Thursday, September 08, 2016


Here are a few recent political stories that I found explained things in more depth than usual:

A Tale Of Two Foundations

While the reporting on the Clinton Foundation focuses on these kind of “conflicts,” there has been no evidence of actual misconduct. Charity watchdog groups rate the Clinton Foundation highly.

Meanwhile, on September 1, news broke that the Trump Foundation “violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a campaign group connected to Florida’s attorney general.” It was required to pay a $2500 fine to the IRS.

The details of the case are even more unseemly. Florida’s Attorney General was considering opening an investigation into Trump University, which is accused of defrauding students. Bondi herself contacted Trump and asked for a political contribution. After a political committee associated with her campaign received the illegal $25,000 contribution, she decided not to pursue it.

The story has something that none of the Clinton Foundation stories have: Actual evidence of illegal conduct. In this case, not only is there concrete evidence that the Trump Foundation broke the law, but a formal finding of wrongdoing by the IRS.

In May digby wrote GOP suffering from Koch withdrawl.

Yesterday the world found out why when the National Review published a blockbuster scoop revealing that the Kochs have decided to withdraw from national politics. The 900 million dollars they'd planned to spend in this election cycle has been reduced to around 40 million on "educational" campaigns. They will continue their work at the state and local level (which is significant) but they are no longer much interested in electoral campaigns on the federal level.

Charles Koch provided a window into his own thinking in an interview last month with ABC’s Jonathan Karl.

“When you look back over the years, over the last several cycles, hundreds of millions of dollars in electoral politics, what have you gotten for that?” Karl asked. “What’s been the return on that investment?”

“Well, I’ve gotten a lot of abuse out of it,” Koch said. “What have we gotten for it? Well, I think there have been some good things, particularly at the state and local level.”

“At the federal level,” he added, shaking his head, “we haven’t in any way changed the trajectory of the country.”

Karl suggested it hasn’t been a very good investment. “No, no it hasn’t,” Koch replied. “It’s been disappointing.”

In June Vox explained, Paul Ryan's "why don't you get a job" approach to poverty is doomed to fail

He's right on one thing: It does appear that work requirements like the ones he's proposing get people to work more, increase their earnings, and reduce their reliance on government programs. But America's experience with welfare reform has taught us that this comes at a significant cost. While requirements boost work somewhat, they're not enough to get a job at a living wage for everyone who can work, and they do nothing for the elderly or disabled who can't work at all. The result is enduring poverty among those who can't work or can't find work.

Sarah Kliff says It sure looks like Aetna quit Obamacare because Obama opposed their merger

When one financial analyst asked Bertolini about it on the company’s last earnings call, he responded that the merger was a “separate conversation from our evaluation of how we think about the exchanges going forward.” But the July 5 letter paints an entirely different picture, one where Bertolini says that participating in the marketplaces would be too difficult and costly for the company if it also were in litigation over its merger proposal.

There will almost certainly be different interpretations of why Aetna tied together its marketplace participation and its merger approval. In this letter, Bertolini says it’s all about finances: that the company was losing money on the marketplaces and needed a financial boost from the marketplaces in order to continue to sustain those losses. And it certainly is true that Aetna has lost more than $400 million on the marketplaces since they launched in 2014.

I didn't find any of this surprising but apparently some do, What a liberal sociologist learned from spending five years in Trump's America.

The result is Hochschild’s new book Strangers In Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right — the result of five years and hundreds of in-depth interviews. The book fixates on a paradox: Calcasieu Parish in Louisiana, where she spends much of her time, is one of the most polluted regions of the country, ravaged by the oil and petrochemical industries. Residents mourned the loss of the pristine bayous of their youth, of their favorite fishing and hunting spots. Yet to her surprise, they remained deeply hostile to the Environmental Protection Agency and environmental regulation. Why was that?

There was no one simple explanation. Some of the people she met were worried about regulations killing jobs. Others saw toxic pollution and environmental disasters as the sort of risk essential to a vibrant economy, something to be stoically endured. Still others had become disillusioned with corrupt and ineffective local regulators.

As Hochschild probed deeper, what she found most common was a "deep story" the conservative white residents were telling themselves. They felt left behind or even kept down by a federal government that no longer looked out for them — that was against their interests at every turn. When Donald Trump enters the scene midway through the story, she’s none too shocked that he finds fertile territory here.

In the interview Hochschild says:

So the deep story I felt operating in Louisiana was this: Think of people waiting in a long line that stretches up a hill. And at the top of that is the American dream. And the people waiting in line felt like they’d worked extremely hard, sacrificed a lot, tried their best, and were waiting for something they deserved. And this line is increasingly not moving, or moving more slowly [i.e., as the economy stalls].

Then they see people cutting ahead of them in line. Immigrants, blacks, women, refugees, public sector workers. And even an oil-drenched brown pelican getting priority. In their view, people are cutting ahead unfairly. And then in this narrative, there is Barack Obama, to the side, the line supervisor who seems to be waving these people (and the pelican) ahead. So the government seemed to be on the side of the people who were cutting in line and pushing the people in line back.

I went back with this story to a lot of the people that I’d talked to. I asked, is this the way you feel? And they said, "Yeah, you read my mind!" or, "Yeah, I live your narrative!" And this all becomes more acute as their place in line feels more vulnerable. There’s the offshoring of American jobs, automation that is now making even skilled jobs feel vulnerable. So when you add a cultural and demographic sense of loss and decline to a real economic threat, it becomes alarming. And the government doesn’t seem like it’s heard your distress call.

Vox explains, The US paid Iran $1.3 billion in secret. It’s not a scandal.

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