MoJo Blogs and Articles | Mother Jones http://www.motherjones.com/rss/blogs_and_articles/fee http://www.motherjones.com/files/motherjonesLogo_google_206X40.png Mother Jones logo http://www.motherjones.com en Yes, Of Course People on Obamacare Are Getting Lots of Medical Care http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/yes-course-people-obamacare-are-getting-lots-medical-care <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Jordan Weissmann <a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2017/03/29/a_new_study_just_debunked_one_of_tom_price_s_favorite_talking_points_about.html" target="_blank">writes this today:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>One of Tom Price&rsquo;s go-to criticisms of the Affordable Care Act is that it does not, in fact, provide people much in the way of care. The law has helped many Americans obtain insurance, sure. <strong>But because the policies have such high deductibles, he argues, patients still can&rsquo;t afford medical help.</strong> "People have coverage, but they don&rsquo;t have care," the Health and Human Services secretary likes to say.</p> </blockquote> <p>We can all agree that high deductibles are a problem. Weissman, however, describes a new study which shows that actual medical care, not just insurance coverage, has increased under Obamacare. This is true of both people covered by the Medicaid expansion and people covered by the exchanges.</p> <p>But did we really need a lot of fancy statistics to figure this out? Focusing only on the exchanges (since Medicaid has no deductibles):</p> <ul><li><a href="https://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/recurringdata/51298-2017-01-healthinsurance.pdf" target="_blank">CBO estimates</a> that total federal subsidies this year will amount to $31 billion.</li> <li>Add another third or so paid out of pocket, and we get to $40 billion in total premiums paid to insurance companies.</li> <li>Insurance companies are required to spend 80 percent of premiums on actual medical care, which comes to $32 billion.</li> <li>Finally, the exchanges cover about 10 million people, which means the average Obamacare recipient will receive about $3,200 in medical care this year.</li> </ul><p>My arithmetic might be off a bit here and there, but not by a lot. One way or another, the average person insured through the Obamacare exchanges receives $3-4,000 in medical care. There's no way around that.</p> <p>High deductibles may be a problem, but they aren't preventing people from getting a pretty considerable amount of medical care that they weren't getting before. Where do Republicans get this stuff, anyway?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 30 Mar 2017 05:28:33 +0000 Kevin Drum 329326 at http://www.motherjones.com Quote of the Day: What Bush Thought Of Trump's Inauguration http://www.motherjones.com/contributor/2017/03/this-post-probably-could-have-been-shorter <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>On January 20th,&nbsp; Donald Trump was inaugurated president in a nightmare I somehow am still unable to wake&nbsp; from. You may remember it! It was poorly attended and he was very upset and spent like a week crying and made his press secretary go out and lie about the attendance and then was mad at that same press secretary not for lying but for wearing ill-fitting suits. These are all things that happened only months ago and yet the trauma, tragedy, and sheer ridiculousness of the last few months make them feel like a lifetime ago.</p> <p>Another thing that is real and happened once in life is that the US in the olden days&mdash;the Before Time&mdash;had this president named George W. Bush who was the son of another president named George Bush. (What's that saying? 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on Humpty-Dumpty. Fool me three time, the baby is going out with the bath water'?) Neither of them were very good presidents. Indeed, the Younger was quite unGood. Started an unnecessary war against the wrong country, in which hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed. Liked clearing brush in Texas. <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2014/04/george-w-bush-continues-paint-his-way-americas-heart" target="_blank">He's a painter now. </a></p> <p>These two surreal characters, each of which would be considered an unrealistic element in an even moderately good screenplay, shared screen-time during the inauguration. Obama and Clinton, and the other presidents former, were there too. Some others as well. <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/tv/trump-inauguration-attendance-is-noticeably-less-than-expected/" target="_blank">Not many</a> but some.</p> <p>So what did the last Republican president think of the current Republican president's inauguration?</p> <p>According to occasional <em>Mother Jones </em>contributor Yashar Ali's report in <em>New York Mag</em>, <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/03/what-george-w-bush-really-thought-of-trumps-inauguration.html?mid=twitter-share-di" target="_blank">not much</a>!</p> <blockquote> <p>But, according to three people who were present, Bush gave a brief assessment of Trump&rsquo;s inaugural after leaving the dais: &ldquo;That was some weird shit.&rdquo; All three heard him say it.</p> <p>A spokesman for Bush declined to comment.</p> </blockquote> <p>He's not wrong!</p> <p>Have a super evening but don't forget to, before you go to sleep tonight, fold your hands and pray that in the morning we all wake up and it's 1999 and none of this ever happened.</p></body></html> Contributor Ben's Thoughts Thu, 30 Mar 2017 02:56:48 +0000 Ben Dreyfuss 329321 at http://www.motherjones.com Is It Really Illegal to Make Undercover Recordings in California? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/it-really-illegal-make-undercover-recordings-california <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>I Am Still Not A Lawyer, and I don't want to go too far down this rabbit hole, but I've gotten a fair amount of pushback to my post <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/california-should-leave-undercover-video-activists-alone" target="_blank">last night</a> suggesting that the folks who did the undercover Planned Parenthood videos shouldn't be prosecuted. The pushback takes two forms. First, they're horrible people who did horrible things. Second, California law requires consent from both parties for any kind of recording, and they broke that law. They should pay for this.</p> <p>As to the first, I agree that they did horrible things and endangered people. But that's not what they're charged with. As to the second, California law (<a href="http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=CIV&amp;sectionNum=1708.8" target="_blank">link here</a>) is not as clear-cut as you might think:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">2) There is an exception for entities "either public or private", investigating "suspected illegal activity or other misconduct." <a href="https://t.co/LBE5iVouox">pic.twitter.com/LBE5iVouox</a></p> &mdash; Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) <a href="https://twitter.com/JerylBier/status/847079010538573824">March 29, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>If a real live California attorney with specific experience in this area wants to chime in, I'm all ears. For now, though, no matter how much I loathe what they did, I don't like the idea of prosecuting people for political activities unless their violation of the law is very serious and very clear. This is neither.</p> <p>Criminal prosecution of secret recordings is rare in California, and I'd just as soon keep it that way. There's a huge amount of prosecutorial discretion involved in this case, and that's a recipe for political retaliation against ideas we don't like. That's where I get off the train.</p> <p><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Then again, we have this:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet tw-align-center" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en"><a href="https://twitter.com/kdrum">@kdrum</a> Jeryl Bier cited the civil code, not the penal code. The penal code does not provide exceptions for recording suspected illegal acts.</p> &mdash; Ed Herzog (@edherzogcoach) <a href="https://twitter.com/edherzogcoach/status/847274214469943299">March 30, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script><p>The penal code is stricter than the civil code, "but excludes a communication made in a public gathering." I don't know if this refers only to public meetings (town halls, protests, etc.) or to any public place, like a restaurant. Probably the former.</p> <p>This is all kind of strange. Why would there be an "investigatory" exception for lawsuits but not for criminal prosecutions?</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Thu, 30 Mar 2017 01:18:56 +0000 Kevin Drum 329316 at http://www.motherjones.com A Progressive Congressman Who Lost His Seat Because Of Obamacare Explains Why It Was Worth It http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/03/tom-perriello-obamacare-virginia-worth-it <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p dir="ltr">Former Democratic congressman Tom Perriello has a word of advice for public servants: do what's right, even if it costs you your job.</p> <p dir="ltr">In a <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-perriello-aca-lost-seat-20170329-story.html">new op-ed</a> for the <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, the progressive politician says that voting in favor of the Affordable Care Act was the right thing to do, despite the fact that it cost him his seat in Congress.</p> <p dir="ltr">Perriello was elected to represent Virginia&rsquo;s 5th District in 2008 in the Democratic wave that put President Obama in the White House. In 2010, he voted for the Affordable Care Act, knowing that the&nbsp;then-unpopular bill would dim his reelection prospects.</p> <blockquote> <p>During the contentious healthcare debate, I held more than 23 town hall meetings, in every county of my district. More than 18,000 Virginians attended these events. Thousands more dialed in to participate in conference calls. Most constituents at these meetings had already decided whether or not to support the Affordable Care Act. Many of them were angry. I was literally spit on and verbally berated regularly, but still always respected the rights of conservative constituents to face me unfiltered.</p> </blockquote> <p>Though he was indeed ousted in the 2010 Tea Party <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/03/AR2010110303997.html" target="_blank">shellacking</a>, Perriello says &ldquo;I never regretted my vote. Not once.&rdquo; The&nbsp;Democrat, now running for the Virginia governorship, says he still receives notes of gratitude from voters about how the ACA lowered their insurance bills and extended their coverage for life-saving procedures.</p> <p>"It may sound cheesy in this polarized, chaotic and cynical political moment, but public office is not about doing what's easy. It&rsquo;s about service. In voting to pass the ACA, I made a long-term bet that it would save lives well worth the short-term political costs."</p> <p>Read the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-perriello-aca-lost-seat-20170329-story.html" target="_blank">whole thing</a>.</p> <p><strong>Watch the rousing speech President Obama gave to House Democrats on t<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/contributor/2017/03/trump-ryan-took-voters-for-a-ride-1" target="_blank">he eve of the vote for the Affordable Care Act in 2010. "We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true."</a></strong></p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="343" scrolling="no" src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmotherjonesvideo%2Fvideos%2F1629907683705644%2F&amp;width=630&amp;show_text=false&amp;appId=265569630491558&amp;height=343" style="border:none;overflow:hidden" width="630"></iframe></p></body></html> Politics Wed, 29 Mar 2017 22:56:46 +0000 Sabrina Toppa 329271 at http://www.motherjones.com Obamacare Doesn't Save Many Lives. But Why Do We Focus So Much on That? http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/obamacare-doesnt-save-many-lives-why-do-we-focus-so-much <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Ross Douthat raised a common conservative talking point <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/opinion/is-obamacare-a-lifesaver.html?_r=0" target="_blank">in his column this weekend:</a></p> <blockquote> <p>It&rsquo;s worth raising once again the most counterintuitive and frequently scoffed-at point that conservatives have made about Obamacare:</p> <p><em>It probably isn&rsquo;t saving many lives.</em></p> <p>One of the most powerful arguments in the litany that turned moderate Republican lawmakers to jelly was that they were voting to &ldquo;make America sick again,&rdquo; to effectively kill people who relied on the Affordable Care Act for drugs and surgery and treatment....So far the evidence is conspicuously missing.</p> </blockquote> <p>The words <em>probably</em> and <em>many</em> are doing a heavy lift here, but let's set that aside. Douthat is almost certainly right. Here's why:</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_death_rate_by_age_2015_large_1.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #cccccc; margin: 15px 0px 15px 0px;" width="628"></p> <p>People in the US don't die much before age 65, so health insurance for working-age folks has never been likely to have much effect on death rates.<sup>1</sup> Below age 55, it's even less likely: the death rate is so minuscule that it would take a miracle to invent <em>any</em> kind of health-related practice that had a measurable effect on life expectancy. If the crude death rate is already below 0.5 percent, there's just no way to reduce it much more.</p> <p>And yet, people like health care anyway. They like it so much that we're collectively willing to spend vast amounts of money on it. As you've probably heard many dozens of times, health care is one-sixth of the economy. On average, that means we all pay about one-sixth of our income to provide health care for ourselves.</p> <p>Why? At the risk of repeating the obvious, <em>most medical care isn't about lifespan.</em> Before age 65, almost none of it is about lifespan. It's about feeling better. I'm taking a very expensive chemotherapy drug that probably won't delay my eventual death by much, but it <em>will</em> improve my life considerably in the meantime. Ditto for the antidepressant I take. And for the arthroscopic knee surgery I had a couple of decades ago.</p> <p>The same is true for putting a leg in a cast; prescribing an asthma inhaler; replacing a hip; treating an infection; inserting an IUD; treating a hernia; removing a cataract; prescribing a statin; or a hundred other medical procedures. Only a small percentage of what doctors do is lifesaving.</p> <p>It's a measure of our impoverished sense of empathy that we spend so much time focused on whether health care saves lives. Liberals do it because it's the only thing guaranteed to get a positive reaction. Even stone conservatives don't want people dying in the streets. If progressives focused instead on the fact that health coverage saves money and makes you feel better, there's a good chance that support for wider health coverage would suffer substantially. To an awful lot of people, just making others "feel better" doesn't seem worth paying taxes for.</p> <p>So instead we end up in a proxy war about people dying. It's not the sign of a mature society, but then again, who ever said we were a mature society?</p> <p><sup>1</sup>The big exception is dying at birth or during the first year of life. The United States has an appallingly poor record on that score, especially among the poor and non-white.</p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Mar 2017 22:48:17 +0000 Kevin Drum 329306 at http://www.motherjones.com Remember When Trump Said He Cared About the Opioid Crisis? Fast Forward to Now. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/03/trump-opioids-campaign-christie <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>During his campaign, Trump said that his supporters were "always" bringing up opiate addiction. "We&rsquo;re going to take all of these kids&mdash;and people, not just kids&mdash;that are totally addicted and they can&rsquo;t break it," he <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2016/08/01/donald-trump-heroin-opioids-addiction/" target="_blank">promised</a> at a Columbus, Ohio town hall meeting last August. "We&rsquo;re going to work with them, we&rsquo;re going to spend the money, we're gonna get that habit broken."</p> <p>He's still talking a big game. At a much-hyped roundtable on Wednesday, the president announced a brand new commission to take on the issue, with New Jersey governor Chris Christie (R), who's been outspoken on the need for more addiction services, at the helm. Sounds great, right?</p> <center> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">Today's EO established a commission on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis. Watch listening session&acirc;&#158;&iexcl;&iuml;&cedil;&#143;<a href="https://t.co/ny9DG8XSrq">https://t.co/ny9DG8XSrq</a> <a href="https://t.co/NZ3oSk2AJP">pic.twitter.com/NZ3oSk2AJP</a></p> &mdash; Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/847201455165624320">March 29, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script></center> <p>A few catches: The purpose of the <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/03/christie-drug-commission-trump" target="_blank">commission</a>, which will report to Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, is to write a report by October of this year on the status of the epidemic and make recommendations for the future, after which it will cease to exist. The Surgeon General's office under President Obama published a very similar <a href="https://addiction.surgeongeneral.gov/surgeon-generals-report.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> last November. Trump has yet to appoint a "drug czar", or director of the Office of Drug Control Policy, which is charged with evaluating and overseeing federal anti-drug efforts.</p> <p>Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly proposed taking resources away from the programs that could stop the epidemic. For example:</p> <ul><li>The president's proposed&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politico.com/f/?id=0000015b-14ec-d040-a17b-bfeea7410001" target="_blank">2017 budget</a> would cut $100 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's mental health block grants, which help provide substance abuse services across the country.</li> <li>His proposed <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/omb/budget/fy2018/2018_blueprint.pdf" target="_blank">2018 budget</a> would cut 16.2 percent of funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, the umbrella agency that funds things like SAMHSA and other mental health and substance abuse programs.</li> <li>The 2018 budget claims it would include a "$500 million increase above 2016 enacted levels to expand opioid misuse prevention efforts and to increase access to treatment and recovery services." When pressed by Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), HHS Secretary Tom Price admitted that this $500 million is <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6tQyxcks60&amp;feature=youtu.be&amp;t=1h53m11s" target="_blank">reference</a> to funding from the 21st Century Cures Act, which Congress enacted under Obama signed into law late last year.</li> <li>Though it didn't ultimately pass, Trump was hard-set on repealing the Affordable Care Act, which would have left nearly <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/02/affordable-care-act-obamacare-substance-abuse-opioids" target="_blank">3 million Americans</a> without often life-saving addiction treatment.</li> </ul><p>The lack of substantive action on the issue is riling some politicians. "There is a massive gulf between President Trump's promises to tackle this crisis and the policies this administration has proposed during his first two months in office," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in a statement in response to Trump's roundtable.</p> <p>Or, as one congressional staffer recently asked in an email, "How many more people will die of opioid overdose while they're pretending to care?"</p></body></html> Politics Health Health Care Wed, 29 Mar 2017 22:47:08 +0000 Julia Lurie 329251 at http://www.motherjones.com A Scientist Just Spent 2 Hours Debating the Biggest Global Warming Deniers in Congress http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/03/michael-mann-lamar-smith-house-science-committee <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>At a congressional <a href="https://science.house.gov/legislation/hearings/full-committee-hearing-climate-science-assumptions-policy-implications-and" target="_blank">hearing on climate science Wednesday</a>, Michael Mann lamented that he was the only witness representing the overwhelming scientific consensus that manmade global warming poses a major threat.</p> <p>"We find ourselves at this hearing today, with three individuals who represent that tiny minority that reject this consensus or downplay its significance, and only one&mdash;myself&mdash;who is in the mainstream," he said in his&nbsp;<a href="https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-115-SY-WState-MMann-20170329.pdf" target="_blank">opening testimony.</a></p> <p>Sitting on either side of Mann were the other three witnesses: Judith Curry, John Christy, and Roger Pielke, Jr.&mdash;scientists who have clashed with Mann in the past and are frequently sought after by Republican politicians who reject mainstream climate science. Curry <a href="https://judithcurry.com/2017/03/11/scott-pruitts-statement-on-climate-change/?utm_content=buffer9285d&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer#more-22891" target="_blank">recently defended</a> EPA chief Scott Pruitt's statement that scientists don't know whether human activity is "a primary contributor" to global warming. Christy claims that climate models overstate the role of human activity. Pielke accepts the role greenhouse gasses play in warming but has <a href="https://id.wsj.com/auth/proxy/refresh?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wsj.com%2Farticles%2Fmy-unhappy-life-as-a-climate-heretic-1480723518" target="_blank">drawn criticism</a> for arguing that links between extreme weather and climate change have been overstated.</p> <p>Sitting on the dais across from Mann was House science committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), a climate change denier who has made headlines in recent years by <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2017/01/house-science-committee-lamar-smith-climate-change-exxon" target="_blank">using his committee to investigate scientists</a> and accuse them of rigging climate data. Last week, at the Heartland Institute's annual DC conference for climate change deniers, Smith boasted of his record of issuing dozens of subpoenas to government researchers, environmental groups, and Democratic attorneys general investigating ExxonMobil. He also previewed Wednesday's hearing, predicting that it was "going to be so much fun." He slow-rolled the names of the witnesses as conference attendees cheered&mdash;but he warned them they might want to hold their applause until he finished reading name of the final witness, which was Mann.</p> <p>Smith summarized his own views of global warming in his opening statement Wednesday: "Alarmist predictions amount to nothing more than wild guesses. The ability to project far in to the future is impossible&hellip;All too often, scientists ignore the basic tenets of science in order to justify their claims. Their ultimate goal appears to be to promote a personal agenda even if the evidence doesn't support it."</p> <p>Smith's remarks may have been a thinly veiled attack on Mann and his colleagues, but Mann had similar criticisms of Smith. The Penn State* climate scientist spent the hearing knocking down Smith's views. In particular, Mann pointed to an earlier hearing in which Smith had baselessly <a href="https://insideclimatenews.org/news/07022017/lamar-smith-epa-noaa-climate-science-denial" target="_blank">accused</a> scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of "falsifying data to justify a partisan agenda" when they published a study showing that global warming had not stalled in recent years, as some have argued.</p> <p>Mann took aim at Smith's tactics.&nbsp;"If you get attacked every time you publish an article" about global warming, "if that causes you to become<strong> </strong>subject to congressional inquiries and Freedom of Information Act requests, obviously that's very stifling, and I think the intention is to cause scientists to retreat," he said. Mann charged that the public attacks on Tom Karl&mdash;the NOAA scientist in charge of the study disputing the global warming "pause"&mdash;appeared to be intended "to send a chilling signal to the entire research community. That is: If you, too, publish and speak out on the threat of human-caused climate change, we're going to come after you."</p> <p>Mann blasted Republicans for "going after scientists simply because you don't like their publications of their research&mdash;not because the science is bad, but because you find the research inconvenient to the special interests who fund your campaigns." He added, "I would hope we could all agree that is completely inappropriate."</p> <p><em>*Correction: This story initially misstated Mann's university affiliation.</em></p></body></html> Environment Climate Change Climate Desk Congress Science Wed, 29 Mar 2017 22:03:54 +0000 Rebecca Leber 329201 at http://www.motherjones.com Ivanka Trump Will Become an Official Federal Employee http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/03/ivanka-trump-federal-employee-white-house <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>Amid mounting ethical concerns about Ivanka Trump's <a href="http://www.newsweek.com/angela-merkel-ivanka-trump-white-house-job-574853" target="_blank">already central role</a> in her father's administration, the first daughter made this announcement today: She will become an official federal government employee, specifically a "special assistant" to President Donald Trump.</p> <p>The<em> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/29/us/politics/ivanka-trump-federal-employee-white-house.html?_r=0" target="_blank">New York Times</a></em> reports the&nbsp;decision to take the unpaid position stems from questions over her original role as an informal adviser. Critics contended the position allowed her to bypass ethics rules typically required of federal employees.</p> <p>"I have heard the concerns some have with my advising the president in my personal capacity while voluntarily complying with all ethics rules, and I will instead serve as an unpaid employee in the White House office, subject to all of the same rules as other federal employees," Ivanka Trump said in a statement.</p> <p>The announcement comes just hours after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Ma.) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) penned a <a href="https://www.warren.senate.gov/?p=press_release&amp;id=1520" target="_blank">letter</a> asking Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub to address the issue.</p> <p>"Ms. Trump's increasing, albeit unspecified, White House role, her potential conflicts of interest, and her commitment to voluntarily comply with relevant ethics and conflicts of interest laws have resulted in substantial confusion," the letter read.</p> <p>Here's a newly relevant <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/13/donald-trumps-worst-deal" target="_blank"><em>New Yorker </em>story detailing Ivanka Trump's role</a> in assisting her father's shady Iranian hotel deal.</p></body></html> Politics Donald Trump Wed, 29 Mar 2017 21:13:06 +0000 Inae Oh 329256 at http://www.motherjones.com Trump’s New Executive Order Will Worsen Hunger in Africa http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/03/trump-executive-order-worsen-hunger-africa <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p><em>This <a href="https://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/29/trumps-new-executive-order-will-worsen-hunger-in-africa/" target="_blank">story</a> first appeared on</em> National Geographic Voices.</p> <p>On Tuesday, President Donald Trump took his most concrete step thus far to unravel his predecessor's legacy on climate change, with a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/climate/trump-executive-order-climate-change.html?action=Click&amp;contentCollection=BreakingNews&amp;contentID=65090316&amp;pgtype=article" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">wide-ranging executive order</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> that dismantles several Obama-era policies to restrict greenhouse gas pollution. The order outraged environmentalists&mdash;Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) called it "a declaration of war on American leadership on climate change"&mdash;but it wasn't very surprising: It simply followed through on a threat contained in the budget Trump proposed two weeks ago. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">"We're not spending money on that anymore," Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House's Office of Management and Budget</span> <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2017/03/16/mulvaney_were_not_spending_money_on_climate_change_anymore_waste_of_your_money.html" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">said</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> then, in response to a question about climate change during a press conference. "We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that."</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">That stance could be a big problem for the dozens of farmers I've met across sub-Saharan Africa as a journalist reporting on climate change impacts to food security. </span></p> <p>Christine Wasike is a maize farmer in Bungoma, an agricultural haven in western Kenya. She works half an acre by hand to produce food for her husband and several young children; if she's lucky, there is enough left over to sell for cash to pay for school fees, clothes, healthcare, farm equipment, and other necessities.</p> <p>Like all but a handful of wealthy farmers in Kenya who can afford irrigation systems, she relies exclusively on rainfall to water her crops, and last year, which scientists recently confirmed was the hottest ever recorded, the rains came late and light. As a result, Wasike's harvest was disappointing, and her income for the season was less than $50, a net loss after covering the cost of seeds and other farm expenses.</p> <p>"When there is drought farmers suffer a lot," she says. "There is a lot of hunger, especially with children at home."</p> <p>Stories like Wasike's are increasingly commonplace in sub-Saharan Africa. A majority of people on the continent depend directly on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods, and because they rely almost exclusively on rainfall for water and often can't afford adaptive technologies, they are among the world's most vulnerable people to climate change. As a result, they are among those with the most to lose from if Trump reverses Obama's climate change policies.</p> <p>As America walks away from its commitment to help slow the global warming that it holds the primary responsibility for creating in the first place, Wasike, her children, and millions of her peers will be much more likely to face a future defined by hunger and poverty.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The main target of Trump's executive order is the Clean Power Plan, a regulation hammered out during Obama's second term that imposes limits on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The regulation, which was Obama's signature achievement on climate change, aims to slash the carbon footprint of the nation's power sector by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. But to Scott Pruitt, the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, it was never more than a plot to "kill jobs throughout the country," as he told ABC News on Sunday. As directed by Tuesday's order, the EPA will now review all policies that "serve as obstacles or impediments to energy production"&mdash;including the Clean Power Plan. At the same time, the Justice Department will back down from defending the Plan against legal attacks.</span></p> <p>These policy changes will reverberate far beyond the coal-fired power plants they are meant to protect. That's because the Clean Power Plan is the domestic regulation underpinning the US commitment to the Paris Agreement, the groundbreaking global climate accord reached in December 2015. Although the agreement, signed by Obama shortly before he left office, contains language that would make it difficult for Trump to formally withdraw within the next few years, his order effectively accomplishes the same thing. Without the Clean Power Plan, America's participation in the agreement becomes meaningless. And without America, the world's second-biggest climate polluter after China, the whole agreement goes up in smoke.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">As a result, the chance that global temperature rise will stay "well below" 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the limit agreed to in Paris, will vanish. That kind of warming will produce a variety of life-threatening effects in the US which, contrary to Mulvaney's assertion, would </span><span style="font-weight: 400;">cost taxpayers far more</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">&mdash;</span><span style="font-weight: 400;">in the form of damage to coastal property, lost agricultural production, increased electrical bills, public health threats, and other costs, according to a <a href="http://riskybusiness.org/report/national/" target="_blank">recent economic analysis</a> lead by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg&mdash;than what they will save by slashing climate programs.</span></p> <p>Still, the impact to developing countries&mdash;where livelihoods are more often linked directly to the land and where the money is scarce to, for example, build a storm surge barrier or develop a drought-resistant seed&mdash;will likely be even more severe. Millions of the world's most vulnerable people will suffer the consequences of industrial pollution they did not produce. In other words, they will be left to clean up America's mess.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">In Africa, the most severe impacts will be to agriculture and food security. Sub-Saharan Africa already has the world's least-productive farms: Average yields of staple grains per hectare are only one-quarter of those in the US and Europe, according to the World Bank, due mainly to poor soil quality and lack of access to financing and the latest farming techniques and equipment. Low productivity not only leads to hunger&mdash;</span><a href="http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4646e/i4646e04.pdf" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">23 percent of Africans</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, 220 million people, are chronically undernourished, the world's highest rate&mdash;but also impedes economic growth, since agriculture is the main income source for a majority of people. </span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Rising temperatures (Africa has </span><a href="http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg2/WGIIAR5-Chap22_FINAL.pdf" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">warmed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> by about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the last 50 years, and is expected to continue warming faster than the global average rate) and increasingly erratic rainfall are making the situation worse. An analysis for the </span><a href="http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg2/WGIIAR5-Chap22_FINAL.pdf#page=20" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> found that prolonged dry spells and high temperatures could reduce yield of staple grains across the continent up to 35 percent by 2050, even as the continent sees its population </span><a href="https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Publications/Files/Key_Findings_WPP_2015.pdf" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">double</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The consequences will be wide-reaching. Market prices will climb, calorie availability will drop, and national economies will suffer: A recent analysis by the OECD found that reduced agricultural productivity because of climate change could sap up to 4 percent of sub-Saharan Africa's GDP by 2060, the world's highest rate of loss. Some areas may become unusable for farming or grazing, forcing people to look for new land, which in turn can lead to territorial ethnic conflicts and deforestation. Food and water scarcity can prompt mass migrations, like the one </span><a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/12/15/world/africa/agadez-climate-change.html" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">currently underway in the Sahel</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;">, and humanitarian crises, like the 20 million people currently in need of emergency food assistance in southern Africa. It can contribute to radicalization and the empowerment of terrorist groups like Boko Haram, which has benefited from destitution caused by the desiccation of Lake Chad. </span></p> <p>These impacts will be borne in particular by the rural poor, who often have no "plan B" when the harvest fails, and in particular by women, who typically are responsible for growing crops for food and cash (in addition to other household duties).</p> <p>Fortunately, in most cases, the solutions needed to make Africa's farmers and pastoralists more resilient to climate change are nothing very fancy, expensive, or high-tech. People need training on basic techniques to conserve water and improve soil quality; they need access to microloans to afford better seeds, tools, fertilizer, and irrigation; they need secure land rights; they need better roads to take their produce to markets. The fate of programs to promote these solutions now in place at the the US Agency for International Development, now under the purview of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, remains unclear.</p> <p>What farmers don't need are unchecked greenhouse gas emissions from the US The specific numbers on projections of crop yields, hunger, poverty, and other factors differ slightly depending on which analysis you read, but one trend is consistent: The hotter the world gets, the worse off Africa's rural poor will be. And if that doesn't bother this administration, it should, since economic depression and political instability are ultimately harmful to US business, military, and diplomatic interests in Africa.</p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Deleting climate change from the EPA's rulebook and the federal budget won't make it go away&mdash;and it won't settle our environmental debt to the rest of the world. </span></p></body></html> Environment Climate Desk Wed, 29 Mar 2017 20:26:12 +0000 Tim McDonnell 329211 at http://www.motherjones.com Lunchtime Photo http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/03/lunchtime-photo-3 <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/loose.dtd"> <html><body><p>It's wildflower season in the desert, and nearby Anza-Borrego was said to have a "superbloom" this year. I didn't feel like making the trek out there, especially since I'd have to wake up around 4 am to get there for sunrise, but a reader suggested that I check out Upper Newport Bay instead. That's a more civilized 6:30 am wakeup call. So that's where I was last Saturday.</p> <p><img align="middle" alt="" class="image image-_original" src="/files/blog_lunchtime_newport_bay_sunrise_large.jpg" style="border: 1px solid #000000; margin: 15px 0px 0px 0px;" width="630"></p></body></html> Kevin Drum Wed, 29 Mar 2017 19:34:29 +0000 Kevin Drum 329246 at http://www.motherjones.com