Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Someone asked me on Twitter if health care premiums had spiked after Obamacare went into effect. That turns out to be a surprisingly hard question to answer. There's loads of data on premiums in the employer market, where premium growth has slowed down slightly post-Obamacare, but not much in the individual market, which is where Obamacare has its biggest impact. However, a pair of researchers at the Brookings Institution rounded up the best evidence for pre-Obamacare premiums and compared it to premiums in 2014-17, when Obamacare was in effect. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_average_individual_premiums_2009_2017_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Premiums <em>dropped</em> in 2014, and are still lower than the trendline from 2009-13. So no, premiums didn't spike under Obamacare.</p> <p>Now, there are lots of caveats here. The pre-Obamacare estimates are tricky to get a firm handle on. What's more, the Obamacare premiums are for the baseline coverage (second-lowest silver plan), while average pre-Obamacare policies might have been more generous in some ways (for example, deductibles and copays).</p> <p>However, most of the pre/post differences suggest that Obamacare policies are better than the old ones. The old plans had an actuarial value of only 60 percent, while Obamacare silver plans have an actuarial value of 70 percent. The old plans were also limited to very healthy individuals. Obamacare plans are open to everyone. Finally, Obamacare plans mandate a set of essential benefits and place limits on out-of-pocket costs. These and other things suggest that premiums <em>should</em> have gone up under Obamacare.</p> <p>But even with all these improvements, premiums still went down, and they haven't caught up yet. Bottom line: Average premiums in the individual market went down after Obamacare took effect, and they're still lower than they would have been without Obamacare.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 04:55:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 331201 at New York Times Updates Its 2015 Hillary Clinton FBI Investigation Story <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In July 2015 the <em>New York Times</em> reported that the Justice Department had opened a "criminal inquiry" into whether "Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information." This was apparently a mistake, and the article was quickly rewritten to say only that DOJ had opened an "investigation" into whether sensitive information had been mishandled "in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state." A few days later the <em>Times'</em> public editor <a href="" target="_blank">wrote a scathing summary of the paper's scoop:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Aspects of it began to unravel soon after it first went online....From Thursday night to Sunday morning&nbsp;&mdash; when a final correction appeared in print&nbsp;&mdash; the inaccuracies and changes in the story were handled as they came along, with little explanation to readers, other than routine corrections....Eventually, a number of corrections were appended to the online story, before appearing in print in the usual way&nbsp;&mdash; in small notices on Page A2. But you can&rsquo;t put stories like this back in the bottle&nbsp;&mdash; they ripple through the entire news system.</p> <p>So it was, to put it mildly, a mess....&ldquo;We got it wrong because our very good sources had it wrong,&rdquo; [editor Matt] Purdy told me. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s an explanation, not an excuse. We have an obligation to get facts right and we work very hard to do that.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>A few days later <a href="" target="_blank">I wrote about this too,</a> suggesting that the <em>Times</em> owed us a better explanation of what happened. This weekend they went some of the way there in an aside buried in their big story about James Comey, co-authored by two of the same reporters who wrote the original piece. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what they say:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>On July 10, 2015, the F.B.I. opened a criminal investigation, code-named &ldquo;Midyear,&rdquo; into Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s handling of classified information....There was controversy almost immediately. Responding to questions from <em>The Times</em>, the Justice Department <strong>confirmed that it had received a criminal referral</strong> &mdash; the first step toward a criminal investigation &mdash; over Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s handling of classified information.</p> <p><strong>But the next morning, the department revised its statement.</strong> &ldquo;The department has received a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information,&rdquo; the new statement read. &ldquo;It is not a criminal referral.&rdquo;</p> <p>At the F.B.I., this was a distinction without a difference: Despite what officials said in public, agents had been alerted to mishandled classified information <strong>and in response, records show, had opened a full criminal investigation.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>If this is correct, it <em>was</em> a criminal investigation, and the <em>Times</em> didn't get it wrong. Rather, the Justice Department put up a smoke screen after news of the investigation had been leaked.</p> <p>The second part of this remains fuzzy. Was the investigation specifically aimed at Hillary Clinton or was it only "in connection with" Hillary Clinton? It's pretty obvious that Clinton was, in fact, the primary target of the investigation, but the FBI also investigated many others in her orbit. So I'm not sure how to score this.</p> <p>Overall, though, despite what I wrote and what the <em>Times</em> itself wrote, it appears that this wasn't an enormous screwup at all. There might have been a minor detail or two that was slightly wrong, but nothing central to the story itself.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 01:55:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 331191 at Obamacare Is Doing Fine Unless Trump Kills It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Congressional Budget Office says that <a href="" target="_blank">Obamacare is in good shape:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Under current law, most subsidized enrollees purchasing health insurance coverage in the nongroup market are largely insulated from increases in premiums because their out-of-pocket payments for premiums are based on a percentage of their income; the government pays the difference. The subsidies to purchase coverage combined with the penalties paid by uninsured people stemming from the individual mandate are <strong>anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by people with low health care expenditures for the market to be stable.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Insurance companies are starting to make money on Obamacare. Nearly 20 million people have health insurance because of Obamacare. Premiums will probably go up next year, but not by a huge amount. And even if they do go up, federal subsidies will shield most people from having to pay any more than this year. Because of all this, CBO believes that Obamacare will stay stable and strong:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_coverage_2013_2021_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>President Trump tweeted the opposite today, saying once again that Obamacare was on the verge of failing. This is a lie, one that he's repeated over and over. Obamacare will fail only if he cuts off its funding.</p> <p>The reason for this post isn't so much to mention that Trump lied again today. The sun also rose in the east, and I didn't write about that. It's to remind everyone&mdash;including me&mdash;to stop writing tweets and blog posts that say something like this:</p> <blockquote> <p>Trump says Obamacare is in a death spiral. He's wrong.</p> </blockquote> <p>When we repeat the lie, we just give it more exposure. The end result is that people vaguely know something about <em>Obamacare</em> and <em>death spiral</em> and <em>controversial</em>, and that's it. They don't really know who's right, they just know that they keep seeing stuff about Obamacare being in trouble.</p> <p>So don't do it. Instead, just write the truth and then mention that Trump has lied about it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 01:11:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 331186 at Trump Planning to Hold Tax Plan Theater on Wednesday <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's all you need to know about <a href="" target="_blank">President Trump's tax plan:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump&rsquo;s aides have been working on a detailed tax proposal, but that isn&rsquo;t ready yet. The announcement on Wednesday is expected to focus instead on broader principles....<strong>Mr. Trump&rsquo;s statement last week that he would announce details of his plan later this week caught his team off guard,</strong> said people familiar with the matter.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, it's all theater. On Wednesday we'll get a vague description of "broader principles" that will include gigantic cuts in the top rates for both individuals and corporations, along with just enough eye candy for the middle class that Trump can pretend it's a tax cut for everyone. It will basically be a campaign document with a few extra tidbits so that Trump can claim to have released his "tax plan" during his first hundred days.</p> <p>The benefit of staying vague, by the way, is that it's impossible to score his plan until every detail is filled in. Still, I expect the usual suspects at the Tax Foundation and the Tax Policy Center will try. So where do you think they'll end up? My guess is that it will cost $4 trillion, of which 95 percent will go to the top 10 percent. Enter your guess in comments. The winner gets the most precious thing I have to offer: a tweet that announces their victorious prediction.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 00:11:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 331181 at How White is "Rural America"? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at Vox, Sean Illing writes about <a href="" target="_blank">how we think of rural America:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The media often conflates rurality and whiteness in this country.</strong> But this is a false &mdash; and misleading &mdash; narrative.</p> <p><strong>Roughly one-fifth of rural residents in this country are people of color, and their interests and political views are as diverse as they are.</strong> When coverage of rural areas dismisses or otherwise ignores this fact, actual political consequences follow: The specific concerns of certain communities simply fall out of view.</p> </blockquote> <p>Illing talks about this with Mara Casey Tieken, a professor at Bates College, who says this:</p> <blockquote> <p>I think policymakers that represent white communities have disproportionately more power than policymakers representing rural communities of color....I think the problem also becomes self-perpetuating because <strong>what gets covered is rural white America,</strong> so that shapes how people think about rural America, and those are the stories that get told over and over again.</p> </blockquote> <p>I want to offer up a guess about one reason why "rural" is so associated with whiteness. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_rural_america_media_3.gif" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>When the media reports on rural America, the stories are usually about Ohio or Missouri or Indiana or Pennsylvania or Nebraska. "Rural" means the Midwest and the Rust Belt. And as you can see on the map, those places really are mostly white.</p> <p>As Tieken says, this becomes self-perpetuating. The Midwest and the Rust Belt are politically interesting, so rural areas there get lots of coverage. That means we largely see rural America as white, and that in turn means that news items about non-white areas usually end up getting coded as something else: In the Deep South they become "race and the lingering effects of slavery" stories, and in the Southwest they become "Hispanic immigration and the changing demographics of America" stories.</p> <p>Does this happen because of implicit bias among reporters and the rest of us? Or because the Midwest and the Rust Belt really are the interesting areas when it comes to politics (big populations, loud voices, plenty of swing voters)? Maybe both.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 22:33:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 331171 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is a composite beanbag photo. It's a <em>beanbag</em> photo because I set the camera on my beanbag (<a href="" target="_blank">see here</a> for explanation), which sat on the concrete ledge of an overpass. This allowed me to aim the camera precisely where I wanted and to keep it nice and stable even with an exposure time of one second. There was no way a tripod could have fit where I needed it to.</p> <p>It's a <em>composite</em> photo because I took a lot of shots from precisely the same spot (thanks to the beanbag). Then I chose the best freeway shot and used Photoshop to lay it on top of the best sunset shot. If you look very closely, you might be able to tell where the two shots merge, but you have to be pretty eagle-eyed.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_sunset_freeway_streaky.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 19:30:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 331121 at How Many People Actually Oppose Obamacare? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's some interesting polling news. However, the interesting part isn't immediately obvious. First up is the <a href=";aRange=twoYear" target="_blank">Kaiser tracking poll</a>, which asks if people have a favorable or unfavorable view of Obamacare:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_2013_2017.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Got it? Now here is today's PPP poll, which asks if people <a href="" target="_blank">support or oppose Obamacare:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ppp_obamacare_2017_04_24.gif" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;" width="500"></p> <p>Kaiser and PPP agree precisely on support for Obamacare: it's at 47 percent. But they produce way different results on opposition: Kaiser has it at 46 percent and PPP has it at 31 percent. The difference is that PPP shows a large number of people who aren't sure.</p> <p>Why? Is this the difference between "view unfavorably" and "oppose"? Or a difference between Kaiser and PPP? It's too big to be a mere statistical blip.</p> <p>The most obvious interpretation is that there are lots of people who have unfavorable views of Obamacare but don't outright oppose it. If that's true, it seems like a pretty obvious opportunity for Democrats.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:45:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 331161 at James Comey Wrap-up: Benghazi and the Press Were to Blame Too <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Many of you only read this blog on weekdays. That's OK. I understand that my random musings may be better than filling out yet another TPS report but not as good as doing actual fun stuff. However, sometimes this means you miss some good posts.</p> <p>For example: James Comey. On Saturday, in a very long post, I made the case that Comey was the decisive factor in Hillary Clinton's loss, not Clinton herself or her campign. <a href="" target="_blank">You should read it!</a> And <a href="" target="_blank">this too.</a></p> <p>Right after I wrote that, the <em>New York Times</em> published a detailed story about why Comey did what he did. My take on the <em>Times</em> piece was simple: "At every step of the way, Comey demonstrated either his fear of crossing Republicans or his concern over protecting his own reputation from Republican attack." <a href="" target="_blank">You should read this too!</a></p> <p>Today, to wrap things up, I want to highlight a couple of additional points. Several people suggested that although Comey screwed up, I should have also mentioned the role the press played in this. I don't want to relitigate the entire campaign, but Nate Silver makes a pithy point about how the press handled the Comey letter:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">These were the lead news stories (per <a href="">@memeorandum</a>) over the final 19 days of last year's campaign. Anything stand out? <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) <a href="">April 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From the time Comey's letter went public to the time he (once again) exonerated Hillary Clinton, Clinton's emails were the top news story in 12 out of 14 news cycles <em>even though there was zero evidence that the emails were either new or incriminating or interesting in any way.</em> Even after years of being taken for a ride on this stuff, the press just couldn't get enough. All you had to do was breathe something about new emails and they went nuts.</p> <p>Second, Mike Tomasky makes a point about Comey that I only touched on because my posts were already so long. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Fear of political fallout seems to have motivated almost everything he did. Kevin Drum made this point over the weekend. But Drum didn&rsquo;t emphasize what is to me the most telling thing, <strong>which is that there is one group Comey appears not to have feared at all: Democrats.</strong></p> <p>....The <em>Times</em> talked to 30 people, <strong>and apparently the idea that Comey may have feared how the Democrats would react to any action of his just wasn&rsquo;t brought up. Amazing.</strong> Remember what the guy did: He excoriated Clinton&rsquo;s ethics; he announced a reopening of an investigation 11 days before the election with no evidence that there was any reason to think Anthony Weiner&rsquo;s laptop would revealing a smoking gun (it did not, as Comey subsequently announced); and finally, he kept from the public the fact that his bureau was also investigating the other presidential candidate.</p> <p>And through it all, he was worried about what Republicans would do to him, <strong>but apparently never concerned about how Democrats would react to anything he did.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I've spent a lot of time over the past few years mocking the Republican Benghazi obsession, but this is where it paid off. After four years of this stuff, <em>of course</em> Comey was afraid he'd be the target of endless hearings if Clinton won and it later turned out there was something in the emails. But if Trump won and there was nothing in the emails? People like me would write some critical blog posts. Democrats here and there would mutter about Comey interfering in the election. But that would be it. Republicans had a well-developed reputation as ravening pit bulls. Democrats had a well-developed reputation as occasionally irritable poodles. Everybody wrings their hands over this, but it worked out pretty well for Republicans, didn't it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 17:34:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 331156 at The Kinder, Gentler National Front Has Made Only a Small Gain This Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I don't really have any point to make about this, but I was curious about how Marine Le Pen's National Front has done over the past few decades in elections for president of France. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_national_front_first_round_voting_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Since taking over the National Front, Marine Le Pen's strategy has been to sell a softer, less overtly racist version of the party her father founded. This, combined with the nationalist fervor supposedly taking over Europe, has produced a result 4.5 percentage points higher than her lunatic dad received in 1997 and 3.5 points higher than Marine herself received in 2012.</p> <p>Is that a lot? A little? I'm not sure. It doesn't seem like a huge swing to me, and it's a sharp drop from the vote share the party received in recent elections for regional councils and the European Parliament. I don't know enough about French politics to venture an opinion, but it doesn't seem like strong evidence in favor of a big European swing to the nationalist right.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:15:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 331151 at A Conservative Muses About the Past <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Conservative writer Jay Nordlinger <a href="" target="_blank">engages in some nostalgia today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Remember when we knocked President Obama for spending so much time on the golf course? Not all of us did, but many of us did. Donald Trump, for example, was unrelenting in his criticism.</p> <p>You don&rsquo;t hear that anymore. Conservatives don&rsquo;t knock the president for spending so much time on the golf course.</p> <p>....Remember how we counted up the times Obama said &ldquo;I&rdquo; and &ldquo;me&rdquo; in a speech? That was fun. It was kind of a conservative pastime. We don&rsquo;t do that anymore.</p> <p>....I was looking at Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent, and Kid Rock in the White House. What a trio! Striking poses in front of Hillary&rsquo;s portrait and so on. I flashed back to the Clinton &rsquo;90s.</p> <p>Two showbiz women, Markie Post and Linda Thomason, were jumping on the bed in the Lincoln Bedroom. A photo circulated. <em>Man</em>, did we hate it. You have no idea what a big deal this was (to us)!</p> </blockquote> <p>Good times.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:15:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 331141 at Quote of the Day: I Only Said NATO Was Obsolete Because I Didn't Know Anything About NATO <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Donald Trump,</a> explaining why he said NATO was obsolete during the campaign:</p> <blockquote> <p>I was on Wolf Blitzer, very fair interview, the first time I was ever asked about NATO, because I wasn't in government. People don't go around asking about NATO if I'm building a building in Manhattan, right? So they asked me, Wolf ... asked me about NATO, and I said two things. NATO's obsolete &mdash; <strong>not knowing much about NATO, now I know a lot about NATO</strong> &mdash; NATO is obsolete, and I said, "And the reason it's obsolete is because of the fact they don't focus on terrorism."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is not the first time Trump has said something like this. I wonder if he even realizes that it sounds bad when he admits he was just blathering during the campaign because he didn't know what he was talking about?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 00:14:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 331126 at Kevin's Photography Tip O' the Day <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's something very simple that I find pretty useful during my photo outings: a small beanbag. When not in use, it sits at the bottom of your camera bag and gives the camera a little extra cushion. In use, you just set your camera down on it. If the surface is rocky, it helps to stabilize the camera. If the surface is flat but not level, you can smoosh it around until the camera is pointed in the right direction.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_camera_beanbag.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>The beanbag is nice if you don't have a tripod on hand, or if you need to put the camera down in a small place where a tripod won't work. Once it's set, you can pretty easily take nice, sharp photos even with long shutter times. I'll post an example tomorrow.</p> <p><em>My</em> beanbag was custom made for me, so you can't have it. But I assume they're fairly easy to find or make. A beanbag filled with little beads of silly putty or something similar might be even better, but I don't where you could find something like that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 23 Apr 2017 21:11:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 331116 at How Bad Was Hillary Clinton's Campaign? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of hours ago I tweeted this:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Here is my shocking opinion about the 2016 race: Hillary Clinton ran an average campaign. I appear to be the only human being who thinks so.</p> &mdash; Kevin Drum (@kdrum) <a href="">April 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p><em>Shattered</em> tells us in loving detail about every mistake the Clinton campaign made, but every losing campaign gets that treatment. Her campaign also did a lot of things right. My horseback guess is that when you put it all together, she was about average as a candidate and her campaign was about average as a campaign.</p> <p>But that got me curious: how <em>do</em> Clinton and her campaign compare to past elections? There's no way to measure this directly, but you can get an idea by comparing actual election outcomes to the predictions of a good fundamental model. So I hauled out <a href="" target="_blank">Alan Abramowitz's model,</a> which has a good track record, and looked at how winning candidates performed compared to the baseline of what the model predicted for them. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_abramowitz_model_hillary_clinton.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>According to this, Hillary Clinton did way better than any winning candidate of the past three decades, outperforming her baseline by 2.4 percent. Without the Comey effect, she would have outperformed her baseline by a truly epic amount.</p> <p>Now, was this because she ran a good campaign, or because she had an unusually bad opponent? There's no way to tell, of course. Donald Trump was certainly a bad candidate, but then again, no one thinks that Dole or Gore or Kerry or McCain were terrific candidates either.</p> <p>Bottom line: we don't have any way of knowing for sure, and this is an inherently subjective question. But the evidence of the Abramowitz model certainly doesn't suggest that Hillary Clinton ran an unusually poor campaign or that she was an unusually poor candidate. Maybe she was, but aside from cherry-picked anecdotes and free-floating Hillary animus, there's not really a lot to support this view.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 23 Apr 2017 20:41:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 331111 at French Election Will Be Between Macron and Le Pen <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I suppose this isn't a big surprise, but it sure is discouraging&mdash;especially after Donald Trump's disgusting "I'm not <em>endorsing</em> Le Pen, mind you, but she sure is great!" twaddle. The only good news is that Macron is a decent candidate and will almost certainly crush Marine "I promise we're not racists anymore" Le Pen.</p> <p>Of course, that's what we thought about Hillary Clinton too, so....</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">It's a Macron-Le Pen runoff -- French TV announces. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Taniel (@Taniel) <a href="">April 23, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 23 Apr 2017 18:20:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 331106 at James Comey Wasn't a Partisan Hack. He Was Worse. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>By coincidence, right after my Comey post <a href="" target="_blank">yesterday morning</a> the <em>New York Times</em> published a <a href="" target="_blank">long tick-tock about how and why Comey did what he did.</a> It doesn't address the question of whether Comey tipped the election, it just provides an insider account of what was going through Comey's head as he made decisions during campaign season.</p> <p>It makes for depressing reading. The reporters conclude pretty strongly that Comey wasn't driven by any conscious partisan motives. But even if that's true, there were pretty clearly partisan and personal influences at work. Apologies in advance for the length of this post, but putting all six of the following excerpts together in a single narrative is the only way to show what really happened. The story begins two years ago when the FBI opened its probe into Hillary Clinton's emails:</p> <blockquote> <p>On July 10, 2015, the F.B.I. opened a criminal investigation, code-named &ldquo;Midyear,&rdquo; into Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s handling of classified information....Everyone agreed that Mr. Comey should not reveal details about the Clinton investigation. But [attorney general Loretta Lynch] told him to be even more circumspect: Do not even call it an investigation, she said, according to three people who attended the meeting. Call it a &ldquo;matter.&rdquo;</p> <p>....<strong>It was a by-the-book decision. But Mr. Comey and other F.B.I. officials regarded it as disingenuous in an investigation that was so widely known.</strong> And Mr. Comey was concerned that a Democratic attorney general was asking him to be misleading and line up his talking points with Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s campaign, according to people who spoke with him afterward.</p> </blockquote> <p>This seems to have been the starting point. Even when Justice Department officials were making straightforward, "by-the-book" decisions, Comey was paranoid that they were acting to protect a Democrat&mdash;something that obviously might invite Republican attack if he went along. This belief continued to grow, and led to much of what happened later, when the investigation was wrapping up:</p> <blockquote> <p>Early last year, F.B.I. agents received a batch of hacked documents, and one caught their attention. The document, which has been described as both a memo and an email, was written by a Democratic operative <strong>who expressed confidence that Ms. Lynch would keep the Clinton investigation from going too far, according to several former officials familiar with the document.</strong></p> <p>Read one way, it was standard Washington political chatter. Read another way, it suggested that a political operative might have insight into Ms. Lynch&rsquo;s thinking.</p> <p>Normally, when the F.B.I. recommends closing a case, the Justice Department agrees and nobody says anything....The document complicated that calculation, according to officials. <strong>If Ms. Lynch announced that the case was closed, and Russia leaked the document, Mr. Comey believed it would raise doubts about the independence of the investigation.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This email wasn't related to Lynch or her office in any way. It was just gossip from a third party. But instead of ignoring it, Comey worried that it might leak and hurt his own reputation. This also motivated his decision, when the investigation was over, to hold an unusual press conference which damaged Clinton seriously even though he cleared her of wrongdoing:</p> <blockquote> <p>Standing in front of two American flags and two royal-blue F.B.I. flags, he read from a script....&ldquo;Any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton&rsquo;s position&rdquo; should have known better, Mr. Comey said. He called her &ldquo;extremely careless.&rdquo; <strong>The criticism was so blistering that it sounded as if he were recommending criminal charges.</strong> Only in the final two minutes did Mr. Comey say that &ldquo;no charges are appropriate in this case.&rdquo;</p> <p>....By scolding Mrs. Clinton, <strong>Mr. Comey was speaking not only to voters but to his own agents.</strong> While they agreed that Mrs. Clinton should not face charges, many viewed her conduct as inexcusable. Mr. Comey&rsquo;s remarks made clear that the F.B.I. did not approve.</p> <p>Former agents and others close to Mr. Comey acknowledge that his reproach was also <strong>intended to insulate the F.B.I. from Republican criticism that it was too lenient toward a Democrat.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Again, Comey had failed to play it straight. Even though the decision to exonerate Clinton "was not even a close call," as he later said, he tore into Clinton in order to protect himself from criticism&mdash;both from Republicans and from his own agents. This is especially damning given the subsequent evidence that <a href="" target="_blank">Comey's criticism of Clinton</a> was <a href="" target="_blank">wildly overstated.</a> The same dynamic played out in reverse a couple of months later over the FBI investigation into Donald Trump and Russian interference in the election:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Comey and other senior administration officials met twice in the White House Situation Room in early October to again discuss a public statement about Russian meddling....<strong>At their second meeting, Mr. Comey argued that it would look too political for the F.B.I. to comment so close to the election,</strong> according to several people in attendance. Officials in the room felt whiplashed. Two months earlier, Mr. Comey had been willing to put his name on a newspaper article; <strong>now he was refusing to sign on to an official assessment of the intelligence community.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>And it played out yet again in September, when agents discovered some Clinton emails on Anthony Weiner's laptop. Michael Steinbach, a former FBI agent who worked closely with Comey, explained what went through Comey's mind:</p> <blockquote> <p>Agents felt they had two options: Tell Congress about the search, which everyone acknowledged would create a political furor, or keep it quiet, <strong>which followed policy and tradition but carried its own risk, especially if the F.B.I. found new evidence in the emails.</strong></p> <p>....Conservative news outlets had already branded Mr. Comey a Clinton toady. That same week, the cover of <em>National Review</em> featured a story on &ldquo;James Comey&rsquo;s Dereliction,&rdquo; and a cartoon of a hapless Mr. Comey shrugging as Mrs. Clinton smashed her laptop with a sledgehammer.</p> <p>Congressional Republicans were preparing for years of hearings during a Clinton presidency. <strong>If Mr. Comey became the subject of those hearings, F.B.I. officials feared, it would hobble the agency and harm its reputation.</strong> &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think the organization would have survived that,&rdquo; Mr. Steinbach said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Once again, the primary concern was protecting Comey and the FBI. Republicans had made it clear that their retribution against anyone who helped Clinton would be relentless, and that clearly had an impact on Comey. Steinbach's suggestion that Republican vengeance would have destroyed the FBI is clearly nuts, but Comey was taking no chances. He didn't want the grief.</p> <p>Even after it was all over, Comey's partisan influences continued to work on him:</p> <blockquote> <p>Officials and others close to him also acknowledge that Mr. Comey has been changed by the tumultuous year.</p> <p>Early on Saturday, March 4, the president accused Mr. Obama on Twitter of illegally wiretapping Trump Tower in Manhattan. <strong>Mr. Comey believed the government should forcefully denounce that claim.</strong> But this time he took a different approach. He asked the Justice Department to correct the record. <strong>When officials there refused, Mr. Comey followed orders and said nothing publicly.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Daniel Richman, a longtime friend of Comey&rsquo;s, said this represented "a consistent pattern of someone trying to act with independence and integrity, but within established channels."</p> <p>The evidence does indeed show consistent behavior, but of a different kind. At every step of the way, Comey demonstrated either his fear of crossing Republicans or his concern over protecting his own reputation from Republican attack. It was the perfect intersection of a Republican Party that had developed a reputation for conducting relentlessly vicious smear campaigns and a Republican FBI director who didn't have the fortitude to stand up to it. Comey may genuinely believe that his decisions along the way were nonpartisan, but the evidence pretty strongly suggests otherwise.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 23 Apr 2017 10:15:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 331101 at Let's Talk About Bubbles and James Comey <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I have frequently made the case that Donald Trump is president because of FBI director James Comey. On October 28, Comey wrote a letter to Congress telling them that the FBI was investigating a new cache of Clinton emails that it found on the laptop of Huma Abedin's estranged husband, Anthony Weiner. That was the turning point. Clinton's electoral fortunes went downhill from there and never recovered.</p> <p>As shocking as this may sound, not everyone agrees with me. A new book, <em>Shattered</em>, makes the case that Clinton was an epically bad candidate and her campaign was epically badly run. <em>That's</em> why she lost. Yesterday, Shadi Hamid took aim at me for my continued Comey obsession in the face of the story told in <em>Shattered</em>:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Sad to watch smart, liberal writers, like <a href="">@kdrum</a>, refuse to engage in introspection, instead blaming HRC's loss on Comey, Russia, squirrels</p> &mdash; Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) <a href="">April 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I'm citing <a href="">@kdrum</a> b/c I loved his blog. But then he descended into self-parody. His position&mdash;no hyperbole&mdash;is that it's all b/c of Comey <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) <a href="">April 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Let's talk. There's a reason I blame Comey, and it's not because I live in a bubble. It's because a massive amount of evidence points that way. Today I want to put the whole case in one l-o-o-o-o-ng post so everyone understands why I think Comey was the deciding factor in the election. If you still disagree, that's fine, but this is the evidence you need to argue with.</p> <p><em><strong>NOTE:</strong> I want to make clear that I'm talking solely about Hillary Clinton and the presidency here. Democrats have been badly pummeled at the state level over the past six years, and that obviously has nothing to do with Comey. It's something that Democrats need to do some soul searching about. </em></p> <p>Ready? Let's start with some throat-clearing.</p> <p>First: Keep in mind that Clinton was running for a third Democratic term during a period when (a) the economy was OK but not great and (b) Barack Obama's popularity was OK but not great. Models based on fundamentals therefore rated the election as <a href="" target="_blank">something of a tossup.</a> Clinton was not running as a sure winner.</p> <p>Second: For the sake of argument, let's assume that Hillary Clinton was an epically bad, unpopular candidate who ran a terrible campaign. She foolishly used a private email server while she was Secretary of State. She gave millions of dollars in speeches after leaving the State Department. She was a boring speaker with a mushy agenda. She was a hawkish Wall Street shill who failed to appeal to millennials. She lost the support of the white working class. Her campaign was a cespool of ego, power-mongering, and bad strategy. Let's just assume all that.</p> <p>If this is true, it was true for the entire year. Maybe longer. And yet, despite this epic horribleness, Clinton held a solid, steady lead over Trump the entire time. The only exception was a brief dip in July when Comey held his first presser to call Clinton "extremely careless" in her handling of emails. Whatever else you can say about Hillary Clinton, everyone knew about her speeches and her emails and her centrism and everything else all along. And yet, the public still preferred her by a steady 3-7 percentage points over Trump for the entire year.</p> <p>Third: Every campaign has problems. If you win, they get swept under the rug. If you lose, bitter staffers bend the ears of anyone who will listen about the campaign's unprecedented dysfunction and poor strategy. This is all normal. Both the Clinton and Trump campaigns had all the usual problems, and in a close election you can blame any of them for a loss. But two things set the Comey letter apart. First, it had a big effect right at the end of the race. Second, it was decidedly <em>not</em> a normal thing. It came out of the blue for no good reason from the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. There is nothing Clinton could have done about it.</p> <p>With that out of the way, let's take a look at the Clinton campaign. All of the poll estimates look similar, but I'm going to use <a href="" target="_blank">Sam Wang's EV estimator</a> because it gives a pretty sharp day-to-day look at the race. (Wang's final estimate was wrong, of course, like pretty much everyone else's, but don't worry about that. What we're interested in is the ups and downs.) First off, here are his daily estimates through the end of August:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wang_clinton_campaign_may_august.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>With the brief exception of the July Comey presser, the race was amazingly stable. During the entire year, Clinton has a formidable lead that translates into 330-340 electoral votes. Now let's pick up the story in September:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wang_2016_race_september_november_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>At the beginning of September, Clinton slumps following her "deplorables" comment and her stumble at the 9/11 memorial. After Trump's shockingly bad performance at the first debate she starts to regain ground, and continues to gain ground when the <em>Access Hollywood</em> tape is released. By the end of October she's back to where she started, with a big lead over Trump. THIS IS IMPORTANT: despite everything &mdash; weak fundamentals, the "deplorables" comment, her personal unpopularity, her mushy centrism, her allegedly terrible campaign &mdash; by the end of October she's well ahead of Trump, just as she had been all year. It's clear that 330-340 electoral votes is her baseline level of support.</p> <p>On October 25, HHS announces that Obamacare premiums will go up substantially in the following year. This doesn't appear to have any effect. Then, on October 28, Comey releases his letter. Clinton's support plummets immediately, and there's no time for it to recover. On November 8, Trump is elected president.</p> <p>But <em>how much</em> did Comey's letter cost Clinton? Let's review the voluminous evidence:</p> <ul><li>Nate Silver estimates the Comey letter <a href="" target="_blank">cost Clinton about 3 points.</a></li> <li>A panel survey from the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics suggests the Comey letter produced a <a href="" target="_blank">net swing of 4 points toward Trump.</a></li> <li>Sam Wang estimates the Comey letter <a href="" target="_blank">cost Clinton 4 points,</a> though she may have made back some of that in the final days.</li> <li>Engagement Labs tracks "what people are talking about." Immediately after the Comey letter, they registered a <a href="" target="_blank">17-point drop in favorable sentiment</a> toward Clinton.</li> <li>Google searches for "Hillary's email" <a href="" target="_blank">spiked 300 percent</a> after Comey's letter.</li> <li>The tone of news coverage <a href="" target="_blank">flipped enormously against Clinton</a> after the Comey letter.</li> <li>A trio of researchers who looked at the evidence concluded that Comey's letter was decisive, probably <a href="" target="_blank">costing Clinton 3-4 points in the popular vote.</a></li> <li>Trump's own analysts <a href="" target="_blank">think the Comey letter was decisive.</a></li> <li>The Clinton campaign agrees that <a href="" target="_blank">the Comey letter was decisive,</a> and adds that Comey's second letter hurt her too.<sup>1</sup></li> </ul><p>I'm not sure how much clearer the evidence could be. Basically, Hillary Clinton was doing fine until October 28. Then the Comey letter cost her 2-4 percent of the popular vote. Without Comey she would have won comfortably&nbsp;&mdash; possibly by a landslide &mdash; even though the fundamentals predicted a close race.</p> <p>That's it. That's the evidence. If you disagree that Comey was decisive, you need to account for two things. First, if the problem was something intrinsic to Clinton or her campaign, why was she so far ahead of Trump for the entire race? Second, if Comey wasn't at fault, what plausibly accounts for Clinton's huge and sudden change in fortune starting precisely on October 28?</p> <p>One way or another, it appears that all the things that were under Hillary Clinton's control were handled fairly well. They produced a steady lead throughout the campaign. The Comey letter exists on an entirely different plane. It was an unprecedented breach of protocol from the FBI; it was completely out of Clinton's control; and it had a tremendous impact. <em>That's</em> why I blame James Comey for Donald Trump's victory.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I've added a chart showing Clinton's level of support from May through August.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The second letter was the one that cleared her. However, <a href="" target="_blank">merely by keeping the subject in the news,</a> it hurt Clinton.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 22 Apr 2017 19:19:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 331096 at Friday Cat Blogging - 21 April 2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hopper is not asleep in this photo. She was smooching her cheek on an outdoor table and momentarily closed her eyes in a fit of pure feline bliss. We should all consider ourselves lucky if just once in our lives we feel the happiness Hopper is feeling in this moment.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2017_04_21.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Apr 2017 19:00:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 331071 at Famous Berkeley Economist Says We're Not In a Housing Bubble <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Are we in a second housing bubble, as <a href="" target="_blank">I suggested</a> in a chart I posted a couple of days ago? <a href="" target="_blank">Brad DeLong has an optimistic take:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There were three good reasons in the mid-2000s to believe that housing prices should jump substantially....How much were these worth? Not enough to boost housing prices to their 2005 values. But plausibly enough to boost housing prices to their values today. IMHO, the best way to view the graph is as a positive "displacement" boom caused by true fundamentals, a bubble upward overshoot, a crash downward undershoot, and now (we hope) equilibrium.</p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe! Check back in a couple of years and I'll tell you who's right.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:35:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 331086 at Trump and the Hostage Takers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This happened on April 3rd:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">It was an honor to welcome President Al Sisi of Egypt to the <a href="">@WhiteHouse</a> as we renew the historic partnership between the U.S. and Egypt. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">April 3, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>This happened <a href="" target="_blank">two weeks later:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>After three years in detention, the Egyptian-American aid worker Aya Hijazi was cleared of child abuse and human trafficking charges in Cairo on Sunday, abruptly ending a high-profile case that had become an international symbol of Egypt&rsquo;s harsh crackdown on aid groups.</p> </blockquote> <p>Coincidence? I think not. Trump made a deal: he'd praise al-Sisi and host him in the White House in return for the release of a prisoner. This is what happens when foreign governments know that the president is a weak leader who can be humiliated without consequence.</p> <p>Do I believe this? Nah&mdash;though I imagine that al-Sisi did in fact make this happen as a gesture of goodwill. But where are all the right-wingers who insisted for eight years that stuff like this was clear evidence of Obama caving in to hostage-takers? I assume you all feel the same way about Trump. Don't you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:25:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 331081 at A New Study Confirms What You've Long Suspected: Facebook Is Making People Crazy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Matt Yglesias says Mark Zuckerberg could do the world a favor by deep-sixing Facebook:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">It makes people unhappy and it's destabilizing politics around the world. He should shut it down. He won't starve.</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="">April 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>He bases his call to action on <a href="" target="_blank">research like this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Overall, our results showed that, while real-world social networks were positively associated with overall well-being, the use of Facebook was negatively associated with overall well-being. These results were particularly strong for mental health; <strong>most measures of Facebook use in one year predicted a decrease in mental health in a later year.</strong> We found consistently that both liking others&rsquo; content and clicking links significantly predicted a subsequent reduction in self-reported physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction.</p> </blockquote> <p>This particular study is prospective and longitudinal: it begins with a group of people and follows them for a couple of years. The benefit of this is that you get more than a mere association. If all you had was a set of data showing that (a) Facebook use is (b) correlated with poor mental health, you'd have no way of knowing if A causes B or B causes A.</p> <p>This longitudinal data still doesn't answer the question conclusively. It could be that as people become depressed, they spend more time on Facebook. In fact, maybe without Facebook they would have gotten even more depressed. Who knows? You'd almost literally need to track day-by-day mental health and Facebook use to find out.</p> <p>But I'm totally willing to believe that Facebook is evil even without hard evidence. The casually brutal insults almost certainly outweigh the praise for a lot of people. It instills a sense of always needing to keep up with things every minute of the day. It interferes with real-life relationships. It takes time away from more concentrated activities that are probably more rewarding in the long run.</p> <p>This doesn't apply to all Facebook users. In fact, I'd guess that it applies to only 10-15 percent of them. But that's enough.</p> <p>It doesn't matter, of course. Mark Zuckerberg surely disagrees, and anyway, he couldn't shut down Facebook even if he wanted to. He may nominally control the company, but shareholders still have rights. Preventing the CEO from blowing up the company because he's feeling guilty about something is certainly one of them.</p> <p>On the other hand, perhaps we could at least set an age limit for Facebook. If you aren't allowed to drink before age 21, surely you shouldn't be allowed to use social media either. I'd bet the latter is more dangerous than the former.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:55:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 331076 at Donald Trump Is Worried About His First Hundred Days <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I love this tweet:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">No matter how much I accomplish during the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days, &amp; it has been a lot (including S.C.), media will kill!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">April 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Trump, of course, has accomplished virtually nothing so far. He's issued a few executive orders that are mostly small beer, and signed a few bills that rescinded some of Obama's executive orders. That's it. His health care bill was a fiasco. He hasn't gotten funding for his wall. His immigration order crashed and burned. He has no tax plan. He has no plan to destroy ISIS.</p> <p>But there's a silver lining here. As always, today's tweet should be read as an alert aimed at his base. He's telling them that in a few days they'll see a lot of stories saying he's accomplished nothing. In fact, less than nothing, since the government might well be headed for a shutdown by the end of next week. But it's all lies! Clearly he's concerned about this.</p> <p>That <em>should</em> give Democrats an opening. Try to strike a budget deal before next week's deadline. Agree to support some money for Trump's wall in return for making Obamacare's CSR appropriation automatic.<sup>1</sup> This would be good for Trump in two ways. First, he gets to say that he's started building the wall. Second, Obamacare doesn't collapse on his watch, and agreeing to the CSR appropriation doesn't do anything to stop him from trying to repeal and replace Obamacare later. It just ensures that it will work in the meantime.</p> <p>In return, Democrats don't really get anything. Agreeing to funding for the wall is unpopular with their base, and CSR funding is something that only a few wonks care about. Keeping the CSR money flowing would help insurance companies and it would help actual people, but politically it does nothing much for Democrats.</p> <p>It's kind of funny, isn't it? I assume Trump is unwilling to make this deal. I don't know why, since it seems almost entirely favorable to him. But he won't do it. Maybe Democrats wouldn't do it either. Is the art of the deal really that dead in Congress these days?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>CSR stands for Cost Sharing and Reduction. It's money paid to insurance companies to reduce deductibles and copays for low-income families. It's been the subject of a long-running court fight, and insurers are justifiably worried about whether they're going to receive the money they've been promised.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_100_days_nope.gif" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 60px;" width="500"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Apr 2017 16:06:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 331066 at Gerrymandering Is Headed Back to the Supreme Court <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>New York Times</em> reports that gerrymandering is <a href="" target="_blank">headed to the Supreme Court again:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A bipartisan group of voting rights advocates says the lower house of the Wisconsin Legislature, the State Assembly, was gerrymandered by its Republican majority before the 2012 election &mdash; so artfully, in fact, that <strong>Democrats won a third fewer Assembly seats than Republicans despite prevailing in the popular vote.</strong> In November, in a 2-to-1 ruling, a panel of federal judges agreed.</p> <p>....In Supreme Court cases in 1986, 2004 and 2006, justices variously called partisan gerrymanders illegitimate, seriously harmful, incompatible with democratic principles and &ldquo;manipulation of the electorate.&rdquo; But they have never struck one down....One participant in the 2004 decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, may prove the fulcrum in the court&rsquo;s deliberations....<strong>&ldquo;The ordered working of our Republic, and of the democratic process, depends on a sense of decorum and restraint in all branches of government, and in the citizenry itself,&rdquo;</strong> he wrote then.</p> <p>At a time of soaring concern over hyperpartisanship, those words could resonate. That sentence &ldquo;is the most important line&rdquo; in the court&rsquo;s decision, said Edward B. Foley, director of the Election Law Project at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. <strong>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s going to look at what&rsquo;s going on in North Carolina as the complete absence of that. I think that helps the plaintiffs in any of these cases.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Today's gerrymandering is not your grandfather's gerrymandering. It's a practice that's been around for a long time, but back when it depended on humans it was necessarily limited. There were a few legislative geniuses who could wreak real havoc, and anyone could gerrymander well enough to gain a seat or two. But computers have changed the game fundamentally. Every legislature is now a supergenius at gerrymandering, which is why estimates of the number of congressional seats attributable to gerrymandering have been going up for years.</p> <p>There's a point, I think, where the Supreme Court has to recognize that quantitative changes over time have finally produced a qualitative change. Modern gerrymandering is just too good. The silver lining here is that if computers can revolutionize gerrymandering, they also hold out hope of revolutionizing the detection of gerrymandering. You can no longer say that there's no possible standard for ruling that a particular district map is unconstitutional. In fact, there are several plausible candidates. Hopefully the court will finally recognize this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Apr 2017 14:42:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 331051 at Trump's Tax Cut Plan Will... Pay... For... Itself! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Back during <a href="" target="_blank">Steve Mnuchin's confirmation hearings</a> for Treasury Secretary, he said he was surprised that IRS staffing had gone down. This just reduces the number of audits they can perform, and therefore the amount of tax revenue they collect from high earners. Just think about it. If you increased hiring, it would pay for itself!</p> <p>It was tr&egrave;s adorbs. But Mnuchin is a quick learner, and he never brought <em>that</em> subject up again. Instead, he's now talking about a much more acceptable kind of plan that pays for itself. The subject, of course, <a href="" target="_blank">is tax cuts:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the economic growth that would result from the proposed tax cuts would be so extreme&nbsp;&mdash; close to $2 trillion over 10 years&nbsp;&mdash; that it would come close to recouping all of the lost revenue from the dramatic rate reductions. Some other new revenue would come from eliminating certain tax breaks, although he would not specify which ones.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;The plan will pay for itself with growth,&rdquo;</strong> Mnuchin said at an event hosted by the Institute of International Finance.</p> </blockquote> <p>The Congressional Budget Office will have a very different take on this, and their take is the only one that matters. So why does Mnuchin even bother with this tired old charade? Maybe so that Donald Trump can yell and scream about how the CBO is rigged when they say that his tax plan is a deficit buster? Maybe to give congressional Republicans an excuse to fire Keith Hall and install a new CBO director who will give them whatever numbers they want?</p> <p>Who knows? Maybe it's just reflex. While we wait to find out, however, here's a chart showing income tax receipts following the five most recent big changes to tax rates. You can decide for yourself if tax cuts pay for themselves or if tax increases tank the economy.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tax_cuts_1981_2016_3.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Apr 2017 05:37:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 331046 at A Review of Reviews of "The Handmaid's Tale" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Below are excerpts from a baker's dozen reviews of Hulu's new adaptation of <em>The Handmaid's Tale</em>. Can you figure out what they all have in common?</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>New York Times:</strong></a> The television adaptation arrives with a newfound and unexpected resonance in Trump&rsquo;s America....&ldquo;We were hoping to be relevant, but we weren&rsquo;t hoping it would be this relevant.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>io9:</strong></a> It&rsquo;s incredibly difficult to watch <em>The Handmaid&rsquo;s Tale</em> and not be affected, to feel like we&rsquo;re so much closer to it being reality than when it was first written.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Washington Post:</strong></a> The phrase &ldquo;now more than ever&rdquo; has become a tiresome cliche in the past few months, but so what: &ldquo;The Handmaid&rsquo;s Tale&rdquo; is here and it demands our attention, now more than ever.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Hollywood Reporter:</strong></a> Hulu's <em>The Handmaid's Tale </em>may be the most unintentionally timely show of the year.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Entertainment Weekly:</strong></a> Their performances &mdash; and the show&rsquo;s consistent sense of textural, lived-in realism &mdash; anchor the drama in something beyond speculative sci-fi, making the story feel less like a quasi-fictional fable than an entirely possible preview of what&rsquo;s to come.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Wall Street Journal:</strong></a> You can&rsquo;t quite call it a bad dream come true, not yet. But given what might be termed &ldquo;recent events,&rdquo; it&rsquo;s certainly cautionary, and more than urgent.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>The Economist:</strong></a> As the Trump administration continues to cut funding and roll back family-planning services, it is easy to hear echoes of its rhetoric on the screen.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Vogue:</strong></a> Could the timing be any more apt?</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>TV Guide:</strong></a> The show and its source material feel more timely and relevant than ever....With women's rights again on the chopping block under a Trump administration, and a common refrain from critics on the left to resist normalizing Trump, it's difficult if not impossible not to draw parallels between the show and real-life events.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Deadline Hollywood:</strong></a> If ever a television series could border on being too relevant, Hulu&rsquo;s gripping, chilling and brutal adaptation of <em>The Handmaid&rsquo;s Tale</em>, which launches with its first three episodes on April 26, would be the one.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Huffington Post:</strong></a> Whether the show sets out to directly compare its dystopian themes with today&rsquo;s political climate, for some readers &acirc;&#128;&#149; and for the story&rsquo;s author &acirc;&#128;&#149; the similarities are ripe for picking.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Vanity Fair:</strong></a> All dystopias are meant as cautionary tales. But at this particular moment in time&mdash;one marked by a powerful but misguided nostalgia, and religious zealotry, and an increasing sense that paranoia is justified, with the powers that be seemingly determined to chip away at the rights of women&mdash;<em>The Handmaid&rsquo;s Tale</em> feels especially current, cutting, and vital.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Harper's Bazaar:</strong></a> You won't see a more timely or essential onscreen story this year than Hulu's extraordinary rendering of Margaret Atwood's 1985 novel <em>The Handmaid's Tale,</em> reimagined as a fundamentalist nightmare for the Mike Pence era....Like all the best dystopias, Gilead is not a truly fictional world, and <em>The Handmaid's Tale</em> is not a dark fantasy. It's a warning.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Apr 2017 01:23:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 331036 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is dark, gritty Jeffrey Road, part of my dark, gritty reboot of <em>The OC</em> starring a grown-up Ryan Atwood as an upper-middle-class finance manager who's moved to Irvine. Feeling mildly resentful about his association's rule against non-white window coverings, Ryan's troubled childhood increasingly haunts him until he finally cracks and begins a suburban campaign of mayhem and retribution. In the first episode, he sneaks into neighboring houses at night, replacing the kitchen curtains in each one with a tasteful paisley pattern&mdash;and a clue to where he'll strike next. The police are confounded, but one detective&mdash;a crusty maverick who sometimes walks to work even though he lives a full half mile from the station&mdash;is determined to stop the Paisley Prankster at all costs. But can he do it without becoming the very person he's dedicated his life to tracking down: a serial violator of HOA rules and regulations?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_jeffrey_large.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 20 Apr 2017 19:30:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 330926 at