Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Hillary Clinton Demolished Trump on Monday <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump was on the business end of the most epic butt-kicking in debate history on Monday night:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Hillary's debate win from seven scientific polls:<br> Morning Consult +23<br> YouGov +16<br> CNN +35<br> PPP +11<br> Gravis/Breitbard +5<br> Echelon +26<br> NBC/SM +31</p> &mdash; Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) <a href="">September 28, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Make it 7 polls for Clinton. The story is pretty consistent, even though they vary slightly in whether it's debate viewers, followers, etc. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Steve Koczela (@skoczela) <a href="">September 28, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>On the bright side, he crushed Hillary in the Drudge online poll, so there's that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 28 Sep 2016 21:24:14 +0000 Kevin Drum 315226 at Gary Johnson Wants to Crush the Bernie Revolution Once and For All <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Gary Johnson makes his pitch:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>What would government be like in a Johnson administration? First, we would begin the conversation about the size of government by submitting a real balanced budget. Every government program would have to justify its expenditures, every year. <strong>Cuts of up to 20 percent or more would be on the table for all programs, including military spending.</strong> Changes to Social Security and Medicare must also be considered.</p> </blockquote> <p>Cuts of 20 percent <em>or more</em>. Conservatives will hate this because he's including the military. Progressives should hate it because it includes everything else. That means no spending on universal healthcare, climate change, student debt, Wall Street regulation, infrastructure, pre-K, or pretty much anything else. And if you care about helping the poor, you'd better be prepared to care about 20 percent less.</p> <p>Is all of this an acceptable price to pay for having a president who favors marijuana legalization and a little less military intervention? YMMV, but it sure doesn't seem like it to me.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:05:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 315201 at And Now We Have Cocainegate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's what Howard Dean tweeted during Monday's debate:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?</p> &mdash; Howard Dean (@GovHowardDean) <a href="">September 27, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>At the time, I paid no attention to this. I figured it was just standard Twitter snark. But, um, apparently not:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">JUST IN <a href="">@GovHowardDean</a> stands by cocaine tweet &amp; says Trump needs to answer charge, no apology <a href="">@MSNBC</a><a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Kate Snow (@tvkatesnow) <a href="">September 27, </a></blockquote> </blockquote> </blockquote> <p>This is sure a weird campaign, isn't it? I guess Dean has decided to give Trump a taste of his own medicine. The real source of Trump's sniffles, of course, is that he was suffering from allergies or a cold or something like that, but Trump steadfastly refuses to admit this because it would make him look weak. So Dean has leaped into the vacuum to lob a wild accusation at Trump and force him to respond. This is Trump 101, and I can only assume Dean is having himself a good old time with this.</p> <p>Needless to say, I strongly disapprove. Dean should be ashamed of himself. Especially when he's dealing with a high-road kind of guy like Donald Trump. Here is Eric Trump on his father's principled unwillingness to bring up Bill Clinton's affairs at the end of the debate:</p> <blockquote> <p>That was a big moment for me and probably will actually become, my life and this campaign, <strong>and probably will be something I&rsquo;ll always remember.</strong> I mean, he really took the high ground where he had the opportunity to go very, very low. And I&rsquo;m proud of him for doing that. I mean, I&rsquo;m really proud of him for doing that. And I think people recognize that. I mean, there are a lot of people who came up to me, including many in the media, who said listen, he could&rsquo;ve just crushed her on that last question. And he would&rsquo;ve probably hurt a family if he did.</p> </blockquote> <p>Truly, Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 28 Sep 2016 16:47:27 +0000 Kevin Drum 315176 at Where's the Anger, Dammit?!? We Need More Anger! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at 538, Tim Mullaney picks up on a topic I've obsessed about in the past: When you remove politics from the equation, most people seem pretty cheery about the state of the economy. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's the latest:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Bill Fox sells cars....Like other car dealers, Fox is seeing near-record sales: Somehow, he said, consumers don&rsquo;t seem as worried about the economy as the pundits say they are. <strong>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not seeing [anger] at all,&rdquo;</strong> said Fox, a partner in Auburn-based Fox <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_consumer_confidence_september_2016.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Dealerships. &ldquo;The way I account for it is, the public sees economic indicators that are OK, their job&rsquo;s not threatened, and they may be afraid of the future, but the monthly [car] payment is good.&rdquo;</p> <p>....Even as Americans tell political pollsters that they are worried about the economy, they tell a different story in a separate set of surveys that are used by economists and investors to forecast consumer spending behavior. <strong>On Tuesday, the Conference Board&rsquo;s Consumer Confidence Index, hit a nine-year high</strong>....Even people with only a high-school education &mdash; whose economic woes are often cited in media reports explaining Trump&rsquo;s rise &mdash; are about as confident today as they were before the recession began, according to the Michigan survey.</p> </blockquote> <p>Consumer confidence is now as high as it was throughout the boom years of the aughts, which was good enough to keep Republicans in power until scandals overtook them in 2006 and the economy collapsed in 2008.</p> <p>No politician&mdash;not even most Democrats&mdash;wants to say publicly that the economy is in pretty good shape. Why? Because they don't want to appear to be out of touch. After all, even in a good economy, there are still plenty of people who are hurting. But practically every bit of evidence suggests not only that the economy is humming along pretty well, but that voters know it. Donald Trump is doing his best to convince everyone that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but if the September consumer confidence numbers are anything to go by, most of the American public isn't buying it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 28 Sep 2016 16:18:24 +0000 Kevin Drum 315171 at FBI Now Pretty Sure Russia Is Behind Anti-Clinton Hacking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Wall Street Journal</em> reports that the FBI is increasingly convinced that the recent hacks of the DNC and other organizations <a href="" target="_blank">are being led by Russia:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A fuller picture of the operation has come into focus in the past several weeks. U.S. officials believe that at least two hacking groups with ties to the Russian government, known as Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear, are involved <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_putin_chin.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">in the escalating data-theft efforts, according to people briefed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation&rsquo;s probe of the cyberattacks.</p> <p>Following successful breaches, the stolen data are apparently transferred to three different websites for publication, these people say. The websites&mdash;<strong>WikiLeaks, and a blog run by Guccifer 2.0</strong>&mdash;have posted batches of stolen data at least 42 times from April to last week.</p> <p>WikiLeaks has published U.S. secrets for years but has recently taken an overtly adversarial tone toward Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Cybersecurity experts believe that and Guccifer 2.0 often work together and have direct ties to Russian hackers.</p> </blockquote> <p>Most of these leaks have been designed to hurt Hillary Clinton, who Vladimir Putin apparently hates. Meanwhile, Trump advisor Carter Page has left the Trump campaign over accusations that he's a little too chummy with the folks in Russia responsible for all this hacking. Page says the whole thing is ridiculous, but apparently his erstwhile friends in Trumpland are <a href="" target="_blank">throwing him under the bus anyway:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump campaign has been distancing itself from Page. Although Page was one of Trump&rsquo;s originally announced foreign policy advisers, campaign manager KellyAnne Conway told CNN on Sunday that Page is not really involved at with the campaign at this point.</p> <p>&ldquo;<strong>I have not spoken with him at all, in fact, meaning he&rsquo;s not part of our national security or foreign policy briefings that we do now at all,</strong> certainly not since I have become campaign manager,&rdquo; she said....Other Trump campaign sources told me that Page was never really part of Trump&rsquo;s inner circle....Page has never met with Trump one on one and hasn&rsquo;t been deeply involved in Trump foreign policy speeches or events, they said.</p> </blockquote> <p>So...he was just some guy whose name they used so they'd look like they had some advisors. Apparently they'd rather publicly fess up to lying about their campaign announcements than take a chance that Page might become a liability. What nice folks.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 28 Sep 2016 15:45:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 315156 at Republicans Pretend They Want More Powerful Bank Oversight <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Oh man, this is rich. Here is wingnut Rep. Jeb Hensarling griping about the fact that the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau <a href="" target="_blank">didn't find out about the Well Fargo scandal sooner:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Why does it take the <em>L.A. Times</em> to break this story, when we&rsquo;re paying federal investigators to investigate?&rdquo; Hensarling recently told Fox Business Network.</p> <p>&ldquo;Where was the CFPB? Why did they come in so late to the game?&rdquo; he continued. &ldquo;They have immense powers and this is their job to enforce these basic consumer laws and it appears they were asleep at the switch.&rdquo; Hensarling also has criticized regulators for the $185-million settlement with the bank, which allowed Wells Fargo to avoid admitting any wrongdoing.</p> </blockquote> <p>If Hensarling had his way, the CFPB would be eliminated and Wells Fargo might well have escaped from the whole affair unscathed. Now he's pretending that he thinks the CFPB is too weak. Sen. Sherrod Brown has it right:</p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Hensarling reminds me of the kid who kills his parents and then wants to collect orphan benefits,&rdquo; said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of the CFPB&rsquo;s biggest backers. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s tried to underfund it. He&rsquo;s tried to undercut. He&rsquo;s done all he could to block bank regulations.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Make up your mind, Jeb. Do you want the CFPB to more powerful or less powerful? You can only have it one way.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 28 Sep 2016 14:49:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 315146 at Where the Wars Are <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is apropos of nothing in particular. It's just some raw data I happened to come across, so I thought I'd share.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_armed_combat_deaths_2015_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 30px;"></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_saudi_arabia_bullseye_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 5px 0px 5px 30px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 28 Sep 2016 05:51:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 315136 at Stop-and-Frisk Works, But Only If It's the Legal Version <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Stop-and-frisk came up in <a href="" target="_blank">last night's debate:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>TRUMP: Now, whether or not in a place like Chicago you do stop and frisk, which worked very well, <strong>Mayor Giuliani is here,</strong> worked very well in New York. <strong>It brought the crime rate way down.</strong></p> <p>....HOLT: I do want to follow up. Stop-and-frisk was ruled unconstitutional in New York, because it largely singled out black and Hispanic young men.</p> <p>TRUMP: <strong>No, you're wrong.</strong> It went before a judge, who was a very against-police judge. It was taken away from her. And our mayor, our new mayor, refused to go forward with the case. They would have won an appeal. If you look at it, throughout the country, <strong>there are many places where it's allowed.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Trump said four things here, and typically for him, he was effectively wrong about all four.</p> <p>First off, he implied that Rudy Giuliani brought stop-and-frisk to New York City. He didn't. As you can see in the chart on the right, the stop-and-frisk rate didn't start rising until 2002, when Michael Bloomberg was <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_stop_frisk_nyc_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">mayor and Ray Kelly was police commissioner.</p> <p>Second, he said it brought the crime rate "way down." Again, the chart on the right doesn't bear this out. Crime rates were already on a steady, long-term downward trend by 2002, and the increase in stop-and-frisk doesn't seem to have changed that much. <a href="" target="_blank">A more detailed analysis</a> concluded that stop-and-frisk actually did have a modest effect, "but only the increase in stops made based on probable cause indicators of criminal behaviors were associated with crime reductions." Save that thought, and we'll come back to it later.</p> <p>Third, New York's version of stop-and-frisk <em>was</em> ruled unconstitutional. Would that ruling have survived on appeal? Probably, but nobody knows, certainly not Donald Trump.</p> <p>And fourth, there are, in fact, many places where stop-and-frisk is allowed. In fact, it's allowed everywhere in the country. So why do I count Trump as being wrong about this?</p> <p>Simple: Stop-and-frisk has been a standard police procedure for decades, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1968 that it's only legal if it's based on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. The problem in New York City is that stop-and-frisk became a routine tool used even when there was essentially no justification at all. This is the stop-and-frisk policy that Trump was talking about, and it's decidedly <em>not</em> used in "many places." It was unique to New York City.</p> <p>This is why the study I linked above is important. It concluded that stop-and-search based on probable cause did help reduce crime. But the New York City version didn't. And it <em>did</em> target blacks and Latinos at much higher rates than whites, even after you account for disparate crime rates. So not only was it unconstitutional, but it didn't work either. On multiple levels, New York City is better off returning to the legal version.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 27 Sep 2016 22:08:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 315116 at Comey: No Obstruction of Justice in Clinton Email Case <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Speaking of Hillary Clinton's emails, we learned something interesting today. But first, here's an excerpt from the <a href="" target="_blank">FBI report</a> that was released last month. Apologies for the length, but it's important that you see the whole thing so you know I haven't left out any relevant parts:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_fbi_report_email_deletion_prn_0.jpg" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 10px;"></p> <p>Here's the full timeline in a nutshell:</p> <blockquote> <p>December 2014: After turning over Clinton's work emails to the State Department, Clinton's staff instructed Platte River Networks to delete her old email files, which included all her private emails. The tech assigned to this task forgot to do it.</p> <p>March 9, 2015: Clinton's staff notifies PRN that Congress has issued a preservation order for Clinton's emails.</p> <p>March 25: Clinton's staff has a conference call with PRN.</p> <p>March 25-31: The tech has a "holy shit" moment and remembers he never deleted the old archives. So he does. Both Clinton and Cheryl Mills say they were unaware of these deletions.</p> </blockquote> <p>This timeline is a bit of a Rorschach test. If you already think Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook, your reaction is: Give me a break. They just <em>happened</em> to have a conference call on March 25 and the tech just <em>happened</em> to delete the archives a few days later? But the Clinton gang says they never told him to do this? Spare me.</p> <p>However, if you're sympathetic to Clinton, this all seems pretty unremarkable. Her staff had ordered the archives deleted in 2014, long before any subpoenas were issued, and it was only because of the tech's forgetfulness that they were still around in March. The tech was telling the truth when he said that no one told him to delete the archives in March. The conference call just jogged his memory. And Clinton and Mills really didn't have any idea what was going on. After all, it would have been wildly dangerous to explicitly tell PRN <em>on a conference call</em> to delete archives that were under a legal preservation order.</p> <p>So which is it? The answer is that we don't know. You can read this timeline however you want. Today, however, <a href="" target="_blank">we got this:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>FBI Director James Comey said Tuesday his investigators looked very intently at whether there was obstruction of justice in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email account, but concluded they could not prove a criminal case against anyone.</p> <p><strong>"We looked at it very hard to see if there was criminal obstruction of justice,"</strong> Comey said at a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, under questioning by Chairman Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.)</p> <p>"We looked at it very hard. <strong>We could not make an obstruction case against any of the subjects we looked at,</strong>" Comey said. He did not identify those whose conduct the FBI investigated for potential obstruction.</p> </blockquote> <p>What Comey is saying is that the FBI put a lot of effort into discovering the truth about what happened in March, including grants of immunity to several people so they could tell the truth without fear of prosecution. But they came up empty. Despite their best efforts, it appears that Clinton's staff did nothing wrong. The PRN tech just had a memory lapse about the deletion order and then did a dumb thing when he remembered it.</p> <p>Hillary Clinton made a mistake when she decided to use a single email account on a personal server while she was Secretary of State. But it was just a mistake, not a criminal conspiracy. Once again, there's no there there.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:32:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 315046 at Here's Why Hillary Clinton Emails Didn't Get Much Attention Last Night <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I read quite a few complaints last night about Lester Holt's choice of debate topics. Liberals wanted to know why climate change didn't come up. Conservatives thought there should have been a question about abortion. This is run-of-the-mill stuff, since not everything can possibly get covered in a 90-minute show. But the biggest conservative complaint was that Holt didn't ask Hillary Clinton about her emails or the Clinton Foundation. <a href="" target="_blank">Except that he did:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>HOLT: He also raised the issue of your e-mails. Do you want to respond to that?</p> <p>CLINTON: I do. You know, I made a mistake using a private e- mail.</p> <p>TRUMP: That's for sure.</p> <p>CLINTON: And if I had to do it over again, I would, obviously, do it differently. But I'm not going to make any excuses. It was a mistake, and I take responsibility for that.</p> <p>HOLT: Mr. Trump?</p> <p>TRUMP: That was more than a mistake. That was done purposely. OK? That was not a mistake. That was done purposely. When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they're not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_hillary_clinton_email.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">I think it's disgraceful. And believe me, this country thinks it's &mdash; really thinks it's disgraceful, also.</p> </blockquote> <p>And that was it. Trump had the opportunity to go after Clinton's emails at length if he wanted to, but he didn't. Why? Because he was steamed about Clinton's suggestion that he might not be as rich as he says. So he ditched the email stuff and instead spend a couple of minutes defending the greatness of his income, his company, his debts, his bankers, his buildings&mdash;and then sort of forgot what he was talking about and wandered off into a riff about how terrible our infrastructure is.</p> <p>In other words, typical Trump. But there's more to this. I think Clinton owes the press some thanks for going so far overboard on the emails and the Clinton Foundation over the past year. Here's what happened earlier this month:</p> <p>First, the FBI <a href="" target="_blank">released its report</a> on Clinton's emails. It exonerated her almost completely, but a few days later Matt Lauer obliviously <a href="" target="_blank">spent a full third</a> of his interview with Clinton on the emails anyway. Lauer was widely pilloried for this. <a href="" target="_blank">Two days later</a> the <em>Washington Post</em>&mdash;which had reported on the emails as assiduously as anyone&mdash;finally admitted that the email story was "out of control."</p> <p>On the Clinton Foundation front, August and September saw a rash of stories about specific people and programs associated with the foundation. They all "raised questions" or "cast a shadow" over Clinton's campaign, but none of them uncovered anything even close to wrongdoing. By mid-September, this had become almost a running joke.</p> <p>In both cases, the mountain of reporting on these topics finally crumbled under its own weight. They had both been investigated endlessly, and in the end, had uncovered nothing aside from a few minor misdemeanors. It finally became clear that reporters were chasing after a chimera, and the bubble burst. It was time to move on.</p> <p>That's probably one reason that Holt didn't spend any time on either the emails or the foundation. I'm sure they'll come up in one of the future debates, but they've been largely defanged. There's just nothing much there anymore.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 27 Sep 2016 17:19:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 315041 at Where Did Trump's VAT Nonsense Come From Last Night? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>If there were a contest for weirdest Trumpism last night&mdash;well, I'm not sure I could pick a winner. But on the nerd front, this one just confused me completely:</p> <blockquote> <p>We have to renegotiate our trade deals. And, Lester, they're taking our jobs, they're giving incentives, they're doing things that, frankly, we don't do.</p> <p>Let me give you the example of Mexico. They have a VAT tax. We're on a different system. <strong>When we sell into Mexico, there's a tax. When they sell in&nbsp;&mdash; automatic, 16 percent, approximately. When they sell into us, there's no tax.</strong> It's a defective agreement. It's been defective for a <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_vat_countries.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">long time, many years, but the politicians haven't done anything about it.</p> </blockquote> <p>In real time I wondered what the hell this was all about, but the debate moved on and I didn't have time to ponder it. Aside from being completely wrong, I wondered where it came from. Trump has never mentioned VATs before, has he?</p> <p>Well, it turns out that yesterday an economist at UC Irvine (yay Anteaters!) co-authored a long <a href="" target="_blank">report</a> claiming that Trump's full economic plan would hypercharge growth and make us all rich etc. etc. Jordan Weissmann dismantles the report <a href="" target="_blank">here,</a> and mentions that it takes aim at VAT taxes around the world:</p> <blockquote> <p>Here's how it works: When a company in Germany makes goods to sell at home, it has to pay the VAT. But if it makes them to sell in the United States, it doesn't&mdash;the tax gets waived at the border....Meanwhile, if an American company makes widgets to sell in Germany, it does have to pay the VAT.</p> <p>In short, everybody has to pay Germany's VAT when they're selling goods in Germany. Nobody has to pay Germany's VAT when they're selling goods outside of Germany....However, Navarro and Ross say border adjustability turns the VAT into an &ldquo;implicit export subsidy&rdquo; for foreign companies and an &ldquo;implicit tariff&rdquo; on U.S. exporters.</p> <p>....This is just ... wrong. Dead wrong. It's true that American car companies, to take just one example, have to pay a German VAT when they sell sedans to Berlin or D&uuml;sseldorf. But you know who also has to pay that tax? BMW and Volkswagen. Border adjustability just puts everybody on equal footing. Waiving the VAT on exports does the same thing. If German companies had to pay the VAT on cars they were sending to the U.S., they'd be at a huge disadvantage compared to their American rivals, who wouldn't face a domestic VAT. Germany would essentially be suppressing its own exports.</p> </blockquote> <p>So that's where it came from. Somebody at Trump HQ read the report, mentioned the VAT part to Trump, and Trump then burbled about it on stage last night. It's all gibberish, but oddly enough, you can't really blame Trump for this one. After all, a guy with a PhD in economics fed this stuff to him. It's such a mind-boggling misstatement of how VATs work that I now want to know why the guy with the PhD was willing to embarrass himself with this stuff. Trump, of course, just lapped it up.</p> <p>Anyway, that's the story of the VAT. Don't you feel smarter now?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 27 Sep 2016 16:40:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 315036 at Donald Trump Is a Pig <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>So it turns out that Donald Trump's big attack that he delicately held back on last night was...Bill Clinton's affairs. Devastating! That bit of non-news would have turned things around, I'm sure. So why did he change his mind? "I didn't feel comfortable doing it with Chelsea in the room," he said this morning.&nbsp; What a sensitive guy.</p> <p>In related news, Hillary Clinton really got under Trump's skin last night. "He loves beauty contests," she said, "supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman 'Miss Piggy.' Then he<iframe align="right" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="242" src="//" style="margin: 20px 0px 5px 30px;" width="400"></iframe> called her 'Miss Housekeeping,' because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name."</p> <p>"Where did you find this? Where did you find this?" Trump demanded. Today he couldn't stop himself from <a href="" target="_blank">attacking back:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>During an interview on Fox News on Tuesday morning, Trump brought up Machado on his own and launched into an attack on her credibility, saying that she had "attitude" and was a "real problem" for Miss Universe officials. "She was the worst we ever had. The worst. The absolute worst. She was impossible," Trump said. "... She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem."</p> </blockquote> <p>What a pig.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:18:38 +0000 Kevin Drum 315021 at CNN Says Hillary Clinton Won the Debate 62-27 Percent <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm always careful to turn off the TV as soon as a debate is over so that I can form my opinions before I hear what anyone else is saying. However, I've now had a chance to check in at a few places, and it looks like just about everyone thinks Hillary Clinton won the debate decisively. Public Policy Polling says Clinton won their instant poll by 51-40 percent&mdash;and won young voters by 63-24 percent. CNN says their poll gave it to Clinton 62-27 percent. I was pretty bullish on Clinton's performance, but that's even higher than I would have thought.</p> <p>Naturally, Trump's response is to <a href="" target="_blank">tweet</a> that he did great in all the debate polls "except for @CNN &ndash; which I don't watch." I presume that, as usual, he's talking about the Drudge online poll. You will be unsurprised to learn that the readers of the <em>Drudge Report</em> do indeed think Trump won. Unfortunately for Trump, no one else did.</p> <p>Trump's usual response to any kind of humiliating loss is to go on the offensive and try to blanket the airwaves with something even more outrageous than he's ever said before. So Tuesday should be a fun day. I have a feeling Kellyanne Conway may have a rough time cleaning up after her unruly man-child tomorrow.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 27 Sep 2016 04:41:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 315006 at We're Liveblogging the First Presidential Debate of 2016 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><strong>Debate Wrap-Up:</strong> I guess the only thing anyone cares about is who won. I'd give it to Hillary Clinton pretty easily. She handled her facts well, she spoke well, she didn't get baited, she laughed at some of Trump's more ridiculous statements, and she attacked him pretty effectively. "Just listen to what you heard," she said when Trump tried to pretend that he did everyone a favor by forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate. I suspect that even Republicans in the audience laughed at that.</p> <p>Trump, by contrast, was like a manic version of his usual manic self. He spoke too fast, he got practically red faced at times, he repeated the most obvious lies, and he could barely keep a coherent though together for more than a few seconds before wandering off to something else.</p> <p>But then again, what do I know? Basically, Clinton acted like Clinton and Trump acted like Trump. If you like either one of them, you probably liked what you saw on the screen. And to Trump's credit, he got his talking points across. Law and <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_debate_trump_clinton_2_2016_09_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">order. Politicians like Hillary are all talk, no action. Foreigners are stealing our jobs. I'm going to destroy ISIS big league.</p> <p>But Trump's howlers were just too numerous. He's the son of a millionaire but said he started out with a "very small" amount of money. He claimed yet again that he absolutely opposed the war in Iraq&mdash;just ask Sean Hannity. He claimed he never said Clinton didn't look presidential. He insisted that NATO started a terror division because of him. He denied ever saying that climate change was a hoax. The lies just tumbled out. Hillary's people were responsible for birtherism, and he's the guy who put an end to it. The IRS deliberately targets him, and only him, for audits. He never said he didn't care if Japan built nukes. And then there was his bizarre riff about his pride over opening a club that doesn't discriminate against African Americans. WTF?</p> <p>Trump got called on all this, of course, and his strategy was simple: just deny everything. "Wrong," he said repeatedly, talking obnoxiously over Clinton. Then, against all expectations, Lester Holt fact-checked Trump twice, but Trump just raised his voice and rode roughshod over him. Does this kind of simpleminded braying work? It all seemed like pretty obvious charlatanism to me, but maybe not to everyone else. Maybe they came away thinking that Trump says one thing and Clinton says another, and who knows, really?</p> <p>I have a little more faith in the American public than that, though. I think Trump did poorly, both in what he said and how he said it. He was manic about proving that he was the alpha male in the room, but I think he took it at least three or four notches too far. It was not a winning night for him.</p> <p>A complete transcript of the debate is <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a></p> <hr width="30%"><p>Liveblogging is so quaint, isn't it? Not like all this newfangled Twitter and Snapchat nonsense that the kids are into these days. But I haven't fully mastered the art of communicating in emojis or 140-character chunks, so Grampa Drum will keep on kicking it old school.</p> <p>The biggest buzz around this debate is the question of whether moderators should fact-check the candidates. This is an oddly misplaced issue. Debate moderators rarely perform fact checking, and I doubt that Lester Holt will do it tonight. What the good ones do is <em>follow up</em>. So you'll get something like this: "But Mr. Trump, when the war was being debated in Congress, you said you supported it. I can play the tape if you'd like. Why do you keep saying you opposed it?" Or: "But Secretary Clinton, you supported TPP for years. What suddenly made you change your mind earlier this year?"</p> <p>This is fact-checking in a manner of speaking, but it's not the moderator acting as judge. It's just the moderator demanding that candidates answer questions without evasion, which is very much a moderator's job. We'll see how well Holt carries it out tonight.</p> <p>And now, on with the debate.</p> <p><strong>10:38 -</strong> And that's a wrap.</p> <p><strong>10:36 -</strong> Trump: "I was going to say something very rough about Hillary...but I decided not to. It wouldn't have been right." Uh huh.</p> <p><strong>10:34 -</strong> Holt: "You said Clinton doesn't have a presidential look." Trump: "No, I said she doesn't have the stamina." Holt: "The exact statement was..." Trump: "I'm answering the question." He won't allow Holt to correct him.</p> <p><strong>10:27 -</strong> Holt: "Do you support the current US policy on nuclear weapons?" Trump probably has no idea what our current policy is. But he does say that he wouldn't support a first strike.</p> <p><strong>10:24 -</strong> Trump said earlier that Iran was about to collapse before we bailed them out with a treaty. Clinton says they were weeks away from having the material for an atomic bomb. Obama stopped that "without firing a shot."</p> <p><strong>10:22 -</strong> Trump on Clinton: "I have a much better temperament than she does." Laughter.</p> <p><strong>10:20 -</strong> Trump insists that he opposed the war in Iraq. Lester Holt: "The record shows otherwise." Fact checking! Now Trump is going ballistic.</p> <p><strong>10:18 -</strong> Trump says that NATO opened a terror division "largely because" of his criticisms. His egotism is beyond belief.</p> <p><strong>10:15 -</strong> Clinton: Trump supported invasion of Iraq. Trump: "Wrong. Wrong." I'm guessing this subject might come up again.</p> <p><strong>10:12 -</strong> Clinton on ISIS: "I think there are a number of issues we should be addressing." I get that she's the policy wonk, but I really think she'd do <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_debate_trump_clinton_1_2016_09_26.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">better if she didn't literally telegraph that a laundry list is forthcoming.</p> <p><strong>10:09 -</strong> Trump says he's been endorsed by ICE. I wonder how many viewers misheard that as ISIS?</p> <p><strong>10:04 -</strong> Trump is saying he got "great credit" for opening a club in Palm Beach that doesn't discriminate against African Americans. Holy shit. If that's the bar we're using, I have a long, long list of things that make me into the second coming of Martin Luther King. Just yesterday, I went the entire day without running over any black people!</p> <p><strong>10:02 -</strong> Clinton: "Just listen to what you heard." Laughter. Now Clinton is straight up accusing Trump of racism.</p> <p><strong>10:01 -</strong> Trump flatly won't say what changed his mind. Then he says he did everyone a favor by forcing Obama to release his long-form birth certificate.</p> <p><strong>9:59 -</strong> Birtherism! "What took you so long to admit Obama was born in the US?" Trump is blaming it all on Sidney Blumenthal.</p> <p><strong>9:55 -</strong> Clinton now talking about implicit bias. I doubt that many viewers will really get this. Trump's response: You invented the word "super-predator."</p> <p><strong>9:54 -</strong> Clinton says there are too many "military style guns" on the streets.</p> <p><strong>9:52 -</strong> Clinton says stop-and-frisk didn't work. Trump smirks. But she's probably right.</p> <p><strong>9:49 -</strong> So far, nothing from Trump that's really about improving race relations. "There are bad things going on."</p> <p><strong>9:47 -</strong> Trump wants Law. And. Order.</p> <p><strong>9:45 -</strong> Now we're onto race. Clinton wants police reform and taking guns away from "people who shouldn't have them."</p> <p><strong>9:43 -</strong> Jesus. Trump is just all over the place. Clinton isn't blowing anyone away, but she's making sharp points and mocking Trump effectively. Trump's answer is to mock policy as "just words."</p> <p><strong>9:42 -</strong> Clinton says Trump has declared bankruptcy six times. Trump: "We used certain laws that were there."</p> <p><strong>9:40 -</strong> Trump's main theme is that the country is in terrible shape and it's all the fault of politicians like Clinton.</p> <p><strong>9:38 -</strong> Trump says he hardly owes anything to anyone. He is "under-leveraged."</p> <p><strong>9:35 -</strong> Clinton says Trump won't release his taxes because he's probably concealing something "horrible." "There's something he's hiding." "Who does he owe money to?"</p> <p><strong>9:33 -</strong> Trump is implying that the IRS has deliberately targeted him for audits.</p> <p><strong>9:32 -</strong> Now Trump is telling us that he made $694 million last year.</p> <p><strong>9:31 -</strong> Trump is shaking his head and rolling his eyes at everything Clinton says. Now it's his turn. The country is in a bubble. The economy is about to collapse thanks to people like Clinton. Blah blah blah.</p> <p><strong>9:27 -</strong> Is Trump on speed? He's talking a mile a minute and only barely making sense.</p> <p><strong>9:26 -</strong> Now Trump is yelling about Clinton having fought ISIS for 30 years. Huh?</p> <p><strong>9:25 -</strong> Trump: "She's going to raise taxes, I'm going to lower taxes, end of story."</p> <p><strong>9:23 -</strong> Trump: "You changed your view on TPP after you heard what I said about it." Clinton: "Donald, I know you live in your own reality...." Trump is interrupting constantly now and practically shouting.</p> <p><strong>9:21 -</strong> Now Trump is getting red-faced. "NAFTA is the worst trade deal ever approved anywhere."</p> <p><strong>9:16 -</strong> Clinton: Donald thinks climate change is a hoax. Trump, interrupting: "I never said that. I never said that." <a href="" target="_blank">He did, of course.</a></p> <p><strong>9:13 -</strong> Trump: My father gave me a "very small" amount of money when I started out. Then he follows with a completely wrong riff on VATs in other countries. Then he makes a show of calling Clinton "Secretary Clinton." "Is that all right? I want you to be happy."</p> <p><strong>9:10 -</strong> Trump refers to Clinton as "Hillary." Clinton refers to Trump as "Donald." So friendly!</p> <p><strong>9:09 -</strong> Clinton: minimum wage, family leave, more manufacturing, etc. Trump: other countries are stealing our jobs.</p> <p><strong>9:05 -</strong> And we're off. First question: Why are you the best choice to create jobs for the American people?</p> <p><strong>8:57 -</strong> Surfing around the channels, the hot topic is whether or not Hillary Clinton will kneel during the national anthem. No, wait. That's not right. The <em>real</em> topic seems to be whether Donald <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_newt_debate.jpg" style="border: 1px solid black; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Trump can simulate a grown-up for a full hour and a half. Also whether Hillary Clinton is too serious about this whole presidency thing. I'm not joking.</p> <p><strong>8:55 -</strong> Tonight's debate will be 90 minutes without a break. Is that normal? I don't really care about the candidates, but <em>I</em> could use a bathroom break once in a while. Not to mention a blather break.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum 2016 Elections Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Tue, 27 Sep 2016 00:54:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 314836 at Charitygate Becomes Even Murkier Today <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>One of the oddities of the whole Trump Foundation scandal is the fact that at least a few of the donations to the foundation were actually fees owed to Trump personally. Comedy Central, for example, gave the foundation $400,000 in lieu of paying Trump for a televised roast he attended. The <em>Washington Post's</em> David Fahrenthold is on top of this, of course, <a href="" target="_blank">and asked one of Trump's campaign advisors about it:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;He&rsquo;s never directed fees to the foundation,&rdquo; said Boris Epshteyn, a senior adviser to Trump, who responded on the campaign&rsquo;s behalf in a phone interview on Saturday. <strong>Epshteyn said that what Trump did was provide a service, <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_children.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">renounce any fees, and then merely suggest that the other party make a donation to a charity of their choosing.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I swear I don't know whether to laugh or pound the keyboard at stuff like this. Epshteyn sounds like the godfather here. Trump merely "suggested" that folks donate to some charity somewhere, and it all just happened to end up at Trump's charity.</p> <p>Legally, the issue here is that if the money is owed to Trump, he has to pay taxes on it. If it goes straight to his foundation, he doesn't. And apparently one of Eric Trump's assistants pretty much admitted this is what happened:</p> <blockquote> <p>Last week, an employee of the Trump Organization, the candidate&rsquo;s private company, offered an explanation. &ldquo;A lot of times Mr. Trump will give a speech somewhere or he&rsquo;ll raise money in some way and he asks that entity, <strong>instead of cutting a personal check to him, cut it to his charity,</strong>&rdquo; said Lynne Patton, an assistant to Trump&rsquo;s son Eric, who is also an officer of the Eric Trump Foundation. <strong>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s money that otherwise would&rsquo;ve been in his personal account, right?&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Trump aides threw Patton under the bus ("she wouldn&rsquo;t know or understand") and then offered a more convoluted version of the excuse that Trump never told anyone <em>which</em> charity to give his fees to. Legally, that meant Trump didn't owe any taxes on the money. And then, by an enormous coincidence, the donors just happened to choose the Trump Foundation:</p> <blockquote> <p>Trump, Epshteyn said...had not exercised control over where his money went. Indeed, Epshteyn said, when Trump helped someone, he never asked specifically for a gift to the Donald J. Trump Foundation &mdash; but rather suggested a gift to some charity, somewhere.</p> <p>But sometimes, Epshteyn said, a gift arrived at the Trump Foundation. &ldquo;He&rsquo;s Donald J. Trump,&rdquo; Epshteyn said, explaining why donors had chosen this particular charity.</p> <p>....So which of the Trump Foundation&rsquo;s donations came in this way? Epshteyn could not cite a specific example. He then challenged <em>The Post</em> to find an example that proved him wrong.</p> <p>The <em>Post</em> asked about the 2011 gift from Comedy Central....Epshteyn conceded that Trump had, indeed, controlled where this money went. It was his income. And, Epshteyn said, he paid taxes on it.</p> <p>Could he provide proof of that tax payment?</p> <p>&ldquo;Absolutely not,&rdquo; Epshteyn said.</p> </blockquote> <p>No one sentient can possibly believe this nonsense. It's obvious that Trump has long treated his foundation as a sort of personal slush fund, a handy way to have a bit of tax-free cash around to hand out like walking-around money. How is it possible that Fahrenthold is <em>still</em> the only reporter around who seems interested in this?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 26 Sep 2016 23:34:39 +0000 Kevin Drum 314936 at What Is Donald Trump Hiding in His Taxes? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_1040_small.jpg" style="margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">Donald Trump refuses to release his tax returns, as every presidential candidate has done for decades. The excuse varies. Lately he's claimed that he's being audited, so he can't release them. But he's also said the audit wouldn't hold him back if Hillary Clinton released all her emails, so that excuse seems a little thin. When pressed, Trump adds that no one but a few media losers are interested in his taxes. More recently, though, Donald Trump Jr. has said the real reason is simpler: not only are people interested in Trump's taxes, but they're <em>too</em> interested. Releasing his tax returns would "detract" from his father's message.</p> <p>Whatevs. But let's suppose that Trump really does have some good reasons for being wary of releasing his entire 10,000-page tax return. Over at Emptywheel, tax attorney Bob Lord <a href="" target="_blank">asks some obvious questions:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>First, what tax years are under audit? Does it go back beyond 2012? <strong>If not, can the 2011 return be released?</strong></p> <p>....Second, why haven&rsquo;t the audit notices been released?...There&rsquo;s nothing so sensitive in such a generic notice that it could not be made public. At this point, Trump has not even offered up this most basic evidence that he is really even under audit. <strong>Why hasn&rsquo;t proof been demanded?</strong></p> <p>....Third, for the tax returns that are under audit, <strong>why can&rsquo;t the first two pages be released?</strong> After all, those first two pages simultaneously contain the information most relevant to the public about a presidential candidate and contain no information that reveals the issues under audit.</p> </blockquote> <p>There's more at the link, including Lord's belief that Trump might genuinely have some decent reasons for not wanting to make his entire return public. But at the very least, Trump could release the first couple of pages of his 1040, plus the summary page of Schedule A, for the past decade or so. This would tell us his business income, real estate income, capital gains, total income, charitable contributions, etc. Does he really have any plausibly good reason for not releasing this much, other than the fact that it might be personally embarrassing because it would show that he's been lying about how much he's worth and how much he gives to charity?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 26 Sep 2016 23:06:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 314921 at Pre-Debate Spin Probably Doesn't Matter Much, But Post-Debate Spin Can Be Devastating <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Bob Somerby</a> reminds us today about the power of post-debate spin from the media. The teachable moment is October 3, 2000, the first debate between Al Gore and George Bush. <a href=",8599,56603,00.html" target="_blank">Here's a real-time reaction from <em>Time's</em> Matt Cooper:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Bush looks slightly awkward to me. He's flubbed a couple of lines....Gore, although looking like he's made out of rawhide, is doing pretty well. His answers are more cogent....Bush just not getting off the lines he needs.....W. keeps sniffing during the off moments. It's weird.</p> <p>....Here in the last 15 minutes of the debate, I'm stuck by the different confidence levels of the two guys. Bush, who can be commanding on the stump, seems faltering, hesitant. Gore is brimming with confidence....<img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_2000_debate_gallup_poll.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">The other thing that strikes me is the way that Gore has beat up the guy without seeming to be too mean.....I'm writing this in the closing the moments of the debate. My guess is that post-debate polls will show Gore winning the debate 55-45. Bush needs to really study up before the next one.</p> </blockquote> <p>Wow. Gore kicked ass! Bush kept sniffing! He also seemed a little lost&mdash;a fairly common real-time assessment. As it turns out, Cooper's prediction was pretty close: <a href="" target="_blank">Gallup's overnight poll</a> had Gore winning by 48-41 percent and others gave him an even bigger margin. So why is Gore widely remembered as the big loser in that debate? Here is Alfredo Lanier of the <em>Chicago Tribune</em> a couple of weeks <a href="" target="_blank">after the debate:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Polls scored both candidates just about even, but that shifted after media analysts picked over the inconsistencies in some of Gore's statements&mdash;<strong>and nitpicked about his annoying huffing, puffing and eye-rolling while Bush spoke.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Huffing, puffing, and eye-rolling? You mean sighing, don't you? Here is CNN recapping what happened <a href="" target="_blank">years after the fact:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Focus groups right after Al Gore and George W. Bush debated seemed to give a slight edge to Gore because he was more articulate, he had better answers, <strong>but once the television cameras caught that sighing,</strong> that constant look on his face where he seemed annoyed by the whole idea of having to be there with Bush, it seemed to underscore, as somebody said, as a teacher's pet who knew all the answers but was annoying and irritating. <strong>And they kept playing it over and over again and it became parodies on the comedy shows and late night TV.</strong> Then people began to project onto Gore a personality trait of just annoyance and irritation of people in general and it became devastating for him to live that down.</p> </blockquote> <p>Among people who actually watched the debate, Gore seemed fine. He knew his stuff, he attacked without seeming mean, and no one seemed to notice any sighing. But then the analysts put together a mix tape of every one of Gore's sighs, and it was game over. Gore was a laughingstock.</p> <p>Overnight polls are hardly infallible. But there's not much question that the media reaction in the two or three days after a debate can make a big difference. Gore won the first debate in 2000, but only for a few hours. He lost it in the following week.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 26 Sep 2016 19:25:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 314876 at A Tenth of Trump Supporters Will Be Disappointed If He Wins <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I'm always intrigued by polls that produce truly inexplicable results, and today <a href="" target="_blank">we get one from Pew.</a> They asked Trump supporters how they'd feel if Trump won. Most would be happy, but 11 percent would be disappointed or even angry. Among <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_election_disappointed_angry.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">Clinton supporters, 7 percent would be disappointed if she won.</p> <p>Now, when you get out to the end of the homo sapiens bell curve, there's no telling what you're dealing with. These folks might not be the sharpest pencils in the box. Still, I wonder what they're thinking? That they're just congenitally disappointed and will stay that way no matter who wins? That they're supporting a candidate they don't like? They they didn't really understand the question? What's the deal here?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 26 Sep 2016 18:37:37 +0000 Kevin Drum 314866 at Even in a Complex World, There Are Still Plenty of Facts That Can Be Checked <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at the Corner, Patrick Brennan suggests that political journalists are lousy at fact checking, and debate moderators shouldn't try to do it in real time. There's a case to be made for this, <a href="" target="_blank">but he sure picks a weird example:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Liberal Twitter was all a-huff about how the [debate] commissioner cites the unemployment rate as an area where the facts are up for debate &mdash; har har, they say, you know there literally is an official unemployment rate the government publishes, right?</p> <p>Except anyone smart saying this is being remarkably coy: <strong>People of good faith and serious economic training debate about whether the &ldquo;official&rdquo; unemployment rate is a good representation of the unemployment rate all the time!</strong></p> <p>How absurd is it to complain about the commissioner&rsquo;s statement here? Say Trump says something along the lines of &ldquo;the real unemployment rate is much higher than the government tells you.&rdquo;</p> <p>This might well be true &mdash; although it all depends on what you mean by the real unemployment rate....The people braying for fact-checking in debates are thus asking for moderators to attempt, in real time, <strong>to adjudicate disputes that divide Ph.D. economists and of course, a whole range of other such disputes on which the respective experts &mdash; trade economists, classification experts, presidential historians, whatever &mdash; often don&rsquo;t agree.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Brennan suggests this is all a high-minded argument about U3 vs. U6 and the declining labor force participation rate and so forth. Silly liberals! Who are they to say that the unemployment rate is a clear fact when even professional economists argue about it?</p> <p>And, sure, fair point&mdash;<em>if this is what Trump was talking about.</em> He's not. He's said on multiple occasions that the unemployment rate is "really" 42 percent or 21 percent or 35 percent. The headline figure from the BLS (currently 4.9 percent) is a "hoax" and a "conspiracy." In fact, it's "one of the biggest hoaxes in politics." This is presumably because Donald Trump doesn't waste his time with anything other than the very best hoaxes.</p> <p>This is not an academic argument about what unemployment "really" is. It's idiocy. It's a lie. It's a shameless extension of Trump's juvenile populism, and Brennan knows it. If he thinks debate moderators shouldn't even push back on something this rank, he's showing a contempt for the truth every bit as casual as Trump's.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_u3_u6.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 5px 0px;"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 26 Sep 2016 17:09:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 314841 at The Lead-Crime Era Is Now Firmly Behind Us <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The FBI reported today that the murder rate in the US was <a href="" target="_blank">up 11 percent in 2015.</a> That's a pretty big jump, and I don't want to minimize it. Before we panic too much, however, it's worth noting that the overall violent crime rate was up <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tetraethyl_lead.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">only 3 percent. The absolute number of murders is fairly small, which means that it tends to be more volatile than the overall violent crime rate.</p> <p>If you're wondering how I'll make a connection to lead, here it is: this is probably a sign that we're now firmly in a post-lead crime era. Thanks to the ban on leaded gasoline, the number of teenagers born in a high-lead environment has been falling for 20 years, and that's produced a steady decline in the violent crime rate. But by now, pretty much everyone under the age of 30 has grown up in the unleaded gasoline era, and we've made only modest progress in reducing lead further.</p> <p>What this means is that lead abatement has run its course. From now on, unless we do something about the remaining lead in soil and paint, crime rates will reflect other factors: drugs, guns, poverty, race, policing, etc. Unleaded gasoline has done what it could, and now the rest is up to us.</p> <p><strong>POSTSCRIPT:</strong> It's worth noting that this applies mostly to North America and Europe. In much of Asia, South America, and the Middle East, leaded gasoline held on a lot longer. In those places, we likely have another 10-20 years of declining crime rates thanks to a reduction in the number of kids who grow up with lead poisoning.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 26 Sep 2016 15:43:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 314826 at Trump's Tax Plan Reveals His Contempt for the Middle Class <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago, NYU law professor Lily Batchelder released a <a href="" target="_blank">paper</a> that takes a close look at the details of Donald Trump's tax plan. She concludes that several million middle-class families will pay more under Trump's plan than they do now. Jim Tankersley reports the <a href="" target="_blank">Trump campaign's response:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump campaign called the findings "pure fiction," contending the analysis neglects a crucial benefit for low-income taxpayers....Most importantly, Miller said Trump will instruct the committees writing his plan into law to make sure that it does not raise taxes on any low- or middle-income earners. "In sending our proposal to the tax-writing committees we will include instructions to ensure all low and <img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_tax_foundation_trump_tax_plan_0.jpg" style="margin: 20px 0px 15px 30px;">middle income households are protected," Miller said.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is obviously spin, but the funny thing is that it's true. The details that Batchelder analyzed really won't matter much once Trump's proposal gets fed into the congressional sausage machine. Rather, his tax plan is essentially a statement of values. It tells the voting public what he believes in.</p> <p>And that's the problem. If Trump truly cared about the middle class, he and his team would have taken a very close look at the details to make sure his plan benefited the entire middle class. Obviously they didn't. They treated it like a throwaway that Congress would iron out later.</p> <p>Conversely, does anyone doubt that they were very careful indeed about vetting the effect of his plan on the rich? There's surely not a single person in the top 1 percent who will accidentally end up paying higher taxes under Trump's plan. Why? Because Trump cares about rich people. They're winners.<sup>1</sup> Struggling families and single mothers are losers. Why sweat the details for the likes of them?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Also because his plan is so overwhelmingly favorable for rich people that it's basically impossible for small details to wipe out their average gain.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:00:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 314806 at I'll Be Liveblogging the Debate Tonight <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I know what many of you are thinking. "Is Kevin going to liveblog the debate tonight? If he doesn't, will I actually have to <em>watch</em> this dumpster fire?"</p> <p>No worries. I'm a dedicated professional, and that means I'll watch the debate so you don't have to. And unlike certain other professionals I could name, I'll try to fact check in real time. This is actually harder than you'd think, and Donald Trump's firehose of lies wrapped in ignorance inside a fog of gibberish doesn't make it any easier. But I'll try.</p> <p>The debate starts at 9 pm Eastern. I'll start up a few minutes before then.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 26 Sep 2016 13:00:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 314801 at A New Poll Says the Presidential Debates Are Really Important. It's Wrong. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One-third of voters say the presidential debates will be very important in helping them decide whom to support for president, with slightly more Republicans than Democrats saying so, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll has found.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is one reason not to take polls too seriously. It's not even faintly plausible that a third of the voting public is undecided enough that the debates will make any difference to them. The true number is probably closer to 5 percent. Maybe 10 percent at the outside. And even that small number will probably break about evenly by Election Day. There's an endless body of research showing that the actual effect of debates is minuscule.</p> <p>In most polls,<sup>1</sup> the fact that people say stuff like this is a far, far bigger source of inaccuracy than the margin of error. The biggest problem with polls is human beings, not statistics.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Simple candidate preference polls are an exception. They tend to be fairly accurate.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 25 Sep 2016 21:26:55 +0000 Kevin Drum 314796 at Howard Kurtz Shows Us How Journalism Is Done At Fox News <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Alex Burns of the <em>New York Times</em> thinks that Howard Kurtz of Fox News was soft on Donald Trump in a recent interview. Kurtz isn't buying it:</p> <blockquote> <blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Sorry to ruin the narrative, <a href="">@alexburnsNYT</a>, but I challenged Trump on Iraq opposition by citing and knocking down each of his explanations</p> &mdash; HowardKurtz (@HowardKurtz) <a href="">September 25, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script></blockquote> </blockquote> <p>Let's go to the tape and <a href="" target="_blank">see who's right:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>KURTZ: Let me move on. You said in many interviews, including with me, that you opposed the Iraq war before it began. Now, I've looked at the forums that you've cited <em>Esquire Magazine</em>, Neil Cavuto's show and don't see any clear evidence of that. And of course, you had the sort of a lukewarm comment to Howard Stern and I guess so to be....</p> <p>TRUMP: Well, that was long before the war started and I can tell you that was long before the war started with Howard that's the first time the word Iraq was ever mentioned to me....</p> <p>KURTZ: <strong>But why not say...</strong></p> <p>[crosstalk]</p> <p>KURTZ: <strong>Why not say you're a private business...</strong></p> <p>[crosstalk]</p> <p>TRUMP: And then I spoke to Neil Cavuto...Sean Hannity...blah blah blah.</p> <p>KURTZ: <strong>Right, but why not say I was a private&nbsp;&mdash; I was a private businessman.</strong> I had no responsibility to take a public position before the war and I criticized the invasion after it began?</p> <p>TRUMP: Sean Hannity...Neil Cavuto...blah blah blah.</p> <p>KURTZ: All right.</p> </blockquote> <p>I guess you can form your own opinion, but it sounds to me like Kurtz asked about Iraq in a decidedly milquetoasty way, Trump delivered his usual lies, and Kurtz then did his best to play campaign manager and suggest that Trump try a whole new way of misleading the public. Journalism!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 25 Sep 2016 21:16:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 314791 at Everyone Has Suddenly Discovered That Donald Trump Tells the Occasional Lie <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><img align="right" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lat_trump_lies.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 8px 0px 15px 30px;">The <em>New York Times</em> kicked things off this weekend with <a href="" target="_blank">"A Week of Whoppers From Donald Trump."</a> The <em>Washington Post</em> followed suit with its own compilation of a <a href="" target="_blank">week of lies.</a> Today, the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> ups the ante with <a href="" target="_blank">"Scope of Trump's Lies Unmatched":</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Donald Trump says that taxes in the United States are higher than almost anywhere else on earth. They&rsquo;re not. He says he opposed the Iraq war from the start. He didn&rsquo;t. Now, after years of spreading the lie that President Obama was born in Africa, Trump says that Hillary Clinton did it first (untrue) and that he&rsquo;s the one who put the controversy to rest (also untrue).</p> <p>Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has.</p> </blockquote> <p>Gee I wonder what Lester Holt is going to ask Trump about at tomorrow's debate?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 25 Sep 2016 15:03:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 314786 at