Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Correction: Obamacare Premiums Are Going Up About 0% For Most People <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Data! You want data! Sure, Obamacare premiums are going up and so are the subsidies. But <em>how much</em> are the subsidies going up? The chart below&mdash;which I want everyone to look at because it was a pain in the ass to create&mdash;shows this for the 15 states with the highest premium increases:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_2017_premium_subsidy_increase_top_15.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>As you can see, subsidies are increasing more than premiums in every state&mdash;and by quite a bit. This comparison data is for a 27-year-old with an income of $25,000, and comes from Tables 6 and 12 <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> (Arizona is literally off the chart: premiums increased 116 percent and subsidies increased 428 percent.) Here's the same chart for the 15 states with the smallest premium increases:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_2017_premium_subsidy_increase_bottom_15.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>There are plenty of caveats here. Premiums and subsidies will be different for different kinds of households. Upper middle-class families don't get any subsidies at all. And this doesn't tell us what the average net increase is, once subsidies are accounted for.</p> <p>However, it gives us a pretty good idea that for a substantial majority of Obamacare users, the net amount they pay for health insurance in 2017 isn't going to be much more than it was this year. For many, in fact, it will be the same. For those who shop around, it's quite likely to be less.</p> <p>Bottom line: if your income is low enough to qualify for a subsidy, there's no need to panic over the Obamacare premium news. The higher premiums will help stabilize the market, and the cost will be covered almost entirely by Uncle Sam. Your pocketbook is safe.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Oct 2016 03:46:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 317496 at Tweet of the Day: Most Obamacare Users Won't Pay Much More For Coverage Than They Did Last Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is from a guy who works for a healthcare advocacy group in New Mexico:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Just got off the phone w/ a consumer who was crying bc she couldn't afford a 25% increase. With subsidies, her premium went down 1%. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Colin Baillio (@colinb1123) <a href="">October 25, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Getting panicked calls all day about premium hikes. Every person I talked to was shielded by subsidies or on employer plan. <a href="">#headlinesmatter</a></p> &mdash; Colin Baillio (@colinb1123) <a href="">October 25, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I don't want to minimize the pain that this year's premium hikes are going to cause for a subset of insurance buyers. But the vast majority of low-to-mid-income Obamacare users are eligible for federal subsidies&mdash;and as premiums go up, so do their subsidies. They may end up paying a bit more in 2017 for their health coverage, but probably no more than a few percent.</p> <p>So yes: headlines matter. Or, at the very least, the first few paragraphs of news stories matter. Coverage of this issue should make it clear that the average price people <em>pay</em> will go up much less than 25 percent, and for low-income folks it probably won't go up at all.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 23:45:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 317481 at Long Haul Truck Drivers Are Scarily Close to Being Put Out of Business <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last week, a self-driving truck delivered 50,000 cans of Budweiser from Loveland to Colorado Springs. This was obviously meant as a big FU to Coors, since the route "coincidentally" took all this frosty Bud right past Coors headquarters in Golden, Colorado. Most people, however, are interpreting this event as merely technological: it represents the dawn of the era of self-driving trucks. <a href="" target="_blank">Tim Lee comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to Otto&rsquo;s blog post on the trip, &ldquo;our professional driver was out of the driver&rsquo;s seat for the entire 120-mile journey down I-25, monitoring the self-driving system from the sleeper berth in the back.&rdquo;</p> <p>But this doesn&rsquo;t mean the nation&rsquo;s truck drivers need to start working on their r&eacute;sum&eacute;s. Technology like this may eventually displace human truck drivers, but the tech is <strong>several years away</strong> from causing mass unemployment. The key reason is that Otto&rsquo;s self-driving technology is initially limited to highways. When the truck reaches ordinary city streets, it hands control over to a human driver to handle tricky traffic situations. This means that even after a truck is outfitted with Otto&rsquo;s self-driving technology, it will still need a human driver in the truck.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. "Several years" sounds ominously near-term, so truck drivers might want to start worrying about their jobs right now. Beyond that, there's a way this could put truckers out of business well before that. Here's how.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cubs_indians_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Pick a route that has a lot of truck traffic. Let's say, Chicago to Cleveland. Outside of each city, you build a big truck depot and dispatch center. In Chicago, teamsters drive the trucks from the city out to the depot. Autopilots drive the trucks to the Cleveland depot, where a driver gets in and takes the truck to its destination. Rinse and repeat. The job of a truck driver is to drive back and forth from destinations in the city out to the depot, which they can do five or six times a day. Trucking firms save a ton of money even though the autopilot is designed for highway driving only.</p> <p>Building the depots would be cheap and easy, since you don't really need much there. It's basically just a dispatch center. You could pretty easily have hundreds of them dotted across the country near all of our biggest cities. The only thing that would stop this from happening is the knowledge that they'll only last a few years before they're put out of business by fully automated trucks that can go from dock to dock with no human intervention. Either way, truck drivers are in big trouble.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 23:26:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 317476 at Here's My 11-Word, 1-Chart Plan for Fixing Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>There's been a lot of talk about "fixing" Obamacare lately. Here's my two-step plan:</p> <ol><li>Increase the subsidy levels.</li> <li>Increase the penalty for not buying insurance.</li> </ol><p>That would pretty much do it. I could add lots of other small-bore things that need some tweaking, but why bother? These two things would do most of the job&mdash;and Republicans will never agree to them. They won't agree to any of the small-bore stuff either. So take your pick. You can support a detailed 11-point plan for Obamacare that will never get passed, or you can support my 11-word plan that will also never get passed.</p> <p>But since we're all lightweight wonks around here, we should take a guess at <em>how much</em> we need to change the subsidy and penalty levels to make everything work. Basically, Obamacare's big problem is that not enough young people are ponying up for insurance. To fix this, we need to get to a point where it's cheaper for young people to buy insurance than it is to pay the penalty. This can be done by either increasing subsidies or increasing the penalty. Here's my swag at what it would take:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_penalty_vs_subsidy.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 40px;"></p> <p>You could increase subsidies by 100 percent and leave the penalty alone, or you could increase the penalty 250 percent and leave the subsidies alone. Or you can pick any point in between.</p> <p>In reality, you could probably get by with smaller numbers, since nearly everyone will sign up if the penalty is within shouting distance of the net premium cost. You don't have to literally make the penalty as high as the premium cost. I also assumed silver coverage in this chart, and you can assume lower numbers if you're happy with kids buying bronze coverage.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>Anyway, that's it. This chart is my proposed Obamacare reform. It represents something of an upper bound, and I imagine that someone who has actual working knowledge of all this stuff could do a lot better. Call your congressman today and demand that this chart be made into law.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I'm not, especially, which is why I went with silver.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 19:21:00 +0000 Kevin Drum 317431 at We Live in a Gentlemen's C- Universe <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Physicist Eugene Wigner is the author of a famous paper called "The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences." <a href="" target="_blank">Brad DeLong comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We are all, potentially, the Friends of Wigner. It has always seemed to me that anyone with the empathy and imagination to think of him or herself as one of the Friends of Wigner is then driven inescapably to either "quantum <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_krona_creation_universe.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">mechanics is totally wrong wrong wrong wrong and just predicts well for incomprehensible reasons" <strong>or "many-worlds".</strong> There really are no other alternatives, or at least what alternatives there are are even stranger.</p> </blockquote> <p>Au contraire. I consider quantum mechanics to be evidence that we are all constructs in somebody else's virtual reality. All of the peculiarities of quantum mechanics are easily explainable if the universe is merely a computer-generated world subject to the whims of a programmer.</p> <p>The only question left is <em>why</em> the programmer has created such a world. Whimsy? Amusement? As a test of some sociology theorem? Bad design?</p> <p>Perhaps the last one is most likely. In reality, quantum mechanics is a desperate, ugly patch glued onto a poorly working universe by a stressed freshman at 2 am. Basically, the poor kid waited until the last minute, as freshmen everywhere do, and hadn't really understood much of the text for the required "Plenum Creation and Maintenance" class. The result was a mess that kept falling apart even for small taus of only a few billion years. One thing led to another, and eventually the whole project became a Rube Goldberg monstrosity of black holes, 11 dimensions, wavicles, arbitrary speed-of-light caps on velocity, and observer-induced wave collapse as a last-ditch way of reducing the computing power needed to run it.</p> <p>In the end it received a gentlemen's C- from a sympathetic professor. That's the universe we live in.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 18:27:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 317416 at Donald Trump Knows Nothing About His Own Businesses <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_14_days_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">With only 14 days left before Election Day, it hardly feels worth it to highlight Donald Trump's latest public declaration of ignorance, but I have another point to make about today's Trump Follies. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is Donald on Obamacare:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Well, I don't use much Obamacare, I must be honest with you, because it is so bad for the people and they can't afford it. And like, for instance, I'm at Trump National Doral in Miami, and we don't even use Obamacare. We don't want it. The people don't want it, and I spend more money on health coverage, but we don't use it.</p> </blockquote> <p>The obvious point to make is that Trump obviously has no idea what Obamacare is. He's apparently under the impression that it's some kind of option that employers can choose as group insurance for their employees. Ha ha. What an idiot.</p> <p>And that's true enough. But did you notice something else? Once again, Trump has made it clear that he has no idea <em>how his own businesses are run</em>. This is hardly the first time, either. As near as I can tell, Trump's job as CEO of the Trump Organization is to (a) watch a lot of TV, (b) appear on a lot of TV, (c) make command decisions about what kind of marble to use in the bathrooms, and (d) threaten to sue people who get in his way. Beyond that, he appears to play no real role in running things.</p> <p>This explains, for example, his promise last year to release his tax returns. He made that promise because he had no idea what was in them. It was only later, when someone on his finance team apparently pointed out what they contained, that he reneged on his promise. It also explains his frequent business failures. He was in love with the Plaza Hotel but had no idea what it was worth or how to run it. He loved the idea of owning an airline but had no clue about the shuttle market. He loved the casino business, but was entirely ignorant about casino operations. He loves to play golf, but doesn't understand the business of golf. Etc. He's spent his whole life diddling around in businesses that seemed interesting, but without knowing anything about them or understanding how to run them.</p> <p>His presidential campaign is the same thing. He thought it sounded neat to run for president but had no interest in how campaigns are actually run. If he ever became president, it would be more of the same. He'd run the country the way he runs his golf courses: making windswept exits from helicopters to deliver grand statements, and then quickly losing all interest. At best, things would toddle along without catastrophe if he picked decent people to run things. At worst, he'd pick fellow con men who would embroil him in endless scandals that made Teapot Dome look like a child's lark.</p> <p>Luckily, we'll never have to find out.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 17:34:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 317406 at Are Bonds Opaque and Confusing Because They Have to Be? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few days ago <a href="" target="_blank">Brad DeLong</a> tagged a piece by David Warsh that promises to be a preface of sorts to a 14-part series about some new research into the nature of finance and the origins of the Great Recession. It actually looks pretty interesting, but I confess I'm a little unclear about one of its central points.</p> <p>As we all know, one of the problems the Great Recession uncovered was the brave new world of rocket science derivatives, which were so complex that no <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_connery_james_bond.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">one truly knew what they represented. Warsh suggests that <a href="" target="_blank">this is no accident:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Stock markets existed to elicit information for the purpose of efficiently allocating risk. <strong>Money markets thrived on suppressing information in order to preserve the usefulness of bank money used in transactions and as a store of value.</strong> Price discovery was the universal rule in one realm; an attitude of &ldquo;no questions asked&rdquo; in the other.</p> <p>....This new view of the role of opacity in banking and debt is truly something new under the sun. One of the oldest forms of derision in finance involves dismissing as clueless those who don&rsquo;t know the difference between a stock and a bond. Stocks are equity, a share of ownership. Their value fluctuates and may drop to zero, while bonds or bank deposits are a form of debt, an IOU, a promise to repay a fixed amount.</p> <p>That economists themselves had, until now, missed the more fundamental difference&nbsp;&mdash; <strong>stocks are designed to be transparent, bonds seek to be opaque</strong> &mdash; is humbling, or at least it should be. But the awareness of that difference is also downright exciting to those who do economics for a living, especially the young. Sufficiently surprising is this reversal of the dogma of price discovery that those who have been trained by graduate schools in economics and finance sometimes experience the shift in Copernican terms: a familiar world turned upside down.</p> </blockquote> <p>I can't do justice to the whole idea in an excerpt, but this gives you a taste of Warsh's thesis. But it confuses me. Certainly he's right that mortgage-backed securities of the aughts were astonishingly opaque, but why does that lead us to believe that bonds, in general, "seek to be opaque"? For most of the 20th century and before, bonds were considerably simpler than the derivatives of the 21st century. The value of a corporate bond depended on the likelihood of bond payments being made, which in turn depended on the profitability and overall growth prospects of the firm. The value of a company's stock <em>also</em> depended on the profitability and overall growth prospects of the firm. If you knew one, you knew the other. Bonds, in general, were no more opaque than stocks. And none of this had any relation to bank money, did it?</p> <p>Maybe this will all be explained later. If Warsh is arguing that the transparency of the debt and equity markets have changed over the past decade or so, that's one thing. But if he's arguing that they've <em>always</em> been fundamentally different, then I have some questions. I hope he answers them over the next 14 weeks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 16:02:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 317396 at Obamacare Premiums Will Increase About 25% This Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">The federal government</a> announced today that Obamacare premiums are set to rise 22 percent next year. <a href="" target="_blank">Charles Gaba</a> estimates that premiums will go up 25 percent. Those numbers are close enough that there's probably no need to dive into the weeds to see if there are any gotchas. Premiums really are going up an average of about 25 percent next year. Here are five things to keep in mind:</p> <ol><li>Yikes. That's a big number.</li> <li>The biggest increase is 145 percent in Phoenix. I have no idea why. However, you can be sure that Donald Trump and others will be bleating about Obamacare premiums going up "as much as 145 percent." (For the record, the lowest increase is -12 percent in Indianapolis. See Table 13 <a href="" target="_blank">here</a> for a full list.)</li> <li>The vast majority of people on Obamacare have incomes under 400 percent of the poverty level. All of them are shielded from ever paying more than a cap set by income level. At the lowest income level, they never have to pay more than 3 percent of their income. At the highest income level (about $100,000 for a family of four) they never have to pay more than 9 percent of their income.<sup>1</sup> This means that in practice, the amount people <em>pay</em> will rise considerably less than 25 percent.<sup>2</sup></li> <li>The 25 percent number assumes that you keep the same policy that you have in 2016. You can do better if you shop around. For example, HHS estimates that if everyone switched to the lowest-price plan in their metal level (bronze, silver, etc.), premiums would go <em>down</em> an average of 20 percent. Combined with <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbo_obamacare_premiums_october_2016.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">point #3, this means that nearly all individuals will be able to avoid huge increases if they're really in dire financial straits.</li> <li>As painful as this is, all that's happening is that after being underpriced for years, Obamacare premiums are finally catching up to the original estimates from the Congressional Budget Office. <a href="" target="_blank">A couple of months ago</a> I suggested that premiums still had another 25 percent increase ahead, and this would likely be spread out over a couple of years. I was right about the size of the hike, but it's happening in one year instead of two. The good news is that these prices hikes truly should help to stabilize the market and prevent more insurers from abandoning Obamacare. It might even prod a few new ones to enter the market.</li> </ol><p>So that's that. Basically, this increase is painful, but was probably inevitable as insurers got more experience with the market. Subsidies and caps should shield a lot of people from the full pain of the increases, and the higher premium levels should be good for the long-term health of Obamacare. As for Republicans who plan to yell and scream about this, I have a deal for them: anyone who's serious about reducing the suffering of folks who will be hurt by higher premiums has my full support for boosting subsidy levels.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The precise numbers for 2017 are 3.06 percent and 9.69 percent.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>There are other subsidies too that shield people from premium hikes. In particular, Andrew Sprung will be mad at me if I don't mention <a href="" target="_blank">Cost Sharing Reductions,</a> which many people can use to buy silver plans at reasonable prices.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Oct 2016 01:27:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 317376 at In a Couple of Weeks, Merrick Garland Will Discover His Fate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has been waiting patiently for months to discover his fate. Here is Rick Hasen's prediction <a href="" target="_blank">via Twitter:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Here's why I think @EdWhelanEPPC is wrong and Judge Garland gets confirmed in lame duck IF Democrats take Senate. First, Obama will be loyal to Garland and not withdraw nomination and Garland won't withdraw unless Clinton asks. Clinton won't ask despite <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_merrick_garland.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">pressure from the left to withdraw Garland for younger and more liberal candidate.</p> <p>Getting Garland out of way during lame duck clears her first 100-day agenda without a nasty Supreme Court fight that eats other things. RBG has signaled she and/or Breyer will leave the court while Dems still control Senate (before 2017). This means she can get 1 or 2 more liberal Justices on Court and/or make it a big issue in the midterms, in the hopes of turning about Dem turnout problem in the midterms. With Garland done in [lame duck], Clinton has very good chance of 1, and some chance of 2, liberal appts before 2018 elections.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is kinda sorta my take too. I agree that Obama will be loyal to Garland. That's all part of the implicit bargain when he nominated him. And I agree that Hillary Clinton will go along with that, partly for the reason Hasen outlines, and partly because it demonstrates a deeper loyalty: not just from Obama, but from Team Obama, which Hillary is part of. I think <em>that</em> was part of the implicit bargain too.</p> <p>But will Republicans go along and confirm him? On the one hand, they've said they won't, and their base (i.e., talk radio) will go ballistic if they renege on that promise. On the other hand, in the real world (i.e., not talk radio) they know perfectly well that Garland is the best they're going to get. If they hold out, Clinton will nominate someone more liberal, and Harry Reid has already promised that if they go into endless obstruction mode, Democrats will <a href="" target="_blank">nuke the filibuster</a> and confirm Clinton's choice.</p> <p>So here's where this leaves them. If they break their promise, they'll be tarred as feeble RINOs who pretend to be conservative but crumble at the first sign of Democratic opposition. If they keep their promise, they' tarred as feeble RINOs who pretend to be conservative but always have some lame excuse for losing. <em>We don't control every branch of government. What could we do?</em> What a bunch of whiners.</p> <p>In other words, talk radio is going to scorch them no matter what happens. This means that if they're smart, they'll go ahead and confirm Garland. It's their least bad option.</p> <p>That doesn't mean it will happen. Fear of the base is powerful in the Republican Party. Still, the GOP leadership has some decisions to make, and how they're going to handle the tea party faction is one of their most important ones. There's not much question that they have to take them on sometime. The only question is whether November 9 will be the time.</p> <p><strong>NOTE:</strong> If Republicans hold onto the Senate, all bets are off. They'll still have some leverage in the next Congress, and might reasonably think they can negotiate a better candidate with Hillary Clinton.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 21:40:30 +0000 Kevin Drum 317366 at Is Donald Trump a Fake Republican? Or the Ultimate Republican? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With 15 days left until a possible nationwide rout of the Republican Party, <em>National Review</em> editor Rich Lowry <a href="" target="_blank">complains about Democratic hypocrisy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>As Jonah pointed out in a G-File a week or two ago, the Democrats started out by arguing that Donald Trump was such an outlandish figure that he couldn&rsquo;t even truly be considered a Republican; now, with Election Day just two weeks away and Trump performing badly, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_15_days.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">they are seeking to use him to sink as many Republicans up and down the ballot as possible.</p> </blockquote> <p>Maybe we tune into different liberals, but that's sure not how <em>I</em> remember it. My recollection is that it was <em>conservatives</em> who argued that Trump wasn't a real conservative. Lowry, for example, <a href="" target="_blank">called Trump</a> a "philosophically unmoored political opportunist" and a "menace to American conservatism." Liberals, conversely, spent a vast amount of ink arguing that Trump was, in fact, the apotheosis of everything conservatives had been doing for the past 30 or 40 years. They had supported extremist talk show hosts. They had tolerated endless appeals to racist sentiment. They had impeached a Democratic president. They had adopted a strategy of pure obstruction after losing in a landslide to Barack Obama. They had promoted a bubble of cocky ignorance by convincing their followers that the mainstream media was entirely untrustworthy. They had indulged an endless series of bizarre conspiracy theories and pseudo-scandals for purely political benefits.</p> <p>After all that, liberals argued, conservatives could hardly act shocked when Republican primary voters were attracted to a guy like Donald Trump. They had been poking this particular tiger for years, and now that it was biting back they had no idea how to stop it. That's how I remember things, anyway. Anyone disagree?</p> <p>And as long as we're on political topics, I noticed this morning that Sam Wang's Senate forecast, which has been sneaking upward for the past week, has finally reached the point where he's now predicting <a href="" target="_blank">Democrats will likely win control of the Senate 51-49.</a> The overall Democratic probability of Democratic control is 83 percent. As near as anyone can tell, Donald Trump is now actively working toward this end, hoping that an epic Republican loss across the board will make his personal loss less of an insult. Or something. Nice work, conservatives!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 18:10:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 317321 at Maybe We Can Turn Trump Lemons Into Twitter Lemonade <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago Ariana Lenarsky was on a flight from Austin to Los Angeles. As she was walking down the aisle of the airplane, a guy reached out and stroked her calf. She reported this to the flight attendants, who nodded knowingly because other women had already complained about the guy. <a href="" target="_blank">After a bit of back and forth</a>, the captain radioed ahead and police met the plane when it landed. No one wanted to press charges because it would have been more trouble than it was worth, which led to this:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Police said they would "give him a talking to"&amp; "it's not the crime of the century." True! I'm going to tweet his picture now since it's nbd</p> &mdash; Ariana Lenarsky (@aardvarsk) <a href="">October 23, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">You can't grab women on a plane, guy. You can't do it. Hope you get the help you need. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Ariana Lenarsky (@aardvarsk) <a href="">October 23, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of calling out ordinary schmoes on big media platforms, but wouldn't it be nice if there was a silver lining to the odious and repugnant Trump campaign? Maybe this could be it: If someone gropes you, haul out your phone, take his picture, and post it on your social media platform of choice. We'd need a hashtag for this. Maybe if it catches on, men will finally start paying a big enough social penalty for this crap that they'll stop doing it.</p> <p>OK, OK, that won't happen. But maybe they'll do less of it. Baby steps.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 17:37:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 317316 at Oversampling Is the Latest Hotness in Trumpland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last night I went out to dinner and briefly checked in on things when I got back. While I was busy with some other stuff, I had this idle Twitter conversation:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I thought we fully litigated oversampling in the 90s</p> &mdash; Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) <a href="">October 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@ClaraJeffery</a> Nothing is ever fully litigated. It's always fucking groundhog day.</p> &mdash; digby (@digby56) <a href="">October 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@digby56</a> <a href="">@ClaraJeffery</a> They all know perfectly well what oversampling is. They're just trolling.</p> &mdash; Kevin Drum (@kdrum) <a href="">October 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I had been out of touch with the news for maybe <em>six or seven hours</em>, nothing more. And yet I was completely out of the loop on the latest campaign idiocy. I had no idea what this was about, which explains my foolishly casual tweet. <a href="" target="_blank">This morning I found out:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_zero_hedge_oversample.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 20px;"></p> <p>This post has currently been read by 1.3 million people, and is ricocheting through the Trumposphere at light speed. Apparently oversampling is this year's deskewing.</p> <p>In case you care, oversampling is a normal and longtime practice for folks who are running presidential campaigns&mdash;which is what John Podesta was doing. If you survey, say, a thousand people, you're likely to get a sample of only 130 African-Americans. This means that if you happen to be particularly interested in African-American voters, you need to deliberately oversample them in order to get a statistically reliable pool of respondents. The same is true for any smallish group of people. If, for some reason, you want to target Hispanic environmentalists or white women under age 30, you have to oversample them too.</p> <p>Ordinary polls don't normally do this, though they do sometimes. For example, suppose everyone is obsessed with blue-collar white men and their alleged anger at the political system. A polling firm might want to oversample them in order to report how they really feel. That wouldn't affect the overall poll, though. It would be released as a separate survey on a matter of current interest.</p> <p>Anyway, this is all obvious and simple, which explains my tweet above. But hell, what do I know? Do the yahoos peddling this stuff know it's nonsense but only care about ginning up an army of easily-duped malcontents on November 9? Or are they genuinely ignorant? Who knows? But naturally Donald Trump is all over it:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Major story that the Dems are making up phony polls in order to suppress the the Trump . We are going to WIN!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">October 24, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Jesus, this election is dispiriting. I'm beginning to think the whole thing is a spectacularly successful plot by the pharma industry to boost sales of anti-anxiety drugs and prescription blood pressure meds.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 16:58:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 317301 at Customers Abandoned Amazon in Droves When They Had to Pay Sales Tax <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Adam Ozimek posted an item yesterday making the case that Donald Trump is wrong about something. Shocking, I know. But in the process he points to an interesting paper from a couple of years ago about the effect of sales taxes on Amazon purchases. A trio of researchers compared purchases from Amazon in five states both before and after Amazon started <a href="" target="_blank">collecting sales taxes there:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>They found that brick and mortar retailers saw a 2% increase in sales, and a decline of 9.5% for Amazon. This is hardly enough to save brick and mortar stores or stop Amazon.</p> </blockquote> <p>True enough. The move to online retail is bigger than Amazon, and it's unlikely that anything would have stopped it or even slowed it down substantially. Still, <a href="" target="_blank">here's the data from the paper:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_amazon_sales_tax_effect.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 45px;"></p> <p>These are...big effects. For costly items, the paper concluded that Californians reduced their Amazon purchases by a third. Even in low-tax Virginia, households reduced their Amazon habit by 11 percent. For all items, households reduced their Amazon purchases by 9.5 percent overall, but by 15 percent in California and 11 percent in Texas.</p> <p>This coincided with an increase of "only" 2 percent at brick-and-mortar stores, but that's to be expected. As big as Amazon is, it's still a small fraction of the size of the entire retail market. A decline of 9.5 percent in Amazon sales spread among all brick-and-mortar retailers adds up to a small number.</p> <p>Obviously this hasn't put Amazon out of business. But I think that misses the point. I wonder what effect it would have had on Amazon's growth ten or fifteen years ago? If sales tax has this much effect even now, when Amazon is practically a habit for millions of consumers, what effect would it have had back when Amazon was still relatively new in the non-book space? Bigger, I assume. And what effect would that have had on Amazon's growth? Substantial, I think.</p> <p>One study doesn't prove anything, but this one sure suggests that an awful lot of Amazon's initial stratrospheric growth was due to <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Quill v. North Dakota</em>.</a> Maybe Jeff Bezos should send a thank you note to the Supreme Court.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 15:49:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 317291 at Holiday Hiring Is Early and Strong This Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_holiday_hiring.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Here's some good news on the <a href="" target="_blank">employment front:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Retailers geared up to hire holiday-season workers in August this year, an unusually early start showing how competition has intensified for temporary help in a tight labor market....Companies and analysts say a number of trends are converging. The holiday-shopping season is starting before Halloween for many consumers, rather than the traditional day after Thanksgiving. There are fewer workers available, due to unemployment holding around 5% for the past year. And retailers are competing for the same employees as logistics firms, distribution centers and restaurants during the final months of the year.</p> </blockquote> <p>This story is accompanied by a chart that inexplicably shows that seasonal hiring was strong in 2014, weaker in 2015, and then stronger still in 2016. Really? I don't recall 2015 being weaker than both 2014 and 2016. So take this all with a grain of salt.</p> <p>Still, it's yet another data point that the labor market is truly starting to tighten up this year. It still has a ways to go, but we're making progress.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 14:56:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 317281 at McCabegate Is the Latest Scandal That Will Totally Destroy Hillary Clinton <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wsj_clinton_ally_fbi.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Today in the category of&hellip;oh, forget it. I don't have the heart for snark. It's just so goddamn tiresome. The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> headline on the right describes the latest pseudoscandal in Hillaryland, and it's obviously intended to make you think there's yet more fishiness in the Clinton family. In a nutshell, <a href="" target="_blank">here's the story:</a></p> <ul><li>In early 2015, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe recruited Dr. Jill McCabe to run for a state Senate seat.</li> <li>Various organizations under McAuliffe's control donated lots of money to her campaign.</li> <li>She lost.</li> <li>Several months later, McCabe's husband was promoted to deputy director of the FBI. Because of that promotion, he "helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s email use." This was presumably in addition to the hundreds of other things that a deputy director has oversight responsibility for.</li> </ul><p>There's literally nothing here. Not "nothing substantial." Not "nothing that other politicians don't do." Literally nothing. There's not a single bit of this that's illegal, unethical, or even the tiniest bit wrong. It's totally above board and perfectly kosher. And even if there <em>were</em> anything wrong, McAuliffe would have needed a time machine to know it.</p> <p>Honest to God, I'm so tired of this stuff I could scream. I've been joking about it lately by appending <em>gate</em> to every dumb little nonscandal that's tossed in Hillary's direction, and I guess I'll keep doing that. But our illustrious press corps needs to pull its collective head out of its ass. If you've got real evidence of Hillary being engaged in something fishy, go to town. I won't complain. But if all you've got is a thrice-removed, physics-challenged gewgaw that proves nothing except that you know how to play Six Degrees of Hillary Clinton,<sup>1</sup> then give it a rest. It just makes you look like those monomaniacs with thousands of clippings glued to their wall and spider webs of string tying them all together.</p> <p>Just stop it.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Here's how it works:</p> <ol><li>Make a list of the entire chain of command that had some oversight over the FBI's investigation of Hillary Clinton's email server. That's going to be at least half a dozen people.</li> <li>Make a list of all their close family and friends. Now you're up to a hundred people.</li> <li>Look for a connection between any of those people and the Clintons. Since FBI headquarters is located in Washington, DC, and the Clintons famously have thousands and thousands of friends, you will find a connection. I guarantee it.</li> <li>Write a story about it.</li> </ol><p>See how easy this is? But please don't try it at home. This is a game for trained professionals only.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Oct 2016 05:26:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 317271 at Democracy Under Siege In Irvine <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_campaign_signs.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">I went out to get the paper this morning and noticed that my yard sign was gone. Some Trumpkin vandalizing Hillary signs? Nope. All the other signs in my neighborhood were gone too. City council signs, school board signs, Irvine mayor signs&mdash;all gone.</p> <p>So I investigated. I went over to our sister neighborhood on the other side of the tennis courts. No signs. I don't know what that neighborhood looked like yesterday, but I'll bet there were <em>some</em> signs there.</p> <p>I went farther afield and finally found some signs. But only about half as many as there used to be. How strange. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to which signs were left standing. When I went even farther out, signs reappeared in full force. Half a mile from my house everything was normal. Out on the main drag, signs were still piled high, just as they've always been.</p> <p>What's going on? Did some local busybodies decide that colorful yard signs were polluting our beautiful all-beige neighborhood? Did my local association suddenly decide they didn't care about the First Amendment anymore? Did a yard sign neutron bomb go off? It's very mysterious.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Our association manager says they had nothing to do with this. Mysteriouser and mysteriouser.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 23 Oct 2016 22:36:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 317266 at Trump Meltdown Continues Apace <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Only 16 days to go! So what did Hillary Clinton <a href="" target="_blank">spend the weekend doing?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Hillary Clinton moved to press her advantage in the presidential race on Sunday, <strong>urging black voters in North Carolina to vote early</strong> as Republicans increasingly conceded that Donald J. Trump is unlikely to recover in the polls....By running up a lead well in advance of the Nov. 8 election in states like North Carolina and Florida, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_16_days.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 20px;">she could make it extraordinarily difficult for Mr. Trump to mount a late comeback.</p> <p>....Both Mrs. Clinton and key Republican groups have effectively pushed aside Mr. Trump since the final presidential debate on Wednesday, treating him as a defeated candidate and turning their attention to voter turnout and battling for control of Congress. An ABC News tracking poll published on Sunday showed <strong>Mr. Trump trailing Mrs. Clinton by 12 percentage points nationally and drawing just 38 percent of the vote.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>OK, that sounds like good, sound campaign strategy. How about Donald Trump? Well, he went to Gettysburg, the site of Abraham Lincoln's famous speech about living up to our highest ideals as a nation. Trump was there, supposedly, to provide a vision of his <a href="" target="_blank">first hundred days in office:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Instead, the Republican nominee used the first third of what had been promoted as a &ldquo;closing argument&rdquo; speech to <strong>nurse personal grievances,</strong> grumbling about &ldquo;the rigging of this election&rdquo; and &ldquo;the dishonest mainstream media,&rdquo; and threatening to sue the women who have come forward &mdash; an 11th woman did on Saturday &mdash; to accuse him of aggressive sexual advances.</p> <p>&ldquo;Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign &mdash; total fabrication,&rdquo; Mr. Trump said. &ldquo;The events never happened. Never. <strong>All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.</strong>&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>As always with Trump, his timing and his venue are perfect. Next up: Trump goes to Checkpoint Charlie to complain about NATO allies not paying us enough money.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 23 Oct 2016 19:16:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 317261 at Pat Buchanan Defends Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jay Nordlinger and I don't agree on much, but I've never held that against him. However, with 17 days left until we go to the polls, I <em>do</em> hold against him the five minutes of my life that I lost from reading Pat Buchanan's latest column. But you know what? If I have to suffer, so do you. Ladies and <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_17_days_prince_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">gentlemen, here is Buchanan's <a href="" target="_blank">latest defense of Donald Trump:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What explains the hysteria of the establishment? In a word, fear.</p> <p>....By suggesting he might not accept the results of a &ldquo;rigged election&rdquo; Trump is committing an unpardonable sin. But this new cult, <strong>this devotion to a new holy trinity of diversity, democracy and equality, is of recent vintage and has shallow roots.</strong> For none of the three &mdash; diversity, equality, democracy &mdash; is to be found in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers or the Pledge of Allegiance.</p> <p>....Some of us recall another time, when Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in &ldquo;Points of Rebellion&rdquo;: &ldquo;We must realize that today&rsquo;s Establishment is the new George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.&rdquo; Baby-boomer radicals loved it, raising their fists in defiance of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. <strong>But now that it is the populist-nationalist right that is moving beyond the niceties of liberal democracy</strong> to save the America they love, elitist enthusiasm for &ldquo;revolution&rdquo; seems more constrained.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Nordlinger comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Around the world, there are many, many places that lack the &ldquo;niceties of liberal democracy.&rdquo; You don&rsquo;t want to live there. You would quickly discover that the niceties are more like necessities &mdash; a rule of law necessary to live a good, decent, and free life.</p> </blockquote> <p>Is this just garden-variety Buchanan? It's been years since I've read or listened to him. He's always been a bit of a lunatic, but it seems like he's gotten even crazier in his old age.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 22 Oct 2016 16:33:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 317251 at Friday Cat Blogging - 21 October 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is Hopper doing her best impression of a three-toed sloth. It lasted for about three seconds. Sometimes I wish she had the energy of a sloth. She is one high-maintenance cat.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_10_21.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Oct 2016 19:14:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 317226 at Republicans Need to Abandon Angry White Guys <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>What's going to happen to the Republican Party after November 8? I've raised the possibility that if Trump loses massively, the party establishment might get serious about marginalizing the tea party caucus in Congress instead of being held endlessly hostage to them. Most of the responses to that suggestion have been skeptical. The more likely possibility is that tea partiers will <em>increase</em> their <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_graham_hat_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">influence and the GOP will become even crazier and more obstructionist than ever.</p> <p>That's pretty much what <a href="" target="_blank">apostate Republican Max Boot thinks:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan may hope that after Trump&rsquo;s inevitable defeat the party will return to their brand of conservatism &mdash; in favor of free trade and American leadership abroad, cutting government spending and taxes, a balanced approach to immigration, and making deals where possible with centrist Democrats. But that&rsquo;s not a safe assumption anymore.</p> <p>....Perhaps Trump will fade away after the election and the Republican Party will return to its Reaganite roots. But...survey findings suggest a strong possibility that instead the GOP, or at least a substantial portion of it, could continue veering toward the fringe, muttering darkly about how Trump was robbed of his rightful victory. If that is the case, then the Republican Party may not survive the Trump takeover.</p> </blockquote> <p>I want to make this easy. There's basically only one thing that matters for the GOP: whether they double down on being the white men's party, or whether they take the painful but necessary steps necessary to broaden their appeal. That's it. Everything else pales in comparison.</p> <p>If they continue on their current course, the presidency is going to get further and further out of reach. Eventually they won't be able to hold on to the Senate or the House either. They've simply run out of ways to increase the white vote and suppress the non-white vote, and the demographics of America just flatly don't support a party that's increasingly loathed by women and minorities.</p> <p>Lindsey Graham's critique of four years ago is famous: "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term." Republicans need to print this on a hat and start wearing it at all times. The Southern Strategy worked great for half a century, but nothing lasts forever. It's time to abandon it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Oct 2016 19:04:45 +0000 Kevin Drum 317221 at Trump Attacks Michelle Obama <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I have no idea what this is about, but....</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump now going off on Michelle Obama</p> &mdash; Nick Riccardi (@NickRiccardi) <a href="">October 21, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>A few days ago I mentioned that there were a few people who had attacked Trump and avoided return fire: Michelle Obama, Mark Cuban, and Warren Buffett. I guess now we're down to just the last two.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Oct 2016 18:09:58 +0000 Kevin Drum 317211 at Weekly Poll Update: Hillary Clinton Still Flying High <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Sam Wang's meta-margin</a> hasn't changed much in the past week. He now has Hillary Clinton leading Trump by 4.4 percentage points:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pec_trump_clinton_2016_10_21.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 75px;"></p> <p>Wang's current prediction is that Clinton has a 99 percent chance of winning and will rack up 339 electoral votes. He still has the Senate tied, 50-50, but the Democratic meta-margin is up to 1.7 percent and the probability of Democratic control is 79 percent. On the House side, he has Democrats up by about 5 percent, which is not enough for them to win back control. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's Pollster:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_trump_clinton_2016_10_21.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 7px;"></p> <p>Clinton has dropped a point and is now 7.3 percentage points ahead of Trump. For what it's worth, if you look only at high-quality live phone polls, they have Clinton up by a whopping 9.5 percentage points. In the generic House polling, Pollster has Democrats ahead by 5.2 points, down a bit from last week.</p> <p>If you add to all this the fact that Clinton almost certainly has a far superior GOTV operation compared to Trump, she could win the election by anywhere from 6 to 10 points depending on what happens over the next couple of weeks. Republicans appear to have resigned themselves to this, and are now putting all their energy into downballot races. This means the Senate is likely to be very close, and the House will probably stay in Republican hands&mdash;though only by a dozen seats or so.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Oct 2016 17:57:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 317206 at Politico: Donald Trump Is Doomed <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With 18 days left in the 2016 campaign, what does <em>Politico</em> have to say about the state of the race? Let's take a look. First, they tell us that <a href="" target="_blank">Donald Trump is doomed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In June, POLITICO identified 11 key battleground states &mdash; totaling 146 electoral votes &mdash; that would effectively decide the presidential election in November. A new examination of polling data and strategic campaign ad buys indicates that <strong>six of those 11 are now comfortably in Hillary <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_18_days.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Clinton&rsquo;s column</strong>....Even if Trump ran the table in the remaining battleground states &mdash; Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio &mdash; <strong>he would fall short of the White House if he cannot flip another state where Clinton currently leads in the polls.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>But the WikiLeaks release of John Podesta's emails is causing Hillary Clinton <a href="" target="_blank">a few problems of her own:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Some of the left&rsquo;s most influential voices and groups are taking offense at the way they and their causes were discussed behind their backs by Clinton and some of her closest advisers in the emails, which swipe liberal heroes and causes as &ldquo;puritanical,&rdquo; &ldquo;pompous&rdquo;, &ldquo;naive&rdquo;, &ldquo;radical&rdquo; and &ldquo;dumb,&rdquo; calling some &ldquo;freaks,&rdquo; who need to &ldquo;get a life.&rdquo;</p> <p>....<strong>Liberal groups and activists are assembling opposition research-style dossiers of the most dismissive comments</strong> in the WikiLeaks emails about icons of their movement like Clinton&rsquo;s Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders, and their stances on trade, Wall Street reform, energy and climate change. And some liberal activists are vowing to use the email fodder to oppose Clinton policy proposals or appointments deemed insufficiently progressive.</p> </blockquote> <p>The left has felt this way about Clinton since the start, so I'm not sure the email leaks really make a lot of difference. In any case, I assume they were always planning to fight for progressive appointments and causes, right? And now they're still planning to do that.</p> <p>Finally, in other campaign news, you may have heard that the "jokes" at last night's Al Smith dinner were a wee bit rough. But Cardinal Timothy Dolan says it was <a href="" target="_blank">all smiles in private:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Dolan said the three of them prayed together. &ldquo;And after the little prayer, Mr. Trump turned to Secretary Clinton and said, &lsquo;You know, you are one tough and talented woman,&rsquo;&rdquo; he recalled. &ldquo;And he said, &lsquo;This has been a good experience in this whole campaign, as tough as it&rsquo;s been,&rsquo; and she said to him, &lsquo;And Donald, whatever happens, we need to work together afterwards.&rsquo; Now I thought: This is the evening at its best.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Well, he's a man of God, so I suppose he can't be lying about this. Maybe Clinton will appoint Trump Secretary of Homeland Security after it's all over.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Oct 2016 16:56:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 317201 at California Bullet Train Takes a Hit, Episode 59 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's the depressingly familiar latest news on <a href="" target="_blank">California's bullet train:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The California bullet train authority has told its design engineers that the future system would have shorter trains and smaller station platforms, <strong>reducing the capacity of individual trains by roughly 50%</strong> and potentially the capacity of the entire Los Angeles-to-San Francisco route.</p> <p>....The switch to shorter trains was <strong>disclosed in a Sept. 7 memo</strong> that outlined reductions in the size of future passenger platforms, based on a decision that the high-speed rail system would operate trains of only 10 cars. The previous plan was to operate a &ldquo;double&rdquo; train set, which could have up to 20 cars.</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm too lazy to look this up, but my recollection is that the original financial projections were based on trains running every 15 minutes at 90 percent capacity for 19 hours per day. This was always kind of laughable, but if they cut the size of the trains in half then there's really no controversy anymore. The financial projections have to be cut in half too. Or so you'd think. But the Rail Authority says there's no problem: from LA to San Jose, they'll just run trains every five minutes.</p> <p>This is ridiculous. If they could really do this, they would have done it from the start since it's a lot cheaper than building gigantic train stations to handle trains 1,400 feet long. So either they're guilty of gross financial negligence in the original plan, or else they're blowing smoke now. Who knows? Maybe it's both.</p> <p>One other note: I love how these massive changes in the plan get slipped into bland memos that the Rail Authority hopes no one will ever read. In this case, it took the <em>LA Times</em> six weeks to track down the decision, which was made on August 29. I wonder who tipped them off?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Oct 2016 16:07:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 317191 at Is This Election Driven By Fear? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at Vox, Ezra Klein talks to Molly Ball about what's driving the weirdness of this election. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's Ball:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>You have a world that feels like it&rsquo;s on fire with terrorism and conflict abroad. You still have a very high number of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track. And people are still really fearful. <strong>The level of fear in the electorate &mdash; fear of terrorism, fear of crime &mdash; is at a 15-year high.</strong> People have not been this afraid since just after 9/11. And it&rsquo;s gone up 20 points in the last year and a half.</p> </blockquote> <p>Here's a chart from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that <a href=";utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=Council&amp;_zs=Lu0Gd1&amp;_zl=T1tG3" target="_blank">backs this up:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fear_isalamic_fundamentalism.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>On the other hand, if we go back to Vox, <a href="" target="_blank">we also get this:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fear_clowns.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>Fear of terrorism is a poor third to corrupt government, and can't even beat out fear of clowns. I cut off the chart at the top seven, but even if you look at the whole thing, crime doesn't make the list at all.</p> <p>So...I'm not sure that fear really explains a lot about this election. There's always something out there that makes us afraid, and God knows, Donald Trump has done his best to gin up mountains of fear this year&mdash;why else would lots of people be afraid of corrupt government, economic collapse, and gun rights infringement? But is fear in general a lot higher than in previous elections? I'm doubtful. It's sort of like the "anger" we hear about so often, but which doesn't actually seem to be any different than previous election cycles.</p> <p>Maybe some political science boffin can take a deep look at the evidence and let us know. Is fear really higher this year than in previous presidential elections?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 21 Oct 2016 15:30:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 317181 at