Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en One Chart Shows How the Trump Tax Plan Will Totally Pay For Itself <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's the first quick-and-dirty estimate of how much Donald Trump's tax plan would cost. It comes from the <a href="" target="_blank">Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_crfb_trump_tax_plan_cost.gif" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Please. This is a ridiculously pessimistic estimate because CRFB doesn't account for the economic growth this tax plan will unleash. They estimate that productivity would need to grow 3.8 percent per year to make Trump's plan pay for itself, something they scoff at. But that's well within reason:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_factor_productivity_1972_2027.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>I don't see a problem with that. Do you? Yes? That's probably because you don't believe in the power of the white American worker. That's why you lefties lost the election.</p> <p>Perhaps you sense that I'm taking this less than seriously. Guilty as charged. But if Trump himself doesn't take his plans seriously, why should I?<sup>1</sup></p> <p><sup>1</sup>Also, the eagle-eyed might have noticed that although the 1-page summary we got today was very similar to Trump's campaign document, one thing was left out: it no longer claims to be revenue neutral. Funny how that works.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 27 Apr 2017 00:53:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 331406 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Look! A squirrel!</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_squirrel_large.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:30:13 +0000 Kevin Drum 331206 at It's Embarrassing To Be an American These Days <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I want to repeat something from the previous post because it deserves a post all its own. This is Donald Trump's "tax plan":</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The promised Trump tax plan, as distributed to press moments ago: <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Matthew Nussbaum (@MatthewNussbaum) <a href="">April 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Trump has embarrassed us in so many ways that I guess this is small beer, but FFS. This is the United States of America, the biggest, richest country on the planet. The leader of the free world. And this is what we get from our president these days. He wants to cut taxes by $4 trillion or more&mdash;$4 trillion!&mdash;and he can't be bothered to produce more than a single page of bullet points about it. No details. No legislation. No analysis from the OMB. Nothing. Just a comic book version of a tax overhaul.</p> <p>The contempt and incompetence this displays is breathtaking.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Apr 2017 19:04:50 +0000 Kevin Drum 331376 at Trump Tax Plan Unveiled! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last night I wrote that the Trump tax plan would be little more a than a rewrite of his campaign document. I was wrong. Here it is:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The promised Trump tax plan, as distributed to press moments ago: <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Matthew Nussbaum (@MatthewNussbaum) <a href="">April 26, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>It's not worth the 60 seconds it would take to check this, but I'm pretty sure this is <em>less</em> detailed than Trump's campaign document. What a fucking embarrassment. It's like something a high school class would put together. Even with only five days to work with, you'd think the Treasury Department of the United States of America could produce a little more than this.</p> <p>But let's go through the whole thing. There's a little more than you see in the tweet above:</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Three tax brackets</strong> instead of seven. However, there's no telling how this affects taxes until Steve Mnuchin tells us where the cutoff points are.</p> <p><strong>Doubles the personal exemption</strong> from $12,000 to $24,000. This will help middle-class families, but it's a little hard to know how much it will help them until we get details on....</p> <p><strong>Elimination of itemized deductions.</strong> Which ones? All of them? Good luck with that. But you can be sure that one of the targets will be the deduction for state income taxes, since that mostly benefits the hated blue states of California and New York.</p> <p><strong>Elimination of the estate tax.</strong> A huge boon for the super-duper rich.</p> <p><strong>Elimination of the AMT.</strong> A huge boon for the rich.</p> <p><strong>Elimination of Obamacare's 3.8 percent tax on investment.</strong> A huge boon for the rich.</p> <p><strong>Reduce business tax rate to 15 percent.</strong> A huge boon for corporations and the rich, especially those with income from pass-through businesses. Apparently Mnuchin doesn't care that Senate rules make this almost <a href="" target="_blank">literally unpassable.</a></p> <p><strong>Tax repatriation holiday.</strong> A huge boon for corporations and the rich.</p> <p><strong>Territorial taxation system for corporations.</strong> There's no telling what effect this would have. There are good territorial systems and bad ones. It's all in the details&mdash;though it's a pretty good guess that Trump will opt for one of the bad ones.</p> </blockquote> <p>The driving force behind this appears to be Trump's desire to call this the biggest tax cut in American history. The previous champ was Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut, which cost 3.9 percent of GDP. That means Trump is gunning for 4 percent of GDP.</p> <p>The Congressional Budget Office pegs GDP over the next ten years at <a href="" target="_blank">$239 trillion.</a> To get to 4 percent, Trump's tax plan will need to cut taxes by $9.5 trillion. This is obviously ridiculous. Maybe Trump isn't accounting for inflation or something. That would get him down to $4.3 trillion.</p> <p>Really, who knows? I suppose Trump will call it the biggest tax cut in history regardless of how big it is. He doesn't care. The one thing we can be sure of is that the rich will swoon. At a guess, something like 90 percent of that $9.5 (or $4.3 or whatever) trillion will go to the top 10 percent. The rest of us get a few crumbs.</p> <p>Of course, this whole thing is DOA in Congress anyway, which will pretty much ignore Trump and create its own tax plan for the rich. This one-page "plan" is really just a publicity stunt so Trump can say he introduced it during his first hundred days. What a doofus.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:47:20 +0000 Kevin Drum 331366 at What's Up With Food Service Employment in San Diego? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Mike Boswell tweets this morning that this is "good data for a @kdrum post":</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">San Diego Restaurant Recession - 6-Mo. Loss of 4,700 food jobs from Sept. 2016-Mar. 2017 matches worst loss on record during Great Recession <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Mark J. Perry (@Mark_J_Perry) <a href="">April 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>That <em>is</em> peculiar, isn't it? Why did food service employment in San Diego plummet starting in October? I poked around a bit, and didn't come up with anything. However, the answer is <em>supposed</em> to be "because they raised their minimum wage," so I took a look at that. But it doesn't really fit. In July 2016 <a href="" target="_blank">San Diego</a> raised its minimum wage to 50 cents more than the state minimum. That's a pretty small increase to have such a significant effect, and for three months it <em>didn't</em> have any effect. Food service employment didn't turn around until October. So then I took a look at <a href="" target="_blank">Seattle</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">San Francisco,</a> two other West Coast cities that have raised their minimum wages recently. Here's what food service employment looks like in all three places:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_food_service_employment_2014_2017_1.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>I dunno. San Francisco and Seattle raised their minimum wages considerably more than San Diego, and their food service employment has been fine. Combine that with the tiny size of the San Diego increase and the 3-month lag before anything happened, and the minimum wage theory seems a little iffy.</p> <p>But nothing else comes to mind either. Could it be due to an outflow of undocumented workers following Donald Trump's election? Something else unique to San Diego?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:42:42 +0000 Kevin Drum 331351 at Trump Aide Ivanka Trump Setting Up New Trump Foundation <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From Josh Marshall:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>This is really quite astounding. In this morning&rsquo;s edition of Mike Allen&rsquo;s not-Playbook from Axios he introduces what seems to be Ivanka Trump setting up something that sounds a lot like the Clinton Foundation, only in this case run from <em>within</em> the White House by a top presidential aide who is also the President&rsquo;s daughter, who also runs her own large international company and who also has two brothers who are currently running the President/Father&rsquo;s company and trying to rake in as much money as possible on the fame and power of the presidency.</p> </blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Here is Mike Allen:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a <strong>massive fund</strong> that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe. Both countries and companies will contribute to create a pool of capital to economically empower women.</p> <p>"The statistics and results prove that when you invest in women and girls, it benefits both developed and developing economies," she said. "Women are an enormous untapped resource, critical to the growth of all countries."</p> <ul><li>Under the radar: Canadians, Germans <strong>and a few Middle Eastern countries</strong> have already made quiet commitments, as have several corporations, a source said.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>How it'll work: The fund will provide working and growth capital to small- and medium-sized enterprises.<br> &nbsp;</li> <li>Who's involved: President Trump is a huge supporter of his daughter's idea, and she has <strong>consulted with World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim about how to pull it off in a huge way.</strong></li> </ul></blockquote> <p>I know I should say something about this. But what?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Apr 2017 16:21:04 +0000 Kevin Drum 331346 at Republicans Don't Want to Eat Their Own Dog Food <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In case you missed it in last night's post because I kind of buried it, the latest Republican amendment to their health care bill allows states to opt out of Obamacare's essential requirements. <a href="" target="_blank">But it doesn't apply to Congress.</a> They are exempted. Just to refresh your memory, <a href="" target="_blank">here's the list of essential benefits:</a></p> <ol><li>Ambulatory patient services.</li> <li>Emergency services.</li> <li>Hospitalization.</li> <li>Maternity and newborn care.</li> <li>Mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment.</li> <li>Prescription drugs.</li> <li>Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices.</li> <li>Laboratory services.</li> <li>Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management.</li> <li>Pediatric services, including oral and vision care.</li> </ol><p>The state of Wisconsin, for example, could choose to approve plans that don't include doctor visits (#1), hospitalization (#3), or prescription drugs (#6). House Republicans apparently think that's just fine.</p> <p>But for themselves, their plans will include every single benefit on that list. I'm not normally too bothered by political hypocrisy, but this really jumps the shark. Back in 2009, Republicans gleefully proposed an amendment to Obamacare that would make it apply to Congress. They apparently figured that this would show up Democrats who didn't want to eat their own dog food. But no: Democrats were perfectly willing to be covered by their own law. They shrugged, voted for the amendment, and Republicans were then stuck using Obamacare for their insurance.</p> <p>But now that they're in charge, Republicans are dead set on <em>not</em> eating <em>their</em> dog food. And who can blame them? Their dog food sucks.</p> <p>This really ought to drive home just how horrible the Republican health care plan is. And maybe it will. Finally.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Apr 2017 15:24:18 +0000 Kevin Drum 331336 at Trump Plans to Cram His Entire Legislative Agenda Into Days 96-99 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Did Mack Sennett ever make "The Keystone Cops Go to Washington"? No? No matter. That's what it feels like right now.</p> <p>Let's see if I can do justice to our current legislative follies. For starters, it appears that we're going to get health care, tax reform, and infrastructure all in one week. Why? I guess so that President Trump can say he got going on all of them in his first hundred days. Which totally doesn't matter and Trump couldn't care less about it. But he released a <a href="" target="_blank">truly comical list</a> of all his accomplishments anyway. Not that he cares. But anyway. Let's move on.</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>Health care:</strong> The House Freedom Caucus has allegedly agreed to an amendment to the previous House bill&mdash;the one that crashed and burned last month thanks to the HFC's opposition&mdash;that now makes it acceptable. They haven't actually said so in public yet, but maybe tomorrow they will. Maybe. Basically, it allows states to <a href="" target="_blank">opt out of the essential coverage requirements of Obamacare.</a> Except for Capitol Hill, that is. Members of Congress will continue to get every last thing on the list. And there's no change to pre-existing conditions except for one teensy little thing: insurance companies can charge you more if you have a pre-existing condition. How much more? The sky's the limit, apparently. Does $10 million sound good? In practice, of course, this means that they don't have to offer coverage to anyone with a pre-existing condition.</p> <p><strong>Tax reform:</strong> It turns out the Treasury Department really was taken by surprise on this, so Wednesday's announcement will be <a href="" target="_blank">little more than the same stuff Trump released on the campaign trail.</a> Corporate taxes get cut by nearly two-thirds, to 15 percent. Ditto for "pass through" corporations like, oh, just to pull an example out of the air, The Trump Organization. There will be no offsetting spending cuts. There will be no border tax. There will be nothing much for the non-rich except a modest change to the standard deduction. There will, of course, be no details about which deductions and loopholes, if any, Trump plans to plug. It will be a gigantic deficit buster. And just for good measure, it's probably <a href="" target="_blank">literally unpassable under the Senate's rules.</a></p> <p><strong>Infrastructure:</strong> In a laughable attempt to get Democratic support for his tax bill, <a href=";utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+nymag%2Fintelligencer+%28Daily+Intelligencer+-+New+York+Magazine%29" target="_blank">Trump plans to add infrastructure spending and a child tax credit to it.</a> The problem is that Trump's infrastructure plan is little more than a giveaway to big construction companies, and his child tax credit&mdash;designed by Ivanka!&mdash;is little more than a giveaway to the well off. In other words, instead of one thing Democrats hate, the bill now has three things Democrats hate. I'm just spitballing here, but I'm not sure this is how you make deals.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is lunacy. The barely revised health care bill probably won't pass the House, let alone the Senate. Tax reform is just a PowerPoint presentation, not an actual plan. Plus it's such an unbelievable giveaway to the rich that even Republicans will have a hard time swallowing it. And the infrastructure stuff is DOA. It will almost certainly be opposed by both Republicans and Democrats.</p> <p>This is like watching kids make mud pies. I guess that's OK, since this is all terrible stuff that I hope never sees the light of day. Still, I guess I prefer even my political opponents to show a little bit of respect for the legislative process.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Apr 2017 04:59:49 +0000 Kevin Drum 331326 at 2016 Was Not a Tight Race <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I suppose this is hopeless, but I want to try one more time on the Comey thing. The most common response to the suggestion that James Comey's letter was the turning point in the 2016 campaign is this:</p> <blockquote> <p><em>In a race this close, lots of things could have tipped the result. The Comey letter is just one of many.</em></p> </blockquote> <p>But this isn't true. Take a look at <a href="" target="_blank">538's polling numbers in the final two weeks of the campaign:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_538_clinton_trump_last_two_weeks_1.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>On the day before Comey sent his letter, Hillary Clinton had a 6-point lead. There is no ordinary campaign event that plausibly could have turned that into a loss. Not dumb ad buys. Not bad internal polling. Not bad speeches by the candidate. Nothing. It's just too big a lead.</p> <p>The Comey letter was a bolt from the blue and it cost Clinton three percentage points. <em>This is the only thing that made the race close to begin with.</em> Once Clinton's lead had been cut by three points, then an extra point of support for Trump in the last couple of days&mdash;which 538 and others missed&mdash;was just enough for Trump to eke out a 2-point popular vote loss and a miracle Electoral College victory.</p> <p>That wouldn't have mattered without the Comey letter. None of those little things that everyone keeps pointing to would have produced a Trump win. It's true that in a tight race lots of things can make the difference between winning and losing, <em>but it wasn't a tight race.</em> Not until James Comey sent out that letter, anyway.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 26 Apr 2017 00:17:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 331316 at Donald Trump Has a Red Button on His Desk <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the Associated Press:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>A man accustomed to wealth and its trappings, Trump has embraced life in the Executive Mansion, often regaling guests with trivia about the historic decor. With the push of a red button placed on the Resolute Desk that presidents have used for decades, a White House butler soon arrived with a Coke for the president.</p> </blockquote> <p>I just thought you'd all like to know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 23:16:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 331306 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We had our annual local tennis tournament over the weekend, and this poor kid was one of the losers. He was actually doing OK against a better player, and even managed to pull out the first set. But then his opponent figured out that he had a weak backhand and it was all downhill from there. In the final set, I literally don't think more than four or five balls went to his forehand. His opponent hit every ball as far wide as possible, and even though he knew where every shot was headed, it didn't matter. His backhand broke down under the assault and he lost the final set 6-1.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_tennis_score.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 19:30:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 331271 at Is Latest Victim of Two Minutes Hate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Have you heard of I hadn't until they suddenly popped up in my Twitter feed because everyone was telling me to uninstall their app and never do business with them again. It turns out that is a company that scans your email and unsubscribes you from all your spam. Useful! And free! So how do they make money? By selling data to folks who will pay them for it.</p> <p>In particular, it turns out that one of their clients is Uber, which was interested in keeping tabs on its biggest competitor, Lyft. helps by scanning email for Lyft receipts and telling Uber whether Lyft's business is up or down. This is what caused the commotion.</p> <p>My initial reaction was: Duh. What did you <em>think</em> was doing to make money? I didn't bother writing anything about it because I didn't really care that much, but today co-founder Perri Chase (who's no longer with the company) comes to the defense of <a href="" target="_blank">her friend and CEO Jojo Hedaya:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Anonymized and at scale why do people care? Do you really care? Are you really surprised? How exactly is this shocking?</p> <p>Or maybe you just hate yourselves because you think Uber is gross but you use them anyway and &ldquo;why are these tech founders such assholes&rdquo; that they have to ruin your experience where you need to delete your apps? And you love and you feel righteous and you have to delete that now too because you need to take a stand against these plain-as-day-in-the-terms-of-service practices.</p> <p>....Let&rsquo;s look at why we are really in this situation. [Uber CEO] Travis Kalanick is out of control and no one can stop him. No one except a board who refuses to hold him accountable for his disgusting behavior. Yeah. As a woman I think he is disgusting. As a founder, the truth is I&rsquo;m like DAMN. That guy is willing to do whatever it takes and I have a mild amount of envy that I&rsquo;m not a shittier human willing to go to those lengths to be successful. See, Silicon Valley rewards it. He is setting the example for the future founders who want to &ldquo;crush it&rdquo; and be unstoppable. It&rsquo;s gross. You don&rsquo;t hate that sells your data. You hate that sells your data to Uber.</p> </blockquote> <p>I still don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand, I'm distinctly unthrilled with the fact that that we all give companies access to so much personal information about ourselves&mdash;and we do it for a pittance. On the other hand, it's pretty clear that I'm in a tiny minority. Even when people know precisely what's going on, they mostly shrug and sign up anyway. That's the world we live in.</p> <p>Chase's "plain-as-day-in-the-terms-of-service" defense is pretty disingenuous since she knows perfectly well that nobody reads the terms of service for the apps they use. But even if they did I doubt that would lose more than a few percent of their customers. Most of them probably wouldn't care if sold their names and email addresses to Uber, let alone a harmless bit of aggregate data.</p> <p>For what it's worth, what I'd <em>like</em> to see from companies like is a really clear explanation on their websites of what they do. Maybe just a short, punchy bullet list: Examples of what we <em>will</em> do and examples of what we <em>won't</em> do. That's what I'd like. And a pony.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 19:15:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 331276 at Is Obama Already Buckraking on Wall Street? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Matt Yglesias is pissed:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Former President Barack Obama's decision to accept a $400,000 fee to speak at a health care conference organized by the bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald is easily understood....</p> </blockquote> <p>Wait. Obama is raking in $400 grand for a Wall Street keynote address? Really?</p> <p>There's something funny here. The report <a href="" target="_blank">comes from Fox Business Network,</a> and I guess it's true. But it hasn't been confirmed or reported by any mainstream outlet. Just lots of conservative sites, who are naturally hooting and hollering about it.</p> <p>Yglesias makes lots of good points about why Obama shouldn't do this, and normally I'd sign on. But I want to wait a bit. I wonder if there's more going on here that we don't know yet?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 17:50:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 331266 at Wells Fargo Board Receives Epic Ass Kicking <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Wall Street is a brutal place:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Wells Fargo &amp; Co.&rsquo;s shareholders are expected to re-elect all of the bank&rsquo;s directors&mdash;<strong>but at uncomfortably low vote totals</strong>&mdash;in a pitched contest over the board that resulted from last fall&rsquo;s sales-practices scandal, according to people familiar with the matter.</p> <p>....While the re-election of directors, if confirmed, will be a relief for the bank, the likelihood that at least a few board members will receive below 60% of votes cast is concerning....<strong>The collective low votes for long-serving directors sends a clear message to the bank of &ldquo;dissatisfaction,&rdquo;</strong> one of the people familiar with the matter said.</p> </blockquote> <p>Tough but fair. After this trip to the woodshed you can be sure that sleazy practices are a thing of the past at Wells Fargo.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 17:35:02 +0000 Kevin Drum 331261 at Everybody Loves (Parts of) Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Ron Brownstein is surprised:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">In ABC/WP 78% (!) of aged 50-64 oppose ending nationwide mandate for covering pre-existing conditions <a href="">#AHCA</a> <a href=""></a> via <a href="">@ABC</a></p> &mdash; Ronald Brownstein (@RonBrownstein) <a href="">April 25, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>This is pretty much what I'd expect. After all, it's people aged 50-64 who mostly <em>have</em> pre-existing conditions.</p> <p>This remains the Achilles' heel of the repeal movement. Once you've agreed to keep Obamacare's pre-existing conditions policy, the rest of Obamacare&mdash;or something pretty similar&mdash;is inevitable. This is why the repeal-and-replace movement is having such a tough time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 16:56:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 331251 at Trump Caves On Border Wall <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>White House aides "signaled" yesterday that instead of money for a wall, they might accept money for tighter border security in the <a href=";utm_term=.e1d858d1ac3f" target="_blank">upcoming budget bill:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>With a Friday deadline looming to pass a new spending bill, the Trump administration projected confidence that a shutdown would be avoided. In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to funding the wall&rsquo;s construction, <strong>White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall,</strong> with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure.</p> </blockquote> <p>But apparently that wasn't good enough for Trump. He just went ahead and surrendered completely:</p> <blockquote> <p>Trump showed even more flexibility Monday afternoon, telling conservative journalists in a private meeting that he was <strong>open to delaying funding for wall construction until September,</strong> a White House official confirmed.</p> </blockquote> <p>Quite a negotiator, our president.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 15:02:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 331216 at Health Care Premiums Have Gone Down Under Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Someone asked me on Twitter if health care premiums had spiked after Obamacare went into effect. That turns out to be a surprisingly hard question to answer. There's loads of data on premiums in the employer market, where premium growth has slowed down slightly post-Obamacare, but not much in the individual market, which is where Obamacare has its biggest impact. However, a pair of researchers at the Brookings Institution rounded up the best evidence for pre-Obamacare premiums and compared it to premiums in 2014-17, when Obamacare was in effect. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_average_individual_premiums_2009_2017_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Premiums <em>dropped</em> in 2014, and are still lower than the trendline from 2009-13. So no, premiums didn't spike under Obamacare.</p> <p>Now, there are lots of caveats here. The pre-Obamacare estimates are tricky to get a firm handle on. What's more, the Obamacare premiums are for the baseline coverage (second-lowest silver plan), while average pre-Obamacare policies might have been more generous in some ways (for example, deductibles and copays).</p> <p>However, most of the pre/post differences suggest that Obamacare policies are better than the old ones. The old plans had an actuarial value of only 60 percent, while Obamacare silver plans have an actuarial value of 70 percent. The old plans were also limited to very healthy individuals. Obamacare plans are open to everyone. Finally, Obamacare plans mandate a set of essential benefits and place limits on out-of-pocket costs. These and other things suggest that premiums <em>should</em> have gone up under Obamacare.</p> <p>But even with all these improvements, premiums still went down, and they haven't caught up yet. Bottom line: Average premiums in the individual market went down after Obamacare took effect, and they're still lower than they would have been without Obamacare.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 04:55:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 331201 at New York Times Updates Its 2015 Hillary Clinton FBI Investigation Story <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In July 2015 the <em>New York Times</em> reported that the Justice Department had opened a "criminal inquiry" into whether "Hillary Rodham Clinton mishandled sensitive government information." This was apparently a mistake, and the article was quickly rewritten to say only that DOJ had opened an "investigation" into whether sensitive information had been mishandled "in connection with the personal email account Hillary Rodham Clinton used as secretary of state." A few days later the <em>Times'</em> public editor <a href="" target="_blank">wrote a scathing summary of the paper's scoop:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Aspects of it began to unravel soon after it first went online....From Thursday night to Sunday morning&nbsp;&mdash; when a final correction appeared in print&nbsp;&mdash; the inaccuracies and changes in the story were handled as they came along, with little explanation to readers, other than routine corrections....Eventually, a number of corrections were appended to the online story, before appearing in print in the usual way&nbsp;&mdash; in small notices on Page A2. But you can&rsquo;t put stories like this back in the bottle&nbsp;&mdash; they ripple through the entire news system.</p> <p>So it was, to put it mildly, a mess....&ldquo;We got it wrong because our very good sources had it wrong,&rdquo; [editor Matt] Purdy told me. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s an explanation, not an excuse. We have an obligation to get facts right and we work very hard to do that.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>A few days later <a href="" target="_blank">I wrote about this too,</a> suggesting that the <em>Times</em> owed us a better explanation of what happened. This weekend they went some of the way there in an aside buried in their big story about James Comey, co-authored by two of the same reporters who wrote the original piece. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's what they say:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>On July 10, 2015, the F.B.I. opened a criminal investigation, code-named &ldquo;Midyear,&rdquo; into Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s handling of classified information....There was controversy almost immediately. Responding to questions from <em>The Times</em>, the Justice Department <strong>confirmed that it had received a criminal referral</strong> &mdash; the first step toward a criminal investigation &mdash; over Mrs. Clinton&rsquo;s handling of classified information.</p> <p><strong>But the next morning, the department revised its statement.</strong> &ldquo;The department has received a referral related to the potential compromise of classified information,&rdquo; the new statement read. &ldquo;It is not a criminal referral.&rdquo;</p> <p>At the F.B.I., this was a distinction without a difference: Despite what officials said in public, agents had been alerted to mishandled classified information <strong>and in response, records show, had opened a full criminal investigation.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>If this is correct, it <em>was</em> a criminal investigation, and the <em>Times</em> didn't get it wrong. Rather, the Justice Department put up a smoke screen after news of the investigation had been leaked.</p> <p>The second part of this remains fuzzy. Was the investigation specifically aimed at Hillary Clinton or was it only "in connection with" Hillary Clinton? It's pretty obvious that Clinton was, in fact, the primary target of the investigation, but the FBI also investigated many others in her orbit. So I'm not sure how to score this.</p> <p>Overall, though, despite what I wrote and what the <em>Times</em> itself wrote, it appears that this wasn't an enormous screwup at all. There might have been a minor detail or two that was slightly wrong, but nothing central to the story itself.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 01:55:09 +0000 Kevin Drum 331191 at Obamacare Is Doing Fine Unless Trump Kills It <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Congressional Budget Office says that <a href="" target="_blank">Obamacare is in good shape:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Under current law, most subsidized enrollees purchasing health insurance coverage in the nongroup market are largely insulated from increases in premiums because their out-of-pocket payments for premiums are based on a percentage of their income; the government pays the difference. The subsidies to purchase coverage combined with the penalties paid by uninsured people stemming from the individual mandate are <strong>anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by people with low health care expenditures for the market to be stable.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Insurance companies are starting to make money on Obamacare. Nearly 20 million people have health insurance because of Obamacare. Premiums will probably go up next year, but not by a huge amount. And even if they do go up, federal subsidies will shield most people from having to pay any more than this year. Because of all this, CBO believes that Obamacare will stay stable and strong:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_obamacare_coverage_2013_2021_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>President Trump tweeted the opposite today, saying once again that Obamacare was on the verge of failing. This is a lie, one that he's repeated over and over. Obamacare will fail only if he cuts off its funding.</p> <p>The reason for this post isn't so much to mention that Trump lied again today. The sun also rose in the east, and I didn't write about that. It's to remind everyone&mdash;including me&mdash;to stop writing tweets and blog posts that say something like this:</p> <blockquote> <p>Trump says Obamacare is in a death spiral. He's wrong.</p> </blockquote> <p>When we repeat the lie, we just give it more exposure. The end result is that people vaguely know something about <em>Obamacare</em> and <em>death spiral</em> and <em>controversial</em>, and that's it. They don't really know who's right, they just know that they keep seeing stuff about Obamacare being in trouble.</p> <p>So don't do it. Instead, just write the truth and then mention that Trump has lied about it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 01:11:43 +0000 Kevin Drum 331186 at Trump Planning to Hold Tax Plan Theater on Wednesday <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's all you need to know about <a href="" target="_blank">President Trump's tax plan:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Mr. Trump&rsquo;s aides have been working on a detailed tax proposal, but that isn&rsquo;t ready yet. The announcement on Wednesday is expected to focus instead on broader principles....<strong>Mr. Trump&rsquo;s statement last week that he would announce details of his plan later this week caught his team off guard,</strong> said people familiar with the matter.</p> </blockquote> <p>In other words, it's all theater. On Wednesday we'll get a vague description of "broader principles" that will include gigantic cuts in the top rates for both individuals and corporations, along with just enough eye candy for the middle class that Trump can pretend it's a tax cut for everyone. It will basically be a campaign document with a few extra tidbits so that Trump can claim to have released his "tax plan" during his first hundred days.</p> <p>The benefit of staying vague, by the way, is that it's impossible to score his plan until every detail is filled in. Still, I expect the usual suspects at the Tax Foundation and the Tax Policy Center will try. So where do you think they'll end up? My guess is that it will cost $4 trillion, of which 95 percent will go to the top 10 percent. Enter your guess in comments. The winner gets the most precious thing I have to offer: a tweet that announces their victorious prediction.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Tue, 25 Apr 2017 00:11:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 331181 at How White is "Rural America"? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at Vox, Sean Illing writes about <a href="" target="_blank">how we think of rural America:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The media often conflates rurality and whiteness in this country.</strong> But this is a false &mdash; and misleading &mdash; narrative.</p> <p><strong>Roughly one-fifth of rural residents in this country are people of color, and their interests and political views are as diverse as they are.</strong> When coverage of rural areas dismisses or otherwise ignores this fact, actual political consequences follow: The specific concerns of certain communities simply fall out of view.</p> </blockquote> <p>Illing talks about this with Mara Casey Tieken, a professor at Bates College, who says this:</p> <blockquote> <p>I think policymakers that represent white communities have disproportionately more power than policymakers representing rural communities of color....I think the problem also becomes self-perpetuating because <strong>what gets covered is rural white America,</strong> so that shapes how people think about rural America, and those are the stories that get told over and over again.</p> </blockquote> <p>I want to offer up a guess about one reason why "rural" is so associated with whiteness. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_rural_america_media_3.gif" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>When the media reports on rural America, the stories are usually about Ohio or Missouri or Indiana or Pennsylvania or Nebraska. "Rural" means the Midwest and the Rust Belt. And as you can see on the map, those places really are mostly white.</p> <p>As Tieken says, this becomes self-perpetuating. The Midwest and the Rust Belt are politically interesting, so rural areas there get lots of coverage. That means we largely see rural America as white, and that in turn means that news items about non-white areas usually end up getting coded as something else: In the Deep South they become "race and the lingering effects of slavery" stories, and in the Southwest they become "Hispanic immigration and the changing demographics of America" stories.</p> <p>Does this happen because of implicit bias among reporters and the rest of us? Or because the Midwest and the Rust Belt really are the interesting areas when it comes to politics (big populations, loud voices, plenty of swing voters)? Maybe both.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 22:33:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 331171 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is a composite beanbag photo. It's a <em>beanbag</em> photo because I set the camera on my beanbag (<a href="" target="_blank">see here</a> for explanation), which sat on the concrete ledge of an overpass. This allowed me to aim the camera precisely where I wanted and to keep it nice and stable even with an exposure time of one second. There was no way a tripod could have fit where I needed it to.</p> <p>It's a <em>composite</em> photo because I took a lot of shots from precisely the same spot (thanks to the beanbag). Then I chose the best freeway shot and used Photoshop to lay it on top of the best sunset shot. If you look very closely, you might be able to tell where the two shots merge, but you have to be pretty eagle-eyed.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_sunset_freeway_streaky.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 19:30:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 331121 at How Many People Actually Oppose Obamacare? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's some interesting polling news. However, the interesting part isn't immediately obvious. First up is the <a href=";aRange=twoYear" target="_blank">Kaiser tracking poll</a>, which asks if people have a favorable or unfavorable view of Obamacare:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_kaiser_obamacare_2013_2017.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Got it? Now here is today's PPP poll, which asks if people <a href="" target="_blank">support or oppose Obamacare:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ppp_obamacare_2017_04_24.gif" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 50px;" width="500"></p> <p>Kaiser and PPP agree precisely on support for Obamacare: it's at 47 percent. But they produce way different results on opposition: Kaiser has it at 46 percent and PPP has it at 31 percent. The difference is that PPP shows a large number of people who aren't sure.</p> <p>Why? Is this the difference between "view unfavorably" and "oppose"? Or a difference between Kaiser and PPP? It's too big to be a mere statistical blip.</p> <p>The most obvious interpretation is that there are lots of people who have unfavorable views of Obamacare but don't outright oppose it. If that's true, it seems like a pretty obvious opportunity for Democrats.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:45:16 +0000 Kevin Drum 331161 at James Comey Wrap-up: Benghazi and the Press Were to Blame Too <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Many of you only read this blog on weekdays. That's OK. I understand that my random musings may be better than filling out yet another TPS report but not as good as doing actual fun stuff. However, sometimes this means you miss some good posts.</p> <p>For example: James Comey. On Saturday, in a very long post, I made the case that Comey was the decisive factor in Hillary Clinton's loss, not Clinton herself or her campign. <a href="" target="_blank">You should read it!</a> And <a href="" target="_blank">this too.</a></p> <p>Right after I wrote that, the <em>New York Times</em> published a detailed story about why Comey did what he did. My take on the <em>Times</em> piece was simple: "At every step of the way, Comey demonstrated either his fear of crossing Republicans or his concern over protecting his own reputation from Republican attack." <a href="" target="_blank">You should read this too!</a></p> <p>Today, to wrap things up, I want to highlight a couple of additional points. Several people suggested that although Comey screwed up, I should have also mentioned the role the press played in this. I don't want to relitigate the entire campaign, but Nate Silver makes a pithy point about how the press handled the Comey letter:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">These were the lead news stories (per <a href="">@memeorandum</a>) over the final 19 days of last year's campaign. Anything stand out? <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) <a href="">April 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>From the time Comey's letter went public to the time he (once again) exonerated Hillary Clinton, Clinton's emails were the top news story in 12 out of 14 news cycles <em>even though there was zero evidence that the emails were either new or incriminating or interesting in any way.</em> Even after years of being taken for a ride on this stuff, the press just couldn't get enough. All you had to do was breathe something about new emails and they went nuts.</p> <p>Second, Mike Tomasky makes a point about Comey that I only touched on because my posts were already so long. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Fear of political fallout seems to have motivated almost everything he did. Kevin Drum made this point over the weekend. But Drum didn&rsquo;t emphasize what is to me the most telling thing, <strong>which is that there is one group Comey appears not to have feared at all: Democrats.</strong></p> <p>....The <em>Times</em> talked to 30 people, <strong>and apparently the idea that Comey may have feared how the Democrats would react to any action of his just wasn&rsquo;t brought up. Amazing.</strong> Remember what the guy did: He excoriated Clinton&rsquo;s ethics; he announced a reopening of an investigation 11 days before the election with no evidence that there was any reason to think Anthony Weiner&rsquo;s laptop would revealing a smoking gun (it did not, as Comey subsequently announced); and finally, he kept from the public the fact that his bureau was also investigating the other presidential candidate.</p> <p>And through it all, he was worried about what Republicans would do to him, <strong>but apparently never concerned about how Democrats would react to anything he did.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>I've spent a lot of time over the past few years mocking the Republican Benghazi obsession, but this is where it paid off. After four years of this stuff, <em>of course</em> Comey was afraid he'd be the target of endless hearings if Clinton won and it later turned out there was something in the emails. But if Trump won and there was nothing in the emails? People like me would write some critical blog posts. Democrats here and there would mutter about Comey interfering in the election. But that would be it. Republicans had a well-developed reputation as ravening pit bulls. Democrats had a well-developed reputation as occasionally irritable poodles. Everybody wrings their hands over this, but it worked out pretty well for Republicans, didn't it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 17:34:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 331156 at The Kinder, Gentler National Front Has Made Only a Small Gain This Year <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I don't really have any point to make about this, but I was curious about how Marine Le Pen's National Front has done over the past few decades in elections for president of France. <a href="" target="_blank">Here it is:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_national_front_first_round_voting_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Since taking over the National Front, Marine Le Pen's strategy has been to sell a softer, less overtly racist version of the party her father founded. This, combined with the nationalist fervor supposedly taking over Europe, has produced a result 4.5 percentage points higher than her lunatic dad received in 1997 and 3.5 points higher than Marine herself received in 2012.</p> <p>Is that a lot? A little? I'm not sure. It doesn't seem like a huge swing to me, and it's a sharp drop from the vote share the party received in recent elections for regional councils and the European Parliament. I don't know enough about French politics to venture an opinion, but it doesn't seem like strong evidence in favor of a big European swing to the nationalist right.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:15:41 +0000 Kevin Drum 331151 at