Blogs | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/Blogs/kevin%20drum http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Trump Immigration Debacle May Cost US Tourism Industry $3 Billion http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trump-immigration-debacle-may-cost-us-tourism-industry-3-billion <!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/2017/02/trumps-travel-ban-seems-have-saved-tourism-business" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I griped about a story that wildly misrepresented the alleged effect of President Trump's travel ban on the tourism industry. However, it's worth pointing out that there does seem to be <a href="http://www.frommers.com/tips/miscellaneous/the-travel-press-is-reporting-the-trump-slump-a-devastating-drop-in-tourism-to-the-united-states" target="_blank">a milder version of the story that's actually true:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It&rsquo;s known as the &ldquo;Trump Slump.&rdquo; And I know of no reputable travel publication to deny it.</p> <p>Thus, the prestigious <em>Travel Weekly</em> magazine (as close to an &ldquo;official&rdquo; travel publication as they come) has set the decline in foreign tourism at 6.8%....On the web, flight searches for trips heading to the U.S. out of all international locations was recently down by 17%....According to the Global Business Travel Association, in only a single week following announcement of the ban against certain foreign tourists, the activity of business travel declined by nearly $185 million.</p> </blockquote> <p>International tourism contributes about $100 billion to the US economy each year. If that declines 6.8 percent, that's $6.8 billion. If you figure the Trump Slump is a temporary thing, maybe it's more like $3 billion or so.</p> <p>In other words, not earth shaking on a national level. Still, if Trump's immigration policies are going to cost us $3 billion, he'd better figure out how he's planning to make that up. A few hundred jobs at a Carrier plant aren't going to come close.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 06:03:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 326426 at http://www.motherjones.com Reince Priebus Asked the FBI to Assure Reporters There Was Nothing to the Russia Story. They Refused. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/white-house-asks-fbi-assure-reporters-theres-nothing-russia-story-they-refuse <!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.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/us/politics/russia-intelligence-communications-trump.html" target="_blank">Last week</a> the <em>New York Times</em> reported that members of Donald Trump's campaign staff "had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election. The White House vigorously denies this, and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus went on TV to knock down the story. That's fine. But it turns out Priebus did more than that. According to CNN, Priebus asked the FBI to <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/23/politics/fbi-refused-white-house-request-to-knock-down-recent-trump-russia-stories/index.html" target="_blank">tell reporters that there was nothing to the story:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The discussions between the White House and the bureau began with FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe<sup>1</sup> and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus on the sidelines of a separate White House meeting the day after the stories were published, according to a U.S. law enforcement official.</p> <p>....[A] White House official said that Priebus later reached out again to McCabe and to FBI Director James Comey <strong>asking for the FBI to at least talk to reporters on background to dispute the stories.</strong> A law enforcement official says McCabe didn't discuss aspects of the case but wouldn't say exactly what McCabe told Priebus.</p> <p><strong>Comey rejected the request for the FBI to comment on the stories,</strong> according to sources, because the alleged communications between Trump associates and Russians known to US intelligence are the subject of an ongoing investigation.</p> </blockquote> <p>I wonder if anyone in the Trump White House even understands how inappropriate this is? They might not. Partly it's because they're so inexperienced, and partly it's because they've all been marinating in the Trump worldview that you're a chump if you let delicate moral sensibilities get in the way of hitting back against your enemies. They might well believe that asking the FBI to talk to reporters is no different than asking the press secretary to talk to reporters.</p> <p>If this is true, it's no excuse. I'm just curious. If Priebus knew this was wrong, it's hard to believe that he would have pressed the bureau multiple times, even knowing that it was almost certain to leak eventually.</p> <p>In other words, at best they're muttonheads. At worst they're casually corrupt. Take your pick.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>In case that name sounds familiar, it's the same Andrew McCabe who was supposedly at the center of one of the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/10/mccabegate-latest-scandal-will-totally-destroy-hillary-clinton" target="_blank">dumbest "Hillary scandal" stories</a> ever written outside of the fever swamps.<sup>2</sup> Long story short, McCabe's wife is a Democrat. ZOMG!</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Speaking of which, can you even imagine the epic meltdown we'd be enduring from Republicans right now if Hillary Clinton had done anything like this?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 05:29:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 326421 at http://www.motherjones.com Democrats at War? Let's Compare and Contrast 2009 and 2017. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/democrats-war-lets-compare-and-contrast-2009-and-2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's a headline <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/us/democrats-dnc-chairman-trump-keith-ellison-tom-perez.html" target="_blank">currently running in the <em>New York Times</em>:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nyt_democrats_war_trump.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I don't have any beef with this. The Democratic base <em>is</em> demanding total war on Trump, and Democratic politicians have mostly gotten on board. What I do wonder, though, is whether the <em>Times</em> ever used language like this during the first couple of months of the Obama administration? Maybe they did, but via Google, here's a walk down memory lane as reported by the <em>Times</em> in early 2009:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_nyt_headlines_early_obama_term.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Obama woos and visits and holds receptions and reaches out and sets a new tone. Republicans are "resistant," they skip briefings, they vote unanimously against budgets, and unanimously against the stimulus bill. But there's no war in those headlines.</p> <p>Later, of course, we learned that there <em>was</em> a war. Before Obama was even inaugurated, Republicans met and agreed to form a united front that unanimously blocked every Obama initiative, sight unseen. The fact that the country was mired in the most serious economic downturn since the Great Depression didn't matter. Their only goal was to prevent Obama from having any legislative successes.</p> <p>The <a href="http://swampland.time.com/2012/08/23/the-party-of-no-new-details-on-the-gop-plot-to-obstruct-obama/" target="_blank">smoking guns</a> that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/us/politics/17mcconnell.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">uncovered this strategy</a> didn't come until later, but anyone reporting from Capitol Hill surely knew what was happening almost immediately. Republicans publicly spurned Obama's attempts to compromise. They voted against the stimulus bill unanimously in the House and nearly unanimously in the Senate. They launched the era of the routine filibuster on everything. They embraced the tea party within a month of Obama taking office.</p> <p>In other words, it was all pretty obvious. And yet, coverage at the time tended to refer vaguely to a "breakdown in bipartisanship." Perhaps Democrats were pushing too hard? Maybe they were unwilling to compromise? Surely Republicans were sincere about their opposition to increasing the deficit?</p> <p>So why the difference this time? Democratic activists have been pretty vocal about what they want, but then again, by this time in 2009 the tea party had already gotten its start. They were pretty vocal too.</p> <p>My guess: as always, Republicans are given a pass for their ultra-conservative views, which might be a little crazy, but are still presumed to be deeply rooted and genuine. Democrats, conversely, are generally thought craven if they "give in" to their base. Democrats tend to be a bit wonkier and more policy driven than Republicans, and as a result reporters generally don't believe that they're truly passionate about their principles. The very fact that they're more willing to compromise proves this. So when they oppose Trump, it's because they've "conceded" to their base; they're "mimicking" the Republican strategy; they're "quietly worried" that their base expects too much; they "still hope for compromise"; and "protesters are leading the politicians." In other words, it's pretty calculated, not at all like those Republicans with their deeply ingrained family values and distrust of government.</p> <p>Blecch. Can you tell I'm annoyed?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 02:17:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 326416 at http://www.motherjones.com Only 12% of Guantanamo Detainees Released by Obama Have Returned to the Battlefield http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/only-12-guantanamo-detainees-released-obama-have-returned-battlefield <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Counterterrorism crackpot Sebastian Gorka appeared on <em>Fox &amp; Friends</em> this morning to argue <a href="http://insider.foxnews.com/2017/02/22/sebastian-gorka-guantanamo-bay-detainee-isis-attack-iraq" target="_blank">against closing Guantanamo Bay:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Obama released lots and lots of people that were there for very good reason, and what happened? <strong>Almost half the time</strong> they returned to the battlefield.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/sebastian-gorka-disagrees-with-official-terrorism-statistics.html" target="_blank">This comes via Jesse Singal,</a> who points out that twice a year the Director of National Intelligence releases a report called "Summary of the Reengagement of Detainees Formerly Held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." That makes it pretty easy to check on this. Here's a summary of all the recidivism figures since they began the reports in 2012:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_guantanamo_recidivism_obama_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>During his eight years in the White House, President Obama <a href="https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/FINAL%20-%20GTMO%20Unclass%20CDA%20Response%20-%20September%202016.pdf" target="_blank">released</a> 161 Guantanamo detainees&mdash;the ones Dick Cheney called <a href="http://www.nbcnews.com/id/31052241/ns/world_news-terrorism/t/cheney-gitmo-holds-worst-worst/" target="_blank">"the worst of the worst"</a> when he left office back in 2009. Thanks to careful vetting and competent diplomacy, the recidivism rate of these detainees has been only about 12 percent (5.6 percent confirmed). That's three times better than the Bush/Cheney record.</p> <p>As for Gorka, I suppose "almost" can be stretched to mean a lot of things. But can 12.4 percent be stretched to mean "almost half"? In the Trump administration, apparently it can.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 24 Feb 2017 00:58:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 326411 at http://www.motherjones.com Now In Happy Retirement, John Boehner Admits Republicans Will Never Agree on Obamacare Repeal http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/now-happy-retirement-john-boehner-admits-republicans-will-never-agree-obamacare-repeal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In today's episode of Confess Your Unpopular Opinions, I confess that I kind of like Mitch McConnell. I'm grading on a curve, of course, the curve being "people who oppose everything that is right and good about America." Still, I kind of like the fact that McConnell doesn't generally get on his high horse. For example, when Republicans blocked Merrick Garland last year, most conservatives started peddling a load of nonsense about how Supreme Court justices were never confirmed in a president's final year and they were just upholding the grand traditions of the Senate blah blah blah. But not McConnell. He basically said that Republicans were doing it because they could. That's OK. I mean, if you're going to screw me, don't try to pretend that you're doing me a favor at the same time.</p> <p>Likewise, I kind of liked John Boehner too. He was just a man born too late. If he had been Speaker of the House 30 years earlier, he would have been fine. He would have logrolled and compromised and made deals and the government would have chugged along. By 2011, however, the GOP was fully tea party-ized and Boehner had more trouble with his own caucus than he did with the Democrats.</p> <p>Boehner seemed genuinely happy when he finally left the House, and ever since he's been unusually open about the reality of trying to deal with the loons in his own party. Today, he cheerfully explained that Republican plans to quickly repeal Obamacare <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/john-boehner-obamacare-republicans-235303" target="_blank">were just "happy talk":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>He said changes to former President Barack Obama&rsquo;s signature legislative achievement would likely be relatively modest. &ldquo;[Congressional Republicans are] going to fix Obamacare&nbsp;&mdash; <strong>I shouldn&rsquo;t call it repeal-and-replace, because it&rsquo;s not going to happen,&rdquo; he said.</strong></p> <p>....Boehner said the talk in November about lightning-fast passage of a new health care framework was wildly optimistic. <strong>&ldquo;I started laughing,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Republicans never ever agree on health care.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>&ldquo;Most of the framework of the Affordable Care Act ... that&rsquo;s going to be there,&rdquo; Boehner concluded.</p> </blockquote> <p>Yep. I wrote a piece for the magazine a couple of months ago making the same point, and it got way less attention than I thought it deserved. That's rankled my fragile male ego ever since, so I'm taking this opportunity to highlight it again. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/save-obamacare-donald-trump-repeal-gop" target="_blank">Here's the ending:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Obamacare's preexisting-conditions provision provides Democrats with some leverage. Republicans need Democratic votes to repeal the provision and pass a workable law, which means that if Democrats hold out they can certainly get a far better deal than Ryan's plan. <strong>They might even be able to stop the Obamacare repeal in its tracks.</strong> It all depends on how well they play their hand.</p> </blockquote> <p>Boehner's argument is expressed differently than mine, but it comes to the same thing: the best way for Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare is to compromise with Democrats. Their next best option is to somehow ram through a plan of their own and accept all the flak this entails. However, both options require Republicans to stay ruthlessly united, and as Boehner says, what are the odds of that?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 22:50:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 326396 at http://www.motherjones.com Pew: Republicans Disagree With You, and They Disagree Indignantly http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/pew-republicans-disagree-and-they-disagree-indignantly <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Good 'ol Pew Research. They do some intriguing work sometimes. Today they released <a href="http://www.people-press.org/2017/02/23/partisan-conflict-and-congressional-outreach/" target="_blank">"Partisan Conflict and Congressional Outreach,"</a> which analyzed 200,000 press releases and Facebook posts from members of Congress using "methods from the emerging field of computational social science" in order to "quantify how often legislators themselves 'go negative' in their outreach to the public." Here's the basic finding:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_congress_facebook_disagreement.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The most moderate Republican expresses disagreement at the same rate as the most extreme Democrat. The average Republican expresses disagreement at about three times the rate of the average Democrat.</p> <p>But maybe this is all nice, polite disagreement? Nope. Pew categorized negativity as both "disagreement" and "indignant disagreement,"&nbsp; which they helpfully define as "a type of disagreement that also expresses anger, resentment or annoyance." Republicans expressed indignant disagreement at three times the rate of Democrats. And if we turn our attention to Facebook, there's a reason for this:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pew_congress_facebook_likes.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Sadly, this is not broken down by party. I would be (genuinely!) interested in knowing whether indignant disagreement increases Facebook engagement as much among Democrats as Republicans. Something for the next report, I guess.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 20:10:01 +0000 Kevin Drum 326366 at http://www.motherjones.com Mnuchin: Obama Ruined the Economy, But the Economy Is Doing Great http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/mnuchin-obama-ruined-economy-economy-doing-great <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In an interview with the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/treasury-secretary-steven-mnuchin-pushes-hard-for-stronger-dollar-1487798404" target="_blank">President Obama held back the economy:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Mnuchin, in his first interview since his confirmation last week as Treasury secretary, <strong>said slower economic growth since the financial crisis had primarily been an anomaly and a result of Obama administration policies that can be reversed</strong>....&ldquo;We think it&rsquo;s critical that we get back to more normalized economic growth. More normalized economic growth is 3% or higher,&rdquo; Mr. Mnuchin said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Huh. But what about the strength of the dollar?</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>He said the strong U.S. dollar is a reflection of confidence in the U.S. economy and its performance compared with the rest of the world</strong> and was a &ldquo;good thing&rdquo; in the long run....The dollar has appreciated by 23% over the past three years and added to those gains since the November election.</p> <p>&ldquo;I think the strength of the dollar has a lot to do with kind of where our economy is relative to the rest of the world, and that the dollar continues to be the leading currency in the world, the leading reserve currency and a <strong>reflection of the confidence that people have in the U.S. economy,</strong>&rdquo; Mr. Mnuchin said.</p> </blockquote> <p>So which is it? Did Obama's policies tank the American economy? Or are they responsible for stronger growth than anywhere else in the world, as reflected in the strength of the dollar? The Trumpies really ought to make up their minds about whether America is a trade-blighted hellhole or the best performing economy in the world.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dollar_2013_2017.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 19:30:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 326351 at http://www.motherjones.com Under Trump, Fear Is a Feature of Immigration Policy, Not a Bug http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/under-trump-fear-feature-immigration-policy-not-bug <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here are a few immigration headlines plucked at random from Google News:</p> <ul><li><strong>New York Times:</strong> Immigrants Hide, Fearing Capture on &lsquo;Any Corner&rsquo;<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>LA Times:</strong> 'You can't even walk anywhere without fearing you may get caught': Immigrants in U.S. illegally prepare for possible deportation<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>USA Today:</strong> It's a frightening day to be an undocumented immigrant in America<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>Fox32 Chicago:</strong> Immigrants fearing deportation under Trump change routines, won't even go outside<br> &nbsp;</li> <li><strong>WFAA Dallas:</strong> Immigration fears: Dreamer arrested in Dallas</li> </ul><p>It's not (yet) clear that ICE is rounding up any more immigrants than in the past, but they're doing it way more loudly and with way more headlines than before. As you'd expect, this is scaring the hell out of people. <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/02/administration-rattles-sabers-at-undocumented-immigrants.html" target="_blank">Ed Kilgore comments:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Fear in the immigrant community&rdquo; is itself a crucial tool for this administration given the signs that <strong>it would prefer that as many as possible of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country decide to <em>self-deport</em>.</strong> It is certainly less expensive and visible than running down huge numbers of people, holding them in detention facilities, and then shipping them out of the country.</p> <p>....<strong>If the self-deportation strategy doesn&rsquo;t work substantively or politically, then we will find out whether Kelly and Trump have the stomach for the police-state tactics that would be necessary to deport many millions of people by force.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>My guess is a little different. I doubt that this noisy crackdown will cause very many undocumented workers to go back to Mexico or Central America. This is not the first time they've been the target of a grandstanding politician, and for the most part they'll ride it out, just as they have with previous crackdowns.</p> <p>However, it might very well dissuade further illegal immigration. What with the wall and the increased border security and the raids, a fair number of people might decide that the benefits of migrating to El Norte aren't worth the risk. In other words, Trump's style of TV-driven governing with little substance behind it might actually work here.</p> <p>The question, of course, is <em>how long</em> it will work. Not forever, because TV will soon get bored and move on to something new no matter how much ICE tries to amp up the outrages to get ever more coverage. So maybe it buys Trump six months or a year. After that, if he really wants to cut down the flow of illegal immigration across the border, he's going to have to adopt an actually effective policy, something he hasn't yet shown an aptitude for. He's also going to have to deal with all the good Republican business owners who are going to get increasingly antsy for as long as this keeps up. They need workers, and they won't be happy if Trump gets too carried away with all this.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 17:47:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 326331 at http://www.motherjones.com Map of the Day: Kansas Is Not Quite the Slowest Growth State in the Nation http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/map-day-kansas-not-quite-slowest-growth-state-country <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/02/sam-brownback-kansas-tax-cuts-donald-trump" target="_blank">slashed taxes when he took office five years ago,</a> and since then the state's economy has, for lack of a better word, sucked. The state legislature, which eagerly supported Brownback at first, has finally gotten tired of the obvious problems the tax cuts have produced, and tried this month to raise more revenue. It almost worked, but Brownback vetoed the bill and the state senate fell just short of overturning it. So the tax cuts stay in place for now, and the Kansas budget remains enormously in the hole.</p> <p>Allow me to illustrate how this has worked out using my new favorite toy, GeoFRED. Here is employment growth over the past year:</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="//geofred.stlouisfed.org/embed/?m=4ZU&amp;esize=medium&amp;h=855&amp;w=1555" style="overflow:hidden;height:397px;width:630px;"></iframe></p> <p>Woot! Kansas isn't in last place. It's fourth from last. Here's growth of gross state product in 2015 (the most recent year available):</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="//geofred.stlouisfed.org/embed/?m=506&amp;esize=medium&amp;h=855&amp;w=1555" style="overflow:hidden;height:397px;width:630px;"></iframe></p> <p>Better! Kansas is 8th from last (counting Alaska, not shown). When the 2016 figures are available, maybe Kansas will move up to ninth or tenth from last.</p> <p>There you have it. A picture is worth a thousand words, so that's 2,000 words I've just saved you. You're welcome.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 16:51:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 326316 at http://www.motherjones.com Ivanka Trump Meets With Congress to Pretend That Her Father Cares About Children http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/ivanka-trump-goes-capitol-hill-pretend-her-father-cares-about-children <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Bloomberg reports on Ivanka Trump's <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-02-23/ivanka-trump-is-pushing-her-500-billion-child-care-plan-on-hill" target="_blank">first foray into policymaking:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Members of the House and Senate met with the president&rsquo;s eldest daughter in the Roosevelt Room at the White House last week to discuss her proposed child care tax benefit, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting....It&rsquo;s not clear whether Ivanka Trump is finding much appetite on Capitol Hill for her proposal. <strong>A deduction for child care expenses is both costly and regressive</strong> because it would favor wealthier families with two working parents. <strong>The deduction would cost the federal government $500 billion in revenue over a decade,</strong> according to an estimate by the Tax Foundation, a politically conservative, nonprofit research group.</p> </blockquote> <p>Let's see. It would cost $500 billion and fund a touchy-feely welfare program. On the bright side, it would benefit wealthy families more than the poor. Decisions, decisions....</p> <p>As for the regressiveness, here's a quick stylized example for a plan that allows, say, a deduction of up to $5,000 for child care expenses:</p> <ul><li>Income of $500,000, tax bracket = 39.6 percent, total value of deduction = $1,980</li> <li>Income of $70,000, tax bracket = 15 percent, total value of deduction = $750</li> <li>Income of $25,000, tax bracket doesn't matter because you're not paying any income taxes, total value of deduction = $0.</li> </ul><p>Everybody in the world with even a passing knowledge of tax policy is well aware of all this. Tax deductions are next to useless for the working and middle classes. That's why anyone who actually wants to help the non-rich proposes tax credits with a fairly low income cap.</p> <p>In other words, this is typical Trump. Launch Ivanka onto Capitol Hill with a high-profile proposal and get plenty of good PR for it. But the proposal itself does little for the working class, and Congress won't pass it anyway. I think I should start keeping a list of Trump proposals that fit this model.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 15:50:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 326311 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: The Information You Want Is Not Available, Informationally Speaking http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/quote-day-information-you-want-not-available-informationally-speaking <!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.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-02-22/air-force-stumped-by-trump-s-claim-of-1-billion-savings-on-jet" target="_blank">From Colonel Pat Ryder,</a> an Air Force spokesman, on President Trump's claim that he had saved $1 billion on the development program for a new Air Force One:</p> <blockquote> <p>To my knowledge I have not been told that we have that information.</p> </blockquote> <p>Roger that. Ryder added that reporters would have to ask the commander-in-chief to clear this up. Unsurprisingly, Bloomberg reports that a White House spokesman "didn&rsquo;t respond to repeated inquiries about Trump&rsquo;s comments."</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 23 Feb 2017 06:48:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 326301 at http://www.motherjones.com Is Steve Jobs Responsible For the Decline of Shoplifting in Denmark? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/steve-jobs-responsible-decline-shoplifting-denmark <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Here's a loyal reader who knows how to punch my buttons:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">That sound you hear is <a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> 's head exploding<a href="https://t.co/Zlo07OHHbT">https</a><a href="https://t.co/Zlo07OHHbT">://t.co/Zlo07OHHbT</a></p> &mdash; Shawn Sukumar (@shawnsukumar) <a href="https://twitter.com/shawnsukumar/status/834474829436829697">February 22, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Fine. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/02/22/why-are-european-kids-are-committing-fewer-crimes-theyre-too-busy-on-their-phones/" target="_blank">What fresh hell do we have today?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;In Denmark, we are observing a trend toward a much more law-abiding youth,&rdquo; said Rannva Moller Thomsen, an analyst with the Danish Crime Prevention Council. A recent long-term study funded by the council found that <strong>the share of 14-to-15-year olds who confessed to shoplifting at least one time dropped from 46 percent in 1989 to 17 percent in 2016.</strong></p> <p>....There are numerous possible explanations....But the most surprising explanation may be the simplest one: the Internet. &ldquo;When young people spend time together in public spaces or meet privately and unwatched, the likelihood of them committing crimes increases,&rdquo; said Moller Thomsen. <strong>&ldquo;Many young people spend significantly more time online today than they did a few years ago. Overall, they are less social &mdash; but also less criminal.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>....In Britain, where youth crime levels have also sharply fallen, <strong>government and privately owned initiatives have been praised for creating organized activities that keep kids away from both the streets and from their computers and smartphones.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Right. In Denmark juvenile crime is declining because teens are all hunched over their smartphones instead of hanging around corner shops. In Britain, juvenile crime is down because of innovative programs that pull kids <em>away</em> from their smartphones. So let's take a look at crime in Denmark. I will give myself a maximum of five minutes to research this. Starting...now.</p> <p>I'm back. That took longer than I expected. I'm sure there's better data out there, but here's what I found after six minutes of googling. The numbers are from Table 8 in <a href="https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:526664/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank"><em>Nordic Criminal Statistics 1950&ndash;2010:</em><sup>1</sup></a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crime_denmark_1989_2016_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>I've overlaid the shoplifting statistics, and as you can see they pretty much follow the overall crime stats for Denmark. There's a divergence between 2006-10, when overall crime increased, but the rest of the time both crime and juvenile shoplifting move pretty much in sync. I doubt very much that smartphones are responsible for the decline in murder and rape and fraud and so forth, so I doubt it's responsible for the decline in juvenile shoplifting either.<sup>2</sup></p> <p>Besides, give me a break. Shoplifting declined by nearly half between 1989-2005, when smartphone penetration was about zero. This whole theory is ridiculous. I really wish everyone would knock it off with the outr&eacute; just-so stories every time they run across some kind of crime statistic. Seriously, folks, what are the odds that smartphones have put the kibosh on shoplifting?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Just because I love you all so much, I went ahead and filled in the 2011-16 crime figures from <a href="http://www.dst.dk/da/Statistik/emner/levevilkaar/kriminalitet/anmeldte-forbrydelser" target="_blank">Danmarks Statistik.</a></p> <p><sup>2</sup>I think everybody knows what I <em>do</em> think is responsible, so I won't mention it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 23:50:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 326271 at http://www.motherjones.com Here's a Primer On How to Keep Donald Trump Under Control http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/heres-primer-how-keep-donald-trump-under-control <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at <em>Politico</em>, Tara Palmeri has an entertaining story about how Trump's aides desperately try to keep him from <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2017/02/trump-twitter-staffer-235263" target="_blank">exploding on Twitter too often:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The key to keeping Trump&rsquo;s Twitter habit under control, according to six former campaign officials, is to <strong>ensure that his personal media consumption includes a steady stream of praise.</strong> And when no such praise was to be found, staff would turn to friendly outlets to drum some up &mdash; and make sure it made its way to Trump&rsquo;s desk....A former senior campaign official said Nunberg and his successor, former communications director Jason Miller, were particularly skilled at using alternative media like <strong><em>Breitbart</em>, <em>Washington Examiner</em>, Fox News, Infowars and the <em>Daily Caller</em></strong> to show Trump positive coverage.</p> <p>....They would also go to media amplifiers like Fox News hosts and conservative columnists to encourage them to tweet out the story so that they could print out and show a two-page list of tweets that show that they were steering the message. <strong>While Trump still couldn't contain his Twitter-rage with [Alicia] Machado,</strong> and ended up tweeting about a mystery sex-tape of the Hillary Clinton surrogate, <strong>aides say they dialed back even more posts.</strong></p> <p>"He saw there was activity so he didn't feel like he had to respond," the former campaign official said. <strong>"He sends out these tweets when he feels like people aren't responding enough for him."</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>For the record, here are Trump's post-debate tweets about Alicia Machado:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Using Alicia M in the debate as a paragon of virtue just shows that Crooked Hillary suffers from BAD JUDGEMENT! Hillary was set up by a con.</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/781785509639118848">September 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Wow, Crooked Hillary was duped and used by my worst Miss U. Hillary floated her as an "angel" without checking her past, which is terrible!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/781784161044553728">September 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/781788223055994880">September 30, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And yet, Trump's aides say they "dialed back" even more posts. The mind reels. I wonder they prevented us from seeing? What did Trump <em>really</em> have in mind down in the lizard-brain regions of his medial hypothalamus that relentlessly goad him into an uncontrollable rage whenever someone doesn't love him enough?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 19:52:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 326256 at http://www.motherjones.com Another Democrat Hands Over the Reins to Republicans http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/another-democrat-hands-over-reins-republicans <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I forgot about this until Rachel Maddow <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/us/politics/fec-elections-ann-ravel-campaign-finance.html" target="_blank">mentioned it on her show last night:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>A Democrat on the Federal Election Commission is quitting her term early</strong> because of the gridlock that has gripped the panel, offering President Trump an unexpected chance to shape political spending rules.</p> <p>The commissioner, Ann M. Ravel, said during an interview that she would send Mr. Trump her letter of resignation this week. <strong>She pointed to a series of deadlocked votes</strong> between the panel&rsquo;s three Democrats and three Republicans that she said left her little hope the group would ever be able to rein in campaign finance abuses.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;The ability of the commission to perform its role has deteriorated significantly,&rdquo;</strong> said Ms. Ravel, who has sparred bitterly with the Republican election commissioners during her three years on the panel. She added, &ldquo;I think I can be more effective on the outside.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Ravel is not the first Democrat to resign a post early after Trump's election win. SEC Chair Mary Jo White is another high-profile Democrat who's resigned, and there have been several others as well.</p> <p>Why? With Republicans in control of everything, isn't this precisely the time when Democrats should want to retain as much power as they can muster for as long as they can? Ravel's resignation will break the FEC's frequent deadlocks, but it will break them by almost certainly giving Republicans total control over election policy. This is precisely the thing that Ravel has been fighting against the past three years.</p> <p>I don't get it. What am I missing here?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 18:07:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 326236 at http://www.motherjones.com Transgender High School Students Lose Their Bathroom Privileges http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/transgender-high-school-students-lose-their-bathroom-privileges <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Last year, the Obama administration issued a directive telling public schools to allow transgender students to use whichever bathroom matches their gender identity. This week, that turned into a fight between Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over an order that would <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/22/us/politics/devos-sessions-transgender-students-rights.html" target="_blank">repeal the Obama directive:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Ms. DeVos initially resisted signing off on the order</strong> and told President Trump that she was uncomfortable with it....Mr. Sessions, who strongly opposes expanding gay, lesbian and transgender rights, fought Ms. DeVos on the issue and pressed her to relent.</p> <p>....Mr. Trump sided with his attorney general, these Republicans said, telling Ms. DeVos in a meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday that he wanted her to drop her objections. <strong>And Ms. DeVos, faced with the choice of resigning or defying the president, has agreed to go along.</strong> The Justice Department declined to comment on Wednesday.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is going to happen a lot. Even on issues where Trump might be personally flexible, he's now surrounded by hardcore ideologues who will push him as far to the right as public opinion will allow. We basically live under a Pence administration with Trump acting as head carnival barker and showman.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 17:46:35 +0000 Kevin Drum 326226 at http://www.motherjones.com America Is Getting Friendlier to Immigrants, but Republicans Aren't http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/america-getting-friendlier-immigrants-republicans-arent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Over at Bloomberg, Noah Smith argues against getting <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-02-21/the-myth-of-the-u-s-immigration-crisis" target="_blank">too worked up over immigration:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Illegal immigration to the U.S. ended a decade ago and, according to the Pew Research Center, has been zero or negative since its peak in 2007....Why? One reason might be economic....<strong>The economy has improved</strong>, and the <strong>fertility rate has fallen a lot</strong>, meaning that young Mexicans are needed back in Mexico to take over family businesses and take care of aging parents....A third reason is <strong>increased border enforcement.</strong> For years, many Americans demanded that the border with Mexico be secured in order to stem illegal immigration. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama did exactly that. Obama, especially, stepped up the pace of deportation.</p> </blockquote> <p>OK. But how do Americans <em>feel</em> about immigration?</p> <blockquote> <p>Here too, surveys show that there isn&rsquo;t really a problem. The percent of Americans telling Gallup that immigration should be decreased went up after 9/11, spiked again during the Great Recession, but has since fallen to about a third. <strong>As of 2016, a clear majority say that immigration should either be kept at its present level (38 percent) or increased (21 percent)</strong>&nbsp;&mdash; hardly a mandate for immigration restriction.</p> </blockquote> <p>Quite so. <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/194819/support-decreasing-immigration-holds-steady.aspx" target="_blank">Here is Gallup's chart of public opinion:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_immigration_2001_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #cfcfcf; margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;"></p> <p>But that tells only half the story. Here are all the recent Gallup polls I could find that break out Republican responses about immigration:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_immigration_republicans_2009_2017_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;"></p> <p>Smith argues that "there is no big anti-immigrant wave in the U.S....Instead, the current anti-immigrant fervor among Trump&rsquo;s hardcore supporters might simply be a brief spasm of anger by a strident minority." But that doesn't seem to be the case. For at least the past decade, a strong majority of Republicans has favored decreasing immigration&mdash;and if the question were limited to <em>illegal</em> immigration, the numbers would certainly be higher.</p> <p>This is no brief spasm. The country as a whole may be getting friendlier to immigration, but Republicans decidedly aren't. If Democrats ever want to pass some kind of comprehensive immigration reform, they're going to have to figure out some way to get Republican votes for it, but that's not going to happen as long as the entire GOP&mdash;not just diehard Trump fans&mdash;is dead set against it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 17:20:40 +0000 Kevin Drum 326221 at http://www.motherjones.com Now That They're In Charge, Republicans Suddenly Not in Favor of Chaos in the Insurance Market http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/now-theyre-charge-republicans-suddenly-not-favor-chaos-insurance-market <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Charges of hypocrisy in politics are kind of tedious. However, last night TPM reported a bit of hypocrisy that's considerably worse than the usual kind. It's all about a suit brought by House Republicans against Obamacare that would have killed any payouts to insurance companies for something called Cost Sharing Reduction. These are additional subsidies that reduce your out-of-pocket max, and they apply only to silver plans for families who make less than about $40-50,000. In other words, the working class and the working poor.</p> <p>CSR subsidies are paid directly to insurance companies, but Republicans argued that although Obamacare authorized the subsidies, the House hadn't voted to appropriate the funds&mdash;and had no plans to do so. If Republicans won the case, it would have caused considerable chaos in the market as insurers scrambled to make up for payments they had been promised but weren't going to get.</p> <p>Last year a judge ruled in favor of the Republicans, and the Obama administration appealed. In December Republicans asked for a temporary stay to give them time to sort things out legislatively now that they controlled all branches of government. The stay was granted, and now Republicans are back in court. <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/joint-motion-to-delay-ruling-in-house-v-price" target="_blank">Here is Alice Ollstein:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>In a joint motion (see below) filed Tuesday, the two branches of government asked the court not to rule yet on the legality of these subsidies "to allow time for a resolution that would obviate the need for judicial determination of this appeal, including potential legislative action.&rdquo;...<strong>The new motion seeks to extend the current stay indefinitely</strong> to give lawmakers on Capitol Hill time to figure out the future for the entirety of the health care reform law, including the cost-sharing subsidies.</p> </blockquote> <p>Translation: back when Democrats would have been responsible for the chaos this ruling unleashed, Republicans were all in favor of unloading both barrels on Obamacare. But now that Republicans would have to deal with the chaos, they've suddenly gotten gun-shy.</p> <p>Republicans understood perfectly that winning their suit would hurt not just the insurance industry, but probably millions of workers as well. They didn't care, as long as Democrats got the blame. Now that Republicans would get the blame, they want the temporary stay to be made permanent.</p> <p>This, ladies and gentlemen, demonstrates just how much Republicans really care about the working class voters who are the ones who mostly benefit from CSR payments: they don't. They're just pawns in the GOP's endless partisan wars.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 15:49:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 326216 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump's Travel Ban Seems To Have Saved the Tourism Business http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/trumps-travel-ban-seems-have-saved-tourism-business <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The <em>New York Times</em> says that President Trump's immigration order last month <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/20/travel/after-travel-ban-declining-interest-trips-to-united-states.html?_r=0" target="_blank">cratered the tourism business:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The airfare prediction app Hopper, for example, analyzed 303 million flight searches between Jan. 26 and Feb. 1 and found that <strong>flight search demand from 122 international countries to the United States dropped 17 percent after the implementation of the travel ban,</strong> compared with the first three weeks in January.</p> <p><strong>Demand bounced back slightly after the ban was temporarily lifted on Feb. 3 but was still down by more than 10 percent as of Feb. 10,</strong> compared with the first three weeks in January, said Hopper&rsquo;s chief data scientist, Patrick Surry.</p> </blockquote> <p>I clicked the link. <a href="http://www.hopper.com/research/initial-effects-of-the-travel-ban-on-international-travel-to-the-us" target="_blank">Here's the chart from Hopper:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_air_travel.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Flight demand is generally down in 2017, but that all happened <em>before</em> the travel ban. In fact, right after the travel ban was announced, flight demand <em>increased</em> about 17 percent. This is exactly the opposite of what the <em>Times</em> reported.</p> <p>This is why I almost never pass along any news story with numbers attached to it unless I check the numbers myself.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> I should add that Hopper's own analysis isn't much better. Patrick Surry says: "Flight search demand from international origins to the US has dropped 17% overall since Trump's inauguration, and the implementation of the travel ban, compared to the final weeks of the Obama presidency."</p> <p>Huh? The only way you can get close to that is to compare the peak day of January (+8 percent) to the day of the Robart TRO (-11 percent). Or perhaps by comparing the pre-inauguration average (-1 percent?) to the worst post-inauguration day (-18 percent). Either way, it says nothing at all about the effect of the travel ban.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 15:10:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 326211 at http://www.motherjones.com Fact Check: President Trump Has Nothing To Do With the Decline of the Peso http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/fact-check-president-trump-has-nothing-do-decline-peso <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Rex Tillerson and John Kelly are visiting Mexico this week to discuss NAFTA, tariffs, trade deficits, border walls, and deportations. In other words, pretty much everything Mexicans hate about Donald Trump. <a href="http://www.latimes.com/world/mexico-americas/la-fg-us-mexico-20170221-story.html" target="_blank">The <em>LA Times</em> reports:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>[Trump] has threatened to pull out of the North American Free Trade Agreement and has proposed a tax on imports from Mexico and other countries with which the U.S. has a trade deficit. Both plans pose a serious threat to Mexico, which sends roughly 80% of its exports to the U.S., <strong>and whose peso has plummeted amid fears of what the Trump administration may do.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I keep reading this over and over and over. So let's take a look at the value of the peso:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_peso_dollar_2014_2017.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The peso has indeed fallen, losing nearly half its value recently. However, this decline started in the middle of 2014 and it's been rolling steadily along ever since. If there's any evidence that Donald Trump has anything to do with this, I sure can't see it. Can we please retire this fable?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 05:56:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 326201 at http://www.motherjones.com Democracy Dies In Darkness http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/democracy-dies-darkness-wapo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The editors of the <em>Washington Post</em> have a message for Donald Trump:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_wapo_democracy_dies_darkness.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 05:20:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 326196 at http://www.motherjones.com Coal Is Just Too Damn Expensive http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/coal-just-too-damn-expensive <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>President Trump is ready to start signing executive orders that roll back Obama-era regulations on <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2017/02/20/trump-to-roll-back-obamas-climate-water-rules-through-executive-action/?utm_term=.628facb92410" target="_blank">climate and water pollution:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>While both directives will take time to implement, they will <strong>send an unmistakable signal that the new administration is determined to promote fossil-fuel production</strong>....One executive order &mdash; which the Trump administration will couch as reducing U.S. dependence on other countries for energy &mdash; will instruct the Environmental Protection Agency to begin rewriting the 2015 regulation that limits greenhouse-gas emissions from existing electric utilities. <strong>It also instructs the Interior Department&rsquo;s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to lift a moratorium on federal coal leasing.</strong></p> <p>....Trump, who signed legislation last week that nullified a recent regulation prohibiting surface-mining operations from dumping waste in nearby waterways, said he was eager to support coal miners who had backed his presidential bid. <strong>&ldquo;The miners are a big deal,&rdquo; he said Thursday. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve had support from some of these folks right from the very beginning, and I won&rsquo;t forget it.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Will this put miners back to work? Not really, for a simple reason: bituminous coal is only barely competitive anymore with natural gas:<sup>1</sup></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_coal_natural_gas_price_1976_2016_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Bituminous coal is the stuff that's mined in Appalachia and the Eastern US. It's what you think of when you think of coal miners. However, it's faced price pressure for decades from surface-mined subbituminous coal produced with minimal labor in Wyoming and the rest of the West,<sup>2</sup> and now it's facing price pressure from natural gas too. Natural gas prices spiked in the aughts, partly due to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and just as those spikes began to subside naturally, hydraulic fracturing opened up vast new quantities of natural gas, forcing the price to plummet. Right now, natural gas is only a hair's width away from being cheaper than coal.</p> <p>Can Trump do anything about this? No. He can repeal all the rules he wants, but returning to, say, the 2014 price of coal just won't make much difference. The price of natural gas is still going be competitive with, or lower than, bituminous coal&mdash;and a lot cleaner too. Besides, Trump also plans to ease rules on fracking, which will push the price of natural gas down too. Coal miners are unlikely to benefit from all this by any appreciable amount.</p> <p>So who will? As usual, the answer is coal mine operators. The repeal of environmental rules won't affect prices enough to make much difference in coal employment, but it will provide a nice chunk of pocket change for the folks who own the mines.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> The EIA conversion factor I used for the amount of natural gas to produce 1 kWh is based on the average efficiency of steam and combustion turbine plants. However, combined cycle plants account for about half the gas fleet, so the average efficiency of natural gas plants <a href="https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_08_02.html" target="_blank">is a bit higher than the EIA numbers suggest.</a> I've modified the chart to account for this.</p> <hr align="left" width="30%"><p><sup>1</sup>Historical price of bituminous coal <a href="http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/pdf/sec7_21.pdf" target="_blank">here.</a> Recent price history <a href="https://www.eia.gov/beta/coal/data/browser/#/topic/29?agg=1,0&amp;geo=vvvvvvvvvvvvo&amp;freq=A&amp;start=2001&amp;ctype=map&amp;ltype=pin&amp;rtype=s&amp;pin=&amp;rse=0&amp;maptype=0" target="_blank">here.</a> Natural gas prices <a href="http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_pri_sum_a_EPG0_FWA_DMcf_a.htm" target="_blank">here.</a> Conversion factors to kilowatt-hours <a href="https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=667&amp;t=2" target="_blank">here,</a> reduced by about 12 percent to account for the fact that efficient combined-cycle plants make up about half the gas fleet. I've done a bit of massaging here and there in the recent data to make the entire series comparable. Nonetheless, these figures are still slightly approximate, especially for coal, which varies in price fairly widely depending on region and type.</p> <p><sup>2</sup>Wyoming produces 40 percent of all US coal but <a href="http://www.wyomingmining.org/minerals/coal/" target="_blank">employs only about 7,000 workers.</a></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 22 Feb 2017 03:17:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 326191 at http://www.motherjones.com Raw Data: Retiree Spending Across the Country http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/raw-data-retiree-spending-across-country <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>In case you're wondering what finally got me to try GeoFRED,<sup>1</sup> it was a report I got this morning from the retirement boffins at EBRI, <a href="https://www.ebri.org/publications/notes/index.cfm?fa=notesDisp&amp;content_id=3417" target="_blank">"Geographic Variation in Spending Among Older American Households."</a> This put me in mind of maps, and reminded me to check out FRED's mapmaking prowess.</p> <p>Anyway, the EBRI report turned out not to be all that interesting, but here's a bit of raw data anyway about retiree spending:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_retiree_median_expenses_region_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The folks down in Texas and Arkansas sure have low expenses, though I'm not sure how much this tells us. Do they really have low expenses, or do they just have low incomes and can't spend very much? Probably some of both. In any case, this gives you an idea of how much retirees spend in whatever part of the country you live in.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I realize no one was wondering that. Work with me here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:42:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 326176 at http://www.motherjones.com Defending California Once Again http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/defending-california-once-again <!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.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-males-california-crime-immigration-20170221-story.html" target="_blank">Here is Mike Males in the <em>LA Times</em> this morning:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump has cast California as &ldquo;out of control&rdquo; because of proposed legislation that would make the entire state a sanctuary for illegal immigrants, who, he says, &ldquo;breed crime.&rdquo; <strong>But in reality, as California&rsquo;s immigrant population has grown, its crime and violence rates have plummeted.</strong></p> <p>Let&rsquo;s start with the demographics....Over the last two decades, California has seen an influx of 3.5 million immigrants, mostly Latino, and an outmigration of some 2 million residents, most of them white. An estimated 2.4 million undocumented immigrants also currently live in the state.</p> <p>....And yet, according to data from the FBI, the California Department of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control, the state has seen precipitous drops in every major category of crime and violence that can be reliably measured. In Trump terms, you might say that modern California is the opposite of &ldquo;American carnage.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>It's true. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's a picture:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crime_california_usa.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>Apologies for the ugliness of the chart. Edward Tufte would be appalled. But here's what it shows. The <a href="http://www.ppic.org/main/publication_show.asp?i=258" target="_blank">foreign-born share of the population</a> has increased from 9 percent to 27 percent since 1970. However, from 1995 to 2015, <a href="http://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s" target="_blank">violent crime in California</a> has declined <em>at a faster rate than in the US as a whole.</em><sup>1</sup></p> <p>So do immigrants cause an increase in violent crime? It doesn't really look like it, does it? And yet, Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the current House majority leader, continues to warn his fellow Californians that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/18/us/a-trump-ally-in-congress-warns-his-state-california-to-make-nice.html" target="_blank">they should be nicer to President Trump.</a> At the same time, Trump continues to justify <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/21/us/politics/dhs-immigration-trump.html?_r=0" target="_blank">hiring 10,000 new immigration agents and changing the deportation rules</a> based on the idea that it's important to get rid of anyone who's committed even a minor infraction. That might make the base happy, but it's not going to make anybody safer.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>I was lazy and only looked up the crime rates for every five years. I imagine I could also dig up crime rates by state earlier than 1995 if I really tried, but I didn't try very hard. If anybody has them, I'll be happy to pop them into the chart.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 19:13:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 326171 at http://www.motherjones.com I Have Discovered GeoFRED. You Are All Doomed. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/discovered-geofred <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I have discovered <a href="https://geofred.stlouisfed.org/" target="_blank">GeoFRED.</a> Am I the last person to do so? I'm not sure, but it promises to be a lot of fun. Here's a sample:</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" src="//geofred.stlouisfed.org/embed/?m=4UZ&amp;esize=medium&amp;h=855&amp;w=1555" style="overflow:hidden;height:397px;width:630px;"></iframe></p> <p>I think you can safely expect more maps from me in the future. You may decide for yourself if this is a positive development.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 18:05:23 +0000 Kevin Drum 326151 at http://www.motherjones.com Meet the Latest Trump Aide Who's Even Worse Than All the Other Trump Aides http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/02/meet-latest-trump-aide-whos-even-worse-all-other-trump-aides <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>The White House is like a rotten onion these days: every time we peel back a layer, it smells worse and worse. First we all heard about Steve Bannon, the <em>Breitbart News</em> CEO who plays the Rasputin role in the West Wing, whispering in Donald Trump's ear about Muslim terrorists and Mexican rapists. Then we all learned about Stephen Miller, the 31-year-old wunderkind who is, if anything, even more glib and hardcore than Bannon. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/for-a-trump-adviser-an-odyssey-from-the-fringes-of-washington-to-the-center-of-power/2017/02/20/0a326260-f2cb-11e6-b9c9-e83fce42fb61_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_no-name%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&amp;utm_term=.0d8818792d27" target="_blank">Now we're all learning about Sebastian Gorka:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>For years, Gorka had labored on the fringes of Washington and the far edge of acceptable debate</strong> as defined by the city&rsquo;s Republican and Democratic foreign policy elite. Today, the former national security editor for the conservative <em>Breitbart News</em> outlet occupies a senior job in the White House and his controversial ideas &mdash; especially about Islam &mdash; drive Trump&rsquo;s populist approach to counterterrorism and national security.</p> <p>....For him, the terrorism problem has nothing to do with repression, alienation, torture, tribalism, poverty, or America&rsquo;s foreign policy blunders and a messy and complex Middle East. <strong>&ldquo;This is the famous approach that says it is all so nuanced and complicated,&rdquo; Gorka said in an interview. &ldquo;This is what I completely jettison.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>For him, the terror threat is rooted in Islam and &ldquo;martial&rdquo; parts of the Koran that he says predispose some Muslims to acts of terror. &ldquo;Anybody who downplays the role of religious ideology . . . they are deleting reality to fit their own world,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Last month, as he celebrated at the inaugural ball...Gorka said he had one last message for America&rsquo;s troops &mdash; &ldquo;the guys inside the machine&rdquo; &mdash; and its enemies. He turned toward the host, his medal glinting in the TV lights. <strong>&ldquo;The alpha males are back,&rdquo; he said.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>It's a sewer in there. But here's the funny thing: Gorka might well be right but for entirely the wrong reasons. Young men who live in a wide swath of the world stretching from North Africa to Central Asia probably <em>are</em> more prone to violence than they are in the developed North. But it has nothing to do with Islam. That's just the handiest thing to latch onto. It's all about lead:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_middle_east_leaded_gasoline_phaseout_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;"></p> <p>The Trumpies got struck down for temporarily banning immigration from a set of seven seemingly arbitrary countries, so instead they should create a rule that temporarily bans immigration from any country that phased out leaded gasoline later than, say, 2001. They might have to fiddle a bit with the numbers, which they have plenty of experience doing, and maybe add some weird second condition in order to get only the countries they want, but with a little creativity they could make it work. And it's not based on ethnicity, religion, or even nationality. You're welcome!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 21 Feb 2017 17:37:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 326146 at http://www.motherjones.com