Blogs | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Trump Learns that Arabs Want a Palestinian Peace Deal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In some ways, it's sort of entertaining to have a president who's literally learning the most basic facts of the world <a href="" target="_blank">on the job:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump began a two-day visit to Israel on Monday with a blunt assessment for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: If Israel really wants peace with its Arab neighbors, <strong>the cost will be resolving the generations-old standoff with the Palestinians</strong>....&ldquo;I was deeply encouraged by my conversations with Muslim world leaders in Saudi Arabia, including King Salman, who I spoke to at great length. King Salman feels very strongly and, I can tell you, would love to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>It's an open question whether a Palestinian peace deal would really produce comity with the rest of the Arab world, but it's certainly a prerequisite and has been for decades. But I guess Trump hadn't really considered that a serious obstacle until he heard it face-to-face from the king.</p> <p>Anyway, we all know where this is going, right? Benjamin Netanyahu wants to stay on good terms with Trump, and Trump wants a peace deal. Everyone on the planet knows perfectly well that Netanyahu has no interest in this, but he'll string Trump along anyway. A "peace process" will be set up, Jared Kushner will preside over a meeting or two, and Netanyahu will settle back and wait for some kind of bombing or other terror attack to declare that he tried but the Palestinians just can't be dealt with. Every neocon in America will immediately jump on the bandwagon and insist that this is the final straw. Things were so hopeful thanks to Trump's goodwill, but they bombed innocent women and children while Israel was earnestly trying to make peace! They're savages! Netanyahu will ask Trump for a statement of support, and of course Trump will provide it because terrorists are bad. And that will be that.</p> <p>The whole thing will be a ridiculous charade, and everyone except Trump will know it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 21:22:53 +0000 Kevin Drum 333311 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>I was out in Santa Monica for a few hours last week, and that means a bunch of Santa Monica pictures got added to the lunchtime photo queue. This one is a picture of a name painter on the pier.</p> <p>What's interesting technically is that I actually wanted more grain in the photo. I was hoping for that old-school Tri-X-pushed-to-ISO-1600 look. But even at ISO 3200, there's really not a lot of grain here. I'll have to try this again someday at ISO 12800.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_santa_monica_pier_name_painter.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 19:30:06 +0000 Kevin Drum 333251 at Behold the Greatest Budget Gimmickry of All Time <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Here's a helluva weird story <a href="" target="_blank">from Jim Puzzanghera of the <em>LA Times</em>:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The House Republican legislation scaling back Dodd-Frank financial regulations would <strong>reduce federal budget deficits by $24.1 billion</strong> over the next decade....Would <strong>reduce federal spending by $6.9 billion</strong> from 2018 through 2027....The bureau received $565 million in the 2016 fiscal year....The House Republican legislation would <strong>reduce the bureau&rsquo;s funding to $485 million</strong> in 2018, and the CBO estimated that Congress would keep annual funding at about that level, adjusting for inflation, over the next decade.</p> </blockquote> <p>So the bill would (a) reduce funding by $800 million, (b) reduce spending by $6.9 billion, and (c) reduce deficits by $24.1 billion. How do we get from $800 million to $24.1 billion?</p> <p>I'm glad you asked! And trust me, you're going to love the answer. <a href="" target="_blank">Here's how it breaks down:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_cbo_gop_financial_bill_deficit.gif" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>This is a work of art. The savings come almost entirely from two places: eliminating the Orderly Liquidation Fund and modifying the way Dodd-Frank agencies are funded. Here's the impressive part: neither of these things actually saves any money.</p> <p>The OLF is funded entirely by the financial industry. If the government has to liquidate a big bank, it foots the bill and then recoups the money via a fee on the banking sector. However, the money has to be spent immediately, while it gets recouped over time. So it's possible that, say, the feds would spend $10 billion to rescue a bank in 2027, but all the money would be recouped in later years. That counts as a $10 billion deficit in the the ten-year window 2018-2027.</p> <p>So CBO guessed the probability of the OLF being used in each of the next ten years, along with the possible cash flow imbalances, and then calculated the expected value. They came up with $14.5 billion. CBO acknowledges that this estimate has "considerable uncertainty," and that's true. More to the point, though, the whole thing is just gimmickry. Using the OLF will cost the government nothing (or close to nothing), but expenses might fall <em>inside</em> the ten-year window while revenues fall <em>outside</em> the ten-year window. That's all.</p> <p>Then there's the agency funding. It gets reduced $800 million, but somehow that becomes a deficit reduction of $9.2 billion. This one is even more impressive. Two agencies are affected&mdash;NCUA and CFPB&mdash;which currently get their funding from outside sources. This means their outlays count as "direct spending." Under the Republican law, their funding would come from Congress and be subject to annual appropriations. For some reason&mdash;and I admit this remains inscrutable to me&mdash;reducing "direct spending" and replacing it with the same amount of appropriated spending counts as deficit reduction <em>even though CBO assumes that actual funding levels won't change</em>.</p> <p>This is the immaculate conception of congressional legislation. It doesn't actually reduce spending more than trivially, but thanks to obscure budget gimmicks it gets scored as a $24 billion reduction in the ten-year budget deficit. It's magic! Maybe it's the power of the orb at work.<sup>1</sup></p> <p><sup>1</sup>You all know <a href="" target="_blank">what this refers to,</a> don't you?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 19:05:07 +0000 Kevin Drum 333291 at In 2002, the IEA Predicted Solar Was Going Nowhere. And in 2003. And 2004. And 2005... <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Every year the International Energy Agency publishes the <em>World Energy Outlook</em>, which, among other things, forecasts the growth rate of solar PV installations. The 2016 edition even included a whole "special focus" on renewable energy. Presumably this means they took an extra careful look at their solar PV forecast. Here it is:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_iea_solar_forecast_2016_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>That looks...odd, doesn't it? Solar PV has grown at a pretty fast clip over the past decade, but the IEA assumes the growth rate will suddenly level out starting this year and then start to decline. And this is their <em>optimistic</em> scenario that takes into account pledges made in Paris.</p> <p>What can we make of this? Auke Hoekstra provides some context:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I made a graph showing the historic track record of the IEA in predicting solar: reality steeply increasing but IEA is having none of it. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; AukeHoekstra (@AukeHoekstra) <a href="">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Every single year, the IEA projects that solar is a passing fad and its growth rate will level out <em>that year</em>. And every single year, solar continues to grow anyway. But the next year the IEA makes the exact same forecast. It's almost as if they have some kind of hidden agenda here.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 16:41:03 +0000 Kevin Drum 333281 at Commerce Secretary Amazed At How Friendly Saudi Arabia Is <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was in Saudi Arabia with President Trump this weekend, and today he appeared on CNBC to chat about it. <a href="" target="_blank">This comes via TPM:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><em>Ross:</em> I think the other thing that was fascinating to me ... <strong>there was not a single hint of a protestor anywhere there during the whole time we were there, not one guy with a bad placard,</strong> instead ...</p> <p><em>Host:</em> But Secretary Ross, that may be but not necessarily because they don&rsquo;t have those feelings there but because they control people and don&rsquo;t allow them to to come and express their feelings quite the same as we do here.</p> <p><em>Ross:</em> <strong>In theory that could be true.</strong> But boy there was certainly no sign of it, there was not a single effort at any incursion. There wasn&rsquo;t anything. The mood was a genuinely good mood. And at the end of the trip, as I was getting back on the plane the security guards from the Saudi side who&rsquo;d been helping us over the weekend all wanted to pose for a big photo-op. <strong>And then they gave me two gigantic bushels of dates, as a present, as a thank you for the trip that we had had. That was a pretty from the heart, very genuine gesture.</strong> It really touched me.</p> </blockquote> <p>Is everyone in the Trump administration a senile old man? The alternatives here are: (a) Ross is an idiot, (b) he's just spinning but doing an epically bad job of it, or (c) he's losing his mind. What the hell is it with this administration?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 16:08:31 +0000 Kevin Drum 333276 at Trump Confirms His Intel Blabbing Originated With Israel <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Remember the top secret intel that President Trump shared with the Russians in the Oval Office? We all pretty much know that it came from Israel, but for some reason Trump decided to confirm this today:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Really confusing moment here where Trump stops the press from being ushered out of his photo spray with PM Netanyahu. Full video&mdash;&gt; <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Tom Namako (@TomNamako) <a href="">May 22, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Here&rsquo;s a more definitive rundown from the pool reporter in Israel: <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Tom Namako (@TomNamako) <a href="">May 22, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>As many people have pointed out, this was just a photo op. Trump didn't have to say anything. But he's Trump, so he had to have the last word. It continues to be remarkable how easy it is to bait the guy.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 15:58:26 +0000 Kevin Drum 333271 at Trump Continues Game Playing In Hopes of Destroying Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The campaign to destroy Obamacare <a href="" target="_blank">continues apace:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration on Monday plans to ask a federal court for another 90-day delay in a lawsuit over Obamacare insurance subsidies, according to two administration sources, leaving the future of the health care marketplaces in limbo through late August. The suit, <em>House v. Tom Price</em>, <strong>centers on Obamacare&rsquo;s cost-sharing program,</strong> which reimburses health insurers to help low-income people make co-payments at the doctor or hospital.</p> </blockquote> <p>This is the suit filed by the House against Obamacare's CSR subsidies. The delay means insurers won't get assurance one way or the other about the fate of these subsidies, which in turn means they have to assume they're going away. Anything else would be irresponsible.</p> <p>And that means insurers have to raise premiums substantially to make up for the potential loss of CSR payments. The Obamacare market could be stabilized easily by continuing them, but that's not what Trump wants. He wants Obamacare to fail without his fingerprints all over it, and this is his best try. Premiums will almost certainly rise 20-25 percent this year thanks to uncertainty about the CSR payments, and that will contribute to a narrative that Obamacare is imploding. Republicans are betting that no one will connect it to their lawsuit, and that might be a good bet.</p> <p>Unless, of course, Democrats and the media make it crystal clear what's going on here. Remember: this won't affect poor people much because their premiums are capped. But it <em>will</em> affect middle-class people who don't qualify for Obamacare tax credits. They're going to see their premiums spike up yet again, and Democrats need to make it clear just whose fault that it.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 15:21:52 +0000 Kevin Drum 333261 at Trump Officially Breaks Promise Not to Cut Medicaid <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Good times:</p> <blockquote> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>May 2015:</strong></a> "I'm not going to cut Social Security like every other Republican and <strong>I'm not going to cut Medicare or Medicaid</strong>."</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Today:</strong></a> "President Trump's first major budget proposal on Tuesday <strong>will include massive cuts to Medicaid</strong>....Trump's budget plan would follow through on a bill passed by House Republicans to cut more than $800 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off Medicaid benefits for about 10 million people over the next decade."</p> </blockquote> <p>In fairness, back in 2015 Trump probably had no idea that Medicare and Medicaid were different things. By now, however, he understands that Medicaid is a whole separate program that's mainly for poor people. So naturally he wants to slash it. What's the point of spending money on people who aren't already rich, after all?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 14:25:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333246 at Republicans Are Laying the Groundwork For Their Normal Blue Slip Hypocrisy <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Blue slips. Remember those? They are actual slips of paper, and they are actually blue. Senators sign them to indicate their approval of judicial nominees from their home states. There is no actual rule about this, however, so whoever's chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee can play games with them pretty easily.</p> <p>Here's how it works. If you require only one blue slip to proceed, that makes it easier for a president to get his nominees confirmed. If you require two blue slips, it's harder.</p> <p>So when do you want to make it easier? When the president comes from your own party. When do you want to make it harder? When the president is from the other party. Here's how that's worked:</p> <ul><li><strong>Pre-1994:</strong> Generally speaking, only one blue slip is required.</li> <li><strong>1994:</strong> Republicans gain control of the senate. The president is a Democrat. Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch decides to require two blue slips.</li> <li><strong>2001:</strong> A Republican becomes president. Hatch decides one blue slip is plenty.</li> <li><strong>2005:</strong> Hatch gets tired of Democratic opposition and decides that no blue slips are required at all.</li> <li><strong>2007:</strong> Democrats win control of the Senate. The president is a Republican. Sen. Patrick Leahy goes back to requiring two blue slips. This seems like normal politicking, but....</li> <li><strong>2009:</strong> A Democrat becomes president. In a stunning display of integrity, Leahy continues to require two blue slips.</li> <li><strong>2015:</strong> Republicans take control of the Senate. Sen. Chuck Grassley naturally continues to require two blue slips since this helps obstruct Obama's nominees.</li> <li><strong>2017:</strong> A Republican becomes president. <a href="" target="_blank">Suddenly there is chatter about eliminating the blue slip requirement completely.</a> The official excuse is that it should apply only to district court judges, not to circuit court judges. This is pretty obviously ridiculous, but that's their story and they're sticking to it. It will undoubtedly prompt dozens of earnest thumbsuckers about the history of the blue slip and whether there's a case for not applying it to circuit court judges.</li> </ul><p>Patrick Leahy, the Democratic Judiciary Committee chairman from 2007-2014, applied the blue-slip rule impartially regardless of who was president. This was despite a vast level of obstruction from Republicans to all of Obama's nominees. On the one hand, good for Leahy. We could use more displays of integrity like this. On the other hand, Democrats lost out on a whole bunch of judges that they otherwise would have gotten confirmed.</p> <p>By contrast, Republicans have a two-decade history of flipping the blue-slip rule whenever it conveniences them. Is there really much doubt that Grassley is going to nuke it just as soon as a single Democrat fails to return a blue slip on a Trump nominee and Fox News starts screaming about obstruction? I don't think so.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 13:50:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333241 at Newt Gingrich Swan Dives Into the Fever Swamps <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Have you heard of Seth Rich? He's a DNC staffer who was murdered at four in the morning last July in the Washington DC neighborhood where he lived. For no good reason except his vague proximity to Hillary Clinton, Rich became the subject of conspiracy theories suggesting that he, not the Russians, had hacked thousands of emails from the DNC's email server and passed them along to WikiLeaks. When Hillary found out about this, she presumably gave the order to have him rubbed out.</p> <p>Needless to say, this is completely ridiculous. <a href="" target="_blank">Dave Weigel explains it all here</a> if this is new to you.</p> <p>But last week the conspiracy theories re-emerged after a local news station claimed it had uncovered new evidence. Their evidence was a single source, an occasional Fox News legal analyst named Rod Wheeler, who recanted his claim within a day. But it was too late: Twitter bots were already running wild, Drudge and Rush Limbaugh were talking about it, and Sean Hannity devoted three nights to the Rich murder. <a href="" target="_blank">Now Newt Gingrich has weighed in:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the Democratic National Committee, who apparently was assassinated at 4 in the morning, having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments,&rdquo; Gingrich said.</p> <p>&ldquo;Nobody&rsquo;s investigating that, and what does that tell you about what&rsquo;s going on? Because it turns out, it wasn&rsquo;t the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee. He&rsquo;s been killed, and apparently nothing serious has been done to investigative his murder. So I&rsquo;d like to see how [Robert S.] Mueller [III] is going to define what his assignment is.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>Naturally Gingrich said this during an appearance on <em>Fox and Friends</em>, whose hosts offered no pushback at all.</p> <p>This is vile and disgusting. Seth Rich's parents are distraught enough already about their son's murder, and it's unconscionable for a supposedly serious Republican politician and a supposedly serious Republican news network to drag themselves into the Seth Rich fever swamps like this. As usual, though, I suppose there will be no price to pay. Gingrich will continue to be welcomed on American news shows and his wife will be quickly confirmed as US ambassador to the Vatican. And Republicans will learn, once again, that there are really no depths they can sink to that will get them shunned from polite society.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Mon, 22 May 2017 00:47:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 333236 at Road to Riyadh, Day Two <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>When I first saw this picture, I figured it was just a dumb Photoshop and skipped on by. But no. This is real:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plasma_globe.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>King Salman seems genuinely fascinated by this modern miracle. El-Sisi obviously doesn't give a shit and is just being polite. Trump looks like he's trying to commune with Sauron. Naturally this turned into a huge Twitter meme instantly, and I imagine we're going to be seeing this picture around for years.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">The advance work on this trip is hilarious:<br><br> Sword dance, all-male Toby Keith concert, secret Tillerson press conference, magic globe, ...</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">"Elites scoff, but in the working class suburbs of Grand Rapids voters are glad Trump is practicing orb magic with Arab dictators."</p> &mdash; Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) <a href="">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And contrary to what I reported <a href="" target="_blank">earlier,</a> it turns out that Trump <em>didn't</em> quite manage to recite today's speech off the teleprompter correctly. He was apparently so nervous about the whole <em>radical Islamic terrorism</em> vs. <em>violent extremism</em> vs. <em>Islamist extremism</em> thing that he blew it:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Asked about line in speech today when Trump said Islamic instead of Islamist, a senior White House official said: &ldquo;He&rsquo;s an exhausted guy."</p> &mdash; Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) <a href="">May 21, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Trump had been in Saudi Arabia for about 36 hours at that point. Only 150 hours to go.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> ZOMG! The full picture of Trump and the orb might be even more awesome than the cropped shot.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_plasma_globe_large.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 21:46:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333231 at Trump Sets New Bar for Presidential Success <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>By the way, Donald Trump is getting good marks for today's speech in Saudi Arabia because he managed to recite it adequately off the teleprompter and didn't veer off topic into any of the usual Trump idiocy.</p> <p>Seriously. This is what the coverage is like. Apparently that's all we expect from a president these days.<sup>1</sup></p> <p>One other note: I'm not sure how many people have noticed this, but Trump has a long history of talking big when he's on a stage or on TV but backing down when he meets people face-to-face. It's already happened with China, Japan, Mexico, Germany, and a host of others. Now it's happening with Saudi Arabia, which seems to have Trump practically in thrall. This should come as no surprise to anyone.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>Of course, the last time this happened was Trump's state-of-the-union address, and he managed to bollox that up within two days. I won't be surprised if he does the same this time.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 17:06:57 +0000 Kevin Drum 333226 at Here's Why the Saudis Love Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Last year, President Obama offered Saudi Arabia an arms deal worth $115 billion. President Trump just closed a deal valued at only $110 billion. He's also spoken viciously about Islam on the campaign trail and tried to ban the entry of visitors from seven Muslim countries. And yet the Saudis are thrilled to have Trump in office. Why? <a href="" target="_blank">Molly Hennessy-Fiske explains:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The White House they see now is presided over by a strong leader &mdash; a model Gulf monarchs recognize from their own governing styles &mdash; <strong>and if Trump surrounds himself with business-friendly family members high in his administration, well, so do they.</strong></p> <p>....&ldquo;The GCC countries are not only excited about Trump, but the people he&rsquo;s chosen to have around him,&rdquo; said Alibrahim, who dismissed Obama as &ldquo;the worst president ever,&rdquo; <strong>unwilling to confront Iran and its Shiite Muslim proxies</strong> in Syria and neighboring Yemen, whom the Sunni leaders of the Gulf see as rivals.</p> <p>....&ldquo;<strong>Trump is a welcome change from Barack Obama because he does not remind them, does not pressure them, about American values and ideas about human rights and democracy.</strong> This president is a hardcore realist: He just doesn&rsquo;t care. This goes well with many leaders in this part of the world,&rdquo; Gerges said.</p> <p>Trump has already impressed Gulf Arab leaders by escalating the war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria and <strong>supporting the Saudi fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, Trump's anti-Muslim rabble-rousing is just red meat for the American rubes. They don't take anything Trump says seriously, only what he does. And what's clear is that (a) Trump's personal brand of corruption is reassuringly Middle Eastern, (b) he hates Iran, (c) he's not going to harass the Saudis over trivia like human rights, and (d) he doesn't care how brutal they get in their war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.</p> <p>That's it. That's all they care about. Trump isn't bringing in more business and he's not selling them more arms. Nor is his actual policy toward Iran and Yemen more than a few degrees different from Obama's. He's just carrying it out with no strings attached. They like that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 16:45:28 +0000 Kevin Drum 333221 at What Do Millennials Spend All Their Money On? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A few days ago, Australian real-estate mogul Tim Gurner had some harsh words for millennials who are unhappy that they can't afford to buy a house:</p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;When I was trying to buy my first home, <strong>I wasn&rsquo;t buying smashed avocado for $19</strong> and four coffees at $4 each,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day; they want travel to Europe every year.</p> <p>&ldquo;The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it,&rdquo; he said, adding that they &ldquo;saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder.&rdquo;</p> </blockquote> <p>This prompted a snarky, avocado-centric Twitter meme for a while, and the next day the <em>New York Times</em> even tried to <a href="" target="_blank">fact check Gurner's claim:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>According to the Food Institute, which analyzed Bureau of Labor Statistics expenditure data from 2015, people from 25 to 34 spent, on average, $3,097 on eating out. <strong>Data for this age group through the decades was not readily available</strong>....As for Mr. Gurner&rsquo;s second suggestion &mdash; skipping the European vacation &mdash; there is indeed an opportunity for savings, <strong>but research suggests millennials are the generation spending the least on travel.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>This is some strange stuff. In its current form, the BLS Consumer Expenditure Survey <a href="" target="_blank">goes back</a> to <a href="" target="_blank">the 80s,</a> so this data is indeed available through the decades. Still, at least this is an attempt to take Gurner seriously: he's not literally complaining about avocados on toast, but about a cavalier attitude toward money in general. So let's take a look at that. First, here are total expenditures for 25-34-year-olds:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ces_income_expenditures_percent_25-34_year-olds.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>As you can see, millennials spend a smaller proportion of their income than 25-34-year-olds did a generation ago. In the Reagan era, this age group spent 91 percent of their income. Today's millennials spend only 81 percent of their income.<sup>1</sup> Still, thanks to rising incomes their total expenditures clock in about $3,000 higher (adjusted for inflation) than young households in the 80s.</p> <p>But do they spend a big part of that income on fripperies, like lavish vacations and expensive dinners out? Let's look:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_ces_dining_entertainment_25-34_year-olds.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Three decades ago, 18-34-year-olds spent 10.5 percent of their income on entertainment and eating out. Millennials spend 8.6 percent. In real dollars, that represents a small decline. In other words, millennials are <em>more</em> frugal about dining and entertainment than past generations.</p> <p>So what <em>do</em> millennials spend their money on each year? They may have $3,000 more in disposable income than young families of the 80s and 90s, but they also spend:</p> <ul><li>About $1,000 more on health care.</li> <li>About $1,500 more on pensions and Social Security.</li> <li>About $2,000 more on overall housing (rent, maintenance, utilities, etc.).</li> <li>About $700 more on education.</li> </ul><p>If they're not buying houses, this is why. It's not because houses are more expensive: the average house costs about a third more than it did in the 80s and early 90s, but thanks to low interest rates the average mortgage payment is about the same or even a bit lower. But it's tough to scrape together a down payment when you're already running a tight ship on dining and entertainment and paying more than previous generations for health care, education, retirement, and student loans.</p> <p>That said, I'll add one more thing: our perceptions are probably a bit warped about this. Millennials who write about this stuff tend to live in media centers like New York or San Francisco or Washington DC, where housing is extremely expensive. Even with a decent income it's hard to afford anything more than a cramped apartment. In the rest of the country things are different, but we don't hear as much about that. Caveat emptor.</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The share of income not counted as expenditures includes taxes, student loans, credit card payments, savings, etc.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sun, 21 May 2017 14:23:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 333216 at Live From New York It's…(The End Of The Season Of) Saturday Night Live! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><em>Saturday Night Live </em>has been around forever. The first season wasn&rsquo;t even on TV, it was performed in the fields, where people lived for millennia prior to the advent of structures. Since then the NBC sketch show has experienced hills &amp; valleys in terms of both relevance and quality. Though the jury on the latter is still deliberating, with regard to the former it seems pretty safe to say 2017 is a peak. Everyone watches because of Trump &amp; co, a clownish bunch who are often hard to distinguish from satire in life but somehow still laid bare in comedy.</p> <p>The internet has done lots of fun and wonderful things but it&rsquo;s also done bad and terrible things and, most confusingly, things that are both good and bad. Facebook has turned the world into news consumers. That is both good and bad. Good: More readers of news! Bad: No one can escape the news. So these weeks we&rsquo;ve had of breaking news interrupting developing news interrupting holy shit omg news, and all of it very serious and terrible and dramatic and unreal, make everyone exhausted. They're exhausting. So we all gather around basic cable together, like our parents and their parents before us, for some cathartic jokes about Trump and his merry band of incompetent kleptocrats.</p> <p>One of my favorite lines is from the Hayden Carruth poem <em><a href="" target="_blank">Scrambled Eggs &amp; Whiskey</a></em>. "Here we are now in the White Tower, leaning on one another, too tired to go home."</p> <p>It us.</p> <p>Anyway, tonight is the season finale!</p> <p>The Rock is the host and Katy Perry, who I still can't hear without getting sad about the election, is the musical guest.</p> <p>The cold open had the Trumps (and Death?)&nbsp; singing <em>Hallelujah.</em></p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="353" scrolling="no" src=";width=630&amp;show_text=false&amp;appId=218542588205838&amp;height=353" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>It was a call back to this:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630">&amp;lt;br /&amp;gt;</iframe></p> <p>Then the Rock said he was going to run for president with Tom Hanks.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="353" scrolling="no" src=";width=630&amp;show_text=false&amp;appId=218542588205838&amp;height=353" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Remember a few inches above this when I was like, "Death?" That was supposed to be Steve Bannon in the cold open. It's a recurring thing. I forgot!</p> <p>Here's an earlier skit with Bannon as Death:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Then Alec Baldwin really took his Trump impersonation to a whole new level:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p>Just kidding. That is a scene from the 90s thriller <em>Malice</em>.</p> <p>This is the real clip from tonight. Alec does a perfect Trump impersonation.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p> <p><em>This post is being updated. </em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p></body></html> Contributor Sun, 21 May 2017 04:16:39 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 333211 at Road to Riyadh, Starring Donald Trump <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>President Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia is going great! Here's the first family arriving in Riyadh:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">I wonder if Trump's supporters will be upset to see how different Melania dressed on her departure vs arrival to Saudi.. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Hend Amry (@LibyaLiberty) <a href="">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>At least Melania isn't kowtowing to sexist Muslim custom by wearing a headscarf. Oh wait:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">There really is a tweet for everything. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Yashar (@yashar) <a href="">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Fine. But Trump himself is standing up for masculine American values, right?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump once criticized Obama for bowing to foreign leaders (as is customary).<br><br> Trump CURTSIES instead.<br><br><a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) <a href="">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>And here's the official readout of Trump's visit with the Saudi king:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_readout_saudi_arabia.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>What kind of pusillanimity is this? "Violent extremism" is an Obama-era euphemism used by people who refuse to look reality in the eye:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Is President Obama going to finally mention the words radical Islamic terrorism? If he doesn't he should immediately resign in disgrace!</p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="">June 12, 2016</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>If Trump isn't even willing to name the problem when he meets with the Saudi king, how can he possibly fight it?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 20 May 2017 17:08:19 +0000 Kevin Drum 333206 at Drunk Driving Followup: The Mystery Solved! <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Yesterday</a> I wrote about the mystery of drunk driving: if stricter laws and harsher punishments really are responsible for a decline in drunk driving, why is it that alcohol-related fatalities have only declined at the same rate as every other kind of road fatality? Is it possible that all those laws have been useless?</p> <p>I got several good responses, which confirmed that there's a bit of a mystery here but pointed out that my data only went back to 1994. This misses the significant drop in drunk driving during the 80s and early 90s. Then I got an email from Darren Grant, an economics professor at Sam Houston State University, pointing me to a paper that decomposes exactly what happened and when. Grant's paper, which relies on a microdata-based model of traffic fatalities, concludes that it's legitimate to use the percentage of all road fatalities that involve alcohol&mdash;which has been flat for many years&mdash;as a proxy for the amount of drunk driving. It also breaks down the reason for the decline in drunk driving during the 80s and 90s. Without further ado, <a href="" target="_blank">here is his chart:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_four_effects_drunk_driving.gif" style="margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>There are several takeaways from this:</p> <ul><li>During the 80s and early 90s, drunk driving decreased significantly.</li> <li>By the mid-90s, the level of drunk driving flattened out and has been flat ever since.</li> <li>The effect of <em>laws</em> on drunk driving has been pretty modest. That's the red band in the chart. Stricter laws are responsible for only a small fraction of the total decline.</li> </ul><p>There's potentially some good news here. Grant concludes that the biggest effect by far has been from social forces, namely the increased stigma associated with drunk driving. If you discount demographics, which we have no control over, social stigma accounts for about half the drop in drunk driving. This suggests that what we need isn't so much stricter laws, but a revitalized campaign to even further stigmatize drunk driving. I'm on board with that.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 20 May 2017 16:30:11 +0000 Kevin Drum 333201 at Saudis Suck Up to Trump With Shiny Gold Medal <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Look, I get that the Saudis want to ingratiate themselves with our gold-obsessed president. It makes total sense. But isn't this just a little too obvious?</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Trump receives Saudi Arabia&rsquo;s highest civilian honor <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; The Hill (@thehill) <a href="">May 20, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>Meh. Maybe not. Anyone with any self-awareness would sense overtones of mockery in such an over-the-top attempt to suck up, but not Trump. Subtlety is not the way to his heart. It's shiny! He likes it!</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 20 May 2017 15:27:54 +0000 Kevin Drum 333196 at Dropping Shoe Watch: "Every Day He Looks More and More Like a Complete Moron" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The <em>Daily Beast</em> has talked to a bunch of folks close to Donald Trump, and as usual <a href="" target="_blank">they can't help themselves:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>&ldquo;Okay, he fired Comey,&rdquo; the official conceded. &ldquo;With a semi-competent comms operation, that would blow over in 24 hours. And that&rsquo;s the worst part: he has a competent comms staff. <strong>But they can&rsquo;t do their jobs because he keeps running his mouth.</strong>&rdquo;</p> <p>....Trump&rsquo;s repeated media missteps have frustrated even longtime supporters. <strong>&ldquo;Every day he looks more and more like a complete moron,&rdquo; said one senior administration official</strong> who also worked on Trump&rsquo;s campaign. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t see Trump resigning or even being impeached, but at this point I wish he&rsquo;d grow a brain and be the man that he sold himself as on the campaign.&rdquo;</p> <p>Asked whether an administration staff change-up would ameliorate this latest crisis, a Republican source formerly involved with a pro-Trump political group told <em>The Daily Beast</em>, <strong>&ldquo;yes, if it comes with a frontal lobotomy for Trump.&rdquo;</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Remember, these are people <em>who are on Team Trump</em>. Elsewhere, Reuters reports that Trump is already working on ways to <a href="" target="_blank">sabotage its own special counsel:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The Trump administration is exploring whether it can use an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation into ties between President Donald Trump's campaign team and Russia, two people familiar with White House thinking said on Friday.</p> <p>....Within hours of Mueller's appointment on Wednesday, <strong>the White House began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations, which restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm&rsquo;s clients for one year after their hiring,</strong> the sources said....Mueller's former law firm, WilmerHale, represents Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who met with a Russian bank executive in December, and the president's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who is a subject of a federal investigation.</p> </blockquote> <p>Hmmm. Preventing the special counsel from investigating Manafort hardly seems worth the trouble. He's not close enough to the White House to cause too many problems even if he does turn out to be involved in something fishy. So that leaves Kushner. Is he the guy the Trumpies are trying to protect?</p> <p>On the bright side of all this, if you have some embarrassing news you've been waiting to release, now would be a good time. It's almost sure to be forgotten as soon as the next Trump shoe drops, which will probably take no more than a few hours.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Sat, 20 May 2017 01:16:36 +0000 Kevin Drum 333176 at FBI Russia Probe Is Targeting "Someone Close to the President" <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">Oh come on:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>President Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office this month that firing the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had relieved &ldquo;great pressure&rdquo; on him, according to a document summarizing the meeting.</p> <p><strong>&ldquo;I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,&rdquo;</strong> Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to <em>The New York Times</em> by an American official. <strong>&ldquo;I faced great pressure because of Russia. That&rsquo;s taken off.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>....The White House document that contained Mr. Trump&rsquo;s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office and has been circulated as the official account of the meeting. One official read quotations to <em>The Times</em>, and a second official confirmed the broad outlines of the discussion. <strong>Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, did not dispute the account.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>That's from the <em>New York Times</em>, and it's what Trump told the Russian ambassador and foreign minister the day after he fired Comey. Of course, Trump probably didn't realize that the Russians were already keenly familiar with Comey since the FBI is America's primary counterintelligence agency&mdash;that is, the agency that tracks down Russian spies. So they know perfectly well he's not crazy and not a nut job. I'll bet they also knew perfectly well that firing Comey was only going to <em>increase</em> the pressure on Trump over Russia. That's because they aren't idiots.</p> <p>The <em>Washington Post</em> reports on just <a href=";utm_term=.404db3cb8eee" target="_blank">what this increased pressure is turning into:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign <strong>has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest,</strong> showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government, according to people familiar with the matter.</p> <p>The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is <strong>someone close to the president,</strong> according to these people, who would not further identify the official.</p> </blockquote> <p>Stay tuned.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 19:24:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 333156 at Friday Cat Blogging - 19 May 2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>First things first: the answer to the origin of <a href="" target="_blank">yesterday's lunchtime photo.</a> It's a picture of the neon-lit Ferris wheel at the Santa Monica Pier. It's a 1-second exposure at night, one of several I took where I deliberately moved the camera while the shutter was open. Then I ran it through the dry brush filter in Photoshop.</p> <p>And now for catblogging. Here is Hopper trying to leap from one branch to another on one of our trees. It looks touch-and-go, but it actually wasn't. She immediately chinned herself onto the target branch, but the camera just happened to catch her mid-swing. I assure you that no cats were harmed in the making of this photo.</p> <p>However, you're all lucky I didn't make this into some variation on "donate to <em>Mother Jones</em> or the cat gets it." That would have been totally tasteless, and I'd never do that. But I <em>could</em> do it if I were that kind of person&mdash;and maybe I will if we don't make the $500,000 goal for our muckraking fund to investigate the Trump-Russia connection. We're getting close, but we're not quite there. So donate! Read more about it <a href="" target="_blank">here.</a> Or go straight to the donation page <a href=";pub_code=SDN&amp;term_pub=SDN&amp;term_pub_override=SDN&amp;b_country=United+States&amp;list_source=7H75CEN12&amp;term=XX.1.20.00.SDN.D.0.5533&amp;t=6ccdcbcb1640i4290cb2a0n4994d55addba" target="_blank">here.</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/hopper_hanging_tree.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 19:10:15 +0000 Kevin Drum 333151 at The Dead Pool - 19 May 2017 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Today we learned that Jim Donovan, a 25-year Goldman Sachs banking and investment management executive, <a href="" target="_blank">is pulling out as Trump's nominee to serve as Deputy Treasury Secretary.</a> Why? "Family concerns." That may be true, but it's also likely that he's rich and doesn't want to divest everything he owns just to be a deputy in a dysfunctional administration where he could get fired at any moment if the president gets annoyed with him.</p> <p>In other news, I've removed Sebastian Gorka from the dead pool since he still seems to be around. I'll put him back if and when he takes a position elsewhere in the administration that's allegedly more important than being on the president's staff.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_dead_pool_2017_05_19.gif" style="margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 18:52:32 +0000 Kevin Drum 333146 at Trumpcare Still Hasn't Been Sent to the Senate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>As we all know, the Republican health care bill can't survive a Democratic filibuster, so it's being considered via reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes in the Senate. That means the bill has to obey reconciliation rules.</p> <p>Normally, this is not a big problem. If some aspect of the House bill violates the rules, it gets removed in the Senate and life goes on. But what if the bill violates the prime rule of reconciliation&mdash;namely that it reduce the deficit? Then it's dead and everyone has to start all over. This means the House has to be pretty careful that their bill does indeed reduce the deficit.</p> <p>But how do they <em>know</em> if it reduces the deficit? Easy: the CBO scores the bill and tells them. But Paul Ryan famously rushed passage of the bill in the House before CBO had time to deliver a score, so no one knows for sure if it still reduces the deficit. <a href="" target="_blank">Bloomberg reports on what this means:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>House Speaker Paul Ryan hasn&rsquo;t yet sent the bill to the Senate</strong> because there&rsquo;s a chance that parts of it may need to be redone, depending on how the Congressional Budget Office estimates its effects...."I had no idea," Dennis Ross of Florida, another member of the vote-counting team, said Thursday, <strong>adding that the prospect of another vote "does concern me."</strong> GOP leaders never said publicly they were planning to hold on to the bill for two weeks or longer.</p> </blockquote> <p>In the end, I imagine the bill will get scored as a deficit reduction and then be sent to the Senate. But the fact that Ryan is still holding onto the bill shows that he knew perfectly well how irresponsible it was to force a vote before the CBO delivers a score. In addition to being callous and malignant, the whole thing is also a massive FUBAR.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 18:28:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333136 at Has the Campaign Against Drunk Driving Been Successful? <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Over at NRO, Kevin Williamson takes Chris Hayes to task for implying that we <a href="" target="_blank">don't pay enough attention to drunk driving:</a></p> <blockquote> <p><strong>The fight against drunk driving is a success story.</strong> A big one....In fact, the campaign against drunk driving is one of the great examples of how policy-driven social changes of the sort imagined by progressives such as Chris Hayes can succeed &mdash; and it also demonstrates the shortcomings of that model.</p> <p>....Overall, we&rsquo;ve cut DUI deaths and injuries by about 50 percent. Well done, us. <strong>We did it with invasive and paternalistic laws that lend themselves to occasional abuse and wanton mission creep, punishments that have tended toward the draconian, a campaign of social stigmatization, and heavy expenditures</strong>....That&rsquo;s what real, effective social change looks like: a role for public policy, sure, but also changes in personal behavior, social norms, and economic activity, coupled with trade-offs and progress that is meaningful if modest.</p> </blockquote> <p>This gives me an excuse to put up some statistics that have puzzled me for a while. Williamson is right that plenty of people credit stricter laws, checkpoints, social stigma and so forth for cutting drunk driving deaths over the past few decades. But does the data actually support this notion? I'm not so sure. For starters, here's the DUI arrest rate in California over the <a href="" target="_blank">past</a> 20 <a href="" target="_blank">years:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_california_dui_arrests_1994_2013.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>I'm sure that nationwide data for this is available somewhere, but I'm not sure where. In any case, I imagine that California is pretty typical, and the data on DUI arrests sure doesn't suggest that police activity toward drunk driving has gotten a lot more severe over the past couple of decades. Just the opposite, in fact. Of course, this decline in arrest rates is partly because there are just fewer drunk drivers to arrest, thanks to social stigma etc. Right? National data <a href="" target="_blank">doesn't really back that up:</a></p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_traffic_fatalities_alcohol_1994_2014_0.gif" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>Drunk driving fatalities have almost perfectly followed the overall trend toward fewer traffic fatalities as people drove less during the Great Recession. Outside of that period, both overall fatalities and drunk driving fatalities were pretty flat (or down modestly if you account for population growth and total miles driven). Fewer people are killed by drunk drivers these days, but it appears to be for the same reasons&mdash;air bags, fewer miles driven, etc.&mdash;that fewer overall people are killed on the road.</p> <p>It's unquestionably true that drunk driving laws are stricter, social stigma has increased, and punishment is heavier than in the past. But in the past two decades, at least, this really doesn't seem to have changed things much. Relative to our our overall penchant for killing people on the road, drunk drivers are killing people at about the same rate as always.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 17:02:51 +0000 Kevin Drum 333131 at Republican Incompetence May Finally Sink Obamacare <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Donald Trump may or may not be <em>trying</em> to destroy Obamacare, but his sheer incompetence is doing the job regardless. Noam Levey spoke to health insurance companies about <a href="" target="_blank">their plans for 2018:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Health insurers across the country are making plans to dramatically raise Obamacare premiums or exit marketplaces amid <strong>growing exasperation with the Trump administration&rsquo;s erratic management, inconsistent guidance and seeming lack of understanding of basic healthcare issues.</strong></p> <p>....Privately, many executives, including chief executives of major health plans, offered withering criticism of the Trump administration&rsquo;s lack of leadership. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard to know who&rsquo;s home,&rdquo; said one chief executive. &ldquo;We don&rsquo;t know who is making decisions.&rdquo; Another chief executive said: &ldquo;There seems to be no coordination or coherent planning....It&rsquo;s a mess.&rdquo; A third official observed: <strong>&ldquo;There is a sense that there are no hands on the wheel and they are just letting the bus careen down the road.&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>....The uncertainty created by Trump comes as some Obamacare markets were beginning to stabilize, according to many industry and government officials. In several states, insurers and regulators noted that 2017 was shaping up to be a better year than the first several years of the marketplaces.</p> </blockquote> <p>In addition, Trump's team continues to haul out the threat of killing CSR subsidies. Trump has done it twice with Democrats, and Levey reports that a Trump appointee has also done it with insurers: "At one recent meeting, Seema Verma, whom Trump picked to oversee the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, stunned insurance industry officials by suggesting a bargain: The administration would fund the CSRs if insurers supported the House Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 'It made no sense,' said one official at the meeting."</p> <p>(The Trump administration denies Verma said this. But I assume they're lying.)</p> <p>Trump is both incompetent and a terrible negotiator&mdash;and that combination is wreaking havoc with the insurance market. If Trump really does kill the CSR subsidies and stops enforcing the individual mandate, insurance prices are going to go through the roof. Ironically, that wouldn't affect the poor too much, since their premiums are capped at a percentage of income. But for middle-class buyers, especially those over 50, it would be a disaster as premiums skyrocket.</p> <p>Republicans have been claiming forever that Obamacare is failing. That's been flatly untrue: Obamacare has its issues, but has basically been running just fine&mdash;and the Congressional Budget Office projects that it will continue to to run just fine for years. Apparently this is too much for Republicans to bear, so now that they're in power they're going to <em>force</em> it to fail. The sheer callousness and venom this displays is breathtaking.</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 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Fri, 19 May 2017 14:40:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 333106 at