Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Media Coverage of the 2016 Election Was Very, Very Negative <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Shorenstein Center has published its <a href="" target="_blank">analysis of 2016 election coverage,</a> and the main takeaway is that it was very, very negative&mdash;but not <em>uniformly</em> negative. For most of the campaign, Donald Trump's coverage was more negative than Hillary Clinton's, but that suddenly turned around&nbsp;after James Comey's letter about Clinton's email was released. In the final two weeks of the campaign, more than a third of Clinton's coverage was devoted to scandals. At the same time, coverage of Trump turned suddenly less negative.</p> <p>The result is that during the crucial closing stretch of the campaign, Clinton's coverage was more negative than Trump's. It's hard to look at this and not conclude that Comey's letter was the key turning point that made Donald Trump president.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shorenstein_2016_presidential_clinton_scandal.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shorenstein_2016_presidential_net_tone.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>There are lots of other interesting tidbits in the Shorenstein report, but this one in particular struck me:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_shorenstein_presidential_positive_coverage_1960_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;"></p> <p>That's an astonishingly straight line. For the past half century, news coverage of presidential campaigns has gotten steadily more negative&mdash;regardless of who's running. This is disturbing. It's easy to believe that the clubby and decorous political coverage of the 50s and 60s deserved to become tougher and more candid. But this doesn't mean that ever more cynical is the right answer. Does it really stand to reason that a full <em>two-thirds</em> of the coverage of the past three elections&mdash;featuring five different candidates&mdash;has been negative? I'm hard pressed to see how.</p> <p>Also, note that 2016 did <em>not</em> generate the most negative coverage of all time. That honor still belongs to 2000. I'm pointing this out as bait for Bob Somerby.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 08 Dec 2016 00:52:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 320961 at Swamp Watch - 7 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We have another cabinet choice: Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt will lead the EPA. Pruitt is pretty much what you'd expect: he's a climate change skeptic and has <a href="" target="_blank">led the charge</a> against pretty much every Obama initiative to protect the environment. And he's from Oklahoma, so it's hardly surprising that he's pretty cozy with the fossil fuel industry.</p> <p>In a controversial decision, the judges here at blog headquarters have named Pruitt the first Trump nominee who's neither part of the swamp nor rich, crazy, or scary. Pruitt is a state official, so he's not part of the DC swamp. And his climate skepticism and hatred of all environmental rules is pretty mainstream for Republicans. That's scary, of course, but the title is reserved for those who are scary far beyond just being folks that liberals don't like.</p> <p>This prompts a question: if you could wave a magic wand and dump either Steve Bannon or Michael Flynn from Trump's staff, which would you choose? I'd choose Flynn.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_07_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 20:07:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 320946 at Donald Trump's Pick To Head The EPA Is "An Existential Threat To The Planet" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump's transition team has announced that the next <a href="" target="_blank">head of the EPA will be Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt</a>. This is very bad news!</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">At the risk of being dramatic. Scott Pruitt at EPA is an existential threat to the planet</p> &mdash; Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) <a href="">December 7, 2016</a></blockquote> <p><script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script>As my colleague Jeremy Shulman <a href="" target="_blank">noted earlier this year</a>, Pruitt has some very dumb views about climate change.:</p> <blockquote> <p>Views on climate change: "The EPA does not possess the authority under the Clean Air Act to accomplish what it proposes in the unlawful Clean Power Plan. The EPA is ignoring the authority granted by Congress to states to regulate power plant emissions at their source. The Clean Power Plan is an unlawful attempt to expand federal bureaucrats' authority over states' energy economies in order to shutter coal-fired power plants and eventually other sources of fossil-fuel generated electricity." [Pruitt press release, 7/1/15]</p> </blockquote> <p>Writing in <em>National Review</em> year, <a href="" target="_blank">Pruitt blathered</a>:</p> <blockquote> <p>Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged &mdash; in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress.</p> </blockquote> <p><em>Think Progress</em> has <a href="" target="_blank">many more reasons why Pruitt at the EPA is a disaster</a>.</p></body></html> Contributor Climate Change Wed, 07 Dec 2016 19:51:43 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 320936 at The North Pole Is In Big Trouble. So Is the South Pole. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>For years, climate deniers have been producing charts that <a href="" target="_blank">use the El Ni&ntilde;o year of 1998 as a starting point.</a> Why? Because it was an unusually hot year, and if you start there it looks like global warming has "paused" for a good long time. Here's a <a href="" target="_blank">colorful example of the genre</a> from the <em>Daily Mail</em> a few years ago:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_daily_mail_plateau.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>These charts are no longer useful to the deniers thanks to the very high temperatures of the past couple of years, so they've gone away. But what will take their place? I was amused to discover the answer a few days ago: <em>2016 doesn't mean anything because it was an El Ni&ntilde;o year.</em></p> <p>Hah! Nobody ever said they didn't have chutzpah. But it got me curious: what does a global temperature chart look like if you pull out just the El Ni&ntilde;o and La Ni&ntilde;a years? That seemed like a lot of work to get right, so I put it aside. Today, however, I found out that someone else had already done it for me. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_climate_change_el_nino_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>This comes from a Weather Channel piece titled <a href="" target="_blank">"Note to Breitbart: Earth Is Not Cooling, Climate Change Is Real and Please Stop Using Our Video to Mislead Americans."</a> The chart itself apparently comes from, but I can't figure out exactly where to link to it. <em>[UPDATE: <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is.</a> It's an animated GIF!]</em> However, it shows the historical data clearly: El Ni&ntilde;o years (in red) are always hot, but have been getting steadily hotter. La Ni&ntilde;a years (in blue) are always cool, but have also been getting steadily hotter. And the years in-between (in black) have been getting steadily hotter too. Long story short, every kind of year has been getting steadily hotter for a long time.</p> <p>And this year is a real champ. Here's the latest <a href="" target="_blank">from the National Snow and Ice Data Center:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_arctic_sea_ice_1978_2016.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_antarctic_sea_ice_1978_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>Both poles are showing massive ice loss compared to trend. We've never seen anything like it. You can draw all the misleading charts you want, but it doesn't change the facts. Climate change is real, and it's getting worse.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 19:07:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 320886 at Is the Military Reluctant to Support the Use of Force? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Retired Gen. Charles Dunlap says we shouldn't be too worried about all the generals that Donald Trump is <a href="" target="_blank">picking for his cabinet:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Many in the civilian world misunderstand the ways most generals see the world....<strong>Retired generals don&rsquo;t clamor for war; they are typically the voices urging that all other avenues be exhausted before turning to force.</strong></p> <p>As chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then-Army Gen. Colin Powell authored a thoughtful but tempered use-of-force doctrine that said America should only go to war with defined objectives and a clear exit strategy. It was designed to persuade civilian policymakers to be extremely cautious about ordering troops into battle. It didn&rsquo;t work, <strong>and true &ldquo;hawks&rdquo; of Powell&rsquo;s tenure often proved to be high-ranking civilian officials with liberal political leanings.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>My sense is that this is true. But that doesn't mean it is, of course. Maybe my sense is wrong. I'd like to hear more about this from both civilian and military folks who have held high-ranking positions in previous administrations. When it comes to the use of force, are ex-generals generally voices of moderation?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 17:53:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 320866 at Swamp Watch - 7 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href=";_r=0" target="_blank">The <em>New York Times</em> reports</a> that Donald Trump plans to name Gen. John Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, as Secretary of Homeland Security. That makes three generals so far in his cabinet: Flynn, Mattis,<sup>1</sup> and Kelly. That's a lot of generals, no? Especially for a guy who <a href="" target="_blank">trashed America's generals</a> during the campaign because "they haven't done the job." I guess he changed his mind.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Who Trump continues to call "Mad Dog" at every possible opportunity.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_07.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:45:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 320861 at Signs of the Times <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">The view from the bottom:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Los Angeles Unified School District has set up a hotline and opened &ldquo;extended support sites&rdquo; to respond to a high level of student anxiety about the election of Donald Trump as president.</p> </blockquote> <p>And the view from the top:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Paul Ryan this morning to CNBC on potential Trump business conflicts-of-interest: "This is not what I'm concerned about in Congress."</p> &mdash; Manu Raju (@mkraju) <a href="">December 7, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:32:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 320856 at Charts of the Day: Income Inequality Doesn't Have to Spiral Out of Control <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Over at Equitable Growth,</a> Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, and Gabriel Zucman provide a look at the latest numbers on income inequality in the United States:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pikkety_growing_inequality.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>The authors comment:</p> <blockquote> <p>For the 117 million U.S. adults in the bottom half of the income distribution, growth has been non-existent for a generation while at the top of the ladder it has been extraordinarily strong....In the bottom half of the distribution, only the income of the elderly is rising....To understand how unequal the United States is today, consider the following fact. <strong>In 1980, adults in the top 1 percent earned on average 27 times more than bottom 50 percent of adults. Today they earn 81 times more.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, that's the modern world for you, right? It's all about skills and education and greater returns to rock stars. There's really not much we can do about&mdash;oh wait. Here's another chart:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pikkety_growing_inequality_france.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 60px;"></p> <p>Huh. Apparently you <em>can</em> run a thriving modern economy that benefits the working class as well as the rich. And note that this is pre-tax income. If social welfare benefits were included, the working class in France would be doing even better compared to the US:</p> <blockquote> <p>The diverging trends in the distribution of pre-tax income across France and the United States&mdash;two advanced economies subject to the same forces of technological progress and globalization&mdash;show that <strong>working-class incomes are not bound to stagnate in Western countries.</strong> In the United States, the stagnation of bottom 50 percent of incomes and the upsurge in the top 1 percent coincided with <strong>drastically reduced progressive taxation, widespread deregulation of industries and services, particularly the financial services industry, weakened unions, and an eroding minimum wage.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>We could do better for the working class and still maintain our economic dynamism if we wanted to. The only thing stopping us is that, apparently, we<sup>1</sup> don't want to.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>For a certain definition of "we," that is.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 16:05:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 320851 at The Trump Era of Crony Capitalism Has Officially Started <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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 terrible after all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 07 Dec 2016 05:36:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 320841 at Hillary Clinton's Popular Vote Lead Is Now Up to 2 Percent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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="" 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 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 What Did Donald Trump Promise the President of Softbank? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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="" 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="" 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 Trump Fires Michael Flynn Jr. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" 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 Insurance Industry OK With Repealing Obamacare As Long As We Don't Actually Repeal Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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="" 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="" 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 A Second Look at Childcare Expenses and the Decline of Working Women <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" 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="" 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 Stop Talking About Air Force One! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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="" 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 What Counts as "Physical Suffering"? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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="" 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="" 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 Republicans Don't Care About Keeping Jobs in America <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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="" 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 Does the Pentagon Really Waste $125 Billion on Pencil Pushers? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Washington Post</em> has a big article up tonight about <a href=";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 Let's Revisit Climate Change and Wildfires in the West <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The #1 most popular article at the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> right now is <a href="" 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="" 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="" 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 Obamacare Repeal Is Doomed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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="" 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="">@kdrum</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Douglas Barricklow (@DeepCoffee) <a href="">December 5, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" 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 Donald Trump Is a Serial, Compulsive Liar <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <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="">November 27, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Donald Trump, in a legal filing five days later, <a href="" 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 Republicans Need to Step Up and get Gen. Michael Flynn Out of the White House <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>You've probably heard that a gunman <a href=";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="" 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="" 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=""></a></p> &mdash; General Flynn (@GenFlynn) <a href="">November 3, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" 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="">#Pizzagate</a> proven to be false, it'll remain a story. The left seems to forget <a href="">#PodestaEmails</a> and the many "coincidences" tied to it. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Michael G Flynn (@mflynnJR) <a href="">December 5, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" 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, 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="" 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 Swamp Watch - 5 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump has <a href="" 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 Trump Releases Twitter White Paper on Trade <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After hinting around for weeks, president-elect Donald Trump finally released a detailed, <em>7-part (!)</em> tweetstorm about <a href="" 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 Trump's Taiwan Call Was No Accident <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So&mdash;about that call between Donald Trump and the president of Taiwan. <a href="" 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="" 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=";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