Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/2015/06/%22http%3A/www.shutterstock.com/-link-to-source-image%22 http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Lead Water Pipes in 1900 Caused Higher Crime Rates in 1920 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/lead-water-pipes-1900-caused-higher-crime-rates-1920 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/more-evidence-for-lead-poisoning-as-key-crime-driver" 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="http://scholar.harvard.edu/files/jfeigenbaum/files/feigenbaum_muller_lead_crime.pdf" target="_blank">The basic results are below:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lead_pipes_homicide.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></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="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/01/lead-and-crime-some-new-evidence-century-ago" 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, 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></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 03 May 2016 18:44:34 +0000 Kevin Drum 303151 at http://www.motherjones.com Weekly Flint Water Report: April 23-29 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/weekly-flint-water-report-april-23-29 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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 http://www.motherjones.com What's the Best Way to Talk About Racism? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/whats-best-way-talk-about-racism <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at Vox, we're having a battle of the charts. <a href="http://www.vox.com/2016/5/3/11569754/donald-trump-is-going-to-win" 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="http://www.vox.com/2016/5/3/11571444/republican-democrat-anti-immigrant" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Donald Trump Accuses...Someone of Something http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/donald-trump-accusessomeone-something <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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="http://www.politico.com/blogs/2016-gop-primary-live-updates-and-results/2016/05/trump-ted-cruz-father-222730" 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="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/03/us/politics/donald-trump-trade-policy-china.html" 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 http://www.motherjones.com It's Looking Like Another Trump Blowout in Indiana http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/its-looking-another-trump-blowout-indiana-california <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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 http://www.motherjones.com Why Is It Called Ovaltine? http://www.motherjones.com/contributor/2016/05/why-is-it-called-ovaltine <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovaltine" 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="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0qm0KUPeD8" target="_blank">"the mug is round; the jar is round"</a>&nbsp;has to do with the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ovaltine" 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 http://www.motherjones.com The Long, Hard Slog of Health Care Reform (Abridged Version) http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/long-hard-slog-health-care-reform-abridged-version <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/bernie-sanders-just-latest-goo-goo-candidate" 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="http://theweek.com/articles/621601/bernie-sanders-critics-now-say-hes-con-man-that-reveals-lot--about" 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="https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2012/06/22/stockman/bvg57mguQxOVpZMmB1Mg2N/story.html" 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 http://www.motherjones.com The Super-Rich Tech Elite Is Just Fine With Big Government http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/super-rich-tech-elite-just-fine-big-government <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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="http://techcrunch.com/2016/05/01/the-tech-elite-are-moving-left-this-election-cycle/" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Is Bernie Sanders Just the Latest Goo-Goo Candidate? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/bernie-sanders-just-latest-goo-goo-candidate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jonathan Chait argues that the appeal of Bernie Sanders <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/04/bernie-the-democrats-future-not-so-fast.html#" 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="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/oldsters-and-hillary" 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="http://theweek.com/articles/621601/bernie-sanders-critics-now-say-hes-con-man-that-reveals-lot--about" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Childhood Obesity Is Still Going Up, Up, Up http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/childhood-obesity-still-going <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2014/02/obesity-drop-among-2-5-year-olds-even-more-baffling-i-thought" 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="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2016/05/02/we-all-thought-this-dangerous-trend-affecting-our-kids-had-stopped-but-it-didnt/" 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 http://www.motherjones.com The Residents of Flint Need to Know the Truth About Lead Poisoning http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/residents-flint-need-know-truth-about-lead-poisoning <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>This article about Flint is heartbreaking, but <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/us/flint-michigan-water-crisis-mental-health.html?_r=0" 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 http://www.motherjones.com In Which I Respond to My Critics About the Bernie Revolution http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/respond-critics-bernie-revolution <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/heres-why-i-never-warmed-bernie-sanders" 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="https://twitter.com/BenSpielberg">@BenSpielberg</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@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="https://twitter.com/anon_pinko/status/726265003402207232">April 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" 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="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@KDrum</a> argues the system cannot be changed thus anyone who tries creates cynicism: <a href="https://t.co/mqhOzxij0n">https://t.co/mqhOzxij0n</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NoSenseOfIrony?src=hash">#NoSenseOfIrony</a></p> &mdash; John Goshorn (@jhgoshorn) <a href="https://twitter.com/jhgoshorn/status/726122799664926720">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" 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="https://twitter.com/paulkrugman">@paulkrugman</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@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="https://twitter.com/myofb13/status/726139762566914048">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" 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="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/NewsConnoisseur">@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="https://twitter.com/kmkelly/status/726396859233624065">April 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This just isn't true. The average college grad today <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/ny-fed-report-finds-rising-incomes-falling-unemployment-for-young-college-graduates-1454079989" 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="https://www.newamerica.org/downloads/Millennials_and_Student_Debt.pdf" target="_blank">under $30,000,</a> and the default rate on college debt is <a href="http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/projects/bpea/fall-2015_embargoed/conferencedraft_looneyyannelis_studentloandefaults.pdf" 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="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@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="https://twitter.com/TheeInitiative/status/726087486657671168">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" 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="https://www.census.gov/hhes/www/income/data/historical/families/2014/f06AR.xls" target="_blank">median family income</a> in America <em>is</em> $67,000. Unemployment <em>is</em> at 5 percent, and <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/u6-now-last-refuge-scoundrels" 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="http://www.bls.gov/web/eci/ecicois.pdf" target="_blank"><em>hasn't</em> declined</a> over the past two decades. Obamacare <em>has</em> helped <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/03/yet-again-obamacare-still-working" target="_blank">millions of people.</a> So has the ADA, SCHIP, the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/02/heres-why-bernie-sanders-doesnt-say-much-about-welfare-reform" 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="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> i have ever read in my life. Solidifying my <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BernieOrBust?src=hash">#BernieOrBust</a> <a href="https://t.co/hYpV08YLKQ">https://t.co/hYpV08YLKQ</a></p> &mdash; Block 4 The BlockGod (@Classic_Archaic) <a href="https://twitter.com/Classic_Archaic/status/726192588928098304">April 29, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" 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="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2016/04/29/stop-sneering-at-the-bern/" 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="http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/4/30/1521884/-Kevin-Drum-Explained-Why-He-Never-Bought-Into-Sanders-And-the-Response-He-Got" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Shia Mob in Iraq Demands More Technocrats http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/shia-mob-iraq-demands-more-technocrats <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/protesters-storm-iraqi-parliament-in-baghdad/2016/04/30/0862fd3a-0ec1-11e6-8ab8-9ad050f76d7d_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_iraq-828am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Friday Fundraising and Cat Blogging - 29 April 2016 http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/friday-cat-fundraising-and-blogging-29-april-2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Why do we beg you for money three times a year? <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/media/2016/04/that-popping-sound-you-hear" 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="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=3MREP27XKRQHE" target="_blank">PayPal.</a></li> <li>Click here to donate via <a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;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 is...me. 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 http://www.motherjones.com No, Donald Trump Didn't Oppose the Iraq War http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/no-donald-trump-didnt-oppose-iraq-war <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://dailyhowler.blogspot.com/2016/04/degradation-of-standards-watch-post.html" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Trey Gowdy Still Tracking Down Benghazi Conspiracy Theories http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/trey-gowdy-still-tracking-down-benghazi-conspiracy-theories <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/pentagon-pushes-back-against-benghazi-panels-demands" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Three Cheers for Monotasking! http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/three-cheers-monotasking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Is multitasking finally <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/fashion/monotasking-drop-everything-and-read-this-story.html" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Here's Why I Never Warmed Up to Bernie Sanders http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/heres-why-i-never-warmed-bernie-sanders <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <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="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/bernie-sanders-democratic-party-new-york-primary-213829" 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="http://www.gallup.com/poll/188717/personal-satisfaction-high-not-fully-recovered.aspx" 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 http://www.motherjones.com Campaign Reporters Fess Up: They Really Can't Stand Hillary Clinton http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/campaign-reporters-fess-they-really-cant-stand-hillary-clinton <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last month <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/04/2016-campaign-opinion-journalists-press-corps-reporters-survey-213844" target="_blank"><em>Politico</em> polled 80 campaign reporters</a> about this year's race. It turns out they hate Nevada and Ohio but love South Carolina&mdash;mainly because it has good food, apparently. They think Maggie Haberman is the best reporter covering the race, and Fox News has done the best job of hosting a debate. Donald Trump has gotten the softest coverage, probably because they all agree that "traffic, viewership, and clicks" drives their coverage.</p> <p>And who's gotten the harshest coverage? Do you even have to ask? It turns out that even reporters themselves agree that it's not even a close call:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_clinton_press_politico.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 21:46:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 302946 at http://www.motherjones.com Help Us Make Conservatives Even More Miserable http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/help-us-make-conservatives-even-more-miserable <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The progressive movement is being torn from within. It&rsquo;s close to a civil war. The fault line runs straight through the heart of the Democratic coalition, but not through <em>Mother Jones</em>. We stand on one side of the chasm, while many of our friends have set up shop on the other. And quite a few others think they can stand with one foot on&mdash;</p> <p>Oh wait. That's actually <a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434605/national-review-donate-conservative-cause" target="_blank">Jonah Goldberg</a> writing an epitaph for the conservative movement and begging for money for <em>National Review</em>. I tried to rework it for MoJo's spring fundraising drive, but it just doesn't fit. There's no liberal equivalent of Donald Trump. Also: the prose is a little too purple for my taste.</p> <p>So how about this: If you donate some money to us, we'll use it to try and make Jonah even more miserable. That's a movement I can get behind! And we accept either PayPal or credit cards.</p> <p>Click here to donate via <a href="https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&amp;hosted_button_id=3MREP27XKRQHE" target="_blank">PayPal.</a></p> <p>Click here to donate via <a href="https://secure.motherjones.com/fnp/?action=SUBSCRIPTION&amp;list_source=7H64Z005&amp;extra_don=1&amp;abver=A" target="_blank">credit card.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:56:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 302921 at http://www.motherjones.com Obama Is Right: Reagan's Tax Cuts Didn't Revive the Economy http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/obama-right-reagans-tax-cuts-didnt-revive-economy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here is President Obama, in the course of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/01/magazine/president-obama-weighs-his-economic-legacy.html?_r=0" target="_blank">defending his economic performance:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>If we can&rsquo;t puncture some of the mythology around austerity, politics or tax cuts or the mythology that&rsquo;s been built up around the Reagan revolution, <strong>where somehow people genuinely think that he slashed government and slashed the deficit and that the recovery was because of all these massive tax cuts, as opposed to a shift in interest-rate policy</strong> &mdash; if we can&rsquo;t describe that effectively, then we&rsquo;re doomed to keep on making more and more mistakes.</p> </blockquote> <p>This train has long since left the station, and Republicans are dead set on making sure it never returns. But that doesn't mean Obama is wrong. He's not. <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_reagan_era_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Even conservative James Pethokoukis <a href="http://www.aei.org/publication/what-obama-gets-right-and-wrong-about-reaganomics/" target="_blank">acknowledges this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A recent Brookings literature review noted that Martin Feldstein and Doug Elmendorf found in a 1989 analysis &ldquo;that the 1981 tax cuts had virtually no net impact on economic growth.&rdquo; They find that the strength of the recovery over the 1980s could be ascribed to monetary policy. In particular, they find no evidence that the tax cuts in 1981 stimulated labor supply.</p> </blockquote> <p>Feldstein was Reagan's chairman of the CEA, so he's hardly some liberal shill trying to take down Reagan's legacy. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/10/ronald-reagans-legacy" target="_blank">As I noted a few years ago,</a> there were five main drivers of the 80s boom. In order of importance, they were:</p> <ol><li>Paul Volcker easing up on interest rates/monetary aggregates in 1982</li> <li>The steep drop in oil prices after 1981</li> <li>Reagan's devaluation of the dollar</li> <li>Reagan's deficit spending</li> <li>Reagan's tax cuts</li> </ol><p>Conservatives will never admit any of this, but there's no reason the rest of us have to go along with their fairy tale about Reaganomics. Taxes matter, but they simply don't matter nearly as much as they claim, and it's long past time for the mainstream press to acknowledge all this. It's hardly controversial anywhere outside the Fox News bubble.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:34:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 302911 at http://www.motherjones.com Economic Growth Slows to 0.5% in First Quarter http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/economic-growth-slows-05-first-quarter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The economy grew at a sluggish <a href="http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/national/gdp/2016/pdf/gdp1q16_adv.pdf" target="_blank">0.5 percent annual rate</a> in the first quarter. The main culprits for the poor performance were downturns in durable goods, nonresidential construction, and defense spending. This is the third year in a row in which growth has been poor in the first quarter, which means that one-off excuses about snowstorms and so forth don't really hold water anymore. But it might be a statistical artifact. <a href="http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/quick-gdp-point-re-2016q1/" target="_blank">Jared Bernstein says</a> "there&rsquo;s some concern with the seasonal adjusters, which some argue are biasing Q1 down and Q2 up." I guess we'll have to wait until Q2 to find out.</p> <p>Even if that's true, however, growth is still fairly listless, averaging around 2 percent per year. It's yet another indication that the global economy remains fragile and the Fed should think twice before raising rates any more than they've already done.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gdp_2016_q1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 15px 0px 5px 15px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:07:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 302906 at http://www.motherjones.com High-Risk Pools Don't Work, Have Never Worked, and Won't Work in the Future http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/high-risk-pools-dont-work-have-never-worked-and-wont-work-future <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Even among conservative voters, Obamacare's protection of people with pre-existing conditions has always been popular. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-pre-existing-conditions-20151104-column.html" target="_blank">In a recent Kaiser poll,</a> it garnered 74 percent approval from Democrats, 70 percent approval from independents, and 69 percent approval from Republicans.</p> <p>Technically, this protection is guaranteed by two different provisions of Obamacare: guaranteed issue, which means that insurance companies have to accept anyone who applies for coverage, and community rating, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ryan_poverty.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">which means they have to charge everyone the same price. But popular or not, <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-health-ryan-idUSKCN0XP00C" target="_blank">Paul Ryan wants nothing to do with it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In election-year remarks that could shed light on an expected Republican healthcare alternative, Ryan said existing federal policy that prevents insurers from charging sick people higher rates for health coverage has raised costs for healthy consumers while undermining choice and competition.</p> <p>...."Less than 10 percent of people under 65 are what we call people with pre-existing conditions, who are really kind of uninsurable," Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told a student audience at Georgetown University. "Let's fund risk pools at the state level to subsidize their coverage, so that they can get affordable coverage," he said. "You dramatically lower the price for everybody else. You make health insurance so much more affordable, so much more competitive and open up competition."</p> </blockquote> <p>It's true that the cost of covering sick people raises the price of insurance for healthy people. That's how insurance works. But there's no magic here. It costs the same to treat sick people whether you do it through Obamacare or through a high-risk pool&mdash;and it doesn't matter whether you fund it via taxes for Obamacare or taxes for something else. However, there <em>are</em> some differences:</p> <ul><li>Handling everyone through a single system is more efficient and more convenient.</li> <li>High-risk pools have a <a href="http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/the-trouble-with-high-risk-pools-as-a-conservative-alternative/" target="_blank">lousy history.</a> They just don't work.</li> <li>Implementing them at the state level guarantees a race to the bottom, since no state wants to attract lots of sick people into its program.</li> <li>Ryan's promise to fund high-risk pools is empty. He will never support the taxes it would take to do it properly, and he knows it.</li> </ul><p>This is just more hand waving. Everyone with even a passing knowledge of the health care business knows that high-risk pools are a disaster, but Republicans like Ryan keep pitching them anyway as some kind of bold, new, free-market alternative to Obamacare. They aren't. They've been around forever and everyone knows they don't work.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:59:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 302881 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: John Boehner Sure Doesn't Think Much of Ted Cruz http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/quote-day-john-boehner-sure-doesnt-think-much-ted-cruz <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><a href="http://www.stanforddaily.com/2016/04/28/john-boehner-talks-election-time-in-office/" target="_blank">From former House speaker John Boehner,</a> asked what he thinks of Ted Cruz:</p> <blockquote> <p>I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.</p> </blockquote> <p>The interesting thing about this is that it's not very interesting. It's just par for the course for Cruz.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:50:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 302876 at http://www.motherjones.com Democrats Have a Class Gap. Republicans Have a Generation Gap. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/04/democrats-have-class-gap-republicans-have-generation-gap <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>What are the big fault lines within the Democratic and Republican parties? According to a recent Pew report, Democrats have a class gap: Democratic elites are far more liberal than less educated members of the party. But there's not much of a generation gap: old and young voters are pretty similar ideologically.</p> <p>Among Republicans, it's just the opposite. They have a huge generation gap, with older voters skewing much more conservative than younger voters. But there's no class gap: their elites are in pretty close sync with the party base. The raw data is <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2016/04/26/a-wider-ideological-gap-between-more-and-less-educated-adults/" target="_blank">here,</a> and the chart below shows the magnitude of the difference:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_democrat_republican_younger_more_educated_2.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 2px;"></p> <p>This is interesting, since the most talked-about aspect of the Democratic primary was the astonishingly strong preference of young voters for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. But <em>why</em> did they prefer Bernie? The obvious answer is that they're more liberal than older Democrats and therefore preferred his more radical vision&mdash;but the Pew data says that's not the case.</p> <p>So what <em>is</em> the answer? The age gap could still explain a bit of it, since young Democrats are a little more liberal than older Democrats. And the class gap could also explain a bit of it, since Bernie voters tend to be both young and well educated. But even put together, this doesn't seem like enough.</p> <p>Obviously there was something about Bernie that generated huge enthusiasm among younger voters. But if it wasn't ideology, what was it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 28 Apr 2016 04:48:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 302871 at http://www.motherjones.com