Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Readers: Please Help Give Me Some Direction For the Next Six Months <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The biggest problem with Donald Trump is that he's a charlatan and a demagogue who could do immense damage to the United States. But this is my blog, which means everything is about me me me. And <em>my</em> biggest problem with Trump is trying to figure out just how much to mock the guy. Given the amount of crap that spills out of his mouth daily, I could do nothing but mock Trump and easily keep this blog churning along for the next six months.</p> <p>For example, a few weeks ago Trump was asked if women who get abortions should be punished. "The answer is that there has to be some form of punishment," he said. "Yes, there has to be some form." Today, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_oh_well.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 24px 0px 15px 30px;">Jonah Goldberg passes along <a href="" target="_blank">Trump's follow-up on Morning Joe:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>WILLIE GEIST: What about what you told Chris Matthews a few weeks ago, which is that women who get abortions should be punished? Do you still believe that to be true?</p> <p>&nbsp;TRUMP: No, he was asking me a theoretical, or just a question in theory, and I talked about it only from that standpoint. Of course not. <strong>And that was done, he said, you know, I guess it was theoretically, but he was asking a rhetorical question, and I gave an answer.</strong> And by the way, people thought from an academic standpoint, and, asked rhetorically, people said that answer was <strong>an unbelievable academic answer!</strong> But of course not, and I said that afterwards.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's so Palinesque it makes me nostalgic for the 2008 election. But is it ridiculous enough to deserve a place on the blog? Or is it just garden variety Trump?</p> <p>Also: I'm going to spend a lot of time over the next few months agreeing with people like Jonah Goldberg, which is not something I'm used to. Ditto for conservatives agreeing with me, which they're not used to either. This is going to be a weird campaign season.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> The great part about Trump's answer is that, basically, he said, "Hey, the guy asked me a question, so I gave an answer. What are you gonna do?" This is his excuse. It doesn't mean he actually <em>meant</em> what he said. And apparently his supporters are fine with this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 18:38:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 303261 at How Badly Off Is the Middle Class? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I've coincidentally run into a couple of things this week that have sparked a question. The first is from Atrios, who describes in caustic terms <a href="" target="_blank">how the well-off political class views the world:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I think they see the world as a combination of the way their peers see it (and they're mostly rich!), some 30 year old vision of Middle Class America, and The Poors. <strong>They don't get that middle class America are increasingly becoming like the poors.</strong> Maybe a bit more money, maybe a bit better lifestyle, but living paycheck to paycheck with student debt and one financial (medical, etc..) event away from nothing.</p> </blockquote> <p>So is this true? Is the American middle class getting worse off with time? By coincidence, <a href="" target="_blank">a new paper by John Komlos</a> tries to answer this question. First, he takes a look at income, and comes to the usual conclusion: the richer you are, the more your income has grown over the past few decades (with an odd exception for the very poorest, who have done better than the middle class). But then he goes further: "Income growth is of interest primarily to the extent it is welfare enhancing," he says, and then produces some estimates of welfare growth since 1979. This involves a bunch of Greek letters, including <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_welfare_1979_2011.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">one that can't be estimated at all, but let's ignore all that and just assume that Komlos did his sums properly. His basic result is on the right (I've edited and annotated it to make his estimates a little clearer).</p> <p>Unsurprisingly, overall welfare doesn't differ much from income: the richer you are, the faster your welfare has increased. Overall, the rich have done spectacularly well, while the middle-class has endured decades of sluggish growth.</p> <p><em>But</em> &mdash; there's a big difference between "should be better" and "gotten worse." There's no question that middle-class income growth has suffered since the Reagan era. That said, middle-class welfare has nonetheless grown, not declined. Using my rough central estimate of Komlos's numbers (the red line), the welfare of middle-class families has increased about 0.3 percent per year, meaning that middle-class families today are about 10 percent better off than they were in 1979.</p> <p>I can't stress enough that <em>this is grim news</em>. That number should be way higher. Still, if you want to make the argument that middle-class families today are in deeper absolute financial stress than they used to be ("increasingly becoming like the poors") you need to provide some evidence. I can't find it. I've looked all over, and everything I can find suggests that middle-class families are about as financially secure as they've always been&mdash;both in current income and future retirement income. That is, some are doing OK, some are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and some are in deep trouble. Just like always.</p> <p>Are there any good measures of personal financial stress that cover the past few decades and show an increasing problem? I've read loads of anecdotal pieces, but all they show is that some families have a lot of financial problems. What I want to know is whether <em>more</em> families are having lots of financial problems.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 17:26:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 303251 at Republicans Now Have to Face Up to Merrick Garland <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Everybody thinks Donald Trump will lose the general election in November. If that's true, what should Republicans do about the Supreme Court?</p> <ol><li>Go ahead and confirm Merrick Garland. He's about as good as they're likely to get from a Democrat.</li> <li>Continue their holdout and let Hillary Clinton nominate someone even more liberal next year.</li> </ol><p>Decisions, decisions. But it's a live question. Garland is now officially a pretty serious dilemma for Republicans.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 15:43:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 303241 at Chart of the Day: Cheap Pot! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's now been three years since Washington State legalized the sale of marijuana. So what happened? Answer: it got cheaper. The price of pot has fallen from $25 per gram to about $9 per gram, and it's still dropping. <a href="" target="_blank">Keith Humphreys comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Falling pot prices create winners and losers. Because state taxes are based on a percentage of the sales price, declining prices mean each sale puts less money in the public purse. On the other hand, bargain-basement prices undercut the black market, bringing the public reduced law enforcement costs, both in terms of tax dollars spent on jail and the damage done to individuals who are arrested.</p> <p>For consumers who enjoy pot occasionally while suffering no adverse effects from it, low prices will be a welcome but minor benefit....On the downside, young people tend to be price-sensitive consumers, and their use of inexpensive pot may rise over time, as might that of problematic marijuana users.</p> </blockquote> <p>Are falling prices in Washington due to legalization? That seems like a reasonable guess. On the other hand, if the folks at <a href="" target="_blank"></a> have things right, $9 per gram is roughly the market rate everywhere west of the Rockies. So there might be something else going on. Maybe legalization in Washington and Colorado have affected the entire regional market. Or maybe there's been a bumper crop of pot in Mendocino County. It's a little hard to say without more data.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_washington_marijuana_price.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 15:07:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 303231 at How Smart Is Donald Trump? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump is now officially the presumptive Republican nominee for president. But what kind of chance does he have of winning in November?</p> <p>I'd guess "pretty slim," but it depends on a couple of things. First, does anything horrible happen between now and the election&mdash;say, a terrorist attack, a financial crash, or Hillary Clinton being indicted for her email woes? Any of those <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_intelligent.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">could sweep him into office, but since they're entirely unpredictable there's not much point in worrying about them.</p> <p>Second, just how smart is Trump? Here's what worries me: in retrospect, we can see that Trump played the rest of the GOP field like a Stradivarius. He somehow managed to get his strongest competitors, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, out of the running early. He didn't waste much energy on obvious losers like Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina. Then he zeroed in on Marco Rubio. In the end, he was left only with Ted Cruz, possibly the most disliked man on the planet.</p> <p>Was this deliberate? The entire Republican Party would have rallied around Rubio if he'd been the last man standing, and that could very well have turned things around. But Cruz was never much of a threat to Trump. He's got a smarmy personality that doesn't appeal to the public, and a contemptuous disposition that has made virtually every Republican politician on Capitol Hill into a sworn enemy. Even faced with a Trump freight train bearing down on them, they couldn't bring themselves to circle the wagons and work for a Cruz victory.</p> <p>So: Did Trump actively try to make sure that Cruz would be his final opponent? Is he that smart and that proficient at executing a long-term strategy? Or did he just get lucky? The answer to that question might determine what happens in November.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 04 May 2016 04:43:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 303206 at Fighting Cancer Has Gotten a Lot More Expensive Since 2000 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_price_anticancer_drugs_2000_2014.png" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Cancer drugs are expensive. No surprise there. But Carolyn Johnson reports on a study showing that they've become <a href="" target="_blank">spectacularly more expensive over time:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The [study] examined 32 cancer medications given in pill form and found that their initial launch list prices have steadily increased over the years &mdash; even after adjusting for inflation. The average monthly amount insurers and patients paid for a new cancer drug was <strong>less than $2,000 in the year 2000 but soared to $11,325 in 2014.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Shazam! That makes the rise of university tuition seem like peanuts. Still, at least prices should go down as time goes by and competing medications come to market. Right? No siree:</p> <blockquote> <p>A study published Monday in <em>Health Affairs</em> examined what happened to the prices of two dozen cancer drugs after launch and found that pharmaceutical companies on average <strong>increased prices 5 percent above inflation</strong> each year. That inflation <strong>dwarfed ameliorating effects from competing drugs being introduced,</strong> which resulted in an average discount of about 2 percent. And the biggest hikes &mdash; of about 10 percent &mdash; coincided with the drugs receiving approval for other conditions. In other words, when a drug became useful to a larger number of patients, the price shot up.</p> <p>The findings highlight the often mind-boggling ways that drug prices behave. Launch prices for cancer drugs have soared over time; after launch, those prices also increase steadily, despite competition from other treatments and even as the drugs are used by more patients.</p> </blockquote> <p>Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of ways this makes sense. First, pharma companies might well price new cancer drugs moderately in order to get them on formularies and build up market share. Then, once they've been approved and doctors start to get familiar with them, they raise the price a bit each year. No one's going to remove a drug from their approved formulary just because of a measly little 5 percent price increase, after all.</p> <p>Second, cancer drugs can legitimately become more valuable over time. It's one thing to have the original clinical studies, but the true efficacy of a new drug is still a bit iffy until oncologists start prescribing it in large quantities and get personal experience with it. Once that happens&mdash;assuming the results are good&mdash;demand for the drug goes up and the market will bear a higher price. When doctors find a drug that produces good results with acceptable side effects, they quite reasonably get attached to it.</p> <p>That said, I'm guessing that the main driver of these price increases is <em>because they can</em>. Without these drugs, you die. That makes it pretty tough for an insurance company to say no regardless of what the price is.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 23:06:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 303191 at Why Do Campaigns Give Away Their Strategies? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As soon as the California primary is over, Donald Trump will be <a href="" target="_blank">facing a barrage of attack ads:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A series of ads painting [Trump] as an unserious, unready, and unscrupulous businessman who also happens to disparage women and minorities is to start airing June 8, the day after the final primaries in which Trump is likely to clinch the Republican presidential nomination.</p> <p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s a good day to start,&rdquo; said Justin Barasky with Priorities USA Action, a super PAC backing Democrat Hillary Clinton. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re not going to the make the same mistake Republicans did in waiting too long [to go on the offensive].&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>That sounds fine. But why announce it in advance? Doesn't that just give your opposition time to plan a counteroffensive? Or am I missing something?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 22:28:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 303186 at Lead Water Pipes in 1900 Caused Higher Crime Rates in 1920 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last year I wrote about a paper that looked at the relationship between childhood lead poisoning and violent crime rates in a whole new way. James Feigenbaum and Christopher Muller compared cities from the early 20th century that installed lead water pipes with those that installed iron pipes, and found that cities with lead pipes had higher homicide rates. Today, <a href="" target="_blank">Josh Marshall</a> alerts me to the fact that Feigenbaum and Muller have now published a final draft of their paper. <a href="" target="_blank">The basic results are below:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lead_pipes_homicide_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>As you can see, the effect is consistently positive. "Based on the lowest and highest point estimates," the authors conclude, "cities that used lead pipes had between 14 and 36 percent higher homicide rates than cities that did not." They present further versions of this chart with various controls added, but the results are largely the same. Overall, they estimate that cities with lead pipes had homicide rates 24 percent higher than cities with iron pipes.</p> <p>As a check, they also examine the data to see if lead pipes are associated with higher death rates from cirrhosis and infant diarrhea, both of which have been linked with lead poisoning:</p> <blockquote> <p>As expected, we observe large, positive, and statistically significant relationships between a city's use of lead pipes and its rates of death from cirrhosis and infant diarrhea. Unexpectedly, we find that cities that used lead water pipes had higher rates of death from scarlet fever and influenza. Cities that used iron pipes, in contrast, had higher rates of death from circulatory disease, cancer, and cerebral hemorrhage. We know of no scientific literature to motivate these latter relationships.</p> </blockquote> <p>So it looks like lead really is the culprit, and it really is associated with higher crime rates.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Click on my post from last year</a> to get more details about both the strengths and weaknesses of this paper. As with any retrospective study like this, there are reasons to be cautious about the results. However, the main strength of this study is unquestionably important: it verifies the lead-crime link in an environment completely different from all the other studies done to date, which examine gasoline lead exposure from 1960-2010. It's yet more evidence that lead really did play a role in the great crime wave&mdash;and the subsequent crime decline&mdash;of the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The original version of this post used the wrong chart. It's now been corrected.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 18:44:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 303151 at Weekly Flint Water Report: April 23-29 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here is this week's Flint water report. As usual, I've eliminated outlier readings above 2,000 parts per billion, since there are very few of them and they can affect the averages in misleading ways. During the week, DEQ took 450 samples. The average for the past week was 5.50.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_water_2016_04_29.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 17:05:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 303126 at What's the Best Way to Talk About Racism? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at Vox, we're having a battle of the charts. <a href="" target="_blank">Matt Yglesias</a> says this is the one chart you need to understand Donald Trump's popularity in the Republican Party:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_white_racism.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 115px;"></p> <p>But no! <a href="" target="_blank">Dara Lind</a> says <em>this</em> is the one chart you need:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_poll_immigrants_good.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 135px;"></p> <p>Needless to say, there's no real disagreement here. Both writers are suggesting that Trump is winning because he appeals to a Republican Party base that thinks white people are getting screwed and doesn't much like all the non-white people they think are doing the screwing. So they're all pretty happy about Trump's wall and his proposed Muslim ban and his endless griping about "political correctness." At its core, Trump's appeal is fundamentally racist.</p> <p>I think it's safe to say that nearly all liberals believe this. There's voluminous evidence beyond just these two charts, after all. But here's my question: what should we do about it? This has been bugging me for a while.</p> <p>If we attack it head on&mdash;"Republicans are racists!"&mdash;it accomplishes nothing. Or worse than nothing: it pisses off our targets so badly that they'll never hear another word we say. Besides, it's all but impossible to <em>prove</em> that racism is at the core of any particular belief, and doubly impossible to do so in the case of any particular person. It's also really easy to go overboard on charges of racism once you get started.</p> <p>Alternatively, knowing that this is a political loser, we can skirt the direct charges of racism and focus instead on tangentially related topics. The upside is that we have at least a chance of winning over some voters who aren't too far gone. The downside, obviously, is that we're avoiding the elephant in the room. How do you fight racism if you're not willing to talk directly about it?</p> <p>I don't have a good answer. Accusing people of racism is the fastest way to shut down a conversation and ensure implacable opposition. Avoiding racism is the fastest way to make sure nothing serious ever gets done about it. So what's the right approach?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 16:35:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 303121 at Donald Trump Accuses...Someone of Something <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cruz_jfk.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">A few days ago I was checking out at the supermarket and saw the cover of the <em>National Enquirer</em> telling me that Ted Cruz's father was linked in some way with the assassination of JFK. I briefly wondered whether this would help or hurt Cruz with the tea party crowd and then forgot about it. <a href="" target="_blank">But Donald Trump is <em>on it</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald's being &mdash; you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,&rdquo; Trump said Tuesday during a phone interview with Fox News. &ldquo;What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up. They don't even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;I mean, what was he doing &mdash; what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting?&rdquo; Trump continued. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s horrible.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Very presidential, no? But it reminds me of a <em>New York Times</em> piece this weekend headlined <a href="" target="_blank">"Experts Warn of Backlash in Donald Trump&rsquo;s China Trade Policies."</a> Gee, no kidding. I'm glad the <em>Times</em> was on this.</p> <p>And yet, what are reporters supposed to do? Trump tosses out absurdities on a daily basis, and we can either ignore them or we can give them more oxygen by writing earnest explanations of why he's wrong. It's a lose-lose proposition. Tomorrow he'll declare that teaching arithmetic in grade school is a waste of time since we all have calculators on our cell phones. Mobs of Trump supporters will start carrying around signs saying "No More Times Tables!!!" and a week later, when no one cares anymore, we'll get a barrage of op-eds laying out in gruesome detail all the academic research explaining why kids should still learn arithmetic these days. I imagine this is going to happen approximately weekly from now until the first week of November.</p> <p>Strange days.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 15:25:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 303106 at It's Looking Like Another Trump Blowout in Indiana <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>There's not much more to say about the Republican primary. The polls now show Donald Trump with a commanding lead in tomorrow's primary in Indiana, and he's got a big lead in California too. It's all over but the shouting.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_indiana_republican_primary_2016_05_02.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 20px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 04:43:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 303101 at Why Is It Called Ovaltine? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Documents</a> obtained by <em>Mother Jones</em> suggest that the reason Ovaltine is called <em>Ovaltine</em>&nbsp;instead of <em>Roundtine</em>&nbsp;despite the fact that <a href="" target="_blank">"the mug is round; the jar is round"</a>&nbsp;has to do with the <a href="" target="_blank">Latin word for eggs.</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ovaltine was developed in Berne, Switzerland, where it is known by its original name, Ovomaltine (from ovum, Latin for "egg," and malt, which were originally its main ingredients).</p> </blockquote> <p>My friend, put your rifle down, and come down from that wall. You've served your country well, but the war is over. You're coming home.</p></body></html> Contributor Tue, 03 May 2016 03:58:57 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 303096 at The Long, Hard Slog of Health Care Reform (Abridged Version) <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Earlier today,</a> in the course of linking to a Ryan Cooper post about Bernie Sanders, I mentioned that I thought Cooper was "very, very wrong about the history <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_signing.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">of health care reform too, but I'll leave that for another time." Well, why not now? <a href="" target="_blank">Here is Cooper:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Democrats as a party were not "working their fingers to the bone" trying to get universal health care through this entire time [i.e., since 1993]. For two whole presidential elections the party's nominees ran on measly little half-measures they barely mentioned....ObamaCare &mdash; a basically mediocre program that is still a big improvement on the status quo &mdash; reflects its political origins. It's what milquetoast liberals had settled on as a reasonable compromise, so when George Bush <em>handed them a great big majority on a silver platter,</em> that's what we got. It was Bush's failed presidency, not 30 years of preemptively selling out to the medical industry, that got the job done.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's pretty brutal. But let's go back a little further. Here's a very brief history of health care reform over the past half century:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>1962:</strong> JFK launches effort to provide health care for the elderly. It is relentlessly attacked as socialized medicine and Kennedy is unable to get it passed before he dies.</p> <p><strong>1965:</strong> Following a landslide victory, and with massive majorities in both the House and Senate, LBJ passes Medicare and Medicaid.</p> <p><strong>1971:</strong> Richard Nixon proposes a limited health care reform act. Three years later he proposes a more comprehensive plan similar in scope to Obamacare. Sen. Ted Kennedy holds out for single-payer and ends up getting nothing. "That was the best deal we were going to get," <a href="" target="_blank">Kennedy admitted later,</a> calling his refusal to compromise his biggest regret in public life. "Nothing since has come close."</p> <p><strong>1979:</strong> Jimmy Carter proposes a national health care plan. The Senate takes it up, but Carter is unable to broker a compromise with Kennedy, who wants something more ambitious.</p> <p><strong>1993:</strong> Bill Clinton tries to pass health care reform. He does not have a gigantic majority in Congress, and fails miserably. Two years later Newt Gingrich takes over the House.</p> <p><strong>1997:</strong> Clinton and Ted Kennedy pass a more modest children's health care bill, SCHIP, with bipartisan support.</p> <p><strong>2009:</strong> Barack Obama gets a razor-thin Democratic majority for a few months and eventually passes Obamacare, which expands Medicaid for the poor and offers exchange-based private insurance for the near-poor.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is what politics looks like. Every single Democratic president in my lifetime has tried to pass health care reform. Some of them partially succeeded and some failed entirely, but all of them tried. The two main things standing in the way of getting more have been (a) Republicans and (b) liberals who refused to compromise on single-payer.</p> <p>Contra Cooper, George Bush did not hand Obama a "great big majority." Democrats in 2009 had a big majority in the House and a zero-vote majority in the Senate. That's the thinnest possible majority you can have, and this is the reason Obamacare is so limited. To pass, it had to satisfy the 40th most conservative senator, so that's what it did.</p> <p>There's been a long and ultimately sterile argument over whether Obama could have gotten more. I think the evidence suggests he got as much as he could, but the truth is that we'll never know for sure. And it doesn't change the bigger picture anyway: thousands of Democrats&mdash;politicians, activists, think tankers, and more&mdash;have literally spent decades working their fingers to the bone creating plan after plan; selling these plans to the public; and trying dozens of different ways to somehow push health care reform through Congress. For most of that time it's been a hard, grinding, thankless task, and we still don't have what we ultimately want. But in the end, all of these hacks and wonks have made a difference and helped tens of millions of people. They deserve our respect, not a bit of casually tossed off disparagement just because they didn't propose single-payer health care as their #1 priority every single year of their lives.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 02 May 2016 23:39:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 303091 at The Super-Rich Tech Elite Is Just Fine With Big Government <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Gregory Ferenstein, in the course of arguing that super-rich donors are about equally split between Democrats and Republicans (although the Republicans donate more in absolute dollars), points <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_greetings_silicon_valley.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">out that the super rich in Silicon Valley are almost exclusively Democrats. <a href="" target="_blank">Why?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>I think the more likely explanation is that the nation&rsquo;s new industrial titans are pro-government.</p> <p>Google, Facebook, and most Internet titans are fueled by government projects: the Internet began in a defense department lab, public universities educate a skilled workforce and environmental policies benefit high tech green industries. The CEO of Uber, Travis Kalanick, is a fan of Obamacare, which helps his entrepreneurial drivers keep their health insurance as they transition between jobs.</p> <p>In other words, the Democratic party is good for emerging industries and billionaires recognize it. Donald Trump is a candidate known to go after major figures in tech; a trend that may further the Democrats friendship with new industrial titans.</p> <p>Perhaps more importantly, I&rsquo;ve argued that the modern emerging workforce of Silicon Valley, urbanized professionals, and &ldquo;gig economy&rdquo; laborers all represent an entirely new political demographic redefining the Democratic party to be more about education, research and entrepreneurship, and less about regulations and labor unions.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's something to this, but I suspect culture has a lot more to do with it. Most of these folks have spent their lives marinating in social liberalism, and being situated in the Bay Area just adds to that. So they start out with a visceral loathing of conservative social policies that pushes them in the direction of the Democratic Party. From there, tribalism does most of the additional work: once you've chosen a team, you tend to adopt all of the team's views.</p> <p>Beyond that, yes, I imagine that tech zillionaires are more than normally aware of how much they rely on government: for basic research, for standards setting, for regulation that protects them from getting crushed by old-school dinosaurs, and so forth. And let's be honest: most of the really rich ones have their wealth tied up almost entirely in capital gains, which doesn't get taxed much anyway. So endorsing candidates who happen to favor higher tax rates on ordinary income (which they probably won't get anyway) doesn't really cost them much.</p> <p>For most folks in Silicon Valley, even the super rich, there's very little personal cost to supporting Democrats. Combine that with an almost instinctive revulsion at both troglodyte Republican policies and the Fox News base of the party, and there just aren't going to be many Republican supporters in this crowd.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 02 May 2016 18:49:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 303071 at Is Bernie Sanders Just the Latest Goo-Goo Candidate? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Jonathan Chait argues that the appeal of Bernie Sanders <a href="" target="_blank">isn't truly rooted in his ideology:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It is certainly true that Sanders pushed the debate leftward, by bringing previously marginal left-wing ideas into the Democratic discussion....But to understand the Sanders campaign as primarily a demand for more radical economic policies misses a crucial <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_good_government_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">source of his appeal: <strong>as a candidate of good government.</strong></p> <p>American liberalism contains a long-standing tradition, dating back to the Progressive Era, of disdain for the grubby, transactional elements of politics....Candidates who have fashioned themselves in this earnest style have included Adlai Stevenson, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Gary Hart, Jerry Brown, Howard Dean, and Barack Obama. These candidates often have distinct and powerful issue positions, but their appeal rests in large part on the promise of a better, cleaner, more honest practice of politics and government.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">I've made much the same argument myself,</a> so you'd think I'd agree with Chait. But after hearing from a lot of pissed-off Bernie supporters over the past few days, I'm not so sure anymore. For example, here is Ryan Cooper explaining <a href="" target="_blank">why non-Boomers like Bernie's ideas:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Though I can't speak for everyone, I'd wager that young people are attracted to those ideas because <strong>they know what it's like to graduate with a crushing load of student debt or to have a baby in a country with no paid leave but which also expects both parents to work full-time</strong>. Or maybe they can just feel that the bottom half of the income ladder is getting a raw deal. They're not idiots in thrall to a political charlatan.</p> </blockquote> <p>I've gotten an awful lot of responses like this. The gist is usually a combination of (a) my "statistics" about the state of the economy are totally bogus, and (b) I'm too fat and contented to understand what life is like for anyone less fortunate than me. But here's the thing: most of these responses seem to come from folks who themselves have student debt or low incomes. There's nothing wrong with that, and I'd fully expect these folks to appreciate Bernie's message. But they're not arguing for good government, they're arguing for policies that would help them personally. That's your basic transactional politics, no matter how you dress it up.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> I think Cooper is very, very wrong about the history of health care reform too, but I'll leave that for another time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 02 May 2016 17:20:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 303066 at Childhood Obesity Is Still Going Up, Up, Up <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Hey, do you remember that breathless CDC study from a couple of years ago showing a dramatic drop in obesity among 2-5-year-olds? <a href="" target="_blank">I was pretty skeptical about it,</a> and today I learn that I was right to be. I basically figured that it was a noisy sample that didn't make sense, but according to a new look at the data it's worse than that: the data <em>is</em> noisy, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obesity.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">and that allowed the CDC researchers to cherry pick a starting point that made it look like there was a huge drop.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Roberto Ferdman</a> provides a new chart based on the new study. Take a look. If you start in 2003, as the CDC study did, it looks like there's a big drop. The prevalence of obesity among girls goes down 2.1 percentage points, and among boys it goes down a whopping 6.1 percentage points.</p> <p>But if you include data going back to 1999, which is the true beginning of this data series, the improvement is distinctly more modest: a drop of 1.1 percentage points for girls and 1.7 percentage points for boys. And those drops aren't even statistically significant.</p> <p>The original study was always suspect because the alleged drop for 2-5-year-olds wasn't matched in any other age group. And sure enough, a fresh look at the rest of the data continues to show rising obesity for every other age group. Suddenly the results for 2-5-year-olds look perfectly in sync.</p> <p>It's one thing if this newer study shows different results because it includes 2013-14 data. But deliberately excluding the starting point of the data series is the real culprit, and that's inexcusable. The authors of the original study have some explaining to do.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 02 May 2016 16:08:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 303061 at The Residents of Flint Need to Know the Truth About Lead Poisoning <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This article about Flint is heartbreaking, but <a href="" target="_blank">not quite for the obvious reason:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Health care workers are scrambling to help the people here cope with what many fear will be chronic consequences of the city&rsquo;s water contamination crisis: profound stress, worry, depression and guilt.</p> <p>....Diane Breckenridge, Genesee Health&rsquo;s liaison to local hospitals, said she had seen &ldquo;people come into the hospitals directly related to breakdowns, nervous breakdowns, if you will....Most of it&rsquo;s been depression or suicidal ideation directly linked to what&rsquo;s going on with their children,&rdquo; she added. &ldquo;They just feel like they can&rsquo;t even let their children take a bath.&rdquo; Children, too, are traumatized, said Dexter Clarke, a supervisor at Genesee Health, not least because they constantly hear frightening things on television about the lead crisis, including breathless advertisements by personal injury lawyers seeking clients.</p> <p>....Too often now, Nicole Lewis cannot sleep....To help her nerves, she recently installed a home water filtration system, paying $42.50 a month for the service on her main water supply line. She also bought a blender to make her sons smoothies with lead-leaching vegetables, like spinach and kale.</p> <p>But still her mind races, especially late at night. Her 7-year-old was just found to have attention deficit disorder, she said. Her 2-year-old is already showing athletic promise, but she wonders whether lead exposure will affect his ability to play sports.</p> </blockquote> <p>These people desperately need to be told the truth:</p> <ul><li>What happened in Flint was a horrible, inexcusable tragedy.</li> <li>Residents have every right to be furious with government at all levels.</li> <li>But the health effects are, in fact, pretty minimal. With a few rare exceptions, the level of lead contamination caused by Flint's water won't <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_flint_lead_levels_1998_2016_3.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">cause any noticeable cognitive problems in children. It will not lower IQs or increase crime rates 20 years from now. It will not cause ADHD. It will not affect anyone's ability to play sports. It will not cause anyone's hair to fall out. It will not cause cancer. And "lead leaching" vegetables don't work.</li> </ul><p>For two years, about 5 percent of the children in Flint recorded blood lead levels greater than 5 m/d. This is a very moderate level for a short period of time. In every single year before 2010, Flint was above this number; usually far, far above.</p> <p>The choices here are sickening. On the one hand, nobody wants to downplay the effects of lead poisoning, or even be viewed as downplaying them. On the other hand, feeding the hysteria surrounding Flint has real consequences. The residents of Flint should not be tormented about what's going on. They should not be flocking to therapists. They should not be gulping Xanax.</p> <p>Of course, at this point Flint residents probably don't believe anything the government tells them, and for understandable reasons. So maybe it's time for someone they trust a little more to begin telling them the truth. I'm looking at you, Rachel Maddow.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 01 May 2016 17:36:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 303041 at In Which I Respond to My Critics About the Bernie Revolution <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">A couple of days ago</a> I wrote a post criticizing Bernie Sanders for basing his campaign on a promised revolution that never had the slightest chance of happening. A lot of people didn't like it, which is hardly a surprise. What <em>is</em> a surprise is how polarizing the response was. My Twitter feed was split almost perfectly in half, and nearly every response fell into one of two categories:</p> <ol><li>OMG, thank you for finally writing what I've been feeling all along.</li> <li>Another Boomer happy with the status quo. Your generation has been a failure. Stupid article.</li> </ol><p>There was almost literally nothing in between. Either fulsome praise or utter contempt. I need to think some more before I figure out what to make of this: It's dangerous to assume Twitter reflects the larger progressive community, but it might be equally dangerous to write it off as meaningless. It certainly seems to suggest an even stronger chasm in the Democratic Party than I might have suspected, and possibly more trouble down the road if it also reflects a stronger loathing of Hillary among white millennials than I've previously suspected. But I'm not sure.</p> <p>In any case, although I can't do much about people who just didn't like my tone (bitter, condescending, clueless, etc.) I figure it might be worth addressing some of the most common substantive complaints. Here are the top half dozen:</p> <p><strong>1. I'm a typical Clintonian defender of the status quo.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@BenSpielberg</a> <a href="">@kdrum</a> That's a classic call to preserve the status quo. He actually makes David Brooks's epiphany column look inspiring. lol</p> &mdash; Random Gingko (@anon_pinko) <a href="">April 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>No. My post was very explicitly about <em>how</em> to make progress, not <em>whether</em> we should make progress. I don't support everything Bernie supports, but I support most of it: universal health care, reining in Wall Street, fighting climate change, reversing the growth of income inequality, and so forth. If we could accomplish all this in a couple of years, I'd be delighted. But we can't.</p> <p><strong>2. I think change is impossible.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">In which <a href="">@KDrum</a> argues the system cannot be changed thus anyone who tries creates cynicism: <a href=""></a> <a href="">#NoSenseOfIrony</a></p> &mdash; John Goshorn (@jhgoshorn) <a href="">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>No. Of course the system can be changed. Why would I bother spending 14 years of my life blogging if I didn't believe that? But promising a revolution that's simply not feasible really does have the potential to create cynicism when a couple of years go by and it hasn't happened.</p> <p><strong>3. Yes we <em>can</em> have a revolution! You just have to want it bad enough.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@paulkrugman</a> <a href="">@kdrum</a> Excuse me, but FDR &amp; L. Johnson did revolutionary things! Most of us r sick of settling!</p> &mdash; MYOFB (@myofb13) <a href="">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>FDR and LBJ had massive public discontent and huge Democratic majorities in Congress. The former was the result of an economic disaster and the latter took a decade to build up in an era when Democrats already controlled Congress. We're not going to get either of those things quickly in an era with an adequate economy and a polarized electorate.</p> <p><strong>4. Sure, you boomers have it easy. What about young people?</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">@kdrum</a> <a href="">@NewsConnoisseur</a> None of the good things you tout about the economy are true for young people. $70k student loans, not incomes/jobs</p> &mdash; Kevin M. Kelly (@kmkelly) <a href="">April 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This just isn't true. The average college grad today <a href="" target="_blank">earns about $43,000,</a> roughly the same as 25 years ago. The unemployment rate for recent college grads is under 5 percent. About 70 percent of college grads have debt <a href="" target="_blank">under $30,000,</a> and the default rate on college debt is <a href="" target="_blank">about the same as it was 30 years ago.</a> <em>I want to be crystal clear here:</em> this isn't good news. Incomes should be rising and debt should be much lower. Nonetheless, the plain fact is that recent college grads aren't in massive pain. They suffered during the Great Recession like everyone else, but all told, they probably suffered a little less than most other groups.</p> <p>(For comparison purposes: My first job out of college in 1981 paid me about $35,000 in current dollars. That's a little less than a current grad earning $43,000 and forking over $300 per month in loan repayments. I was hardly living high on that amount, but I can't say that I felt especially oppressed either.)</p> <p><strong>5. You have no idea what life is like outside the Irvine bubble.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="">@KDrum</a> really said: "You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves"<br><br> White. Privileged. Wealthy.</p> &mdash; R is for &Oslash;&plusmn;&Ugrave;&#136;&Oslash;&uml;&Oslash;&plusmn;&Oslash;&ordf; (@TheeInitiative) <a href="">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I got a lot of tweets suggesting that I was, um, <em>misguided</em> because I'm personally well off and live in an upper-middle-class neighborhood. It's certainly true that it's easier to be patient about change when you're not personally suffering, but in this case it's the Bernie supporters who are living in a bubble. They <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_real_eci_1996_2016.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">assume that the entire country is as ready for torches and pitchforks as they are, but the numbers flatly don't back that up. The <a href="" target="_blank">median family income</a> in America <em>is</em> $67,000. Unemployment <em>is</em> at 5 percent, and <a href="" target="_blank">broader measures like U6</a> are in pretty good shape too. Middle-class earnings have been pretty stagnant, but total compensation&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"><em>hasn't</em> declined</a> over the past two decades. Obamacare <em>has</em> helped <a href="" target="_blank">millions of people.</a> So has the ADA, SCHIP, the <a href="" target="_blank">steady rise in social welfare spending,</a> the 2009 stimulus, and the 2006 Pension Protection Act.</p> <p><em>Again, let's be crystal clear:</em> This isn't an argument that everything is hunky dory. I've written hundreds of blog posts pointing out exactly why our current economic system sucks. But it <em>is</em> an argument that the economy is simply nowhere near bad enough to serve as the base of any kind of serious political revolution.</p> <p><strong>6. Oh, fuck you.</strong></p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This is one of the most stupidest article by <a href="">@kdrum</a> i have ever read in my life. Solidifying my <a href="">#BernieOrBust</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Block 4 The BlockGod (@Classic_Archaic) <a href="">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I guess I can't really argue with that. I also can't argue with anyone who just didn't like my tone. In my defense, I've found that no matter how hard I try to adopt an even tone, Bernie supporters are quick to insist that I'm just an establishment shill. For what it's worth, the same is true of Hillary supporters when I write a post critical of her&mdash;even when my criticism is of something patently obvious, like her appetite for overseas military intervention.</p> <p>Two more things. First, <a href="" target="_blank">Greg Sargent</a> makes a perfectly reasonable criticism of my position. My fear is that having been promised a revolution, Bernie supporters will become disgusted and cynical when Hillary Clinton and the establishment win yet again and the revolution doesn't happen. Sargent argues not only that it's useful to have someone like Bernie delivering a "jolt" to the political system, but that he might have permanently invigorated a new cohort of voters. "Many of these Sanders voters, rather than dissipate once they come crashing down from their idealistic high, might find ways to translate those newly acquired high ideals into constructive influence."</p> <p>Yep. There's no way of telling what will happen. If Bernie himself is bitter from his defeat, I think I'm more likely to turn out to be right. But if Bernie decides to take what he's built and turn it into a real movement, Sargent is more likely to be right. We'll see.</p> <p>Finally, for the record, here's where I agree and disagree with Bernie's main campaign points. None of this will be new to regular readers, but others might be interested:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Income inequality:</strong> Total agreement. I've written endlessly about this. Rising inequality is a cultural and economic cancer on a lot of different levels.</p> <p><strong>Universal health care:</strong> Total agreement. I think it will take a while to get there from where we are now, but if I could snap my fingers and import France's health care system today, I'd do it.</p> <p><strong>Breaking up big banks:</strong> I agree with the sentiment here, but I don't think it's the best way of reining in the finance system. I prefer focusing on leverage: increasing capital requirements significantly; increasing crude leverage requirements; and increasing both of these things more for bigger banks. This makes banks safer in the first place; it gives them an incentive not to grow too large; and it reduces the damage if they fail anyway. (This, by the way, has been our main response to the financial crisis via Basel III and Fed rulemaking. It's been a good step, but it would be better if it had been about twice as big.)</p> <p><strong>Free college:</strong> I'm ambivalent about this. These days, college benefits the upper middle class much more than the working class. On the other hand, the nation benefits as a whole from making college as accessible as possible. Beyond that, this is mostly a state issue, not one that can be easily solved at a national level. Generally speaking, I'd like to see college debt levels drop by a lot, but I'm not quite sure what the best way to do that is.</p> <p><strong>Raising taxes on the rich:</strong> I'm generally in favor of this, though not necessarily in exactly the way Bernie proposes. More broadly, though, I think liberals should accept that if we want big programs that significantly reduce inequality&mdash;and we should&mdash;it's going to require higher taxes on everyone. The rich can certainly do more, especially given their stupendous income increases since the Reagan era, but they can't do it all.</p> <p><strong>Military intervention:</strong> Bernie hasn't really been very specific on this, but he's generally skeptical of overseas wars. I agree with him entirely about this. It's my biggest concern with a Hillary Clinton presidency.</p> </blockquote> <p>I've probably left some important stuff out, but those are the big ticket items. Take them for what they're worth.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Here's a <a href="" target="_blank">Daily Kos poll</a> about my take on Sanders. In fairness, it follows a sympathetic summary from Xaxnar, and it's obviously nothing scientific, but still interesting.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_daily_kos_poll_sanders.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 5px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 30 Apr 2016 19:36:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 303031 at Shia Mob in Iraq Demands More Technocrats <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Protesters stormed the Iraqi parliament today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Baghdad Operations Command declared a state of emergency and said all roads into the capital had been closed....Iraq is in the grip of a political crisis, <strong>with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi attempting to reshuffle his cabinet and meet the demands of the demonstrators,</strong> who have been spurred on by the powerful Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. But Abadi has been hampered by chaotic parliament sessions, where lawmakers have thrown water bottles and punches at one another.</p> </blockquote> <p>Oddly, the "firebrand cleric" Sadr (remember when that practically used to be his first name in news reports?) is demanding that...the current hacks running government ministries be replaced with nonpartisan technocrats. "More bean counters in the cabinet!" isn't the usual rallying cry of a populist uprising, but there you have it.</p> <p>Needless to say, the sectarian hacks currently in charge have been resisting this change for the past month. In the meantime, Iraq is in chaos. Again.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 30 Apr 2016 14:42:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 303026 at Friday Fundraising and Cat Blogging - 29 April 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Why do we beg you for money three times a year? <a href="" target="_blank">Clara and Monika explain:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Remember when Chris Hughes put <em>The New Republic</em> up for sale earlier this year? His letter to TNR staff subtly blamed the very same people it was addressed to: "I will be the first to admit that when I took on this challenge nearly four years ago, I underestimated the difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today's quickly evolving climate."</p> <p>Bullshit. "Transitioning" was not <em>The New Republic's</em> main challenge. Refusing to work on, with, and for the internet was once a pervasive problem in news organizations, but while vestiges of that still linger, it is no longer what keeps publications from succeeding financially.</p> <p>What keeps them from making money now is that online advertising pays pennies....From the very beginning, 40 years ago this year, our newsroom has been built on the belief that journalism needs to be untethered from corporate interests or deep-pocketed funders&mdash;that the only way a free press can be paid for is by its readers. This can take a few different forms: subscriptions, donations, micropayments, all of which we're experimenting with. It can be something the audience is forced to do (via the paywalls you'll find at the <em>New York Time</em>s or the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>) or something they choose to do, as in public radio.</p> <p>At <em>Mother Jones</em>, we've gone the latter route: Our mission is to make our journalism accessible to as many people as possible. Instead of requiring you to pay, we bet on trust: We trust you'll recognize the value of the reporting and pitch in what you can. And you trust us to put that money to work&mdash;by going out there and kicking ass.</p> </blockquote> <p>So please help us out! This is my final pitch for the spring fundraiser, and it includes <em>more options than ever before</em>. You can donate via PayPal or credit card, as usual, or <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_monthly_donation.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">you can sign up to make a monthly donation. If enough of you do this, maybe we can cut back on the fundraising begs? Maybe.</p> <ul><li>Click here to donate via <a href=";hosted_button_id=3MREP27XKRQHE" target="_blank">PayPal.</a></li> <li>Click here to donate via <a href=";list_source=7H64Z005&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">credit card.</a></li> </ul><p>And with that out of the way, it's finally time for catblogging. Hopper's new favorite place lately When I settle down on the sofa these days, she comes right over and flops down on my stomach. After a good tummy rub, she snoozes while I peruse the news on my tablet. It works out pretty well for everyone.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_04_29.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 40px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 19:00:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 302996 at No, Donald Trump Didn't Oppose the Iraq War <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Via Bob Somerby,</a> here are two ways of handling the same set of facts. The first, from the <em>New York Times</em>, is wrong:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, pledged a major buildup of the military, the swift destruction of the Islamic State and the rejection of trade deals that he said tied the nation&rsquo;s hands. But he also pointedly rejected the nation-building of the George W. Bush administration, <strong>reminding his audience that he had opposed the Iraq war.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>The second, from the <em>Washington Post</em>, is right:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump blamed previous administrations for making a mess of the Middle East &mdash; a reasonable claim, but one he littered with false assertions. <strong>He again claimed, against the known record,</strong> to have opposed the Iraq War well before it began.</p> </blockquote> <p>Granted, the <em>Post's</em> version is in an editorial, where writers have more freedom to say what they want. Still, straight news reporters have, obviously, an obligation to report the news straight. And the straight truth is that Donald Trump <em>didn't</em> oppose the war in Iraq&mdash;not until well after it had already become a disaster, anyway. All the available evidence says so, and reporters shouldn't enable Trump's lies by repeating them unchallenged.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_politifact_iraq_war.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 47px;"></p> <p>If Trump really opposed the war in Iraq, all he has to do is show us the evidence. It would take five minutes. He hasn't done it. He's lying.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 17:52:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 302991 at Trey Gowdy Still Tracking Down Benghazi Conspiracy Theories <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Via Steve Benen,</a> I see that the Pentagon is finally getting a little fed up with Trey Gowdy's Benghazi investigation:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dod_benghazi.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 15px 15px;"></p> <p>Gowdy's "nonpartisan" investigators are apparently still obsessed with tracking down idiotic conspiracy theories that originate in Facebook posts, radio shows, and other corners of the right-wing fever swamp. They seem to be convinced, even now, that the military deliberately chose not to respond to the Benghazi attacks even though they could have. Why would they do this? Who knows. Because they were acting under orders from the secretary of state, to whom they had sworn a secret blood oath? It's just the kind of thing Hillary would do, isn't it? And by God, the truth is out there. Eventually Trey Gowdy will get to it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 16:10:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 302986 at Three Cheers for Monotasking! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Is multitasking finally <a href="" target="_blank">getting the reputation it deserves?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Multitasking, that bulwark of anemic r&eacute;sum&eacute;s everywhere, has come under fire in recent years. A 2014 study in the <em>Journal of Experimental Psychology</em> found that interruptions as brief as two to three seconds &mdash; which is to say, less than the amount of time it would take you to toggle from <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_focus.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">this article to your email and back again &mdash; were enough to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.</p> <p>....But monotasking, also referred to as single-tasking or unitasking, isn&rsquo;t just about getting things done....&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a digital literacy skill,&rdquo; said Manoush Zomorodi, the host and managing editor of WNYC Studios&rsquo; &ldquo;Note to Self&rdquo; podcast, which recently offered a weeklong interactive series called Infomagical, addressing the effects of information overload. &ldquo;Our gadgets and all the things we look at on them are designed to not let us single-task. We weren&rsquo;t talking about this before because we simply weren&rsquo;t as distracted.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Anyone who has coded&mdash;or worked with coders&mdash;knows all about this. They complain constantly about interruptions, and with good reason. When they're deep into a problem, switching their attention is costly. They've lost their train of thought, and it can take several minutes to get it back. That's not much of a problem if it happens a few times a day, but it's a real killer if it happens a few times an hour.</p> <p>Not all jobs require as much concentrated attention as coding, but it's probably more of them than most people think. More generally, the ability to focus on a single task for an extended period is a talent that's underappreciated&mdash;especially by extroverts, who continue to exercise an unhealthy hegemony over most workplaces. Sure, the folks who want to be left alone are the ones who actually get most of the work done, but they're still mocked as drones or beavers or trolls. That's bad enough, but now technology is helping the extroverts in their long twilight campaign against actually concentrating on anything. There are times when I wonder if we're starting to lose this talent altogether. Probably not, I suppose&mdash;something like this probably can't change all that appreciably over the course of just a few years, no matter what kind of technological miracles are helping us along.</p> <p>But we sure are hellbent on helping it along. Open office plans, cell phones, constant notifications: these are all things that fight against sustained attention on a task. For some people and some tasks, that doesn't matter. But for a lot of important work, it matters a lot. Smart hiring managers in the modern world should be asking, "How long can you concentrate on a task before you have to take a break?" I wonder how many of them do?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 15:21:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 302976 at Here's Why I Never Warmed Up to Bernie Sanders <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>With the Democratic primary basically over, I want to step back a bit and explain the big-picture reason that I never warmed up to Bernie Sanders. It's not so much that he's all that far to my left, nor that he's been pretty skimpy on details about all the programs he proposes. That's hardly uncommon in presidential campaigns. Rather, it's the fact that I think he's basically running a con, and one with the potential to cause distinct damage to the progressive cause.</p> <p>I mean this as a provocation&mdash;but I also mean it. So if you're provoked, mission accomplished! Here's my argument.</p> <p>Bernie's explanation for everything he wants to do&mdash;his theory of change, or theory of governing, take your pick&mdash;is that we need a revolution in this country. The rich own everything. Income inequality is skyrocketing. The middle class is stagnating. The finance industry is out of control. Washington, DC, is paralyzed.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">But as Bill Scher points out,</a> the revolution that Bernie called for didn't show up. In fact, it's worse than that: we were never going to get a revolution, and Bernie knew it all along. Think about it: has there <em>ever</em> been an economic <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_delacroix_revolution.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">revolution in the United States? Stretching things a bit, I can think of two:</p> <ul><li>The destruction of the Southern slave economy following the Civil War</li> <li>The New Deal</li> </ul><p>The first of these was 50+ years in the making and, in the end, required a bloody, four-year war to bring to a conclusion. The second happened only after an utter collapse of the economy, with banks closing, businesses failing, wages plummeting, and unemployment at 25 percent. <em>That's</em> what it takes to bring about a revolution, or even something close to it.</p> <p>We're light years away from that right now. Unemployment? Yes, 2 or 3 percent of the working-age population has dropped out of the labor force, but the headline unemployment rate is 5 percent. Wages? They've been stagnant since the turn of the century, but the average family still makes close to $70,000, more than nearly any other country in the world. Health care? Our system is a mess, but 90 percent of the country has insurance coverage. Dissatisfaction with the system? <a href="" target="_blank">According to Gallup,</a> even among those with incomes under $30,000, only 27 percent are dissatisfied with their personal lives.</p> <p>Like it or not, you don't build a revolution on top of an economy like this. Period. If you want to get anything done, you're going to have to do it the old-fashioned way: through the slow boring of hard wood.</p> <p>Why do I care about this? Because if you want to make a difference in this country, you need to be prepared for a very long, very frustrating slog. You have to buy off interest groups, compromise your ideals, and settle for half loaves&mdash;all the things that Bernie disdains as part of the corrupt mainstream establishment. In place of this he promises his followers we can get everything we want via a revolution that's never going to happen. And when that revolution inevitably fails, where do all his impressionable young followers go? Do they join up with the corrupt establishment and commit themselves to the slow boring of hard wood? Or do they give up?</p> <p>I don't know, but my fear is that some of them will do the latter. And that's a damn shame. They've been conned by a guy who should know better, the same way dieters get conned by late-night miracle diets. When it doesn't work, they throw in the towel.</p> <p>Most likely Bernie will have no lasting effect, and his followers will scatter in the usual way, with some doubling down on practical politics and others leaving for different callings. But there's a decent chance that Bernie's failure will result in a net increase of cynicism about politics, and that's the last thing we need. I hate the idea that we might lose even a few talented future leaders because they fell for Bernie's spiel and then got discouraged when it didn't pan out.</p> <p>I'll grant that my pitch&mdash;and Hillary's and Barack Obama's&mdash;isn't very inspiring. <em>Work your fingers to the bone for 30 years and you might get one or two significant pieces of legislation passed.</em> Obviously you need inspiration too. But if you don't want your followers to give up in disgust, your inspiration needs to be in the service of goals that are at least attainable. By offering a chimera instead, Bernie has done the progressive movement no favors.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 29 Apr 2016 05:25:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 302961 at