard, and it took the cats less than a minute to decide that the backyard was much too scary for them. Leaves blowing! Branches thwacking on the patio cover! Loud whooshing sounds! Much better to snooze inside next to a window, where cruel nature can be seen but not heard.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_12_02.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:56:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 320591 at http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Finally Admits He Wants to Build the DAPL Pipeline http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/donald-trump-finally-admits-he-wants-build-dapl-pipeline <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2016/12/2/13818568/trump-endorses-dakota-access-pipeline" target="_blank">This should surprise no one:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For the first time, <strong>Donald Trump has said he supports finishing construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline</strong>....The company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, had donated $100,000 to a Trump Victory Fund before the election in the hopes that he&rsquo;d greenlight it.</p> <p>....There&rsquo;s also a seedy financial twist here: Last week, disclosure forms suggested that <strong>Trump himself had as much as $300,000 personally invested in the project.</strong> That explains why his transition team had to clarify that Trump&rsquo;s support "has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a win-win-win-win for Trump:</p> <ul><li>It's a project that provides a bunch of blue-collar jobs.</li> <li>He gets to come out against a Native American tribe and its whining about "sacred lands," something that his base of real Americans will surely appreciate.<sup>1</sup></li> <li>A big donor gets what it wants.</li> <li>And Donald gets a little cut of the action for himself.</li> </ul><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_northern_border_pipeline_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">What's not to like? The only surprising thing is that it took Trump this long. I wonder why it didn't become a staple of his campaign speech months ago?</p> <p><em>MoJo</em> has had lots of coverage of this, so I haven't spent too much time on it. But there is one thing I'm curious about. There's already a gas pipeline called the Northern Border Pipeline that crosses the Missouri River at the site of the DAPL project. That's one of the reasons the DAPL folks want to build there, and I assume it also figures into the Army Corps of Engineers' thinking. If they approved the gas pipeline decades ago, what justification do they have for not approving a second pipeline in the same place? I only bring this up because I almost never see it mentioned in coverage of the DAPL protests. But surely this has some impact on what the Corps can do legally?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Please note sarcastic tone here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:43:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 320586 at http://www.motherjones.com Democrats Have a Secret Weapon to Save Obamacare http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/democrats-have-secret-weapon-save-obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Yesterday I teased you about a "secret weapon" that can save Obamacare. Here it is:</p> <ul><li>Pre-existing conditions</li> </ul><p>Obamacare requires insurance companies to insure anyone who wants coverage, no matter what kind of pre-existing conditions they have. It also requires them to sell this coverage at the same price they sell to everyone else. Unless Republicans go nuclear&mdash;by eliminating the filibuster or threatening to fire the Senate parliamentarian&mdash;they can't repeal this without a bunch of Democratic votes. And as long as the pre-existing conditions <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_how_to_save_obamacare.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">ban is in place, repealing Obamacare, with or without a replacement, will wreck the individual insurance market.</p> <p>I mean this literally: Most likely, every insurance company in America would simply exit the market. Something like 7 percent of Americans would flatly have no source of insurance. This is political suicide, and Republicans know it. Hopefully, Democrats know it too.</p> <p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/save-obamacare-donald-trump-repeal-gop" target="_blank">My full story about this is here.</a> I recommend that everyone read it. If Democrats want to save health care reform, this is the hammer that will allow them to do it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 18:11:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 320566 at http://www.motherjones.com Hillary Clinton's Popular Vote Lead Passes 2.5 Million http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/hillary-clintons-popular-vote-lead-passes-25-million <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Just thought I'd mention it. As of today, she leads Donald Trump in the popular vote <a href="http://cookpolitical.com/story/10174" target="_blank">by 2.56 million votes,</a> a margin of 1.89 percent. In the three key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that gave him his victory, Trump's combined lead is less than 80,000 votes. By any measure you can think of, Trump has the narrowest victory of any president in the last century; the smallest mandate; and is by far the least liked.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:53:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 320561 at http://www.motherjones.com Chart of the Day: A Disappointing Jobs Report in October http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/12/disappointing-jobs-october <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The American economy <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.htm" target="_blank">added 178,000 new jobs last month,</a> 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at a modest 88,000 jobs. At first glance this seems OK, but it looks worse when you drill below the surface.</p> <p>The headline unemployment rate spiked down to 4.6 percent, which is very close to a record low for the past 40 years. Unfortunately this is largely because a stunning 446,000 people dropped out of the labor force, not because a huge number of people got jobs. In fact, the labor participation rate went <em>down</em>, from 62.8 percent to 62.7 percent. Given this, it's not surprising that hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees were flat. If the labor market were really tightening, wages would be going up.</p> <p>The general reaction to this jobs report seems to be that it shows "decent, steady growth." I don't agree. That <em>is</em> what the headline unemployment number shows, but this mostly suggests that the headline unemployment number is becoming less and less reliable as a good measure of the jobs picture. This was a disappointing report.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_jobs_october_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 25px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:06:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 320556 at http://www.motherjones.com