A Nation Free of Lead? Clinton Says She’ll Do It

Philip Bump examines the viability of Hillary Clinton’s pledge that should she be elected president she will “within five years to remove lead from everywhere.”

“That’s almost certainly impossible.”

“Lead isn’t only transmitted in water through lead pipes. It exists, as Clinton pointed out, in paint in homes. For decades it was added to gasoline — an initiative of the auto industry that once made Flint prosperous. Once in gasoline, it spread throughout the environment, contaminating the dirt around roads and the houses adjacent to those roads … Getting rid of those pipes alone within five years would be hugely difficult and massively expensive.”

“The Centers for Disease Control notes that most housing built prior to 1978 uses some lead paint. According to the Census Bureau, there are nearly 70 million houses in the United States that meet that standard. Seventy million.”

“The problem of lead in the United States is a problem for which there is no easy solution. At best, we’ve reached a stalemate with lead, doing our best to reduce our children’s exposure to the metal, an effort that extends back to the late 1970s.”

It’s About the Economy, Stupid

Gallup: “More than six in 10 Republicans and independents who lean Republican say Donald Trump would be best at dealing with the economy/jobs and the federal budget deficit as president, compared with less than 20% who pick either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.”

160303GOP_1

“Republicans choose Donald Trump, who promises to “make America great again” — as the best GOP candidate for handling the economy and federal budget deficit as president. These strengths appear to be at the core of his support, tying in with the persistent economic anxiety Republicans express on a host of Gallup measures, such as confidence in the economy and their own economic progress.”

“At the same time, Republicans — including many who favor his nomination — seem to be well aware that Trump has weaknesses. They implicitly acknowledge Trump’s unusual brashness, giving Rubio the most credit for having the right temperament to be president. Republicans also acknowledge that Trump is not the most conservative candidate, giving Cruz credit for the conservatism that has become his signature message. Given that Republicans in this poll favor Trump to win their party’s nomination, they appear to be willing to overlook the front-runner’s deficiencies.”

What is the Outlook for Obamacare Enrollment?

The latest Kaiser Family Foundation report finds that “sign-ups in Affordable Care Act marketplace plans could continue to grow modestly over the next few years to 16.3 million (up 28%), based on the experience of the top-performing states.”

“The analysis estimates that if all states performed at least as well as the top 10 states, the number of people signing up during annual open enrollment periods could reach 16.3 million (14.7 million after attrition when some enrollees fail to pay premiums, called effectuated enrollment), up from 12.7 million this year. This would still be less than enrollment of over 20 million projected by the Congressional Budget Office.”
Figure 2: Marketplace Plan Selections (Millions)
“The analysis also charts coverage gains from 2013 to 2014 for uninsured people eligible for ACA marketplace plans. It shows that the biggest coverage gain came for people with incomes between 150 and 200 percent of the federal poverty level, who qualify for substantial premium subsidies under the health law. The number of marketplace-eligible people without insurance in that group declined by 33 percent during that period. The two groups experiencing the smallest gains in coverage were those with incomes below 150 percent of the federal poverty level (18% reduction in marketplace-eligible uninsured) and those with incomes between three and four times the poverty level (14% reduction).”

Trump Reflects the Transformation of the GOP

John Cassidy comments on the “larger reality” that Trump’s style of campaigning reflects.

“With Trump in a strong position to win the primary, Republicans are engaged in a bitter battle not just about who will represent them in November, but about the broader nature of their party. For the past forty years, the G.O.P. has been an uneasy alliance of social conservatives, free-market conservatives, and corporate interest groups, with the latter largely dictating economic policy. Trump has been drawing on a base of alienated white working-class and middle-class voters, seeking to remake the G.O.P. into a more populist, nativist, avowedly protectionist, and semi-isolationist party that is skeptical of immigration, free trade, and military interventionism.”

“To transform a political party, you need a clear message, a broad electoral base, and allies within the existing power structure. Trump now has all three of these things. As I’ve pointed out before, his claim that Washington is broken and can only be fixed by an outsider resonates with many Americans, and not just arch-conservatives. So does his demagoguery about illegal immigrants and the supposed threat that Muslims present. What is perhaps more surprising, at least to Washington-based conservatives, is how many Republicans are also embracing Trump’s populist lines on ending free trade, protecting Social Security, and providing basic health care.”

What Were the Top Topics in Last Night’s Debate?

Philip Bump: “The 11th Republican debate was pretty insane, even measured against the high bar for craziness that the preceding 10 had set. Google makes neat little charts showing what topics people were Googling, but they don’t include topics like ‘Trump’s steak brand’ or ‘Trump’s meat.'”

“We track the topics people were most interested in minute-by-minute. And the biggest spike came as Ted Cruz was talking about his postcard-sized tax form (which was actually supposed to be an answer about who does the work of the IRS if you get rid of the IRS).”

Rising searches for Trump:

  • trump debate
  • trump steaks
  • donald trump age
  • how old is donald trump

We’ll note that the Cruz lip incident coincided with the tax discussion. So the rising searches for Cruz:

  • ted cruz booger
  • ted cruz mouth
  • ted cruz tax postcard

We are an elegant species.

U.S. Adds 242,000 Jobs in February

Wall Street Journal: “U.S. employers picked up the pace of hiring in February, a sign of steady economic growth despite financial-market turmoil and weakness abroad.”

“Nonfarm payrolls increased a seasonally adjusted 242,000 in February, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate, which is obtained from a separate survey of U.S. households, held steady at 4.9% in February.”

“Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected payrolls to rise by 200,000 and the jobless rate to remain at 4.9%.”

“Revisions showed employers added 30,000 more jobs in December and January than previously estimated … Average hourly earnings of private-sector workers fell 3 cents last month to $25.35. Wages were down 0.1% from the prior month but have climbed 2.2% from a year earlier. Economists had expected wages to rise 0.2% from the prior month.”

“Meanwhile, the share of Americans participating in the labor force rose to 62.9% in February, the highest level in a year.”

Obamacare Enrollment Reaches 20 Million

Newsweek: “President Barack Obama said on Thursday that some 20 million Americans had become insured as a result of the Affordable Care Act.”

‘Today I can announce that thanks to the law, 20 million more Americans now know the security of health insurance,’ Obama told a crowd in Milwaukee.”

“The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the estimates Obama referenced included coverage from the expansion of the Medicaid program, health insurance marketplaces, and provisions that allowed young people to stay on their parents’ private insurance plans longer.”

“The 20 million figure was an update to a September 2015 government estimate that 17.6 million Americans had been insured as a result of the Affordable Care Act.”

Democrats’ Apathy About Candidates Could Hurt Voter Turnout

Gallup: “In November, and again in January and February, we asked Americans, just after they told us what they consider to be the most important problem facing the nation, whether they think any of the presidential candidates have come up with good ideas for solving that problem or not.”

“A little more than half of Americans — 52% — said yes in February. That’s up slightly from January and November. Forty percent say ‘no,’ and the rest say they don’t know.”

“These views vary quite a bit by partisanship, and this becomes a significant finding. Republicans are more positive than Democrats. To be specific, 65% of Republicans say a candidate has come up with good ideas for solving the most important problem facing the nation, compared with 45% of independents and 49% of Democrats.”

160301_Candidates_2

“Bottom line: This lack of conviction among Democrats that candidates have answers, along with other indicators of lower enthusiasm about the election, could portend poorly for Democratic turnout next November, providing a distinct advantage for Republicans.”

February Warmest Month on Record

Eco Watch: “February ​shattered the global ​satellite temperature records to become the warmest ​above average month in recorded history. While not yet confirmed by official datasets, this new finding is particularly notable as it comes from one of the two satellite datasets frequently referenced by climate deniers.”

635925138280004957-FEBRUARY-2016-map2.jpg

“Last month was likely somewhere between 1.15°C and 1.4°C warmer than average, marking the fifth straight month that global average temperatures were more than 1°C above average.”

Could Florida Decide the Election Again?

Ian Millhiser in Think Progress: “Elections are not simply fought out at the polls … after legislators enact laws that could change who actually gets to cast a ballot, elections are fought in courts as well.”

“As election law expert Rick Hasen notes, there is already one early sign that Scalia’s death has moved the Court’s center of gravity in voting rights cases. After a lower federal court held that two of North Carolina’s congressional districts are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, many experts (including Hasen) expected the Supreme Court to stay this decision. It didn’t.”

“Because the Court denied such a stay without explanation, it is impossible to know what the vote was among the justices or why the stay was not granted. Nevertheless, as Hasen explains, the Court’s decision in this North Carolina case may be a sign that the justices will no longer keep such a tight leash on lower court judges who decide voting rights cases close to elections.”

Of the ten closest states in the 2012 presidential election, half (North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and New Hampshire) are located in federal appellate circuits with fairly solid left-leaning majorities. Meanwhile, two states, Iowa and Ohio, are located in conservative circuits. The remaining states, Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin, are located in circuits that are evenly divided or that are close to evenly divided … The biggest wildcard, meanwhile, may be Florida.

Climate Carbon Budget Could Soon Max Out

Climate Central: “If the world hopes to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, humanity must emit less than half the carbon dioxide than previously thought in the coming years, a new study shows.”

“In order to keep global warming to no more than 2°C (3.6°F) — the basis for the Paris climate agreement struck last year — scientists have devised a ‘carbon budget‘ for how much carbon can be emitted before warming crosses into catastrophic territory.”

“Their estimates range from about 590 gigatons (1 gigaton is 1 billion metric tons) to 2,390 gigatons … But the 2°C mark could be hit sooner as the globe warms and a more realistic budget ranges from 590 gigatons to 1,240 gigatons of carbon dioxide emission after 2015, according to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature Climate Change.”

“’At current rates, the carbon budget would thus be exhausted in about 15 to 30 years,’ said lead author Joeri Rogelj, a research scholar at the Energy Program of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria.”

Despite Low Unemployment, Job Security Remains Top Concern

Kaiser Family Foundation:  “With the 2016 primary election campaign in full swing, three-fourths of Americans (73 percent) report they are following news about it closely with the economy/jobs currently being the most important issue to voters in the upcoming presidential election (27 percent).  Health care ranks fourth at 8 percent, behind presidential candidates’ characteristics or positions on the issues (21 percent), and foreign policy (16 percent). Similar shares of Democratic voters (7 percent), independent voters (10 percent), and Republican voters (7 percent) say health care is a top voting issue.”

Figure 1: Economy/Jobs Is Top Voter Issue Across Parties, Health Care Ranks Lower

GOP Delegate System Favors Trump

Andrew McGill, writing in The Atlantic, comments on how the GOP’s new delegate-allocation system for the primaries has actually helped Trump.

“But another well-intentioned tenet of the GOP’s reform—a strong preference for proportional delegate selection—has also come into question. Through a series of baffling rules that defy flowcharting, states like Texas and Alabama have effectively unhooked a candidate’s popular vote from the number of convention delegates they receive, the real currency of the election. Because of these rules, a candidate could get 30 percent of the vote in several Super Tuesday states and walk away with only a quarter of its delegates—or, conversely, more than half.”

“This system could seriously skew results. The congressional-district delegates would seem to introduce geographic variability, punishing candidates who don’t enjoy widespread support.  And cutoffs—especially ones that consider how the surrounding field performs—could lock contenders out of a supposedly ‘proportional’ race.”

“To test this, I built a quick computer simulation focusing on Texas.”

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 9.41.42 PM

“I was surprised by the sheer spread of possibilities. If Texas was truly a proportional state, a candidate with 33 percent of the vote could expect 51 delegates. According to the simulation, the probabilities actually stretch from the low 50s to above 100.”

“Texas is not alone in this; Alabama has virtually identical rules, and states like Georgia have clauses that switch the election into a winner-take-all contest if one candidate reaches a certain percentage.”