Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Friday Cat Blogging - 22 July 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Somebody pointed out last week that we haven't seen Hopper for a while. Is that true? Maybe! So here she is, in all her green-eyed glory.</p> <p>Have a nice weekend, everyone. We deserve one after four days of the Republican convention.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hopper_2016_07_22.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 35px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 19:00:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 309901 at Should We Allow Nonprofits to Endorse Candidates? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I work for a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so I'm keenly aware that I'm not allowed to endorse candidates. That means y'all will just have to guess who I'm voting for in November. I apologize for having to keep you in such suspense.</p> <p>Until recently, though, I had no idea <em>why</em> non-profits weren't allowed to endorse candidates. Then I began hearing about the "Johnson Amendment" from Donald Trump. Obviously someone put a bug in his ear, and he's been repeating it <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lbj_senate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">like a mantra for weeks now. <a href="" target="_blank">So what's this all about?</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The &ldquo;Johnson Amendment,&rdquo; as the 1954 law is often called, <strong>is a U.S. tax code rule preventing tax-exempt organizations, such as churches and educational institutions, from endorsing political candidates</strong>. At the time, then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson was running for re-election, and he and other members of Congress pushed the amendment to stop support for their political opponents&rsquo; campaigns, George Washington University law professor Robert Tuttle has explained. Many have also argued the amendment served to stop black churches from organizing to support the civil rights movement.</p> <p>&ldquo;All section 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office,&rdquo; the IRS explains of the rule on its website. &ldquo;Violating this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>There you go. So why has Trump suddenly decided this is a threat to democracy? You can probably guess: because conservative churches want to endorse Republican candidates and give them lots of money without losing their tax-exempt status. Jerry Falwell Jr. explains:</p> <blockquote> <p>In recent years, religious liberty group the Alliance Defending Freedom has advocated for its repeal, arguing that the law is unconstitutional and lets the IRS &ldquo;tell pastors what they can and cannot preach,&rdquo; and &ldquo;aims to censor your sermon.&rdquo;...&ldquo;This is something that could make a difference with Christian voters in the fall,&rdquo; Falwell says. <strong>&ldquo;It is almost as important for Christians as the appointment of Supreme Court justices.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>My first thought about this is that it would provide yet another avenue for big money in politics. I can imagine rich donors setting up, say, the Church of the Divine Supply Siders and then funneling millions of dollars in dark money through it. Fun!</p> <p>On the other hand, in a world of Super PACs and <em>Citizens United</em>, why bother? They can already do this easily enough, just as churches can set up "action committees" that are legally separate and can endorse away.</p> <p>I'd genuinely like to hear more about this. Within whatever framework of campaign finance law we happen to have, is there any special reason that nonprofits shouldn't be able to endorse, organize, and spend money on behalf of a candidate? I have to admit that no really good reason comes to mind. Am I missing something?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:09:46 +0000 Kevin Drum 309891 at Trump Goes Nuts in Post-Convention Press Conference <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Did you miss Donald Trump's post-convention press conference? No worries! Twitter has you covered:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Wondering what Trump is doing on the first day of the General Election? Currently, he's insisting that Ted Cruz's father may have killed JFK</p> &mdash; Kevin Feeney (@KevinMFeeney) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump right now is going back to Cruz's father and Lee Harvey Oswald. "Has anybody ever denied that was his father" with Oswald?</p> &mdash; Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">How long til Trump brings up Cruz's zodiac killer past? <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Robert Schlesinger (@rschles) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump says if Cruz offers endorsement, "I will not accept," threatens to set up anti-Cruz Super PAC.</p> &mdash; Seema Mehta (@LATSeema) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This press conference is batshit and that&rsquo;s saying something, considering, well, you know.</p> &mdash; Anthony De Rosa (@Anthony) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Haven't we all realized by now that the more you constrain Trump with a prompter speech, the more likely he is to go apeshit the next day?</p> &mdash; Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump reiterating that he wants to demand cash tribute from Japan in exchange for military protection.</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">He&rsquo;s now adding Germany, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia to his list of targets.</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Who was the last GOP nominee to make a side reference to Penthouse magazine at a presser, while standing in front of a conservative gov?</p> &mdash; Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">&ldquo;Corey Lewandowski was great, I have to tell you. And he&rsquo;s been very loyal, and he&rsquo;s been on CNN and he&rsquo;s been fighting for me.&rdquo; &mdash; Trump</p> &mdash; Matt Viser (@mviser) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Shop Ivanka's look from her <a href="">#RNC</a> speech: <a href=""></a> <a href="">#RNCinCLE</a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">TWICE the RNC displayed tweets from white supremacists in the convention hall.<br><br> TWICE.<br><br> In case you're wondering if it's Trump's party now.</p> &mdash; Jesse Berney (@jesseberney) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Check out the look of quiet horror on Pence's face. Guess Christie didn't warn him about this. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jackson Diehl (@JacksonDiehl) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:59:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 309871 at After Brexit, Signs Point to Recession for Britain <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The latest survey of purchasing managers suggests <a href="" target="_blank">bad news for Britain:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_uk_pmi_july_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;"><strong>The U.K. economy likely contracted in July</strong> as businesses responded to the uncertainty created by a vote to leave the European Union by cutting output and payrolls, according to a survey of purchasing managers at manufacturers and service providers....The U.K. PMI is a measure of activity based on monthly questioning of 600 manufacturing companies and 650 service providers since 1998. It has a close correlation with official measures of economic growth.</p> <p>....Markit said the measure fell to 47.7 in July from 52.4 in June, <strong>the sharpest one-month drop on record.</strong> A reading below 50.0 signals a decline in activity, and a reading above that level indicates an expansion.</p> </blockquote> <p>Is this a temporary dip, or a sign of things to come? Obviously we don't know yet. But that's a helluva big drop for a single month.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:11:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 309861 at The Five Best Moments of the Republican Convention: Thursday Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>It's over. Finally. Here are today's five best moments:</p> <ul><li>Trump says blandly that he might not come to the aid of our NATO partners in the Baltics if Russia invades them. <a href="" target="_blank">Mitch McConnell</a> chalks this up to a "rookie mistake."&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Newt Gringrich</a> won't even go that far: "Estonia is in the suburbs of St. Petersburg," he says. "I'm not sure I would risk nuclear war." How confidence inspiring.</li> <li>Trump's speech <a href="" target="_blank">leaks hours early,</a> upstaging the evening speakers. It is a stunningly dystopian description of a country in terminal decline, possibly the gloomiest speech ever given by a presidential contender.</li> <li>Jerry Falwell Jr. passes along a strained joke his father told him. Dad was musing about being interviewed by Chelsea Clinton, who <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lat_trump_savior.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">asked him what the biggest threats to the country are. He answered "Osama, Obama, and yo mama." This went over well on the convention floor.</li> <li>Trump pal Tom Barrack <a href="" target="_blank">highlights one of the worst deals Trump ever made:</a> overpaying for the Plaza Hotel and then being forced to sell it at a loss a few years later. This is supposedly an example of what a great dealmaker Trump is.</li> <li>Trump tells America: "I am your voice." And: "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it." If this reminds you of the kind of thing a cult leader might say, you're not alone. And the whole speech was spat out with a delivery that was scarily reminiscent of Mussolini or Fidel Castro.</li> </ul><p>By the end of Trump's speech, his campaign slogan for the next three months was clear: "Make America Fear Again." Buckle up.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 03:35:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 309801 at No, Police Fatalities Are Not Going Up <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's another chart to prepare you for Donald Trump's speech tonight. It shows the number of police fatalities since the violent crime peak of 1993. For 2016, I've extrapolated from the number of fatalities through today. As you can see, there's nothing scary here. The number is down from two decades ago and basically flat over the five years.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_police_fatalities.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 02:15:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 309851 at That Deal Tom Barrack Talked About? Trump Took a Bath On It. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_plaza_hotel.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Tom Barrack is now telling us about the time he sold Trump the Plaza Hotel. "He played me like a Steinway piano," Barrack said. Trump was a steely-eyed negotiator, a tiger in the jungle.</p> <p>Who is he kidding? The Plaza Hotel was a disastrous deal&mdash;<em>for Trump</em>. Trump went with his gut and overpaid enormously. He bought it for $407 million&mdash;far more than it was worth at the time&mdash;spent over $50 million in renovations, and then, when he was going through bankruptcy proceedings, was forced to sell it in a deal that valued the hotel at $325 million. Barrack and his boss took Trump to the cleaners.</p> <p>What's more, Barrack was highlighting the absolute worst part of this deal: that Trump was so eager to get the hotel that he agreed to forego normal due diligence and instead allowed Barrack to just give him a list of stuff that needed fixing. It was massive negligence on Trump's part. If Harvard has a list of the worst, laziest deals ever made, this one would make the top ten list.</p> <p>Yet this is the example they're touting to show what a great businessman Trump is? That takes real balls. It's a testament to the fact that the Trump campaign figures it can just say anything. The Trump hagiography is once again beamed out to millions of people and nobody will ever hold them to account.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 01:50:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 309841 at LMAO <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Trump campaign apparently just sent out the following email:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Did I miss the speech, or is this a premature fundraising appeal? <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Julie Bykowicz (@bykowicz) <a href="">July 22, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Seems fine right? Only, uh, Trump hasn't <a href="" target="_blank">given his speech yet</a>. Oops?</p></body></html> Contributor Fri, 22 Jul 2016 01:30:27 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 309836 at Crime Is Down and People Feel Safer <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump is apparently planning to deliver a hair-raising speech tonight focused on the "crime and violence that today afflicts our nation." According to Trump, homicides are up, Washington DC is a killing zone, police shootings have skyrocketed, and illegal immigrants are "roaming free to threaten peaceful citizens."</p> <p>Whew. Just to prepare you for all this, here's a chart you've seen many times before showing the rate of violent crime since its peak in 1993:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_violent_crime_rate_1993_2014.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 45px;"></p> <p>We don't have official numbers for 2015 yet, and they might show a small uptick. That's the nature of these things. But it's pretty obvious that America is a considerably safer place than it's been in decades.</p> <p>But as the redoubtable Paul Manafort says, what about how people <em>feel</em>? Do they <em>feel</em> safe? That's a hard question to answer, <a href="" target="_blank">but Gallup asks it every year.</a> Here's the latest. I've included Excel's trendline just to make it clear which direction this is going:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_gallup_feel_safe_1993_2015.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 45px;"></p> <p>Bottom line: crime is way down and people feel safer than ever. Try not let Donald scare you too much tonight.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 22 Jul 2016 00:47:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 309826 at LEAK: Donald Trump's RNC Speech Just Hit the Web Hours Early <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump is set to give his much-hyped speech accepting the Republican nomination for president tonight at the RNC in Cleveland. But&mdash;oops!&mdash;it looks like <em>Politico</em> got their <a href="" target="_blank">hands on a draft of the speech a bit early</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Per <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Politico</em></a>:&nbsp;</p> <blockquote> <p>I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored.</p> <p>The most basic duty of government is to defend the lives of its own citizens. Any government that fails to do so is a government unworthy to lead.</p> <p>It is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation.</p> <p>I will present the facts plainly and honestly. We cannot afford to be so politically correct anymore.</p> </blockquote> <p>Go read the <a href="" target="_blank">whole thing</a>.</p></body></html> Contributor Thu, 21 Jul 2016 22:44:08 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 309816 at Another Obamacare Success: It's Cut Premiums By 30-50% <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago I mentioned that even if Obamacare premiums increase a fair amount next year, they'll still be way below original projections. An <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_health_affairs_obamacare_premiums.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">analysis today in <em>Health Affairs</em> confirms this and <a href="" target="_blank">adds more meat to the story:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Jon Gabel and Stephen Smith of NORC at the University of Chicago conducted the most thorough analyses of how much premiums in the individual market increased between 2009 and 2013....They imply that ACA marketplace premiums for the [second-lowest-cost silver] plan in 2014 came in a remarkable 21 percent lower than average individual market premiums the year prior, <strong>or 32 percent lower when accounting for the new plans&rsquo; higher actuarial value,</strong> even without incorporating likely utilization increases in response to the additional coverage.</p> <p>....That the ACA might have caused premiums to drop so precipitously when its marketplaces took effect may seem surprising at first &mdash; it was to us....However, the premium reductions make more sense upon deeper analysis.</p> <p>First, even though sicker people were charged higher premiums in the pre-ACA world (and some were denied coverage altogether), many still purchased insurance, but likely at significantly higher rates....Moreover, by creating large premium subsidies and imposing the individual mandate, <strong>the ACA may have caused a greater influx of relatively healthy enrollees into the individual market in 2014 and beyond.</strong></p> <p>....Second, the ACA creates a <strong>price-competitive and transparent market structure,</strong> where consumers can compare similar health insurance products.</p> <p>....Third, <strong>selling costs are likely to be lower in the ACA marketplaces</strong> because of the prohibition on medical underwriting and limited variation in the policies and policy riders that can be offered.</p> </blockquote> <p>Competition is good. It's what caused the lower prices to begin with, as insurers lowballed their premiums in order to build market share. And it's what keeps prices low as insurers continue to compete on the relatively level playing field of Obamacare.</p> <p>But competition is tough on the companies doing the competing. Sometimes it causes them to exit a market. Sometimes individual regions can end up with no providers. It's rare, but not impossible. And of course, competition is only possible if there are enough competitors. That's why the Obama administration is <a href="" target="_blank">opposing the merger of two big insurers</a>&mdash;which would leave us with only three big, nationwide health insurance providers. As Adam Smith pointed out a couple of centuries ago, sellers don't like competition. They'd rather merge or collude so they can charge the highest possible prices. But competition is what's made Obamacare work, and maintaining competition is a key part of keeping costs low in the future. Anyone who believes in the free market should want more competition, not less.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 21 Jul 2016 21:45:59 +0000 Kevin Drum 309796 at Quote of the Day: Mark Cuban on Trump the Pickup Artist <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Mark Cuban, former Trump supporter,</a> on what he thinks of the guy now:</p> <blockquote> <p>There's that guy who'll walk into the bar and say anything to get laid That's Donald Trump right now to a T. But it's all of us who are going to get fucked.</p> </blockquote> <p>Cuban also wonders why none of Trump's business partners are speaking at the convention. "They&rsquo;re not coming forward to speak. They&rsquo;re not coming forward to give him money." No they aren't, are they?</p> <p>As near as I can tell, no one who does business with Trump wants to repeat the experience. Nor does he have any genuine personal friends. He's cordial only as long as you're useful to him. In other words, he's basically a low-grade sociopath. He just doesn't care about people except as markers in whatever game he happens to be playing at the moment.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 21 Jul 2016 16:36:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 309726 at Donald Trump Has Some Numbers <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last night the <em>New York Times</em> promised to release a transcript of its interview with Donald Trump, and sometime during the night they did. <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">It's here.</a> You'll be unsurprised to learn that Trump wasn't misquoted at all, as his campaign chairman alleged. Once again, Paul Manafort baldly lied to the press. He is truly a man after Trump's own heart.</p> <p>Here's my favorite bit:</p> <blockquote> <p>David, I have statisticians, and I know, like if I went to Pennsylvania, I say, &ldquo;Give me the statistics on what is going on with respect to manufacturing.&rdquo; Numbers &mdash; 45, 55, 65, I have states that are so bad. New England. Look at New England, what happened. Nafta has been a disaster for this country.</p> </blockquote> <p>Trump has statisticians! They give him statistics! And numbers! For example, 45, 55, and 65. Those are great numbers. The best numbers. They are Trump's numbers.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 21 Jul 2016 15:12:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 309706 at Donald Trump Just Invited Russia to Attack Eastern Europe <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>New York Times</em> has yet another interview with Donald Trump, foreign policy genius. <a href="" target="_blank">Let's listen in:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>He even called into question whether, as president, he would automatically extend the security guarantees that give the 28 members of NATO the assurance that the full force of the United States military has their back.</p> <p>For example, asked about Russia&rsquo;s threatening activities that have unnerved the small Baltic States that are the most recent entrants into NATO, <strong>Mr. Trump said that if Russia attacked them, he would decide whether to come to their aid only after reviewing whether those nations &ldquo;have fulfilled their obligations to us.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Vladimir Putin will be delighted to hear this. Next:</p> <blockquote> <p>Reiterating his threat to pull back United States troops deployed around the world, he said, &ldquo;We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion,&rdquo; citing what he called America&rsquo;s trade losses. &ldquo;That doesn&rsquo;t sound very smart to me.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Mr. Trump repeatedly defined American global interests almost purely in economic terms.</strong> Its roles as a peacekeeper, as a provider of a nuclear deterrent against adversaries like North Korea, as an advocate of human rights and as a guarantor of allies&rsquo; borders were each quickly reduced to questions of economic benefit to the United States.</p> </blockquote> <p>Lots of politicians say American can no longer be policeman of the world. Trump actually believes it. Next:</p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump said he was convinced that he could persuade Mr. Erdogan to put more effort into fighting the Islamic State. But the Obama administration has run up, daily, against the reality that the Kurds &mdash; among the most effective forces the United States is supporting against the Islamic State &mdash; are being attacked by Turkey, which fears they will create a breakaway nation.</p> <p><strong>Asked how he would solve that problem, Mr. Trump paused, then said: &ldquo;Meetings.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Meetings. Right. And finally this:</p> <blockquote> <p>When asked what he hoped people would take away from the convention, Mr. Trump said, <strong>&ldquo;The fact that I&rsquo;m very well liked.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>How very Willy Lomanesque. Trump's campaign manager immediately stepped in to say the <em>Times</em> had botched its quotes and Trump didn't really say this stuff about NATO. The <em>Times</em> has promised a transcript of the interview. I think Jonathan Bernstein has the right call on this:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Odds that NYT transcript makes it worse range somewhere between 99% and 100% <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jonathan Bernstein (@jbview) <a href="">July 21, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 21 Jul 2016 07:04:44 +0000 Kevin Drum 309691 at How Has Indiana Fared Under Mike Pence? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Has Mike Pence been good for Indiana? It probably doesn't matter much, but I was curious anyway. For example, did he really enact the biggest income tax cut in the state's history? It turns out the answer is yes: he enacted a cut from 3.4 percent to 3.23 percent. That may not sound all that gigantic, but it turns out the only previous income tax cut in state history was 0.1 percent. So Pence's cut is the biggest!</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_indiana_unemployment.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">What about other economic trends? Are there more Hoosiers at work than at any time before, as Paul Ryan said while he was praising Pence? Sure. But thanks to population growth, that's true almost everywhere. A better question is how employment compares to the nation at large. Answer: the unemployment rate since Pence took office in January 2013 has dropped from about 8 percent to about 5 percent. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's about the same as the rest of the country.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_indiana_state_employees.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Is it true, as Pence said, that there are fewer state employees today than when he took office? I suppose there are multiple ways of counting this, but FRED tells us that the number of state employees has gone up from 116,000 to 117,000 since Pence took office. That's pretty slow growth, but it's not negative growth. Unless there's been a big cut in state employees in the first half of 2016, I'm not sure why Pence would say this.</p> <p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_indiana_gdp.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">And how about the state economy in general? There are lots of ways of looking at this, but the simplest is probably state GDP. Regrettably, we only have that through the beginning of 2015. Still, if you take a look at GDP growth during Pence's first two years in office, Indiana looks about the same as the entire country. There's nothing to be ashamed of, but nothing much to write home about either.</p> <p>Pence has cut taxes and cut spending, and so far he's managed to avoid the disastrous experience of Kansas. Overall things seem to be OK in Indiana. But did Pence's conservative policies produce an economic miracle? Not by any measure I can see.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 21 Jul 2016 04:15:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 309686 at The Five Best Moments of the Republican Convention: Wednesday Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The weirdness factor was turned up to 11 today. Here are my five favorite moments:</p> <ul><li>After spending all of Tuesday insisting that Melania Trump plagiarized nothing, <a href="" target="_blank">the campaign admits she did</a> and blames it on her speechwriter.</li> <li>The teleprompter goes out on Michelle Van Etten, who ends up giving perhaps the worst speech ever at a national convention. Before that, <a href="" target="_blank">she was busily hawking Youngevity,</a> a pyramid scheme that sells pseudoscience vitamin supplements. This may also have been a first for a national convention.</li> <li>Not satisfied with merely locking her up, Trump advisor Al Baldasaro says Hillary Clinton should be <a href="" target="_blank">shot for treason.</a> The Secret Service investigates. Trump is forced to release a statement saying he "does not agree" that Hillary should be shot.</li> <li>Ted Cruz declines to endorse Trump in his speech. "Don't stay home in November," he says to cheers, but then with a smirk&nbsp;tells them not to vote for Trump, but to "vote your conscience." When everyone finally catches on to what's going on, they begin booing and chanting "We want Trump." The Trump family sits through the entire speech with stony expressions on their faces. After it's all over, <a href="" target="_blank">Heidi Cruz is escorted out by security</a> while Trump supporters heckle her.</li> <li>Instead of just letting this go, Newt Gingrich insists on putting it in the spotlight a second time by claiming fancifully that when Cruz said "vote your conscience," he really meant "vote for Trump." Nice try, Newt.</li> </ul><p>On the bright side, they finally got their scheduling in order tonight, filling the entire primetime hour with marquee speakers. It's the first time this week.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 21 Jul 2016 03:13:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 309681 at Trump Advisors Admit That His Tax Plan Was Just a Big Con <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Trump campaign is <a href="" target="_blank">working on a few "tweaks" to his tax plan:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>An updated version of Donald Trump&rsquo;s tax cut will be about one-third the size of the previous $10 trillion version, two campaign advisers said on Wednesday.</p> </blockquote> <p>One-third! Down from $10 trillion to $3 trillion. I guess when you're as fabulously wealthy as Donald Trump, $7 trillion hardly seems worth fussing over.</p> <p>We've known all along that Trump's "policy" proposals were mostly meaningless, but this is sure a brazen confirmation. I can't wait for his new wall proposal: "We've tweaked it from 2,000 miles to 600 miles, and that's already built. Mr. Trump gets things done!"</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Jul 2016 21:38:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 309666 at The Effect of Emailgate on the Presidential Race Was...Zero <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>On July 5, FBI Director James Comey held a press conference about Hillary Clinton's email server. By all accounts, his narrative was devastating. She had been "extremely careless." She had sent and received documents now considered classified. She had used her private server while traveling in unfriendly countries. There was a strong possibility that her server had been hacked.</p> <p>As it happens, Comey overstated a lot of this stuff. But he <em>did</em> say it. And the reaction of the press was nearly unanimous: Comey had validated many of the worst charges against Clinton. There would be no indictment, but it was certain to hurt Clinton badly. And yet, look what happened according to the Pollster aggregates:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_pollster_comey_press_conference.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 3px;"></p> <p>In the week following Comey's press conference, nothing happened. Clinton's poll numbers were basically flat, and then bumped up a couple of points. As near as I can tell, Comey's lengthy rebuke had no effect at all.</p> <p>This is genuinely puzzling. Sure, the email affair had been going on for a long time and people were pretty tired of it, but Comey made genuine news&mdash;all of it bad for Clinton. At the very least, you'd expect a dip in the polls of two or three points for a few weeks.</p> <p>Why didn't anyone care? Is this a sign that everyone's minds are made up, and there's basically nothing that can change the race at this point? Or does it mean that emailgate was a much smaller deal than we political junkies thought it was?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Jul 2016 18:10:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 309606 at Wait! Melaniagate Isn't Over After All! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Melaniagate lives! There are still some questions to be answered:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Also: If Melania is the one who originally suggested Obama passages, how did she not recognize them in speech? <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Christopher Orr (@OrrChris) <a href="">July 20, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Individual who works for Trump org can volunteer for campaign (so long as not coerced), but cannot use business resources w/o reiumbursement</p> &mdash; Rick Hasen (@rickhasen) <a href="">July 20, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">IE, Trump employee cannot be paid by the company for any campaign work, other than accounting/reporting/legal advice <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Tyler Culberson (@tylerculberson) <a href="">July 20, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>I'm sure McIver will claim that (a) she worked on the speech only in her off hours, and (b) she did it solely because of her deep and abiding love for the entire Trump family.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:19:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 309601 at Finally, the Melania Trump Plagiarism Story Comes to an End <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>And here we are. The final chapter in the Melania Trump plagiarism story. Meredith McIver, who has written some of Donald's books and helped Melania write her speech, <a href="" target="_blank">has taken the fall.</a></p> <p>They could have fessed up to this early Tuesday morning and avoided all the angst. Why didn't they? Who knows. More to the point: it seems as if all of Trumpland spent the entire day yesterday insisting that the disputed parts of Melania's speech were just common phrases and nobody plagiarized anything. Steven Dennis summarizes:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Melania plagiarism defenses:<br> * 7%<br> * Twilight Sparkle<br> * Michelle Obama doesn't own words<br> * John Legend<br> * Coincidence<br> * Didn't happen<br> * OOOPS!</p> &mdash; Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) <a href="">July 20, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>So are all these folks going to apologize for obviously trying to deceive everyone they talked to? I think we know the answer to that.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_mciver_apology.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 25px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Jul 2016 17:02:25 +0000 Kevin Drum 309591 at Donald Trump Keeps the Bad News Coming <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The fuss over Melania Trump's plagiarism is finally dying down. So what does Donald do? He keeps it going by finally deciding to offer up a comment:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Good news is Melania's speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">July 20, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The media is spending more time doing a forensic analysis of Melania's speech than the FBI spent on Hillary's emails.</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">July 20, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Why would he do this? There's no way to spin this into good news. Does he think he can eventually morph it into some kind of devastating attack on the hated liberal media? Will he spend half his speech on Thursday complaining about the treatment of his wife? The mind boggles.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Jul 2016 15:45:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 309566 at A Peek Inside a Donald Trump Presidency <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>According to the <em>New York Times</em>, Donald Trump Jr. <a href="" target="_blank">approached John Kasich a couple of months ago:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Did he have any interest in being the most powerful vice president in history? When Kasich&rsquo;s adviser asked how this would be the case, Donald Jr. explained that his father&rsquo;s vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.</p> <p>Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?</p> <p>&ldquo;Making America great again&rdquo; was the casual reply.</p> </blockquote> <p>Is this actually true? Normally I'd say it sounds ridiculous, but keep in mind that this is Donald Trump we're talking about. Maybe he really does think he can just snap out a few orders&mdash;build a wall! destroy ISIS! cut taxes!&mdash;and let a guy like Kasich figure out how to get it done. In the meantime, he'll barnstorm the country holding rallies and conducting fireside chats on Twitter.</p> <p>In any case, this belongs in the category of too good to check. If it's not true, it ought to be.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Jul 2016 15:13:08 +0000 Kevin Drum 309556 at Obama Is the Guy Who Made America Work Again <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The theme of the convention tonight was supposed to be "Make America Work Again." But Donald Trump has a famously short attention span, and apparently that's spilled over into the scheduling of the entire convention. As near as I can tell, not a single person talked about jobs and the economy except maybe soap opera star Kimberlin Brown, who grows avocadoes and spent several minutes railing against Obamacare.</p> <p>However, I didn't watch every minute of the convention, so maybe I missed one of the early C-list speakers talking about jobs. On the off chance that this happened, I have two charts for you. First, here's a re-up of one of my favorites, showing that Republicans did everything they possibly could to keep America from recovering while Obama was president:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_spending_recessions_26_quarters_1.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 5px;"></p> <p>As you can see from the various red and orange lines, Republicans were eager to increase spending for Reagan, Bush Jr., and Bush Sr.&mdash;at least until he lost the election and Clinton took over. Then they cut back. For Obama, they depressed public spending from the start. That's the blue line. Today, more than six years after the official end of the recession, public spending is more than 20 points lower than the trendline for Reagan and Bush.</p> <p>Nonetheless, check out Obama's record on job growth:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_job_creation_bush_obama.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 8px;"></p> <p>Even with two big tax cuts and a housing bubble, Bush Jr. managed to create only 10.9 million jobs. Obama, even with the headwind of Republican obstruction, has created 13.1 million jobs so far.</p> <p>You can decide for yourself how much credit presidents deserve for the strength of the economy on their watch. But one thing is sure: Obama started with the worst recession since World War II, and six years later he's created over 13 million jobs; the unemployment rate is under 5 percent; inflation is low; and the economy is growing faster than nearly any other rich country. Imagine what he could have done if Republicans hadn't stood in his way the entire time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Jul 2016 03:09:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 309536 at The 5 Best Moments of the Republican Convention: Tuesday Edition <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today was just plain boring compared with yesterday. Still, I guess I can dig up five favorite moments:</p> <ul><li>Trump campaign defends Melania Trump's plagiarism by saying, "This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd."</li> <li>The official theme of the evening, "Make America Work Again," is completely missing in action. Does that count as a moment? A non-moment? Whatever it is, it makes the list.</li> <li>In its place, the vaguely creepy chant "Lock her up" turns into the official slogan of the evening.</li> <li>Donald Trump Jr., the son of a famously flamboyant billionaire, rails against the "self-satisfied people at the top, our new aristocrats."</li> <li>Ben Carson tells us that Saul Alinsky dedicated his book to Lucifer; Hillary Clinton wrote a college thesis about Alinsky; therefore Clinton is&hellip;a Satan worshipper?</li> </ul></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Jul 2016 02:46:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 309531 at California Projects Big Obamacare Increase in 2017 — But Rates Are Still Way Under Original Projections <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Obamacare rates are <a href="" target="_blank">going up in California:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Premiums for Californians&rsquo; Obamacare health coverage will rise by an average of 13.2% next year &mdash; more than three times the increase of the last two years and a jump that is bound to raise debate in an election year.</p> <p>....Two of the state&rsquo;s biggest insurers &mdash; Blue Shield of California and Anthem Inc. &mdash; asked for the biggest hikes. Blue Shield&rsquo;s premiums jumped by an average of more than 19%, according to officials, and Anthem&rsquo;s rates rose by more than 16%.</p> </blockquote> <p>That's gonna hurt. And it's going to be a big political football too. Just keep in mind what I told you a few weeks ago: Obamacare rates have been way under projections <a href="" target="_blank">ever since the program started in 2014.</a> Even if premiums go up 13 percent nationwide, the average will still be around $4,746, far less than the $5,616 the Congressional Budget Office originally projected for 2017.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbo_obamacare_premium_forecast_13_percent_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 5px 20px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 20 Jul 2016 01:21:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 309521 at