Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Trump Releases Twitter White Paper on Trade <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>After hinting around for weeks, president-elect Donald Trump finally released a detailed, <em>7-part (!)</em> tweetstorm about <a href="" target="_blank">his plans to reform America's mercantile policy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The U.S. is going to substantialy reduce taxes and regulations on businesses, but any business that leaves our country for another country, fires its employees, builds a new factory or plant in the other country, and then thinks it will sell its product back into the U.S. without retribution or consequence, is WRONG! <strong>There will be a tax on our soon to be strong border of 35%</strong> for these companies wanting to sell their product, cars, A.C. units etc., back across the border. This tax will make leaving financially difficult, but these companies are able to move between all 50 states, with no tax or tariff being charged. <strong>Please be forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake!</strong> THE UNITED STATES IS OPEN FOR BUSINESS.</p> <p>Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trade_deficit_china_2007_2016.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so!</p> </blockquote> <p>At the risk of taking Trump literally, rather than seriously, I wonder if he actually thinks he can do this? It's not as if the president is allowed to unilaterally slap a 35 percent tariff on Carrier air conditioners or Ford Fiestas, after all. If Trump invokes the appropriate "national emergency" authority, he could impose a tariff on all air conditioners or all cars. Or he could impose a tariff on all goods from Mexico or all goods from China. But I think that's as far as his authority goes. He can't simply decide to punish one particular company.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>In the case of Mexico, of course, he can't do even this much unless he persuades Congress to exit NAFTA&mdash;and that has a snowball's chance of happening. He could, in theory, impose a 35 percent tariff on, say, telecom equipment made in China, but that would send up howls of protest from American businesses and almost certain retribution from China.</p> <p>So...what's the plan here? The American business community, which would go ballistic over something like this, has been pretty quiet, which suggests they think it's just blather. That's my guess too. But I guess you never know. We overeducated elites like to say that stuff like this is just affinity politics&mdash;aka red meat for the rubes&mdash;but perhaps eventually we'll learn that we should have taken Trump literally after all.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>As far as I know, anyway. But I would certainly appreciate a detailed explainer on this from someone who's truly an expert.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 05 Dec 2016 02:58:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 320631 at Trump's Taiwan Call Was No Accident <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So&mdash;about that call between Donald Trump and the president of Taiwan. <a href="" target="_blank">First we have this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A phone call between Donald Trump and Taiwan's leader that risks damaging relations between the U.S. and China was pre-arranged,</strong> a top Taiwanese official told NBC News on Saturday...."Maintaining good relations with the United States is as important as maintaining good relations across the Taiwan Strait," Taiwanese presidential spokesman Alex <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_china_flag.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Huang told NBC News. "Both are in line with Taiwan's national interest."</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">And this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The call was planned in advance with knowledge of Trump&rsquo;s transition team</strong> and was the right thing to do, said Stephen Yates, a former U.S. national security official who served under President George W. Bush. Yates denied multiple media reports that he arranged the call, while adding that it doesn&rsquo;t make sense for the U.S. to be &ldquo;stuck&rdquo; in a pattern of acquiescing to China over Taiwan.</p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently several sources say that Yates was indeed the guy who helped arrange the call, but Yates denies it. You can decide for yourself who to believe. In any case, both sides claim it was done intentionally.</p> <p>Was it a good idea? In Trump's defense, if you're going to do something like this, the only time to do it is right away. That's especially true if you want to use it as leverage. Who knows? Maybe Trump's team is planning to quietly pass along word that Trump is willing to maintain our status quo policy toward Taiwan (i.e., not formally recognizing the Taiwanese government), but only if China commits to doing something serious about North Korea.</p> <p>Or maybe Trump has no bargain in mind at all, and just wants to change US policy toward China. It would be typically Trump to start out with a slap in the face so they know he means business, and then go from there.</p> <p>Is this wise? I sort of doubt it, but I'm hardly an old China hand. And I have to admit that China hasn't gone ballistic, as many people predicted. Their response so far has been <a href=";action=click&amp;pgtype=Homepage&amp;clickSource=story-heading&amp;module=a-lede-package-region&amp;region=top-news&amp;WT.nav=top-news" target="_blank">distinctly low-key:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>China&rsquo;s first official reaction, from Foreign Minister Wang Yi, was fairly benign &mdash; though it was firm in reiterating the One China policy, under which the United States formally recognized Beijing as China&rsquo;s sole government....A follow-up statement from the Foreign Ministry on Saturday, <strong>noting that the ministry had filed a formal complaint with the United States government,</strong> was similar in tone. It urged &ldquo;relevant parties in the U.S.&rdquo; to &ldquo;deal with the Taiwan issue in a prudent, proper manner.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Whatever you think of all this, I'm pretty sure it was no accident. Whether it's meant just to shake up China; to act as leverage for a future bargain; or as a precursor to a policy change&mdash;well, that's hard to say. But there was something behind it. Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 22:36:47 +0000 Kevin Drum 320621 at Donald Trump Can't Fix Offshoring, But He's Got Bigger Problems Anyway <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Steven Pearlstein suggests that Donald Trump's deal with Carrier is part of a larger strategy aimed at <a href="" target="_blank">changing norms of behavior:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>There was a time in America when there was an unwritten pact in the business world &mdash; workers were loyal to their companies and successful companies returned that loyalty....<strong>Then came the 1980s,</strong> and all that began to change as American industry began to falter because of foreign competition....So the social norm changed....<strong>Although the public never much liked the idea of closing plants and shipping jobs overseas, it no longer was socially unacceptable.</strong></p> <p>Now comes Donald Trump &mdash; in the public mind, a successful businessman &mdash; who as the new president, suddenly declares that the new norm is not longer acceptable, and he intends to do whatever he can to shame and punish companies that abandon their workers....<strong>He knows that he and his new commerce secretary will have to engage in a few more bouts of well-publicized arm twisting before the message finally sinks in in the C-Suite. He may even have to make an example of a runaway company by sending in the tax auditors or the OSHA inspectors or cancelling a big government contract</strong>. It won&rsquo;t matter that, two years later, these highly publicized retaliations are thrown out by a federal judge somewhere. Most companies won&rsquo;t want to risk such threats to their &ldquo;brands.&rdquo; They will find a way to conform to the new norm, somewhat comforted by the fact that their American competitors have been forced to do the same.</p> </blockquote> <p>I mostly disagree with this. I think the "norm" Pearlstein is talking about here is actually just ordinary economic reality. During the postwar economic boom, American companies didn't need to offshore jobs, so they didn't. Nor did they need to lay off workers or downsize their companies frequently. America was the most efficient manufacturer around, and there was plenty of money sloshing around for everybody. So why invite trouble?</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_growth_per_capita_real_gdp_1947_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>When the postwar boom came to an end, businesses changed. We learned that what we thought had been a permanent new norm, was no such thing. It was just a temporary, three-decade blip. Starting in the 80s, as economic growth leveled off, the business community returned to operating the same way businesses had operated ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.</p> <p>I suspect Pearlstein is right about what Trump is trying to do. He'll engage in some naming and shaming, and on a few occasions he'll try to set an example by going after companies in semi-legal or outright illegal ways. It might even work a little bit, and it will almost certainly work in a PR sense. But more generally, Trump can't keep the tide from coming in any more than any other president. It's not as if the offshoring phenomenon is peculiar to America, after all.</p> <p>The good news, such as it is, revolves around automation. Within a decade or so, most manufacturing work will be so highly automated that it won't matter much where it's made. We're already starting to see signs of this. That will put an end to large-scale offshoring, but unfortunately, it will be even worse for blue-collar workers. We're on the cusp of an era when tens of millions of workers will be put out of jobs by automation, and we'd better figure out what we're going to do about that. But one thing is certain: whatever the answer is, it's not naming and shaming.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 16:35:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 320616 at Pissed Off About Something You See on the Web? Call Out the Person, Not the Organization. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at <em>National Review</em>, <a href="" target="_blank">David French writes:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>For a &lsquo;Peaceful&rsquo; Group, Black Lives Matter Sure Does Love Cop Killers and Murderous Dictators</strong></p> <p>I don&rsquo;t know how I missed it, but this sickening essay from Black Lives Matter has to be read to believed. Entitled &ldquo;Lessons from Fidel: Black Lives Matter and the Transition of El Comandante,&rdquo; it begins....</p> </blockquote> <p>I'm not especially trying to pick on French here, but this gives me an excuse to gripe about something that I see too often these days.</p> <p>Let's stipulate that the essay in question is horrible. I don't care one way or the other. What I do care about is that French attributes it to "Black Lives Matter." But that's not the case. It was written by a specific person, not by BLM as some kind of official position statement. It represents them no more than I represent <em>Mother Jones</em>.</p> <p>Still, at least MoJo employs me and has some responsibility for what I write. You can't even say that much about the author of the Castro piece. To the extent that there's an "official" BLM organization, <a href="" target="_blank">it's here.</a> This is the organization founded by Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza. But pretty much anyone can set up shop under the BLM name, and the essay French links to comes from a Medium site called <a href="" target="_blank">@BlackLivesMatterNetwork.</a> It has posted a grand total of three pieces in the last two months. I have no idea who wrote them or who the site is associated with.</p> <p>Condemn the piece all you want. But it's not fair to use it to tar "Black Lives Matter." They aren't responsible for everything that's tossed onto the web under the BLM banner.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It turns out that the official BLM site shared the Castro essay on its <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook page.</a> So it's fair to call them out for promoting it.</p> <p>My general complaint stands, however. If I write something, it means "Kevin Drum says," not "<em>Mother Jones</em> says." If David French writes something, it means "David French says," not "<em>National Review</em> says." Needless to say, this rule is for personal opinion/analysis pieces. News organizations are corporately responsible for editorial opinions and straight news.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 03 Dec 2016 00:03:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 320611 at Donald Trump Decides to Poke the Chinese Dragon <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Financial Times</em> reports that Donald Trump spoke on the phone today with Tsai Ying-wen, the president of Taiwan. <a href="" target="_blank">This is a very big deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The telephone call, confirmed by three people, <strong>is believed to be the first between a US president or president-elect and a leader of Taiwan since diplomatic <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_china_dragon_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">relations between the two were cut in 1979.</strong></p> <p>Although it is not clear if the Trump transition team intended the conversation to signal a broader change in US policy towards Taiwan, the call is likely to infuriate Beijing which regards the island as a renegade province. &ldquo;<strong>The Chinese leadership will see this as a highly provocative action, of historic proportions,</strong>&rdquo; said Evan Medeiros, former Asia director at the White House national security council.</p> </blockquote> <p>Of course, maybe Trump was just <a href="" target="_blank">calling to ask for a business favor:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The mayor of Taoyuan confirmed rumors on Wednesday that US president-elect Donald Trump was considering constructing a series of luxury hotels and resorts in the northwest Taiwanese city. A representative from the Trump Organization paid a visit to Taoyuan in September....Other reports indicate that Eric Trump, the president-elect's second son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, will be coming to Taoyuan later this year to discuss the potential business opportunity.</p> </blockquote> <p>Who knows? But foreign policy wonks are blowing a gasket over this, and the question of the hour is: Did Trump set off this diplomatic shitstorm accidentally or deliberately? I have to believe it was deliberate. Even Trump's team isn't so pig-ignorant that they're unaware of our policy toward China and Taiwan.</p> <p>But if that's the case, it means that Trump is dead set on pursuing a hostile policy against China from the get-go. Perhaps, thanks to his decades of steely negotiating victories, he believes the Chinese will eventually back down once they realize they can't mess with him. Perhaps. Welcome to Trumpland.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> It's worth noting that Trump has an odd kind of advantage here. For a little while longer, anyway, he can do this kind of stuff just to see what happens&mdash;and then, if it blows up, he can pretend he wasn't up to speed what with all the staffing work etc. etc. Then he calls someone in China and declares that everything is fine, China is a fantastic place, he has nothing but the highest respect for them, blah blah blah.</p> <p>Will this work? I suppose it might. But not for much longer.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 23:17:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 320606 at Friday Cat Blogging - 2 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I got lucky this week and managed to snap this gorgeous portrait of Hopper. Today, however, everyone is inside. The wind is blowing pretty hard, and it took the cats less than a minute to decide that the backyard was much too scary for them. Leaves blowing! Branches thwacking on the patio cover! Loud whooshing sounds! Much better to snooze inside next to a window, where cruel nature can be seen but not heard.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_12_02.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 60px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:56:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 320591 at Donald Trump Finally Admits He Wants to Build the DAPL Pipeline <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">This should surprise no one:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>For the first time, <strong>Donald Trump has said he supports finishing construction of the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline</strong>....The company behind the pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, had donated $100,000 to a Trump Victory Fund before the election in the hopes that he&rsquo;d greenlight it.</p> <p>....There&rsquo;s also a seedy financial twist here: Last week, disclosure forms suggested that <strong>Trump himself had as much as $300,000 personally invested in the project.</strong> That explains why his transition team had to clarify that Trump&rsquo;s support "has nothing to do with his personal investments and everything to do with promoting policies that benefit all Americans."</p> </blockquote> <p>This is a win-win-win-win for Trump:</p> <ul><li>It's a project that provides a bunch of blue-collar jobs.</li> <li>He gets to come out against a Native American tribe and its whining about "sacred lands," something that his base of real Americans will surely appreciate.<sup>1</sup></li> <li>A big donor gets what it wants.</li> <li>And Donald gets a little cut of the action for himself.</li> </ul><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_northern_border_pipeline_0.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">What's not to like? The only surprising thing is that it took Trump this long. I wonder why it didn't become a staple of his campaign speech months ago?</p> <p><em>MoJo</em> has had lots of coverage of this, so I haven't spent too much time on it. But there is one thing I'm curious about. There's already a gas pipeline called the Northern Border Pipeline that crosses the Missouri River at the site of the DAPL project. That's one of the reasons the DAPL folks want to build there, and I assume it also figures into the Army Corps of Engineers' thinking. If they approved the gas pipeline decades ago, what justification do they have for not approving a second pipeline in the same place? I only bring this up because I almost never see it mentioned in coverage of the DAPL protests. But surely this has some impact on what the Corps can do legally?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Please note sarcastic tone here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 19:43:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 320586 at Democrats Have a Secret Weapon to Save Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday I teased you about a "secret weapon" that can save Obamacare. Here it is:</p> <ul><li>Pre-existing conditions</li> </ul><p>Obamacare requires insurance companies to insure anyone who wants coverage, no matter what kind of pre-existing conditions they have. It also requires them to sell this coverage at the same price they sell to everyone else. Unless Republicans go nuclear&mdash;by eliminating the filibuster or threatening to fire the Senate parliamentarian&mdash;they can't repeal this without a bunch of Democratic votes. And as long as the pre-existing conditions <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_how_to_save_obamacare.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">ban is in place, repealing Obamacare, with or without a replacement, will wreck the individual insurance market.</p> <p>I mean this literally: Most likely, every insurance company in America would simply exit the market. Something like 7 percent of Americans would flatly have no source of insurance. This is political suicide, and Republicans know it. Hopefully, Democrats know it too.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">My full story about this is here.</a> I recommend that everyone read it. If Democrats want to save health care reform, this is the hammer that will allow them to do it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 18:11:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 320566 at Hillary Clinton's Popular Vote Lead Passes 2.5 Million <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Just thought I'd mention it. As of today, she leads Donald Trump in the popular vote <a href="" target="_blank">by 2.56 million votes,</a> a margin of 1.89 percent. In the three key swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that gave him his victory, Trump's combined lead is less than 80,000 votes. By any measure you can think of, Trump has the narrowest victory of any president in the last century; the smallest mandate; and is by far the least liked.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:53:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 320561 at Chart of the Day: A Disappointing Jobs Report in October <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The American economy <a href="" target="_blank">added 178,000 new jobs last month,</a> 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at a modest 88,000 jobs. At first glance this seems OK, but it looks worse when you drill below the surface.</p> <p>The headline unemployment rate spiked down to 4.6 percent, which is very close to a record low for the past 40 years. Unfortunately this is largely because a stunning 446,000 people dropped out of the labor force, not because a huge number of people got jobs. In fact, the labor participation rate went <em>down</em>, from 62.8 percent to 62.7 percent. Given this, it's not surprising that hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees were flat. If the labor market were really tightening, wages would be going up.</p> <p>The general reaction to this jobs report seems to be that it shows "decent, steady growth." I don't agree. That <em>is</em> what the headline unemployment number shows, but this mostly suggests that the headline unemployment number is becoming less and less reliable as a good measure of the jobs picture. This was a disappointing report.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_net_jobs_october_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 25px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 17:06:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 320556 at What's the Real Reason Drug Prices Are So High In America? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This hardly seems important at the moment, but Sarah Kliff mentioned something today that's always bugged me. She's explaining why prescription drugs cost a lot more in the US than elsewhere, and concludes that it's because other countries <a href="" target="_blank">all negotiate drug prices at a national level and we don't:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The United States has no government panel that negotiates drug prices. There are thousands of health insurance plans all across the country. Each has to negotiate its own prices with drugmakers separately. Because Americans are fragmented across all these different health insurers, plans have much less bargaining power to demand lower prices. In other words: Australia is buying drugs in bulk, like you would at Costco, while we&rsquo;re <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vox_cartoon_drug_spending.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">picking up tiny bottles at the local pharmacy. You can guess who is paying more.</p> </blockquote> <p>OK, but take a look at the stick figure on the right, part of Vox's latest innovation in explanatory journalism. The country with the lowest drug spending is Denmark, population 6 million. Compare that to Blue Cross, which insures about 100 million people. United Healthcare insures about 70 million. Aetna insures about 20 million. Kaiser Permanente clocks in around 10 million.</p> <p>In other words, all of these health insurers are as big as whole countries. And they're <em>way</em> bigger than little Denmark. So why are they unable to negotiate lower drug prices? Medicare may be prohibited from doing this, but private insurers aren't.</p> <p>Are insurers hemmed in by rules requiring them to offer any "medically necessary" drug? Are they, ironically, limited by competition&mdash;afraid of losing customers if they don't cover everything? Are they just lousy negotiators because they don't really care? After all, high prices are going to get passed along anyway, so it doesn't hurt them as long as their competitors are in the same boat.</p> <p>Alternatively, do I completely misunderstand how the process works?</p> <p>My gripe with this is not so much that drug prices are high. My gripe is that the US essentially subsidizes the rest of the world. Pharmaceutical companies require a certain overall return on their invested capital, but they don't care where it comes from. If prices are low in Europe and high in the US, that's fine. If prices in the US came down, they'd make up for it by raising prices in Europe&mdash;and that would be fine too.</p> <p>So why not put America First, to coin a phrase, and push down prices here? It wouldn't hurt the drug companies, it would just force them to raise prices elsewhere. That would be fine with me. I've never really understood why we're in the business of helping Europe pay less for drugs.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 13:45:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 320541 at Russia Complains That Ukraine Interfered With Its Interference in the American Election <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">This is insane:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A top Russian official is accusing the Ukrainian government of undermining Donald Trump&rsquo;s presidential campaign</strong> by trashing him on social media and disseminating dirt on one of his close associates.</p> <p>....&ldquo;<strong>Ukraine seriously complicated the work of Trump&rsquo;s election campaign headquarters</strong> by planting information according to which Paul Manafort, Trump&rsquo;s campaign chairman, allegedly accepted money from Ukrainian oligarchs,&rdquo; Maria Zakharova said at a press briefing....The renewed scrutiny of Manafort&rsquo;s dealings in Ukraine comes at an awkward time for the veteran operative and for Trump.</p> </blockquote> <p>WTF? Russia is <em>publicly</em> complaining that another country took sides against it in an American election? Aren't they even pretending anymore that they didn't do anything to help Donald Trump win the presidency?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 06:07:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 320546 at Quote of the Day: There's No Such Thing as Facts Anymore <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>One of the problems with Donald Trump's habit of lying endlessly&mdash;aside from the fact that he does it in the first place&mdash;is that it affects everyone around him. By chance, today brought this all front and center. We start off with Trump himself:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="">#Trump</a> tells Cincinnati rally that violent crime is at a 45-year high. It's actually at a 51-year low, according to latest FBI data. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Caroline O. (@RVAwonk) <a href="">December 2, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This is a routine, garden-variety Trump lie. He obviously knows it's untrue, but he doesn't care. You see, for him it represents some kind of higher truth. Trump lackey Scottie Nell Hughes, in the course of explaining a different Trump lie, <a href="" target="_blank">tells us how this works on the Diane Rehm show this morning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>People that say facts are facts, they're not really facts....<strong>There's no such thing, unfortunately anymore, as facts.</strong> And so Mr. Trump's tweet, amongst a certain crowd, a large part of the population, are truth. When he says that millions of people illegally voted, <strong>he has some facts amongst him and his supporters,</strong> and people believe they have facts to back that up. Those that do not like Mr. Trump, they say that those are lies and there's no facts to back it up.</p> </blockquote> <p>Got that? These things the rest of us call lies are <em>facts amongst him and his supporters</em>. Senior lackey Kellyanne Conway agrees that truth in Trumpworld is a relative thing, but defends it more directly. If Trump says it, then by definition there must be something to it:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">.<a href="">@KellyannePolls</a> on Trump&rsquo;s unfounded tweets abt fraud: &ldquo;He&rsquo;s president-elect so that&rsquo;s presidential behavior&rdquo;</p> &mdash; Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) <a href="">December 2, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Finally, Corey Lewandowski tells us all to <a href=";utm_term=.824db153858a" target="_blank">just get the hell over it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This is the problem with the media. <strong>You guys took everything that Donald Trump said so literally.</strong> The American people didn&rsquo;t. They understood it. They understood that sometimes &mdash; when you have a conversation with people, whether it&rsquo;s around the dinner table or at a bar &mdash; <strong>you&rsquo;re going to say things, and sometimes you don&rsquo;t have all the facts to back it up.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Apparently we've got four years of this behavior ahead of us. Trump's "facts" aren't meant to be facts. They just represent a state of mind, or perhaps an aspiration of some kind. His supporters all get this. Now we'd all better get it too.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 02 Dec 2016 04:31:21 +0000 Kevin Drum 320536 at Trump Promises Revenge on Companies He Doesn't Like <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This popped up in my Twitter feed this morning:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tweet_trump_consequences.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 20px;"></p> <p>This is totally true. <a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I noted that Bernie Sanders had urged Trump to deny federal contracts to companies that move jobs overseas, which I called a massive abuse of power. I got some pushback on that, along the lines of "Why shouldn't a president stand up for American workers?"</p> <p>Well, a president should. But a president <em>shouldn't</em> personally punish companies that do things he doesn't like. I hope that requires no explanation. Now, if Congress passes a law banning federal contracts for companies that engage in some specified form of job offshoring, that would be different. It would almost certainly be a very bad law, but I'm pretty sure it would be constitutional. And if it allowed the executive branch a certain amount of discretion in enforcing the law, then Trump could take advantage of that.</p> <p>I would not recommend doing this. But it would be legal. Until then, however, it wouldn't be. And it would be wrong. Let's not encourage Trump to think of himself as any more of a mafia kingpin than he already does.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 23:33:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 320521 at Big Mac Followup <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I got showered with comments yesterday about the Big Mac. <em>It's so much more than the middle bun, you cretin!</em> Even my sister got on my case about it. My sister!</p> <p>So today I went out to our newly refurbished McDonald's and got one. My conclusion: it was fine. The special sauce was fine, the pickles were fine, and it was a perfectly good hamburger on the McDonald's scale of hamburgers. About halfway through eating it, though, it suddenly occurred to me sure had a lot of bread. But all of you Big Mac lovers like the extra bun, I guess. De gustibus.</p> <p>I haven't been to McDonald's in a long time, and I see that they now hand out numbers like most other places. Unlike other places, however, mine has a staff that comes by and takes your number from the table without leaving any food. It took a while to sort this out, so I used the time to load Facebook on my phone. I did this because apparently blog posts with inline <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_facebook_logo_small.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">images (like the one on the right) don't render very well in Facebook Instant, whatever that is. And since half our traffic now comes from mobile Facebook users, this is a problem.</p> <p>So I got the Facebook app loaded and then scrolled through my feed, but there was nothing of mine there. Hmmm. I've never paid much attention to Facebook, so I wasn't sure what to do. I searched for MoJo, and then liked it, figuring that might make MoJo content appear. Oddly, though, what it mostly did was make lots of Brad DeLong posts appear. What's going on up there at Cal? I got this sorted out eventually, but it turns out the MoJo digital team has been curating the feed so that the troublesome posts don't go up. So I still don't know quite what's going on. But I'll find out soon enough when I chat with our web folks.</p> <p>That was my midday. How was yours?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 23:05:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 320516 at Swamp Watch - 1 December 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Washington Post</em> says Donald Trump will pick Gen. James Mattis as his Secretary of Defense. I gather Mattis is pretty well respected, though I continue to believe that Trump himself was swayed solely by his "Mad Dog" nickname.</p> <p>Mattis will need a special exemption from Congress, since he's only been retired from the military for three years rather than the legally required seven. That will probably sail through, though I sort of hope it runs into at least a few bumps. I don't have anything against Mattis, but the 7-year rule is a pretty good one. Civilian control of the military is an important tradition.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_cabinet_2016_12_01.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 22:37:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 320511 at Medicare Is Probably Not On the 2017 Agenda <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>According to Paul Ryan, <a href="" target="_blank">he has six top priorities for the upcoming year:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Regulatory relief....Obamacare relief....reforming the tax code....foreign policy, rebuilding the military....securing the border....And then while we work on that, we want to work on poverty and restoring our constitutional separation of powers....So those are effectively the six pieces that we&rsquo;ve been talking about.</p> </blockquote> <p>I have a couple of comments about this. First, there's nothing here about entitlement reform, or Medicare reform in particular. This doesn't mean Medicare is safe forever, but it does suggest it's <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/images/blog_medicare.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">not a briar patch Ryan wants to jump in right away.</p> <p>Second, these are all really, really complex. Regulatory relief&mdash;whatever that actually means&mdash;is dauntingly complicated. Repealing Obamacare is all but impossible without Democratic support, which means months or years of negotiation. Tax <em>cuts</em> are easy, but Ryan seems to want wholesale tax reform on the 1986 model, which has a ton of moving parts. Securing the border is a lot more than just building a wall. And "working on poverty"&mdash;I shudder to think what he means by this&mdash;is obviously no cakewalk.</p> <p>On the bright side, rebuilding the military is fairly easy. You just give them more money and hope it doesn't go down a rat hole.</p> <p>If Ryan is serious about this stuff, he's mapped out two years of work already&mdash;and that's not even counting whatever Donald Trump wants to throw in the mix. Put it all together, stir in Trump's promise not to touch entitlements, and I suspect that we're not going to see any serious movement on Medicare for at least a year, maybe more.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 19:21:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 320496 at Carrier Watch: We're Now Up to $7 Million — So Far <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> passes along the <a href="" target="_blank">latest news on the Carrier deal:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Indiana officials agreed to give United Technologies Corp. $7 million worth of tax breaks over 10 years to encourage the company&rsquo;s Carrier Corp. unit to keep about 1,000 jobs in the state, according to people familiar with the matter....The deal would cover 800 Carrier workers from the Indianapolis furnace plant and an additional 300 research and headquarters positions that weren&rsquo;t slated to go to Mexico, according to another person briefed on the deal.</p> </blockquote> <p>Two things. First, we're now down to 800 jobs saved. The other 300 weren't going to Mexico in the first place, while another thousand are still scheduled to head south of the border. Second, this comes to about $1,000 annually per job saved. As these kinds of deals go, that's not too bad.</p> <p>However! Keep your eyes open. Call me cynical if you want, but I have a feeling it might eventually turn out that Carrier got a few more tidbits out of Trump than just this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 17:43:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 320476 at After the Election, Obamacare Repeal Is Suddenly a Little Less Tempting <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Back in October, when Democrats were in charge of the White House and seemed set to continue that, 32 percent of Americans said they wanted to repeal Obamacare. After the election, when Republicans had won total control of everything, that number dropped sharply to 26 percent. Here are the results of the <a href="" target="_blank">latest Kaiser tracking poll:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_repeal_november_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_favorability_november_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>Apparently, when repeal of Obamacare became a concrete reality, rather than just a rallying cry, a fair number of people started to think twice. Even among Trump voters, only half want to see the law repealed.</p> <p>In any case, Democrats have a secret weapon to rescue Obamacare&mdash;one that's hiding in plain sight. More on that later.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 16:52:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 320466 at You Must Watch This Video Clip Immediately <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Seriously. Do it now.</p> <p><iframe align="middle" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 50px;" width="500"></iframe></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:23:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 320451 at 2016 Was Bad for Democrats, But It Wasn't an Epic Disaster <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at the <em>Washington Post</em>, Chris Cillizza presents a chart showing the <a href=";utm_term=.c4ece8dbde16" target="_blank">dismal fortunes of the Democratic Party in recent years:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_party_control_2008_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #d9d9d9; margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>But 2008 was a landslide year for Democrats. Of course they'll look bad if you start from there. If, instead, you start at 1994&mdash;the post-Gingrich era&mdash;and eliminate the 2008 results, you get this:<sup>1</sup></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_party_control_1994_2016_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 30px;"></p> <p>Neither of these charts is "correct." What's more, both show that 2016 was, indeed, a fairly dismal year for Democrats, especially at the state level. Still, it matters where you start. If your starting point is a landslide year, things are automatically going to look bleak. But if you expand your vision to the past two decades, 2016 looks bad, but it's not an epic disaster.</p> <p>2016 was a pretty good year for Republicans. But that's all.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>For the record, I cobbled together these numbers from several sources, and they may be off slightly. But they show the trend accurately.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 15:05:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 320446 at How Do American Kids Do In Math? Pretty Well, It Turns Out. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Earlier this evening I promised more on the TIMSS math test, and now I'm here to deliver. I could pretty easily just copy the full ranking table and consider it a job well done, but there's a problem with that: a bunch of Asian tigers are always at the top, light years ahead of everyone else. There's not much point in comparing ourselves to them. Do we really care that we do worse than countries that goad their kids into studying math until their eyes fall out? Likewise, there are lots of poor countries clustered near the bottom. There's not much point in comparing ourselves to them either. It might make us feel good, but do we really care that we beat out Malaysia and Oman?</p> <p>Really, what we want to know is how we compare to peer countries. We also want to know if we're improving over time. So without further ado, here's the answer for 8th graders:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_timss_math_2015_peer_countries.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 2px;"><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_timss_math_us_1995_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>Basically, this isn't bad. We do pretty well among our peers, and our scores have been improving steadily for the past two decades. The full report is <a href="" target="_blank">here,</a> and it has lots of interesting tidbits.</p> <p>It's worth noting that there are two big international math tests: TIMSS and PISA. The United States usually does fairly well on TIMSS and not so well on PISA, which claims to be more about concepts and actual problem solving. If your ideological preference is to show that American kids are doing fine, you'll focus on TIMSS. If your ideological preference is to show that American education is a cesspool and needs massive reform, you'll focus on PISA. Take your pick.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_timss_2015_race.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">One other note. If you <em>really</em> want a takeaway from the latest TIMSS test, it's the same as the takeaway from every other test ever administered to America schoolkids: we do a terrible job of educating black children. The single biggest thing we could do to improve education in this country is to cut out the half measures and focus serious money and resources on poor, black school districts. But I guess the white working class wouldn't be very happy about that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 04:59:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 320441 at Carrier Will Get a Tax Break For Staying in Indiana <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Yesterday I warned everyone to keep an eye out for details about the size of the bribe that Carrier got from Donald Trump to stay in Indiana. We still don't know that, <a href="" target="_blank">but we do know a little bit more:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Carrier, the company that changed its plans to shutter a plant in Indianapolis and shift production to Mexico after talks with President-elect Donald Trump, confirmed Wednesday that <strong>it would receive financial assistance</strong> from the state of Indiana as part of the deal to keep the plant open.</p> <p>....A statement from the company...&ldquo;The incentives offered by the state were an important consideration.&rdquo; The Indiana Economic Development Corp., a state agency, <strong>will grant Carrier a tax break in exchange for keeping the plant open,</strong> said John Mutz, a member of the corporation's board and a former lieutenant governor.</p> </blockquote> <p>How big a tax break? And what else will Carrier get? Stay tuned as we learn more details about how many taxpayer dollars are being spent in order to provide Donald Trump with a PR opportunity.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 04:17:48 +0000 Kevin Drum 320436 at There's Something Wrong With the TIMSS Advanced Math Test <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Excellent news! <a href="" target="_blank">The 2015 TIMSS test results are out.</a> This is one of two international math tests for 4th and 8th graders (the other is PISA), and it provides us with yet another chance to bemoan the shoddy education of American students.</p> <p>I'll get to that later tonight. First, though, I want to point out an odd thing about the TIMSS test. This year, for only the second time, they decided to add a third "advanced" math test for high school seniors who were in advanced math courses. Eight countries participated, and the United States did pretty well. We lagged behind only Lebanon.</p> <p>Lebanon? You bet: their average score was 532, a whopping 50 points ahead of the two second-place countries (Russia and the US). But then I noticed something: only 3.2 percent of Lebanese students were in advanced math courses compared to 34 percent of Slovenian students. It makes sense that if you compare the top 3.2 percent of one country to the top 34 percent of another, the former is going to do a lot better.</p> <p>So are differences in these scores just due to differences in how selective different countries are in accepting students into advanced math courses? Here's the scatterplot you've been waiting for:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_timss_advanced_math_2015_score_vs_number_test_takers_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>Selectivity doesn't account for everything, but it does have a significant impact. If you restrict your classes to only the very brightest students (like Lebanon, Russia, and the US), they'll do well. If you open them up to more than a quarter of your students (like Italy, Portugal and Slovenia), the average kids will drag down the mean score. But which country is actually doing a better job of education? It's hard to say.</p> <p>Regardless, there's always something to complain about. <a href="" target="_blank">Here is Jeffrey Mervis in <em>Science</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Students taking the most challenging math and science courses in their senior year were found to have performed progressively worse as they moved from elementary to middle to high school. The U.S. cohort, for example... deteriorated over time, from 29 and 9 points ahead of the midpoint in fourth and eighth grade, respectively, to 15 points below as seniors. Italy recorded the steepest drops, a startling 126 points below the midpoint in physics and 78 points in advanced math by the end of high school.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's not clear to me that the "midpoint" of the TIMSS test means anything at all. In the advanced math test, every single country except Lebanon scored below it. What kind of midpoint is that? A pretty arbitrary one, I'd guess.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 02:33:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 320431 at Ethics Office Congratulates Trump for Something He's Not Planning to Do <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is weird as hell. Between 12:55 and 12:57 pm on the East Coast this afternoon, the Office of Government Ethics <a href="" target="_blank">sent out a tweetstorm addressed to Donald Trump:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>We can't repeat enough how good this total <em>divestiture</em> will be....Brilliant! <em>Divestiture</em> is good for you, very good for America!....<strong>OGE applauds the "total" <em>divestiture</em> decision. Bravo!</strong>....As we discussed with your counsel, <em>divestiture</em> is the way to resolve these conflicts....OGE is delighted that you've decided to <em>divest</em> your businesses. Right decision!....Bravo! Only way to resolve these conflicts of interest is to <em>divest</em> . Good call!....this aligns with OGE opinion that POTUS should act as if 18 USC 208 applies. <a href="" target="_blank"></a>....<strong>this <em>divestiture</em> does what handing over control could never have done....</strong>we told your counsel we'd sing your praises if you <em>divested</em>, we meant it.</p> </blockquote> <p>Needless to say, Trump has made no decision to divest his holdings. He has said only that he plans to hand over control of "business operations" to his kids.</p> <p>So what happened? Here's a few theories:</p> <ol><li>Trump really does plan to divest, and his lawyers have told OGE this. Then OGE screwed up and scheduled a tweetstorm about it before Trump's announcement.</li> <li>OGE did this "accidentally" in order to put pressure on Trump to divest.</li> <li>OGE did this deliberately in order to put pressure on Trump to divest.</li> <li>Something else.</li> </ol><p>As near as I can tell, #4 is the winner. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what the <em>New York Times</em> reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a statement, Seth Jaffe, an agency spokesman, said that officials there were &ldquo;excited&rdquo; by Mr. Trump&rsquo;s announcements on conflicts of interest and that the messages were not based on any information about the president-elect&rsquo;s plans beyond what was shared on his Twitter feed.</p> <p>Asked later about the disclosure of the advice that the Office of Government Ethics had given to Mr. Trump&rsquo;s lawyers, Mr. Jaffe said he could not provide additional comment. But the agency has left the posts on its official government account.</p> </blockquote> <p>So...they just misinterpreted Trump's tweets and got so excited that they couldn't contain themselves. I can't say that this seems especially likely, but I guess anything is possible.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> NPR has more <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> Their account seems to imply that maybe #3 is the right answer. If it is, then bravo. After all, if Donald Trump can make waves via Twitter, then so can everyone else.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 01 Dec 2016 01:06:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 320426 at