MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones Mother Jones logo en Meet New AHCA, Same as Old AHCA <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The long awaited <a href="" target="_blank">CBO score of the new Republican health care bill</a> is out! You're excited, aren't you? Without further ado, here's the CBO's key chart showing how much better new AHCA is than old AHCA:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_old_ahca_new_ahca_1.gif" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>As you can see, under old AHCA the number of poor with no insurance rose from 15-20 percent under Obamacare to 30-40 percent under AHCA. But under <em>new</em> AHCA, it's more like 29-39 percent. Hot diggity! Here are a few other numbers:</p> <ul><li>Old AHCA reduced the deficit by $150 billion (over ten years). New AHCA reduces the deficit by $119 billion.</li> <li>Old AHCA took away insurance from 24 million people (by 2026). New AHCA takes it away from 23 million.</li> <li>Old AHCA cut Medicaid by $839 billion (over ten years). New AHCA cuts Medicaid by $834 billion.</li> <li>Under old AHCA, a low-income 64-year-old pays a premium of $14,600. Under new AHCA, the bill is $16,100. On the bright side, states that take advantage of new AHCA's permission to gut essential benefits can get that premium all the way down to $13,600. This compares to $1,700 under Obamacare.</li> </ul><p>Those are some mighty big changes, aren't they? You can certainly understand why the (former) head of the Republican "moderate" caucus worked so hard to revive AHCA and make these adjustments. It's like a whole new bill.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 May 2017 22:23:10 +0000 Kevin Drum 333691 at The US Lost Track of a Billion Dollars Worth of Weapons in Iraq—Again <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In June 2014, Iraqi forces dropped their weapons, shed their uniforms, and abandoned their posts as ISIS militants stormed into and <a href="" target="_blank">captured Mosul</a>. More than a year later, the United States began funneling $1.6 billion worth of new weaponry and other support to the beleaguered Iraqi army. The arsenal <a href="" target="_blank">included</a> tens of thousands of assault rifles, hundreds of armored vehicles, hundreds of mortar rounds, nearly 200 sniper rifles, and other gear.</p> <p>What happened to much of it is now a mystery. According to a government audit obtained by <a href="" target="_blank">Amnesty International</a>, the US Army admits that it failed to accurately track this recent infusion of arms and other military supplies.</p> <p>The now-declassified <a href="" target="_blank">Department of Defense audit</a>, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, reveals that efforts to keep track of weapons being sent to Iraq have been plagued by sloppy, fragmented, and inaccurate record keeping. The audit concluded that the Army unit in charge of transferring materiel to the Iraqi government "could not provide complete data for the quantity and dollar value of equipment on hand"&mdash;including large items such as vehicles.</p> <p>This is not a new development. "If you do look back at previous audits, almost word for word, you get the same recommendations about the fact that they can't centralize records, they've got records spread across different spreadsheets, it's very difficult for them to locate weapons as they pass down the chain," says Patrick Wilcken,&nbsp;Amnesty International's arms control and human rights researcher. He notes that some Iraqi supply records are hand-written paper receipts.</p> <p>The problem predates the current conflict by more than a decade. In 2007, the <a href="" target="_blank">Government Accountability Office</a> found that the United States could not account for nearly 30 percent of the weapons it had distributed in Iraq since 2004&mdash;about 200,000 guns. The situation does not appear to have improved much since then. In 2015, the Pentagon's inspector general reported that the Iraqi army relies on "a manual, paper-based system for tracking supplies and equipment." Even US and Iraqi personnel supervising arms depots did not know where specific weapons were supposed to be. Last year, Commander Elissa Smith, a Defense Department spokeswoman, told <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Mother Jones</em></a>, "The bottom line is that the US military does not have a means to track equipment that has been taken from the government of Iraq by" ISIS.</p> <div class="inline inline-center" style="display: table; width: 1%"><img alt="" class="image" src="/files/DoDaudit.jpeg"><div class="caption">Department of Defense</div> </div> <p>The most recent audit notes that the Army couldn't even tell whether certain equipment was in Kuwait or Iraq. It also claims that once military gear is transferred to the Iraqis, "it is no longer U.S. Government property" and the Pentagon "is relieved of responsibility to account for the equipment." The Pentagon's <a href="" target="_blank">Golden Sentry program</a>, however, requires that military supplies sent to foreign governments must be checked after delivery to ensure they are being used properly.</p> <p>US-manufactured and supplied weapons in Iraq have made their way into the hands of ISIS fighters as well as paramilitary militias such as the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units that <a href="" target="_blank">have carried out</a> summary executions, torture, and disappearances. Some of those militias have officially been incorporated into the Iraqi military. "This has been a constant feature of the Middle East and arms transfers," Wilcken says. "Weapons go in, and maybe they serve their purpose for a short time, and then they come back to bite the suppliers. In Iraq, the weapons are not just spreading out into armed groups operating in Iraq but filtering back into the Syrian conflict as well."</p> <p>"There is a critical security situation in Iraq," says Wilcken. Yet he says that funneling weapons into the country without effective monitoring fuels arms proliferation as well as human rights violations throughout the region. "If the [the United States is] investing billions of dollars in equipment, training, and assistance to the Iraqi army but not spending a little extra to ensure that this can lead to a long-term sustainable security solution, then that's a distortion of their investments. They should be doubling down on securing arms supplies and checking that they're not being handed out to serial violators."</p></body></html> Politics Foreign Policy Military Wed, 24 May 2017 21:40:22 +0000 Bryan Schatz 333546 at Watch Betsy DeVos Dodge Questions About How She’d Deal With Private Schools That Discriminate <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In her first appearance before Congress since her <a href="" target="_blank">contentious</a> confirmation hearing in January, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos refused to say whether she would step in to withhold federal funding from private schools that discriminate against LGBT students.</p> <p>Speaking before the House appropriations subcommittee Wednesday to defend the administration's <a href="" target="_blank">proposal</a> to cut $10.6 billion from the&nbsp;education department's budget, DeVos pushed her familiar school choice message, arguing that states should be left to create their own voucher programs and that parents should be able to pick schools that can best serve their children.</p> <p>But she quickly faced pushback from the subcommittee's Democratic members. Rep. Katharine Clark (D-Mass.) asked DeVos if she could think of a "situation of discrimination or exclusion that, if a state approved it for its voucher program, that you would step in and say, 'That's not how we're going to use our federal dollars'?" Clark pointed to Indiana's Lighthouse Christian Academy, where students <a href="" target="_blank">could</a> be denied admission if they come from homes that violate biblical lifestyle standards&mdash;anything from "homosexual or bisexual activity" to "practicing alternate gender identity."</p> <p>"We have to do something different than continuing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach," DeVos responded. "States and local communities are best equipped to make decisions and framework on behalf of their students."</p> <p>Later, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> it was "appalling and sad" that the federal government would step away from its responsibility to protect students from discrimination. DeVos clarified that the education department would continue to investigate allegations of discrimination, despite the proposed $1.7 million cut to the department's Office of Civil Rights. "I want to be very clear: I am not in any way suggesting that students should not be protected and should not be in the safe and secure and nurturing learning environment," she said.</p> <p>Watch the full exchange below:</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="354" src="" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Politics Video Congress Education Gay Rights Race and Ethnicity Wed, 24 May 2017 21:33:18 +0000 Edwin Rios 333621 at Paul Ryan Says the GOP Health Bill Will Lower Premiums. That's Very Misleading. <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>The Congressional Budget Office delivered brutal news to House Republicans on Wednesday. Their health care bill will cost 23 million people their health insurance over the next decade, according to the <a href="" target="_blank">CBO's new analysis</a>.</p> <p>House Republicans passed their health care plan, the American Health Care Act, earlier this month, before the CBO had time to run the numbers. As Republicans now struggle to defend the bill they've already approved, they've latched onto one piece of good news contained in the CBO report: The average premiums will decrease between 4 percent and 20 percent by 2026. The drop will vary by state, depending on which states take advantage of waivers in the bill that would allow less generous coverage.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">This <a href="">@USCBO</a> report again confirms that the American Health Care Act will lower premiums and the deficit. <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) <a href="">May 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>While technically true, this argument is highly misleading. The CBO does not prophesy a buffet of cheap plans for buyers on the individual market to choose from. Instead, it is simply calculating the average premium it believes people will pay on the open market under the House Republicans' health care plan. And there are two main reasons the CBO believes that average will ultimately fall. First, plans will be cheaper because they will provide less coverage. Second, because the bill allows insurers to charge older people more and provides less generous subsidies, many older, sicker people will be priced out. Put simply, the average premium goes down because the market will target young, healthy people while pricing out older, sicker people.</p> <p>"Both the scope of benefits would be less and then the population would change, and that's why premiums would go down," says Edwin Park, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In short, comparing today's premiums to those under the GOP bill is comparing apples and oranges. In this case, the apples are comprehensive plans available to all, and the oranges are skimpier plans geared toward the young and healthy. For most people keeping the same coverage, according to Park, premiums would actually go up.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">And the killer table: A lower-income 64-year-old would still see their premiums rise by $12k to $14k <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; Jordan Weissmann (@JHWeissmann) <a href="">May 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>When the CBO scored the first iteration of the GOP health care bill in March, it predicted that in 10 years, premiums would be 10 percent lower on average. In the latest version, Republicans have managed to drive premiums down even further, by around 20 percent in states that choose to take advantage of coverage waivers. This is accomplished by allowing insurance companies to offer even stingier plans than in the previous version of the bill. The current bill alters the requirement under current law that insurers cover <a href="" target="_blank">essential health benefits</a>, such as prescriptions, mental health treatment, and maternity and newborn care, allowing states to greatly roll back the kinds of care that are included. "The average premium is weighted by what they think people are going to enroll in, and that's going to be less generous plans," Park says.</p> <p>But lower premiums may not result in meaningful savings. According to the CBO, although premiums will go down, out-of-pocket costs will rise substantially. The Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, required plans to cover at least 70 percent of all eligible benefits. But that provision is gone in the House GOP bill, resulting in plans with higher deductibles and more out-of-pocket costs for covered services. And whereas Obamacare has a cost-sharing feature to help low-income Americans with their co-pays and deductibles, the GOP bill eliminates this extra funding.</p> <p>As the CBO's analysis states, "Although premiums would decline, on average, in states that chose to narrow the scope of [essential health benefits], some people enrolled in nongroup insurance would experience substantial increases in what they would spend on health care." The report singles out "out-of-pocket spending on maternity care and mental health and substance abuse services," predicting that people on the individual market would see their costs increase by "thousands of dollars in a given year."</p> <p>People who prefer a more comprehensive plan with lower deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses may be out of luck. Cheaper plans with minimal coverage will attract the healthiest people. The CBO predicts that insurers will stop offering more comprehensive plans&mdash;those equivalent to today's gold or platinum plans&mdash;because they assume that mostly sicker people will buy them.</p> <p>So when Republicans brag that their plan lowers premiums, that's true. But it does it by providing worse coverage to fewer people with higher out-of-pocket expenses. Only the young and healthy are likely to save under the new plan&mdash;at least until they get sick.</p></body></html> Politics Health Care Wed, 24 May 2017 21:26:51 +0000 Pema Levy 333111 at How a "10-Hour Film" About Race and Police Violence Made It On Network Television <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>Fox's limited event series, <em>Shots Fired</em>, ends its 10-episode season tonight. The show, which stars Stephan James, Sanaa Lathan, and my father, Richard Dreyfuss, centers around a small North Carolina community plunged into chaos after a black police officer, Joshua Beck, shoots a&nbsp;white college student, Jesse Carr, who had allegedly reached for a gun during a traffic stop. When Department of Justice investigators arrive, they soon uncover a second mystery: Only weeks earlier, a young black teen named Joey Campbell had been killed. But by whom?</p> <p>In March, my colleague Brandon Patterson <a href="" target="_blank">spoke to co-creator Reggie Bythewood about the show's origins</a>. As this "10-hour film" (as the creators call it) prepares to wrap up, I spoke with Bythewood and co-creator Gina Prince-Bythewood, his wife, for an update on what to expect in the finale and what the series has taught them about the risks and rewards of depicting race and police violence on network television.</p> <p><strong>Mother Jones:</strong> How was directing the finale?</p> <p><strong>Reggie Bythewood:</strong> You're always in the hot seat as a director, but doing the final hour of the 10-event series was a lot of pressure, but I would say <em>really</em> <em>good </em>pressure. This was the hour that allowed us to see what really happens between Joey Campbell and the people who surrounded him. And it allows us to see what really happened between Jessie Carr and Beck. The fact that we have those revelations is great.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> You've said that you first had the idea for the show when Trayvon Martin was killed.</p> <p><strong>RG:</strong> After the Zimmerman verdict came in, I showed our oldest boy this <a href="" target="_blank">Emmett Till</a> documentary. And out of that he wrote this story about Trayvon Martin going to heaven and meeting Emmett Till. That story ended up being in hour five of <em>Shots Fired</em>.</p> <p>Emmett Till felt like this ghost that always haunted us. When you came up the elevator to our writers' room, the first thing you saw was a big picture of Emmett Till. Everybody who walked in had to pay homage to Emmett. The last day shooting the finale ended up being Emmett Till's birthday. So it made directing this feel like a spiritual process.</p> <p>There were a lot of tears shooting our final scenes. It wasn't just our lead actors who were crying. It was also our background actors who were crying and hugging. It really felt like everybody came together, believing in challenging people's points of view, raising consciousness, and making this world better for all of us.</p> <p>The other thing that was great to have was great actors with such passion for what we were trying to do. It's great to see Sanaa&nbsp;Lathan going toe-to-toe with Richard Dreyfuss. There were times when you could see the two of them just get together and elevate the scene.</p> <p>And even in the finale, there's a scene where Stephan James, who plays Preston, is going after Arlen [Dreyfuss], who's on the stand testifying before the grand jury. It's these two guys, like boxers, using their own tactics to try to win.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> One of the things I found so interesting about Arlen, my dad's character, is that he was inspired in part by <a href="" target="_blank">the case in Tulsa where a reserve deputy sheriff </a>shot and killed an unarmed man when he&nbsp;accidentally grabbed&nbsp;his pistol instead of his taser.</p> <p><strong>RB:</strong> In the news, there was so much focus on the shooter and whether or not he meant to pull his taser. But, the biggest story to us, which never really got great media attention, was that this police department was essentially running "tours" and letting wealthy folks come in and pay for the opportunity to be police officers with little training.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> And they were letting them come in because they were donating to the police force and then doing some small amount of training and then were like not really deputized, but were allowed to take a gun&mdash;</p> <p><strong>Gina Bythewood:</strong> The fact that they were allowed to have a firearm and they had falsified the training records because these men had not been properly trained. They were not just playing cop in the suburbs and they're not playing cop on college campuses&mdash;they were playing cops in black neighborhoods. What is that mentality? Like why do you want to do that? It really is horrifying that that was allowed to go on, for the thrill for these rich white individuals who wanted to play cops.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> I think most people don't know that sort of thing is happening.</p> <p><strong>GB:</strong> Yeah, I mean it's just so corrupt, the system. The show is basically a 10-hours-long seminar about how the system is corrupt from the streets all the way up to the highest level of government, and there's so much collusion based on money and power. Once you know about it, you can't unknow it, and it really will make you an activist. For us, the show was our effort at being activists.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> I know my dad feels the same way.</p> <p><strong>GB:</strong> The fact that this is on the air still surprises us sometimes: the fact that Fox put it on the air and never told us to pull back on anything we said, and that they're proud of the show. We feel very, very lucky that we got to do this event series.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> Presumably there were a lot of people who were surprised that this was on Fox, because people conflate Fox with Fox News.</p> <p><strong>GB:</strong> Yes. Yep.</p> <p><strong>MJ:</strong> Fox News at the moment is going through a bunch of stuff, but at the same time, 20th Century Fox is doing separate and fantastic things, and I think there must have been a lot of surprised reactions. Did you guys get a lot of that?</p> <p><strong>RB:</strong> Initially when people saw the subject matter and they saw that it was going to be on Fox, they attributed it to Fox News and thought, "Okay, well now this is going to be a show that says it's showing all sides, but really it's showing how the Black Lives Matter movement is horrible, how activists are horrible, how police reformers are horrible, and only taking one side."</p> <p><strong>GB: </strong>The nervousness was something we had to fight against, and make clear that this was a Fox project, not Fox News.</p> <p><strong>RB:</strong> Even in the beginning, Gina and I had asked, "Wait, are you going to really let us do this?" To be honest, we initially had those questions and we were actually blown away that we've been able to do this show on network TV, not cable.</p> <p><strong>MJ: </strong>The show is billed as a special event series, but do you have plans for a second season?</p> <p><strong>GB:</strong> From the beginning, we knew we wanted it to have a beginning, middle, and end and wanted the audience to know they were going to get a conclusion.</p> <p><strong>RB:</strong> We needed to do a first season that felt uncompromising and really reflected the type of storytelling we wanted to do. Once all that was done, if it really felt great&mdash;and if the network wants to&mdash;I know we can figure it out. If we were to do a second season, it would be tackling another social issue that has not been addressed in TV yet, as well.</p> <p><em>Watch the season finale of </em>Shots Fired<em> tonight at 8 PM&nbsp;ET/PT on FOX.</em></p> <p><em>This interview has been edited for length and clarity.&nbsp;</em></p></body></html> Media Media Wed, 24 May 2017 21:18:56 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 333596 at 23 Million More Uninsured: Read the CBO's Report on the GOP Health Care Bill <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>We now know roughly how many people will have health insurance under the bill to repeal Obamacare that House Republicans passed earlier this month. Late Wednesday afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office released its report analyzing the effects of the GOP's bill. It estimated that by 2026, 23 million fewer people would have insurance under the Republican plan than under current law.</p> <p>In total, 51 million would be uninsured by 2026 (compared to 28 million under current law). And those changes come fast. The CBO projects that 14 million additional people will be uninsured by next year if the GOP bill becomes law.</p> <p>The CBO's new report predicts a grim market for people who are sicker or older. It predicts that about one-third of the US population will live in states the will opt out of at least some of the so-called "essential health benefits" that Obamacare currently requires insurers to cover. That would lower the average price of premiums but raise out-of-pocket costs.</p> <p>In one hypothetical, the CBO anticipates that insurance companies might no longer include maternity coverage as a basic benefit, instead offering it as a separate add-on that could cost up to $17,000 per year. "Offering benefits in the form of riders segments people with certain health care risks from the larger pool of people purchasing nongroup insurance," the CBO says. "That segmentation causes a small decrease in the premiums for the larger pool, but it substantially increases the out-of-pocket costs of those people who use health care benefits that are not on the mandated list." The CBO also singles out mental health and substance abuse as benefits that insurers may no longer cover.</p> <p>And one-sixth of states would go even further, not just ditching essential benefits but also allowing insurance companies to charge higher fees for people with preexisting conditions. "Over time," the CBO says, "less healthy individuals (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all."</p> <p>After mainline Republicans initially balked at overturning preexisting condition protections, GOP leadership added in an extra $8 billion to help sick people obtain coverage. But the CBO sees that money as immaterial, "because the funding would not be sufficient to substantially reduce the large increases in premiums for high-cost enrollees."</p> <p>The CBO had scored an earlier version of the Republican bill back in March. At the time, it projected that 24 million people would lose health insurance thanks to the bill. But the hard right of the Republican caucus rejected that iteration of the bill. House leadership had to include a new amendment that offered states the option to rip away Obamacare's core consumer protections. The current bill would allow insurance companies to sidestep Obamacare's ban on charging extra for people with preexisting conditions.</p> <p>But once Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) got the votes he needed, he didn't want to waste any time or let an economic analysis muck up his vote. Breaking with norms, Ryan and the Republican leadership rushed through the new version of their health care bill before the CBO had time to run the numbers. The bill narrowly passed the House in a 217-213 vote, with no support from Democrats. Three weeks later, the CBO's numbers are finally out.</p> <p>Read the CBO's report below:</p> <div class="DC-embed DC-embed-document DV-container" id="DV-viewer-3731719-CBO-Health-Care-Report">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//"></script><script> DV.load("", { responsive: true, sidebar: false, text: false, container: "#DV-viewer-3731719-CBO-Health-Care-Report" }); </script><noscript> <a href="">CBO Health Care Report (PDF)</a> <br><a href="">CBO Health Care Report (Text)</a> </noscript> <p><em>This is a breaking news story that will be updated.</em></p></body></html> Politics Congress Health Health Care Wed, 24 May 2017 20:40:55 +0000 Patrick Caldwell 333626 at Lunchtime Photo <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>This is my neighborhood a little after sunrise. Marian loves this picture and insisted that I put it up. I took it several weeks ago, and I can't remember quite why I was up and about at such an ungodly hour.</p> <p>You can't see our house, however. As I recall, the houses on the water cost about a third more than the houses that backed up to the main street, so we bought a house that backed up to the main street. This used to be something of a pain, because the dog people walked their dogs early in the morning right outside our bedroom window, and their dogs would all bark at each other when they passed by. For some reason that stopped a few years ago. Perhaps there was some big community meeting where the dog people and the late risers had it out once and for all. If so, I was blissfully unaware of the whole thing. Whatever the reason, it's pretty quiet these days except when the crows start squawking. I don't know what has them so upset lately, but they've sure been making a racket for the past couple of weeks.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_lakeside_morning_0.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 May 2017 19:30:05 +0000 Kevin Drum 333491 at Housing Prices Are Booming in Southern California <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p><a href="" target="_blank">From the <em>LA Times</em> today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>The median home price in Los Angeles County <strong>has reached the all-time high set in 2007,</strong> a milestone that follows five years of steady recovery but comes amid renewed concerns over housing affordability. Home prices rose nearly 6% in April from a year earlier, hitting the $550,000 level where the median plateaued in summer 2007 before a sharp decline that bottomed out in 2012.</p> <p>....<strong>Orange County surpassed its pre-bust high last year,</strong> and in April set a new record of $675,000. <strong>San Diego County also exceeded its pre-bust peak for the first time last month,</strong> as the median price &mdash; the point at which half the homes sold for more and half for less &mdash; climbed 7.4% to $525,000.</p> </blockquote> <p>Inflation has risen 20 percent since 2007, so this means home prices in Southern California haven't really set a record. They're still 20 percent away from that. Here's how CoreLogic scores the current housing market compared to its bubble peak:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_corelogic_housing_2006_2017.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p>So things look OK. Loan delinquencies are low, credit scores have remained high, and national housing prices are high but not stratospheric.</p> <p>And yet...Southern California, Arizona, and Florida are all overvalued. That's three out of the four states that led the bubble in 2006. Even Texas, which avoided the last bubble, is looking high. And anecdotally, homes are selling pretty fast around here.</p> <p>This is the kind of thing that makes me think we might be back into a recession by 2018. The expansion is nine years old, unemployment is about as low as it can get, housing prices are increasing at a good clip, auto sales are anemic, and corporate profits are rising steeply. On the other side of the ledger, economic growth and wage growth are pretty modest, and there are no signs of an oil price spike around the corner.</p> <p>I dunno. Things just feel a little fragile right now. But maybe I'm off base.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 May 2017 19:22:12 +0000 Kevin Drum 333601 at Trump Isn't Enforcing His Plan to Avoid Violating the Emoluments Clause <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>In January, Donald Trump's lawyer said that the Trump Organization would donate any profits earned at Trump hotels from a foreign government to the US Treasury. The move was supposedly an attempt to stay on the right side of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, <a href="" target="_blank">which prohibits US government officials from taking gifts</a> or benefiting from foreign governments. Ethics experts <a href="" target="_blank">noted</a> that the pledge, issued by attorney Sheri Dillon, did not truly address this violation of the Constitution. Trump needed to divest his ownership of the hotels, they contended. And now new documents released by congressional Democrats show that Trump is not taking even his insufficient effort seriously.</p> <p>Because Trump still owns his hotel properties and companies that operate hotels, anyone&mdash;a person or business here or overseas, or a foreign government&mdash;can directly line the pockets of the US president <a href="" target="_blank">simply by reserving rooms or renting out conference or banquet facilities</a> at a Trump hotel. Since the inauguration, several foreign governments have rented space at the Trump hotel in Washington, DC, and foreign diplomats have reported being approached by Trump hotel staff soliciting business.</p> <p>To address the emoluments issue, profits from these sort of transactions involving foreign governments are supposed to go to the US Treasury. But it's hard to determine what counts as profit. And under the plan developed by Dillon, the calculation of profit would be made by the Trump Organization itself, without independent oversight. And there would be no auditing to ensure that all money from foreign governments was covered.</p> <p>How does the Trump Organization determine which foreign funds ought to be donated? Not too assiduously, it appears. The House Oversight Committee several weeks ago asked the Trump Organization for information on this process. In response, the company sent the committee a nine-page pamphlet that instructs staff at its properties on how to handle this matter. The pamphlet indicates that the Trump Organization is not enthusiastic about gathering this information and doesn't want its guests bothered by any efforts to comply with the Emoluments Clause.</p> <p>The pamphlet notes that the hotels should not calculate the profit from foreign patronage but rather estimate it. After all, it says, calculating the actual profit would take a lot of effort: "To attempt to individually track and distinctly attribute certain business-related costs as specifically identifiable to a particular customer group is not practical, nor would it even be possible without an inordinate amount of time, resources and specialists."</p> <p>The pamphlet presents a formula by which managers can estimate how much money should head to the US Treasury. In one example, a hotel that earned $10 million in revenue but had $8.5 million in expenses would be considered to have a profit of 15 percent. If it took in $500,000 from foreign governments, it should donate 15 percent of that revenue&mdash;that is, $75,000&mdash;to the US Treasury. (This basic formula does not take into account the complexities of actual transactions. For instance, what if a foreign government bought $1 million in services from a Trump hotel that was only breaking even? This would certainly benefit Trump, but none of these funds would end up being donated.)</p> <p>When it comes to identifying foreign revenues, the pamphlet tells Trump hotel staff not to try too hard, for that could annoy the customers: "To fully and completely identify all patronage at our Properties by customer type is impractical in the service industry and putting forth a policy that requires all guests to identify themselves would impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand." So, the pamphlet points out, the Trump Organization will not try to identify customers who do not inform the hotel that they are representing a foreign government.</p> <p>The pamphlet, which you can read in full below, was released by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee <a href="" target="_blank">along with a letter</a> sent to the Trump Organization<strong> </strong>on Wednesday morning. The letter, signed by Rep. Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the committee, complained that the company had failed to fully explain how it would avoid violating the Emoluments Clause.</p> <p>In the letter, Cummings scolded the Trump Organization for its seemingly lackadaisical approach. "This pamphlet raises grave concerns about the President's refusal to comply with the Constitution merely because he believes it is 'impractical' and could 'diminish the guest experience of our brand,'" he wrote. "Complying with the United States Constitution is not an option exercise but a requirement for serving as our nation's President."</p> <p>A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization sent <em>Mother Jones</em> a brief statement, acknowledging receipt of the letter: "We have received and are in the process of reviewing the letter. We take these matters seriously and are fully committed to complying with all of our legal and ethical obligations."</p> <div class="DC-embed DC-embed-document DV-container" id="DV-viewer-3731496-Trump-Org-Pamphlet-on-Foreign-Profits">&nbsp;</div> <script src="//"></script><script> DV.load("", { responsive: true, height: 400, container: "#DV-viewer-3731496-Trump-Org-Pamphlet-on-Foreign-Profits" }); </script><noscript> <a href="">Trump Org Pamphlet on Foreign Profits (PDF)</a> <br><a href="">Trump Org Pamphlet on Foreign Profits (Text)</a> </noscript></body></html> Politics Donald Trump Wed, 24 May 2017 19:17:38 +0000 Russ Choma 333541 at Donald Trump Really Likes to Drop Military Secrets Into His Conversations <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" ""> <html><body><p>A couple of days ago <em>The Intercept</em> released a <a href="" target="_blank">leaked transcript</a> of President Trump's recent phone call with President Duterte of the Philippines. Here's a piece of it:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_trump_submarines.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="630"></p> <p><em>BuzzFeed's</em> Nancy Youssef got some feedback about this from <a href="" target="_blank">folks in the Pentagon:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>Pentagon officials are in shock after the release of a transcript between President Donald Trump and his Philippines counterpart reveals that the US military had moved two nuclear submarines towards North Korea. <strong>&ldquo;We never talk about subs!&rdquo;</strong> three officials told <em>BuzzFeed News</em>, referring to the military's belief that keeping submarines' movement stealth is key to their mission.</p> <p>....By announcing the presence of nuclear submarines, the president, some Pentagon officials privately explained, gives away the element of surprise &mdash; an irony given his repeated declarations during the campaign that the US announces far too many of its military plans when it comes to combatting ISIS.</p> <p>Moreover, some countries in the region, particularly China, seek to develop their anti-sub capability. <strong>Knowing that two US submarines are in the region could allow them to test their own military capabilities.</strong></p> </blockquote> <p>Needless to say, Trump wasn't expecting that his conversation would be leaked. But these things happen&mdash;along with other ways that private conversations can end up in the wrong hands&mdash;which is why presidents don't just casually drop military secrets into meetings with foreigners for no better reason than to make themselves look tough. This is now (at least) the second time Trump has done this, and there's a price to pay:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-cards="hidden" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">1/2 Why Trump&rsquo;s &ldquo;we&rsquo;ve sent the subs!&rdquo; gaffe can be so damaging:<br> Now that CN/RUS *know* US subs were there, can go back &amp; calibrate sensors. <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; James Fallows (@JamesFallows) <a href="">May 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-cards="hidden" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">2/2 &ldquo;This is how it looked when subs were there; we&rsquo;ll look for that pattern again.&rdquo;<br> N Yousef story <a href=""></a></p> &mdash; James Fallows (@JamesFallows) <a href="">May 24, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>We're quickly reaching the point where intelligence agencies, both foreign and domestic, are going to start withholding information from Trump because they don't trust him to keep his yap shut. We might already be there, for all I know.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 24 May 2017 18:12:22 +0000 Kevin Drum 333551 at