Category Archives: economics

Trump, Trump’s budget and his faithful voters

So as I previously blogged about, Trumpcare actually makes things worse for poor, rural and older voters. And his budget now takes a hacksaw to pretty much everything but military spending, for example Meals on Wheels. Which at the link Trump’s budget director explains needs to guarantee the money is “used in a proper function,” which in this context is pure bullshit. It’s being used to feed people who need it, that’s its function. Mr. Mulvaney doesn’t even go so far as to trot out the usual cliches about waste and fraud, just … oh, I don’t know. Oh, and Trump also wants to gut the CDC and National Institute of Health because … well, he’s got the money for a doctor, why should he care? Echidne offers some thoughts about the budget including cuts to other services to the poor. And about Mulvaney’s tough talk. And that while the CBO predicts insurance premiums will go down after 2020 (after an initial increase), that’s because of things like fewer seniors having insurance. Not to mention that by restricting the use of Planned Parenthood for Medicaid patients, it prevents lots of poor people from getting breast or cervical cancer screenings, let alone abortions or birth control (and will therefore lead to lots more unplanned and unwanted pregnancies (Side note: Paul Ryan, who was able to save for college because his family received Social Security Disability, but that didn’t stop him from wanting to cut Medicaid even while he was back in college).

Given that Trump campaigned on promises of better jobs, better and cheaper health care and a better social safety net, will it matter to Trump voters when he screws them over? Salena Zito, one of the countless oh-so-wise conservatives who tell us what poor whites really think, says that contingent (of course a lot of Trump supporters make quite a bit of money) is solidly behind him: they know industrial jobs, factory jobs, mining jobs are going away, but they don’t mind, “it’s tax and regulation reform that they all believe will truly help their community.” As noted at the link, it’s hard to believe the man on the street conveniently regurgitates Republican talking points. Heck one of the things the election brought out was how little the Republican base cares about that stuff compared to the better deal Trump promised them.

As Zito doesn’t quote anyone actually saying that, I suspect she’s er, interpreting flexibly. Still, it’s quite possible that even if Trump does bring down a world of economic misery, they’ll stay loyal. For some people (based on my experience in the Florida Panhandle) Republican is as much a part of who they are as being Baptist or Catholic (or whatever).  For others it’s the appeal of Trump’s America=White policies; one thing Zito’s interviewees are enthusiastic about is Trump’s hardline on Muslims and Hispanics coming in. But that doesn’t have the same salt-of-the-earth, Republicans-are-decent-people feel she’s trying to convey. And some people see a clear difference between Trump and Congressional Republicans, which might make it easier to keep worshipping him. Some people, like the 25 year old who doesn’t know it’s Obamacare lets him stay on his parents’ insurance, are just clueless. For a lot of conservative Republicans, it’s about abortion — as long as he’s against it, nothing else matters. A Forbes article says a lot of white people don’t notice all the ways government supports them — mortgage interest deduction, employers’ write-off for health insurance, etc. — or see it as something they’ve earned, unlike the black/poor voters who are moochers.

So maybe they’ll cling to Trump fiercely, whether from racism/sexism, cluelessness, rationalization or religion. Or maybe their faith in Trump will shatter once they feel the effects of Trumpcare and the budget. Unfortunately, it’ll be too late for them to get their insurance back (and as Digby notes at the link, too late for lots of people who didn’t vote for President Shit-Gibbon. Stay tuned.

But to end on a cheerful note, former NC governor Pat McCrory is weeping and wailing (and maybe gnashing his teeth) that it’s soooo hard to get a job now because his support of HB2 has set people against him. Why can’t we just get along? Like the Bible says, ex-governor, he shall make of your name a sign and a proverb.



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Here we go again

One of the first columns I did for And magazine was about conservatives objecting to “subsidizing” a woman’s sex life by having birth control covered in Obamacare insurance. Sean Hannity, for example, declared that as he’s not the one getting laid, there’s no reason he should pay for the birth control. My column pointed out that this is how insurance works: healthy people subsidize worse-off people. It would make just as much sense to argue that “I don’t smoke, why should I pay for the cancer treatment of people who do?” Or that policies shouldn’t cover prostate cancer, as women are never going to need that coverage. But of course that wouldn’t further the right-wing war on birth control and on women who have sex without  consequences.

But now Sen. Paul Ryan has taken the leap: his latest argument against the ACA and the individual mandate is that “The people who are healthy pay for the people who are sick.” As LGM and ThinkProgress point out, that’s how all insurance works. Health insurance. Ryan’s Trumpcare plan. Car insurance. Home insurance. E&O insurance (which protects businesses against the financial consequences of “errors and omissions” they might make). It’s how companies stay solvent. If insurers don’t get enough money from healthy people (or people whose houses don’t burn down or cars don’t crash), they go out of business. The purpose of the individual mandate is to ensure that doesn’t happen. Otherwise healthy people could delay until they need insurance and then take out the policy.

What Ryan is doing, of course, is reworking this simple fact to a)single out Obamacare and its mandate as some uniquely awful program; b)imply Trumpcare will fix it (it won’t — as noted, this is just how insurance works) and c)phrase it language Republican audiences are used to, about how the takers and moochers (someone else) are living high off the money paid in by hardworking Americans (themselves). Charles Pierce points out it’s much the same process by which Ryan’s family stayed afloat after his father’s death thanks to Social Security whereas Pierce (and others) were paying money in (Of course that hasn’t stopped Ryan from condemning supposed moochers who rely on government assistance any more than Rep. Steve Fincher receiving millions in farm subsidies stops him from condemning people who receive food stamps.)

While several takes have been “Paul Ryan doesn’t understand insurance” I’m pretty sure he does — it’s just not in his interest to acknowledge the facts.

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Well this is getting interesting

So the Republicans have released their Obamacare sort-of-repeal plan. “Trumpcare” includes lots of goodies for people with more income to put in HSAs or more taxes to write off, and make sure lottery winners are shut out of Medicaid. (Consumerist has some thoughts) It’s running into lots of opposition, not only from Democrats but Republicans who think modifying Obamacare is not enough — wipe it from reality or nothing! Plus those who know their constituents like having health care and don’t want to face the blowback from taking it away, and the bill does that: Jonathan Chait points out the tax credits to help buy insurance go down for the poor and rise for the rich (more here). And despite all the talk of cutting premiums, AARP says that for older adults they’ll go up under Trumpcare And it’s a bad deal for women too as it drops requirements plans cover maternity and prenatal care, among other things (showing again that right-to-life is more about forcing women to bear children than taking care of fetuses).

As this poses a serious challenge to passing “Trumpcare” people are speculating why Sen. Paul Ryan is backing such a long-shot bill — is this the best he can get? Does he overestimate his chances? Does he figure Republicans will be better off if repeal fails? Is it a case of “be careful what you wish for” as various Republicans realize the risk from taking away people’s healthcare. Rick Perlstein points out that conservatives believe cutting off government-supplied healthcare is a moral act. Sen. Jason Chaffetz seems to express the same view when explaining that the bill will require poor people to be responsible and buy healthcare instead of an iPhone. Because poor people are immoral unless they suffer. Roy Edroso suggests, similarly, that it’s catering to the angry, PO’d Trump voters who want those damn moochers to suffer! Jonathan Chait (at the link above) thinks Republicans backed themselves into a corner by their own tactics and rhetoric .

President Shit-Gibbon has informed America that “this will be a plan where you can choose your doctor,” but nothing I’ve heard from either side indicates this will happen. All health-care plans have in-network and out-of-network doctors — about the only people who gain more choice will be the rich people who can use their HSA to pay for any doctor they want.

In further loonie news, Trump HHS Secretary Tim Price says Medicaid takes away people’s health care … somehow. Ryan explains that it doesn’t matter that millions of people lose care, what matters is that it lowers costs! No explanation how it will do that, but it’s an axiom for free marketeers that allowing people to use “too much” health care is why health care is so high (like Rep. Bill Huizinga, who’s proud that he didn’t take his kid to the E/R until he was absolutely, positively sure the boy’s arm was broken).

So it’s kind of fascinating to watch as a train wreck … except that if the train gets to the station, millions of people lose health care or have to settle for inadequate care.I can’t really relax enough to enjoy it. Even the fact lots of Repubs think this bill is worth backing (and some object because it’s not vicious enough) is chilling.
But on the plus side, there’ll some satisfaction to watching the Shit-Gibbon freak out again when Trumpcare does not automatically become law.



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Trump’s cabinet: a wretched hive of scum and villainy

For example requiring financial advisors to put your interests ahead of their own when they give you advice (i.e., they can’t steer you to their bank’s products just to make money), seems like an obvious requirement. But the shit-gibbon’s blocking it. And the Republican Congress wants to roll back protections (clearly disclosed fees, for instance) for users of prepaid debit cards.

•A Trump Golf Club must pay $5 million to members who were denied the right to play but couldn’t get their dues back. As LGM points out, the right wing would have a fit if a Clinton Golf Club had done that.

•Should we consider Trump’s administration a Breitbart administration?

•Trump’s new FCC chairman is expected to roll back Internet neutrality and other Obama-era policies. He’s also blocked an FCC rule that limits what phone companies can charge inmates for outside calls. And cable and phone companies want to repeal a rule restricting their use of our data.

•Trump plans to channel funds for fighting violent extremism so that they focus on Muslim extremism only. After all, think how upset Steve Bannon and the other bigots in the cabinet would be if the government interfered with people like the guy who shot up a Quebec mosque. Which Fox News initially blamed on a Moroccan immigrant. And Trump’s press secretary held up as a reason to keep out Muslims.

•Then there’s the Yemen mess. I’m sure the people who freaked out about Benghazi will be equally enraged.

•Roy Edroso spots a spate of right-wingers comparing Trump to Lincoln. Oh, and criticizing Kellyanne Conway is just sexism. As far as I’ve seen it’s been about her lying for her boss, not say, sexist insults. Oh, Conway herself is furious that none of the media people criticizing the shit-gibbon have been fired.

•Billionaire Peter Thiel argues that when Trump talks about building the border wall or issues orders discriminating against Muslims, we shouldn’t take him literally. Because?

•Trump remembers the Holocaust in a White House statement. Only he doesn’t mention Jews. Which fits the Holocaust Denial argument that of course they’re not saying Jews weren’t killed, it’s just that they weren’t killed more than anyone else. The White House has defended this as “inclusive” but it’s not that hard to say “millions of Jews were targeted for genocide, along with Roma and gays.”

•Trump’s nominee for Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, says his bank didn’t use robo-signing on foreclosures (where they just rubber-stamp foreclosure documents without review, even when that was illegal). A new report disagrees. Senate Democrats on the relevant committee denied the committee a quorum, but the GOP changed procedure to get a full Senate vote anyway. And after a year of denying Obama a Supreme Court appointment (and multiple lower court appointments) protested how shocked they were that Dems wouldn’t immediately vote for anyone Trump wanted.

•Trump threatens to invade Mexico (though the Mexican president says he didn’t) and hangs up on Australia.

•However to give Trump his due, he hasn’t undone Obama’s protections banning federal contractors from discriminating against gay and trans employees. Unfortunately he’s also not going to do anything about lowering drug prices, one of the things he ran on.

•Just remember, protests can work. And work. Also remember it’s important not to burn out. Very important.

•When regular people speak up against Trump, one right-bloggers wants you to know nobody elected them.

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Businesses in the news, for better or worse

Pharmacists aren’t as good about spotting lethal drug combinations as they should be.

•You’ve heard about the Wells Fargo disaster with employees being pressured into adding accounts and services customers didn’t ask for? A labor group says T-Mobile employees were pressured to do likewise.

•Adding accounts is nothing. Buzzfeed charges that a psychiatric hospital chain raises profits by locking up patients on flimsy grounds until their insurance runs out.

•The Navajo Nation has settled a lawsuit against Urban Outfitters that charged the company ripped off Navajo designs.

•You’ve probably heard about the Rolling Stone story on campus rape that collapsed when the rape victim at the story’s heart turned out to be lying. Columbia Journalism Review looks at how Rolling Stone, having screwed up the article, lost the defamation case that followed.

•Yay, a half-dozen retailers, including Aeropostale and Disney, have agreed to end on-call scheduling. That’s where workers have to clear the schedule in case the job needs them, but don’t get paid for sitting at home waiting, or they may show up for a scheduled shift and get sent home early.

•Apparently there’s a market in San Francisco for PIs spying to see if property owners are illegally setting up Airbnb hotels.

•Consumerist speculates whether pharmaceutical companies hired lots of DEA ex-staffers to reduce scrutiny of excess opioid prescriptions.

•How some retailers succeed without much online presence.

•Uber’s self-driving cards have a problem navigating bicycle lanes.

•The National Economic Council says hidden fees such as broadcast fees for cable, resort fees for hotels — hidden because they’re not in the quoted price — are bad for consumers because they make it hard to tell who has the best deal, or what you’ll really be paying.

•Paul Campos of LGM looks at a study of how law firms offer summer associate positions to law school students: upper class men get picked first, then lowerclass women, then upper class women, then lower class men. The appeal of a lower-class woman is that it’s assumed if she’s got a good enough resume, she must be hungry and ready to work; upper class women by contrast suffer all the sexist stereotypes I remember from forty or fifty years ago (she’s not serious about her work, she’ll quit as soon as she gets married, she’ll marry a man who can support her, etc.). In a follow-up post, Campos argues the study proves Big Law is not as meritocratic as supporters claim.

•One of the standard defenses for outsourcing is that the poor people of the third world desperately need to work unsafe jobs at shit pay. Therefore, worrying about the effects of outsourcing on American workers makes you a racist or something. I doubt Bangladeshi protests for better pay will change that defense.

•As a dog owner, I found this article about the corporatization of pet care pretty horrifying.

•When you call a help desk or service desk, a computer may be selecting which rep is best for you.

•After the foreclosure crisis, banks, investment firms and hedge funds became the owners of lots of rental properties. They’re not good landlords.

•Charter customers whose homes were ravaged by the Tennessee wildfires say the cable company is charging them for service they’re not getting and for not returning equipment that’s been burned and destroyed.

•How cord-cutting is transforming the business for networks and TV production companies.

•Cybersecurity against hacking is a challenge for hospitals and medical-device manufacturers.

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Identity politics, retraining and more: political links

Blaming “identity politics” for Trump’s success is bullshit, FAIR says. Okay, white male identity politics was very important in Trump’s rise, but the critids are talking about everything else — it’s Democrats championing blacks, women, Latinos, Muslims that cost them the election, and not because the other side were bigots, it’s because identity politics is bad. Except the white kind; to paraphrase Ta-Nehisi Coates, white identity politics is always assumed to be justified.

A piece at the Guardian sums it up well (I may have linked to it before): blaming “political correctness” for Trump is like blaming Jim Crow on the civil rights movement. Identity politics and “PC” are about fighting back against people who deny those identities equal rights. Take wedding vendors (bakers, photographers) who don’t want to cater gay weddings, which the right wing holds up as the symbol of oppression in our times. Possibly some people are outraged by that who were fine with gay marriage and gay rights in general, but an awful lot of the anger comes from people (Ted Cruz, for instance) who didn’t think gay rights were acceptable to start with. As the FAIR piece points out, there’s no point in compromising because the goalposts are constantly moving. As blogger Roy Edroso once put it, gay-haters used to blame their attitudes on how offended they were by the leather boys and kinksters flocking to gay pride marches. But it turns out when two gays want to put on matching tuxedos or wedding dresses and pledge undying love, the gay haters don’t stop hating.

And the Niskanen Center says (long but worth the read) you can’t fight for liberty without identity politics. And The Guardian on the myth of Political Correctness as defined by the right.

•Right-wing Republican theocrat Franklin Graham (who thinks Target not separating toys by sex is terribly wrong) thinks people working in manufacturing and construction are right to resist retraining to become, say, computer programmers — there’s no pride in being a computer programmer. So it’s not surprising they appreciate Trump fighting for their jobs (okay, saying he’s fighting for their jobs). So as someone quipped, when minorities turn down jobs it’s because they’re lazy; when white people do it, it’s because they have pride, dammit!

That said, computer programming isn’t for everyone. As one blogger (I forget whom, alas) put it some years ago, if the only way for anyone to get a job was to retrain so that we could work in construction, that would be bad, even if retraining was free. Some people wouldn’t be physically up for it. Some people would hate it. Some just don’t have the right mix of skills or traits (trust me, any job that involves working off the ground would leave me too terrified to move). Same thing. Not everyone’s going to fit into computer programming. And besides, those are jobs that can be outsourced, or that companies can hire capable immigrant programmers for. So I don’t think it’s a cure. But arguing that there’s something sub-par about the jobs and that they’re just not as manly as Real Work? Give me a break, Mr. Graham).

•Several courts have ruled that police can’t force you to give them your phone passcode—but now one court has said, yes, they can.

•Trump wants to know the names of everyone in the Department of Energy working on climate change. The DoE declined.

•For years, Republicans freaked out about Obama being a secret Muslim and a foreigner despite a complete lack of evidence. Now that we have tentative evidence Russia tried to swing the election for Trump —hey, they don’t care! Some of them are, however, outraged that Kellogg’s is no longer advertising with

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Almost two weeks since Trump day …

I’m not as wretched as I felt Nov. 9, but I still have bursts of Freak Out at the thought of what may be ahead. I’m particularly shaken by stories of petty spite like a man who punched a woman in the face for being upset about the election. Not that it’s the worst we’re going to see, but there’s something that unsettles me more than the big scary stuff at the national level. Though that’s bad too, like sexist, racist right-winger Steve Bannon as chief Trump strategist (Mother Jones has more). That shakes me too. As does the damage an all-Republican government will do to the environment.

•Kellyanne Conway of the Trump campaign says it’s Trump and Clinton’s responsibility to stop anti-Trump protests. No suggestion Trump should calm anyone, not that he would anyway.

•Jim Hines points out that if Trump supporters resent being called racist, there’s a simple way to prove they’re not: speak up about the racism.

•Scott Lemieux looks at how Trump’s racism rarely held the media’s attention. A Vox article says the media statistics confirm that. Hullabaloo looks at how false news reaches people via Facebook.

•It looks like some Trump voters were Obama voters. Jamelle Bouie says that doesn’t prove they weren’t racist — in 2008 and 2012 they didn’t receive a racist candidate.

•Roy Edroso watches right-wingers come around to supporting Trump. Case in point, Megan McArdle is calling on us to come together for the greater good and not demonize people who accept positions in the Trump administration (given he’s recruiting people like Bannon, I don’t think tarnishing good people is the big issue). Eliot Cohen, a conservative Never Trumper, says however that after encouraging conservatives to sign on with Trump if asked, he’s looked at Bannon and others in Trump’s circle and now says stay away.

•Another Edroso piece looks at the sea change in more detail — including that just as in 2000, some right-wingers are trying to rationalize that Trump really won the popular vote. Here are some examples, as right-wingers explain Bannon’s not so bad.

•Blaming “political correctness” for Trump is like blaming civil rights for Jim Crow.

•Is Paul Ryan really willing to destroy Medicare?

•A black blogger vents and explains why she needs to vent with other black people for a while.

•Amanda Marcotte looks at the white male anger of Trump supporters.

•The ever-repellent Federalist declares that white people will no longer submit to their black oppressors.

•Speaking of fake news sites (we’re now away from the electoral topic) one guy who created some to promote his phony health product must pay $30 million to his customers.

•Frustrated with Uber’s email customer service, a woman drives to their office — without much better luck.

•A TV station reports that Office Depot employees sometimes identify non-existent malware to sell customers on a virus-protection program.

•Charter/Time Warner insists that charging fees that it doesn’t include in the monthly price it promotes helps make bills easy to understand.


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