Saturday, July 28, 2018

Russian Collusion?

Russian Collusion?

Mollie Hemingway
Senior Editor, The Federalist

Mollie HemingwayMollie Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist and a Fox News contributor. She received her B.A. from the University of Colorado at Denver. She has been a Philips Foundation Journalism Fellow, a Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute for the Study of Statesmanship and Political Philosophy, and a Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College. She has written for numerous publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Christianity Today, and is the author of Trump vs. the Media.

The following is adapted from a speech delivered on September 7, 2017, at Hillsdale College’s Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies and Citizenship in Washington, D.C.
We keep being told that President Trump is not normal. This much has been blindingly obvious. He had never run for office or otherwise served in a public capacity. He has been accused, not without reason, of breaking all manner of political norms. America’s most nontraditional president was never going to conduct business as usual from the West Wing. Less than a year into his first term, he has already caused much anguish in Washington. This should be no surprise—while running for office Trump repeatedly promised to “drain the swamp” and shake things up. Americans knew who they were voting for, and history will judge the results.
That said, Trump’s nascent presidency has coincided with perhaps the greatest violation of political norms this country has ever seen—a violation that has nothing to do with Trump’s behavior. Since the election last November, there has been a sustained, coordinated attack on Trump’s legitimacy as president following his victory in a free and fair election. This has the potential to cause far more lasting damage to America than Trump’s controversial style.
Democratic operatives and their media allies attempted to explain Trump’s victory with a claim they had failed to make stick during the general election: Trump had nefarious ties to Russia. This was a fertile area for allegations, if for no other reason than that Trump had been reluctant to express criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin. By contrast, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly condemned Russia’s 2011 elections, saying they were “neither free nor fair” and expressing “serious concerns” about them. She publicly called for a full investigation while meeting with top Russian officials. This made Putin livid. “Mr. Putin said that hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘foreign money’ was being used to influence Russian politics, and that Mrs. Clinton had personally spurred protesters to action,” The New York Times reported.
Trump’s relationship with Putin was decidedly different. In December 2015, Putin called Trump “a really brilliant and talented person.” Trump replied: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.” He added, “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.”
Then rumors surfaced in the summer of 2016 that Russia probably had something to do with the alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee email system, as well as the successful “phishing” of Democratic insider John Podesta’s inbox. Russia was also alleged to have tried to hack the Republican National Committee, but without success. It remained an open question whether the Russians were trying to help Trump or were simply trying to create chaos in the election. Regardless, these Democratic Party emails were published by WikiLeaks, and they confirmed what many critics had said about Clinton and the DNC—the DNC had engineered the primary to ensure a Clinton victory; the Clinton campaign had cozy, borderline unethical relations with members of the mainstream media; Clinton expressed private positions to Wall Street banks that were at odds with her public positions; and various other embarrassing details indicating her campaign was in disarray.
According to Shattered, a well-sourced book about the Clinton campaign written by sympathetic reporters, Clinton settled on a Russia excuse within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. [Campaign manager Robby] Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.
The Russian collusion story involves a lot of details, but there are two basic tactics that Trump’s enemies have used to push the narrative: they have put seemingly innocuous contacts with Russians under a microscope, and they have selectively touted details supplied by a politicized intelligence apparatus. And this has all been amplified by a media that has lost perspective and refuses to be impartial, much less accurate.

Meetings with Russians

If most of us can now agree that Putin’s Russia is a potential threat to the United States, we shouldn’t forget that the Washington establishment regarded this as a radical opinion not so long ago. Shortly after President Obama was elected in 2008, Time magazine ran a cover with him asking a Russian bear, “Can we be friends?” The media generally celebrated Secretary of State Clinton’s attempt at a Russian “reset” in 2009. Obama was later caught on a hot mic promising Putin more “flexibility” once he was reelected. And during Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012, when his opponent Mitt Romney characterized Russia as our greatest geopolitical foe, Obama mocked him by saying, “The 1980s called. They want their foreign policy back.” The New York Times editorial page said of Romney’s Russia comments that they “display either a shocking lack of knowledge about international affairs or just craven politics. Either way, they are reckless and unworthy of a major presidential contender.”
Trump’s election changed all that. Not since the heyday of McCarthyism in the 1950s have so many in Washington been accused of consorting with Russians who wish to undermine American democracy.
The Washington Post reported in mid-January that Mike Flynn, Trump’s incoming National Security Advisor, had spoken via telephone with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak on December 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials in retaliation for the DNC hacking. Although such conversations are perfectly legal, the Post suggested, quite incredibly, that Flynn might have violated the Logan Act, which bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. The Logan Act, which has a long record of being cited by cranks, has not been enforced since it was passed (in 1799!) because it is widely considered to be grossly unconstitutional. In addition to the Post, The New York Times, Foreign Policy magazine, and other outlets credulously repeated the same ludicrous talking point about Logan Act violations.
Let it also be noted that Flynn, while a critic of Russia and of the Iran nuclear deal that Russia helped put together, also was paid to speak at a dinner hosted by the Russian TV network Russia Today.
When then-Senator Jeff Sessions was asked, during his confirmation hearing to be U.S Attorney General, about allegations of Russian attempts to compromise the Trump campaign, he noted that he had been a Trump surrogate and hadn’t heard of any meetings for this purpose. When it turned out Sessions had met with Kislyak in a different capacity—as a U.S. Senator on the Armed Services Committee—the ensuing uproar in the media led him to recuse himself from any investigation into Russian meddling. Of course, it was Kislyak’s job to facilitate as many meetings as possible with top officials across the political spectrum, and he was seen at meetings with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senator Claire McCaskill, two prominent Democrats, as well as other Republicans. Indeed, such meetings between foreign ambassadors and U.S. elected officials are routine.
It’s true that Trump was associated with people who had ties to Russians. His former campaign manager Paul Manafort had previously done political consulting work in Ukraine for Russia-aligned groups. Carter Page, a foreign policy advisor with a limited role, is a Naval Academy graduate, businessman, and academic who has been open about his belief that America’s anti-Russian foreign policy has been counterproductive. And Roger Stone, a campaign advisor with a reputation for outlandish campaign work, reportedly spoke with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange as well as Guccifer 2.0, who may be a Russian hacker.
But perhaps no meeting attracted as much scrutiny as one in June 2016 between Donald Trump, Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and various Russians, including a Russian lawyer. According to email correspondence, the Trump associates were told they would receive opposition research on Clinton that may have been provided by the Russian government. No research was handed over, but critics said that the language in the emails supported claims of attempted collusion. After weeks of accusations, the story quickly ran out of steam when it was revealed that the Russian lawyer, who was to have provided the information, had employed a shadowy opposition research firm known as Fusion GPS—a business that had strong ties to Democratic interests, had previously tried to smear Mitt Romney donors and critics of Planned Parenthood, and had played a key role in a recent and infamous attempt to smear Trump.

Politicized Intelligence

Many allegations concerning Russia have been taken seriously based solely on the institutional credibility of the accusers. It appears that members of America’s intelligence community are some of the President’s most passionate opponents.
Late last December, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI put out a 13-page report touted as definitive proof of Russian state involvement in the DNC server hack and the phishing attack on John Podesta’s emails. It was remarkably paltry—vague and non-specific in a way that really didn’t help clarify the precise nature of Russia’s involvement. Cyberwarfare expert Jeffrey Carr wrote that the report “adds nothing to the call for evidence that the Russian government was responsible” for the hacks. It listed every threat ever reported by a commercial cybersecurity company that was suspected of having a Russian origin, Carr noted, lumping them under the heading of Russian Intelligence Services, without providing any supporting evidence that such a connection existed. Former Air Force cyberwarfare officer Robert Lee said the report was of limited use to security professionals, in part because of poor organization and a lack of crucial details.
Senior intelligence appointees tried again in early January, with a report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It was also lacking in specifics. But comments from high profile Democrats, supported by a leak campaign to media outlets, did have an effect. By late December, more than half of Democrats believed—despite the lack of evidence—that “Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected President,” according to a poll.
When Trump responded to these reports with dismissals and a few begrudging admissions of minor contacts with Russians, critics gleefully warned him that partisans at intelligence agencies would retaliate. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.” Former George W. Bush speechwriter and current never-Trump activist David Frum echoed this sentiment: “CIA message to Trump: you mess with us, get ready for a leakstorm of Biblical proportions.” Essentially, intelligence agencies were being publicly encouraged to abuse their power to stop Trump before he had even assumed office.
In January, the big story dropped. “Intel chiefs presented Trump with claims of Russian efforts to compromise him,” blared the headline from CNN. According to highly placed anonymous sources, top intelligence appointees had informed Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Trump that “Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump.” A former British intelligence operative had compiled a damaging “dossier” on the President-elect. CNN reported that intelligence officials considered this operative’s past work credible. But he had paid his Russian sources for the compromising information, and CNN published its report on the dossier without confirming any of the allegations. Within the hour, BuzzFeed published the actual text of the dossier. It said, among other things, that a senior Trump advisor and three of his colleagues had met with Kremlin operatives in Prague in late August or early September to undermine the Clinton campaign. And the Russians were said to have a kompromat file on Trump, including an amazing story about him renting a hotel room the Obamas had used and paying prostitutes to urinate on the bed.
One of the claims was quickly disproven: Michael Cohen, Trump’s lawyer who was alleged to have gone to Prague for a clandestine meeting with Kremlin operatives, had never been to Prague. And to date, no media organization has provided any independent evidence to confirm a single claim made in the dossier. It was soon revealed that the firm that had hired the former British operative and put together the dossier was the aforementioned Fusion GPS. What’s more, the FBI allegedly sought to pay the British operative to continue gathering dirt on Trump.
Aside from a lack of concern about the accuracy of the charges against Trump, intelligence chiefs were not discriminating about who got caught up in their anti-Trump crusade. In March, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) announced that “unmasking” of Trump transition team members had occurred during the last three months of the Obama presidency—that is, significant personal information from and about Trump associates had been collected and widely disseminated.
“I recently confirmed that, on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition,” Nunes said. The information collected, he added, had little or no foreign intelligence value, and nothing to do with Russia. Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice, UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and National Security Council spokesman Ben Rhodes were later reported to be involved in this rampant unmasking activity.
Trump created one of the biggest firestorms of his presidency in May when he fired FBI Director James Comey. The embattled FBI head, who let Hillary Clinton slide after her illegal handling of classified information, had been routinely criticized by both Democrats and Republicans and was officially fired for general ineptness. However, Trump said it was also because Comey was playing games with the Russia investigation. In his letter relieving him of his duties, Trump mentioned that Comey had told him three times he was not under investigation. Many journalists scoffed at this claim, since Comey was publicly intimating otherwise. When he was fired, stories favorable to Comey about private meetings between Comey and Trump came out in the media.
In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee a few weeks later, Comey admitted he had, in fact, told Trump at least three times he was not under investigation by the FBI. Comey also admitted under oath that his leaks to The New York Times were designed to force the hiring of a special prosecutor. His strategy paid off when his close friend and former colleague Robert Mueller was appointed to head an investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. That investigation has since spiraled out to include leads “that have nothing to do with Russia,” according to media reports.
The egregious behavior of influential officials such as Comey has encouraged people to think that the verdict of the intelligence community was more conclusive than it was. During a 2016 presidential debate, Clinton said, “We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin and they are designed to influence our election.” Clinton’s claim wasn’t true. It was only three agencies—the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency—that made the claim. Yet media outlets such as NBC, CBS, CNN, and The New York Times repeated the number 17. In late June, The New York Times corrected a story that made the false claim. So did the Associated Press.
In general, the media have overstated the confidence and public evidence in support of Russian hacking. One group of skeptical intelligence analysts, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), issued a memo in late July arguing that the hack of the DNC emails wasn’t a hack at all, but an internal leak. VIPS is generally thought to be sympathetic to the Left—the same group had cast doubt on the quality of intelligence that led the United States to invade Iraq in 2003. The VIPS memo raises questions about why the FBI failed to perform an independent forensic analysis of the Democratic emails or servers in question. In fact, no federal agency performed a forensic analysis, leaving that to CrowdStrike—a company with strong ties to the Clinton campaign that had an incentive to blame foreign governments for the attack. Surely, more forensic scrutiny of the centerpiece of the Russia hack claim is in order.
To date, despite all the misleading claims in news reports, the only actual crime related to the Trump-Russia investigation is the criminal leaking of classified information about U.S. citizens by intelligence officials.

Media Problems

A compliant media responded to the Clinton campaign’s “blame Russia” strategy by pushing stories alleging wrongdoing by Russia. Many of the early ones fell apart. The Washington Post published a story saying that “fake news”—a term originally used to describe the dissemination of blatantly false news reports intended to go viral on social media—was a Russian operation designed to help Trump. An editor’s note was appended backing away from the report a couple weeks later. (Trump would famously appropriate the term “fake news” to describe reports from the mainstream media he found unfair.) A few weeks later, the Post ran an even more incendiary story alleging that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electrical grid. This turned out to be false. One media outlet headline read: “Trump, Russian billionaire say they’ve never met, but their jets did.” Presumably, these inanimate objects exchanged pleasantries and discussed sensitive foreign policy matters.
CNN has had particular trouble. Breathless headlines such as “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign” fail to be supported with evidence. Anonymous officials would say that such communications “are not unusual” and investigators had not “reached a judgment” of any nefarious intent. Other CNN stories had bigger problems, such as the one reporting that Comey would testify he never told Trump he was not under investigation. As mentioned previously, Comey admitted under oath that he’d said this three times, just as Trump claimed. Another story reporting a problematic meeting between a Trump associate and a Russian, again based on a single anonymous source, was quietly retracted, and three employees who worked on it were dismissed.
Journalism in the Trump era has become far too dependent on unreliable and anonymous sources. And considering the steady drumbeat in the media about Trump having a strained relationship with facts, there is plenty of irony in the fact that the media have had to correct or retract an unprecedented number of stories about him and his administration.
There are three primary ways of viewing the Trump-Russia narrative.
View one is that Russians hacked the election and Donald Trump committed treason by knowingly colluding with them. The Obama administration didn’t surveil Trump or his associates, but if it did, it was simply doing its job.
View two is that Russia was probably involved in the hacking and releasing of emails from the DNC and John Podesta. Some Trump associates had ties to Russia, but there is no evidence of Trump or his campaign colluding with Russia.
View three is that the Russia story is a complete fiction concocted by sore losers unable to deal with the reality of their electoral loss.
It shouldn’t be difficult to ascertain which one of these views is most grounded in facts. Despite his friendly rhetoric toward Russia and Putin during the campaign, Trump’s presidency has been marked by a bombing of Russia-backed Syria, bombing of the Russia-aligned Taliban in Afghanistan, stricter enforcement of economic sanctions, support for the expansion of NATO, liquid natural gas exports to Europe that undercut Russia’s economy, the selling of U.S. missile defense to Poland and Romania, and opposition to the Russian-negotiated Iran nuclear deal.
In the meantime, the self-styled anti-Trump “resistance” has created a standard it must meet to justify the broken norms and political trauma to which it has subjected the country. That standard is nothing less than proof that Donald Trump is a traitor put into the White House through collusion with Russia to undermine our electoral system. The better part of a year into his presidency, Trump’s enemies have not come close to meeting that standard.

Friday, July 27, 2018

WRONG: Socialist Ocasio-Cortez Claims '200 Million Americans Make Less Than $20K a Year'

WRONG: Socialist Ocasio-Cortez Claims '200 Million Americans Make Less Than $20K a Year'

Who needs math, economics, or basic facts when you can just make things up, instead? Or at least, that seems to be the ongoing mantra of one particular woman, whose tendency to just make crap up is starting to concern even some in her own party.
Socialist Democratic candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who's running for a New York congressional seat, claimed during a Thursday night interview with the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah that about 200 million Americans – or roughly “40 percent of this country” – make less than $20,000 a year.
One of the biggest problems that we have is 200 million Americans make less than $20,000 a year. That’s 40 percent of this country," Cortez claimed.
"How can we have an economy that grows, how can we build wealth as an economy, if a large plurality of Americans are too poor to participate in it?” she demanded - just before pushing for the socialist's dream of mass wealth redistribution and higher minimum wages.
While poverty may be a problem, one of Cortez's biggest problems is that she consistently proves herself unable to do basic math. Let's break this down.
Firstly, if 200 million Americans equates to 40 percent of the country, that’d mean there are a whopping 500,000 Americans in total. Except that there aren’t – there are about 328 million, meaning that 200 million would make up about 61 percent of the total national population, not 40.
Secondly, as of July 6, there were a record high 155 million Americans employed in the United States, meaning Cortez’s fictitious “200 million Americans” who make less than $20k outnumbers the total U.S. workforce by about 45 million.
Thirdly, Ms. Cortez’s claimed total of 200 million Americans making less than $20,000 is off…by about 170 million.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 28 million American households live on total incomes of $25,000 or less – households that include working adults (those who “make” the money) along with children, the disabled, the elderly and the retired (those who “live” on that income).
Even if you assume each household includes roughly 2.5 persons (based on U.S. household data averages in 2017) and you agree to include non-working dependents in your grand total, that’s still only about 70 million people – a far cry from Cortez’s claim of 200 million, even by generous standards.
But to be fair, this is also the same woman who claimed less than two weeks ago that unemployment is low because "everyone has two jobs" and admitted she really doesn't know her head from a hole in the ground when it comes to Israeli-Palestinian relations.
Of course, Noah couldn't be bothered to challenge Cortez's erroneous claims about income -- which, sadly, many uninformed listeners are likely to believe.

Donald Trump Says U.S. Never Hit 3% GDP Growth Under Obama — But It's Misleading

Donald Trump Says U.S. Never Hit 3% GDP Growth Under Obama — But It's Misleading

U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to supporters (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up to supporters (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Ralph Freso Getty Images
By Lucinda Shen
August 30, 2017
Technically, the President of the United States was correct.
He was correct that America’s gross domestic production growth never hit 3%, annually under President Barack Obama when speaking about his long-awaited tax reform before a crowd in Springfield, Mo. Wednesday. That comes after the U.S. Commerce Department said GDP growth had hit Trump’s 3% target in the second quarter.
“We just announced that we hit 3% in GDP, it just came out,” the president said.”On a yearly basis, as you know, the last administration, during an eight year period, never hit 3%. So we’re really on our way. If we achieve sustained 3% growth, that means 12 million new jobs and $10 trillion of new economic activity over the next decade. That’s some numbers.”
But the comparison that he made is somewhat misleading. President Trump compared annual GDP growth in the Obama era to quarterly GDP growth in a three month period. And quarterly GDP often isn’t a good indicator for how much an economy will produce over the year, with quarterly GDP growth often differing significantly from the year’s overall GDP growth.
Take the Obama era for example. Between 2009 and 2016, GDP growth reached at or above 3% on a quarterly basis about eight times.

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But annual GDP growth never hit 3% under Obama, prompting economists to dub the era a “low-growth” environment. Prior to the 2000s, the U.S. was no stranger to annual GDP growth upward of 3%.
While its possible for President Trump to reach a 3% annual growth rate for 2017, most forecasters see GDP growth remaining modest over the next three years. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expect GDP growth the hit 2.1% this year, 2.3% in 2018, and 2.1% in 2019.
The White House appears to be counting on 3% annual GDP growth to fund its tax cuts. The problem is, it’s unclear why the country, and indeed many developed nations, are growing more slowly than before.
One 2000 National Bureau of Economic Research study postulates that internet age innovations simply haven’t been as game-changing for the U.S. economy as say the introduction of electricity or air transportation in the past two centuries. Another 2016 NBER study meanwhile suggests that an aging U.S. workforce combined with slower population growth than in years past has also helped slow GDP growth.
Either way, it appears that there is no fast or easy pill for jumpstarting the economy.

Economic Record: President Obama

Economic Record: President Obama

Name:Barack Obama
Vice President:Joe Biden
Entered Office:January 20, 2009
Left Office:January 20, 2017
  Photograph of Barack Obama

The most significant economic event during President Obama's presidency was, without a doubt, been the Great Recession. When he took office, the country was losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, the stock market was in freefall and the GDP was shrinking. Several of the measures below show the country pulling out of this recession during the first 6 to 18 months of his presidency and then performing well above average performance after that point. In many cases, his overall average performance is impacted significantly by the first initial months.

Given that caveat, during President Obama's presidency, the economy performed worse than average for GDP growth, job creation, median income and debt. However, the performance of the stock market was spectacular. It is also important to put the economic performance in global context. During President Obama's presidency, the United States' GDP growth beat the GDP growth of the other original NATO member countries by the widest margin of any president since World War II.

Major economic events:

Feb. 17, 2009:American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 signed into law
2009-Present:European debt crisis
Mar. 23, 2010:Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law
July 21, 2010:Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act signed into law
April 8, 2011:Congress comes within one hour of governement shut down
June-Aug. 2011:Debt ceiling crisis of 2011
Aug. 5, 2011:Standard & Poors downgrades the credit rating of the U.S. Treasury
Dec. 2012-Mar. 2013:Negotiations and failure to avoid budget sequester
Jan.-Oct. 2013:Debt ceiling crisis of 2013
Oct. 1-16, 2013:Federal government is shut down
2014:Best year for job growth since 1999


obama gdp performance

Related: Best Presidents for GDP growth
Source: BEA
Data: Excel

  The green line represents the GDP growth during the presidency of President Obama. The orange line reflects the average rate of GDP growth since 1953.

GDP growth was below-average during Obama's presidency. That said, it was right about dead on average for years in which we have had divided control of the federal government

Job Creation

obama job creation

Related: Ranking the presidents for job creation
Source: BLS
Data: Excel

  The green line represents the rate of the growth in the number of jobs under President Barack Obama. The orange line reflects the average rate of growth in the number of jobs since 1953.

The economy lost jobs every month of 2009, albeit at a steadily slowing rate. The economy gained jobs every month after February of 2010. Including 2009, the United States has added an average of 127,824 jobs per month during Obama's presidency, which places him fifth for job creation since FDR. However, excluding 2009, the average would be 191,747 per month, which would rank him second, and from 2011 to the present, we have averaged 207,429 per month, which would place President Obama just behind President Clinton for first place.

Median Income

obama median income

Related: Ranking the presidents for income growth
Source: Census
Data: Excel

  The orange line is the rate at which the median family income has increased on average since 1953 and the green line is how fast it increased under Obama.

The median income grew at a slightly slower pace during Obama's presidency than it has historically. That being said, incomes have been growing more slowly for decades.

Debt as a Percentage of GDP

obama debt

Related: Change in debt by president
Source: BEA   Treasury
Data: Excel

  This graph examines the way the debt shifted relative to GDP. The orange line shows what the debt would have been if it had started at the same level as it was at when President Obama took office and had grown at the average rate. The green line shows what actually happened.

President Obama has the second-worst record on the debt since 1953. The federal government ran the largest deficit, in absolute terms, it has ever run in 2009: $1.4 trillion. The primary causes of the large deficit were the Great Recession, two simultaneous wars, the Bush tax cuts and the stimulus spending. The stimulus spending is generally seen by economists as having been a net positive for the economy, and it is a large part of the reason that the United States' economy is now dramatically outperforming the economies of other developed countries, as discussed below. By fiscal year 2014, the deficit had been reduced to a manageable $483 billion.

Stock Market

obama stock market

Related: Stock market performance by party of president
Source: Yahoo
Data: Excel

  This graph compares the performance of the S&P500 under President Obama with the average.

The stock market performed remarkably during Obama's presidency and more than tripled in value. The rate at which the stock market increased in value roughly matches the rate at which it increased during the first six years of Clinton's presidency, but the bursting of the dot com bubble at the end of Clinton's presidency erased any gains after Clinton's sixth year.President Obama has the best record of any president in modern history.

Compared to Other Developed Countries

obama gdp compared to world

Related: Economic performance relative to NATO countries
Source: USDA   University of Groningen
Data: Excel

  This shows how the GDP growth of the United States compared to the GDP growth in the other original NATO member countries. The other original NATO member countries are used as a benchmark because they have had relatively similar economic status to the United States during the entire period examined.

The U.S. economy grew faster than the other original NATO members by a wider margin under President Obama than any other president in modern history. This is typically attributed to the U.S.'s decision to stimulate the economy in 2009 rather than implementing austerity measures as the other original NATO member countries did.

Overall, President Obama managed to turn the terrible economic hand he was dealt into a mixed economic record. In some areas, the economy performed remarkably, while in other areas, the performance was disappointing. Many of the challenges President Obama faced are common to the entire developed world and the United States has certainly fared far better than the other developed nations. However, that has come at the expense of adding to the national debt, and the gains have generally been concentrated in the hands of those who need them the least.

In addition to the challenges imposed by the global economic climate, President Obama faced extraordinary opposition by the Republicans in the legislature. Many of the acts of congressional Republicans, such as forcing the sequester, bringing the country to the brink of default twice,shutting down the government and blocking a wide variety of legislation designed to minimize the risks posed by the financial sector or to create jobs, have caused harm to the economy and prevented the economy from healing as quickly as would be desireable. However, despite these hurdles, the economy has performed passably overall and thus far, has performed quite well during President Obama's second term.

January 4, 2018

Grading the Obama economy, by the numbers

Bicycle Corporation of America workers jobs
Randall Hill | Reuters
It's the economy, stupid.

That was how Bill Clinton singled out economic conditions as the most important issue in his 1992 presidential election campaign. Eight years earlier, candidate Ronald Reagan asked: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"
Today, some eight years after the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression, the nation's economy is once again central to both parties' appeal to voters.
For presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, that means tapping into the financial anxiety weighing on middle-class voters. "It's not just the political system that's rigged, it's the whole economy," he told supporters in New York last month. "It's rigged against you, the American people.
Harkening back to the booming economy of the 1990s during the Clinton administration, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said in May that she would put her husband "in charge of revitalizing the economy ... Because, you know, he knows how to do it."
For his part, President Barack Obama has vigorously defended his economic record over the last eight years.
"Anybody who says we are not absolutely better off today than we were just seven years ago — they're not leveling with you," he said in February. "They're not telling the truth. By almost every economic measure, we are significantly better off."
As American voters measure candidates based on how well off they feel and how confident they are about the future, analyzed the economic records of the last six presidents to better assess their performance. We looked at a variety of measures, calculating the net change from the start of a president's term to the end, beginning with Jimmy Carter's inauguration in January 1977.

Here are a dozen charts showing what we found.
With six months left before Obama leaves office, the overall economy continues to expand — slowly. As of the first quarter of this year, the U.S. economy is nearly 15 percent bigger than when the president took office in 2008, adjusted for inflation.

That gain is slightly less than his predecessor, George W. Bush, and roughly half the GDP gain in percentage terms during the Reagan administration.
Carter, who served only one four-year term, produced an impressive 12 percent economic expansion. If Carter had been re-elected and kept up that growth pace, he would have had the third-best performance among the six presidents in our analysis. But Carter left office in the middle of a double-dip recession, a major reason for his defeat to Reagan in 1980.
George H.W. Bush, the other one-termer in our analysis, left office with only an 8 percent gain in GDP.
The biggest expansion of GDP came under Clinton, who presided over the 1990s boom; when he left office in 2000, the economy was nearly 35 percent bigger than when he moved into the White House in 1993.
Not surprisingly, the presidents' records on job growth stack up roughly the same. During the Clinton administration, total payrolls grew by nearly 21 percent, slightly better than Reagan's 17 percent gain. The Carter administration had the third-best record, boosting payrolls by 12 percent. If he had kept that up for a second term, he would have topped the list of job creators. Both Bushes produced the smallest gains.
The Obama administration, which began in the midst of massive layoffs from the Great Recession, has presided over a job market turnaround. Overall employment is about 7 percent higher than when he took office.
But those jobs gains are only one measure of the health of the labor market. Since the 1990s, many Americans workers have left the labor force for a variety of reasons. Some are boomers who have retired; others have become so discouraged looking for a job that they've given up.
After steady gains during the Carter, Reagan and first Bush administration, the labor force participation rate peaked during the Clinton administration and has been declining since, with the steepest losses coming during the Obama years.
Second to having a job, American workers are most concerned about wages, which have stagnated during much of the recovery from the Great Recession. In real terms (adjusted for inflation), hourly compensation saw the biggest gains during the Clinton-era '90s boom, followed by the 1980s expansion under Reagan. The second Bush administration had the third-strongest showing, followed by the Obama administration, which has seen the fastest wage gains during his second term.
Stagnant wages have also widened the gap between the rich and poor, a major issue in political campaigns at all levels of government. That gap, as measured by the Gini ratio, a widely used measure of income distribution, began rising during the Reagan administration. Despite the Obama administration's focus on closing the income gap, it has continued to expand under his watch.
Economic well-being has traditionally involved homeownership, a dream that was shattered for many with the collapse of the housing market in 2008. The last major downturn in housing dated to the Bush I administration, following the collapse of the savings and loan industry that had provided mortgages to American families for generations.
Home sales peaked in 2005 during the middle of the Bush II administration and bottomed early in Obama's first term. Sales have since recovered, but are still at levels not seen since the early 1990s when Bush I was leaving office.

The housing crash also sent homeownership rates plunging, erasing the gains during the Bush I and Clinton administrations. Despite a recovery in the housing market and historically low mortgage rates, the homeownership rate has continued to fall during the Obama administration to levels not seen since the Carter era.

Presidents are also judged for their management of taxpayers' money, and federal spending has become a major issue in recent presidential campaigns. Measured as a share of the overall economy, spending remained relatively steady — ranging from 18 to 22 percent of GDP — during the Carter, Reagan and Bush I administrations.

Thanks to a booming economy in the 1990s, spending as a share of GDP fell during the Clinton administration but began rising again under Bush II. When the Great Recession sent the economy in reverse, spending as a share of GDP soared when Obama took office, but has come back in line with historical trends since then.
Obama has also presided over some of the biggest budget deficits in the last four decades, in part because of massive stimulus spending aimed at heading off an even deeper downturn. Of the six presidents, only Clinton returned a budget surplus during his last years in office, helped in part by a windfall of tax receipts from the dot-com investment bubble.

Those big Obama deficits also added substantially to the pile of public debt outstanding, which now stands at roughly 100 percent of GDP. But the pile has been growing for 40 years. The level of public debt as a share of GDP roughly doubled during the Reagan and Bush I administrations, then fell during the Clinton era and began rising again under Bush II.

The strength of the economy can also be measured by the health of the private sector, which presidential candidates typically rely on for campaign contributions.

Based on one measure — total after-tax corporate profits — Bush II stands out. During his administration, profits soared, only to come crashing back with the collapse of the financial system. Profits were 36 percent higher at the end of his term, compared with 47 percent gains during the Clinton administration and 62 percent under Obama's watch.
Profits rose roughly 25 percent under Reagan and Bush I; they were up 37 percent under Carter.
For stock market investors, Democrats have clearly outperformed Republicans in the White House over the last 40 years.

The Standards & Poor's 500 index rose 150 percent during the Clinton administration; under Obama, stock prices have been rising by 100 percent. (We're using Yale economist Robert Shiller's inflation-adjusted data.)
Those gains compare with net losses of 45 percent under Bush II, gains of about 30 percent under Bush I, and a 50 percent gain under Reagan. Stock prices lost about 13 percent of their value during the Carter administration.

Shocking report reveals that 95% of plastic polluting the world's oceans comes from just TEN rivers including the Ganges and Niger

Shocking report reveals that 95% of plastic polluting the world's oceans comes from just TEN rivers including the Ganges and Niger

  • Scientists analysed data on plastic from 79 sampling sites along 57 rivers
  • Their results showed that 10 rivers account for the majority of plastic 
  • Eight of these are in Asia, including the Yangtze and Indus rivers
  • Targeting these rivers could halve the amount of plastic waste, experts predict  
Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world's oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research.
The top 10 rivers - eight of which are in Asia - accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste.
About five trillion pounds is floating in the sea, and targeting the major sources - such as the Yangtze and the Ganges - could almost halve it, scientists claim.
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Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world's oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research. The top 10 rivers, including the River Niger (pictured) accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste
Up to 95 per cent of plastic polluting the world's oceans pours in from just ten rivers, according to new research. The top 10 rivers, including the River Niger (pictured) accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste


Yangtze East China Sea Asia
Indus Arabian Sea Asia
Yellow River Yellow Sea Asia
Hai He Yellow Sea Asia
Nile Mediterranean Africa
Ganges Bay of Bengal Asia
Pearl River South China Sea Asia
Amur Sea of Okhotsk Asia
Niger Gulf of Guinea Africa
Mekong South China Sea Asia 
Massive amounts of plastic bits that imperil aquatic life are washing into the oceans and even the most pristine waters.
But how it all gets there from inland cities has not been fully understood.
Now a study shows the top 10 rivers - eight of which are in Asia - accounted for 88 to 95 per cent of the total global load because of the mismanagement of waste.
The team calculated halving plastic pollution in these waterways could potentially reduce the total contribution by all rivers by 45 per cent.
Dr Christian Schmidt, a hydrogeologist at Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig, Germany, said: 'A substantial fraction of marine plastic debris originates from land-based sources and rivers potentially act as a major transport pathway for all sizes of plastic debris.'
The top 10 rivers - eight of which are in Asia - accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste
The top 10 rivers - eight of which are in Asia - accounted for so much plastic because of the mismanagement of waste
His team analysed data on debris from 79 sampling sites along 57 rivers - both microplastic particles measuring less than 5 mm and macroplastic above this size.
They said microplastics in particular can damage the health of marine life but cleaning it all up would be impossible. However stemming the tide could help reduce the potential harm.
Dr Schmidt said to do this, researchers need a better understanding of how plastic makes its way into the oceans in the first place.
The study shows the top 10 rivers, including the River Indus (pictured) accounted for 88 to 95 per cent of the total global load because of the mismanagement of waste
The study shows the top 10 rivers, including the River Indus (pictured) accounted for 88 to 95 per cent of the total global load because of the mismanagement of waste


The amount of plastic rubbish in the world's oceans will outweigh fish by 2050 unless the world takes drastic action to further recycle, a report released in 2016 revealed.
Researchers warned eight million tonnes of plastics currently find their way into the ocean every year - the equivalent of one truckload every minute.
At current rates, this will worsen to four truckloads per minute in 2050 and outstrip native life to become the largest mass inhabiting the oceans.
An overwhelming 95 per cent of plastic packaging - worth £65 - £92billion - is lost to the economy after a single use, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation report stated.
And available research estimates that there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastics in the ocean today.Rivers which flow from inland areas to the seas are major transporters of plastic debris but the concentration patterns aren't well known.
The findings could help fill in this knowledge gap.
Dr Schmidt pooled data from dozens of research articles and calculated the amount in rivers was linked to the 'mismanagement of plastic waste in their watersheds.'
He said: 'The 10 top-ranked rivers transport 88-95 per cent of the global load into the sea.'
The study follows a recent report that pointed the finger at China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam for spewing out most of the plastic waste that enters the seas.
The Yangtze has been estimated in previous research to dump some 727 million pounds of plastic into the sea each year. The Ganges River in India is responsible for even more - about 1.2 billion pounds.
A combination of the Xi, Dong and Zhujiang Rivers (233 million lbs per year) in China as well as four Indonesian rivers: the Brantas (85 million lbs annually), Solo (71 million pounds per year), Serayu (37 million lbs per year) and Progo (28 million lbs per year), are all large contributors.
Previous research has also suggested two-thirds of plastic comes from the 20 most contaminated rivers. But Dr Schmidt reckons this can be narrowed down even further.
He said: 'The rivers with the highest estimated plastic loads are characterised by high population - for instance the Yangtze with over half a billion people.
'These rivers are also in countries with a high rate of mismanaged plastic waste (MMPW) production per capita as a result of a not fully implemented municipal waste management including waste collection, dumping and recycling.
Previous research has also suggested two-thirds of plastic comes from the 20 most contaminated rivers. But Dr Schmidt reckons this can be narrowed down even further (stock image)
Previous research has also suggested two-thirds of plastic comes from the 20 most contaminated rivers. But Dr Schmidt reckons this can be narrowed down even further (stock image)


  • One million plastic bottles are  sold every minute
  • 480 billion plastic bottles were sold in 2016
  • 538 billion plastic bottles will be thrown away every year by 2021
  • Fewer than half of plastic bottles are recycled
  • Up to 13 million tonnes of plastic enter the sea every year 
'The data shows large rivers are particular efficient in transporting plastic debris. Large rivers like the Yangtze transport a higher fraction of the MMPW that is generated in their catchments than smaller rivers.
'These three factors lead to the estimated concentration of most of the plastic load to large rivers with a large population living in their catchment.
'Countries with high MMPW generation such as China or India could greatly reduce the plastic pollution of rivers by implementing proper waste management.
'In industrial countries, although they have a well developed waste management infrastrcuture, one way for plastic waste entering the environment is littering.'
In the first experiment, corals collected from waters off the North Carolina coast were offered eight different types of microplastics (pictured in a seperate experiment) and other similarly-sized items such as clean sand
His team analyzed data on debris from 79 sampling sites along 57 rivers - both microplastic particles (pictured) measuring less than 5 mm and macroplastic above this size
Pollution costs more than £6 billion ($7.9 billion) in damage to marine ecosystems and kills an estimated one million sea birds, 100,000 sea mammals and untold numbers of fish.
Dr Schmidt said: 'Pollution of the marine environment with plastic debris is widely recognised and is of increasing ecological concern because of the chemical persistence of plastics and their mechanical fragmentation to so-called microplastics which can be ingested by even small organisms such as zooplankton.
'Beyond the long recognised occurrence of plastic debris in the marine environment plastic debris has been more recently detected in freshwater environments and can be found even in pristine, remote locations.'


So much plastic is dumped into the sea each year that it would fill five carrier bags for every foot of coastline on the planet, scientists have warned. 
More than half of the plastic waste that flows into the oceans comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. 
The only industrialized western country on the list of top 20 plastic polluters is the United States at No. 20. 
The U.S. and Europe are not mismanaging their collected waste, so the plastic trash coming from those countries is due to litter, researchers said.
While China is responsible for 2.4 million tons of plastic that makes its way into the ocean, nearly 28 percent of the world total, the United States contributes just 77,000 tons, which is less than one percent, according to the study published in the journal Science.
He added: 'The high fraction of a few river catchments contributing the vast majority of the total load implies that potential mitigation measures would be highly efficient when applied in the high-load rivers.
'Reducing plastic loads by 50 per cent in the 10 top-ranked rivers would reduce the total river-based load to the sea by 45 per cent.
'Our analysis reveals that plastic loads of large rivers disproportionately increase in relationship to the increase of plastic debris available for transport.'

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Enviro Group Blames Global Warming for Increased Wildfires

Enviro Group Blames Global Warming for Increased Wildfires

June 19, 2012
The CEO and president of the Climate Reality Project is Maggie Fox, who is married to Democratic Sen. Mark Udall
DENVER–Man-made climate change has been blamed for hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, drought–and now, Colorado’s wildfires.
The Climate Reality Project, the Washington, D.C.-based group founded by former Democratic vice president Al Gore, is taking the lead in promoting the view that wildfires in the American West are getting bigger and that climate change is responsible.
“Both NASA and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have predicted that wildfires are likely to be more frequent and widespread because of climate change,” said Shravya Reddy, solutions analyst for the Climate Reality Project in a website post. “That happens for two reasons: Higher temperatures, and also a drier climate.”
What about the bark-beetle epidemic, which has killed four million acres of forest in Colorado since the mid-1990s? It turns out the bark beetle can also be blamed on climate change.
At a conference last year in Aspen entitled “Forests at Risk,” Gore said warmer winters have allowed the beetle to proliferate at the same time that pine trees are weakened by the higher temperatures.
“The linkage these scientists have referred to over and over again to global warming is something I’m sure some people resist, but it’s a fact,” said Gore at the symposium, billed as the first to discuss the connection between degraded forest health and climate change.
The Climate Reality Project is the latest Gore effort targeting global warming. Using the proceeds from his film An Inconvenient Truth, Gore founded the Alliance for Climate Protection and the Climate Project in 2006. Last year, Gore merged the two organizations and changed the name to “broadcast the reality of the climate crisis and mobilize citizens to help solve it,” he told Climate Progress.
The group has been prominent in Colorado as a result of its connection with the state’s top Democratic power couple. The CEO and president of the Climate Reality Project is Maggie Fox, who lives in Boulder and is married to Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.
At the Aspen symposium, Gore called Udall “my senator. I don’t live in Colorado, but he’s my senator.” Former Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter, who was also featured at the conference, was an early believer in the link between climate change and forest fires.
Al Gore
GORE: “[Udall is] my senator. I don’t live in Colorado, but he’s my senator.”Will Palmer / Foter
There is widespread agreement that beetle-kill forests are a primary reason for this year’s virulent wildfires. Bark beetles have destroyed more than 41.7 million acres of trees in the western states, including 21.7 million acres in the intermountain West.
There is much less unity on how to combat the beetle infestation. The Climate Reality Project supports tougher federal and state regulations on fossil-fuel emissions, or the “save a tree, kill a coal-fired power plant” approach.
“We need policies that reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuels,” said Juanita Constible, science and solutions director for the Climate Reality Project, in an email. “For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is currently finalizing the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new power plants. This is a great first step to reducing the impacts of climate change on Colorado’s forests.”
Critics of the Climate Reality Project say the group is using another natural disaster–in this case, wildfires–to attack fossil-fuel energy sources and squelch calls for logging the devastated areas.
“There’s a very strong belief in the environmental movement that human intervention is the source of the problem and that nature would be fine if we didn’t do anything,” said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “So whenever you have catastrophic fire, they’ll find something else to blame, like global warming, when the real problem is that we’ve stopped managing the forests.”
The National Climate Data Center shows that temperatures January-to-May 2012 broke records for heat in some localities, including Grand Junction, which posted its third-hottest January-to-May in 113 years. At the same time, Ebell pointed to center data showing that Colorado has actually seen its average temperature drop slightly from 1998 to 2011, when data is collected only from rural stations and not those that have been urbanized since 1900.
Critics argue that If trees were fewer and spaced more widely, which was the standard in national forests until the early 1990s, they would have more access to moisture during the typically dry Western summers. The result would be healthier trees better able to resist insect attacks.
Timber-cutting in the national forests has fallen from 12 billion board feet per year in the early 1990s to 2 billion board feet today, he said, even though those forests add about 17 billion board feet per year.
“It means there’s been a huge build-up of material for fire, and as you know the forests are more like thickets now,” said Ebell. “We’ve given up managing the forests by design–now we manage them by catastrophic fires.”
Bill Gherardi, president of the Colorado Forestry Association, also takes issue with the climate-change theory. He advocates a long-term forest-health stewardship plan that includes logging to clear the insect infestation, stop the beetles from moving to healthy stands of trees, and reduce tree crowding.
“Everyone wants to point to climate change as the reason we’re losing our forests,” said Gherardi. “Forests in Bavaria and Germany are still green, and they’ve had natural disasters, climate swings, and insect infestations. They’re green because people appreciate and value the forests.”
He notes that the rise of the bark beetle has coincided with the decline of the logging industry in the West. The number of saw mills in Colorado has dropped from 65 in the 1970s to two large mills now, in addition to a handful of mom-and-pop mills, said Gherardi.
Last week, Sens. Udall and Michael Bennet introduced an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill that would double to $200 million the amount set aside for beetle-mitigation efforts. The amendment includes tree-thinning–but only near homes, campsites, roads and power lines, which excludes most forest acreage.
“I continue to echo the concern that we cannot turn back the clock on bark beetles, but we can relieve the immediate risk to human health and safety by removing beetle-killed trees from high-risk areas . . . And biomass energy facilities and traditional sawmills can convert this problem into jobs and revenue if we approach it the right way,” Udall said in a statement.
Udall didn’t mention global warming, but that’s where Gore’s group comes in.
“I’m not a forest expert so I can’t speak to the pros and cons of specific management proposals,” said the Climate Reality Project’s Constible. “I can tell you, however, that forest management plans need to explicitly incorporate the effects of climate change.”