Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Republicans Agree: Trump Is a Racist Boor <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton says Donald Trump relies on racism and bigotry in his presidential campaign. Republicans must be filling the airwaves with denunciations of Clinton by now, <a href="" target="_blank">so Philip Bump rounds up the outrage:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The day after Hillary Clinton delivered a vicious indictment of Donald Trump, the Republican party's ostensible leader, on the same subject, <strong>Republican leaders haven't risen to his defense.</strong></p> <p>The Republican Party has tweeted repeatedly since Clinton's speech, praising the National Park Service, hitting Clinton on her Foundation and pledging to return to the Constitution. <strong>It offered no press release in defense of its nominee,</strong> issuing one only about Clinton having not held a press conference since last year.</p> <p>Speaker Paul Ryan....Cathy McMorris Rodgers, chair of the House Republican Conference....Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell....MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin (who noticed the GOP's silence early) asked party spokesman Sean Spicer about the lack of a coordinated rebuttal to Clinton. <strong>"I don't know," Spicer said. "I think Congress is in recess."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Well, I'm sure Sean Hannity has offered a stirring defense, and that's what really matters.</p> <p>One other quick note about Trump: he's been waffling back and forth on immigration all week. It's his signature issue, and he's been running on it for over a year now, but he still can't quite seem to make up his mind about some of the most fundamental issues related to immigration policy. This has produced many thumbsuckers about whether Trump is pivoting, or staying the course, or some combination thereof. My advice: don't bother. Trump doesn't have a policy. He couldn't care less about immigration. To him, it's just a handy applause line in his speeches. Trying to follow his peregrinations is like trying to figure out what a five year old <em>really</em> wants to be when she grows up.</p> <p>I have no idea why immigration foes took Trump seriously in the first place. If he ever became president, his first instinct would be to cut a deal, exactly what the hardliners don't want. And since he doesn't really care about it, he'd accept whatever Chuck Schumer and Paul Ryan could hammer out, and then count on being able to sell it as "the toughest immigration plan ever," or somesuch. In the end, he's probably the <em>worst</em> candidate for immigration hardliners, not the best.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 26 Aug 2016 15:20:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 312596 at Here's Why Hillary Clinton Talked About Racism and the Alt-Right Today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hillary Clinton gave a speech today. <a href="" target="_blank">Patrick Caldwell summarizes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Democrats haven't been shy about pointing out the racial undertones in Donald Trump's campaign, but Hillary Clinton took that message to a new level Thursday, calling out the GOP nominee for purposefully whipping up racist bigotry and resentment...."From the start," Clinton said, "Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He's taking hate groups mainstream and helping a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_speech_racism.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous."</p> </blockquote> <p>Why did she do this? The most popular explanation is that she was giving "permission" for moderate Republicans to stay home in November. Donald Trump, she said, isn't a traditional Republican. He's a hate-monger who's hijacked the party as a vehicle for his loathsome brand of racism and xenophobia. Even if you're a loyal Republican, you don't have to support that.</p> <p>But I'll propose a different explanation: she was giving the <em>press</em> permission to talk about Donald Trump's racism. So far, they've tiptoed around it. But once the candidate herself calls it out, it invites a thousand think pieces about Breitbart, the alt-right, the GOP's history of tolerating bigotry, Trump's troubling background, and dozens of other related topics. Surrogates can blather all they want about this, but it doesn't truly become a mainstream subject until the actual candidate for president makes it one.</p> <p>This is part of the agenda-setting power that presidential candidates have. Donald Trump has used it endlessly, and now Hillary Clinton is using it too. Trump has made his bed, and Hillary is making sure he has to lie in it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 22:33:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 312566 at Mad at the Fed? Get Mad at Congress Instead. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jon Hilsenrath writes today that the Fed's reputation is <a href="" target="_blank">in the gutter these days:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For anyone seeking to explain one of the most unpredictable political seasons in modern history, with the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, <strong>a prime suspect is public dismay in institutions guiding the economy and government.</strong> The Fed in particular is a case study in how the conventional wisdom of the late 1990s on a wide range of economic issues, including trade, technology and central banking, has since slowly unraveled.</p> <p>Once admired globally for their command of the economic system, <strong>central bankers now are blamed by the left and right for bailouts during the financial crisis and for failing to foresee and manage forces suffocating the global economy in its aftermath.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>To the extent that this is about the ways the global economy has changed, and the challenges of figuring out how to respond to these changes, this is all fair. But to the extent that it's a criticism of <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_fed.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">the way the Fed has managed policy since 2008, I sure wish there had been more than one sentence about other policymakers who fell down on the job:</p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;I certainly myself couldn&rsquo;t have imagined six, seven years ago that we would be employing the policies we are now,&rdquo; Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen said to a packed ballroom in New York earlier this year. She lamented the government has leaned so heavily on the Fed to stimulate the economy <strong>while tax and spending policies were stymied by disagreements between Congress and the White House.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Ben Bernanke felt the same way as Yellen, so this isn't a partisan lament. But "disagreements" sells this short. President Obama may deserve some grief over some of his policies, as well as his premature pivot to austerity politics, but the biggest problem has been clear all along: congressional Republicans who were hellbent on opposing any and all fiscal responses to the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. I don't think the Fed did too badly, all things considered, but a jet flying on only one engine can only do so much.</p> <p>As for public disapproval of the Fed, sure, some of that is from lefties who opposed the bailouts. But the vast bulk of it is from tea party conservatives who are endlessly in a panic about hyperinflation and "easy money"&mdash;precisely the hysterical fears the Fed had to fight to do even as well as it did. If the Ron Paul contingent had had their way, we'd probably be staring at 20 percent unemployment right now. But they're still convinced otherwise, and they remain mad at the Fed for not bringing on the golden age they're so sure was just around the corner.</p> <p>Who knows? Maybe Hilsenrath has an entire article teed up about the role of Congress in all this. Done well, it would be a very good read.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 21:22:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 312551 at How Opposed to Safe Spaces Is the University of Chicago? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The University of Chicago sent the following statement to incoming students <a href="" target="_blank">this week:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called "trigger warnings," we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_u_chicago_safe_spaces_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">creation of intellectual "safe spaces" where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.</p> </blockquote> <p>Conservative cheered and liberals frowned. Over at Vox, Emily Crockett writes about <a href="" target="_blank">safe spaces and what they mean:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>"For me as a black woman, it's really nice to just go out with other black women sometimes," said Sabrina Stevens, an activist and progressive strategist. "I have to do so much less translation. When you're black around white people, you have to explain every little thing, even with people who are perfectly nice and well-meaning."</p> <p>....Stevens describes many different safe spaces that are important to her own life: breastfeeding support groups that are explicitly women-only to help new moms feel more comfortable talking openly about their bodies, or hair salons that function as an informally black-women-only social space as well as a service.</p> <p>....Other safe spaces emerge organically, like hair salons, gay clubs, or black churches. The shooting at Mother Emanuel in Charlestown was also a violation of a safe space, which added another layer of devastation to an already terrible crime.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's a nice piece about the origin and modern usage of safe spaces, and it's worth reading. In the end, it boils down to the fact that all of us sometimes need to hang out in places where we can relax completely and not worry that our words will taken the wrong way or that we have to endlessly explain ourselves. "Safe spaces" is just modern jargon for this ancient concept.</p> <p>But there's one thing worth getting straight. My assumption is that the University of Chicago is only saying that students shouldn't assume that any <em>formal part of the campus</em> is a safe space. Not classrooms, not offices, not dorms, not rec centers, not the quad. I think that's wise. But I also assume they have no problem with students creating private groups that are meant to be safe spaces. They don't support them but neither do they forbid them or discourage them. They're indifferent to them.</p> <p>Is that right? Or does the university go further and try to hinder even the private and voluntary creation of safe spaces?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 18:43:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 312526 at Here's Some Tentative Good News on the Pre-K Front <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm a big proponent of high-quality, universal pre-K. At the same time, I understand that the evidence in favor of it isn't rock solid. Overall, I think the case for pre-K is fairly strong, but it's a victim of the fact that it's really hard to conduct solid research on long-term outcomes. In particular, there's always the problem of scale: even if you get great results from a pilot program, there's no guarantee that you can scale it nationwide and still maintain the same quality. This is a particular problem with Head Start, the longest-running and best known pre-K program in the country. It <em>has</em> been scaled, but multiple studies have suggested that it's had disappointing results.</p> <p>But time marches on, and this allows us to conduct new research as Head Start kids grow up. The longer the baseline, the better chance we have to truly measure differences in children who attended Head Start. On that score, <a href="" target="_blank">we have some good news and bad news from the Hamilton Project.</a></p> <p>First the good news. The study compared children from the same families where one attended Head Start and the other didn't. Their birth cohort started in 1974, and they used the 2010 edition of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, so their oldest subjects were in their thirties. What they found was more positive than previous surveys. For example, here's the result on higher education (which includes licenses and certificates):</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hamilton_head_start_higher_education.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The Head Start kids started and completed higher education at substantially higher rates than kids who didn't attend. The study shows similar results for high school graduation.</p> <p>So that's great. But one of the things we've learned about pre-K is that its biggest impact is often on non-cognitive traits. And sure enough, the Hamilton study showed strong effects on self-control and self-esteem:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hamilton_head_start_self_control_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>So what's the bad news? I should more accurately call this <em>cautionary</em> news, but take a look at those green bars. They show Head Start having a bigger effect compared to other preschools than it does compared to no preschool at all. That can only happen if the other preschools were collectively worse than doing nothing. In some cases the effect is pretty large, which in turn means these other preschools were a <em>lot</em> worse than doing nothing at all.</p> <p>This is possible, of course. But it doesn't seem all that likely, which raises questions about whether the data analysis here has some flaws. For the time being, then, I consider this tentatively positive news about Head Start. But I'll wait for other experts to review the study before I celebrate too much.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 17:11:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 312501 at AP Demonstrates the Perils of Being "Balanced" in the Era of Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier this week the AP wrote a story delivering the astonishing news that Hillary Clinton once met with a Nobel-Prize-winning microcredit guru that she had been friends with for 30 years. This was part of a piece claiming that 85 of 154 people she met with as Secretary of State had also contributed to the Clinton Foundation. That's more than half of her meetings&mdash;except that this number doesn't count anyone in a government position, which accounts for the vast, vast majority of her meetings. They left that part out in the promotion of the piece, leading people to believe that literally half of all her meetings over four years as Secretary of State had been with Foundation donors. Then, just to add insult to injury, they refused to release the list of people she had met <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_hearing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">with, which almost certainly would have driven a stake through the entire article.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Today they followed up with this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It's a conspiracy: The 2016 campaign features one candidate who warned against the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and another who was a leader of the so-called "birther" movement.</p> <p>Donald Trump and his surrogates hint at a mysterious "illness" afflicting rival Hillary Clinton. Pushing back, Clinton warns of murky ties between Trump and the Russian government, insinuating that her Republican opponent may be a puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin...[and] she is preparing a Reno, Nevada, address on Thursday that will accuse Trump of supporting an "alt-right" campaign that presents "a divisive and dystopian view of America."</p> <p>....She described Trump Wednesday night on CNN as a candidate who is campaigning on anger and hatred. "Donald Trump has shown us who he is and we ought to believe him," she said. "He is taking a hate movement mainstream. He has brought it into his campaign. He's bringing it to our communities and our country."</p> </blockquote> <p>So let's get this straight. Trump's conspiracy theories are (a) Obama was born in Kenya and (b) Hillary Clinton has serious health problems. Both are demonstrably untrue.</p> <p>Clinton's conspiracy theories are (a) Trump has a surprising number of Russia-friendly policies and (b) Trump appeals to angry white nationalists and uses extreme language. Both are demonstrably true.</p> <p>Ladies and gentlemen, your objective and balanced press corps at work.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 16:03:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 312491 at Immigration Hardliner Finds Hope in Donald Trump's Treachery <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Immigration hardliner Mark Krikorian finds a silver lining in Donald Trump's <a href="" target="_blank">ham-handed softening on immigration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Trump probably just threw away his only remaining chance to win in November with Wednesday&rsquo;s Jeb Bush impersonation. He won the primaries with immigration control as his marquee issue; <strong>had he stuck to his guns, and still lost, the GOP Brain Trust, not to mention the Democrats, would more plausibly have been able to argue that opposition to their agenda was the reason.</strong></p> <p>....But now that he&rsquo;s channeling Little Marco and Low-Energy Jeb on immigration, that story line has evaporated....It&rsquo;s liberating, in a sense. While Trump was still clearly seen as the voice of immigration skepticism, I was worried that his oafish shenanigans would taint the immigration issue, especially if he was defeated by Hillary. But now that he&rsquo;s no longer that voice in any meaningful sense, I can watch the circus undisturbed. His defeat will be on his head alone.</p> </blockquote> <p>When a party loses an election, the arguments afterward inevitably coalesce into two sides:</p> <blockquote> <ul><li>We were too extreme. We need to move to the center.</li> <li>We were too moderate. America wants a genuine liberal/conservative.</li> </ul></blockquote> <p>Republicans have been arguing the latter for years. They've retroactively decided that George Bush wasn't a real conservative. John McCain wasn't a real conservative. Mitt Romney wasn't a real conservative.</p> <p>But Trump provides them with a problem because he's hard to pigeonhole. He's a hardline conservative on some things, but totally off the reservation on others. So if he loses, the party is going to have a bloody civil war over what to do next.</p> <p>Krikorian was worried that if an immigration hardliner lost in a landslide, Republicans would conclude that they really did need to compromise on some kind of moderate comprehensive immigration plan and put the issue behind them. He was right to be worried about this. But now he's a happy man. He can plausibly argue that Trump lost <em>because he softened on immigration</em>. This ignores the fact that Trump has been way behind in the polls ever since the conventions and was headed for defeat even before the Great Softening, but at least it's a reed he can cling to. Hope lives on.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 15:20:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 312486 at Donald Trump Discovers That Appealing to Whites Is Trickier Than He Thought <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The wise new heads surrounding Donald Trump have obviously given up on attracting more than a handful of non-white votes&mdash;which is probably a smart move, all things considered&mdash;and this means they have to reach out to ever more white voters if they hope to win. This is why, for example, Trump has been saying recently that Hillary Clinton is a terrible bigot who doesn't care about black people. This is certainly not going to attract any black votes, but "Democrats are the <em>real</em> bigots" has been a trope on the white right for years. It might well attract a few more white votes.</p> <p>But this dynamic can play out in odd ways. Trump's signature issue is immigration, and you'd think that the way to appeal to more whites is to stay tough. But no. It turns out that white voters in the exurbs are <a href="" target="_blank">a little put off by the whole rapists/thugs/wall schtick,</a> and aren't that keen on an army of jackbooted immigration police rounding up Mexicans and hauling them back south. To appeal to these folks, the wise heads are apparently advising Trump to soften his<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="225" src="" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;" width="400"></iframe> immigration stance. So now he says "I have never liked the media term <em>mass deportation</em>," and then delivers <a href="" target="_blank">this little tactical nuke on Sean Hannity's town hall:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>No citizenship. Let me go a step further&mdash;<strong>they'll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes</strong>, there's no amnesty, as such, there's no amnesty, <strong>but we work with them</strong>. Now, everybody agrees we get the bad ones out. But when I go through and I meet thousands and thousands of people on this subject, and I've had very strong people come up to me, really great, great people come up to me, and they've said, <strong>"Mr. Trump, I love you, but to take a person who's been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out, it's so tough, Mr. Trump,"</strong> I have it all the time. It's a very, very hard thing.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Later on</a> he <em>polled Hannity's audience</em> on what his immigration stance should be. (Seriously.) So Trump has now basically pivoted to the same position as every other Republican: no immigration police; work with the "good" illegal immigrants on a path to legal status; get tough on border security; and this absolutely positively isn't "amnesty" no matter how much it sounds like it. This is pretty much the position that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz all had, and it's basically the position of the Gang of 8 a few years ago. Until today, Trump attacked this position as craven and weak. Now he's all for it. Gotta win all those exurban soccer moms, after all. The only thing left is for him to casually tell us that "build the wall" was meant kind of metaphorically all along, and most of it will end up being a "virtual wall" of drones and security cameras.</p> <p>I've been wondering for months why the immigration hardliners were so sure Trump would stick to his guns on this stuff. After all, he's lied about practically everything and shown an eager willingness to change his positions any time he thinks it will benefit him. So what made them think he'd act any differently on immigration?</p> <p>Beats me. But they're stuck now. They have to defend Trump because he's all they've got. Perhaps the saddest fate is reserved for Ann Coulter, who's launching her new book this week:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Saw this quote going around from new <a href="">@anncoulter</a> book In Trump We Trust, assumed it was fake. Nope. Via <a href="">@TheStalwart</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) <a href="">August 25, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Yes, that hit bookstores the very week Trump bailed on immigration. But Coulter is <a href="" target="_blank">forced to defend Trump anyway,</a> no matter how stupid it makes her look. It couldn't happen to a nicer person.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Apparently Coulter has had <a href="" target="_blank">second thoughts</a> about defending Trump: "Could be the shortest book tour ever if he's really softening...on immigration," she said this evening. Then she followed up with a <a href="" target="_blank">bitter and sarcastic rant on Twitter.</a> Sad.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 03:55:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 312466 at The Real Value of Sean Hannity's Shilling for Trump: Probably Around Zero <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_sean_hannity.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><a href="" target="_blank">From Media Matters:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has been informally advising Donald Trump&rsquo;s presidential campaign while serving as its primary media cheerleader, has effectively turned his nightly prime-time show into Trump&rsquo;s second campaign headquarters. According to a Media Matters analysis, <strong>Hannity&rsquo;s program has given Trump what amounts to more than $31 million in free advertising</strong> in the form of dozens of fawning interviews with the candidate since Trump declared his candidacy in June 2015.</p> <p><strong>Hannity has devoted just over 22 hours of airtime to broadcasting interviews with Trump since the launch of Trump&rsquo;s campaign</strong>....These numbers only count the amount of time Hannity spent airing interviews featuring Donald Trump&nbsp;&mdash; they do not include the countless time Hannity spends carrying the Trump campaign's water without the candidate present, including similarly fawning interviews with Trump family members, surrogates, and supporters.</p> </blockquote> <p>This correctly gets across the point that Hannity has been so obsequious in his support for Trump that he practically counts as an arm of the Trump campaign. It's embarrassing to watch. At the same time, I suspect the real value of Hannity's shilling is reasonably close to zero, since I doubt that his show reaches more than a handful of truly undecided voters. Basically, he's just preaching to the choir.</p> <p>Now, I suppose this could help goose turnout among the true believers, but the Hannity audience probably already votes in large numbers. Realistically, then, Hannity is prostituting himself for hardly any gain. I doubt his $31 million in free advertising is keeping the Clinton campaign up at nights.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 25 Aug 2016 00:02:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 312446 at From the Time Capsule: Ebola and Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Lenny Bernstein of the <em>Washington Post</em> reminds us today of Donald Trump's calm and reassuring response to the Ebola crisis <a href="" target="_blank">two years ago:</a></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Ebola patient will be brought to the U.S. in a few days - now I know for sure that our leaders are incompetent. KEEP THEM OUT OF HERE!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">August 1, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">August 2, 2014</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This, of course, fits with Trump's apparent panic toward bodily functions of any sort, as well as his basic callousness. Definitely the kind of guy you want in the White House.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Aug 2016 19:19:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 312421 at Poverty Has Declined a Lot Over the Past 30 Years <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I have my issues with Scott Winship and the way he calculates income and inflation, and in particular I continue to wrestle with his contention that PCE is generally a better way of measuring the cost of living than CPI. That said, he also has some good points to make. This week, on the 20th anniversary of the Welfare Reform Act, he's released a paper suggesting that since it was passed in 1996 child poverty has decreased dramatically&mdash;but only if you measure it right. If you measure only cash income, poverty has increased. But if you also account for welfare benefits, as you should, it's gone down. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's his key chart:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_winship_child_poverty.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>I have a couple of issues with this. I remain skeptical of PCE for this particular kind of measurement, and I doubt that health benefits should be counted as part of a poverty measure. (Winship defends the inclusion of health benefits in an appendix.) Still, the overall picture suggests that actual poverty has been decreasing for a long time, and continued decreasing after 1996. Winship makes the same argument for deep poverty (income less than half the poverty level) and extreme poverty (living on $2 per day).</p> <p>Is this due to welfare reform? I doubt it. In this and other charts, Winship shows the poverty rate declining since about 1980. I'd guess that this is the reason why:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_welfare_spending.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>Roughly speaking, we spend nearly a trillion dollars more on social welfare programs than we did three decades ago. That's about $8,000 per low-income person. This spending increased steadily during the 80s, steadily during the 90s, and steadily during the aughts. The amount of money we've spent dwarfs anything that welfare reform did or didn't do.</p> <p>More to the point, there's simply no way that this amount of money hasn't reduced poverty. There are really only two alternatives here:</p> <ul><li>Social welfare spending has reduced poverty considerably.</li> <li>Throwing even vast amounts of money at poverty doesn't work, so we might as well give up.</li> </ul><p>I wouldn't support welfare spending at all if it truly had the minuscule effect that partisan studies sometimes seem to show. I support it because I think it's done some real good. I think it's increased living standards for the poor, increased health care for the poor, and increased food security for the poor. I'd like to see us do more, but not because we haven't made a dent in poverty. I support it because I think it <em>has</em> made a dent.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Aug 2016 18:01:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 312411 at Yes, Politics Is Sort of a Grubby Business <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I've been genuinely confused about the whole Foundationgate thing. Did big donors to the Clinton Foundation get extra special access to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State? By all the evidence, no. They may have <em>tried</em> to get access, but for the most part they didn't. So far I haven't seen any emails that even remotely suggest otherwise. If anything, Hillary seems to have been unusually careful to avoid entanglements with the Foundation.</p> <p>So what's the problem? I chatted about this on Twitter last night with Rick Hasen, a guy I trust on these kinds of things. But I still came away confused. So here is <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_foundation.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Hasen at greater length this morning in <em>USA Today</em>. After talking a bit about Donald Trump, <a href="" target="_blank">he turns to Hillary:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>And now revelations from the latest batch of State Department emails released through actions of the group Judicial Watch show that the largest donors to the Clinton Foundation had easy access to Clinton&rsquo;s inner circle. S. Daniel Abraham, for example, the billionaire behind the Slim Fast diet <strong>and a Clinton fundraising bundler,</strong> got eight meetings with Clinton while she was secretary of State to discuss Middle East issues he cared about. An AP analysis found that at least 85 people who met with Clinton at the State Department were donors or connected to donors.</p> <p>None of these things &mdash; Trump courting super PAC donors, Clinton getting paid by the wealthiest companies as a private citizen, or Clinton as secretary of State giving access to big donors to her foundation &mdash; amounts to criminal activity or even what we might term corruption. In the Supreme Court&rsquo;s Citizens United case, Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the Court, declared that &ldquo;ingratiation and access are not corruption.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>But there&rsquo;s still something wrong with a political system in which access goes to the highest bidder.</strong> The Clinton team is quick to argue that there&rsquo;s no evidence the meetings Clinton gave to big donors led to any official actions. But those donors get more than just a picture with a candidate; <strong>they get a chance to make their pitch for the policies they want pursued or blocked, a pitch the rest of us don&rsquo;t get to make because we don&rsquo;t have hundreds of thousands of dollars or more to contribute to campaigns.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is fine. If the beef with Hillary is that she's an ordinary politician who's more likely to see you if you're (a) important, (b) a party wheelhorse, and (c) an important donor, then I have no argument. I also have no argument that this is unseemly.</p> <p>But it's also something I can't get too upset about. It's not just that everyone does this. It's not just that everyone in American politics does this. It's the fact that everyone, everywhere, throughout all of human history has done this. It's just the way human societies work. I'm all in favor of trying to reduce the influence of money on politics, but I doubt there's any way to truly make much of a dent in it. <a href="" target="_blank">And as I've mentioned before,</a> I don't consider it one of our nation's biggest problems anyway.</p> <p>So here are several possible takes on Hillary:</p> <ol><li>Powerful people all run in the same circles. They all know each other. They all ask favors from one another. Hillary is part of this circle.</li> <li>People who are big party donors and big policy influencers have more access to politicians than, say, you or me. On this score, Hillary is a garden variety politician.</li> <li>Donating to the Clinton Foundation was a well-known requirement for getting a meeting with Hillary.</li> </ol><p>I've simply seen no evidence of #3, and that includes <a href="" target="_blank">the AP's strained effort yesterday.</a> Besides, if this were truly well known, by now <em>someone</em> would have come forward to spill the beans.</p> <p>As for #1 and #2, I don't doubt that they're as true of Hillary as they are of every other politician in the country. This might be an unfortunate state of affairs, but it's certainly no scandal. So I remain confused. If you want to criticize the role of money in politics, that's fine. If you want to criticize the outsize influence of the connected and powerful, that's fine. If you want to criticize Hillary Clinton for being an ordinary part of this system&mdash;as Bernie Sanders did&mdash;that's fine. (As long as you're not also part of that same system, of course.) But is there some kind of special scandal associated with Hillary in the State Department? I sure don't see it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Aug 2016 16:36:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 312386 at Here's Why We Keep Making Up New Names for Marginalized Groups <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Good Morning America&rsquo;s</em> Amy Robach apparently had a brain fart the other day and referred to blacks as &ldquo;colored people,&rdquo; rather than the acceptable&mdash;even au courant&mdash;"people of color." But why does this stuff keep changing? Why have we gone from colored to negro to black to African-American to POC? I was <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_colored_waiting_room.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">going to write a bit about this, but John McWhorter says precisely what I was going to say, <a href="" target="_blank">so I'll just let him say it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;So what do they want to be called now???&rdquo; one might ask about black people, differently abled people, cognitively challenged people, and others. However, the rolling terminology is not based on willful petulance or a deliberate way of keeping other people off guard. It stems from the way euphemism works&mdash;or better, always starts to work but doesn&rsquo;t.</p> <p><strong>Namely, a euphemism is designed to step around an unpleasant association.</strong> When it comes to societal terms, the idea is to rise above pejorative connotations that society has linked to the thing in question. Hence while cripple was once a perfectly civil term, negative associations accreted upon it like rust or gnats, such that handicapped was felt as a neutral-sounding innovation. However, after a time, that word was accreted in the same way, such that disabled felt more humane. Yet, as we have seen, even that didn&rsquo;t last.</p> <p>The lesson is that when there are negative associations with something or someone, periodic renewal of terminology is not a feint, but something to be expected. <strong>Until the thoughts or opinions in question change, we can expect the rust to settle in, the gnats to swarm back on&mdash;and the only solution, albeit eternally temporary, is to fashion a new term....</strong>The rolling terminology, then, is an attempt to refashion thought, not to be annoying.</p> </blockquote> <p>And that's why these things seem to change so often. We're trying to break the bad associations of the past, so we create a new word. A few decades later, if those bad associations still exist, we try again with another new word. This keeps happening until the associations are finally and completely severed. Needless to say, that can take a while.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:53:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 312376 at Bernie Sells Out, According to Bernie Fans <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Bernie Sanders has finally announced the next step in his political revolution, but he's learning that it's no easy task to ride herd on a bunch of idealists who have been <a href="" target="_blank">promised the moon:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The announcement of the group, which will be livestreamed Wednesday night, also comes as <strong>the majority of its staff resigned after the appointment last Monday of Jeff Weaver,</strong> Mr. Sanders&rsquo;s former campaign manager, to lead the organization. Several people familiar with the organization said eight core staff members have stepped down. <strong>The group&rsquo;s entire organizing department quit this week, along with people working in digital and data positions.</strong></p> <p>....&ldquo;I left and others left because we were alarmed that Jeff would mismanage this organization as he mismanaged the campaign,&rdquo; she said, expressing concern that Mr. Weaver would &ldquo;betray its core purpose by <strong>accepting money from billionaires and not remaining grass-roots funded</strong> and plowing that billionaire cash into TV instead of investing it in building a genuine movement.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Live by the sword, die by the sword. But if Bernie isn't pure enough for these folks, where will they go next? Jill Stein?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:22:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 312366 at Twitter Makes Total Sense If You Understand It Properly <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Matt Yglesias speaks truth to power today:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">When Twitter goes bankrupt and people need to blog again, the world will be a better place. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="">August 23, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I can't tell you the number of times I've cut off a conversation on Twitter with something like "Signing off now. Twitter is a horrible place to discuss anything more complicated than a cookie." And it is! People try endlessly to turn it into something it isn't, and the result is that I routinely get told to go take a look at some "epic tweetstorm" or other that "must be Storified." Usually it turns out to be a grand total of about 300 words split up into awkward 20-word chunks. Milton would not be impressed. It could be done way better, and possibly faster, as a simple blog post.</p> <p>In fact, I've long imagined that Twitter originated something like this:</p> <hr width="30%"><p>JACK DORSEY and BIZ STONE are sitting in a dorm hallway at NYU, where they are undergrads.<sup>1</sup> A half-smoked joint lies between them. Earlier in the day they got assigned their class project for Communications 152.</p> <blockquote> <p>DORSEY: Oh man. "Develop a communications medium that demonstrates as many principles of accurate information exchange as possible." WTF?</p> <p>STONE: I know. Jesus.</p> </blockquote> <p>Next day. DORSEY and STONE are in DORSEY's dorm room.</p> <blockquote> <p>DORSEY: Hey, I had an idea. How about if we do a proof by contradiction?</p> <p>STONE: What?</p> <p>DORSEY: Let's develop the worst communications medium possible and show how it screws things up!</p> <p>STONE: Dude. That's brilliant. Like what?</p> <p>DORSEY: Well, good communication requires enough bandwidth to express an idea fully. Let's limit ours to just a few words at a time.</p> <p>STONE: And strong emotions interfere with accuracy. Let's develop something that encourages outrage. That means digital. Like a chatroom or something. People are always going postal on those.</p> <p>DORSEY: We could make it even worse. Maybe by screwing around with response times?</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_twitter_crash.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">STONE: Sure. Latency should be just long enough to allow other people to barge in during the middle of a conversation. It would drive people crazy.</p> <p>DORSEY: You'd never be sure who's responding to what!</p> <p>STONE: Right. And it should be wide open to everyone, so people can join in even if they have no idea what the conversation is about.</p> <p>DORSEY: And then other people see the newcomers, and barge in themselves. It's like the ultimate game of telephone.</p> <p>STONE: You'd end up with viral mobs! It's the worst possible environment for communicating.</p> <p>DORSEY: Sure, because no one who piles on knows if they're the only critic, or if thousands have already jumped in. You never really know who your audience is, which is one of the linchpins of good communication.</p> <p>STONE: Nuance and tone are important too. We need to eliminate those.</p> <p>DORSEY: We can do that by making messages <em>really</em> short. Text message sized. You can barely even speak English in text messages, let alone add caveats and nuance.</p> <p>STONE: And no editing. Once you've said something, you can't change it even if you realize you screwed up.</p> <p>DORSEY: It's tailor made for misunderstanding.</p> <p>STONE: And if it were marketed right, highly verbal people would be its main consumers. They'd go nuts trying to carry on conversations on complex topics 140 characters at a time.</p> <p>DORSEY: And the campus language police! Can you imagine how they'd react to every little miscue?</p> <p>STONE: This is great. It's like cutting out everyone's tongues and dumping them into a big overheated room.</p> <p>DORSEY: And it would still be good for jokes and cat videos, which would demonstrate something important about jokes and cat videos.</p> </blockquote> <p>Twelve weeks later. DORSEY and STONE are back in the hallway.</p> <blockquote> <p>DORSEY: He gave us a C-? That's brutal.</p> <p>STONE: "Interesting concept, but too divorced from reality."</p> <p>DORSEY: Sheesh.</p> </blockquote> <p>Ten years later. DORSEY and STONE are drinking margaritas on DORSEY'S yacht.</p> <blockquote> <p>DORSEY: Man, people sure are stupid.</p> <p>STONE: But we're rich!</p> <p>DORSEY: Yeah. It'll be kind of a drag if Trump wins, though. I wasn't really expecting that.</p> <p>STONE: Chill, dude. We're rich!</p> </blockquote> <p>Ship sails into sunset. DORSEY and STONE have enigmatic expressions on their faces. Curtain.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Yes, I know they didn't go to college together. Work with me here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 Aug 2016 22:29:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 312316 at Please: Donald Trump Is Not "Courting the Black Vote" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Here is the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Donald Trump Courts Black Vote While Avoiding African-American Communities</strong></p> <p>Donald Trump for the last week has been asking for support from African-American voters who have long backed Democrats, but his campaign has for months rebuffed invitations from supporters for the Republican presidential nominee to appear before black audiences.</p> <p>....Michael Steele, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said he has passed along requests from historically black colleges for Mr. Trump to speak....<strong>&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t go to a white community to talk about black folks. Hello, it doesn&rsquo;t make sense.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>Ms. Manigault,<sup>1</sup> who was appointed to her position in July, said she would answer questions about her work for the Trump campaign over email but then <strong>didn't respond to emailed questions</strong>. Trump campaign <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_poll_black.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">spokeswoman Hope Hicks <strong>didn't respond to requests for comment</strong>.</p> </blockquote> <p>In a way, I guess I feel sorry for the authors of this piece. I mean, it's obvious what's going on. Trump couldn't care less about black votes. His speeches are aimed like a laser at his white base, using language carefully calculated to assuage their fear of being called racist if they support him. Nobody in their right mind would give the speeches he gave if they were truly trying to address African-Americans.</p> <p>But even though this is obvious to everybody, Reid Epstein and Michael Bender can't come right out and say it. They can sort of imply it, if you're smart enough to read all the hints in their piece. But most people probably aren't that savvy. They'll just see yet another back-and-forth about process and strategy in the Trump campaign and then turn the page.</p> <p>I don't know what the answer is. Tossing objective reporting onto the ash heap of history isn't the answer. It's extremely useful to have people who at least try to write neutrally. And yet, too often this gets in the way of reporting plain facts. So what should we do about this?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>This would be Omarosa Manigault, a contestant on the first season of <em>The Apprentice</em>. She is now Trump's director of African-American outreach, which should give you a pretty good idea of just how much he cares about the black vote.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 Aug 2016 18:37:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 312296 at Everyone Considering Voting For Donald Trump Should See This Brutal Video. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The brutal attack on Donald Trump was made by Marianne DeMarco, who first posted a version of it to her <a href="" target="_blank">YouTube channel in March</a>. Bravo, Marianne DeMarco!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="315" scrolling="no" src=";show_text=0&amp;width=560" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="560"></iframe></p></body></html> Contributor Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:52:50 +0000 Mother Jones 312261 at Economic Anxiety Is All About Progress, Not Income <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The debate continues over whether Donald Trump's blue-collar supporters&mdash;virtually of them white&mdash;are motivated by economic anxiety or racial anxiety. I think the evidence is pretty clear that racial anxiety plays the larger role, but it's hardly the only role. Economic anxiety is real too.</p> <p>The usual response is that this just can't be true. White men make more money than black men, which means they have <em>less</em> economic anxiety than black men. So why do they support Trump and black men don't? It must be racial animus.</p> <p>But this is wrong. I've made this point before, but I want to make it again: economic contentment is largely related to <em>change</em>, not to absolute levels of income. A Chinese peasant who makes $10 per day lives in dire poverty. But if that peasant made $5 per day a few years ago and now has indoor plumbing, he's probably pretty happy. Things are getting better. On the flip side, an American manager <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_income_gains_40_years_white_black_hispanic.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">who makes $80,000 has a pretty good income. But if he made $100,000 a couple of years ago, he's probably tearing his hair out. He built a life around his $100,000 income&mdash;mortgage payments, car payments, property taxes, insurance, etc.&mdash;and suddenly he has to cut back and probably go into debt. Life sucks.</p> <p>This should be obvious. In the Middle Ages, pretty much everyone lived in grinding poverty by today's standards. Do we suppose that all of them were desperately unhappy? Of course not. As long as things were going the same as always, they were probably about as happy as us. But if a crop failed, they became desperate.</p> <p>I've long thought that the single most interesting finding of behavioral economics is the fact that people respond to loss far more sharply than they respond to gain.<sup>1</sup> In money terms, it's a factor of about 2:1. Even a small loss&mdash;in money, in status, in living standards&mdash;will cause enormous anxiety. And that loss can be relative as well as absolute.</p> <p>I've posted the chart on the right before, and I can't guarantee that it's precisely accurate. But it's roughly correct, and what it shows is that every demographic has made economic progress over the past 40 years except for one: white men. Some of those gains might be small&mdash;11 percent over four decades for black men isn't much&mdash;but at least it's a gain. White men alone have lost ground. And more to the point, in relative terms they've lost <em>lots</em> of ground.</p> <p>So is it plausible that a lot of white men feel economically anxious even if their absolute incomes are still higher than women, higher than blacks, and higher than Hispanics? Sure. What matters is loss, and white men have been losing relative ground for a long time. They've lost ground economically and they've lost status as well. White men used to be kings of the hill, but now they can hear the footsteps of other folks catching up to them. Economic anxiety, gender anxiety, and racial anxiety are all perfectly normal consequences of this.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Needless to say, economists didn't really <em>discover</em> this. They just quantified it. But this dynamic has been obvious for a very long time to observers of human nature. Examples are legion, but here's one my readers might appreciate. It's from Isaac Asimov's <em>Caves of Steel</em>, published in 1953:</p> <blockquote> <p>It was the addition of status that brought the little things: a more comfortable seat here, a better cut of meat there, a shorter wait in line at the other place. To the philosophical mind, these items might seem scarcely worth any great trouble to acquire. Yet no one, however philosophical, could give up those privileges, <em>once acquired</em>, without a pang.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's more after that. Just generally, though, writers throughout history have acknowledged that the humiliation which accompanies a loss of status is a very strong emotion indeed.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 Aug 2016 16:42:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 312276 at Hillary Clinton Ran a Very Tight Ship As Secretary of State <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The way Washington works&mdash;in fact, the way everything works&mdash;is that people socialize; they develop relationships; and they often try to leverage those relationships to call in favors. We have laws and institutions to try to put boundaries on this kind of thing, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_state.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">but it's still ubiquitous. This is just the way homo sapiens is wired.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">So now we have some more emails related to Hillary Clinton,</a> and what have we learned? The crown prince of Bahrain wanted to meet with the Secretary of State, and in addition to making a request through normal channels he also talked to someone at the Clinton Foundation, who then called Huma Abedin. The meeting took place, which is entirely unexceptional since meeting with people like this is the Secretary of State's job. There's no indication that the extra push by the Foundation had any particular effect.</p> <p>Another time, someone at the Foundation called Abedin to see if she could expedite a visa. She said this made her nervous, and the Foundation guy backed off.</p> <p>On another occasion, a lobbyist who had formerly been a Democratic staffer asked for a meeting with her client, a coal company executive. Abedin blew her off.</p> <p>We might yet find a smoking gun in all these emails. But so far, the trend is clear: lots of people talked to Huma Abedin to try to set up meetings with Hillary Clinton. Generally speaking, Abedin treated them politely but told them to get lost. That's about it.</p> <p>If some of these efforts had succeeded, that would hardly be noteworthy. It's the kind of thing that happens all the time. What's really noteworthy about the most recent email releases is that they demonstrate a surprisingly high level of integrity from Hillary Clinton's shop at Foggy Bottom. Huma Abedin was tasked with running interference on favor seekers, and she seems to have done exactly that. There's no evidence at all that being a donor to the Clinton Foundation helped anyone out.</p> <p>So tell me again what the issue is here?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 23 Aug 2016 15:28:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 312251 at My Social Security Reform Plan: One-Third-One-Third-One-Third <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Atrios says that 401(k) retirement plans <a href="" target="_blank">have been a disaster:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The current system has failed, and the exciting plan to "fix" the failed system is run the same experiment, with minor tweaks, over for another 40 years and see how that works. Of course if you just grab your trusty envelope back and do The Math, the pittance people will save in these exciting new plans will be just that, a pittance.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a common view on the left, usually delivered with no evidence because it's considered so obvious that no evidence is needed. On the occasions when there is evidence, it's usually something about the stock market being in bad shape circa 2010.</p> <p>So let's take a look at the evidence. I've put all of this up before, but not in one place. So let's collect it. Here's chart #1:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_median_income_age_2.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 20px;"></p> <p>Retirement-age folks have done better than any other age group since 1974, and <em>way</em> better since 2000. So far so good. Here's chart #2:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_retirement_income_projection_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #999999; margin: 15px 0px 15px 110px;"></p> <p>This is Social Security's projection of median elderly income over the next 25 years. It looks pretty good too. There's no evident crisis in these numbers. And this is not from some think tank with an axe to grind. It's from the Social Security Administration's MINT projection, which is probably the most comprehensive look we have at all sources of income among retired folks. Here's chart #3:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pension_wealth_1984_2012.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #999999; margin: 15px 0px 15px 110px;"></p> <p>This comes from the Center for Retirement Research, a decidedly liberal outfit. They've been a longtime proponent of the view that 401(k) plans are worse than old-style defined benefit pensions, but last year they revisited this question using better data. What they found is that for the past 30 years, pension wealth has stayed steady even as 401(k) plans have become more popular and DB plans have gone the way of the dodo (except in the public sector, where they're still common). In other words 401(k)s aren't a failure.</p> <p>My final bit of data, sadly, doesn't lend itself to chart format, so we shall have to use words instead. In 2006, Congress passed the Pension Protection Act, something that most critics of 401(k) plans seem to ignore&mdash;or perhaps are blissfully unaware of. In the past 10 years, it's accomplished the following:</p> <ul><li>Allowed companies to automatically enroll workers (subject to an opt-out), thus increasing the number of people with 401(k)s.</li> <li>Made 401(k)s more accessible to small businesses.</li> <li>Increased 401(k) participation considerably among young workers and low-income workers, who need them the most.</li> <li>Encouraged the use of lifecycle funds, the best type for retirement plans.</li> </ul><p>Put all these things together, and there's very little evidence for any kind of broad retirement crisis. Retirement readiness in America seems to be about the same as it's always been.</p> <p>Does that mean everything is hunky-dory? Of course not. 401(k) fees are still too high, something that I'd dearly love to see Hillary Clinton address with new federal regulation. It's probably also true that old-style pensions were a little more generous for low-income workers than 401(k)s, though the evidence on this score is fuzzy. What's more, although retirement readiness is no worse than it's been in the past, it's not really any better either. In particular, folks at the bottom of the income ladder still don't participate much in 401(k) programs and rely entirely on Social Security, which is pretty stingy for low earners.</p> <p>My answer to this is Kevin's One-Third-One-Third plan. That is, Social Security payments for the bottom third should be increased by a third. This would make a huge difference to the lowest-income workers, but at a pretty reasonable price. My back-of-the-envelope chicken scratchings suggest it would cost about $20-30 billion. That's politically within reason.</p> <p>There's one other change I'd like to see, but I'll leave that for another time. In a nutshell, there really doesn't appear to be any kind of broad-based retirement crisis. 401(k) plans have performed decently and are likely to perform even better in the future. Our biggest retirement problem is with the lowest-income workers, and that could be fixed at a pretty modest cost if we could only muster the political will to do it.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> I really wanted my plan to be called "One-Third-One-Third-One-Third," but I couldn't think of a third "One-Third." However, @Noman suggested raising the Social Security earnings cap to pay for my plan, and it turns out that an increase in the cap of one-third would raise roughly $30 billion. Isn't it great when a plan comes together?</p> <p>So now it's the One-Third-One-Third-One-Third plan: payments to the bottom third should be boosted one-third by raising the earnings cap one-third. Take that, Herman Cain.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 Aug 2016 22:46:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 312221 at Housekeeping Note <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I have to schlep up to LA this morning for&mdash;something. To be honest, I'm not sure what. It's a routine follow-up from my stem cell transplant last year, but the last time I did this nobody did anything useful. There were no tests. No questions that my regular oncologist hadn't already asked. No advice. No nothing.</p> <p>So I don't really know what the point is. Nonetheless, off I go. There's no telling when I'll be back, but this is probably about it for blogging today. See you tomorrow!</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Nothing new to report. We just reviewed all the stuff I already knew and then I got my latest round of baby vaccines. (After the stem cell transplant, all my immunities were wiped out.) So I'm once again safe from polio, rusty nails, and pneumococcal something or other.</p> <p>But I guess I did learn one new thing. For the past two months I've been unusually tired, and sure enough, that turns out to be an effect of the maintenance med I'm taking. It also means it's not going away anytime soon, and might even get worse. Blah.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 Aug 2016 17:06:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 312156 at Why Has Only Hillary Clinton Turned Over All Her Emails? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I have a dumb question. Hillary Clinton has been forced, via FOIA request, to release all of her work-related emails from her term as Secretary of State. Today we learned there may be <a href="" target="_blank">more to come.</a> By the time it's all over, we'll have something like 30-40,000 emails that have been made public.</p> <p>So here's my dumb question: why has this happened only to Hillary Clinton? If FOIA can be used to force the release of every email sent or received by a cabinet member, why haven't FOIA requests been submitted for all of them? It would certainly be interesting and newsworthy to see all of Leon Panetta's emails. Or all of Condi Rice's. Or all of Henry Paulson's.</p> <p>So what's the deal? Why has this happened only to Hillary Clinton?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 Aug 2016 17:02:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 312151 at Swift Boat 2.0 Is Now Underway. Where's the Press? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As we all know, the loathsome Swift boating of John Kerry in 2004 worked a treat. So this year Trump supporters are engaging in Swift boat 2.0: a surprisingly overt campaign claiming that Hillary Clinton is seriously ill but covering it up. Sean Hannity has been the ringleader, talking it up almost nightly on his show. Rudy Giuliani joined the fun this weekend, and Katrina Pierson, the Baghdad Bob of spokespeople, suggested that Hillary has "dysphasia." Even the candidate himself has gotten into the act:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">#WheresHillary</a>? Sleeping!!!!!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">August 20, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Trump has followed this up with references to Hillary not having the "mental and physical stamina" to be president&mdash;wink-wink-nudge-nudge.</p> <p>This is all literally built on nothing. There's a video of Hillary slipping on an icy step outside a church a few months ago. There's a video of her making a funny face while talking to some supporters. That's it. Unlike Trump himself, Hillary has released a detailed statement from her doctor, and there's nothing wrong with her.</p> <p>I know how tiresome it is to wonder how the press would treat something like this if it came from the other side, but, um, how <em>would</em> the press treat this if it were coming from the Hillary Clinton campaign? My guess: it would be like World War III. They would be demanding proof, writing endlessly about how this "once again" raised trust issues, and just generally raising front-page hell over it. Which would be perfectly fair! But when Trump does it, it's just another boys-will-be-boys moment. Yawn.</p> <p>Trump has done so many disgusting things that I know it's hard to keep track sometimes. But this ranks right up there, and he deserves brutal coverage over it. He's not really getting it, though. All the usual liberal suspects are on this, but the mainstream press has treated it like yet another occasional A14 blurb. Where's the outrage, folks?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 Aug 2016 16:14:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 312146 at Iran Tosses Out Russia For Blabbing Too Much <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last week Russia announced that it would start attacking Syria using bombers based in Iran. This produced a huge reaction both inside and outside Russia. <a href="" target="_blank">Today Iran decided to kick out the Russians:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Iran's sudden reversal Monday showed that allies with a common cause, fighting against Assad's enemies, maintain diverse goals in the region. While Russian politicians indicated a long-term deployment, saying that warplanes stationed in Iran would conserve fuel instead of flying a longer route from the Russian Caucasus, <strong>Iranian officials made clear that they were unhappy about the publicity and being seen as a Russian client in the region.</strong></p> <p>Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan on Monday attacked publications of the Russian military press that reported the use of Iran's air base. <strong>&ldquo;There has been a kind of showing-off and inconsiderate attitude behind the announcement of this news,&rdquo;</strong> he told an Iranian television channel.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is the Vladimir Putin/Donald Trump approach to world affairs: Boast endlessly about even small things, substituting braggadocio for substance. The problem is that the targets of your boasting probably don't like it much.</p> <p>This is why quiet diplomacy is so often better than Trumpism. If you just want to feel good, then big talk is your friend. If you actually want to accomplish something, hard work and a willingness to keep your mouth shut are usually a better bet.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 Aug 2016 14:42:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 312141 at BREAKING: Donald Trump Avoids Imploding For Two Days! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lat_trump_stays_on_message.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here's the front page of the <em>LA Times</em> this morning. I have to say I'm impressed. Donald Trump gets a huge headline in the lead spot for spending&mdash;what? Two days? Maybe three? Anyway, two or three days without doing anything egregiously idiotic. It's like the way we lavish praise on a two-year-old for not throwing his food all over the kitchen.</p> <p>According to the story itself, Trump gave a good speech! He ran some TV ads! He visited Baton Rouge for 49 seconds! The first was <a href="" target="_blank">plainly aimed at his white base,</a> not at the African-Americans it was putatively meant for. The second is the bare minimum that any presidential campaign is expected to do. And the third was <a href="" target="_blank">transparent hucksterism.</a> Still, he managed to avoid imploding the entire time. Good boy, Donald!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 Aug 2016 01:27:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 312121 at